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Narrative Dynamics

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A member registered Mar 22, 2019 · View creator page →

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Well done.  Sounds like a fun session!

Ah cool, I wouldn't do a grim favor there because then something bad happened to the players and they had no choice or decision point that led to it.  I would just have the crows swarm them and and start picking at them aggressively.  That  puts the ball in the players' court.  What do they do?  If they want to drive them off, that's an action roll.  Maybe they goblins will scare them crows off, but maybe they'll panic.

You can still resolve that in a single roll, rather than an extended conflict, but they players are driving the action.  They know what's at risk and they have the opportunity to try avoid it. Maybe things will spiral from there, but maybe not. Alternately, if you just want to convey 'this place is scary' you can do that in your description, without touching the mechanics.

Your instinct not to inflict conditons without a roll is spot-on.  Goblins mark conditions from failed rolls, or if the fourth turn ends and they haven't made camp.  Conditions are pretty bad, and they snowball sometimes.  Keep throwing problems at the goblins and you'll see conditions stack up quickly enough.

Yeah!  Glad to hear you loved it.  That's rad.  And I've found it holds up ok if you miss a couple of rules: the core resolution makes sure players have interesting choices.

Your question is a good one.  Making sure there's always  a risky action and a danger keeps situations dynamic: players will rarely get everything they want.  That said, it can take practice for the GM to smoothy distinguish actions and dangers.  If there are dangers around, but the players aren't taking risky actions, there's no need to make a roll.  Keep that danger in your backpocket. 

That said, often a danger makes an otherwise simple action risky.  Crossing a room is easy, crossing a room with lava pits is  not.   The action is make it across, the danger is mark panicked.  You could keep your cool but wind up stranded on a narrow ledge (someone will have to help you out).  You could make it across but be panicked.  Or maybe you're lucky and you get through with a cool head.

Your insinct to use Grim Favor rolls to resolve risks that aren't tied to the goblin's actions is spot on.  If there's an escalating situation (like a cave-in) you can roll Grim Favor to see how bad it is.  You can also just escalate problems at the end of the turn.  You have a moment to think about that stuff while players are rolling back into Marching Order.

One thing to keep in mind is that these rolls are narrative beats, they punctuate a moment of uncertainty where events could take a turn for the worse.  If the current situation isn't that interesting, that's fine.  Say yes (the action succeeds) and keep following those goblins around until they get into some real trouble.

If you have specific examples of where you were unsure how to resolve, I'd love to hear them.  Real world examples tend to be the most useful.

The Twist die is from the general pool, not that player's Action die.
Offering Twists is a great way to stay involved after you've taken your action for the turn.

For folks looking for examples of adventuring in / near town, Issue 4 should provide a some solid examples.  Eager to hear how other folks put together town adventures.

Ah got it.  It does sound like a challenge to keep the space plausible and consistent despite its strangeness.

I can see that!  I've come to rely on grim favor rolls a lot when in uncharted territories.  Something for terrain might be:

6: Easy to traverse

4-5: Uncertain / there's an obstacle or hazard

1-3: Critical hazard or imminent danger

Once I  know how generous I'm being, I can usually decide what's plausible.

Curious to hear how you play out the ooze's escape into the broader world!

Another useful tool for any RPG is to talk about aim and tone before you start play.  If you're all on-board for a farce, maybe that's the way to go.  If folks want more grounded play, but need support to maintain the tone, then you've got buy-in to focus on that.

This is a solid guide to establishing content, aim, tone, and subject matter: https://200wordrpg.github.io/2016/supplement/2016/04/12/CATS.html

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Hey Thomas, I'm glad you asked this, as others will likely have the same question.  There's no difficulty  rating in Picaresque, so without a shared standard of plausibility, it could end up feeling like everything is equally feasible.   I think some folks will want to play in a free-wheeling style, but there are definitely tools to help things stay grounded.

For the "attack all the guards and rob a bank "situation, I think there are a few points you could interject to reel in implausible or off-concept actions:

  • When a player sets a scene, it needs to be from one of the known locations relevant to your situation.   In the scenario in the book, Against the Duke , there's a list to choose from.  Other scenarios might come up in play, but scenes aren't about going anywhere and doing anything: you choose your location and the obstace to your ambition you intend to address.  It might be worth directing players to the scene creation rules on page 3.
  • When the player sets the scene, be sure they are explicit about how the scene addresses an obstacle  to their ambitions.  In  Against the Duke , there's a private ambition for one of the picaros to get their family lands back.  Bank robbing isn't a wise approach to this, as land-purchases are a matter of public record and process.  Most of the other ambitions have nothing to do with money.  I try to frame this positively, not "you're not allowed to do that" but: "how does this further your picaro's ambitions?".  Keeping the game focused on the ambitions makes the plot more coherent (you're driving towards something) and the makes the picaros easier to root for: dastards or no, at least they have an ethos.
  • In a scene, the GM should feel free to rewind if a likely obstacle was skipped over, or your need more detail to make sense of a situation.  If a player says "I fight my way to the bank vault!"  You can rewind, give a description of the bank itself (giving some sense of reality to the scene), and then ask questions: "Do you enter through the iron-banded front doors, do you hope to scale the stone buttress to the windows above, or do you try to find another way in?"  Then if they waltz right up to the front door, you can describe how the first of many guards bars their path and demands they remove their swords.  This scales down the effects of one roll to a single stand-off (rather than abstracting a whole conflict into a roll).  This is maybe the biggest factor in  Picaresquese's difficulty: more detailed challenges mean more discreet things the picaros must overcome: therefore they roll more and face greater opportunities for consequences.  To be clear,  I don't suggest that you keep fabricating obstacles until the picaros fail; just try to think through the situation and match the level of verisimilitude that feels right to you.  Even better if you have a player with a nose for b.s., who will call out when something is too light on consequence.
  • In a scene, the spotlight should be on the player who set the scene.  As it says on page 3, they can roll as many times as they please, but each supporting player may only roll once.  This helps keep scenes tight, so they take a few minutes rather than spanning an entire session of play.  The other players can still be involvedd by adding Interference dice (maybe risking an injury to help the acting player in a fight, passing them a die) but the acting player can only push so far until they  need to bow out (injury and shame make success much more difficult).
  • The odds of a roll aren't quite 50/50.  Given that every roll includes an action (what they hope to achieve) and a peril (what they risk), there's a 1/4 chance that an unmodified roll succeeds without consequence.  If the consequences are commensurate with the challenge, then picaros can only push through so many risky actions before problems catch up with them.
  • Attacking someone isn't necessarily a roll.  The rules for crossing swords (page 3) are that both characters trade injury for injury.  If a picaro attacks a guard, they wound the guard enough to remove them from the fight, but mark an injury themselves.  If they attack another guard in this state, they injure them but die.  These are harsh rules for fighting, because Picaresque is intentionally not a game about aimless violence.  To make a roll, they need to have a goal other than inflicting harm (disarming, getting past, demanding surrender, etc).
  • Consequences can happen outside of a roll.  If the picaros rob a bank, then the controlling family (maybe the Carambolos in Against the Duke) willl spare no expense to hunt them down.  If they murder the guard of a well-respected  bank, then they are outlaws: they lose all rights and protections in the city and might never be given an audience in respectable circles again. (Of course killing a rival in a duel or killling an assassin in self-defense is a completely different matter).
  • When its the GM's turn to make a scene, bring back their actions to haunt them.  Maybe the bank's owners send a skilled assassin, maybe a mob has come looking to hang the picaros, to set an example against outlawry in the city walls (when it should be the peasants' problem).

Hopefully this lengthy response is useful.  In sum, to get the tone you want: insist on purposeful scenes, slow down the action to get details and determine goals, and follow up with logical consequences (no matter how tough).

Good notes!  The additional loot makes sense for the adventure.  I also work so hard to make Usumbara feel scary; a direct encounter is likely to go poorly and I wouldn't want it to feel like a 'gotcha'.

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I would run this as:

Finding an opportunity
If they're not sure what to do, they may find an opportunity at a town location that offers such leads. Doing so costs 1 scratch, representing something in trade to someone for the tip. 
(Issue 1, page 17)

If they aren't satisfied with the answer they get from the boss smith, maybe there's an action roll to press him for more information.  Or maybe there's an adventure in getting him something he wants in exchange.

You're right about the 'time passes' trade off.  I think the appropriate tradeoff is a 1 scratch cost to bring the boss smith to the table.

If there is work to be found, they need to do it.  Trying to dodge work is a risky action, so you could have the Goblins make a roll to skip it.  The disorder crisis seems to give a break, since goblins don't have to work, but its a sign that the town is near to collapse.

I would use the whole stat block for whichever monster is leading the conflict (if there's no clear leader then use the toughest or most interesting).  Add one move for the secondary monster and another move if the goblins are outnumbered.

The numbers are the same as the armor rule, but you're incorporating moves from everyone, which adds a lot of flavor.

Cool!  Glad it worked out.  It sounds like the prep you focused on really supported the playstyle you wanted.  Well done!

Uncharted territory!  We are working on an adventure-in-town, but it we don't have finalized procedures for it.  So these are suggestions/ ideas rather than any kind of official process.

  • Clearly split adventure/ town phases.  Goblins must spend a ration or a scratch to enter town phase.  They can then use a single town location or camp action.
  • During the adventure phase, run marching order as usual and see what happens with the "NPCs who would want things from the PCs and larger-scale town issues".
  • Put the large scale issues on a clear clock.  What's the worst case scenario with whatever plots or crises are present?  Work toward that in a concrete way at the end of each turn.

Feel good about yourself! We never spelled it out in the text, so it's good you brought it up in the forum.

@srinvp you're always bringing the good stuff.

1. If you've got rations, camping before going back to town is a good call.  It's not obvious that's the case, so a warning in the text would be nice.  It would also be a great GM move to say "As soon as you get back to town, you're getting put to work.  If you camp first, you can recover before your shift (and without having to pay for it."

2. They do not.  Injured / Sick do not impact recovery.  It would be such a cruel spiral if they did.

3. I never considered it.  I'd say they can't decline.  They need to hit that hump of development at some point, and the veteran benefits will be nice down the road.

1. Generally, yes.  If the goblins are more likely to succeed at something because of an identified advantage, then you improve their positioning.  If the goblins have insulated themselves from risk, then adjust the danger they face accordingly.  There are two exceptions.  Supplies (typically made in camp) grant an extra die to a single roll.  You could rule that something the goblins are using to perform a task grants them supplies (noting that an extra die in addition to traits and titles is a rather significant advantage).  The more likely case, when goblins have some a dominant advantage that putting them in a 'good position' isn't sufficient, is that they don't have to roll at all.  The only have to roll for risky actions, if they have eliminated the risk of failure, there's no roll.

2. Yes, supplies grant an extra die in addition to a twist.  I'm glad we covered this in more detail for issue 2.

3. TPKs can totally happen.  The odds are generally in the goblins favor, but the dice system is such that every fight is a fight you could lose.  They have to keep an eye on when to disengage and which risks are worth taking.  Sounds like a fun session!

Follow-up about progress, I think there are two ways to handle this:

Is there a reasonable way you could describe one goblin setting up another?  If so, then that's what progress is.  They improve position but someone else needs to address the problem (good idea or roll).

Instead, I tend to take all-or-nothing rolls like this as good context to shift positioning down to Bad (unless they are really well-prepared for it).  In a bad position, actions are binary (1-4 is failure, 5-6 is success) so you don't have to worry about what 'progress' would look like.

This is a vicious trap, so obviously I like it a lot.  Here's what I would

Action: Everyone makes it to the new "floor"
Danger: The gear in everyone's hands is dropped and it damaged.

Make it clear that if they don't succeed the action, they will fall and end up injured.  I would definitely not add harm to this roll, since the only way they are getting hurt is if they don't succeed.

This is great.  They monster moves are really well-done, especially the finisher for the Quatralopithecus.

Hi BladeDancer,

The version you want is: GV1 PDF Screen 4-9-19.pdf

The Booklet file is for double-sided booklet printing, so the pages are in print-order, rather than read-order.  The screen version is sorted by page number.

On the previous turn, the ooze collapses the floor of their living quarters and begins its escape.  The Weavers are fleeing for their lives.

Neat!  I like any item that encourages strange, specific problem-solving.

Glad you're loving it.  I hope you can get a full session in soon.

We kept the Fighting Pits description pretty open.  We play it as an action roll: winning nets a 2 scratch purse and town-wide renown but risks an injury.

The 6 Scratch cost is to hire heavies, who follow the "Hired Help" rules on page 17.

RyanMcRae asked about this in another thread: "In the first adventure, I'm super unclear how the goblins are supposed to defeat the ooze. "

Me too!  I wouldn't say the goblins are "supposed to" defeat the ooze.  In fact, I haven't seen it happen yet.  That said, it could be possible.

  • It is clearly weakened by light and the site is full of mirrors and the bright coruscate orb.  If the ooze was drenched in enough light, the goblins could attack from a 'good position' and do pretty well.
  • The runed axe that Blance the warrior is carrying does say: "Does one additional harm to magic creatures (such as the Tenebrous Ooze) and cannot be conven- tionally destroyed."  It could be very useful if the Goblins get hold of it.
  • Parts of the ooze were stored in runed jars in a cold safe.  The ooze's cell walls are coated in runes.  If the goblins copied the runes, they might be able to re-imprison it.

There are opportunities for clever approaches, and several groups have used them to flee with minimal losses.  None so far have 'won'.  This tone is carried through other adventures as well.  Goblins are small and scrappy and won't always solve huge, inscrutable problems like the ooze.  So far groups who have run through the Pit of Mirrors have enjoyed what victories they've earned.

Happy to answer in depth, but I'll put it in a Spoilers thread for folks who want to play through the adventure.


Goblinville is a tabletop rpg about broke goblins traveling to dangerous and fantastical places to find treasure and make rent.  The character creation process is fast and collaborative, producing unique goblins with lots of personality.  The core resolution system shares narrative pacing between players and the GM, keeping the focus on clear stakes and tough choices.  It's a character-driven dungeon crawler that works for short, punchy sessions and long campaigns.  The town itself is the key source of adventure and improving it is a core part of character advancement.

We funded this game through a surprisingly successful Kickstarter and we're now releasing it into the world.  Excited to hear about folkls getting it to the table and happy to talk about design, production, and distribution of an DIY tabletop rpg.

https://narrativedynamics.itch.io/goblinville-core-rules

Unsure about a play procedure?  Need examples of how something might work in play?  This is a thread for us to help each other out.

Share original adventures for Goblinville here.  Links and descriptions appreciated.

Share adventures you've converted from another fantasy adventure game into Goblinville.

People are writing up awesome monster lists and it made sense to have a place to share them.  Post your creatures for use and for discussion.