beginnings and a Fistful of Sixes
Kia ora Whānau This is my first blog, and its entirely possibly going to suck. Just FYI. Like how this blogs font looks weird with macrons, making my te reo māori look bad and I cant figure out how to change it. This blog is a large part of why this website exists. I wanted to blog about Fistful of Sixes as I developed it but needed somewhere to keep it. So figured go big or go home. And here we are. Anyway, Ill shut up now and get to the point
So whats Fistful of Sixes? Well it started when my group was finishing up a short Mork Borg campaign. We were wondering what to play next while talking about how much we all love Red Dead Redemption. Naturally we all agreed on a rules lite, OSR-ish Wild West sandbox for the next game. And I was tasked to find what that game would be.
So I went searching and found heaps of small lite wild west games, as well as some big ones. And I started looking into them. And reading them. And a problem emerged... None of them really felt like the Wild West. Like sure, they had the hats, horses and revolvers. Some had duel systems. But none of it really felt right to me. I was looking for pulp action, show downs at high noon, wanted posters. Western films are so visually and thematically distinctive so I wanted my game to feel fucking western too. So I made one. I woke up with an idea and by the end of the day I had a workable draft play test ready. And have been building on it since. And its been great fun.
So how did I make it feel right? Well hopefully lots of ways, but so I don't blow all my content in one post I'm only going to go over one today. The core mechanic. In Fistful of Sixes I set out to make all tests feel like a gamble. Not just that but I wanted the player to be somewhat in control of that gamble, weighing up the risk of their action against the potential return. So I built a Blackjack System. Basically every character has 3 core attributes; Grit, Gumption and Grace. When a player wishes their character to do something, or they react to something done to them, they set the stakes by building a dice pool and roll against one of these attributes and hope to roll below. If they're opposed by another character that character rolls too, hopefully lower than the player. If its a non sentient challenge its a set number that the character is trying to beat by rolling above. Clear as mud? The idea is that the player is hoping to roll as high as possible while rolling below their attribute. The game uses D6's and the players decide how many to roll up to six. For each dice they roll they increase the effect of the roll if they succeed, so the player has incentive to roll more dice. If they roll below the challenge from the opposition then they fail and suffer whatever consequences as appropriate. If the player rolls over the attribute they Bust. This results in them taking stress, which limits the maximum dice they can roll and slowly makes them less effective. Also narrative wise it represents the player overextending and something going wrong for them. If they roll below their attribute and higher than the opposition they win. They then get to do whatever cool shit they set out to do, with the number of dice representing how effective they were. The bigger the gamble the bigger the reward, but higher the chance of Busting. It sounds complex but its intuitive enough that by the end of session 1 everyone knew what was up and was having fun. In play testing we discovered that players enjoyed weighing up how many dice to roll, and that they carried the burden of the result more on their own shoulders. Compared to a binary pass/fail mechanic like most D20 or D100 games it was more involved for the players.
Every roll is a gamble, the players took the ownership of the results, and the ritual that is rolling dice takes on more meaning. They accepted their failings and celebrated their successes more as a result. It makes it thrilling, and it starts to feel like its you weighing up the odds. And that feels pretty fuckin western. I think for now that is enough of me waffling on. Next time I want to tell you about my favorite part of FFoS; High Stakes Duels. Where we take this system and turn it up to eleven for those spotlight moments. Until then, Ma te wa Whānau
Check out the current draft of FFoS here