Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Five or So Questions with Steve Wallace on No Country for Old Kobolds

Tell me a little bit about No Country for Old Kobolds. What excites you about it?
No Country For Old Kobolds is Dungeon World hack that focuses on the lives kobolds lead in most rpgs. Basically, they’re constantly being wiped out by first level adventurers and that has to have a negative impact on their day to day lives. The game is built to explore that situation. I’ve modified basic Dungeon World to better model this sort of thing so there are unique components like a shared village character, leveling by dying and mechanics to allow you to continue to affect the game after death.

I’ve started different games and hacks off and on throughout the years and this is the first time I’ve really pushed one through to completion so I’m really excited by that! I’ve also been pretty blown away by the positive feedback I’ve gotten throughout play testing, it’s really humbling to see people enjoy something you’ve created.

I’m really amazed but the themes that players have brought to the game as well. Throughout play testing I’ve had some really great conversations with players about racism, colonialism and poverty and I think if nothing else that’s worth it!

What made you choose Dungeon World as your system for hacking?
I had the idea of running an all kobolds campaign for a while and DW was/is my preferred system for fantasy based games at the moment so it seemed like a natural fit. As brainstorming went on I realized I needed to make some pretty heavy modifications to the system to get it where I wanted so in the initial rule set I used John Harpers World of Dungeons. I think WoD is a great system to start hacking because it's already so stripped down, as work went on it ended up somewhere in between - or beside - DW and WoD.

You mentioned conversations about racism, colonialism, and poverty - what about this specific content do you think spurs those conversations?
The way the game is built the players create all these external forces that push on the village and kobolds. It's given that the rest of the world hates you and wants something from you. The players tend to gravitate toward things that are familiar so I often see pressures like 'they want our land', 'they want our resources', 'they want us as slaves' etc. and those naturally bring up these conversations.

What modifications did you make to Dungeon World to make it work for the game?
A lot. Basically I kept the base AW roll mechanic and the DW XP by failure mechanic. I took the skills and some of the abilities from World of Dungeons but I've heavily modified just about all of them. Every ability is now basically a move and skills just add +1 to related actions. I added a shared character, your village, which is the thing that actually gets XP and advance moves. All kobolds level by dying so you actually play a few generations of your kobold family during a session - on average players run 4 generations per session. I added in death tokens which allow the players to affect combat after death - because there's near 100% chance at least 1 player will die every combat. The tokens allow you to put other characters over on their rolls - bump them up to the next tier - or they can be turned in at the end of combat for village XP. The game is also more mission based than normal DW, you have these wants that you have to fulfill for your village or risk losing population - basically it mechanically enforces the fragility of your village. The players also create all the kingdoms that surround the village so the GM doesn't get involved there, they just extrapolate off what the players provide. I also added in unit combat based on Sage & Adams Inglorious work, I think it makes swarm style combat easier and it really helps to drive home how much more powerful everything in the world is. Throughout the game you can take advance Village moves that will give you new units like homonculi, trolls, wizards and even a dragon.

Once you're done with No Country for Old Kobolds, where do you think you'll go next?
I haven't quite decided but the thing that is interesting most at the moment is a game that would model the in fighting between the great houses in Dune. I really like the idea of an intrigue based role playing game where you - as the leader of your house - have abilities that are more high level than a player character in most rpgs. You can send armies to a planet or hire assassins or the like, basically you set the wheels in motion instead of being the wheels.

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