On the Coming Hell

Perdition is coming.

Soon, possibly even as soon as you read this. So far, I've done a lot of playtesting. My Sunday group, who I have been playing with the longest, had a few things to say.

"Cleaning up trash turned out to be way more fun then I ever thought it could be," and "I was kind of surprised that there wasn't more brimstone and hellfire."

You see, Perdition isn't about a medieval version of hell. Not only is that not very frightening, it's almost like a theme park for modern gamers. Demons to kill, cool backgrounds, etc.

Perdition is about hell.

Perdition is about being in line at Starbucks, while you are late for work and the lady in front of you is getting out her checkbook.
 Perdition is being camping and having 8% charge left on your phone and getting into a fight with your girlfriend over text.
 Perdition is about living in america and getting sick.

Perdition is about real hell, and like my players said: It sounds terrible, but it's way more fun then it has any right to be.

I'd like to talk about specifics.

Specifics


I'm a huge fan of hirelings and henchmen in play. I've often discovered, once characters reach the middle levels (5+) they tend to slow down and complicate play. (E.g. "Hey, can't bob's four guys take a swing at this thing too?") This isn't a new insight, modern D&D hasn't encouraged retainers, hirelings, and henchmen since first edition.

But I really like them.

So, originally I came up with the Strong and Weak Henchmen Force, which retains the usefulness of hirelings while reducing the upkeep involved. This evolved into an entourage system. Simply, your retainers provide mechanical advantage, your henchmen, companions, and other high tier followers provide additional actions that their controlling player shares as a group in combat. This turned into something I really like!

Charisma becomes a statistic on par with physical and mental characteristics. Your hirelings get to die bloody deaths as monsters target them trying to make you an easier target to hit. You still get to use them logistically, making Tod the elf walk down the hall first, if he likes you enough. And, you support pet/summoner/necromancer playstyles without the player overshadowing the action economy.

Perdition is idiosyncratic Dungeons & Dragons, so things like this steal very easy into other games.

Another thing that's exciting to me is how exploration, stress, and the overloaded encounter die work together to enforce interesting decisions often overlooked in basic/expert or 1st edition style play.

Did you know you're supposed to rest one turn out of six while exploring in basic? I've played a lot of basic/expert in my time and I don't recall that ever happening.

In Perdition, your carrying capacity is limited by your strength (the OSR equipment slot system). And as you explore and roll the encounter die, you acquire stress. As stress accumulates, you become more aware of your environment, quicker to act and respond, and more prepared for unforeseen events. Left unaddressed this stress can explode during certain events or die rolls. This can give characters with weak minds certain permanent negative traits, such as paranoia, gluttony, or claustrophobia.

How do you get rid of stress? Taking a turn to rest and consume rations. After several thousand rolls of the encounter die, this turns out to taking about one turn out of six to rest, and makes the decision about what you're actually going to carry (considering you need to carry rations, light sources, etc.) much more meaningful. There's also this wonderful push-pull that goes on, where stress provides a natural escalation in combat. As things get worse and people die, stress goes higher and helps you (mechanically) in combat, but when it explodes it can cause a cascade of negative effects, ensuring even powerful characters have to be mindful.

It makes exploration harrowing because it should be, players never forget about it because of the bonuses, it increases engagement and reduces complacency because of the risk and escalation possibilities.

You know what I hate? Character builds.

Why? Because the whole point of a "build" is that it leads to some sort of leveraged advantage. Basically, before the builds 'come online', you are just sort of a normal party, fighting encounters. But once the build activates, whole sections and types of challenges become trivial. This forces the game master to continue to look for ways to challenge the party that don't all walk into the ginsu of the build, and also avoiding sending encounter after encounter that just happen to strike at the parties weakness.

But players love fiddly bits, so I put fiddly bits in for the players! They don't slow down character creation, and if you can take a type of fiddly bit, you can take any one of them. All characters start off doing whatever it is they do effectively. They don't need to find some "build". When they level up, they get to pick new things.  No prerequisites. No level requirements. No building. Just new toys. Players love new toys.

How is this possible? The game is based off Basic/Expert. The rules for the gameplay in Perdition take up less than 30 pages. The math is very flat. Characters can get whatever new abilities they want, because it doesn't make them suddenly overpowered. It just gives them a new thing they can do or allows them to do something a little better. Part of the reason this works so well are all the different vectors available to the players. Do you want to smash things? Blast them with magic? Talk them down? Strike at their mind? It's unlikely that you'll be good at all of those things, or protected from all of them. Those vectors make encounters and combat interesting.

The book isn't short by any means. There's 15 pages of devil/demon specific rules, 10 pages of equipment and ('ahem') nearly 150 pages devoted to spells, summons, classes and class abilities for players. All idiosyncratic and unique. You're not getting another copy of the same spells and classes that you already own. 

I also had to make room for all the art by Heather Gwinn, Matthew Adams, Russ Nicholson, Michael Ralston, and Marcin S. Look at that amazing list of artists!

It's exciting! Fiendish patrons, wards, sigils, and breaking magic, critical ruin and derangement, mutations, unique summons, shapechanging, psionic powers, social attacks, titanic agonicmorphs, fighting styles, summoning and binding demons, politics managed by the vile conclave, hats, social influence, possession, alchemy, and, well, lots more!


Because it's a clone, conversion is trivial, and can be handled on the fly. So any of the great adventures or settings released interface just fine with Perdition, for what might be a Spicy Meatball

I'm excited to see you in hell!


Hack & Slash 

6 comments:

  1. So Perdition is like being told on the first of the month that you're $700 overdrawn at the bank and your paycheck has disappeared into the void? Bring on the demons - I survived THAT, I can survive them!

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  2. Welcome back. Hope things are looking up. When/ where do I get to buy this?

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  3. Now, THIS was worth waiting for!

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