Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Revisiting Wayshielders

My first few tests of Wayshielders did not run as well as I'd hoped. It may be that the aspects of modern and old school gaming I was trying to smash together are not well compatible. However I think there are a lot of ideas and design that can be salvaged.

It was an attempt to combine the "rulings not rules" and "player skill not character skill" concepts of old-school games with the resource management and tight tactical combat of more modern games. The long list of abilities for each class and their interactions seemed to be the tripping point (well, not that long - nine per class with a few tags on each). That was several months ago and I mostly put Wayshielders to the wayside.

A discussion about character resources in Sully's Dungeon World game, specifically the notion of an animal companion as a resource that could be threatened or expended, got me thinking about Wayshielders again.

No classes, but aspects

You can model most character archetypes with just a couple main concepts and a supporting one. A ranger is an archer with an animal companion who dabbles in nature magic. A barbarian wields a large weapon, is prone to enrage, and knows a bit of thievery. A cleric is a divine servant and a healer who is capable on the battlefield.

With that thesis in mind, I'm looking at moving away from classes to aspects. (Aspect is a working title here. Something better may suggest itself.) An aspect is a collection of three passive and two active abilities. The way the leveling system is paced out at the moment characters would start with two "ranks" of one aspect and one "rank" of another, giving them two passive and one active abilities, which feels manageable at first level. At 20th level they'd have 5 "ranks" in one, 4 in a second, and 3 in a third, meaning 5 active abilities and 7 passive - still manageable.

Hirelings might have a single aspect. Followers might have two. For a grittier game you could apply the same limitations to characters.

Here's how the leveling scheme looks at the moment:
levelaspect oneaspect twoaspect threeother
1one active, one passiveone passive
2focus boost
3one active
4one ability +1
5one passive
6all defenses +1
7one passive
8focus boost
9one passive
10two abilities +1
11one active
12all defenses +1
13one active
14one ability +1
15one active
16focus boost
17one passive
18all defenses +1
19one passive
20two abilities +1

Focus. Focus.

I'm looking at having one unified resource currently called "focus". Focus is rolled at the start of each combat (not sure of the die size yet) plus your Wisdom. Any damage is subtracted from focus first. 

There is a “defend” action that increases your defenses and restores some focus as well. Some of the active abilities could enhance your defend action - commander could give focus to allies for example.

I think using focus as the resource makes sense. It’s very easy to see for magical aspects. If a rogue-like character uses focus to backstab, their defend action might represent getting into and advantageous position again for example. Also many non-magical aspects can believably grant focus.

HP will need a bit of rebalancing in light of this most likely. Totals of HP and focus feel like they will be too high as currently written. But you also don’t get to roll focus until you’ve acted - being caught unawares is deadly.

As you level you will either get to roll larger or more focus dice. (Remember that in Wayshielders if you roll multiple dice you just take one of your choice.)

Monsters and hirelings most likely will not get focus, though perhaps some advanced monsters will. Also commander-type characters become more valuable because they can give hirelings focus.

There will likely be a defend action which grants some temporary defense boosts and allows you to restore or re-roll your Focus. Imagine that some aspects will play off this.

Fear and confusion effects could attack focus. In some ways nicer than forcing people to run around or roll on a random action table.


I'm thinking of using this for a play-by-post hexcrawl where we'd have a weekly face-to-face session to resolve any conflicts that couldn't be worked out in text. Many of the potential players aren't familiar with games of this ilk but are into strategy games, so keeping the rules light with the capacity for emergent complexity will be even more important.

Some potential aspects

In gloriously incomplete and scribbly form without numbers to back them up.


Passive 1 - A morale bonus to hirelings in melee with you.
Active 1 - Your defend action grants some focus to allies in melee with you.


Passive 1 - You get a bonus to melee hit and damage if you have no focus.

Void Disciple

Passive 1 - You get a bonus to Move while in shadows.
Active 1 - Spend focus to give your attack a chance to blind its target.


Passive 1 - You get a bonus to melee hit and damage while unarmed.
Active 1 - Spend focus to give your unarmed attack a high chance to disarm its target.


Active 1 - Heal HP at the cost of the target's focus.


Active 1 - Spend focus to deal extra damage when striking from hiding.


  1. If I understand correctly, you invest in 2 aspects and are pretty married to them until 7th level, at which point you invest in a third.

    Can you choose not to take a passive rank in a third aspect, and instead apply a passive rank to one of your existing aspects?

  2. Yep, 2 aspects that change until 7th level, though which one is ranked higher has the possibility to shift. I don't think that's clear from this post though so here's a new one -

    Right now I'm not thinking you'll be able to pass on the third aspect, since it would affect the leveling pattern, but I might make a sort of generic one that acts to reinforce one of your other two. That could even be available at level 1 - "I PUT ALL MY POINTS IN AXES GRAAAH."