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Subject: Stealth game mechanic: Pay to succeed rss

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Eric Pietrocupo
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I always wanted to make a stealth ninja game but never actually found the core mechanics. I looked at other stealth or ninja board games and it did not inspired me either. A common mechanic would be to restrict player actions by drawing a random hand of action cards, or rolling dice that determined what the player can do. But I am kind of tired of those game design where you must find ways to restrict the player, I want to give the player freedom.

A simple way to implement this is with skill rolls, but I found it somewhat annoying to roll all the time while moving on the board, and even with low odds, you could get easily discovered at every step you make if you are unlucky.

This moning, I came up with an idea that I used for a Dungeon Quest variant: pay to succeed. In this case you would roll and if you fail, you can pay the difference in "time" resource to automatically succeed.

By pushing the idea further, when guards are discovered, a die will be rolled and used as a guard pawn, the value indicates it's vigilence. Your skill level must exceed/equal the vigilence of the guard to succeed, else you pay the difference in time. The advantage is that events could increase or decrease the vigilence of the guards.

If a guard is too much vigilent, then you could use special items to make success easier or attempt to kill the guard which would be a die roll, but now if you fail, you are discovered.

I also want the player to use their environment which would give them various kind of bonus according to various situations, from hiding places, to distractions for the guards.

What do you think?
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Matt D
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I like this idea a lot.

So in essence the mechanic is, instead of a roll determining success or failure, a roll determines how much of X resource needs to be expended, down to potentially zero. And your job as a player is to mitigate the potential expenditures, so at the end of the game you have all achieved your objectives, but someone has done so with less effort spent?

Maybe not the best distillation of your idea, but I think I see it. Sort of flips the "roll for success" convention on its head.

I think it's really nifty.
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Eric Pietrocupo
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It seems more like a resource management game since besides time, special items and gear will mostly be one time use. You do not have an infinity of time because when the sun rises the mission is over, so if you take too much time, you will fail your mission. So victory is not automatic.

I my Dungeon Quest variant, the process was similar, if you failed a roll, you could pay the difference in determination token to succeed, or accept the failure and gain 1 determination token ( a form of experience). In that case you wasted time, but if gave you more tokens when you failed that could be used later. So you had to determine if it was worth paying the cost now or lose time.
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Steven Anderson
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I also really like this idea, kind of adds a press your luck bit as awel if I'm interpreting you correctly, ie do an action and pay its cost, do I now have enough to pay if I try another action?
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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The press your luck element here is trying to evaluate if you'll have enough time to finish the mission. At the beginning of the game, sure you can spend a lot of time only to realise at the end that you need to rush everything if you want to finish the mission. Maybe even alerting guards voluntarily to reach your destination faster (possibly when exiting the place before sun rise)
 
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James P. E. Reynolds
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This is an interesting idea. I like that TIME is the resource and it sounds like Skills and Tools will increase or decrease time spent. Almost like the 80s arcade classic Rygar or Nintendo's Castlevania. New skills and tools allow a player to do things more efficiently saving time and increasing there end-of-round or end-of-game bonus. Balancing is made easier as more powerful weapons cost more time to activate or reload.

You could use Stamina as the cost paid to perform a failed action instead of time. The player would become more tired as they used stamina to perform failed actions or special skills causing actions to take more time. New skills could make actions easier -- requiring less stamina to perform.

Have you considered Stamina and Time as separate resources or is that your intention with Time as a combined "umbrella" resource.


Interesting idea.
 
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Matt D
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See, I do like time as your resource, because then you can play interesting games with it. Stamina is nice, but what I think he is going for is not that your guy is getting tired of doing things, but that he simply lacks the time to do all of it.

An idea would be waiting for the shift of the guards or for their rotation. Like you need to get to a certain room -- you can either wait until the guards in their pacing give you a complete lack of line of sight (easier, but takes longer) OR you can try to sneak past without waiting for them to complete their path, thus taking less time but having it be a harder check (since you didn't wait for the guards to totally clear)

So you can "spend" time to make your difficulty lower, which makes it more likely to succeed pre-roll and could also reduce any future cost if you fail. All other things being equal, it costs less to reduce the difficulty such that you would succeed than it would to spend the time needed to increase your roll, but perhaps you are being overly cautious and didn't need it at all?

Like, using D12 as an over-simple example. You need to roll 10 on a d12 to succeed. It costs you 2 units of time to lower the diff to 8, but if you don't and you roll an 8 it will cost you instead 4 units of time to raise that 8 to the 10 required to succeed. Or you leave it at 10 and roll a 10. All three result in success, but one costs 2 time, one costs 4, and one (luckily) costs 0.
 
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James P. E. Reynolds
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Yeah, I got it. I was adding stamina. Seemed like a good fit.
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Quote:
Have you considered Stamina and Time as separate resources or is that your intention with Time as a combined "umbrella" resource.


Somebody on BGDF suggested stamina too. I am thinking to use this more for action that requires exhaustion like climbing a wall, fighting, running, carrying stuff.

Of course there will be health that can be used compensate in combat roll. More on that in my next post.

Quote:

An idea would be waiting for the shift of the guards or for their rotation.


I know ninja used to hide for hours and days to wait for the right moment. I think my game will start when that moment will have arrived.

In order to make the AI managable, there will be 2 kind of guards, guards that remains in the same space, and guards that patrols around the map following a path like used in another ninja board game. There will be a single patrol path around the whole board.

The board will be modular sheet that contains 2x2 or 3x3 spaces.

Side note: I have read a translation of the Shoninki and I want to use some concept teached in that book into my game. For example, they enumerate sources of distractions as for example: Beautiful People and Beautiful Gardens. So for example, you will get bonus when guards are in beautiful areas or if there is a maiden in the same area.

Quote:
Like, using D12 as an over-simple example. You need to roll 10 on a d12 to succeed. It costs you 2 units of time to lower the diff to 8, but if you don't and you roll an 8 it will cost you instead 4 units of time to raise that 8 to the 10 required to succeed. Or you leave it at 10 and roll a 10. All three result in success, but one costs 2 time, one costs 4, and one (luckily) costs 0.


Hmmm, more complex than what I intended to do, but it's interesting because there is the idea of how much risk you want to take, like betting. I am trying to twist the idea around, but it's getting late so my mind is not really clear. Could be useful for other actions than movement. I'll keep thinking about it for now.
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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I have been thinking about the dice rolls when walking back home. I want to standardise the skill roll mechanics throught the game. So here is what I though so far.

There will be guard tokens on the board with 2 stats: Vigilence and Thoughness. Players will have skill levels of various kind including stealth and combat. A skill roll is first by rolling 1D + Skill, the result must equal or exceed the TN.


Movement: When moving you can pay the difference in time between the TN and your skill roll to auto succeed. OR you can spend only 1 time and roll 1D + skill, if you fail you get discovered. Or maybe you can chose the amount to spend and roll a die. But if you want auto success, you can. (again, to prevent rolling for each movement step)

Stealth Kills: You can try to kill a guard, in that case you roll 1D + skill against the thoughness of the target. You cannot simply pay the difference to auto succeed. But maybe you could pay time to reduce the difficulty. But maybe rolling a 6 will always make you fail.

Combat: Same thing, you roll 1D + skill vs thoughness, for each point rolled under the TN, you lose 1 health. So here you pay in health to compensate for the failed die roll. But you cannot spend more time to increase you chance of success since you are in battle.



 
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Dimitri Sirenko
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larienna wrote:
I have been thinking about the dice rolls when walking back home. I want to standardise the skill roll mechanics throught the game. So here is what I though so far.

There will be guard tokens on the board with 2 stats: Vigilence and Thoughness. Players will have skill levels of various kind including stealth and combat. A skill roll is first by rolling 1D + Skill, the result must equal or exceed the TN.


Movement: When moving you can pay the difference in time between the TN and your skill roll to auto succeed. OR you can spend only 1 time and roll 1D + skill, if you fail you get discovered. Or maybe you can chose the amount to spend and roll a die. But if you want auto success, you can. (again, to prevent rolling for each movement step)

Stealth Kills: You can try to kill a guard, in that case you roll 1D + skill against the thoughness of the target. You cannot simply pay the difference to auto succeed. But maybe you could pay time to reduce the difficulty. But maybe rolling a 6 will always make you fail.

Combat: Same thing, you roll 1D + skill vs thoughness, for each point rolled under the TN, you lose 1 health. So here you pay in health to compensate for the failed die roll. But you cannot spend more time to increase you chance of success since you are in battle.





i like this idea a lot. What if you made the pay to succeed a thing you have to do before you attack a guard. Logically and thematically it would make the most sense to spend more time planning on how you are going to take the guard out. And the more time you sacrifice the more likely you are to win the altercation. But the catch is that you need to risk the time amount before you even attack the guard. But yes, time management as a resource is awesome, it reminds me of the old school Red November a bit.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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For what it's worth:

There's a philosophy in some storytelling-based RPGs that encourages keeping the plot moving, instead of churning and/or getting stuck in one encounter. The RPG that I'm somewhat familiar with that uses this is Mouse Guard RPG.

Essentially, a session is like this:
A. GM's turn
A.1. Briefing, Players define their goals
A.2. First Obstacle
A.3. Second Obstacle
A.4. ... more obstacles...
A.5. Mission Goal reached
B. Player's turn
B.1. players drive

The obstacles are where the GM describes a problem, and the players make their skill checks / tests. If they are successful, they move on to the next obstacle. If they are not successful, the GM has two choices to use:

a. A "plot twist" ... essentially, another problem pops up because the players failed. If they succeed, then they move onto the next obstacle (as if they succeeded the initial obstacle). If they fail ... well, back to these two choices ... indeed, many plot twists can occur.

b. A "condition" is applied. Essentially, the players are considered to have successfully overcome the obstacle... but at a price. Maybe they are injured, or hungry, or angry ... all of which just makes the game more interesting on a roleplaying/storytelling level.


So going back to the OP, it's kinda like those conditions. The players will always succeed, but sometimes it costs them ... and sometimes, that cost can be very high. The OP's idea has a more quantified approach
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Quote:
i like this idea a lot. What if you made the pay to succeed a thing you have to do before you attack a guard.


Well it's somewhat like that, you pay time to reduce the difficulty of your roll. Movement allow complete payment while stealth kill you always have 16% chance of failure.


Quote:
Condition and plot twist


You remind me of something, that could be implementable here later when the game will be more mature.

In a solo RPG system, there was a mechanic where some sort of fate die were rolled with your regular skill roll. The fate could be positive, negative or nothing at all. Which could lead in situation where:

You succeed, but there is an additional complication (negative)
You succeed, and you get bonus effects (Positive)
You fail, and it get worst (negative)
You fail, but something good hapenned to compensate (positive)

So the bonus effect was independent of the success of the skill roll which lead to various elements of depth since complications could arise.

I think here it could be used later when I have a more solid game, so that even if you almost auto stealth kill a guard, you can encounter some bad or good events for that action which can lead to complications that the player needs to deal with.

---------------------------------------------------------

Right now I am trying to work on a map. Not really sure what should be the scale of a "space". In "Ninja: Legend of the scorpion clan" a moving space cover a large amount of space. A whole house can fit on 1 or 3 space.

Since I want a modular map, I need a way to make it tilable. I might have found some way. You would tile the whole area map first and then you can overlay another tile for inner keeps if necessary.

The other additions, is that since house space are more "dense" they have a second inner sublocation that connects to other adjacent house sub location. So movement inside buildings is slower then outside.
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Greg
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I think that's a really neat idea. I might adopt some modified version of it for roleplaying games, I've never liked the "all-or-nothing" of a lot of stealth systems. Having a pool of points that depletes as you do things that are noticable until you eventually fail seems great to me.

For an example of a very largely deterministic stealth game you might want to look at something like Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan. Though I don't see how it would work as an AI
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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The AI will be simple. Each square can have 1 or 2 token which can be guard, dogs, maiden, samurai, etc. They will remain there and will only investigate missing characters or dead bodies in their square.

Then you'll have patrols like in the ninja game you mentionnned above. Which are groups of 1 or 2 guard moving around a path that could investigate missing characters or dead bodies. They also temporarily raise the security of the place they are located.

There would be alarm levels like in invisible inc and that ninja game which would give bonus, bring additional patrols, etc.
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Quote:
I might adopt some modified version of it for roleplaying games,


Try the "Dungeon Quest" variant I made above. I really like it, because if the cost to succeed is too great, you can accept the failure to gain an extra point for the following roll.

So if for example, if cost 3 points to succeed, you have the choice between -3 points or +1 points. Still if you desperately need to succeed, you will pay those 3 points.
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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For those interested, I made a mini proto and playtest using heroscape mini:



The project page is here:

http://bgd.lariennalibrary.com/index.php?n=GameIdea.GameIdea...

Results of the playtests:

- There is an issue with time and the AI's turn. If the player can spend additional time, when does the AI act? I think each turn will be composed of 4-6 time slice of 5 minutes. When a player spent all his slice or more slice than a full turn, the AI act.

- I will have to define actions for AI, like alerted guards could search for the player, while environment like bushes could give bonus to hiding. But when facing alerted guards, time cannot be spent. Unless I allow player to spend time improving hiding places or other stuff before they actually need it. Same thing for hidden bodies, the quality of the cache will be the difficulty of the guard to find it. Players could spend more time to improve the quality of the cache.

- I am thinking about having an AI reaction table for alerted guards or when patrols discover areas with missing guards. They could simply ignore it or try searching. But the alert level will give a bonus to the reaction roll making them more likely to search and be on their guard when the alert level is high.

- I was also thinking about a consequence table. Like for example, if you fail a sneak kill by 1 point, then maybe you do the kill, but he scream loudly and attract attention of other guards in the location. While if you fail miserably, the guard counter attack and makes you lose health. Reaction table seems to improve the story telling of the game.

- Movement difficulty is a bit complex, because I am not sure if to consider the guards in the target square, and or the guards in the starting square. I might need to use the difficulty of both as the player could be in a very bad position, he should not be able to get out that easily. Or use worst of both, or roll/spent time for both.

I am currently playing "Invisible Inc", I could get some ideas from there too.
 
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Stephen Williams
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This looks pretty sweet, and a highly thematic mechanic for a stealth game. Kudos!

Subscribed.
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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In case it inspires, try my game out


thread: [nanoPnP] Nano Cyber Rogue [solitaire] [Contest Ready]

There are cases there where you "pay to succeed".

 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Wow, your game looks pretty neat. It reminds me of a remake idea I had for steve jackson's Hacker game. But I never managed to make it work. Here was the picture of the proto.

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Sturv Tafvherd
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That looks really cool. I've tried playing that Hacker game from SJG too.

We really do need more "sneak around / infiltrate" games.
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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I have just played a mission of "invisible inc" and recommended it to my friend. My stress level is currently very high due to the game, when a turn based strategy game does that to you, it's because it's a very good game (but also though). I am going to get some inspiration from that game to add a bit of "stress" to my game.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

The main issues I have is with time and multiple guards in the same area. For time I have 2 option so far. Each turn will be 30 minute where a time point will be 5 minute (6 points per turn).

Method A: Act on threash hold: The first method consist that doing action spent time points. You can of course spend points to increase success level. When you exceed the 6 points per turn. The AI will act at the end of your action.

Method B: Musical chair or Clock: The AI act on fixed interval of 30 minutes. During your turn, you can spend up to 6 time points. If you do not spend everything, the points are lost, or transfered in experience (not sure). Then the AI act. If your next action cost more than the time left, you lose it.

The impact is that for example, you might want to find a hiding place before AI act. So with method A, if your last action is not a hide action, you might expose yourself.

With method B, you could have a situation where doing action that would cost more than 3 points can only be done once per turn. So any excess points is lost, and if you have do to many expansive actions each turn, you can lose a lot of time this way.

Still, I could make sure that action will never cost more than 3 time. Maybe spending 1 additional time gives you a +2 per point to your rolls, So that there is no reason to spend more than 2 points for a +4 bonus for a single action.

------------------------------------------------------
Then there is the multiple guard issue.

If in a area, you have a guard with an alertness of 5 and a guard with an alertness of 3, how do you resolve that.

The first solution is roll 1 die for each guards equal above it's value. That can make a lot of die roll, but also makes the game much more tougher because only 1 of 2 guards needs to be alerted. Still the outcome of alertness could be variable, so it might not be as dramatic, maybe the guard just heard a sound and the ninja already moved into the next tile, so it will have no effect.

The second solution: Take the highest value and add +1 per additional guard. But that would conflict with maiden that would have little alertness but acted as a distraction. So the maiden would give +1 and -1 which does nothing.

The third solution is roll 1 die for the whole group, multiple guards does not give bonus. But if you roll badly, you would alert multiple guards. But the difficulty is the same as a single guard.

----------------------------------------------------

Finally it becomes even more complicated when moving between 2 square that both has guards. Logically the check to move out and move in could be combined together like if all the guards on both space were part of the same tile. So moving from a crowded space to another crowded space would be pretty though as you can easily add up 4 guards. Else I would need a check to move out and a check to move in which is a lot of dice rolls.

Yes can could pay time to auto success, but even that starts to be expensive, because you somehow have to pay twice for each movement. Another idea could be that guards are placed on an edge of the tile, when when moving from a space to another, only the edge guards are encountered.

Any suggestion for the issues above are welcomed.
 
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Stephen Williams
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larienna wrote:

Then there is the multiple guard issue.

If in a area, you have a guard with an alertness of 5 and a guard with an alertness of 3, how do you resolve that.

The second solution: Take the highest value and add +1 per additional guard. But that would conflict with maiden that would have little alertness but acted as a distraction. So the maiden would give +1 and -1 which does nothing.

The third solution is roll 1 die for the whole group, multiple guards does not give bonus. But if you roll badly, you would alert multiple guards. But the difficulty is the same as a single guard.


I think rolling one die against the most alert guard makes the best sense here (whether or not additional guards provide a bonus, I'm ambivalent.) As far as maidens go, the solution seems simple - only other guards give a bonus, not all other figures. So the math becomes (highest guard's vigilance) + 1*(other guards) - 1*(maidens).

Thematically, this can be explained by saying that the maidens (and other non-guard units) are not actively watching for intruders and therefore do not actively contribute to the evasion difficulty.

larienna wrote:

Finally it becomes even more complicated when moving between 2 square that both has guards. Logically the check to move out and move in could be combined together like if all the guards on both space were part of the same tile. So moving from a crowded space to another crowded space would be pretty though as you can easily add up 4 guards. Else I would need a check to move out and a check to move in which is a lot of dice rolls.


I would be inclined to say that you only roll for one or the other - ie: roll on entering a space OR roll on exiting a space to evade the guards present on the given tile. The other side of the equation is effectively "free."

Put another way, it's easy enough to hide in a dark corner when you've just arrived in a given area, the difficult part is actually trying to sneak through that area.
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Thanks for the input. I am still considering the idea of putting guards on side of the square, Which gives 4 possible possition. They would all count as part of the same square if something happened into the square, but when moving between square, you use guards located on both side of the square edge, for a maximum of 2 guards.

This ways, the strategy could be much more deep and the analysis of the board and tactical position might be more important. I'll have to give it a try.

 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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I did some test this morning and it went pretty well, I also got ideas for multiple guards resolution.

You place 2 guards in each square on one of the 4 edge. The results are interesting because almost all edges have 1 or 2 guards, and each square will have of course up to 2 guards. So that makes certain edge more difficult to pass than others. And in all cases, you cannot encounter more than 2 guards at a time what ever the action. The only exception is for patrols, and you generally want to be elsewhere, or at least hidden when it passes.

Since building square have an inner square, there will be additional guards there. When moving inside or outside the building, I will use only the inner guards. When moving between squares, I will use the edge guards, and when doing stuff inside the square, I will use the square guards.

So for the rolling system, I found this new variation, you roll a die for each guard, but you assign the die to the guard. So the odd to get detected are much less dramatic if only 1 of your roll is bad. You would need to have 2 bad rolls to get detected.

--------------------------------------------

The only issue I have right now is space. If I want to fit a 3x3 square grid on a 8"x8" tile it gives a square of the size 2.625"x2.625". Now for non building square, it's not so bad as I would need to put at most 3 to 5 location or tokens on the square. Now if tokens are layout as a 3x3 grid inside the square, I can easily use 5/8" or 3/4" tokens to fit 9 of them.

But for squares where there are inner areas like house, dungeons, etc. I just do not have enough space to fit the interior and the exterior. Solutions I found so far:

A. Make the interior on an off board tile, You jump from the board to the off board area.

B. There is no interior sub space, but use different rules to reflect the increase in density. The advantage of that, is that digital implementation is easier since there is less exception in map design. I would personally try this route. Thinkinng of using an interior/exterior status marker to interact with Interior or Exterior Guards.

C. Cramp up the space: In theory, I can have up to 9 token in a square, I could try to maximize the space as follow:

- 1 to 4 edge space for guards (depending on how the house is designed). But only 2 can be occupied unless inner guards can move out or vice versa.
- 2 space for interior guards
- 1 Inner space for player ( when outside, the player takes unused guard space.
- 1 Space for Higher grounds (Roof)
- 1 Space for other things: Hiding place, distraction area, Supplies, etc.

So as you can see, it can become pretty dense.





 
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