CEPHALOFAIR DESIGNER DIARY ISSUE 4: GLOOMHAVEN RPG

January 30, 2024

CEPHALOFAIR DESIGNER DIARY ISSUE 4: GLOOMHAVEN RPG

Greetings Mercenaries!

It’s been a whole heck of a year, hasn’t it. What? It’s only the end of January? I’ve got 11 more months of 2024 to go? Someone please explain to me how this could happen.

Okay, silliness aside. It’s honestly been a great start to our year. I’ve gotten the first drafts of setting material for the RPG and it is looking great. I’m getting excited to start sharing that information with y’all as soon as I can. Until then, I’ll share a few more mechanical bits that I think will help with the context of the game.

Today I’m going to talk about Skills and Ability Cards. In the Gloomhaven Board Game, the classes and their abilities are iconic for hitting the right balance between each character fulfilling a different role, and everyone being distinct. No two damage classes are the same, and no two healer classes are the same. We wanted to preserve that iconic variation within the RPG, and the best way to do that is to use similar Ability Cards for each Class. In an RPG though, your character isn’t just its combat abilities. They also have social, investigative, knowledge based, and even crafting abilities. Also, in the board game, every cragheart is a savvas, and every spellweaver is an orchid. But in the RPG, a savvas could be a bruiser and an orchid could be a tinkerer. You get to mix and match ancestry to class, meaning we needed to separate abilities that came from being an ancestry from their individual classes and rethink what benefits being a specific ancestry gave you.

The way we did this was to give both ancestries and classes a combination of Skills and Ability Cards. Let’s talk first about Ability Cards, as those you’re more familiar with. Now instead of just having a class based set of Ability Cards, you also have a few ancestry specific Ability Cards that you can choose from to create your Stamina Deck. This makes choosing cards a little more meaningful, as you have more options, and you can create different combinations, allowing multiple characters of the same class to feel different in play. 

We had to adjust Ability Cards to remove some of the actions that just don’t show up in an RPG (like the Loot function) and adjust a few things for the more narrative aspect of the game. The biggest change you’ll see is the base movement value on the bottom of a card is now 4 instead of 2. This is to account for the fact that in the RPG we have more terrain features you can interact with (climbing on top of obstacles, going up or down sheer or steep inclines, etc). These take up more than one movement point, so we’ve increased the movement value to compensate. There’s also a little less need for the really tight movement you see in the board game, since combat action and non-combat action may flow and interweave between one another in a single mission.

Here’s a Level 1 spellweaver card, just to show you what they might look like (Note: the Ability Cards aren’t completely final, and may change due to playtesting):

 

 

Now, let’s talk about Skills. Skills are very similar to Ability Cards in that they allow the character to take a unique action that requires you to expend a card (Discarded or Lost). There’s a few key differences. A Skill is not on a card, it’s on your character sheet. Because of this a Skill is neither a top nor a bottom action, which means you can use your Skill as either your top or your bottom action in combat. Because you aren’t discarding the Skill after you use it, you can use your Skill multiple times in a row before any kind of card refresh (*unless otherwise stated). A Skill can be used in or out of combat. Skills are just a special action you can do, so you can do it whenever you like.

Class Skills are abilities that really define a class that we felt would be best expressed as an action that a character can take at any time. These are some of the most iconic class abilities that really show what a class is about. In the same vein, ancestry Skills are abilities that show what an ancestry is, what they care about, and how their history defines them. Even though Skills can be used in combat, they are designed to be generally useful at any time. Some are socially focused, while others are focused on manipulating elements or using magic.

For an example Skill, here’s one from the spellweaver class. 

  • Reviving Ether: [Lost] Recover all [Lost] and [Discarded] cards from your ability deck and shuffle them (not counting the card lost by this skill). You cannot use this Skill again until you take a Full Rest.

You’ll notice that this breaks what I said a little bit. That’s what the * was about. This Skill can only be used once per Full Rest, rather than over and over again (rest assured, the spellweaver does have Skill options they can use multiple times). But, this ability is so iconic to the spellweaver, that we’ve made it a Skill. (It’s also still an Ability Card.) This means that a spellweaver can refresh their Lost and Discarded cards outside of combat, making them particularly good at taking risky actions that require losing cards, but also gives them a second refresh within combat situations. Use it wisely.

You will start your character with a few Skills, and be able to gain new Skills as they level up. We’re still working out if those Skills will add to your available pool of Skills, or if they’ll be Skill replacements the way Ability Card progression works. So you’ll have to wait until later to find out the answer to that particular question.

This was a big one today, so I hope you enjoyed this information! I have just a couple more mechanical specific widgets to show you, and then we’ll be sharing some more setting information. So stay tuned!





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