Archive for the 'Black & Gaunt' Category

The Board Game Version

2009 Jul 4


In Case the Peasants Get Confused

2009 Jul 3


Tree of Knowledge

2009 Feb 28


For Judd

2009 Feb 27

I imagine it as really black Cthulhu horror meets Brotherhood of the Wolf in English-occupied medieval France, at the court of the Black Prince in Bordeaux, Aquitaine.

In my mind, the board for the game looks like a tree. Not just any tree, either, but the Tree of Knowledge, the tree that brought us all these troubles and joys.

The player(s) representing the mortal forces (Edward the Black Prince, John of Gaunt, Princess Joan of Kent, Pedro the Cruel of Castile, James IV of Majorca) begin with their pieces (chess pieces, I think) amidst the roots of the tree, on a space that represents their most personal inner selves, their souls.

The player(s) representing the Great Evil (all manner of supernatural bad stuff) begin with their pieces at the top of the tree, on a space representing the throne of this evil, its source and wellspring.

Mortal pieces proceed up the tree, towards the branches, while evil forces proceed down it, towards the roots. Each movement or set of movements represents a scene, with different choices being offered as the pieces proceed along branches or roots and encounter forks. Effectively, you “unlock” different scenes by working your way to them across the proceeding forks that lead to them.

Pieces can also come into conflict with each other when they meet on the tree, with either the mortal or evil forces triumphing. Mortal triumphs destroy or drive back the evil, while evil victories consume the mortals and add those souls to their foul ranks.

As in chess, if pawns can cross the entire board and reach the other side, crazy things happen. Either the darkness has penetrated all the way into the mortal’s souls or the mortals have arrived at the wellspring of the Great Evil and can possibly put an end to it, once and for all. At this point, a final confrontation occurs (an endgame). Otherwise play continues until one side or the other is wiped out or forfeits, after which there is concluding narration.

My sense is that progression along roots and branches uncovers new information about either the mortals or the Great Evil. For example, perhaps there is a branch labeled “The Brood,” and proceeding along that branch means that the Great Evil has birthed dozens of demonic creatures, while proceeding along another branch reveals that the Great Evil secretly has a mortal origin. In this manner, playing the game multiple times would render very different results, since the different moves made would lead to a different Great Evil and different kinds of characterization for the mortal characters.

Playtest Lessons

2008 May 27

Played Black & Gaunt last week at SGBoston. It was pretty fun for all involved, but the system didn’t quite support us as much as I’d like. I really wanted to evoke that zombie movie effect where the main characters are herded into an increasingly smaller space by a growing army of the dead, and that just doesn’t happen with the rules currently.

Talking with Eric and April over falafel afterwards, one of them suggested that it would make a lot more sense if the zombies could actually occupy an increasing amount of territory on the board. So you’d have an increasing number of zombie tokens that would grow and mark out locations that the zombies had taken over. Characters in those locations would be guaranteed to be attacked, but characters could avoid the zombies by sticking to unoccupied locations (where they would presumably still be fighting amongst themselves).

Another thing I wanted was for the major locations in the game to be further subdivided into smaller locations to do the “room by room” affect that happens with zombies and even in the Aliens movies. So, on the new map that I just worked up, the major locations also have blown-up outlines for you to draw individual rooms on and add basements and subbasements. Once it matters, then, where particular individuals are within a specific location, you subdivide that location on a zoomed in map. This may be something worth porting back to Geiger Counter in general.

Not 100% sure this is how I want the map to go, but it’s a step in the right direction:

B&G Playtest Rules

2008 May 21

I’m going to try to run Black & Gaunt at SGBoston tonight. Here’s my finished map:

There’s a PDF version here.

Here’s the way it’s going to work:

There are five named characters, John of Gaunt (pale knight), the Black Prince (dark king), Isabella the She-Wolf (dark queen), Abbe Allegre (dark bishop), and the Seigneur (dark rook). There are also eight dark pawns which are placed on the board to represent English soldiers, French peasants, ladies in waiting, and the like.

At the start of the game, John of Gaunt has wondered off, encountered strange forces, and become undead. Over the course of the game he builds an undead army from those he (and his undead followers) have killed. The characters that are still alive try to stop the undead by destroying them or eliminating the source of their power. Failing that, they might try simply to escape back to England.

While there is a starting map for the game, suggesting the outline of the manorial lands formerly governed by the Seigneur before the English invasion, the players should feel free to draw whatever other features they like on the map, including bridges, hidden basements, lost Roman ruins, etc.

Generally speaking the game play like Geiger Counter but with the following changes.

1. John of Gaunt and other undead characters always roll as many dice as there are undead. This means up to 12, since there are 13 characters total. John of Gaunt starts out rolling one die, for just himself.

2. Pawns do not have survival dice and only roll one die in conflicts. Other characters start with one survival die and one advantage die.

3. Undead are created when characters lose rolls in conflicts and die fighting other undead.

4. Noble non-pawn characters, when losing a conflict, can choose — instead of dying and becoming undead — to declare that some other character in the same scene dies instead. If this is a pawn, then they’re dead. If this is another noble, they can pass the buck again, to someone else. When the buck is passed, the passing character must take a condition instead.

5. Acceptable conditions for this hack include: Alone, Hysterical, Injured, Lost, Pursued, Trapped, Unprepared (all but Dead and Infected). I’m not sure what the maximum number of conditions should be. Maybe 5?

6. Once either all the pawns or one of the non-pawn characters has become undead, the living characters can finally discover one or more methods of killing the undead. Good luck with that.

7. I’m not sure how many advantage dice should be on the map. I might try to run it in a GM’d style, playing John of Gaunt and just passing out advantage dice in new locations as it feels right. Then I’ll count them up and aim for that many when running it the next time. Another option might be to generate one advantage die in a resource pool for every pawn killed, which the players can then draw on whenever they like.

I’ll report later on how it goes.

Mapping Manorialism

2008 May 20

Pretty excited about this. Check out the secret chamber below the manor house and the chess pieces on the sides for marking off who’s alive, who’s undead, and who’s just dead. I really hope I can get it finished tomorrow in time for SGBoston.

Black & Gaunt

2008 May 19

Over on SG, Brian Hollenbeck said:

Johnathan Walton: You write games with Asian themes. I challenge you to write a game about life under the 14th century manor system in France or England. Your choice!

So I said:

How about both?

Black & Gaunt: In the midst of the Hundred Years’ War, Edward of Woodstock (the Black Prince of Wales) and John of Gaunt arrive with their armies on the shores of France, seizing the manorial lands of the local French lords. Within a month, there is a virulent outbreak among the peasantry, what seems at first to be the remnants of the Black Death which just recently filled so many graves. However, it soon becomes clear that something else is afoot, perhaps dark magicks cast by the Antipope of Avignon, because the peasants, themselves rather blackened & gaunt, are rising up, hungry for the flesh of Englishmen.

I think I’m gonna write this up as a convention one-shot for Geiger Counter since I need one anyway. Ideas:

  • A pre-drawn map, with the manor house (several floors, celler), peasant lands, the old well (with Roman tunnels beneath), the church (with catacombs and graveyard), the ships of the invading English just off-shore, etc. Players will still draw in new features on the map, but there will be a bunch of things there ready to be played with. Some advantage dice will be pre-assigned to things.
  • A set of fixed characters, complete with stats, which the players choose from. They go by catchy one-word names: Black (the Black Prince), Gaunt (John of), Issy (Queen Consort Isabella, the She-Wolf of France), the peasant maid Joan (of Arc), a few other named soldiers, sailors, peasants, priests, etc.
  • Each players’ character is represented on the map by a black chess piece (up to 5, King, Queen, Knight, Rook, Bishop). NPCs are represented by white chess pieces. The menace is represented by black pawns. When the menace increases its number of Menace Dice, it also increases from one pawn to multiple pawns, representing the growing zombie horde. It maxes out at 8 pawns, the full contingent in a chess set.

Should be fun.