Monday, 14 June 2021


Now that almost all that’s left on our character sheet is the various terrible fates that may end our graverobbing career, what other options are still open to us?


An adventure game staple for good reason. Who doesn’t love a good creative use of a flaming torch and 10 ft of hempen rope. Ball bearings! Glue! This is the good stuff.

In the 0.4 update  to GRAVEROBBERS (link goes here once it’s live…) I’m adding an optional rule (all rules are optional, being in trouble is a fake idea) for an inventory system, which is a revised version of the Encumbrance system I came up with here.

The aim is to really focus in on those items. You’ll care more about them when you have to pick and choose! Players are much more likely to be aware of what they do and don’t have, and therefore actually use those things, when they’re having to make tough inventory management decisions. Of course, these can become boring very quickly - which is why I’ve tried to keep things super simple and slot-based. Hopefully it makes a useful addition.

Having so little by way of mechanics to begin with, that new inventory really does draw focus on the character sheet. It’s making me think about how I might further develop this item economy and really build it in as part of the overall structure.

F’rinstance, all(ish) starting items in the Bare Bones will now come with a suggested black market price, doing the duty of an equipment list from classic games. Of course I am wary of putting a currency system into anything, but this is a game about wealth and money and power anyway

So here’s me thinking about just how central this item/inventory system can get. It’s already a suggestion, but could the Day Phase card draws be explicitly just about getting items? Make it the Black Market Phase (as opposed to… the Red Moon Phase for heists? Idk), every purchase is a draw, that’s what draws are for now? Much more gamey than the current “resolution mechanic”-esque card draw, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

(I’ve been very impressed recently looking into Ava Islam’s game Errant, which has a lot of lovely gamey and procedural rules like these that don’t feel as obtrusive as a freewheeling jazz boy like myself might imagine? That’s the key word, I think “procedures” rather than mechanics or rules. Anyway, here’s Chris “Bastionland” MacDowall looking through Errant, definitely worth a watch-along.)

Then again, a phase that’s just “item shop” seems too limiting given the scope of actions available in a freeform game, even if there’s going to be an emphasis on items. Which, again, got me thinking (what doesn’t, folks, am i right, folks,) of the other things on a character sheet.

Here in GRAVEROBBERS land, aside from Odds and Inventory we’ve got your Crime, clothing and of course player notes - setting details, info gleaned through adventure.

And what are these if not… items?

In other games you might have more on your sheet - languages, spells (the closest GRAVEROBBERS comes to either is the Third Eye). These little tidbits - “I can speak Goblin”, “I know the King’s middle name”, “I can make fire with my fingers” - they’re items, just like “I have rope”, “I have a torch”. They’re little, fictional truths  that you can whip out and use creatively. Same thing.

This contrasts with the other bit of the sheet. Unlike what we might typically call “mechanics” - stats, Odds, AC - they’re opportunities as opposed to restraints. Well… they’re restrained (you have a rope, it says “rope”, you don’t have a snake, it doesn’t say “snake”), but they’re not things that are happening to you in the same way as big nasty RULES, they’re chances to make things happen.

So if your card draw is “just” about getting items, but “items” are everything on your sheet that’s not a RULE - trinkets, contacts, information - then…? Yes this is functionally back where we started, but there’s something to this framing, I think. If we can make it more explicit, more procedural - 

- but here I am, talking about potential future updates when the new update isn’t even out yet. Stay tuned!

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