Designing an OSR Game Part 4: Alignment, Treasure, and Exploration

December 29, 2018

Over a month has passed since I last posted about Mysteries of a Broken World. Much has changed since the last time I wrote about the game here. The last three posts in this series are below:

The rules are much more solid now. As I mentioned before, you can view the current state of them here:

Mysteries of a Broken World Playtest Rules

This time around, I'll talk about some changes that have happened as a result of actually digging into the rules.


Previously, I somehow completely forgot about alignment. I didn't write about it in blogs or even think about it in notes. Then I started to write monster entries. Since I was using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia as a starting reference point, I hit "Alignment" under the monster statistics and it dawned on me.

So alignment got added, but it's a little different from other role-playing games. Instead of reflecting your character's outlook on life, it reflects primal outside forces' influence on your character. There are four alignments in the game. They are Chaos, Destiny, Void, and Equilibrium. Chaos is not the anarchic evil of old D&D. It's impulsive and mercurial, sure, but not evil. Destiny is closest to old Lawful, but again, it's not "good" like in the old game. Void emphasizes purity and clarity. Equilibrium enforces a balance between all opposites.

Refining Treasure

Treasure in Mysteries of a Broken World is the focus for gaining experience. Monsters have no experience reward, whether for killing or avoiding them. Most monsters, however, will have treasure either on their person or in their nearby lair. Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, treasure is not listed for monsters in abstract classes. Monster entries have a line for "Treasure Type," with values such as "Meager," "All That Glitters," and "Warmonger." Treasure Types still have a table of what they contain, but this named system tries to give Game Masters a better idea at a glance of what the monsters in a given module might possess.

Beginning to Rethink Exploration

Now that the core rules are more or less codified, I'm starting to think about where I want to take exploration. Some games make it a core feature, and others try to sweep it under the rug in favor of more visceral action. In Mysteries, I want exploration to be a primary element of the game. This requires developing rules that encourage focus on exploration.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do this yet. Exploration has to be interesting, which means letting players make choices. "We travel by horseback northwest for three days" is pretty boring. Turning that same journey into a game-worthy experience will require thought.