Design History

Posted: February 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Introduction | Comments Off on Design History

Designer’s Notes

A lot of things have been asked about the work I have made called ”Lost Roads of Lociam”. I thought I would answer some, and expand on a few points. As more questions arise I will attempt to explain my reasons behind them as well.

Why did you write this?

Well, I have always liked roleplaying games, and have always been fascinated by the challenge, the interaction, the stories and the twists in the game-mechanics, rules and settings that come with them. I have always felt compelled to try to make some improvements to some of the games, adding an article here and there, and adjusting a rule where I find it is missing. For instance I have written several articles, adventures, monsters, texts, campaigns and alternative rules for “Vampire – the Masquerade”, “Middle-Earth Roleplaying”, “GURPS” as well as several Swedish systems of roleplaying, like “Drakar och Demoner”, “Eon”, “Mutant” and a few others. It is something I enjoy doing.

I have been writing roleplaying-games since I started playing back in 1982, and most of them were really bad. They were loose ideas that I tried putting on paper. Back in 1990 I started on a game I called Silent Fighters, a really bad idea about aliens and magic and all sorts of things. I quickly abandoned the idea for the world, but parts of the rules stuck with me. I started reworking the world, and expanding on the rules. This leads us into the design history that I will elaborate further on later.

I have played a lot of games, and found some things lacking from them, things I felt were needed to make a good game.

Why? What’s wrong with [insert favourite game here]?

Nothing, I guess, but I have felt some things missing from a few games, and I really wanted to make sure they were part of something fresh that I could get to play, or maybe even share with someone else. I also never truly liked games based on books or movies, as they were too “set” for me. I wanted freedom to explore.

1. In most fantasy-worlds there are plenty of monks, priests, churches and religions around, but being written largely by people who have no faith themselves, or trying to be politically correct and not offend anyone, they really don’t do much. Except for the occasional “hunt and kill” the gods make a very small or no appearance at all in most fantasy-games. You get to kill some, but they don’t affect the people on the farms. I always thought this was odd. Why would the communities support the churches if they did nothing in return? They can’t all be secular landowners, can they?
This game has active gods. You can sit down and pray to them, and sometimes they will answer. About one time in one hundred if you are not a devout follower, and a lot better if you are a faithful. Even a farmer can get rain if he prays, and a hero can conjure an angel when one is most needed. Gods play an active, but not personal, part in the game.

2. In most fantasy-games magic is something reserved for the select few. A special caste of characters or people is able to use magic, whereas most others are barred from it. This was always such a shame, I thought. In a high-magic world, or a magic-rich world, magic should be something natural for most beings to use. So magic, in this game, is for virtually everyone. Some trolls and animals are not clever enough, but the average carpenter, city-guard or mayor-clerk will have some magical skills at least. Then there are some who specialise in magic, and grow more powerful, of course. But few are barred from magic, and most can learn it, if they have the time and energy to spare.

3. I never liked the big complicated combat-rules. When people fight in roleplaying-games all the elaborate tables for hitting, wounding and saving show up, and it slows the action to a trickle. I thought this was a shame as well. This game has exactly one table to keep track of. The rest are skillrolls, and basic math. If you want to you can add modifiers and optional rules, but the basic system is really quite simple. It is also pretty dramatic, and deadly. If you get in a fight chances are you are going to wind up hurt. That’s part of the deal. If you want to hurt someone else you have to stake your own skin on it.

Now that we have covered the three basic things I wanted to address, we might as well get to some of the smaller points as well.

4. Why are there always big monsters available everywhere as opposition for the player-characters? Is there not enough evil in the human heart to make good bad guys? The movie “Willow” was such an astounding example of how this could work that I cut out most of the monsters from the basic game, and left the humans in there. There are some monsters in the basic adventures, there needs to be; this is a fantasy-world, but most of the antagonists are humans, just like the characters are.

5. Most games cannot handle “ordinary life ™” at all. The skills of a normal hunter or farmer can’t fit into the scheme of things, with heroes and magicians running around as player-characters. I thought this a great shame, and have proven that even blacksmiths make great heroes (right Stig?) and that they can go back to their forge and make a few more horseshoes after saving the kingdom. The rulesystem is designed to hold up to the pressure of ordinary life, so that fishermen can be fishermen, and carpenters can be carpenters, as it were.

6. Finally, a few games I have seen out there try to be too big at once. They try to encompass everything you might possibly every need, and in the process grow utterly unwieldy. The core rulebook for this game is really slim, and streamlined, outlining the things you need to start playing and inventing stuff on your own, not every conceivable rule you might need for every situation, nor hordes of monsters, or detailed descriptions of loads of races to play. There will be more information of that sort in the adventures and expansions. This is not a marketing-trick either; it’s not like I am trying to get you to buy more stuff (even though I would appreciate it if you did), but if you read the Design-history below you will find that this game was once far too massive to actually play. Better make it leaner and playable, than “complete” and utterly impossible to enjoy. The elves are coming, but they are not in the core rulebook. The same goes for the illusionists, and demon-spawn (for those of you who want to play bad-guys), and a lot of other things. A lot will also be given out free on the web as the project progresses.

Here is a small note on the “evolution” of the game. This moves from a simple form to a better, hopefully a more complete version has only been possible through the tireless work of all my playtesters, even those not mentioned in the credits. I thank you all.

  1. The first version of this game was “Silent Fighters” and never got completed. It was all of 16 pages when it was abandoned. Good riddance. This was in late 1990, as I recall.
  2. I tried my hand at “Silent Fighters” again, and completed it at a staggering 26 pages. It was still mostly rubbish.
  3. The third try at “Silent Fighters” was, believe it or not, a slimmed version, but included religions for the first time. 16 pages.
  4. Fourth try was in Swedish, and was called “Solgård” which is pretty close to “Solar Halo” but not quite. It was 60 pages and had twice as many races and monsters as any other version. It still had some big flaws, and not even the sci-fi version of the game corrected those. We are now up to 1994-1995.
  5. Now the game changed a bit, and turned back to English in “Roads of Xiam” (this was before I figured out Xiam is an alternate spelling for the old name of Thailand). This was a whopping 160 pages of text, packed with things, like twice the number of skills, triple the magic, a total of 26 religions and a lot more. It was terrible to read or find anything in.
  6. I never knew when to stop. The sixth try was even bigger. It was 167 pages of smaller text, adding more and more contents. It was now spiralling out of control. It had over two hundred magicforms in total, as well as 53 races to choose from.
  7. The seventh version, 1996-1997, added a few more skills, but didn’t much improve things overall. A lot of mistakes were corrected, but even more new ones were added.
  8. By the middle of 1997 the eight version, now named “Lost Roads of Lociam” was a massive tome of 253 pages of pure text, and included far too much material to possibly be playable by anyone but myself. No one else could grasp the thing. It had nearly 300 forms of magic, over 80 playable races, nearly 50 monsters roaming the lands, and a lot of other confusing bits.
  9. Version nine was still a tome, now 261 pages with some basic layout and still not a single illustration. It had much of the basic rulesystem we have today, but it was just far too big to manage.
  10. In 1999 version ten was ready. It was just 107 pages, as I had decided to make a lot of the material into expansions rather than try to cram it all into a single volume. It was slimmed down but still missing a few key ingredients compared to what we have now. Still, for instance, magic was learned one spell at a time rather than in spheres. This made magicians terribly weak, even the good ones like the playtesters tried they hands with.
  11. The eleventh version was the first with the magical spheres, and was 108 pages thick. It had still to face one of its worst tests to date though; Santa Claus.
  12. By version 12, in 2001, playtesting was progressing weekly, and more and more bugs and flaws were discovered in every adventure. I had begun drafting the expansions at this time, but the system had still some basic mechanical flaws. One of the playtesters, nicknamed “Santa Claus” which is a pun in Swedish I suspect few of you will get, had troubles getting through the math of the game, particularly when testing attributes in gameplay. At first this was discounted as an error on her part (yes, Santa Claus is a she) but I soon realised this was a key to improvement. By streamlining the system into containing nearly exclusively D100-rolls the game was smoother and better. Thanks for that, Santa Claus. The manuscript for this version I gave to my brother-in-law, hoping he would test it out further with his groups, but he is a lazy bugger sometimes and I kept testing as I proceeded to the 13th version.
  13. Now we are up to 2003, and version 13. This was about as well as I thought I was going to get it, and I started asking around for illustrations, and illustrators. The feedback I got was very positive, and after some tweaking, a few very long delays, and some bouts with inactivity and other projects, this is now the version that is going to print. The material from that 261-page tome is now split into expansions and expansions-to-be and will be printed as well, later on. The game has been playtested by a total of playtesters exceeding a hundred, in multiple settings and adventures, some of which will turn into printed works for you all to enjoy, and others better forgotten.
  14. This version, version 14, is what I hope to present to you all. It is in essence just a re-formatted version 13 with some more kinks ironed out, and some additional planning and expansions changing the order of some articles in adventures and supplements. The current version, 14.2 is version 14 with some errata smoothed out, correcting mostly errors in typesetting for the printing and some minor errata and typos handled.

I hope you enjoy the game, as I have enjoyed bringing it this far. It is all up to you now to see how the game develops from this point on.

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