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Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients» Forums » Variants

Subject: Streamlining Shadows of Brimstone rss

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Julian Dick
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Hi there. As I just recently played a similar game to Shadows of Brimstone, called Darklight: Memento Mori, I started to want to bring some streamlined rules from that game back into SoB to recude the amount of dice rolls needed and possibly reduce the amount of little special rules you have to remember.
This thread is going to grow incrementally, as I add new rules/tweaks one by one. So lets start with my first suggestion:

1. Movement rules:
Problems:
Move to roll has two disadvantages:
It takes more time and the results are random and you can not really plan tactics from turn to turn.

Fixes:
apply the fixed 4 movement as base value for each character from the optional rules.
On top, don't roll an extra die only for grit but generate grit directly from the darkness roll:
For every 1 rolled during the darkness roll, distribute X grit among the players, where X is 1/2 in a 1-3/4-6 player game. The players decide how the tokens are distributed. Limit of 1 grit per player per darkness roll.
Abilities/Effects that effect the movement die roll have to be houseruled accordingly. For example a skill that allows you to roll 2 movement dice and take the best result could be converted to +1 move or +1 move if you don't attack this round. Skills that increase your chance to get a grit can be converted to +1 grit on a darkness die of 1 or 2, or +1 grit if you don't move this turn. Something like that.

2. XP and level up:
Problems:
The characterwise distribution of XP can lead to big differences in the experience/level characters in your posse have, favouring fast or damage/last hit optimized characters.
The valuable XP given for wounds on large monters is fiddly.
The small abilities like healing etc. that give small amounts of xp are fiddly.
The level up while in the mine/other world slows the game down.

Fixes:
XP for healing other characters is removed. Other methods to gain XP through spells/skills/cards remain, as long as it specifically states on the card that you get XP. Put these XP into a common pool. They will be distributed among the players after the current/next fight.

There is no individual earning of XP during fights anymore. Instead, collect all killed monster minis in a general pool. After the battle is over, when receiving loot, trade in all monster minis for their XP values. The current XP pool (all monster XP + skill/spell/card xp) is then divided as evenly as possible among all characters in the posse after a successfull fight. In case of party wipe (all heroes down), the XP in the current pool is lost!

Large enemies only give a fixed amount of XP and only during this step, not if they are hit. The amount is calculated as follows:
XP = HEALTH * FIX VAL (for example, harbinger has 18HP and XP=15+5. This would result in 18 * 15 = 270XP). Large Elite enemies increase the FIX VAL by one per elite level. Normal elite enemies give +5XP per Elite level, as per the normal rules.

Furthermore, the level up process can only be done in town, not in the mine/other world.

3. Catch Your Breath:
Problems:
After all the looting and xp gaining, you can sometimes forget who did act in the last round of combat and who did not. And with rule 2., since the xp is now evenly divided among players, there is no need for a "last combat round compensation" anymore.

Fixes:
After the fight ist over, all standing players get to heal 1D3 Wounds/Sanity (any mix) or recover one grit. Any downed hero gets to heal 2D6(any mix) and rolls once on the matching injury or madness chart.

4. Branching Paths:
Problems:
Each mine/otherworld layout is very linear. Most of the time you just build a long line of rooms which you go to one by one and there is no need to take alternate routes, or do backtracking. This way, the room events loose some of their danger/importance because you never have to go back to that nasty poison trap room once you have crossed it. In Darklight Memento Mori, there is a cool concept of branching paths. I want to implement this mechanism in SoB as well.

Fixes:
You no longer need a certain amount of clue markers on exploration tokens to trigger the final encounter. Instead, you are looking for the "growing dread encounter" marker. If this is revealed during an encounter, the final boss room is triggered and the scenario comes to its conclusion. (This works best for all scenarios where you need to find a fixed amount of clue tokens to trigger the final room. But you could try to come up with variants/adaptations for special scenarios that work differently)

During setup, remove the growing dread encounter marker from the pool.
Shuffle the remaining 11 markers, and build 2 stacks with size according to the scenario length (short:4+3 medium:5+4 long:6+5). Shuffle the growing dread marker into the smaller stack. Then place the other stack on top. This way, the final room is situated somewhere in the lower/last half of the stack/mine.

Always place this stack next to the unexplored edge of the current room. If you need to draw an exploration counter for a newly placed room, take the one from the top of the stack that is placed next to this door. If you have multiple exits leading from a room, split the stack by the number of exits (alternating between tokens drawn from the bottom! of the stack, one by one) and place one stack beside each exit. If an unexplored door has no exploration tokens left beside it, this door can not be explored and you have found a dead end. Use an end cap to close off that door.

Additionally, there can never be 2 rooms in a row with no initial exploration marker. So for example if you current room is a passage(no marker was placed on) and you draw a new room to connect it to the passage, you have to keep redrawing room cards until you get a proper room (with exploration marker).

Using these rules, the mine will grow much more "organic", with different paths, some leading into dead ends and the need to revisit rooms to take other exits. Furthermore, the game length is a little more predictable than before.
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Max Maloney
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I always thought the movement roll represented the rough, darkened terrain of an underground mine environment. Between unlevel floors, extremely poor visibility, tripping hazards and so forth, a rock-solid round-to-round movement speed doesn’t seem realistic to me.
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Julian Dick
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Dormammu wrote:
I always thought the movement roll represented the rough, darkened terrain of an underground mine environment. Between unlevel floors, extremely poor visibility, tripping hazards and so forth, a rock-solid round-to-round movement speed doesn’t seem realistic to me.


Why not, you have a lantern and it is a mine, not a cave or dungeon. Also there are already special room encounters that hinder your movement in them if i recall correctly. So that is still in the game. But my main motivation is just to remove unneccessary dice rolls. Thats why i use it
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Ken H.
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Enroth186 wrote:
Fix:
don't roll an extra die only for grit but generate grit directly from the darkness roll.
If one or two 1 are rolled during the darkness roll, take one or two grit and decide as a team who should get it.
This is obiously balanced for two characters playing, but you could scale it to the number of characters and give out more grit.
Abilities/Effects that effect the movement die roll have to be houseruled accordingly.


That's a nice idea. Another idea would be if the Darkness roll is doubles (which is a 1 in 6 chance) then give all characters one grit. Or, if you don't want to link grit to the Depth Chart, you could give all characters 1 grit on a Darkness roll of exactly 7 (also a 1 in 6 chance).

The flaw is that there are some heroes and other special rules that cause you to gain grit on a roll of 2 as well.
 
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ScottL
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I think there are too many cards/abilities that relate to the grit roll to completely do away with it.

But that said, the beauty of this game is it's openness to house ruling to customize the game to our own play style and enjoyment of the game.
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Julian Dick
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*edited 1: Movement, to better scale up to 6 players*
*added 2: XP and level up*
 
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Morgan Vening
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ScooterNH wrote:
I think there are too many cards/abilities that relate to the grit roll to completely do away with it.

But that said, the beauty of this game is it's openness to house ruling to customize the game to our own play style and enjoyment of the game.

Yeah, there's several characters (Indian Scout Start Upgrade, Lawman Tree 2 First Upgrade, Outlaw Base Card Ability), that either start with, or can gain, two dice, pick one, for movement. One of the advantages of that, besides getting to move further on average, is that when movement is limited, you get double the chance at getting a Grit.

Additionally, the Bandido's only Base Card Ability, and the USMarshal's Tree 1 Second Upgrade, are both essentially voided if you don't have an individual Grit roll.

That means 5 of the original 9 characters, are either weaker than intended directly out of the gate, are reduced to 2 Starting Upgrades, or have entire Upgrade trees made way too expensive.

I really have never found movement/grit rolling cumbersome, that it needs a change that then either disproportionately weakens some characters, or requires rewrites to correct that.

At worst, to speed things up, I'd have everyone roll simultaneously for Grit, just after the HBTD.
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Julian Dick
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Quote:
Yeah, there's several characters (Indian Scout Start Upgrade, Lawman Tree 2 First Upgrade, Outlaw Base Card Ability), that either start with, or can gain, two dice, pick one, for movement. One of the advantages of that, besides getting to move further on average, is that when movement is limited, you get double the chance at getting a Grit.


I think these skills that affect grit roll or movement roll can easily be House ruled and be substituted with something like these options:
+1 move
+1 move if you don‘t attack.
+1 grit if darkness die with value 1 or 2.
+1 grit if you don‘t move.
...

Quote:
I really have never found movement/grit rolling cumbersome, that it needs a change that then either disproportionately weakens some characters, or requires rewrites to correct that.

My group hates roll n move and it is a little cumbersome to me even if I dont‘t despise it. That‘s why I want to streamline it. And I see that it works well in other games (namely, DMM).
 
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Andrea Florio
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You could houserule Grit generation as follows instead:


Each character in the posse generates 1 Grit every-time you reveal an exploration token.

Characters that have skills that normally increase the chance of getting a grit back (Bandido for example) get 2 Grits instead.



Any skill that adds additional die to roll during the movement phase will instead grant +1 movement.
 
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Julian Dick
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Quote:
You could houserule Grit generation as follows instead:
Each character in the posse generates 1 Grit every-time you reveal an exploration token.
Characters that have skills that normally increase the chance of getting a grit back (Bandido for example) get 2 Grits instead.
Any skill that adds additional die to roll during the movement phase will instead grant +1 movement.


Yes, this sounds very similar to the ideas that I had as well. But i don't want to completely throw the game off balance. So my idea was to keep triggering grit with a D6 roll each round, exactly like the standard rules. That's why I used the darkness roll for that. Exploration token grit generation would be a totally different amount maybe and also very deterministic. That's why I stick with my idea instead, but thank you for your comment.
 
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Max Maloney
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Enroth186 wrote:
Why not, you have a lantern and it is a mine, not a cave or dungeon.

I mean, it’s a 19th century lantern not a modern electric one. It’s not bright. And it’s held by a single moving character, whose body casts shadows across probably 120 degrees of its light arc. And that light covers an entire tile and all adjacent tiles? That’s very, very dim lighting.

Why do you assume mines have great, level footing? Again, we are talking about 19th century mines!

YMMV but a different perspective to consider.
 
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Ken H.
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Dormammu wrote:
Enroth186 wrote:
Why not, you have a lantern and it is a mine, not a cave or dungeon.

I mean, it’s a 19th century lantern not a modern electric one. It’s not bright. And it’s held by a single moving character, whose body casts shadows across probably 120 degrees of its light arc. And that light covers an entire tile and all adjacent tiles? That’s very, very dim lighting.

Why do you assume mines have great, level footing? Again, we are talking about 19th century mines!

YMMV but a different perspective to consider.


True, not to mention that some of the "mines" are actually jungles, snow-covered alien cities, and/or bombed-out battle fields.

Of course, some of the worlds would appear to have their own light source, which further complicates the verisimilitude issue.

Personally, I like the roll and move style. I find it doesn't take noticeable time, and doesn't generally seem seem swingy in terms of luck. That said, I also like to read and think about variants.
 
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Ken H.
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Enroth186 wrote:
Other methods to gain XP through certain actions(for example healing or spells/miracles) are removed. You only get XP for Monsters and encounter/scavenge cards.


I suppose the game balance is flexible enough to withstand this. I would still feel a little cheated if I was playing a healer. Do you have an opinion on the more common house rule that all experience (monsters, healing and everything) goes into a pool and gets divided up at the end of the mission?

Quote:
Furthermore, the level up process can only be done in town, not in the mine/other world.


This is a house rule that I use. I don't care about slowing down the game, since I see this as a fun part of the game. It helps if you discuss options with other players so they are not just sitting there waiting. But I mostly play solo (with multiple characters), so there is obviously no down time for me, since I'm doing all the parts.

To me, the problem is that leveling up during a mission lets you reset health, which makes the game too easy. Also, the power of this free revive makes you want to hold off on leveling up until you need it. I had a 4th level character who had gained enough experience to reach level 6, but was still holding off. That's when I started using this rule.

With the power creep that has come in with later expansions (deliberately and welcome-ly), I'm now thinking I may want to allow first level character (only) to level up during a mission. But beyond that, I think it's better to take away the free revives.
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Julian Dick
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Quote:
I would still feel a little cheated if I was playing a healer. Do you have an opinion on the more common house rule that all experience (monsters, healing and everything) goes into a pool and gets divided up at the end of the mission?


Hey, that is exactly what I said I would do. Pool all XP together after an encounter and then divide evenly.

But since the methode I use to calculate large monsters XP-values does give you a little more XP then it would normally do on average, I opted to also remove healing XP, since it is no longer needed, in terms of individual player XP and total XP amount. It also makes sure the gameplay can continue and you don't have to get your pen&paper out just because you used bandages on your teammate.

Maybe I could allow for XP through skills/spells, as long as it is mentioned on the cards. But the 5XP per heal will definitely be removed as this is only mentioned in the rulebook and is easily forgotten most of the times anyway.

Can somebody summarize for me every way you can earn XP in this game, aside from killing monsters and healing?
 
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Julian Dick
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*edited 2: XP and level up, to allow for skill/spell/sermon XP*
 
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Ken H.
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Enroth186 wrote:
Quote:
I would still feel a little cheated if I was playing a healer. Do you have an opinion on the more common house rule that all experience (monsters, healing and everything) goes into a pool and gets divided up at the end of the mission?


Hey, that is exactly what I said I would do. Pool all XP together after an encounter and then divide evenly.


I was saying divide the pool at the end of the mission, instead of at the end of each encounter. If you aren't allowing characters to level up during an adventure then there is no mechanical reason to divide xp per encounter. Then again, you might want to do it after the encounter just for the sake of interest to see how much you got, etc.

Quote:
Can somebody summarize for me every way you can earn XP in this game, aside from killing monsters and healing?


Maybe someone else has done this already? I couldn't find a post on it, but might have missed it. Just off the top of my head, there is the +10 xp for scavenging, +20 xp per loot card, and of course various arbitrary amounts of xp on encounter cards, travel events and town events.

 
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Daniel Kearns
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Dormammu wrote:
I always thought the movement roll represented the rough, darkened terrain of an underground mine environment. Between unlevel floors, extremely poor visibility, tripping hazards and so forth, a rock-solid round-to-round movement speed doesn’t seem realistic to me.


Gameplay wise, I presumed the roll to move thing was also to reduce "bottlenecking" of the party at doors, or rather, the move 4 rule nearly guarantees the bottlenecking strategy.

(haven't played yet but when I do, I'm planning on using roll-to-move cumbersome as it is)
 
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Julian Dick
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*added 3. Catch Your Breath*
*edited 2. XP and level up, to explain that you loose all XP still in the pool in case of party wipe*
 
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Julian Dick
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Quote:
Then again, you might want to do it after the encounter just for the sake of interest to see how much you got, etc.


Yes, that is the only reason I want to deal out xp after every fight, because it is fun! Getting loot, successfully scavenging a tile, all this creates some rewarding gameplay, that is why I want to do it at the end of every fight rather then at the complete end of the dive.

Another reason is, you have to change the minis for XP tokens or write them on paper after the fight and then put the monsters back into the monster pool/box for the next encounter. This way you can also easily see which xp you did not get / lost in the case the party goes down (which results in a mission abort/loss). You don't get the XP in the pool that was not yet divided among the players. This comes from the Darklight rules and is reminiscent of the DarkSouls/Bloodborne souls system.
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Julian Dick
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Quote:
Gameplay wise, I presumed the roll to move thing was also to reduce "bottlenecking" of the party at doors
Bottlenecking has always been a part of the "Warhammer Quest-like Games" and is part of the strategy of the game. Furthermore, it can also be done quite easily with roll to move (wait for other players before looking through a door or using grit for extra move), so I see no argument here.
 
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Troy Gustavel
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dkearns wrote:
Gameplay wise, I presumed the roll to move thing was also to reduce "bottlenecking" of the party at doors, or rather, the move 4 rule nearly guarantees the bottlenecking strategy.


Worth emphasizing again that bottlenecking becomes much less useful once more enemy expansions are added. Most of the enemies in expansions have special rules to discourage bottlenecking.
 
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ScottL
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You may want to check out Barkam's Variant
I've adopted many of these suggestions and they do help the game play a bit more smoothly. There may be some ideas are in there that are similar to what you're going for.
 
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Julian Dick
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*added 4: Branching Paths*
 
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ScottL
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I love Branching Paths, and have been using it for a while. It really does wonders to eliminate the otherwise linear nature of exploration. Nice that you've included it in your list.
 
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Julian Dick
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Quote:
I love Branching Paths, and have been using it for a while. It really does wonders to eliminate the otherwise linear nature of exploration. Nice that you've included it in your list.


Ah, I did not know that this variant existed. I just got this idea straight from Darklight Memento mori.
But my version is a little different. The boss room is only triggered if you find a specific token. The variant from your link just splits the token pool into multiple ones but triggers the boss room normally when a certain amount of clues is reached. This could potentially still lead to linear-ish levels.
I think in my version, there will be even more branching paths than with this other variant although the amount of rooms may differ from the usual numbers. I will have to do more playtesting to see if the balancing is good, but my first impression was quite good.
 
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