Threeforged APs and Reviews

image from ArtBreeder

filed under actual play on 05 Oct 2017
tagged misc, threeforged, and 3F

I decided to mosey my way through the many games of The #Threeforged RPG Design Challenge, solo.

My rules are simple.

  1. I’ll play every game I think I can. If a game’s just not suitable for solo, I’ll pass on it but do at least a short summary of why.

  2. I’ll use Pythia’s generators for additional content but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

  3. I’ll use whatever Oracle feels right assuming it is needed.

Note: I am only critiquing these games in a very limited way! I’m looking at it from the perspective of a solo gamer and of a solo game designer looking for potentially useful tools for soloing.

Let’s get started

I copied and pasted the table on the website into a google sheet and sorted by number. Of the first ten, just over half turned out to be unsuitable for solo.

15100 Children’s Radio Hour was too dependent on multiple players, and I couldn’t find much of a conflict.

15101 GHO5T has a pure token economy and conflict depends on one player actively playing against another.

15103 VHS Fury was just too party conflict dependent to work for solo.

15106 Salt Crown felt more like a scenario than a game; there just didn’t seem to be much incentive to play there for me. This was my second to last read of the night so I was fatigued and didn’t do it justice.

15107 Platonic Mastery had some interesting “Last Airbender” mechanics but I wasn’t excited by the framing.

15109 Hounded seems like it’d be possible to play solo as a horror-themed “split hats” kind of game, like I did S\lay w/Me. Unfortunately, it requires a modified deck of cards – no problem with Python, but the instruction say there aren’t enough cards defined for a full game. So a pass.

Here are the ones I actually played at least through character generation. Actual plays follow the summaries – they’re not great but show some mechanics.

1510 Damned was interesting, but ultimately too harsh for me, both in the central conceit and the mechanics. The author kind of skirted around this point, but a single bad roll (as in “I roll two dice and don’t get at least one 5+ when my opponent does”) can leave your character at the mercy of the GM. This could be fine. Or it could be very, very bad.

This is one I’d like to revisit with substantial flavor tweaks; there’s real potential there to recreate the “motley band of heroes trudging across a dangerous landscape” fantasy novels of my childhood.

15102 The End is the game I played the most. It had some very nice elements, but ultimately it’s a Star Trek game with a grimdark coat of paint and I think it would be better as a straight Star Trek game. There’s a really interesting crew mechanic and I like the tiers of resolution but switching between the different tiers feels artificial outside the Star Trek context.

With some solo tweaking I bet it’d be great for a Farscape-like thing – that’s the direction I was bending with it. Definitely deserves a revisit.

15104 State Cinema had some great ideas, but ultimately the story frame was just too depressing and yet silly – absurd – together. The “actual play” was essentially making a character and then realizing I didn’t have the heart to actually play a scene.

15105 Wizarding was one I was very interested in, but it had the same issue as The End; it’s a game very clearly built to model a specific experience, in this case, the Harry Potter books. It’s not bad by any means, just too entrenched in that specific universe to interest me.

Okay, and now the actual plays, such as they are. In general, I tried to play through character generation to at least one conflict roll. Not really my finest APs, to be sure, but sometimes it’s nice to see the thought process.

Oh, and I left out the one for State Cinema since there’s not much to it except a brief character generation.

1510 Damned

The adventure begins...

The Damned; playing a damned soul pulled into Hell schemes.

Stats are Bloody Hands, Wicked Heart, Deceitful Tongue, and Dark Arts.

All start at 3 except Dark Arts, which starts at 0.

I get to choose a Sin; I'll pick Dark Arts, which gives me +2.

My precious memory is "sacrifice for love"; my hero damned himself with the dark arts to save someone he cared about.

Skipping down to the Overseer section, I'll roll up some terrain.

I have a d6 so that's what I can roll.

Rolling 1d6 1 times.
[ 2 ] 2

Blood Swamp (or Sea). [Difficult]

And one of the five effects.

Rolling 1d5 1 times.
[ 3 ] 3

Make an ungoverned roll (3d6) before you can ... enter close range.

Okay, so, dragged out of fires of hell, dropped into blood swamp, to fight to prove I'm worthy of running errands for a demon.

Murderer's Soul: Bloody Hands: 4d6 Deceitful Tongue: 3d6 Wicked Heart: 3d6

Firebolt; 2 successes needed.

Hmm. That seems unnecessarily punitive. I'd have to roll 5+ on both of them to throw a firebolt. With only 1 success required I'd still have only a marginal chance of success.

Plus it's considered "opposed by Hell" but has a chart similar to the one for unopposed rolls.

... that seems like terrible odds. If I attack the murderer or he attacks me, I roll 3d6 vs his 3d6. Whoever has more 5s wins. If nobody has a 5, we both lose.

Rolling 3d6 1 times.
[ 4 1 2 ] 7
Rolling 3d6 1 times.
[ 2 6 4 ] 12

I wasn't rolling there, not on purpose, but still, kind of illustrates my point.

I think NPCs actually make rolls, based on later text, but I'm not certain.

So I assume we take turns. I'll make a Dark Arts roll to befuddle my opponent; I made an illusion that there are more of me scattered all around.

Rolling 2d6 1 times.
[ 5 6 ] 11

Two succesess, great. I only needed one.

So I confuse him, granting me my successes as a bonus to my next roll. And I get a Strength token.

I guess it's his turn, then. He'll attack.

Rolling 4d6 1 times.
[ 1 5 3 6 ] 15

Two successes.

I have 3d6, plus 2d6 for my successes with the DA.

Rolling 5d6 1 times.
[ 4 3 1 3 2 ] 13

It's ambiguous what happens when an enemy wins; if it's a regular opposed check, they get a Strength token, I get a Weakness token. But on a Bloody Hands roll they win and the fight is just... over?

Yeah, this is fatally flawed, at least not without other players to bolster the fighting. Plus it doesn't make sense; even if there were four other players, by the RAW my character would be done, down, and out.

I'm thinking the target number needs to be lowered, and there needs to be some sort of reroll mechanism for players. Maybe invoke your precious memory, but you can only invoke it once per session?

Rolling 3d6 1 times.
[ 6 4 2 ] 12

Rolling 2d6 1 times.
[ 2 6 ] 8

So, a tie, if rerolls worked like that.

Oh, wait. None of that happened; he has to make a 3d6 roll to even get close enough to hit me.

Rolling 3d6 1 times.
[ 6 3 5 ] 14

Now I can blast him with the Dark Arts, using my bonus +2.

Rolling 4d6 1 times.
[ 3 4 3 6 ] 16

I guess merge it with Bloody Hands, because it's really unclear how you handle it if the other person is a person.

Rolling 4d6 1 times.
[ 4 3 2 4 ] 13

I had one success; he has none.

So I win?

I assume based on reading the full text and between the lines that this means I get a Strength token and he gets a Weakness.

But now he's irrelevant because I won.

... I think that's enough of a fair shake for this one. The subject matter doesn't really interest me -- you're supposed to torment weaker souls for more Strength -- and there's just too many pieces missing to play solo. And the core mechanic, while interesting, is too much to keep track of.


15102 The End

The adventure begins...

This one looks interesting. I haven't read it through yet but I'm going to play as I follow it.

So I need three words (times players, I'll go with the same as the example).

To describe how things ended. The game's called, after all, "The End".

[Three Options] virus, infestation, demons, malfunction, error, oversight, freeze, fire, alien

[Choice] fire, demons, infestation

So now I pick two; I'll pick demons and infestation.

So now to build my crew member.

What was he before the end? A merchant prince of a hub world. But he was accused and convicted of murdering his parent and was being transported to a prison world.

He lost... the agent who was escorting him to the prison planet. His best friend since childhood. The one person he trusted.

What keeps him going? A refusal to let those who imprisoned him win, even if it's moot.

He thinks this was all caused by pride -- someone reached farther than they should have, tried to storm the gates of heaven.

And I rank them, 1 to 4. I'll go with 2, 1, 3, 4.

Now, Conflict resolution. Mind, Body, Spirit -- ranks of -1, 0, +1.

I'll do Body -1, Mind 0, Spirit +1.

I could move some more points around but I'm fine with that.

Gear seems unlikely; he had his own room but it was spartan and bare. So he has the clothes on his back.

No shoes, just a pair of drawstring pants and a t-shirt. Nothing he could kill himself or anyone else with.

His agent best friend was killed in the first wave; maybe he found some gear there. No, I think the friend was swept away somehow.

Ok, time for the ship. I'm really enjoying character creation so far.

[One Options] War, pleasure, commerce

[Choice] pleasure

I'm going to read that as it's not war or commerce, to give myself a little more room.

[One Options] small, medium, large

[Choice] medium

It's a brand new ship; this is its first voyage. The End happened about a week into the journey. Everyone is just gone, except my hero and whoever else we stumble over in play.

It was commissioned as a passenger transport. Most recent stop was a small backwards planet.

It has Navigation, Helm, Engineering, Communications, Medical, Science, Computer, and Security.

I'm allowed to fold two stations into other stations, or eliminate them if they're not suitable.

Since I'm playing solo, I'll take a liberty or two here.

Everything interfaces with Computer, I think, so there's only really a need for one person to run the ship. So my stations are Computer, Navigation/Helm, Communications/Science, Medical, Engineering, and Security, but everything has a chance of being done from the Computer station.

I'll do a sliding scale, so if it's really likely I'll oracle higher than if it's unlikely.

Now, there's no limits on how you can rate each area of your ship, just 1 to 6 (and there are 8 potential stations so it's not a straight ranking system). I'm going to roll 8d6 and assign as I see fit (discarding two).

That seems fair, anyway.

Rolling 8d6 1 times.
[ 1 5 1 1 6 1 5 1 ] 21

Well, that was a bad roll!

1, 1, 1, 5, 5, 6. Well, the 6 goes to Computer. 5 to Nav/Helm. 5 to Medical. 1 to everything else. So it's a medical ship.

I don't have anyone to assign, really. So I'll leave that open.

My hero is not in Command but will likely end up there since he might be the only survivor. Or maybe he won't.

And finally, I'm supposed to sketch the map of the ship but I'm going to leave that open.

And my hero doesn't know the ship's name.

Ok, conflict resolution rules time. It looks like the GM declares a conflict and one person rolls, using Mind, Body, or Spirit (conflict rating). You roll a d6 and add your stat and answer if applicable.

If it's station, you add conflict rating or station rating, whichever is higher.

If it's ship, you use whoever is Command, as for individual, plus 1 for each supportive crew member and -1 for each disagreeing.

There's room to add +3 to -3 for circumstances.

The resolution mechanic is very solo friendly:

> Less than 0 = NO, and...
> 1-3 = NO
> 4-6 = YES, but...
> 7-10 = YES
> 11 or greater = YES, and...

And there are consequences, though they're a little bland with mind/spirit essentially ignored (try again) and body resulting in injury.

It's interesting; at one point in the examples there's a reference to a player's choice being vetoed over being "too Star Trek", but this entire system is essentially Star Trek, from the stations to the way command works.

... and that's pretty much it for the game. Great character generation, sufficient resolution, brief "make a plot" deal based on keywords that essentially frames things as Star Trek missions, and that's it.

For the mission, I need to get three words for each of my starting keywords. I'll try to match the type of word.

So, Demon: bargain, seduction, hunger.

Infestation: corrupt, overwhelm, hamper.

I need to pick two to frame the mission.

[One Options] corrupt, overwhelm, hamper

[Choice] overwhelm

[One Options] bargain, seduction, hunger

[Choice] hunger

So my hero is in his spartan prison room. His friend throws open the door in a panic -- his friend is usually calm and collected so this is alarming -- and orders him to move, and then a wave of roiling, screaming darkness just sweeps him away.

My hero gives chase, but the hallway is empty.

Making a slight tweak to the ship; I'm combining Medical/Science instead of Med/Comm. Makes more sense that way with it being a medical vessel.

There's no advancement rules, but it's trivial to tie them to the Answers section of character generation.

When you act in accordance with one of your Answers, get 1 XP. When you repudiate one of your Answers (and cross it off, replacing it with a new one), gain 5 XP. Spend 5 XP to add +1 to anything that's ranked, as long as you can explain it in the fiction.

This feels very unfinished, with the goal -- find out what The End was -- right near the end. It's a Star Trek game framework with a tacked on post apocalyptic plot.

It could make a fantastic Farscape or Voyager type framework with a little tweaking.

So my hero -- who has no name yet, ala The Man in the Iron Mask -- goes out to search the ship.

Gear doesn't seem to have an application in RAW. I'll assume it a. opens up avenues of action and b. gives a +1 if it's directly useful.

The first room he comes to is...

[One Options] An accessible airlock, The ship bridge, The main engine room, The main weapons batteries, The arsenal, The sickbay, The recreation area, The main cargo hold, The escape pods, The docking mechanism, The crew quarters, The guest quarters, The observation deck, The secret compartment(s)

[Choice] The main engine room

[In the Room] the scent of soft perfume

[Room Contents] Empty

The engine room smells of perfume, soft and light, but there's nobody here and nothing of note.

[Is There a Trick or Trap?] No.

[One Options] An accessible airlock, The ship bridge, The main weapons batteries, The arsenal, The sickbay, The recreation area, The main cargo hold, The escape pods, The docking mechanism, The crew quarters, The guest quarters, The observation deck, The secret compartment(s)

[Choice] The ship bridge

[Room Contents] Empty

Well, it's definitely shaping up to be an empty ship.

[In the Room] a fire, an ornate bed

So my hero steps through the doorway to the bridge, and suddenly he's not on the ship, but back in his own quarters on his home planet.

There's a roaring fire in the hearth, and the room is warm and palatial.

[Is There a Trick or Trap?] No.

[One Options] corrupt, hamper

[Choice] corrupt

[One Options] bargain, seduction

[Choice] bargain

Okay, so, someone's offering him a corrupt bargain.

[Age - Mature] Mid-twenties.

[Gender Appearance] male

[Modifier] Wealthier than appears.

[Visible Quirk] light freckles

[Non-Visible Quirk] holds grudges

The bargain is if he allows the demon to essentially possess him, he'll never have to face justice, and he'll have the power he needs for revenge.

Normally I'd just say no, but why not test out the conflict system.

Roll a d6.

Rolling 1d6 1 times.
[ 4 ] 4

Add +1 for Spirit. +3 for Stubborn Refusal. I could add more of my answer ratings -- +1 for lost best friend.

So 9, total, for a clear unmodified yes.

I'm not a huge fan of unmodified yes or no, to be honest. It just doesn't drive things foward very well. I do like that you'll essentially be forced to pursue your Answers, but I'm not sure I like how far you'll have to stretch them to get them to apply frequently enough to matter.

Like my highest rated answer is "it was overreach and hubris that led to the End". I'm not sure how that could apply ever, if "apply" is interpreted tightly, and if it's interpreted too loosely it could apply to everything.

So the demon disappears, inscrutable, and my hero's on the bridge, alone.

He checks the command room, and a fire axe swings for his head as he steps through the door.

Obviously another survivor freaking out. It doesn't specify, but I think this resolution mechanic only works if you ask questions. On the plus side, it also works reasonably well for an Oracle, if you adjust with the +3/-3 for likeliness.

So... same deal.

Rolling 1d6 1 times.
[ 3 ] 3

-1 for Body. +2 for his privileged upbringing, which included fencing and horseback (or alien equivalent) riding and prioritized reflexes over strength.

So, 4; just squeaked to a "yes but", which leave me with a -1 injury.

Reflexively, he sidesteps and the axe just clips his shoulder.

[Age - Mature] Thirties.

[Gender Appearance] male

[Visible Quirk] looking down

So that's one NPC; let's get a couple more.

[Age - Mature] Late twenties.

[Gender Appearance] male

[Visible Quirk] cool and collected

[Age - Mature] Nineteen or twenty.

[Gender Appearance] female

[Visible Quirk] minor tattoo or mark

The axe wielder curses and drags the axe back, demanding my hero prove he's human and not one of the demons.

[One Options] Gary Duncan (thirties, looks sad), Wesley Caldwell (cool, collected), Winifred Wade (minor tattoo or mark)

[Choice] Wesley Caldwell

Fair enough.

My hero points out acidly that he's bleeding and if he were a demon he'd have avoided that.

No opposed rolls mechanic.

So I roll to convince, which doesn't seem to actually have a governing stat.

Mind, I guess.

Rolling 1d6 1 times.
[ 4 ] 4

Plus 2 for the injury and for not being overtly hostile.

Yes, but...

Here's where I'd make my first tweak to the rules; I'd set it so a "yes" gives you a +1 going forward until circumstances change and a "but" or "no" gives you a -1. Which seems like it's compatible with the intention of the rules but not spelled account.

"In MIND or SPIRIT conflicts, anything less than a YES result will simply roll into another conflict, possibly using a different approach."

So ultimately, it's not a bad system, but it's a disjointed one. It's just very hard to mix the elegant Star Trek "crew" framework -- which would be great if supported with more away team stuff and alien planet/encounters stuff -- with the horror-in-space intro and gamemaster instructions.

This is a game I'd like to reskin or revamp, for sure, either back towards pure space exploration or towards something more concrete, like underwater submarines or a post-apocalyptic caravan or something.


The adventure begins...

Next up, Wizarding. It's Harry Potter.

There's about a page discussing this, but that's what it boils down to.

So, define my school.

What era is it?
Is magic hidden or out in the open?
Is the school unique or one among many?
How large is it?
How old are the students?
What are punishments like?

Modern day. Magic is hidden, but the normal kids and the wizard kids go to the same school -- the wizard kids just have a few different classes.

They're forbidden to tell anyone who doesn't know about magic about it.

The school is unique, for parents who want their kids to be part of the modern world, not estranged from it.

It's a typical high school.

Students are typical high school age.

Punishments are as standard, except for the wizardry students, who get demerits on top of regular things like trips to the principal and detention.

The initial nemesis is a Principal who doesn't think the two types of students should mix, and who is looking for a reason to shut the project down.

The nemesis has stats like a PC only better.

There's also a mentor, built in the same way but with more points. I'm guessing the Dumbledore to the nemesis' Snape.

... so, we start out as young as possible. Well, there's one minor adjustment; my student's an exchange student who just transfered in in the second year. Nobody is under 16.

Three Traits; hmm. Notorious parents, loner, aggressively attractive (to steal from a Magnum character I made the other day).

"As well, each character has a Strangeness: a unique power, special destiny or a supernatural heritage."

I'd like some examples on that... I think it will be more interesting to start off not knowing.

Stats are straightforward; all start at 1, and you can spend 4 points among them however you please.

• Charm (likeability/persuasiveness)
• Cleverness (intelligence/cunning)
• Constitution (health/physicality)
• Confidence (self-esteem/courage).

I put 2 points each into the first two.

"Next players spend points on their magics. Players have a number of points to spend equal to the number of branches of magic. Magics start at 0. Score in magic can be used to add dice to action attempts."

But no list of branches here so I guess I wait.

XP gain is complicated; you declare how you'll be rp'ing for the session, everyone's plans are written down in a blind list, then the other players match each idea up and you get xp if they're right. Assuming results stack, a good rp'er can get 3 XP per session but a bad one -- or one who deviates from their expected course -- will get only 1 XP or a new Trait.

You roll when you might get in trouble.

You roll d12s equal to your ability; this die size goes down each time you fail.

So, if most of your dice show 1s, you're in trouble. It's a partial success.

If all are 1s, you're just in trouble.

Otherwise you succeed.

If you roll max on a die, something cool happens; if more dice are maximum the more cool the thing is.

So what happens if you roll 3d6 and get 1, 1, 6? That's a partial success because 1s outnumber the other results. But it's also something cool happens? Not exactly exclusionary but possible to get a weird intersection there.

Finally, you can use magic dice on a roll, but if you roll any maximums on those dice, they go out of control. There's some nonsensical bits about exceeding Confidence that I think might be an editing error.

Traits are used to reroll dice on a one for one basis, by marking them off. They can also use them to "take control of their trouble" but I don't see how that'd work.

... oo, boy. Now I'm reading we get three different colored tokens, depending on the type of trouble we're in.

And all of a sudden there's some board game structure going on.

... I think I'm done with this one. Decent character creation, but the rest of the game is literally Harry Potter, down to the step by step story arc.