Forest Outlaws is the third game I have released (or maybe the fourth, it depends how you count). With each game I try to expand the kind of thing I do with the game.
For Forest Outlaws, I wanted to do a layout version of the game, where the way the guidance appears on the page enhances the playability of any game that results. Previously, I had just released the game guidance is as a wall of text, broken up into sections. This time, I wanted those sections to also have a life of their own in relationship with each other and with the of information on each page and the way it looked on the page. So I downloaded Affinity, which I had seen mentioned favorably a few times on Twitter.
I also wanted to create a way to play Robin Hood adventures, directly inspired by the earliest stories with a flavor overlay from the mid-20th Century adventure movies. Although the very earliest Robin Hood tales do include, frankly, brutal murders perpetrated by the nominal heroes, I did not want that. I did not want to write a grim-n-gritty game, because that is not where I am in my idea of what is fun to play, and I did not want to get into developing mechanics to support that. Wounds, effects of wounds, and locations of wounds all sounded like more than I was up to tackling, and also Not Fun to develop at that time.
I wanted something quick to start playing.
So I looked at the stories I wanted the guidance to enable. The stories are not instructional documents for strategic or tactical battles. They are fireside tales, to be told in taverns, homes, or campsites. “Robin Hood and Little John and Much, the Miller’s Son faced the evil Sheriff, or the thieving Abbot, and got the drop on them in the forest, waylaid them in the course of the nefarious plans, and returned things to rights.”
The heroes of these stories use their wiles, and knowledge of natural and social networks to prevent (or punish, extrajudicially) those who would use the power of Law to abuse the weak.
How to make a game of that? Something with some structure, so players can say, “I’m using this in order to accomplish that!” And, if there is uncertainty, some simply way to use dice to decide how it goes.
Reading the stories, there was not much need for the traditional six attributes. They could be used, of course they could, they are pretty generic, and cover a lot of reality. But what did the stories actually convey? What did the characters in the story use? They used what they knew, those networks, those environments, their particular combination of wit and strength.
I narrowed it down to three characteristics: guile, succor, and game. Roughly, very roughly, intelligence, social skill, and physicality. There’s some overlap: does gambling come under guile or game? Does a successful escape come under game or succor? Does winning the golden arrow disguised as a yeoman come under guile or succor? It depends.
The gameplay comes from telling the tale, not from moving pulling the levers of game mechanics.
For Forest Outlaws, anyway.