First draft of World of Ultraviolet

I put together my first playtest document for World of Ultraviolet this weekend; we’ll give it a shot this coming Saturday. Here are the principles behind it:

  • This is not a complete game. You still need the Ultraviolet Grasslands book for this to work, and you should support Luka Rejec when you get it.
  • Everything you do and decide should reflect the psychedelic trippy wonder of the world. Paint with colors you see only in your dreams. Like all other settings, the true Ultraviolet Grasslands gets discovered at the table rather than in a book or a document. 
  • Use lots of random tables. Don’t write plots. Players should be creative in figuring out how to deal with situations. 
  • Balance and “rules as written” are false gods. Tune the game to keep it fun for all the players. 
  • The GM is a player too.
  • Your group might come up with more stuff not reflected here. Maybe your game will include specific conditions, or fatigue, or more magic. If you do, write it up and post it somewhere so other people can riff on it.

Character creation tweaks

grayscale photo of person walking on mountain feet during daytime in Kyrgyzstan
Photo by Frantisek Duris on Unsplash

The game is classless: you start with two skills and an ability. My skill list of course remains non-comprehensive just like in UVG, but I simplified it somewhat to make it a little more like WoDu. Also, I took out any abilities that seemed “magic”, which mostly meant the stuff associated with the Cleric and Wizard classes. None of the abilities grant static numeric modifiers: good abilities let you do something different, not just add another number. Other abilities exist in some sense, but you don’t get them at character creation or via levelling: the world might change you somehow, and that becomes an ability. (Of course, GMs should always make up new stuff too!)

Rolling the dice

I rewrote the core WoDu move as follows:

When you attempt something risky, roll 2d6 and add one of your attribute scores, based on the action you’re taking. The GM will discuss potential outcomes with you before you roll, including how well things could go and how badly. You can decide whether you want to take the risk or do something else. 

  • A roll of 12 or more is the best news: you do it perfectly and get some extra benefit or advantage.
  • A roll of 10 or more is good news: you do it without any complications.
  • A roll of 7-9 is mixed news: you do it, but something else happens, like a complication, extra cost, harm, etc.
  • A roll of 6- is bad news: it doesn’t go well and something bad happens.

If you have an applicable skill, even on a 6-, you still do it, but bad things (worse than a mixed result) will happen regardless.

Also, I’ve used the luck die from Electric Bastionland: bad things on 1, advance warning on 2-3, everything’s fine on 4-6. Like Blades in the Dark, the GM might roll this with more than one die and take the highest or lowest result if it seems appropriate to them.

Stuff and things

I simplified the weapons and armor a little, but left the other gear, transport, and inventory systems alone (in fact I just refer back to the UVG text). That’s because the game focuses on exploration and discovery (and potentially trade) but not fighting. So the real mechanical meat focuses on that. We just have light, military, and great weapons, and light, medium, and heavy armor. Armor matters more than weapons because it can affect your speed, which has no explicit effect but provides a comparison factor for the GM when deciding how to rule in situations where who goes first matters. I did sneak in Mörk Borg style armor, though: armor reduces damage but not by a static amount. Instead, you roll a die (size depending on the quality of armor) and reduce incoming damage by that amount.

In my game, magitech isn’t “for sale”, or at least not in the starting location. Go and find it someplace, and while it’s possible that someone somewhere might sell such things for simple coin, more likely you’ll have to do something to get it. And when you do, there’s a good chance it’ll change you in unpredictable ways.

The XP progression changed slightly but the required values are really arbitrary. Who’s to say that Level 3 should require 2500 and not 2000 or 3000 or 2437? The only reason we’re keeping XP is so that we can reuse the values from the locations in the book; my group has chosen to focus on exploration and carousing for XP. (Conflict XP might happen, but as noted, the game will focus on other things.) If the group or a player just finished something really cool and they are close to the next level, give it to them. If you think the numbers are too harsh or too generous, tweak them. 

Possible Changes

I have a few notes about things I might change. For example, I don’t love having numeric modifiers for attributes. Instead, we could just determine if a character has exceptional Strength or Charisma or whatever, and take that into account somehow when rolling. Maybe they get advantage on the roll, or maybe it just affects the fiction of how well or poorly things could go (Effect and Position from Blades in the Dark, basically).

Maybe a few more abilities would help, too, but I would like players to drive that: if they have in mind something they want this character to be good at, let’s write an ability for that thing rather than giving them some menu of options and constrain them to it. That is to say, if you want something that isn’t on the menu, we can still design it, as long as it fits within the game. To paraphrase Matt Colville, game design doesn’t stop when the campaign starts.

Essentially, I want the dice to introduce a level of randomness, but I don’t want players thinking too much about numbers. Instead, they should have their heads in the world, and sometimes things happen that none of us expected because of those dice!

Anyway, assuming things go well, I’ll do some super basic layout and publish the document soon, probably with a few changes based on how it actually goes with my friends.

3 thoughts on “First draft of World of Ultraviolet

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