HAXEN, a rune-powered Forged in the Dark Game

So I’ve been spending a lot of time making single-player TTRPGs. I like writing, I like stories, and I like how TTRPGs break the fear of a blank page and just get you telling a story with different surprises given to you by randomized elements and prompts. I love not having to get my friends together for a few hours on a consistent schedule. Love make-believing by myself.

One thing that always sort of bugged me about these games is that they are never as portable as something like my notebook, or a novel, or something like a Nintendo Switch. You need randomizers: dice cards, or at least an additional book or paper to write with in addition to the RPG book. They were never really portable. Never something I felt I could play on the ferry or if I didn’t have a lot of table space available.

So with these two idiosyncratic limitations in my head I thought: Could I make a solo RPG with no external parts? I’ve made solo FitD games like MERGER and A Torch in the Dark, but those all needed dice, characters sheets, playing cards.

This mixed with a premise for a story I had some time ago: fantasy characters in a non-fantasy setting. An adventuring party dealing with something like the Zone, like Annihilation, or STALKER. Clerics who can use old tech because of something in their blood. Barbarians who aren’t out of touch because they are far removed in space, but because they are removed in time. They came out of stasis, from before the apocalypse, a world of far advanced tech and weaponry, which makes them rare and deadly relics. A world murdered by the excess and near omnipotence of the wealthy few.

Those ideas came together into what I’m calling Haxen.

Haxen uses a rune system to populate a hex map with locations, encounters, lore, and the moves you use to navigate it.

These are the runes of HAXEN. You’ll notice these map on to the die results of the Blades system. the failure rune represents 1-3, the risk 4/5, and success if the 6. These are distributed randomly on a 6x6 table with rows containing 3 failure runes, 2 risk, and 1 success. These are the runes players cross out when they make decisions during character creation, making the seed for their adventures different from other players. Moves like exploring and confronting force the player to pick certain runes on the table, where as grabbing lore, names, or inspiration let you freely pick runes from anywhere on the table.

These allows for some randomness and unpredictability, but also lets the player engage in some risk and reward by picking specific runes at certain times in an attempt to control the story, survive their adventure, and return to the safety of their commune where they can refresh runes and start again.

It’s been a challenge to get this far, but I think I cracked my problem and made a resolution system that is still surprising and exciting without the inherit randomness of something like rolling dice or drawing cards.

If you’d like to see more, I’m Kickstarting the game now. It’s something designed to hold in your hands, play on the go, so it made sense to do an initial print run. And at just 8 pages you could easily print it yourself too.