7:31 PM +Richard: Hi! I’m Richard, I’ve designed games like The Dawnline and Rod, Reel, & Fist, and I’m current kickstarting Mendicant Spell Vixens.
7:32 PM +Richard: Mendicant Spell Vixens is an old-school-influenced tabletop dungeon-crawling rpg where the players take on the roles of foxes trying to break into ancient, formidable Coops. And get away with chicken.
7:33 PM +Richard: It’s designed to be a bit crunchy, but very easy to learn and teach, and hopefully to capture some of that old adventure game magic.
7:33 PM +Richard: (done)
7:33 PM ~Dan: Thanks, Richard! The floor is open to questions!
7:34 PM ~Dan: So why foxes and chickens? 🙂
7:35 PM +Richard: Honestly, it’s mostly the fault of my design process. I woke up one day with the title in my head, and then decided to try and make a game out of those words.
7:36 PM +Richard: Foxes seemed like the most interesting thing I could do with that, and then the rest of the setting fell into place when I tried to imagine what kinds of fantasy stories foxes would tell.
7:36 PM ~Dan: Heh. Fair enough!
7:36 PM +Richard: I also grew up with a chicken coop in my back yard, which was next to the woods.
7:36 PM +Richard: So I’ve first-hand witnessed some pretty daring raids on forbidden chicken.
7:37 PM +Richard: (done)
7:38 PM ~Dan: I see… And these coops are the equivalents of dungeons?
7:38 PM ~Dan: (Howdy, GenoFoxx!)
7:38 PM +Richard: Yes. In the lore, a long time ago the foxes offended a deity called the Cosmic Farmer, who sealed away all the chicken into hostile megastructures designed to keep foxes out.
7:40 PM +Richard: So far, the playtesting group has encountered Coops that are themed after fast food restaurants, meatpacking plants, refrigeration facilities, etc, so I’ve gotten to have a bit of fun with it.
7:40 PM ~Dan: Is this a Medieval fantasy setting?
7:41 PM +Richard: Ish. It’s got a lot of medieval fantasy trappings, including in the costumes and weapons, but there’s also a lot of agricultural beats. Hay Silo Elementals and Picket Fence Gnolls and traps that are just grain chutes.
7:42 PM +Richard: Whenever anything felt too plain, I grabbed a something farming-related or chicken-related and substituted it into its place.
7:43 PM +Richard: So you can carry a crossbow and wear leather armor, but also you might have a wishbone whittled into a shank as your backup weapon.
7:43 PM +Richard: (done)
7:43 PM ~Dan: Heh. Nice.
7:44 PM ~Dan: Who and what are the antagonists?
7:47 PM +Richard: It’s pretty varied. Picking a few names from the bestiary, there’s Bone Pullets and Boneless (undead chickens), Dread Threshers (animated agricultural threshing machines), mimics, muckrackers (muskrats that can only digest things that have been forgotten)
7:47 PM +Richard: Plus foxes
7:48 PM +Richard: Bandits, cultists, etc can be just as dangerous as more wild threats, and sometimes they settle in and around Coops
7:49 PM +Richard: Mostly, there isn’t a single evil force unifying the things foxes have to deal with. It tends to be situational.
7:49 PM +Richard: (done)
7:49 PM ~Dan: What sorts of resources do the foxes have?
7:50 PM +Richard: In the fiction, anything they can make themselves or scavenge out of a Coop. This leads to a lot of ‘gently recycled’ equipment, with adventurers taking weapons from bandits who took those weapons from adventurers, etc
7:51 PM +Richard: A few of the more unique things include Hens’ Teeth, which manifest in places with high levels of chicken-energy, and which adventurers carry as lucky charms
7:53 PM ~Dan: Chicken-energy? 🙂
7:53 PM +Richard: There’s also some home-made alchemicals, such as powdered wolf’s marrow (it’s just a trade name, it’s not made from real wolves) which makes foxes jittery and alert, and yarrow poultices which foxes use on their wounds
7:53 PM +Richard: Yeah. The cosmology of the setting is deliberately a little nonsense.
7:54 PM +Richard: Chickens do have a unique energy to them, it’s not just that foxes find them delicious. They are, after all, favored by the Cosmic Farmer.
7:54 PM +Richard: This leads to other lore tidbits like the existence of anti-chicken-energy and things like the Salmonella Lich
7:55 PM * ~Dan chuckles
7:55 PM +Richard: With the lore in the game, I try to present everything as serious and straight-faced as I can, so in some places it comes off reading like a very wacky Dark Souls
7:56 PM ~Dan: 🙂
7:58 PM ~Dan: Based upon the game’s name, I’m assuming that at least some of the foxes are spellcasters?
7:58 PM +Richard: Yes. There’s three core classes, Bandit, Fighter, and Priest
7:58 PM +Richard: Each class gets a special ability pool to select options from. The Priest gets spells.
7:59 PM +Richard: Incidentally, fox Priests tend not to pray to the Cosmic Farmer. They get their Spells by praying earnestly to themselves.
7:59 PM ~Dan: Praying to themselves…?
8:00 PM +Richard: Yep. Their faith is a bit circular. They pray to themselves so that they can grant themselves the ability to cast spells.
8:00 PM +Richard: It works as long as they don’t think about whether it should work.
8:00 PM ~Dan: Heh. 🙂
8:01 PM +Richard: As for the Spells themselves, they tend to be powerful, one-shot effects, usually with a slight drawback.
8:01 PM +Richard: So Saint’s Murmur, for example, lets you speak any language and lets your audience speak back…but everyone has to mumble,
8:02 PM +Richard: Incantation Of The Thirteen Spices boosts your meta-stat, but lowers your maximum Wounds.
8:02 PM +Richard: (done)
8:03 PM ~Dan: Why priests but not wizards?
8:03 PM +Richard: (and I’m realizing I said Bandit, Fighter, and Priest were the core classes. That should be Burglar, Fighter, and Priest.)
8:04 PM +Richard: I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with wizards yet.
8:04 PM +Richard: To me, wizards feel like a rampant, unchecked, chaotic force. I want to do something with that, but I haven’t figured out the specifics yet.
8:04 PM * ~Dan nods
8:06 PM ~Dan: Do you have a character sheet that we can see?
8:07 PM +Richard: I’m going to quickly double check, but I don’t think I have an official character sheet yet. Playtesting has been really helpful, but it’s also meant a lot of tweaking of character elements.
8:07 PM ~Dan: That’s okay. It’s mostly just to help facilitate system discussion.
8:09 PM +Richard: I checked a couple places, and I don’t have a character sheet that’s in layout yet. I can copy over some text from the doc, though, if that would help.
8:09 PM +Richard: I’ve also got a rough version of it on one of the kickstarter updates. One sec. I’ll link that.
8:09 PM +Richard: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rodreel/mendicant-spell-vixens/posts/2995541)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rodreel/mendicant-spell-vixens/posts/2995541
8:10 PM +Richard: It’s not dressed up with art and layout, but it does have the essential building blocks for the class.
8:10 PM ~Dan: That’s the main thing.
8:11 PM +Richard: Okay, cool.
8:12 PM ~Dan: I don’t see anything resembling attributes. Is the game purely skill-based?
8:12 PM +Richard: For checks, yes.
8:13 PM ~Dan: What is the task resolution mechanic?
8:13 PM +Richard: If you roll a 4+, you succeed.
8:13 PM ~Dan: Does degree of success matter?
8:14 PM +Richard: Nope.
8:14 PM +Richard: I wanted the Skill system to be as boiled down as I could get it, without losing too much flavor. If you have a skill with a higher die size, it’ll succeed more often, but all you need is a 4+.
8:15 PM +Richard: Of course, there’s another part to the way the skill system works, which might not immediately pop out from skimming the character sheet.
8:15 PM +Richard: There’s no perception skill.
8:16 PM +Richard: Instead, the GM is obligated to describe, at least in part, any dangers or opportunities in the environment around the players.
8:17 PM +Richard: The GM can obfuscate that description, saying something like “the leaves on the path seem disturbed” instead of “there’s a pit trap in front of you”, but the GM has to at least give the players a chance of guessing that there’s something to find there.
8:17 PM +Richard: Now, if a player then walks into the pit trap, they get to roll Avoid Traps/Ambushes to try and grab the edge and avoid damage.
8:18 PM ~Dan: Interesting approach.
8:18 PM +Richard: The dice are a fallback
8:18 PM +Richard: A lot of the gameplay happens in the descriptions, and the players deciding what to do
8:19 PM +Richard: This also gives the GM a lot of control over how dangerous a given scenario is
8:20 PM +Richard: If the traps are all super unfair, but the GM drops a lot of hints, the party might get through with a lot less problems
8:20 PM ~Dan: What is Je Ne Sais Quoi in this context?
8:20 PM +Richard: Je Ne Sais Quoi is a meta-stat
8:20 PM +Richard: You can spend points to fuel some abilities, but also to take extra actions in combat
8:21 PM +Richard: Burglars have a *lot* of it
8:21 PM +Richard: Real quick overview of how combat works:
8:21 PM +Richard: Players act, then monsters act, then players can spend Je Ne Sais Quoi to take more actions, then monsters can do the same, then the round ends
8:22 PM +Richard: A standard attack, without any resources being spent or special abilities being used, typically hits and does a point of damage
8:22 PM +Richard: But there are lots of ways to mess with that
8:23 PM +Richard: Different weapons change the mechanics of an attack, the gear you’re carrying often has abilities that can be activated in response to an attack, in a pinch Hen’s Teeth can be spent to force rerolls, etc
8:24 PM +Richard: When I first wrote the mechanics for Je Ne Sais Quoi, I was a bit worried it would break the game in half, but it’s been weirdly quite balanced
8:25 PM ~Dan: Can you say some more about the mechanical effect of weapons?
8:26 PM +Richard: Yes. One of the simplest one is the Long Blade, which rolls an extra d4 when you hit, and if the d4 succeeds (i.e. gets a 4+) it adds +1 damage
8:26 PM +Richard: But there’s also the Halberd, which can suppress the effects that some monsters active when they’re attacked
8:26 PM +Richard: And the Cat O’ Ninetails, which adds damage if you hit, but you take damage if you miss
8:28 PM +Richard: Similarly, some weapons come with ammo that you can spend to boost your chance to hit, or other benefits/drawbacks
8:29 PM +Richard: Armor works in a lot of the same ways. Usually a shield or piece of armor comes with its own pool of ‘charges’ which can be spent to activate an ability that makes an attack less likely to hit, or absorbs some of the damage.
8:30 PM +Richard: (done)
8:31 PM ~Dan: If 4 is always the target number, how do you handle difficulty levels?
8:31 PM ~Dan: (Howdy, Karn2!)
8:31 PM +Richard: In some cases, effects can increase or reduce your current dice size.
8:32 PM +Richard: The GM is encouraged not to do it too much, but if someone is trying to climb a slick wall in the rain, you could reduce their Kick Doors/Climb Walls by a dice step or two.
8:33 PM +Richard: The lowest you can be reduced is down to a d4, so success is always possible (unless you’re trying to do something like headbutt the moon out of orbit)
8:34 PM ~Dan: What are Support Actions?
8:35 PM +Richard: Support Actions are my way of dealing with the whole team stacking up on skill checks. You can spend a Support Action to increase a nearby ally’s chances of succeeding, but Support Actions as a stat measures your willingness to carry the rest of your team.
8:35 PM +Richard: If you run out, you’re no longer helping that much when you try to support someone else.
8:36 PM +Richard: i.e. you can still do it, but there’s no overt mechanical effect
8:36 PM +Richard: (done)
8:40 PM ~Dan: What are the limits (if any) on spellcasting?
8:40 PM +Richard: Spells per rest, mostly.
8:40 PM +Richard: Levels in this game are called Notches, and you can distribute them to any class.
8:40 PM +Richard: When you invest a Notch into priest, you get a set number of uses for a few spells you choose.
8:41 PM +Richard: Using a spell in combat costs an action and a use from the spell.
8:41 PM +Richard: When you rest, you get all your expended uses back.
8:41 PM +Richard: (done)
8:45 PM ~Dan: Do you plan on introducing any more classes?
8:45 PM +Richard: In case it gets overshadowed, I want to mention that Burglars and Fighters have ability lists like the priest’s. Instead of spells, they have Ploys and Maneuvers respectively. Each works a bit differently, but every class has a pool of features they can choose from.
8:46 PM +Richard: I’ve got a few that I’d like to add, but I want each class to feel pretty distinct, so everything’s going through a lot of testing.
8:46 PM +Richard: The two that are currently in the stretch goals are Raccoon and Stoat
8:47 PM +Richard: Raccoon is planned as a class that manipulates equipment charges, doing things like detonating their own shield to counter an attack
8:48 PM +Richard: Stoats are sort of like certain alchemy-using swordsmen from a dark fantasy franchise
8:48 PM +Richard: Their kit revolves around using abilities that are a little like priest spells, but have more charges and weaker, more general effects
8:49 PM +Richard: But these are all still in testing, and my first goal is to make sure the core classes each occupy their own niche
8:49 PM +Richard: (done)
8:52 PM ~Dan: Is this the start of a game line, or a one-off?
8:52 PM ~Dan: (Howdy, danhunsaker!)
8:53 PM +Richard: The original draft really wasn’t meant to be anything, but playtesting it was fun, so it made its way into the production pipeline. I think at this point, it’s the start of a game line.
8:54 PM +Richard: I’ve at least got a lot more material I’d like to write about, and depending on feedback there’s a lot of different parts of the engine and setting I can focus in on.
8:55 PM +Richard: Also my artist is super proactive, and there is at minimum art for a follow-up.
8:56 PM +Richard: (done)
8:57 PM ~Dan: Does the game have a bestiary, and if so, how large?
8:58 PM +Richard: In the current draft, the bestiary is 25 pages, but that’s without art
8:59 PM +Richard: There’s also more being added as unlocks via the kickstarter
8:59 PM +Richard: I’m inevitably going to end up adding more creatures as well
9:00 PM +Richard: I will try to limit myself on that last front, as each monster adds to the overall testing time, but I’ve done that in all of my pastgames
9:00 PM +Richard: *past games
9:01 PM +Richard: I guess there’s also technically a traps list, which could be considered an extension of the bestiary, for another 6 pages
9:01 PM +Richard: (done)
9:02 PM +Richard: The current draft is 126 pages pages of text, so roughly a fourth of it is monsters and traps
9:10 PM ~Dan: What is your *least* favorite aspect of Mendicant Spell Vixens?
9:11 PM +Richard: Hmm. I think it might be balancing it.
9:11 PM +Richard: Everything sort of needs to be tested individually, and that means there’s going to be some point at the end where I just simulate a *lot* of monster fights like I did for Dawnline
9:12 PM +Richard: For smaller or less crunchy systems, I can get the core mechanics balanced and mostly be able to trust everything else is in balance
9:12 PM +Richard: But this is a system where all the little pieces tend to have little rules exceptions. Items, monsters, ability are all oriented around breaking rules in specific ways.
9:12 PM +Richard: So it’s on me to do a lot of checking to make sure none of that breaks the game.
9:13 PM +Richard: Well, mostly on me. My playtesting groups have been hugely helpful.
9:14 PM +Richard: There’s at least one spell they’ve broken in every other session, and it’s fixed for now, but I’m keeping my eye on it.
9:14 PM +Richard: (done)
9:16 PM ~Dan: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
9:17 PM +Richard: I don’t think so. But I don’t always have a good sense of what I’ve covered sufficiently well.
9:18 PM +Richard: Overall, the goal is for the game to be a fun, casual, crunchy, throwback.
9:19 PM * ~Dan nods
9:19 PM ~Dan: How has the response been so far?
9:19 PM +Richard: Oh, I guess the inspirations?
9:19 PM ~Dan: Sure!
9:19 PM +Richard: The response has been good so far, and the kickstarter’s been pretty much mirroring Rodreel’s
9:20 PM +Richard: As for the inspirations, Into The Odd, Slumbering Ursine Dunes, and Deep Carbon Observatory were all gameplay/worldbuilding inspirations
9:21 PM +Richard: Redwall, Robin Hood, and Adventure Time were also things I thought about while working on the setting
9:22 PM +Richard: Also maybe a tiny bit of Darkest Dungeon
9:22 PM ~Dan: Nice.
9:22 PM ~Dan: Thanks very much for joining us, Richard!
9:22 PM +Richard: Thank you for hosting, Dan!
9:22 PM ~Dan: Usual reminder: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a coffee or two, you can do so at (Link: https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe)https://www.ko-fi.com/gmshoe . Anything’s appreciated! 🙂
9:23 PM ~Dan: If you’ll give me just a minute, I’ll get the log posted and link you!