The Future of RPGs Will Be Games Like “Sleeping Gods”

Sleeping Gods is marketed as a “board game”, don’t get me wrong.

But it’s a hit, it has a story whose outcome is determined by player choices, players direct the actions of characters, who have health, attributes and statuses. The main activities are “challenges” (all with fail-forward outcomes), and (very innovative) “combat“. The game is played over multiple sessions, with a typical campaign taking 12-20 hours.

The success of this games is another signal that the imaginary line between “board game” and “role-playing game” is getting further blurred. The 7th Continent, Gloomhaven, and Sleeping Gods are eating away at the boundary from one side, while Ironsworn, Lady Blackbird, and For The Queen have been poking holes in it from the other side.

My opinion is that if you want to be designing the a game that will find a sizable audience the near future, you should be looking at this frontier. This is where you will find the most players who are looking for something new. What can you do to attract and impress them? It might be uncomfortable, but you’ll need to look at things from a board game perspective to get the attention of this audience. What do you bring to the table for them? If you’ve got cool character archetypes, how will they show up in visual and tactile components at the table? If you’ve got a compelling story, how will you tease that in a Kickstarter animatic?

Are you rolling dice in your combat? Why? Is the entire activity delightful? Look at how Sleeping Gods does combat. After a player plays that system, are they going to want to play your add-numbers-subtract-numbers system?

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New Card Designs

I have enlisted some help to make my cards look nice and solve some of the remaining graphic design problems.  What do you think? A little better, eh?

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Laser-cut Gloomhaven player caddy

After buying Gloomhaven and getting it out of and back into its box, I decided it needed to have some player caddies.  IMG_20190601_122541

There’s a marker for health and experience points, and a little slot for “lost” cards to be put inside.  When the game is over all these components can be placed inside.  It’s my first attempt at making a paper-and-wood product.


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I am very excited about this art


The design for the backs of the Deckahedron cards is done, and I just wanted to share it.

The design is by Ben Didier and there’s a couple great things about it:

  • newly designed “suits”: anvil, blades, crown, dragon
  • look at those little dots!
  • it helps me start imagining what the Deckahedron might look like if a lot more was spent on production value of the physical card deck
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Core Resolution Mechanism Flowchart

After analyzing Genesys and FATE, I’m now ready to tease apart all the different steps in the core resolution mechanism of A Thousand Faces of Adventure.  And here it is.


I think I’ve done a good job keeping it tight, and bottlenecking in the lines rather than having an exploding spiderweb.  But I’m biased of course.

For the source SVG file, have a look here:

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A Thousand Faces of Adventure

I finally chose a title.

A Thousand Faces of Adventure

It was a hard slog and there were a lot of darlings I had to throw out, but I’m really excited about this name.

For one, it’s a play on “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”, which is Joseph Campbell’s flagship contribution to the study of myth and story structure.

It also does a good job of conveying certain aspects of this game. It’s a generic game, where the setting is discovered and created during play. By including “Adventure”, it sets the right expectation about genre. Finally it hints at the card-based components with “Faces”.

Equally important, the domain name was available, and the only competing search result was the above-mentioned book.

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Genesys Core Resolution Mechanism

More exercise! I’ve been drawing up some flowcharts for the “core resolution mechanism” of a few different RPGs. Here’s the flowchart for Genesys.flowchart_genesys.png


And here’s the source svg.

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Flowchart for FATE Accelerated

As an exercise, I’ve been drawing up some flowcharts for the “core resolution mechanism” of a few different RPGs. Here’s the flowchart for FATE Accelerated.flowchart_fateHere’s the source SVG file:

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Which box would you pick up?


The most important feedback I got at KublaCon this year was that my title needs to be better. “Deckahedron World” appealed to me because I like puns, and I felt it was a nice nod to it’s parent, Dungeon World.

But the title of the game isn’t for me, it’s for the audience, and “Deckahedron World” doesn’t serve the audience.  It doesn’t help the audience know what the game is about. If someone walked into a game shop and saw a box on the shelf saying “Deckahedron World”, would they have any impression about whether this was something they would enjoy? Would they want to pick up the box and have a look?

Thanks to James Ernest for helping me see this.

Which of these names do you think would give you a good impression? If you saw a box on a shelf entitled thusly, would you pick it up and look at the cover? What kind of expectation would you have of it?

  • Ye Brave Heroes
  • Hearthember Journeys
  • Master the Myth
  • Campfire of Heroes
  • The Ascendant Circle
  • Face Myth, Become Legend
  • Crucible of Legends
  • Epic of the Hearthlighters
  • Legends to Fear or Be
  • Bearers of the Hearthflame
  • Campfire Epics
  • Deckahedron Legends
  • Flipped Fantasy
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image of Deckahedron World on a table

Last weekend was spent at KublaCon, which was an opportunity to hang out with friends, play some new board games, and excitedly run some playtests of Deckahedron World.

I was very pleased with the playtests. One one hand I received several comments from testers that they thought the game was a lot of fun, but more importantly for the stage I’m at now, several bugs in the system were exposed. Beyond those, I also noticed some friction that different players were experiencing with the system.

I’ve now got pages of notes that are slowly being digested and used to refine the system and the documentation. I’ll be back next year with a great game!

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