So after letting my issues uncovered by the Halloween Dark playtest percolate a bit, I’m very close to releasing a revision. I’m hoping to have it all done by Friday, just in time for a fun weekend of Halloween gaming. But before I put it out there, I could use some feedback. So today I’m going to recap the issues and supply my proposed fixes.
Issue: The game needs a better refresh mechanic than “play a card, draw a card.”
Fix: A player may draw a new Trick or Treat card when she investigates a new Location. This could be one she has never investigated, or one she has investigated before under different circumstances. Characters that hide away in fortified bunkers do not get rewarded. A player may never have more than three Trick or Treat cards in her hand unless specifically permitted by another card.
Commentary: This will hopefully solve the deck cycling issue and, to some degree, the lack of investigation. Plus, it keeps players from hunkering down in the bunker and waiting for the action to blow over. In addition, I’m going to add a handful of T/T cards that directly affect the refresh. Here’s a preview:
Instant Karma (Trick): Exchange your hand of cards with another player at the table. Your hands do not need to be equal.
Issue: Combat needs tightening up. Monsters need to be much more threatening, and the choice of fight or flight needs to be much more definite.
Fix: Fighting monsters works slightly different than other tasks. Encounters with monsters are frightening affairs. When a monster is encountered, compare its Threat Rating to the character’s current Panic level. If the monster’s Threat is equal to or higher, the character immediately suffers a level of Panic.
When a character attacks a monster, the player rolls dice as usual but then must discard a number of dice equal to the Monster’s Threat Rating, starting with the highest rolls. Any remaining dice results of 5 or 6 are considered “hits”.
In combat, a monster can take a number of “hits” equal to it Threat score. So a Threat 3 Werewolf can take three hits before being beaten. What happens when the creature reaches 3 hits is entirely up to the Game Master, but usually it is forced to retreat or is killed.
If a character scores no hits in an fighting exchange, the player may choose to suffer a level of Panic OR Exhaustion. If the character has no dice remaining due to the Monster’s Threat, he suffers a level of both Panic and Exhaustion. Furthermore, some monster Schticks increase either or both the amount of Panic and/or Exhaustion suffered in an exchange (ie. Violence and Gore increases the Panic suffered by 1 level).
A character that is driven to 5 levels of either Panic OR Exhaustion (or both) is essentially dead. They either lack the strength to fight further or are so mad with panic that they become easy prey for a determined adversary.
Commentary: This should model “fear checks” nicely without a lot of fuss. Plus, as off the rails as play gets with dice and card play, taking away dice AFTER the roll seems a lot easier than doing the calculations before the roll. I think having to discard your highest rolls will make the monsters seem a bit more terrifying psychologically. Players get to drive the narrative a bit by choosing the type of “damage” their characters receive.
Issue: Panic and doing something Rash need some fine tuning.
Fix: When your Panic reaches 4, you are Panicked and roll one less die for any task. You may reduce your Panic level by Doing Something Rash. You break off from the group alone to do something quick, interrupt the ritual, destroy something sinister in the group’s possession (or a member of the group!), or wander into the dark room without a light source. Doing Something Rash always involves putting yourself (or someone else) at risk. Each time you do this, roll your Fear Die. If you get less than your current Panic, decrease your Panic by the difference between the two. So if you rolled a 1, you would reduce your Panic by 3 levels.
Commentary: This should make doing something rash a bit less haphazard. Plus, with the new “fear check” mechanic, I expect the panic levels to be swinging around a lot more. Doing something rash now has the potential for a much better pay off. I’m not sure I’ll stick with the “roll low” aspect, though. Maybe roll a d6 and reduce your Panic by half the result. That would have essentially the same effect. And yes, the only way your Panic level can be completely restored is with a T/T card.
If you have more elegant ideas or can see gaping holes in any of these approaches, please leave a comment. Otherwise, watch for Halloween Dark v2.5 to hit this site later this week!