Dec 21 - Development Log

This log summarises the various phases and designs I worked through from the games initial concept as a Dungeon Crawl boardgame and subsequent conversion to a TTRPG for the public release.


  • It started as a Dungeon Crawl boardgame.
  • I hadn’t played an TTRPG in years but did pick up a few RPG/Boardgame hybrids to see if they would scratch that fantasy action 'itch' (forgive the pun)
  • Unfortunately, none of these boardgames captured that classic fantasy adventure feel of my youth and I decided to start designing my own game, very much in the style of Heroquest or Warhammer Quest.
  • The intention was to design a solo/cooperative type game I could play with and amuse myself. I wanted a 'beat the system' type approach with procedurally generated challenges. 
  • I started with a clean text based format and went straight into designing the layout prior to finalising the mechanics and rules, I had been lured into seeing an actual design come to life.
  • I had the idea of a print and play type game (i.e. printable components such as tiles, tokens, cards etc.) The characters would be a sheet accompanied by a handful of cards which listed their abilities so there was little writing and book-keeping.
  •  The rules were not overly complex and were inspired by classic D&D (B/X Moldvay edition - I still have the book), some key elements I included as this stage were:
    • The core mechanic started (and has never deviated) from a d20 vs target number check
    • Target numbers and ratings (easy = 5, moderate = 10 etc) was included and never changed
    • Natural 1 or 20 was an automatic success or failure
    • The game was structured around a round of four phases; danger check; heroes act; monsters act and an exploration turn (where new map tiles were laid out), the round cycle then repeated
    • Heroes and monsters had a defined list of actions (i.e. move, fight, search, magic etc) they could use
    • Characters used a six attribute system (Strength, Senses, Will, Dexterity, Toughness and Influence).
    • Attributes were simply rated as a simple bonus/penalty modifier to appropriate checks (-5 to +5, with 0 starting average)
    • Abilities were a varied mix of bonuses (+1, +2), skill dies (d4, d6) and attribute bonuses, this needed to be cleaned up.
    • The original group of classes were; Fighter, Barbarian, Knight, Monk, Swashbuckler, Ranger, Rogue, Assassin, Adventurer, Scout, Mage, Sorcerer, Mystic, Shaman/Witch and Warlock.
    • I started with gold pieces as the standard currency, treasure hunting = gold hunting.
    • The earliest form of the magic domain system (light, dark, fire water etc) was included but with only 3 spells per domain
    • I had a simple encumbrance system with items rated between 1 (light) to 3 (heavy) slots.
    • The idea of magic 'elemental stones' which could be used to upgrade items was included, another form of treasure to find.
    • The first version of the spell amplification system was included and has in fact remained largely unchanged.
    • A 'danger check' (doom clock) type system was included, the longer you spent adventuring the more chance of an encounter which was intended to encourage players not to be too cautious.
  • The game was in a playable state at this time although the AI and procedural generation elements were very basic.


  • The game continued to be developed as a solo boardgame project
  • I played around with more layout options. Upon reflection this was my biggest waste of time as I reformatted all the rules I had written each time I tried a new design.
  • In terms of rules additions, I added the following:
    • More procedural elements with the exploration phase leading to random tiles being selected each of which had a marker which cross-referred to different challenges or encounters. 
    • Card-based abilities (i.e. abilities documented on a playing card) were added. The idea was that players could have a simple character sheet and a set of cards they could layout highlighting their abilities (and rules around use) for ease of play.
    • You could generate the contents of a room by checking the icon, selecting a card from the decks (i.e. encounter, challenge, object) and then interact with what you had drawn. The challenge for each room was quite random but the intention was to eventually develop different cards/tables grouped by different themes (i.e. graveyard = undead etc).
    • Damage rolls were eliminated with the success of the 'to hit' roll (i.e. hit, good hit, critical hit) causing different levels of fixed damage.
    • I added some 'monster AI' so they acted based on simple conditions and triggers (i.e. do this as default but if this event occurs do something else)
    • The major addition was a campaign element, the intent was to have a book of adventures which could be tackled by the players but some elements became 'unlocked' during play. The intention was to provide a general story path but give the players some freedom to undertake adventures in their own preferred sequence.
    • The campaign had its own phases of play (i.e. wilderness travel, wilderness encounters, settlement visits and updating the campaign tracker).
    • I wrote a basic 'campaign points' mechanic where completing quests allowed players to upgrade settlements, services or factions to provide further benefits. The points system was in place but all the benefits were not completed.
    • A reputation bonus (i.e. +1, +2) was also added which players could add to negotiation and interaction checks. However, using this bonus would deplete the score (i.e. loss of good will) and the players would have to perform good deeds to increase this.
  • From a layout perspective, I was using Serif PagePlus at time and continued to alter and change the layouts.
  • The game was still in a playable state but required some moderation by a 'referee' as it was not in a fully operating from a solo/co-operative perspective and game content was not in place. 


  • A piece of art was kindly donated by a friend (and artist) and this piece of art still exists as the front cover.
  • The layout was (once again) changed a couple of times. I just hadn't settled or committed to a style I liked.
  • In terms of rules updates magic was termed 'powers' as I wanted this to reflect abilities and spells and I started to introduce some basic setting information
  • In terms of general development there was quite a bit of progress and by the end of the year the game was a playable moderated RPG boardgame hybrid and took the form of a Players Book (81 pages) and a Rules Book (49 pages)

Early 2019

  • There wasn't a lot of work completed on this in 2019.
  • However, I did summarise the entire set of rules down into a 13 page pdf document for ease of use and play.
  • I also played around making some very basic 'print and play' components but found creating these to be a bit of chore.
  • I had reached a point where I felt I 'mechanically' had a sound system but it was a bit of a bland experience with insufficient depth and theme due to the randomly generating dungeon maps and I put this on the shelf at this point.


  • The year it turned into an TTRPG.
  • The pandemic took place in 2020 meaning periods of lockdown and lack of contact with friends and family.
  • A few close friends and family who hadn't gamed together for quite a number of years (about 30!) expressed a passing interest in getting an online role-play game up and running as a means of some social contact.
  • Our desire was to get something up and running quite quickly and there wasn't much inclination to spend hours reading or learning rules and systems and I decided to turn my RPG/boardgame idea into an TTRPG.
  • The project then became a role-playing game.
  • We got our initial game up and running quite quickly, the hero creation system was pretty much in place and from a referee's perspective I could run the game with the following two tables.
    • The target number table gave me a simple tool to set targets and difficulty. How hard is the climb? (easy target 5). How difficult is it to navigate? (moderate target 10)
    • Secondly, I created a reaction/outcome table which simply involved rolling a d20 with low = terrible/very bad/bad outcome and high = good/very good/excellent outcomes. This table could be applied across a variety of situations where the result could then be interpreted and outcome provided to the players (i.e. What's the weather forecast, very bad = storms for example).
    • Both of these elements remain in the game as it stands today.
  • I had also started to follow the independent RPG zine scene (i.e. Kickstarter/Itch and ZineQuest in particular) and wanted to condense the rules into a small zine I could print and circulate to my players.
  • I went through further presentation and layout iterations before locking down the rules which was a time consuming effort, progress was pretty slow overall when the output should have been limited to something the size of a zine. 
  • By the end of the year I had turned the remnants of the old project into a 52 page Players Guide (and rules) zine which I had printed and posted to my players as a surprise Xmas gift which was well received.


  • We had run a few adventures by this point and I had collated some feedback on what worked well and what could work better and had intended to work on a second iteration of the players guide.
  • The constant tweaking of the layout was the biggest time loss and I eventually made the decision to write everything into a text document and nail down the words before touching the layout again.
  • I probably got to 70-80% of this final version written before I went back to the layout which did help move this work forward a couple of steps.
  • In terms of additional content the key changes and updates were:
    • Rules consolidated into 4 pages (from 20-30 pages of text).
    • Wording tightened and condensed.  
    • Setting information added but kept light although links built between setting lore and character creation options (i.e. factions or religions for example) to provide a hook into the world.
    • Referee's section added with processes for creating adventures and some random generation tables.
    • Bestiary section added with tweaks and variations.
  • The organisation of the book was then reviewed and chapter sequence amended to give this a better flow (Intro > Rules (brief) > light Setting Info > Players (Heroes) Chapters > Referee Chapter > Bestiary)
  • I found some stock art that I liked (thanks to Daniel Comerci, art available at Drivethrurpg & Feral Studios, art available on and purchased this for use in my project and the final layout then started to come together. 
  • I found moving from an A5 to a larger A4 format gave me a bit more freedom here so perhaps I've started to creep outside of the traditional zine format. 
  • Towards of the year, I was in that phase of making a few tweaks here and there and only inching towards a final version with no end in sight.
  • There probably was some reluctance to finish and publish this as there is a desire to make sure everything is 'perfect' (every word considered, every aspect tested) but I suspect the project would never see the light of day if that approach continued.
  • Around the end of the year I came across the 'Finish Your Damn RPG' game jam on Itch was the exact incentive (and deadline) I needed to get this project into a publishable state.
  • The current version totals nearly 200 pages (and this has been condensed down from written notes) so has increased in size and scope since my original vision. That's what you get for not sticking to the plan and not developing a 'minimum viable product' and iterating from there.
  • One element I didn't include (and wanted to include) was a starter adventure. I think the first adventure I ran with my group is a good suitable introduction as it offered a mix of exploration and encounters at a classic adventure site with multiple options to help you reach a successful outcome so this might be the next 'mini-project'.
  • The good news is I will be releasing this in the next couple of weeks (a few final edits) and will then probably continue to iterate and refine it further! However, I can finally say at least I did finish my damn RPG!
  • If you have taken the time to read this and download the game (once it's released) then I hope you find some enjoyment or use at your table.

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