Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Fairies and the Campaign Frame

 The Arthurian-ish game continues. (Thanks for all the feedback last post! How did that playtest battle work out for you?)

Also - green Knight UK release confirmed! Finally! 😭 I’ll be seeing it with friends at the end of the month. Hopefully by then I’ll find a better tag for this game lol

btw I’m pretty busy with Journeylands and other projects right now so I’m going to take a break on this one - or at least take development a bit slower, workshop it some more. So posts about it will be a bit more irregular, but like all my projects it’s still going on in the background!


In this post I want to examine trying to reverse-engineer mechanics and gameplay stuff out of lore a bit more clearly. This has been a mechanics-first project in terms of the process of coming up with the game itself (I think all the best games are tbh!).

So far our “Influences” list has been useful mainly in divining the direction of these mechanical decisions. We haven’t really added any mechanics to the game entirely based on the flavour, it’s either been the other way round or a mish-mash workaround of both, and I think going flavour-first can be a valuable option.

The resulting mechanic will, hopefully, be a crucial part of defining the game’s feel, because it comes out of a purely theoretical space.

Not sure I’m making a lot of sense? And at the end of the day, this sort of thing doesn’t matter too much. Really it’s just a frame to talk about my most recent development notes.

Basically, I decided I wanted fairies in the game.

Creative decisions are nebulous things and there were a ton of factors, but the main ~lore~ tendrils leading me to this were

- I was thinking up what the standard healing item could be. Potion was my first thought and for good reason, but before I committed to it I wanted to consider other options. I thought “fairy dust” or similar would be a good item for that, or in general. Berserk has Puck the fairy companion for our grim knight, that’s a nice image from our Influences list.

- both Dark Cloud and Dark Souls have “repair powder” as items, and they’re both in the list. Though I’m still unsure about using weapon HP/breakage as a thing here, it got me thinking about including different “powder” or “dust” items with different effects. That could be the standard unit of consumable magic-thing

- Dust > fairy/pixie dust. And I’ve already got Morgan le Fay in the lore through the Morgen’s Favour item. Going back to the time in myth when elves and fairies and witches and ghosts were all kind of the same thing is a good fit for this project. So if she’s a fairy, or implied to be…

- A big commons thread in the Brythonic mythology on our Influences list is the idea of nine sorceresses - or witches, or sirens, or elves, or magic priestesses. Or, Morgan le Fay and her sisters. Blending all that up into some lore juice seems good to me.

- So, there are nine witches/fairies. We already know you’re the knight of one of them. What about the others?

it’s puck

My current train of thought is that Morgen’s sisters have been captured and that’s what you’re doing on this quest in the first place. I imagine fairies/elves/witches can’t die, so they’re just being held captive in these castles by these knights who are using their power or whatnot.

(This is… kind of a damsel in distress narrative, which I’m not keen on. It fits the tone I guess. Hopefully we can mitigate that through some other creative decisions. For one thing, there’s nothing saying the player character and the evil knights aren’t also women. And not all the fairies need to be women either. We’ll do our best to give the fairies agency in the narrative through mechanics, too. Maybe there’s an action to free each fairy mid-battle instead of rescuing them at the end, and they join the fight? Idk. Just something to think about going forward.)

Your progress in the campaign can be marked by freeing these fairies by defeating their captors in duels, then maybe a 9th “secret” boss battle. Each freed fairy would unlock something - which brings us to the mechanics again.

See, I’ve been going back and forth on what would constitute a good “campaign frame” for this duel system. There needs to be more game around the battles - whether that’s something as simple as an encounter roll/meter, a whole choose-your-own-adventure style branching narrative, or something else… I’m not entirely sure yet.

(I do know that I don’t want to write a whole book lol. And I reckon the frame should be as simple to grasp - and take up as little space on the table and in the player’s head - as the battle system itself. Or less.)

But I do think that an overall “progress sheet” is not too much to ask. I’m envisioning three layers to the game - the duels, something in the middle, and a kind of bookend “safe zone”. This is where you’d return between “missions” to tick off objectives, store items you weren’t using. Call it Avalon, or one of the many other mystic isles of the otherworld. This structure mirrors the zooming in and out through town>dungeon>combat in standard RPGs, and I really like games that use this structure. (Put things in your game that you have fun playing in other games! Good rule of thumb!)

So on your “Avalon” sheet, you can note down the fairies you’ve freed so far. And each one can unlock an ability that you can use when you go back there between excursions. Building up your “home town” through dungeon progress is something I love in games - including Dark Cloud, which is on our Influences list, so this is all fair game for inclusion!

Let’s say that Morgen, presumably already “unlocked”, heals you completely when you return to base - the kind of ability I think you should have from the start, so let’s tie it to her.

Other fairies could supply you with items - the dust! - or give other buffs. Maybe one can craft you items if you bring back the right ingredients. We can go nuts with these. Maybe some of the fairies can go with you as companions, taking up an item slot and offering a passive buff or special action. One could repair items, if we do indeed take that treacherous path…

This all begs the question of what that middle “level” to the gameplay is - our “dungeon”. Can you rescue these fairies in any order? How do you explore and traverse the world - do you have to “find” them? Or is the game just nine fights in order with loot and a new fairy after each? (That would certainly be easier to write…)

Anyway, I think we can leave all that for next time.

Hopefully this post was useful to some of you! Mainly I wanted to show how the spark of a purely “flavour” idea, adding fairies into the game somehow, led to me starting to create this overall 3-tier structure as well as the main thrust of the “story”, and making all kinds of mechanical decisions around it.

I find posts reverse-engineering the creative process like this can sometimes help me tackle challenges in future, thinking back on things more as a piece of work I did than an idea I had. Ideas are cheap! Work is where it’s at.

Happy gaming! x


  1. I've been reading your design posts, and everything looks fascinating. I've seen my fair share of Homebrew systems on reddit/OSR Blogosphere, but nothing caught my attention like this. The whole Soulsborne/Fairy Tale stuff, along with the "clock" combat system and the diegetic advancement... I would pay money to play that. I'm eager to see the final result! Keep the good work!

  2. On the, how to "unlock" fairies stuff, I've been taking a look at Boardgames recently, to find some "fresh" mechanics outside of the D100/D20/2D6 paradigm of most RPG's that I know.

    In Dungeons of Infinity, before you start "the crawl", you roll a dice (I don't remember exactly what, let's suppose it's a D12) each dungeon tile has a number, and they are selected from a Deck, randomly. Each tile has a number, from 1 to 12. Whem you find the tile with the number you rolled, you find the objective.
    Let's assume you have "key goals", and the goal number is 12 (to keep with your clock thing). Like, to release the next fairy, you need to find the "Golden Key of Whatever". You find it, you roll 1D4 and advance that on the clock. Or you can try to get the "padlock of mcguffin", it's a harder challenge, but you get to roll a D8 and advance the number rolled on the clock. Sometimes you roll high, sometimes low. This keeps some granularity in the advancement of the goals and works almost as a "mini-game" of sorts

    1. Thanks for your comments!

      I have all kinds of ideas about goals/advancement that I will touch on in the next post! I do like the idea of attaining different dice to fill an overall meter, that’s very clean. Although I’m probably sticking with d6 only for now, adding in more polyhedrals would open a lot of space