Ah. Recycling old ideas eh Jarod? You hack. I know, I know. But hey, I’ve played a lot more video games over the past few years and in all honesty, a lot of them have been really good. Spider-Man PS4, Dad of Boy, and I finally got my hands on Dishonored 2. However, as I play more and more of these games I keep thinking to myself… “Oh, how cool would that be to implement into next week's session.” So here’s another collection of my little thoughts and ideas. My little adaptations and wishes.
1) The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 was - and still is - a really damn good game. But the issue with most open world RPG type games is that they’re often single player based where TTRPG’s are often an exercise in group cohesion. As such, the mechanics oftentimes have almost no common group. I say almost for a few reasons. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this. And as much as I would like to say, “We should implement that no matter where you are in the world you can whistle and your horse will be only a few paces away,” I will instead say I think CD Projekt Red created a possible tabletop mechanic in their mutagens.
For those who are unaware, Witchers are able to take a part of monsters called Mutagens and implement them into their own biology. It’s a dangerous, albeit interesting process. Not to mention it provides a significant combat advantage. Now, in the case of D&D, Matt Mercer has already created a homebrew class called the Bloodhunter, and one of their subclasses is called the mutant. And while I can in no way deny that Matt’s class is effective and that this idea is implemented very well by him, I will instead make the case for a different style of implementation.
Anyone can implement these mutagens into their bodies. The process is dangerous, and there’s a very good chance you can die if you don’t take the proper precautions, but to obtain mutagens, you must have a very specific and expensive tool that requires a trained operator, additionally mutagens can only be taken from monsters and animals that have died within the last ten minutes. Luckily they have a decent shelf life. A month or two. Mutagens are, at their best, unpredictable. And at their worst catastrophic to a mortal’s body. A mutagen taken from a werewolf can do everything from heightening one's senses to a bestial level, to granting one supernatural strength, to simply cursing the subject with lycanthropy.
I don’t feel I could make a general outline for the general effects of mutagens on a player character, but I might implement them similar to artifacts in D&D, where when undergoing a mutagenic process you can gain both beneficial and detrimental qualities. I would also say that a player character can only have a few mutagens in their system before it kills them. I would say two would be a good limit. Or if you really want to get crazy, use their constitution modifier (or equivalent) to determine the number of mutagens one can have.
2) God of War (With A Beard)
The newest God of War is another gem of a game. I would call it a diamond in the rough, but it’s more of a diamond that’s been put on billboards and shit, because this game was impossible to escape for most of 2018. Everything from the voice acting to the simple yet engaging story, to the rich and glorious worldbuilding was a wonderful ride. In every way. (Fuck the Valkyrie fights my guy. Especially the one in Musphelheim.) But it’s very specifically a video game experience. What on earth can my simple mind take out of this game to apply to a tabletop setting? I hear you asking in order to allow me to transition into the point of this point. The point being Runic Attacks. Yes, this boils down to abilities with cooldowns. Yes, it boils down to everyone having more DPS and status effect capabilities. But what I’m trying to get at is some sort of physical thing that you have to interact with to gain this ability.
Sure it could be as simple as a magic item (McGuffin) but let's take a moment to get out of the Box™ and try thinking outside of it. Maybe it’s spirits that the players did a service for who now want to bless them with a conditional ability in which they call upon the magic of nature. Or unknowable beings that force arcane power upon the player so they will use it at a key moment setting a massive domino effect up. Perhaps even a divine gift from the gods for the parties unconditional wholesomeness. There are so many ways to pull out some sort of cooldown ability. Whether or not the reason behind the cooldown is arcane or just some force being a dick is completely up to the GM.
3) The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Piss. Moan. “What did you take from the game where you’re a god by level 37?” Let's cut to the chase. The Elder Scrolls had a cool idea with Shouts. And while I think player characters could have access to that sort of thing, I don’t think it should be as innate as with the Dragonborn in Skyrim. As mentioned by the GreyBeards learning such power should be dangerous, difficult and slow paced to the point where I think the average player character would learn something close to one or two complete shouts by max level.
“Fus Ro Don’t” I hear you yelling out to the heavens. But hear me out. Yes, a lot of the shouts in the game are essential “press to win the fight” buttons. But I feel like there should be a lot more balancing to such things. For example, the call dragon shout shouldn’t exist. Ta Da. Not an issue. Unrelenting Force? More like Unrelenting push your enemies back 50 ft and knock them prone if you have all 3 words understood. Sure this isn’t as adaptable as my previous point with Oblivion. And it tips the power balance in favour of the players. But who’s to say that other creatures and beings can’t learn to shout? After all, if the edgy rogue who was born with no parents can do it, why can’t a vampire who’s lived two thousand years?
I bet you read that title and said; what? Well, as you may have astutely noticed there are no mechanics in Tetris that could possibly fit into any TTRPG that I know of. And furthermore, to make other readers who have come to this page believe that I actually pulled something from a puzzle game where you drop blocks on each other and put it in a TTRPG, I will now type out a recipe for cheesecake brownies. You will need one hundred and seventy grams of cream cheese softened in the microwave. Three-quarters of a teaspoon of baking soda. One eighth a teaspoon of salt ideally kosher salt. Twenty Nine grams of unsweetened cocoa powder. (Or sweetened. I don’t judge.) Two large eggs. One hundred and seventy grams of raw honey. Two tablespoons of vanilla extract. You’ll need the two tablespoons divided. That will become apparent as to why later. A recommended eighty-four grams of semisweet chocolate chips, but as we all know chocolate chips are of course to taste. Seventy-one grams of almond meal or finely ground flour and lastly a non-stick pan.
First, preheat your oven to three hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Then in a bowl whisk the eggs together (please note you should attempt to separate the yolk from only one of the eggs and save the whites for the cream cheese mixture and add one-fourth of a cup of water, the honey and one tablespoon of vanilla. Whisk together as well. In a separate bowl whisk together the almond meal or finely ground flour with the cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Mix the two mixtures together and stir well. Add chocolate chips and stir again. Then pour the batter into the pan. Now here’s where things get a little weird, you want to take the softened cream cheese and mix in sugar reserved egg white and the last teaspoon of vanilla. Pour that over the brownie mix and spread it about, bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (typically about a half an hour.) Let cool and enjoy.
4) (For Real This Time) Assassins Creed
Now in this particular instance, I’m selecting more story framing mechanic than an actual game mechanic, however, it does play into the games in a lot of ways. This being the dual settings of the modern day and historical setting. Once again, this is more of an idea than a mechanic so feel free to gloss over this to a certain extent, but I really feel as if there are a lot of ways that new mechanics can flourish in this setting. For example, two separate skill sets. The two separate settings will allow for a lot of room character customization as well as difficult stakes depending on the nature of the dual settings.
Of course, the two settings would have to have equal time restrictions. It would have to be very different from the Animus in that the two settings would have to happen simultaneously. However, in large groups, this may quickly become an issue where the party wants to split itself into the group that’s dealing with the one world issue and group that wants to deal with the second world issue. As such, I think that this is best for either very small groups that won’t want to risk splitting, or very large groups that should already be split. There are is a very large well of potential waiting to be tapped into here but I feel like it would be tricky to execute at best and destructive to the experience at worst so keep that in mind should you try to do something like this.
Another very nice game with a unique concept that finally represented what a game about vampires should really be about. Most of the mechanics in it, however, are similar to a puzzle piece in that they all fit together but not a whole lot of other places. With the exception of the key mechanic. Which is gaining more experience the better you know your victims. Now of course, direct experience is a little bit too much to give to someone just for sniffing around your NPC lore, however, it could definitely be used in a slightly more direct way.
This would require a few changes to the base understanding of most games, but should you place your characters in a world in which certain people have power which is inherent and can be stolen, this power could become more accessible to people who know the beings which they’re trying to steal the aforementioned power from. A sort of magical connection that grows as the understanding of the beings grow. Once the being is killed, you could gain a different kind or amount of power based on your knowledge of the being. Murder could be a good idea, but their loved ones would be instilled with the same power as you even if you kill them. In short, you could make a lot of powerful enemies very quickly.
There are a lot of places to find inspiration in art. Video games are no exception. There are a hundred different things to yoink and adapt for everyone and it's really kinda cool. Well, that's really an understatement. So go out there and get inspired.
Jarod Lalonde is a young roleplayer and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
Picture Reference: https://www.giantbomb.com/the-witcher-3-wild-hunt/3030-41484/forums/newbie-question-s-a-rpg-and-witcher-newbie-needs-y-1772177/
The backbone of every game- regardless of the medium- is the mechanics behind it. Some mechanics, like Shadow of Mordor's nemesis system, may have been very interesting in a virtual environment, however prove effectively moot in the tabletop world, as the GM would obviously remember the occurrences much better than a system would. However, other mechanics, similar to Bioshock’s plasmids and the tonics that came along with them, would simply flourish in a tabletop environment. Hell, an entire class, maybe even a whole system, could be dedicated to Bioshocks superhero-esque plasmids. There are literally dozens of games out there that could have entrancing and exciting overlaps.
1) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The Elder Scrolls series may not have a whole lot of mechanics that would fit cleanly into a lot of RPG’s. However, the beauty of fantasy worlds is that as long as there's magic, there will almost always be some overlap. In Oblivion, once you complete a little bit of the tutorial, you get to make a rather interesting choice: your birth sign, which grants you a passive or active ability. This concept could be implemented very easily in any game system that has magic. You could, of course make up your own constellations or, depending on the game, use the ones provided. Using the real world zodiacs could be incredibly versatile. A rogue born under the sign of the Libra could have the ability to bend luck in his favour, in exchange for bad luck later (the GM would obviously choose when to affect the player with this) or a warrior born under Aries could receive an extra action per day in combat. You could perhaps even force the players to roll randomly for their birth and giving them a sign that may or may not blend well with the class they have.
Taking the Chinese Zodiac would be just as interesting. Someone born in the Year of the Snake could get a bonus to deception checks. Being born in the Year of the Dragon could make you better at persuasion. Those born in the Year of the Pig may just be better at coming across money. Personally, I would say that typically passive bonuses would be better for an RPG setting and that if you chose to give the player an active ability, it should probably be a once per day thing.
In Oblivion many of the abilities are actually rather powerful with a prominent detriment, such as the ability to regenerate health at the cost of being weak to fire damage. While a system with bonuses and detriments would work very nicely, having some sort of weakness or handicap at level one could be a character killer, depending on the system.
If you’re unfamiliar with this PlayStation exclusive, you may or may not have been living under a rock. But that's beside the point. In Infamous, you have powers that are enhanced by your choices via their Karma System. When you do “good” things you get “good” karma, and vice versa. Now, the interesting portion of this system is when you introduce the powers.
When you lean further into one of the two karmic paths, you are allowed to unlock powers that are specially made for that path, typically with the good path being focused on self-healing and the evil path being built around the concept of “big boom fast no take damage.” In games which your alignment is a solid and important choice, this could work out very well, as your alignment would affect your abilities and functionality.
For example, a lawful neutral wizard could be able to prepare an extra spell per day. A chaotic evil fighter could choose to do a significant portion of extra damage in exchange for taking a little damage themselves. Neutral good bards could have a bonus for their buffs and healing spells. Really, the doors that are open for this (in a world with more options than “good” and “evil” doing the most stereotypical “good” and “evil” things ever) are quite astonishing when you take everything into account. Not that it wouldn’t be a lot of work. *
*Only because I got a little bored while writing this, I've decided to calculate out exactly how many possibilities there are for this. Assuming one power for every combo (I.E. One power per alignment for every class. So 9 alignment powers for a fighter.) we have 9*12 when using D&D as our basis. Which already leaves us at 108, arguably a whole crap ton of legwork. But, if we include all the races and have individual powers depending on race, class, and alignment, (i.e. A LG dwarven fighter would have a different power than a LG elven fighter) then we have to go 9*9*12, which brings our new total up to 972 individual power changes. That's not including Volos Guide races. Which, including the monstrous races would bump this number up to 1404 individual race and alignment based powers per class. Now, let’s drop the race thing and focus on if you adjusted each ability slightly depending on alignment. We’ll assume 5 different adjustments. So 5*9*12. Which comes out to 540 separate changes. Let’s face it, 5 adjustments would probably be lowballing it. But still, you can see why this idea would be a little bit of work if you were going to fully map everything out.
3) Dark Souls
I can hear the masses screaming already. “Oh god, what mechanic from those godforsaken, tough as nails games could this sadist possibly think would fit into a tabletop game?” Well, I’ll have you know that this is a skill game, and there's not a whole lot that would apply in a tabletop setting. However, they do have a bit of overlap and I think that Dark Souls ideas on the subject would make for an interesting game. And that subject is currency and experience. In case you are unfamiliar with the Souls format, in the game, you get these things called “Souls” (shocking I know) but they function as both the primary currency and the experience for the game. So you can choose between buying that sick piece of armour or jumping three levels after beating that boss.
Obviously, this would require leveling and price adjusting on the part of the GM in most settings, but the dynamic between players who choose to focus on gear and the players that choose to focus on leveling would make for some interesting and rather unique experiences. Pretty much making it so the same character, no matter how stock, can have some personality. This would also make NPC creation interesting. Where instead of having a BBG with a whole crap ton of HP and abilities, he can just be decked out in some super insane gear and really just be an average dip. Obviously, you don't need the whole XP=Currency system to pull this off, but it really could make for some damn good player choice and development in a lot of mediums. Implementing it in a story sense could be difficult, however, you could just use the “souls” idea from the game if you can’t think of anything better. Like myself.
If you’ve played a video game, at some point you’ve experienced a game over. You died, or you failed the mission, or you glitched into some sort of horrible unending pain that made you reload. Well, in the hit indie game Undertale, loading and saving are a recognized story element that a couple of characters (including the protagonist) can manipulate and use. Obviously, this is a rare thing that VERY few characters can use. In our medium, we can assume that it’s also rare, however, our heroes will consistently have it for the sake of ease. This mechanic would fit very well into a setting where the GM shoots for a “small fish, big pond” situation, where the protagonists are comparably insignificant to the monolithic and colossal proportions of the obstacles they face, and death is not only imminent, but unavoidable for someone of an adventurous mindset.
Ideally, this isn’t an ability that is used constantly. Perhaps with two or three uses per day before whatever magical or technological wonder they draw upon is spent, and won’t be able to save them if they die again. This is another mechanic that should be used delicately if integrated, as such incredible power is very easily abused, not only by the player, but by the GM. It would be easy to start giving BBG’s this ability left and right.
But really, this is a power that maybe a god or two would have and a handful of randomized legendary heroes and the like. However, this mechanic opens so many doors for “trial and error” based mini adventures that have a little bit more to do with luck. Again, impressing that “you are insignificant” mentality.
5) Every game ever... kind of?
You’re probably very confused and pondering the question, “What does literally every video game have that not a lot of tabletop games have?” Well, let me just tell you: powerups. Now I know that magic items and equipment can count as “power-ups” in a sense, however, those are typically permanent as long as you have the item. What I’m talking about is temporary super powerful situational abilities.
Of course, in a world with a lot of magic or technology, you may think, “Well that's kinda pointless. Why would I need a flower to let me shoot fire out of my hands when I can already shoot fire out of my hands?” But, kind sir, you forget the very basis of tabletop games: not everyone is good at everything.
Having some sort of “enchanted” mushroom that the wizard can down in a time of need when the tank is on the other side of the field to make them grow twice as big and be able to deck out some melee damage without wasting the use of a spell is a rather novel idea. Or in a sci-fi setting some sort of module or chip that, when attached to a handgun, makes it do double damage for a clip or two, but said module burns out super quick.
I know you’re thinking “potions and scrolls and spells oh my” but really, potions are quite the cliche at this point. Even if they do the same thing as a potion would be able to, finding some sort of super rare material in the wild and then consuming it to get a short lived edge would really add some flavour to the system.
As I said before, games live by their mechanics. Some games probably start with mechanics before they even have a real idea as to where it's going. And regardless of the medium, a lot of love and care is put into every game I’ve played.
What do you think about these ideas? Am I just blowing smoke out of my arse? Am I fool in a man's body who doesn’t understand how proper game balance works? Are there any games that you think would have a novel effect on the tabletop world? Well, there's a comment section for a reason.
Jarod Lalonde is a young role-player and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
Picture Reference: http://indiehaven.com/knight-of-pen-and-paper-1-edition-pc-review/
All blog materials created and developed by the staff here at High Level Games