Forums » Elder Scrolls

TES:D20 - An Elder Scrolls Tabletop RPG

    • 707 posts
    April 20, 2016 8:01 AM EDT

    Hi everyone!

    As some of you may have seen from my photo posted earlier this week (or my post from back in 2013), I've been working on a tabletop RPG (similar to Dungeons and Dragons) based on the Elder Scrolls as a little personal project of mine. I've been taking direction from some mechanics in the Elder Scrolls games but I've actually built this myself pretty much from the ground up over the last 3 years or so. It's taken so long because I've actually run quite a few test games, including a campaign of over 20 sessions!

    Anyway, the reason for this post is that it's pretty much ready to go! I've created a 'Beta Pack' containing the 166-page Core Rulebook, as well as a short sample adventure, blank character sheets and a number of pre-written characters. You can access it via this link or as one of the attached files to this post.

    If you're in to tabletop roleplaying I'd be stoked if you'd take a look at it and even give it a try. This has pretty much been my dream for the last 3 years and it's almost a little surreal that it has actually reached this state!

    If you'd like to read more about the game and follow any future updates, I've got a Facebook page where I post updates about what I'm working on and the current state of the game.

    If you've got any feedback or questions I'd be happy to hear them! Just post below or shoot me a message.

    • 221 posts
    April 20, 2016 8:07 AM EDT

    This looks great, Ponty. What an interesting spin to a tabletop RPG. Wish I had the time. 

  • April 20, 2016 8:21 AM EDT

    This is awesome Ponty, I've been waiting eagerly to see what you do with this for years now and it's great to see it come to fruition 

    I wish I had more time to actually play this, but it'd be nice to run some short sessions every couple weeks, or just in general some kind of scheduled event with the game, or hell maybe we could even see some characters for it somewhere down the line (Character Building?) I'll definitely be giving this a shot whenever I can regardless of whether the site does something.

    • 698 posts
    April 20, 2016 8:33 AM EDT

    Congratulations on getting it to this point, Ponty. I'm sure lots of people have thought about doing something like this, or even started on it - but you've followed through and delivered, so big kudos for that!

    I confess to knowing absolutely nothing about tabletop gaming ( I downloaded your stuff so I can have a read later) but it does make me wonder whether there is a way that we could incorporate this into the site?

    I know there is, or used to be, such a thing as 'play by mail' gaming - I assume its now evolved into play by email or play via SMS or something? Would there be a way to use or adapt your system so that we could play it on this site? Perhaps a dedicated group for those who would wish to play?

    I'd be interested to hear whether that might be possible... 

    • 622 posts
    April 20, 2016 9:14 AM EDT

    Almost like a... Live Roleplaying group with a DnD-like system? 

    • 707 posts
    April 20, 2016 9:17 AM EDT

    Glad to hear you've been interested all this time - I hope I haven't disappointed!

    Character Building could definitely be an option if it gets popular - I've had my players come up with some interesting builds (a grapple-based Spellthief for example). Especially in the context of a tabletop RPG where you're not restricted by a computer game engine there's a lot of crazy stuff people could come up with!

    • 622 posts
    April 20, 2016 9:19 AM EDT

    Nice work, Ponty! Going to roll this with my housemates this weekend 

    • 707 posts
    April 20, 2016 9:23 AM EDT

    Thanks Paul! It's not uncommon for people to play tabletop RPGs over the web using Skype or various other purpose built tools (which usually cost money). Running something like that through the site is certainly an option, though it's difficult enough for me to organise my real life friends in to attending sessions consistently, let alone people on the internet!

    That said, if people are interested I could try running a one-shot (single session) game via Skype or a similar application, but with my work/social calendar these days I wouldn't be able to make it a consistent thing. It's definitely an exciting prospect though!

    • 707 posts
    April 20, 2016 9:24 AM EDT

    Awesome! If you run in to trouble I might even be around on Skype to answer some questions

    • 622 posts
    April 20, 2016 9:29 AM EDT

    I think I still have you on there, will shoot you a message if anything comes up 

    • 415 posts
    April 21, 2016 12:08 PM EDT
    Hey ponty just wanted to let you know that i am planning to Host an Online game of this sometime soon.
    • 707 posts
    April 21, 2016 5:24 PM EDT

    That's great, let me know how it goes.

  • April 21, 2016 5:51 PM EDT

    Congratulations Ponty, it is always nice to see peoples dreams come to fruition, sadly I know nothing about table top gaming but I'm happy for you to see this project completed well done mate.

  • Tom
    • 624 posts
    April 21, 2016 6:41 PM EDT

    It'll take me a while to read through this. It seems more like Skyrim the RPG. My first impressions:

    Tell me how it plays, because it seems like there's almost zero downtime and a party can continue adventuring 24 hours without sleeping. The gaining spells per 50 magicka is definitely the suckiest of the three attributes since you can gain all the spells through gold or adventuring anyway. It'd make sense for there to be a limit on how many spells you know and investing into magic lets you learn more spells since stats aren't a thing like in Oblivion, Morrowind, and most RPGs.

    My biggest complaint is the burstiness. In combat, resource management is needed. Outside of combat it's almost entirely irrelevant. I can cast as many spells as I'd like when not in combat since resources regenerate so quickly, which makes zero sense to me. I could charm everyone in town and still fight a thousand wolves a day if they come at me one at a time with intervals sufficient for combat to end.

    • 707 posts
    April 21, 2016 7:45 PM EDT

    Hi Tom, glad to hear you're reading through it.

    I haven't got any explicit rules for the party's sleeping needs, so it's ultimately up to the Game Master. It seems like common sense to have the party rest once a day at camp or an inn, and you might choose to impose penalties if the party avoids sleeping depending on what kind of game you're running.

    I didn't want to restrict the number of spells known based on your Magicka - in say Oblivion and Morrowind it was always useful even for a weak spellcaster to keep a wide range of spells available. I picked free spells as the Magicka level up bonus because it allows players to pick up new spells that might not be readily available (especially at high levels). I did consider some other options but ultimately I wanted to keep it simple. Other systems might work great in a computer RPG format but on a tabletop you've got the players doing all the calculations and such, not a computer. Of course if you run a game you can always house rule some additional benefits/restrictions in!

    Outside of combat I didn't want resource management to be relevant. Combat is an inherently slow and strategic process, where, as you said, resource management is needed. I found non-combat situations flow much better if players usually aren't having to constantly jot down how much Magicka they used to cast a non-combat spell or something like that. And besides, I didn't actually say you don't track Magicka out of combat, I mentioned this at the start of the Magic chapter:

    You usually don’t need to track magicka outside of combat, but keep in mind your maximum when casting spells in quick succession or very costly spells.

    You *could* try and Charm everyone in a town if you had enough Magicka, but the Charm spells only last 3-5 rounds, and someone might notice/resist your spell and try and put a stop to it. You *could* fight a thousand wolves a day if they came at you one at a time, but what sane GM would throw enemies at you one at a time? Their job is to design the combat encounters so that they are the strategic affairs with resource management we talked about before.

    Ultimately there are some systems that can be exploited (like almost any RPG) but the beauty of tabletop RPGs is that you have the Game Master to keep things from getting too ridiculously out of hand. The GM isn't just there to tell the story - they're there to make the game fun and interesting for everyone.

  • Tom
    • 624 posts
    April 22, 2016 3:10 AM EDT

    I'm a DM myself. My own tastes are to narrative and realism within reason for a fantasy setting, and it doesn't make any sense to me to have a video game RPG style resource management work for a tabletop.

    A character is out all day adventuring, fighting, walking, climbing. These things drain you physically and mentally. All your limitations on resources have to deal with quick succession, which I'm taking to mean when cast within a few minutes of each other if even that long. It isn't realistic to me, even in Elder Scrolls, for a wizard to cast fireballs all day as long as they wait long enough between volleys to regenerate that magicka. It makes far more sense to me to have a pool of magicka that regenerates so much after taking a length of time avoiding strenuous activity (aka, long rest and regain spellpoints/spellslots).

    Your spells, frankly, don't last long enough either. I think you're caught on recreating the feel of a video game in a tabletop RPG. This system feels like the Elder Scrolls video games, not a tabletop role playing game set in the Elder Scrolls universe.

    If that was your goal, you achieved it. I'd need to study it longer and play it some to give more detailed feedback.

    • 622 posts
    April 22, 2016 5:44 AM EDT

    Tried out today. Need to be a better GM () but keen to learn!

    • 707 posts
    April 22, 2016 8:05 AM EDT

    That's fair enough. Like I mentioned in the original post many of the mechanics were inspired by stuff from the video games. I found it made combat much more interesting (and quick) if players were allowed to unleash all their cool stuff in any combat encounter, rather than saving resources for battles later in the day. In my experience the average encounter went for about 6 rounds, and about 10 for bossfights. I think it's ultimately down to personal preference - I've run a ~25 session campaign of this system as well as around a dozen one-shot playtests and it didn't get too out of hand.

    The spell durations are quite short, but as I mentioned combat is usually fairly quick at around half a dozen to a dozen rounds. Plus, there are perks to make many of the buffing spells (like Oakflesh, Bound Weapon, Summoning and Raise Dead) last for an entire encounter.

    If you've got some ideas for a fatigue system I'd be happy to hear it - I could include them as some sort of alternate 'hardcore' rules.

  • Tom
    • 624 posts
    April 22, 2016 9:41 AM EDT

    TBH, that seems like a snail's pace. I run 5E D&D and most combat encounters are done within 2-3 rounds, with things getting around 6 if there's a lot of foes or a hard boss fight. How did you get combat to slow down? 5E combat feels like everyone is a glass cannon at times.

     I found it made combat much more interesting (and quick) if players were allowed to unleash all their cool stuff in any combat encounter, rather than saving resources for battles later in the day.

    See, this is exactly what I have issue with. There is no long-term planning and resource management when you get to unleash your best spells every fight. There's no reason to use a weaker spell unless you don't want to kill something. There is no innovation or clever tricks. You fail, then try again, and again, and again until you get it done because you'll just get that magicka back in two rounds. No "oh shit, I blew all my fireballs on those zombies and now all I have are cantrips to fight the mummy".

    For a fatigue system, give players as set amount of stamina, health, and magicka a day and they replenish after a long rest (8 hours). Special abilities and spells cost stamina and magicka, and you reduce them from your remaining as you use them. Spell and ability costs will need to be adjusted or magicka and stamina stores would probably need increased to accommodate current sell costs.

  • April 22, 2016 10:33 PM EDT

    To be honest, designing encounter and daily resources for an RPG is very difficult because it means that character power can fluctuate wildly based on the situation. For example, let's look at Fighters and Wizards in D&D 5E. Fighters only have encounter-based abilities (short rest) while Wizards have almost exclusively daily-based abilities (long rest).

    If the party fights one encounter per day, the Wizard is super powerful because they can blow all their mojo in one battle, since daily abilities tend to be stronger than encounter-based abilities. If the party fights seven encounters per day, the Fighter is super powerful because they can use their moves every single fight, giving them great 'sustained power'.

    A lot of games remove daily powers entirely for this reason. D&D Essentials, an expansion of 4E, removed daily attack powers from most of their classes, instead focusing on encounter-based tactical options. The upside of systems doing this is that, by removing attrition of resources, you can make every battle intense and challenging without having to worry about whether it takes place at the start or the end of an adventuring day. It also makes varied character classes and builds more balanced because, for example, if two characters get into a duel the one who specialized in daily options won't just demolish the other guy. There are disadvantages to building a game around encounter-based gameplay, absolutely, but there are also some marked benefits.

    Finally, on the problem of 'spamming' magic, then recovering it by taking two full-round actions, I don't think it's that unbalanced to be honest. If you throw all your Magicka trying to kill a guy and it doesn't kill him, you're probably going to die before you manage to get it back. If he's got a shield or a ward up he can probably 'tank' the damage and skewer you while you're standing there catching your breath.

    This isn't to say that there aren't flaws with Ponty's system - there are several - but I don't think this is one of them.

  • Tom
    • 624 posts
    April 23, 2016 2:36 AM EDT

    To be honest, designing encounter and daily resources for an RPG is very difficult because it means that character power can fluctuate wildly based on the situation. For example, let's look at Fighters and Wizards in D&D 5E. Fighters only have encounter-based abilities (short rest) while Wizards have almost exclusively daily-based abilities (long rest)

    If the party fights one encounter per day, the Wizard is super powerful because they can blow all their mojo in one battle, since daily abilities tend to be stronger than encounter-based abilities. If the party fights seven encounters per day, the Fighter is super powerful because they can use their moves every single fight, giving them great 'sustained power'.

    That's kind of the freaking point. Certain classes have their abilities available all the time with a few tricks they can pull out once or twice a day. Rogues, Fighters, Rangers, Warlocks, Barbarians.

    Others can do amazing things, but they're fucked if they don't use their abilities wisely. Like most casters.

    What's the freaking point if everyone can use their awesome shit all the time? It's boring as fuck.

    A lot of games remove daily powers entirely for this reason. D&D Essentials, an expansion of 4E, removed daily attack powers from most of their classes, instead focusing on encounter-based tactical options. The upside of systems doing this is that, by removing attrition of resources, you can make every battle intense and challenging without having to worry about whether it takes place at the start or the end of an adventuring day.

    I don't like 4E. These changes make it even worse to my ears.

  • April 26, 2016 5:21 PM EDT

    That's kind of the freaking point. Certain classes have their abilities available all the time with a few tricks they can pull out once or twice a day. Rogues, Fighters, Rangers, Warlocks, Barbarians.

    Others can do amazing things, but they're fucked if they don't use their abilities wisely. Like most casters.

    What's the freaking point if everyone can use their awesome shit all the time? It's boring as fuck.

    Let me be clear, removing daily resources does not mean that characters "can use their awesome shit all the time". Encounter-based resources make combat just as tactical and varied, literally the only difference is that you need to rest for five minutes instead of eight hours in order to get back the stamina needed to make that powerful axe strike move.

    Slowing down the rate of resource recovery in tabletop games is rarely a good thing. Look at the first few editions of D&D, where characters regained one hit point per day. A mid-level Fighter who took two or three hits in a fight would have to spend a month or more lying in bed unless literal divine intervention was involved. Imagine if every time your character got hurt in a video game they had to go to a hospital and rest for a full day for every 2% of their hit points they lost. There's a reason why every edition of D&D made since has sped up the process of healing and resource recovery - because these mechanics aren't fun, and if your game isn't fun, you screwed up.

    • 297 posts
    April 27, 2016 11:54 AM EDT

    That is awesome ponty , as a roll 20 aficionado this is awesome..and i had even considered this as a cool thing to do, (though i had just planned on doing it in dnd 5e and reskinning stuff. 

    This is on a whole nother level very interested in getting my grubby mits on this...have you considered a crowdfund?...though i guess you may run into legal issues , either way this excites me greatly, best of luck going forward and if you are planning playtests i'm in!

    • 297 posts
    April 27, 2016 12:04 PM EDT

    duurrr just saw the download, nice

    • 191 posts
    April 27, 2016 9:45 PM EDT

     You have made an incredible work, you should be get paid for this, nice work!!, I have played Rol real Rol (in my country names Rol to this kind of games) like this you have made, I have played a few times in my life, and was really fun , this is about Elder Scrolls Universe so its amazing.

    Imagine you could make of this an online game, would be so cool, imagine everyone of this site play it thought internet browser or maybe by this platform this site, play some duels, play by groups, etc, I wish you the best and I really hope you keep advancing on this and save your work, try to put some legal rights or something about to others dont steal your work 

    The only way I could help you, well, If you need or want some help, is I could make you some fan art photoshop related to Elder Scrolls

    !