Current Project: Hollow

As a way of introducing myself to the community, I thought I’d share my current project. I’ll throw in my elevator pitch.

Hollow is a Monster Hunter style, high fantasy ttrpg set on a world several millennia after humanity was eradicated by their own technology. In this “Points of Light in the Darkness” style setting, the players play Fairies struggling to survive in an inhospitable world full of savage techno-monster hybrids.

Players may be fairies, but don’t assume they’ll be wearing bells and placing dewdrops on flowers. Faced with a world of dwindling magic, monsters and mortality fairies have become fierce warrior survivalists. The players will need to explore a world full of danger, both familiar and alien, battling giant monsters, looting ruins and scavenging the resources they need to survive.

Hollow pairs deep tactical combat with mechanics designed to enhance the narrative and encourage storytelling. Some of Hollows features are:

  • The Dice Bag resolution system. Players build a bag of d6’s where the color of the dice corresponds to development choices. The system uses familiar d6 dice pool building mechanics with the twist that the dice pool is build using dice drawn randomly from the bag. This allows dice check to have non-binary narrative elements, alongside the typical degrees of success found in dice pool systems.
  • Hollow seeks to capture the feel of the Monster Hunter genre by having strategic tactical combat, advancement that integrates harvesting/crafting, and of course giant oversized weapons and monsters.
  • In Hollow, advancement isn’t limited to the players. GMs take on the role of a sentient AI that can influence the remnants of technology that litter the world. Over time, as the players draw the AI’s awareness, the GM will gain new options to make life tougher for the players.
  • A rich open character development system that uses time and resources, alongside experience, as fuel for improvement.

At the time I wrote that pitch I was much more confident about my core resolution mechanic. Since then I’ve been tweaking things a lot and it still doesn’t feel right. The dice bag system opens up a ton of unexplored design space but so much space has me trying out too many things.

Currently, the basic idea is that characters attributes are tied to dice colors. Colored dice make up about half of the player’s dice bag at a ratio equal to their attribute distribution. Since dice color corrisponds with attributes, dice color can be used to add additional effects to checks corrisponding to that attribute. So, for example, Red dice might corrispond to Charisma and when Charisma checks are made, red dice being in the check provides additional benefits. In theory, this would work system similiar to the Narrative Dice system used by Star Wars and Genesys only without having to use custom dice. Thematically, these dice produce “sparks” of mana of different color that the player can spend to power powers, spells, or just as performance boosts.

The problem I keep running in to is one of too much ambition. I think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the refreshing of the dice related to the rest mechanic”, “What if I looped the action economy into the dice”, “What if the “exhausting” (refreshes daily) a dice could be used to power daily effects”, “Critical injuries should add wound dice that impact survivability”, etc. Too many ideas, that don’t always blend well and have me questioning older estabilished mechanics.

I really wasn’t posting this with the intention of looking for advice but I guess it’s shifted in that direction, so please feel free. Any comments or feedback would be welcome.

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I guess I’ll suggest simply focusing on what the characters are expected to do during play. Build the mechanics to reflect that and you’ll prolly be able to keep rules bloat under control. So, instead of worrying about whether refreshing should be a daily thing, figure out how the powers/effects need to act to feel the way you want them to, then figure out how the mechanics can work with that.

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This sounds really cool! My first full RPG design was also about hunting monsters, so I have a special interest in this. Let us know when you have a PDF available for looking at :slight_smile:

Thanks for the kind words. Out of curiosity, was your monster hunting game in the style of Van Helsing or Witcher, humans killing mostly human sized monsters, or the video game Monster Hunter? I looked around quite a bit and couldn’t find many examples of the video game Monster Hunter genre and if that is what you designed, I’d love to see it. Specifically, I’m looking to capture the combat feel and progression through crafting that is so iconic for those types of games. At the moment I’m spending a lot of time making sure I get the Tell system just right. So that players feel like they can predict and react to a monsters telegraphed moves. If you worked on the same genre, I’d loved to hear if/how that was something you incorporated into your game.

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I love the setting and theme.

The dice bag system sounds a bit complex, to me. But I also don’t play a lot of dice pool games and I bet it’s one of those things where you do it once and it makes sense.

Hard to really give advice without concrete rules, but I think finding a mechanism that you can reuse is valuable, so players don’t have to learn different mechanisms for a bunch of different effects.

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Thanks for the feedback. No need for advice. This was mostly meant to be an introduction post anyway. As for the complexity, that was intentional. No offense intended to the lovers of simplicity, but I absolute hate how indy design seems to revolve around light weight micro systems. I enjoy a good crunchy system that reminds you what the G in RPG stands for. That’s not to say I’m not shooting for an elegant system. I like to think the themes and mechanics are going to blend in such a way that things will feel fairly intuitive. Of course, that remains to be seen.
As for the mechanisms, I absolutely agree with you. This won’t be a system like D&D 2e where every type of game play has its own resolution system. It will all share a single resolution system for combat, skill checks, social encounters and magic. Although, of course, there will also be some unique subsystems in each. Hopefully I’ll have some more concrete rules to post soon as I’ve got an exciting new mechanic I can’t wait to get feedback on.

That’s cool. I love me some crunch.