Indie Game Reading Club - Goblinville

Paul Beakley wrote this piece about running Goblinville as a one-shot.

I really appreciate how much context he gives regarding Goblinville’s inspirations and where it innovates. He also has a fair critique about scope: that Goblinville is not prescriptive about how much can be accomplished in a single roll. I think this can come up in any system with a single resolutions system (it’s more similar to World of Dungeons than Dungeon World in this regard) which can be productive or murky, depending on the table,

If folks have played, I’d be interested in how your experiences aligned with Paul’s and I’m happy to discuss if the write-up sparks any other questions.

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Hey I’m new to the site but just wanted to comment here.

I agree that the game would have been hard to parse without having already read Blades in the Dark and Torchbearer (in my case). My copy of the zine also swaps chapters 1 and 2 which was mildly confusing until I figured it out.

More substantively, I struggled a bit with the “stateful” positioning. My experience with Blades in the Dark was to determine position independently on each roll, whereas in Goblinville it’s mechanically important to maintain position state from action to action. During conflicts my goblins tended to get into bad position and get stuck there. It’s possible I was being a bit too harsh but it really seemed difficult to get out of bad positions without getting hurt, especially since you’re always rolling danger plus harm in situations goblins might get hurt.

Our group loved the goblin creation, loved the goblins we ended up with, and really enjoyed playing characters focused on scavenging, jury-rigging, and running from danger. People also enjoyed using the twist die to help other characters. I think they even had fun getting swamped with consequences and barely getting out alive, although after a certain point they just tried to avoid making any rolls at all costs.

I’m hoping to run a short arc in Goblinville sometime. It’s likely I’ll mod the rules a bit to fit our style of play, but I’m also interested to hear how others run Goblinville and get more advice on how to run it as intended.

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Yeah, if goblins are in a bad position and in harms way it can be hard to get out of it. They are underdogs in conflicts for sure. Starting combat from an ambush or setting traps are great ideas. As is fleeing when a fight isn’t going your way; the goblins don’t need to win any combats to do well. It sounds like the players have the right idea if they’re trying to avoid trouble but still enjoying it when they’re down-and-out.

From the GM side, it can be handy to remember that goblins can improve their conditions with clever actions (not just from rolls).

I agree that being familiar with the flow of related games makes it easter to run Goblinville. It might end up increasing the learning curve for some, but it also meant fitting a dense game into a small package. One of our goals in Issue 2 is to provide some more scaffolds for GMs.

I’d be interested to hear advice and perspective from other folks, too.

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One other thing is that I think many of our group used up their traits/titles too early in the session, and were left in the difficult situations without much gas in the tank. (They may also just have rolled badly.)

I’d hate to add in another game influence but I could imagine some compel-like mechanic to restore tags to their traits/titles, or some other way for the story guide to try to encourage them to conserve their resources.

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I would likewise hesitate to add another source of bonus dice. In the second session, goblins have 3 traits and 2 titles, so a crew of 4 goblins have 20 bonus dice to throw around (in addition to twists). Many more than that, and the choice of when to spend them would lose its significance.

If the players’ goblins survived the first session, they likely internalized a better sense of when to hold on to traits and when to spend them. Other groups start out hoarding them and have to learn to dive in. If you’re teaching the game, you could offer encouragement one way or the other, or just let them experiment.