Silver City Legends - A weird west RPG with playing cards

Hello All,

I’ve been working on this game for most of the year and i’m looking for some feedback.

The Pitch: Players are larger than life heroes in the west in the style of Paul Bunyon, John Henry, and Calamity Jane with a bit of magic thrown in. The game uses a hand of 5 cards to modify actions through Plays based on the four houses in a deck as well as a unique player focused advancement system.

This draft includes the basic rules of play and a few archetype (class) options.

I’m looking for peoples thoughts on the balance of the basic play in the game as well as the powers offered by the archetypes. I occasionally struggle with the math around some of the Plays so I would appreciate any feedback folks have around that. I also want to know how folks feel about the flavor built into the core of the game and if it looks like something fun to play.

This is the first time I’ve gotten this far in developing a game and i’m excited to share it.

You can find a link to the Google Doc HERE.

Soon I hope to share more information around the setting as well as scenario building and GM/player best practices.

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Is there anything specific about the design you’re interested in having people provide feedback for? What do you think works best? What parts aren’t working out quite the way you’d like them to?

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One of the very specific things i’m interested in getting feedback on is the mechanics behind Unopposed Plays. I’m not sure if the 1 in 4 chance of succeeding with every card works well.

I also want folks opinions on the powers. That is where I’m feeling weakest its hard to keep them balanced in my head and I’m also not sure how much I should be worried about overlap.

I’m really proud of the advancement system as well as the bet your life mechanic. I worked hard on getting marks stamps and brands to work as well.

Thanks!

The rules are clearly redacted and flow. Only the first mention of Legend is awkward. It comes too early.

The various types of challenges and wounds are a bit bland. Maybe it’s a case where beginning with a colourful example, and then abstracting the mechanic from it would be more engaging.

I am a bit worried that the tone be lost in the challenges rules, wound rules, and some powers. A covert gunslinger ?! When tutelar figures, like Paul Bunyon, can’t be simulated ?! That’s too weird a west for my taste. Like it’s Duskvol west. Even if that were the intent, I would force a tighter aesthetic. Your mechanics working for generic challenges doesn’t mean it’s how the game will shine. It’s full of “succeed” and “how to do it”. It lacks themes and motivations. Of course, Aspects will bring them, and at player’s convenience : but I’d plant the seeds right in the challenges. With the guns, with the fists, in the wilderness, those are the sort of challenges I’d need to distinguish.

Overall, I love your mechanics : simple, with some randomness and a lot of style in card drawing ; Aspects to go wherever the table wants, and an elegant economy of Marks…

The Fate curves, really fit perfectly. See : Fate points to spend would make for a rather uninteresting mechanic. But the implementation, culminating with the last sunset : this is brilliant !

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Thank you very much for reading!

I’m thinking of re skinning to covert to something more like “Scoundrel”. There are a couple of other archetypes in the works that fit the Americana flavor a bit better (Survivalist/Frontier and Quick).

I’m wondering if you have any further thoughts on how to plant more thematic elements into the “challenges” (the plays?).

I really appreciate your thoughts! The mark economy and the legend advancement weren’t something i had in mind while setting out to make the game. I’m so glad i figured them out and glad I got to share them!

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Further thoughts… not really : what you want the game to be about, if you make it the categories of challenges, it will inform and shape players expectations.

You kept the stats generic, fine : players can do whatever they want (although Powers contradict this…) But you can still make the Plays specific (= thematic). Note I am pushing my “narrative” agenda here ; that’s something maybe you don’t want in your game.

A challenge being opposed or unopposed is something who really cares about ? Either it’s a difficulty level or a NPC rank, it’s always the Reaper hat pulling a target number, and a cards contest. To me it’s a place where you could paint “Tall tale” in big letters. Instead of relying on your players to carry the burden of aesthetic choice, you can state something about the genre you work on.

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I agree with DeReel that the general flow of the document is pretty good. The complexity of the rules is also pretty solid (i.e. not too complex and not too light to be of any help) and most of the comments I have are nitpicks, really. I hope they are of som use despite that. Here’s what bugs me.

In Static Play you state first that “GM sets aside their hand, shuffles the deck and draws a number of cards equal to the value of the hazard”, which seems to indicate that GM’s 5+1 hand is put aside (deferred) and he constructs a new hand with N cards where N is the hazard level. But then your example states that “GM has set the Hazard (…) at a 4. The GM draws 5 cards from the GM deck and places them face down on the table”.

Why did he draw 5 cards if HL was 4? Where did the HL come from? The first part is probably a matter of a typo but the second one is something that should be explained before you get into the Static Play, right before the “Each type of Play represents a different type of situation” part. Some general guide for selecting the HL would make sense there (e.g.: Hazard is represented by a Hazard Level and Hazard Category. Selecting category is up to GMs discretion and Level depends on the Play resolution. For Static Play GM selects HL from X to Y based on ABC. For Contested Play HL is determined by the characteristics of the opposing NPC and his hand, and so on…).

Another part that’s missing from the description is that other than HL, GM sets the hazard type (or action type) upfront (at least for some types of the challenges). This can be drawn from examples and earlier suit description but I feel like this should be spelled out explicitly.

I’d also tighten up some of the terminology: there’s no need to talk about actions and Plays is you could establish early on that actions are known as Plays and that there are four categories of Plays that can be resolved in three ways. I know that this may be tricky and wording will have to be really carefully crafted so that you don’t use generic terms like “type” to denote both category and resolution, but it could be worth it. Alternatively you could make Action into a proper term that denotes the Category (suit). But either way explicit, unambiguous terms always help.

Another thing that’s not worded very well, IMO, is the fact that for Static Play, all of the cards drawn by GM count. You’re saying “cards spent by the GM need not be of the same house” but stronger wording would probably work better here: all of the cards revealed by the GM count, regardless of their suit. I would avoid using “cards spent” phrase here too, GM isn’t spending anything, the cards were drawn for this conflict alone.

In Contested PlayGM shuffles the GM deck and draws cards until their hand is full” and it’s not clear what this means. Earlier on you’ve stated that “GM draws 5 cards plus 1 (…) referred to as the GM hand” but not only is this “plus 1” not clear (why not just state that he draws 6?) but this Play description comes after Static Play where cards were drawn exclusively to resolve the conflict. So… is this the generic hand that he draws for until it’s full or is this something else? So far I’m not sure if there’s a need for persistent GM hand to be honest. Not from the statistics POV at least, there may be an emotional component that’s not clear until the game is played though.

The description of the Unopposed Play makes it sound pretty much like it’s a Static Play without consequences. Which is fine, but example given (stand on a horse) isn’t really something that has no consequences. If you wall, there’s damage to be had. How is this different from the disarm example from Static Play (other than damage done by an explosion is probably greater than falling face first from a horse)?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Unopposed Play could be represented as a low HL Static Play and I don’t think that would be that big of a change.

I should also mention that the part where “player places their hand down in front of them” is once again confusing. Is this just a matter of setting permanent hand aside like what GM does in Static Play? Or am I reading this wrong?

I’ve also noticed that it’s not clear whether I can indefinitely draw and burn during Play. Your state that “At any point a player can choose to burn cards from their hand” which I would exploit to that end. I’d clarify on the matter to close this loophole.

Also it’s probably good to stick to either Hazard Value or Hazard Level and not mix them in the text.

I only skimmed through the rest of the document but I’ll make sure to get back to it tomorrow. HTH!

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Thanks for your feedback!

A couple of the things you have mentioned are definitely typos. The Hazard was meant to be 4 with the GM drawing 4 cards. The GM drawing “5 cards plus 1” is just meant to be 6 (used to be plus 1 for each player but that was a bit much to manage.)

I plan on adding guidelines for creating hazard levels in the further GM rules. Part of creating hazards will be based on marks, stamps, and brands placed on a location/situation.

I think you may be right about the action terminology. I’m thinking of describing like this: A player making an attack makes a (clubs) Action and the GM has them resolve that Action with a Static Play.

Unopposed plays are a big sticking point for me. I wanted something to represent a low stakes action. I felt like if a player has a high rank in something then the GM using one card for a hazard its a waste of time. The unopposed play was my solution to that. I’m not sure about keeping it going-forward, i need to do some more work on it definitely.

I will take steps to clarify drawing in the rules Players only draw when they make a Static or Contested Play. They may burn whenever they want, but doing so brings them closer to having to shuffle their discard pile and gain exhaustion.

Your feedback was very helpful! I’m going to fix the typos that I can easily rectify and think about the rest as I go forward.

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About Unopposed play, the standard solution nowadays is to set a high bar for entry : there’s no contest for low stake action, so you can’t drain the GM hand drop by drop. That’s a win-win on the narrative fantasy front and it leaves the game challenge pit clean for when it really matters.

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Once again I agree with DeReel - there’s no point in having inconsequential Plays. Either drop them or let players bump up the stakes. You could potentially make them into Contested Play with the twist that players set up the opposition themselves.

Player: I want to jump on a horse back.
GM: That’s not a Play at all.
Player: Ok, but I want to make it from a running position to impress Billy.
GM: That’s 1 spades for the finesse of this action and 1 hearts to impress.
Player: I want to leave them in awe though.
GM: 1 spades and 2 hearts then.

This is something I forgot to ask yesterday: is there always a single play category (e.g. just clubs) or can this be slightly more complex?

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The Plays are always meant to be a single house, but some of the powers allow you to use cards from other houses to aid you.

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