A couple of discussion I’ve participated here recently sparked the idea of remaking Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures as a Forged In the Dark game. I don’t know if this is madness or not but let me hit you with some ideas and you can hit me back with what’s wrong with them.
For background I’ve only run BtW once, and the main reason for that is that I feel a strong disconnect between what I want to do with the game and the old school D&D rules. (I don’t think they’re bad, they just don’t fit well with what I want to get out of the game.)
I’ve had the itch to hack it for a different system ever since that one time I ran it. I love the playbooks, the village creation, and the do-it-at-the-table GM prep, but I want different mechanics.
I’ve run a short series of Scum & Villainy of three or four sessions and I’ve played in a standard Blades forum game that lasted two or three jobs, so I’m hardly an expert there either. However, I feel that the resolution mechanics and the action/downtime cycle fits with what I’d like BtW to be so I’d like to at least sketch out the ideas and see if there are any immediate incompatibilities that make the idea unworkable or if there could be something there.
This is written very much in the moment since I think better when I’m typing. If I actually post it I guess I felt the ideas were at least strong enough to warrant someone else taking a look at them. I’m trying not to get dissuaded by assigning myself too much homework before I brainstorm so I have only looked up things as they’ve become relevant to what I’m writing here.
BtW is primarily intended for one-shots (though the campaign expansion is intriguing) while FitD is intended primarily for medium term play (as I’ve understood it; I could be wrong). I think the FitD model will work well, if you tune the jobs to the setting and set appropriate stakes.
Actions, Resolution Mechanism, and Stress
I think these work well as-is from FitD - you’d need to change some of the actions to work better for adventurous children and the perhaps more varied environments they would find themselves in, but that’s par for the course.
Vices would become more innocent hobbies or interests.
Character Creation, Village Creation, and Advancement
Both games use playbooks. I don’t see any reason to change that.
I think the style of character generation in BtW would work fine with FitD style characters. Pick your playbook, make some rolls on tables structured so that you will have a solid foundation in your primary action along with a few others. Available equipment an similarly be a mix of automatically included and randomly assigned bits. The relationships can work the same way as in BtW as can the village creation.
Moves are perhaps a bit trickier. If you limit the playbooks to a handful you could make a full list of moves for each, but part of the joy of BtW is the broad spread of character types. Some could probably be condensed but I’m not sure that should be the primary approach.
An alternative could be to look at how BtW mixes Warrior/Magic User/Rogue to create unique classes. Perhaps each playbook has two or three unique moves and there are a bigger list that is common to some of them? Like, there are three sets of differently flavored Warrior moves and you can pick from some combination of those if you have one of the Warrior-flavored playbooks and so on? Those moves could still be physically in the playbooks, as long as the lists aren’t too meaty. That seems reasonable.
Factions, Jobs, and Rewards
My immediate idea for this is that the factions are families and individuals in the village and some of the people who come visiting. The smith, the priest, the fisherman, the innkeeper, the peddler, the baron in the manor, the wise woman and so on. These are the ones asking you for help, and the jobs consist of helping the village rather than stealing and murdering and such.
This means that all the factions will be on the same side, however. You’re not doing a job against the priest on behalf of the innkeeper; you’re rescuing the innkeeper’s son from the fairies. But maybe there can be different approaches you take to the job that will affect your standing with various villagers? If you rescue the innkeeper’s son but don’t banish the fairies, maybe the priest will take affront and if you do perhaps the wise woman who has a deal with the fairies will like you less?
Or perhaps the various threats to the village are also represented as factions, and while you will generally be in conflict with them perhaps you can gain their respect? Hm.
Either way, you’re not working for coin and you don’t have upkeep the way a gang of thieves or a starship crew does. Part of your rewards will be the increased respect of the villagers, but perhaps increasing your tier is dependent on the objects and experiences you bring back from your encounters with the threats to the village? That seems fitting. (A possible trajectory for more long term play could be that you start out protecting your home village, then the barony, then the kingdom, and finally the entire world. Stashing that idea for later.) That would make it the equivalent of Rep, which works, I guess? That removes coin from the equation altogether. I guess that’s… fine?
Heat, Downtime, and Crew Advancement
I don’t know what the equivalent of Heat would be in this game. Attention from the leaders of the threats, perhaps? Dissatisfaction from the villagers? Making it some kind of strangeness from encountering otherworldly creatures would have an interesting flavor.
In Blades you expand your gang and your territory, and in S&V you improve your ship. Neither fits very well with BtW, so what does? Could you ditch this completely? That would be a pity since the downtime game and crew improvement is a fun part of these games, but perhaps it’s not necessary? This may put a bigger weight on longterm projects as the main downtime activity if you don’t need to shed Heat (whatever that turns out to be) or recover Stress. Does that make sense? I’m not sure.
Alternatively, the factions aren’t the individual villagers but larger groups of them and the equivalent of crew improvements becomes things like “having a good relationship with the smith so he makes you better weapons” but that doesn’t feel quite right.
I feel like there’s overlap in odd ways here.
Both BtW and FitD fits with an improv heavy GM style (which is something I enjoy). BtW is tuned for one shots so the events tend to be bigger which may require some adjustment, but I think adapting FitD’s continually active hostile forces would make for an intriguing take on the threats in BtW. Instead of picking between different jobs you’re trying to decide which strange occurrences or open threats to investigate first - is the strange blight on the crops more important than the innkeeper’s missing son? Downtime investigation of what’s going on may become vital here, like checking out the details of a job. Hm. Interesting parallel…
Looking at It from the Other Side
So let’s switch perspectives and start from BtW and try to figure out what those characters and stories need that FitD can provide.
Young local heroes typically need to balance their heroing with family expectations, chores or apprenticeships, and worrying parents. They develp their inherent powers through experience and necessity as they confront enemies that should be far too dangerous for them to tangle with. They triumph with the aid of luck, cleverness, their inborn gifts, and the aid of mentors and other helpers. Often they get involved in secret at first, as everyone thinks they’re too young and inexperienced to deal with such dangers as raiding goblins or treacherous fairies. (Some of this doesn’t fit exactly with how the characters are portrayed in BtW but right now I’m looking broader.)
Some of this suggests a tier structure. I’m not sure if this makes sense or fits the game structure, but I’ll sketch it out anyway.
At first, you’re acting in secret (tier 0): Heat becomes attention from your parents and other authority figures which you need to shed by doing chores; Rep becomes experience and the blooming of your inherent gifts as mentioned previously. You may gain the trust and gratitude of individual villagers, but on the whole you are still treated as children.
At tier 1, you’ve become accepted as competent youngsters, trusted to take part in the defense of the village but not to act on your own. You still have obligations to your family and whoever you’re apprenticed to.
At tier 2 most adults treat you as equals (depending on your relationship with their factions, whether those are the individual people or bigger groups).
At tier 3 you occupy positions of authority in the village. At this point the game ends or you make the jump to a bigger scale.
I think there could be something here. You’d need to shave off some of the things that work for a crew of criminals that doesn’t fit as well for young local heroes, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a direct conflict either.
I guess the next step (unless you all convince me this is crazy because of things I haven’t thought about, which is a distinct possibility) would be to hack some Blades or S&V playbooks. But now it’s bedtime.