Something that was obvious the moment the 6d6 RPG fixed on the card mechanics was that monsters and NPCs were a problem.
A starting PC has about twenty cards, a manageable amount. However the GM needs to run up to 10 different monsters at once. That would need over 100 cards and possibly around 200. Even if the GM was able to keep track of everything the physical space needed to lay them out would be larger than most people’s play surface.
Clearly, we needed a different solution.
Good Design is Iteration
For over six months we tried several different approaches. Some never made it to the gaming table as their flaws were obvious and others were just place holders. Clearly broken but workable enough to allow us to test other aspects of the mechanics.
Most attempts focused on simplifying monsters by reducing a 20 card monster down to a few cards. This itself was easy but it lost most of the advantages of the card based approach. Simplifying monsters also made them unbalanced – either to powerful or too weak. In some cases the changes meant we needed different rules for when a power was used on a player and when it was used on a monster. Not a good solution.
A couple of months ago I sat down to solve this problem once and for all. We needed the monsters working so that we could ensure combat was balanced before we introduced magic. Reviewing all our failures it become obvious that it was not possible to simplify the monsters. They had to have their own decks exactly the same as the players.
Which left one problem – How could a GM manage 100+ cards spread over numerous monsters?
The Pin Board
The answer was obvious – shrink everything down.
Each card carries a lot of information but a lot of that is to make the player’s life easier and the game quicker to learn. All of that could be dropped on the basis GMs should know the game better than players. Now each card could be reduce to a couple of words and a dice value (e.g. 1d6+2) and fitted on a small postage stamp.
This still left the problem of tracking which cards the monsters had in their pool. This is a key mechanic but having the GM shuffle around 100 postage stamp sized bits of paper was not viable. Instead, we collated them all onto a single sheet of paper, mounted it on some thick cardboard and used pins. If a card is in the pool, stick a pin in it. When it is played, take it out.
A simple, and now that I look back at it, obvious solution.
Goblins and Points
For tonight’s magic playtest the party will be going up against Goblins. This sheet shows six basic Goblins who should be easy meat for the party. In case they are too easy, I also have a Goblin Sergeant and Chieftain prepared.
The party is made of characters with 68 or 69 points worth of cards. This is roughly the starting amount for an average character. The basic Goblins are 30 points, less than half that of the PCs. The Sergeants are 50 points and the Chieftain is 71 points.
All in one go, this would swamp the party because having superior numbers is a major advantage in the 6d6 RPG. (This is by design, I’ll write more about this another time). However, as the point of the test is to allow the players to let loose with magic, I plan to introduce them a few at a time, and not seriously threaten the party.
If I was writing this as a proper encounter for these character, I would plan an initial fight with for Goblins at the cave entrance. A main combat with 6 goblins and a Sergeant in the cave. Plus a Boss monster battle with the Chief, a Sergeant and a couple of standard Goblins.