John Parmalee

Apr 292015

Hello everyone! It’s been a long while since we’ve had an update from Bannerhouse. You’ll be happy to know that despite our quite inexcusable delays, that we are still going strong and still working hard to bring a new collection of games your way. We’ve expanded our work base and now have twice the man-power. This adds productivity, new ideas, and accountability. Yuck.. not much fun to say aloud (or type for that matter) but it’s true. This means that instead of reading about an upcoming game, I can now give you an actual expected day of release!

Right now we’re focusing on a few things. Here’s what we’ve got in the works.

Graphical updates to the free games. Those pdfs are fine and clean, but they’re not very flashy. We’re changing that now.

New Print and Play pdfs. Some more small free games for YOU to enjoy at the click of a mouse.

A Mobile Game! No it’s not the most amazing news in the world and we’re not ready to announce the game yet. But keep your eyes open. We plan to release this June 2015

If you’re wondering about the mobile game then I suppose it should be addressed. Yes we are breaking into the mobile game department. But we are not leaving behind our traditional game roots. We plan on releasing both digital and traditional games as well as paired games that utilize both mediums. This is a bit far into the future but you can imagine how excited we are to get started.

Thanks for sticking with us and we can’t wait for you to see the new games!

Sep 052014

We, here at Banner House Games, really like the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. We’re not, however, in the habit of reviewing popular games that already have dozens upon dozens of reviews. This, being a design blog, we’re much more interested in the various mechanics and design philosophies put forth in D&D 5e. Today, I wanted to share my observations and examination on the new Advantage system and how it affects conditions. Also, I wanted to touch on the idea of rules simulating reality on a sliding scale. Wow…. that might be a tall order. Don’t hate me if I can’t deliver.

Warning! This is not a short article.

(edit: the second portion of this article was based on incorrect math. It is being revised currently and will be posted at a later time. In the mean time the first half is still relevant and has remained. Also, I’m embarrassed.)


The Advantage system is a sort of blanket mechanic meant to cover any and all modifiers to rolls. It reduces the amount of mathematics you have to perform on any given roll. When granted, whether through class abilities or by the DM, the player or other rolling entity rolls two d20s instead of one and takes the higher result for their roll. This rule has an opposite. If you have a disadvantage, you’ll roll two d20s and take the lower result. Now, there is math involved in this mechanic, but it is elusive to those who don’t obsess over dice probabilities. Luckily, I’m going to summarize the numbers for you. They change depending on the target DC, giving an inverse bell curve of modifiers. If your target number to over come is mid range (I.E. 8-12) then the benefit/penalty is large, around +/- 5. However, if your target number is an extreme low or high (I.E. 1-2 or 19-20) this benefit/penalty is small, around +/-1. There is a discussion around this bell curve all by itself that is worth investigating, but that has already been done by others. Since our example needs a stable number to illustrate it’s point, we’ll just make a declaration that for the rest of this article, advantage is equal to a +2 bonus and disadvantage is equal to a -2.

Modifiers in Dungeons & Dragons have traditionally been placed on any number needed. So if your leather armor has acid splashed on it, maybe it’s damaged and grants a penalty to your AC (Armor Class) if you wear it. Or perhaps the enemy has fallen onto the ground and so you are granted a bonus modifier to your attack roll to hit the enemy because of his position. Any time a number is presented (AC and Attack Bonus for example) you could theoretically apply a positive or negative modifier. This creates more calculations on the part of the players. While the math certainly isn’t complicated, it wasn’t uncommon for players and DMs to add and subtract three or four separate modifiers. Sometimes more. This is time consuming and obnoxious, especially when it happens dozens of times in a given play session for multiple people.

However there is an interesting play of math that these modifiers can create. Let’s look at two specific modifiers. A -2AC and a +2Atk. I may not look as much, but these modifiers are mathematically exchangeable across characters. In other words, if you have a -2 to your AC, that is mathematically the same as giving me a +2 to my Attack roll. I’ll attempt to explain.

In the D20 core mechanic, you will roll a twenty sided die and add (or subtract) a modifier to the result of that roll. The die will give a result between 1 and 20 and the modifier will raise (or lower) that result by that amount. There is a median result on the die, 10 that is used as the base number for determining difficulty. In other words, when planning out how high or low a monsters AC (or other values) should be, it is faster to assume that 10 is the typical roll. Knowing this, we’ll look at some attack modifiers vs AC values. Let’s assume that you have 16AC and I have an attack modifier of +4. The game assumes that I’m going to average a totaled result of 14, thereby missing your 16AC. If you had a -2AC, that would give you an effective 14AC. My result of 14 would hit you. Or if I had a +2 Atk, that would raise my Attack modifier from +4 to +6, giving me an effective average of 16, hitting your AC or 16. Now, of course I could get any other number with fair odds, but there’s one last detail to remember.

Static numbers, are just a rolled d20 with a set result of 10. So an AC is determined by taking the number 10, and adding the relevant armor and dexterity modifiers. A Spell save DC is just the number 10 + the relevant modifiers. In fact, you can think of a spell save DC as being an attack roll, and the save itself as setting the AC for the spell to hit. Spells of this nature are assumed to hit automatically, but a person could be unaffected by the spell, so they roll a save. The number for them to beat is the Spell Save DC. In effect, you’re both just creating two numbers and comparing them. One is rolled randomly in the moment, and the other is predetermined based on the median of 10.

So, why does this happen? Why don’t both players just have set attack and defense values? Or why aren’t both numbers rolled each time, every time? Many reasons exist, but I posit that there are three primary reasons.

Firstly, that rolling gives you a sense of agency and control. By rolling the dice, you feel like you are contributing. If you just named a static number, it would feel out of your control, but ironically, since you are rolling dice and putting the result up to fate, you’ve now seemingly done something.

Secondly, simulation. Rules in a role playing game are meant to simulate a world to live in. You don’t actually cast spells and swing swords, but you want to create the effects. In the very first edition of D&D there was no distinction between weapon types other than their name. Players would simply have to imply the difference between an axe and a sword in a combat situation. But players decried that they wanted the rules of the game to simulate the reality of the weapon. Afterwords, axes did different amounts or types of damage than swords. The rules were changed to simulate real life. So for dice rolling, if a spell seems like it would hit a player regardless… then it does! But they would roll a die to mitigate the results. If a character had armor on, he would probably not be able to change his defense up too much, but my swinging of a sword could vary drastically. So some numbers are static and others are rolled to simulate the expected aspects of combat. Players expect the world to work as they’ve observed our own world working.

Thirdly, for time. Combat can take long enough as it is before you have to make sure to get two separate players to wake up and engage. Or in most cases, one of those players is the DM, which means that on top of all the description, world building, and management he’s got to keep up, he also has to roll attacks and defense for every single turn of every single player and his own monsters. Oddly enough, there has been a sense of drag in combat for years, regardless of this attempt to reduce the total rolls needed. In this latest edition of the game they’ve attacked that hurdle again by introducing the advantage system.

The advantage system’s perks are primarily the lack of calculations in combat. Now just roll, see which is higher and add a single modifier to combat. It has an interesting requirement, however. It only works on rolls. If I theoretically gave you an advantage on your defense, then that immediately proves pointless when your defense value (AC) is a static number. So, rather than making both attack and defense dynamic numbers, stepping backward, they instead simply force all modifiers to affect the active roll. Advantages can only ever be applied to rolls and not static numbers. This is important. Sorry for repeating.

Okay let’s take a second and summarize what we’ve discovered here so far.

A -2 AC on player 1 is = to a +2 Atk on player 2

Modifiers no longer exist, being replaced by advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages and disadvantages can only be placed on active rolls.

You may be wondering what prompted all this examination. “Who cares? It seems fine”, you say. I agree with that, I think it’s fine. But you are just a voice in my head. I can’t let you speak for everyone. I need an advocate for those who have a problem! What’s that? You in the back? You’re worried about simulation? You look like a straw man to me… Oh what’s that? You’re based on actual discussions the writer has had with people while working with and playing games in the community? Okay, that should work. Now we get to the heart of the matter.

Let’s use an example condition in the latest edition of D&D. Blinded.

Blinded says:

      • A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight.
      • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

That second point is what we’ll focus on. Now, we’ve already translated advantages and disadvantages into a static numerical modifier, so let’s do that now and redefine Blinded to match.

    • Attack rolls against the creature have +2, and the creature’s attack rolls have -2.

The creature’s attack rolls having -2 makes sense. Without sight, they can’t aim nearly as well, and so suffer a penalty. However attack rolls against the creature have +2 is… a bit odd. How can you hit me better because I’m blind? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that my ability to defend should be at a -2 since you can see me? After all, if I’m the one affected by blind, why aren’t all the modifiers on me? This of course is because the advantage system can’t be used for static numbers. So if they would theoretically like to give you a -2AC for being blind, but can’t use AC because it’s static, they’ll have to exchange the -2AC on the defender with a +2 Atk on the attacker. Since they are numerically exchangeable, the condition now has modifiers that only affect the active rolls and can now work within the advantage system. We can now see that the +2 on the attacker is just how the game expresses a penalty to defense. Now it works cleanly, but some players don’t like how it feels.

I’m going to make it more complicated now. What if two players are both blinded and one attacks the other? The rules state that player A has a disadvantage on his attack against player B and that player B is giving player A an advantage on his attack against B. Player A is now receiving both and advantage and disadvantage on attack against player B. A -2 and a +2 add up to a zero.. so the two cancel out and Player A has no advantage or disadvantage to his attack roll against player B.

“FOUL!”, you cry. “If the two players don’t have advantage or disadvantage against each other and they’re both blinded, then that means their fight against each other is the same as though neither of them were blinded.” and, mathematically, you’re correct. The math is just an abstraction, it is the same as if you had affected the correct numbers. What’s happening is that your inability to hit me, is canceled out by my inability to dodge. Because of the system forcing the effects onto active rolls only, it seems to have switched, but the math shows them to be equal.

In the rules as written in the Player’s Handbook. The advantage being granted by the other blinded character and the disadvantage being given by your own blinded condition, cancel out, and no advantage or disadvantage is given when attacking each other.

In my research of of this ruling I asked many other DMs how they would rule it. Overwhelmingly, most said they would just give each player a disadvantage to their attack roll. This is because of simulation. Players and DMs expect the world to work a certain way and want to homerule the game to fit their expectations. For example, one person stated that an inability to hit is intrinsically larger than an inability to dodge. However, I argue, that such a distinction has no place in this game. Unfortunately, in order to back up that argument… I have to retract something I previously established for simplicity’s sake. Earlier I translated an advantage as a +2 and a disadvantage as a -2. This won’t work for the following paragraphs. So.. I’d like to revert it back to a dynamic modifier based on the difficulty of the task, the target number. Sorry about that.

First, let me make a small observation. While this is very true and equally important, it’ll be easy to overlook it or downplay it’s importance, so I just wanted to mention it before I move on to the more complicated observation. The situation described above, only concerns the two affected players when they attack each other. If either of them attacks a non-blind character, they would simply be at a disadvantage.





Let’s look at the advantage system again. If your target number is in the mid-range, then the advantage or disadvantage is a smaller bonus/penalty than if the target number is on the outer range. A difference of +/-1 all the way up to a +/-5. So let’s take two characters named Wizard and Fighter who each have the same job as their name. Both have been thrown into a ring and given a sword. The fighter has his armor and the wizard doesn’t have his spells. So we’ll make up some stats for them

Wizard the Limp-Wristed

HP 8


Attack +2

Likes: Librarians

Dislikes: Investigative Committees


HP 32

AC 18

Attack +6

Likes: Murder

Dislikes: Investigative Committees

Okay we’ve got our two competitors. They face off. If Wizard wants to attack Fighter, he’ll have a rough time hitting him. With a AC of 18 and a +2 modifier on his attack roll, that means Wizard has to roll a 16+ in order to hit Fighter, and he’ll have to do it many more times due to Fighter’s high HP. Needing a 16+ to hit means he has a 25% chance to hit. Conversely, with his +6 to attack, Fighter only needs a 6+ to hit. That means he has a 75% chance to hit, and may even finish the fight in one hit.

Oh no, Wizard has slipped and fallen to one knee! Fighter now has an advantage to hit Wizard.. so let’s see… oh.. hmm well with Wizards low AC, Fighter isn’t really getting that much of a bonus, he’s so skilled and his opponent so weak that with the advantage system, he’s only really getting a +1 to his attack roll. That means he has an 80% chance to hit.. wow.. still such a great position, but the advantage barely mattered. Oh my, by pure chance, Fighter missed. What a lucky Wizard!

What’s this? Now Fighter has tripped in some mud and has lost his footing, this could be a good moment for Wizard, he has advantage. And what a huge advantage it is! That second die gives him a massive bonus because of that high AC, maybe +4 or +5 That means that he’ll now hit on a 12+ that’s a 40% chance to hit! From 25% to 40% is a big deal. Still smaller than Fighter’s chances, but the modifier was important. He hit! But Fighter is still standing… Wizard’s got a long way to go.

Look, something in the sky! It looks like a giant wind elemental has come into the arena whipping up a small sand storm. I can’t imagine either Wizard or Fighter can see in this, they’re both blinded. Let’s assume they’re both at a disadvantage to attack each other. If Fighter gets his chance to strike, his +6 goes down to a +5… not a huge change.. However if Wizard gets a moment, then he’ll have a huge disadvantage, making his +2 a -3 meaning he’ll have to roll a natural 20 to hit! A 5% chance.

It seems that advantages between players are not created equal.

The effect of being blinded affected each player at a different severity. The Fighter, who is well trained in combat and well protected by his high AC is less likely to be hit by a blind opponent who is not well trained when both characters are blinded. Meanwhile, the trained Fighter is less hindered by the disadvantage to hit the weak poorly trained Wizard. Let’s look at those percentages to hit.

Neither player has disadvantage or advantages

  • Wizard 25% to hit
  • Fighter 75% to hit

Bother players have Disadvantages

  • Wizard 5%
  • Fighter 70%

But something is missing… We’re forgetting that being blind also affects your ability to defend. We’re not adjusting the AC of each character to match the effects of being blind on both of them. Remember, the advantage system does this by granting an advantage to your opponent on their attack. Since we’re examining that exact scenario however, we’ll need to change it and look at it from a different view. So let’s change the AC’s by their approximate modifiers.

This is complicated. How do we do this? The same way we modified the attack rolls. We determined the dynamic modifier based on the target number, the AC. Since the attack roll is dynamic, we’ll make it into a static number by changing the rolled d20 into a 10 and adding on the attack modifier. We’ll also want to change the ACs into a roll by subtracting 10 and using the remainder as a modifier. With our numbers converted, we can now change both the AC and Attack mod for each character.

Now let’s plug those in.

With disadvantage

  • Wizard AC 9
  • Wizard Attack – 3
  • Wizard has 5% to hit


  • Fighter AC 17
  • Fighter Attack + 5
  • Fighter has 85% to hit

With the modifier to AC, Fighter got an increase of 15% chance to hit. Wizard can’t go any lower than 5% but we know that if it was possible, he would have less than a 1% chance. To clarify. The penalties I made to their AC and attack were as follows:

Wizard AC -3 Attack -5

Fighter AC -1 Attack –1

So in the case of the untrained wizard, the penalties were larger for his attack than to his ability to defend. For the fighter? Not so much. It looks like the effect of being blind is also not created equal. Our previous argument stated that in this situation, one character’s inability to attack well was canceled out by the others’ inability to defend. This seems to be true if characters are fighting an opponent with high stats, but completely untrue if their opponent is significantly weaker than them. The fighter in this example has the same penalty to his attack as his defense. Showing that there are cases that occur where the disadvantage does not beat out the advantage.

So, what argument am I making? Seems like I’m reinforcing the counter argument that if players were both blind, then they would both have disadvantage to attack. But looking at the difference in effectiveness while bind I have to ask, “Does this simulate reality?” Perhaps, though I’m not sure of that. More importantly, they seem to affect characters differently depending on their abilities. Plus, the sheer math involved is just plain silly and I’m glad that it’s taken care of automatically. I’m also looking at the stats to hit without disadvantage. They seem to already reflect one character’s natural talent and training over another. It just seems to be a matter of how much and whether being blinded should affect each character differently. The number given when both characters have disadvantage are extreme. With one character almost automatically being able to hit the other even while blind. Shouldn’t a disadvantage to both character’s give a flat penalty to both?

So, it seems to come down to simulation. Which fighter would do better given their conditions, the environment, the familiarity of their fighting style, their natural talent, training, etc. A comparative chart showing all possible interactions between two fighters given all these variables and a dozen others seems important to a realistic game. So let’s make that chart.

Just kidding. Who would want that? That’s not a game, that’s a statistics paper! Better yet, I should just go to a dojo and learn how to fight with my actual human body! But the point of these games is so I don’t have to do that and so I can fight wizards and dragons and all manner of creatures with magic and gods and have copper coins plinking down on the bar. Also, with mythical creatures like dragons, who could possibly determine whether the dragon’s ability to fight blind is higher or lower than a human? Those things are completely unknowable.

The resolution of detail in simulation is like the problem of measuring a coastline. At first it seems simple, just measure it out. But what unit of measurement do you use? Do you measure in miles? Or yards? Do you go all the way down to grains of sand? How about molecules in the sand. Not to mention that the coast is constantly changing due to the waves crashing against it. And the TIDE, let’s not forget about the tide. There must be a line drawn somewhere when defining simulation vs game play. Typically this assertion is followed by “Sure, but where is the line drawn?”

Here… it’s drawn RIGHT HERE. The distinction between subtle advantages and disadvantages based on expectations of a reality being simulated with rules that use a number scale of +/- 5%. Any rule system that your table chooses to play with is simply an agreed upon simulation of a fantasy setting. The examination here doesn’t seem to resolve anything in regards to which is a more accurate ruling. It does however make this point. That it took six pages of careful examination to determine the exact mathematics that simulate the realism or non-realism of the effects of being blind within this rule system. In my opinion. The distinction of whether being blind affects your ability to hit with a sword more than it affects your ability to defend, was moot. Now having spent a significant time looking at it, I can safely say that it’s not moot any longer, and that judgment should be passed down. What do you say?

Thank you for your time. I hope that you enjoyed this detailed examination of game mechanics.

Oh.. and go play D&D 5e. It’s really great.




Dec 282013

It has been a busy holiday season here at Banner House. But apparently not a very vocal one. That’s why I’m writing this up for everyone, just a quick status update.
A few bullet points.

Valor Quest is delayed. Huzzah our first delayed game and we haven’t even gotten started! The key word here is “delay” not canceled. This game has proven to be a wild success in our playtest groups and is shaping up to be an excellent game. However it’s a little outside of Banner House’s means at the moment. General development and playtesting is still continuing so keep your eye out for updates on VQ.

New game: Psychosis. Psychosis is a game of competing doctors and their patients in a mental ward. Patients have an assortment of Psychosis that affect how they behave and how they take their medicine. Doctors prescribe medicine and send patients to therapy which of course only makes things worse. Patients are trying to figure out which doctor they can trust, because they believe, correctly, that one is trying to kill them!

FREE GAMES! Coming soon, there will be a new section on the website where you can download Free games developed by John Parmalee and later, others. These include social games, print ‘n play games, simple RPG experiments, and even a demo of Valor Quest! Every time that we design a game that’s too small to manufacture, we’ll be placing it on this page. They can be downloaded FOR FREE!

Power Play is at the printer right now! While Banner House Games was just the developer of Power Play, we’re still very excited for it’s release by Level 99 Games Soon. You can head to for details. Expect to see a new kickstarter page soon after. *wink*

That’s all for the bullet points. A lot of development has been going on in between visiting with family and getting ready for the new year. Now a lot of hard work for the next few months. Expect more updates. Thanks for reading!

Oct 252013

Level99 Games has published John Parmalee’s (Bannerhouse Games Lead Designer) first game “Power Play: Schemes and Skulduggery” and it is available for sale as a pdf right now!
You can find the link to the DriveThruRPG site here.

Power Play is a new kind of storytelling game, a Competitive Narrative Game. In the game, you will take on the role of a supernatural mastermind with a villainous plot to execute. The first to put all the pieces of his secret plot into place can declare himself the winner!

We hope that if you’re a fan of competitive narrative then you’ll give Power Play a look.

And of course, if you’d prefer a physical version, you can always pre-order it here at Level99 Games.

If you wish to buy the game from Level99 Games directly, you can do so here.

Oct 092013

We played some more games last night at AI Family & Arena and there was an awful lot learned. Although we did fix the Barbarian, he was not tested last night. Instead we focused on fighting a Horde and limiting Helpful actions. As well as trying out a two player game without any extra variant rules. It was loud and noisy at the store. They always have a lot going on, miniatures play, Magic tournaments, and fifteen testers playing four different games. Great energy, but it can make teaching a new game, especially one that’s not completely finished, very difficult.

Two player game. I’m sorry to say that unless we can devise a clean, playable and fun way to make a two player game function, that Kick Down will have to be a 3+ player game. As I had suspected beforehand, there simply aren’t enough options among the heroes to handle many situations. While with the small number of monsters, the progression isn’t hindered, the fights are either much too easy or much too difficult. Our testers suggested many excellent ideas. From each player playing two heroes to having a neutral henchman character that players can spend some kind of resource to keep control of. If one of these options doesn’t work or we can’t think of something that does, it’ll just have to be a bigger game.

Limited helpful actions, higher energy on the field cards and Kobolds.
The Kobold horde was mostly a success, but we found a problem. When the archer has their arrow nocked, there is no other option than to attack. If the monsters are down to their last and wearing armor, that means the archer literally has no option but to shoot to miss. (This isn’t always the case, but it’s a possible scenario.) This is actually working as intended. Sometimes the flow of battle doesn’t work in your favor. However, there should always be a fall back. If a player doesn’t have any options on a turn, then that’s a bummer. However, if a player doesn’t have any options for several turns in a row? That’s just plain frustrating and bad design. By limiting the number of times a player can perform a helpful action. We ran into the problem of giving monsters a loophole that couldn’t be battled. They would have behavior that completely avoided damage and without access to utility abilities like the Barbarian’s Intimidate action, some players had no choice but to sit and wait patiently for someone else to get the kill and move the game along. This isn’t really acceptable. We had increased energy this time around and it was our observation that everything was easier one the whole. However this loop I just described had the effect of energy starving a player. What if that player was the only hero with an attack option to deal with the monster? But being constantly out of energy prevented the special attack to do so.
What we can take from this is a lot of bad knee jerk reactions. The important part to remember is that sometimes abilities can be very subtle. For now, we’re going to just chalk this one down as a glitch. Make some adjustments and watch for similar events to occur. If we can work around the issue without having to overhaul, it will let us keep this core mechanic we’ve come to love. It’s worth another play-test or two to find out.

We did find the need to limit the number of helpful actions in a turn, because if the players happened to stumble upon a scenario where they won’t be reasonably hurt by a monster if they play it smart. They can just farm the valor, in theory, forever. Perhaps, I wonder, there’s another option? Instead of limiting the player, is there a way to simply bypass any loops?

The other thing I personally saw at the test was that the three original characters seemed to have fallen behind a minor power crawl. While this isn’t likely a problem over the long run, it’s something to figure out now. The original three heroes were designed as a prototype for the game. Before many of the game’s mechanics were figured out. They were left behind with the advancement of the game. So we’re probably going to have a balance and overhaul to all of the characters.

The overall energy availibility to players… That one requires more games. But we did nail down the average time per battle. With both a large and small amount of players. 3 or 4 battles before they’re ready to fight that group’s boss seems to be the right pace. This is excellent news because we can now determine lots of other numbers. From the number of valor points needed to the health of each character. A pace has been set, and now with that pace we can manage the player experience down to the specific number.

We’re going to do some in house changes and tests before our official test with Group A on Saturday. So expect big changes in version 0.4!

If you have any input that you want to share. Feel free to do so. e-mail us at or leave a comment below!

—Lead Designer, John

Oct 072013

Well tonight was fun. We got Playtester Group A together and attempted to play a full leg of the campaign. But before I get into those details, first some pseudo news.

We have a working Title for Codename: Dungeon. While this isn’t final and is subject to change. We’ve been bouncing around the idea of

Kick Down!

We think it reflects the spirit of bashing in doors and fighting whatever’s on the other side. So from here on out we’re calling it Kick Down… unless we change it again.

So, now the play-test. There were a number of additions to the game that were added this last week that needed to get tested. So much in fact, that we didn’t get them all in. So anything that was left out will have to be tested by Group B on Tuesday. Check back Wednesday if you want those details.

Since the last test we made the following changes:

  1. Brought the number of Heroes up to six.
  2. Created several keywords and symbols for easier print and reading. (all of which, are just placeholders)
  3. Created Loot cards and a system for acquiring them.
  4. Created a Death/resurrection system.
  5. Created a Leveling system that ties into the Loot system.
  6. Set a testing number for Valor points and the number battles before you fight the boss.
  7. Added 9 more monster cards plus the Kobold horde.
  8. Created the first Solo monster, the Dryad
  9. Added a Field system which determines environmental effects and available energy.
  10. Changed the initiative system. Instead of bidding every round you bid once, and can take actions to modify your initiative as you play.

Whew! Did I leave anything out? Probably.

With all these changes, we had to choose a few things to test.

We didn’t test the Kobold Horde. We didn’t test the Death/resurrection system. No time. Unfortunately, We tried to test the new valor point and battles numbers but didn’t get that far.

Because the Barbarian was a little too powerful.

Did I say a little? Because he was insanely too powerful.

While his smash is just a basic melee attack, It’s blocked by armor. But with his extra damage, he’s able to hurt any early game monster. Not all monster even have body armor to block his hits. His wrestle and reaction Rage attack both do enough damage to dominate. How so?

Here’s how the first match went down. 5 players, 6 monsters. Barbarian got 4 Trophies. 2 of them were from reactionary damage.

When initiative came up, The Barb player would sit and go last, using all of his energy for extra health (if you remember, this extra energy represents dodging and parrying attacks). On his turn, he would immediately Roar and go into a Rage. This moved him up to the front, so on his turn, with all the monsters going ahead of them, his reaction damage from rage killed most of the monsters that attacked him. Because he has no abilities that cost energy, he could afford to just take the hits. On his turn he killed two monsters with his wrestle ability and the two that attacked him. He grabbed four kills and lost only one actual health.

I would love to talk about what the other players did, but it clearly didn’t matter. The Barbarian then was able to purchase two healing potions and armor right off the bat. So now he takes LESS damage and can heal himself up, twice. This was after only the first battle. The second battle was just as bad. We had to call it.

So why is the Barbarian so broken? Group A,  and specifically the Barbarian player believes that the ability to attack for any amount of damage outside of your turn is too powerful. Especially in a game where the stats are so low. Where a 1 damage attack can kill a monster.

Now this game was only about an hour before I wrote this, so I haven’t had much time to think about it. However, here’s a couple ideas that occurred to the play-test and I.

  1. Lowering the damaged while raged and increasing the damage taken would increase risk and reduce abuse. But is it in the right direction?
  2. Perhaps going into Rage costs energy. Or when you Rage you simply lose all energy.
  3. Maybe damage taken must come from your health pool. This would make it risky for the player to go into Rage because it removes the energy advantage.
  4. Making an ability with an energy cost would give him more reason to hold on to that energy.

There are a lot of options.

The helpful action (as an aside) was never used. With aggressive actions being so amazing there was never any reason to step back and be helpful. Regardless of the required number of Valor points. It might still be pretty weak, but we’ll have to leave it in and test it out later.

So with the Barbarian set aside we attempted to test a different feature. A Solo monster. Solo monsters, when dealt onto the field, remove all other monsters and fight against the heroes by themselves. The solo monster for the wilderness area of the campaign? A strangely aggressive Dryad.

The Dryad, happily enough, proved to work exactly as intended. When out in the open, she would pull heroes from the back to attack. When hit she would retreat into a tree and unleash a devastating attack of living branches that hit each player. Now in the trees, jumping around it costs energy to hit her, and on her turn she heals 1 health, pops out of the tree behind the players (by rearranging the front hero to the back) and is ready to attack again.

The result was that if we didn’t all work together to attack her simultaneously, she just kept running away, hurting us, using up all of our energy and then healing a small amount. She was able to drag on the fight. This single monster hurt and challenged us, forcing our actions to be planned and synchronized. So we could eliminate her in a single round. Perfect. Her ability to exhaust players by running through trees and hitting all players proved to be a capable strategy.

What did we learn? Solo monsters work. The Barbarian is much too powerful. Some of the abilities need a little clarification. And the new initiative system was a success. By putting just one initiative at the beginning, we now don’t have to slow down the game to determine it every turn. It also allows for us a small pool of recoverable energy by holding your action to move at a later initiative.

Oh, and embarrassingly enough, I was reminded that 0 is a viable initiative number and that maybe some of the monsters should be that slow. Seeing as how players can be that slow as well.

Quite a lot done and quite a lot learned. We’ll have a demo that you can play as home just as soon as we get the core mechanic finalized and a demo packet rulebook written up. So keep reading and we’ll keep sharing.

Next Tuesday we’ll be testing some of the untested features as well as the updates we learned from this test with play-test Group B. A decidedly different group of players. We’ll see what they pull out of the game.

If you have any input that you want to share. Feel free to do so. e-mail us at

—Lead Designer, John