Dark Lord Kickstarting

Dark Lord, a tabletop RPG where you are the Big Bad Evil Guy, is now on Kickstarter. Given the half-comatose state of this blog and the fact that it’s most popular when talking about books, not games, I doubt I’ll pick up a ton of backers from here, but hey, it’s worth a shot. Plus, it got funded in the first six hours, so it’s not like I have anything to complain about (knock on wood).

Dark Lord: Fey Queen and Black Prince

The final posting (until I have a more complete game to discuss, anyway) on Dark Lord. One thing that people who have 3d6 probabilities memorized (or who bothered to look them up) may have noticed is that the odds of rolling up a lieutenant are so slow that you could very roll two new minions per session for forty sessions and still never roll up a single lieutenant for any of the overlords who got played during those forty sessions. This is because lieutenants are endgame minions who can only realistically spawn once the overlord has built several buildings in their domain which give bonuses to the stats of all their minions. With their domain maxed out, an overlord can have a +4 to one stat, a +2 to two others, and a +1 to the remaining three. As an example, the Lich King would probably have a +4 to CON since so many of his units require it as their high stat, a +2 to CHA for vampires and a +2 to INT for necromancers, and then a +1 to STR, DEX, and WIS, neither of which are very consistently useful.

This build isn’t quite optimized for lieutenant spawning – a Lich King trying to do that would swap the +2 INT for STR, but it brings the lieutenant’s spawn rates up to about 6%. That’s still rather low, but in the face of sufficient attrition it’s reasonably likely to happen anyway. On the other hand, elites are spawning nearly as often as troops and fodder spawn almost not at all, and while fodder are expected to die within the same session that they’re rolled and troops are expected to die before reaching level 5, an elite is reasonably likely to make it to level 5, which is quite a bit of gameplay. With so many elites and so little fodder, the rate at which new characters are being rolled goes down by quite a bit, so lieutenants remain rare and special even in the endgame. This only gives an overlord more incentive to hang onto one if they do get one. A lieutenant is not only significantly more powerful than an elite, they’re also significantly more rare, rare enough that odds are only one or two overlords will have one (unless the game last a long time and the lieutenants neither die nor retire), which means having a lieutenant-tier minion becomes a status symbol.

Anyways, here’s the Fey Queen and the Black Prince, the last of the six archetypes I designed for the unfinished game Dark Lord.

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Dark Lord: Troll King and Ice Queen

More unit-by-unit overviews of various dark lords and their minions from the half-finished RPG Dark Lord. We discussed yesterday how fodder can either try to get themselves killed ASAP in order to reroll as something better, or they can try and hang on to level 5 for a major reward. Elites and especially lieutenants face a different conundrum. They’re fairly powerful, in the lieutenant’s case about as powerful as a dark lord themselves, and this means that their dark lord doesn’t want them to retire and collect their bonus Fate. In order to discourage them from doing this, a dark lord gets a certain amount of Favor each quest that he must distribute amongst his minions over the course of a quest. Every surviving minion can then convert their Favor into Fate. If a lieutenant makes themselves useful, their dark lord may lavish them with Favor, especially after they’ve reached level 5 and could retire, in order to try and keep them on. The benefit from retirement is fairly low for a lieutenant, especially compared to constantly sucking up Favor quest after quest.

The problem is, by the time a lieutenant spawns (and it while it’s not as rare as it seems based on the stat requirements alone, it can definitely take a while), the other minions are probably all used to getting some Favor of their own, since the dark lord must distribute all favor by the end of each quest. Some players might be pursuing a strategy of grinding through fodder and troops until they spawn an elite, and then use that elite to soak up as much Favor as possible rather than retiring. An elite, or especially several, might conspire to assassinate a lieutenant in order to get the favor flowing towards them again. If their overlord finds out it was them, they may find themselves executed for their impudence, but if there are several potential culprits, the overlord might never have to know. An overlord can try to placate all his minions by distributing Favor evenly, but then lieutenants have much less incentive not to take a retirement bonus after they reach level 5.

I haven’t done any actual play playtesting of Dark Lord yet, so I don’t know if these incentives will work the way I want them to, but I’d be eager to find out. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually finished the game yet, which makes that a tad difficult, doesn’t it. Anyway, here’s the Troll King and the Ice Queen.

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Dark Lord: Lich King and Lord of the Damned

And now we’ll have an overview of the units for a couple of our Dark Lord archetypes. Each player currently playing a minion rolls 3d6 in order and can qualify for certain character classes depending on which dark lord’s army they’re playing in at the moment and what stats they roll. Minion levels go from 1-5, and at level 5 minions can retire. Retiring gives bonus Fate points to to the player playing that minion, which they can then spend on their own dark lord. The reason why this is important is that less powerful minions get bigger prizes if they live to retirement, so while playing suicidally aggressive is a reasonable response to rolling up fodder, there’s a big reward for managing to keep that sucker alive clear to level 5.


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Dark Lord: Archetypes Overview

My reserve of old stuff that I wrote for half-finished projects seems bottomless. Every time I think “that’s it, I’m out” I discover more. Which is good, because I’m seriously unprepared to be running this thing alone.

What I’ve dragged up from the vault today are the descriptions of character archetypes from Dark Lord, the game where players take it in turns playing an evil overlord on a sinister council of darkness, and everyone not currently playing their overlord instead plays the overlord’s expendable minions.

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