I have some unexpected downtime so I want to write a little bit about my method for developing Tides of Gold as a standalone game and some of the new rules. (This post will probably make more sense if you’re familiar with Blades in the Dark or other Forged in the Dark games).
I followed two design principles while creating the rules system for Tides of Gold:
The final result is something I’m calling (not really) Forged by the Apocalypse, i.e. if the Blades in the Dark rules system and the Apocalypse World System had a child:
I made several changes tone-wise to the Forged in the Dark core.
I changed harm and death:
Beyond these specific changes, I cut out any mechanics that were not absolutely necessary or simplified others. I expect to continue this “editing” approach to rules as I continue trying to find that streamlined balance.
The Trade Game
Creating a trade game probably changed the dynamics the most.
The faction/tier game has been replaced by a trade mini-game including an all new “trade phase.” This part of the game will require the most playtesting; the coin economy is based on very theoretical math scribbles I made.
Cargo is an abstract measurement of 7 different types of supplies. At any given time, each port has 1 cargo in high demand, 1 in low demand, and the rest are normal; these demand levels potentially change the worth of what you sell.
Factions stock different cargo which changes dynamically on the GM side, so you get specific loot based on the factions your raid and when. Some cargo always sells for more…but if you carry highly desirable cargo, the raids you face (replacing entanglements) could be more dangerous.
During the trade phase you can sell cargo, buy cargo, ferret out gossip about what different factions are stocking, or try to manipulate the market so a specific item stays in demand (or surplus) longer.
Trade drives crew advancement instead of rep. You invest coin in increasing your Wealth rating; with each Wealth advancement you get a new special power to control trade or influence ports. However, as your Wealth increases, you also become targeted by more powerful factions wanting to steal your profits for themselves.
If your group is all about min-maxing, you can manipulate the supply and demand of ports, locate the best factions to steal from, and increase your trade empire to the point you bribe entire cities to do what you want or actually control supply and demand. The change in markets happens on a predictable schedule, so you can actually plan your sea routes and raids around trying to score before the demand shifts.
Or you can focus on a simpler style: steal stuff, sell it for some coin, and spend it on more downtime crafting actions or personal projects.
Or just, you know, sail around the Reef Lands fighting sea monsters.
When you want to end your campaign, the group makes a roll based on their Wealth and follows the wrap-up prompt based on the roll. This can help give you a sense of conclusion, and can be used if you’ve played 1 session or 50.
Opening the World
The game system is less structured than Crossing Worlds or (I think?) Blades. There are different game phases (scores, downtime, trade, sea travel, freeplay) but there is no set order; you just can’t repeat the same phase in a row.
The world is defined but vast, with 9 detailed ports and lots of open spaces. Factions, notable NPCs, and continent histories are there to inspire stories…but the result will depend on your group and which prompts interest you.
So you could remain in the same port, raiding and selling, for multiple sessions. Or you could rob a ship, sail to a distant land, sell your loot, spend downtime at sea, sail to another location, take downtime at port, trade some more loot, etc. Or go on a focused raiding spree: sail, score, sail, score, sail, score, etc. (until your ship’s upkeep demands downtime). The goal is for the structure to provide prompts for play, not restrictions on it.
The playbooks and crew sheets in the new system only require tiny changes from the Blades compatible format.
I’ll release an updated version of those with the seafaring rules that you can still use in your traditional Forged in the Dark games. (Also…I haven’t combed thru but I think 90% of the rules can be made Blades compatible if you really want to keep to that system.)
This blog is a mix of game design analysis, commentary on issues affecting indie dev spaces, and some personal reflections.