Nasty, Brutish, & Long, my forged in the dark game about class and revolution is out now!
Check out the game here: https://sohkrates.itch.io/nasty-brutish-and-long
Give the release tweet some juice here (much appreciated): https://twitter.com/kindelingboy/status/1382410001449328643
Now all that is out of the way, I wanted to talk a little about my process and design decisions here and why the game is the way that it is.
- I wanted this to be a short, concise game. At 25 pages I’ve certainly made shorter but I’m in the middle of several large projects and I wanted to finish something. Also I have a Patreon and my dear patrons hadn’t seen anything new from me in a while. Also this game is a little bit of a critique of another game…
- I read The Burning Wheel and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to make a version my friends would actually play with me. I like the sort of stories you can tell with that game by WOW does it feel clunky. Way too much time spent on trying to create rules for every little thing, being a simulation of the thing rather than a game. The whole time reading it I couldn’t help but feel like there was an easier way to do this. So Nasty, Brutish, & Long is a paraphrase of that Thomas Hobbes but also how I felt while reading The Burning Wheel.
- Backgrounds rock. Making characters by selecting specific jobs, lifepaths, etc. is really cool and I wanted to make a game that lets you do that. Also this let me reinforce the themes of class and wealth disparity by splitting the backgrounds up into 3 economic classes. Each background gives you 1 action point in 3 different actions, some resources, and maybe an NPC relationship. If you’re working class you will likely have little resources, relationships with your bosses rather than your peers, and be good at actions like Serve and Labour. Wealthier classes will have more resources, relationships with peers and/or competitors, and be good at actions like Manage and Command. Even in games where the revolution isn’t specifically tied to wealth and social status, the game will always come back around to it because of this mechanical and fictional power imbalance, which is exactly what I wanted.
- 30+ actions. I struggled a lot with the action list for this game. Would it be verbs? Nouns? A mix? Eventually I settled on… well a lot of verbs because they can be more general and overlap so well. In Nasty, Brutish, & Long you can link actions together to increase your die pool. The groundwork for overlapping actions already in BitD really helped me here. I’ve found in play that it’s easy to see how Skirmish and Command can overlap when you’re leading a charge into battle, or how Sway and Attune overlap when trying to entrance someone with a spell.
- Make your own setting. One of the things I was really disappointed by in The Burning Wheel was the lack of support for creating your setting. While I think I could have done more here in Nasty, Brutish, & Long I basically just gave a few core assumptions that the game is based on to encourage players to make specific types of worlds: class is present, magic is part of the setting, there is some method of revolution, use an inciting event to ground the revolution and make it feel real, etc. I’ve seen time and time again how having a specific setting in mind really helps Forged in the Dark games, but I think making sure you’re players are making a certain type of setting can work too.
- Money for dice. I’ve changed a lot about how the resolution system works here, but one thing I’m proud of is being able to spend resources to get more dice. In NBL you want to get as many 6’s as possible, so you want to roll as many d6’s as possible. Players can spend 1 resource to get +1d as many times as they like per action roll. Resources can be money, fine tools and equipment, bribes, education, experience, whatever they think it represents in the moment. This creates yet more disparity between different backgrounds. The rich get to make their own luck, and it’s obvious how unfair it is.
Anyway, this was a lot of fun and I think I put the FitD system through its paces. Any questions or comments, please let me know.