HELLWILDS

A fully playable tabletop RPG system focused on high-lethality fantasy combat. Systems include character creation and progression, skills, combat, magic, and alchemy. Also includes setting details, and examples of items, monsters, and characters.

Character Creation

First, here's a quick summary of building a character in Hellwilds:

  1. Distribute 12 points into your 4 attributes: Brawn, Grace, Wits, and Will.

  2. Select your "Training" from Martial, Self-Taught, and Scholarly. This determines how you can allocate proficiencies in step 3.

  3. Choose your starting proficiencies. There are 15 skills, divided evenly into the Weapons, Skills, and Academics categories. You get 3 proficiencies in the category your Training specializes in, 2 in another category of your choosing, and 1 in the last category.

  4. Choose a Trait, which grants extra benefits.

  5. Choose a Flaw, which inflicts negative effects.

  6. Pick your starting gear.

  7. Fill in other miscellaneous information like name, age, background, etc.

Some of my biggest inspirations for Hellwilds were games like Darkest Dungeon and Kingdom Death: Monster, where characters are individually unique, but also expected to die permanently sooner or later. However, a big difference between those games and most tabletop RPGs is that Darkest Dungeon, etc. give the player control of a wide roster of characters, while tabletop RPGs have the player controlling only one character. With that in mind, I wanted character building in Hellwilds to be involved enough that player characters feel unique and personalized right off the bat, but not so complex that players feel like they've wasted their time if their character dies two encounters later.

I think this goal shows most in the proficiency system. Hellwilds has a fairly small list of proficiencies/skills compared to many other RPGs, and one third of them are just for different kinds of weapons. However, each character can only take a small, specialized set of proficiencies at the start of the game. This way, the player doesn't have excessive options to weigh when choosing proficiencies, and they will still end up with a character who fills an important and specialized role in the party.

Character Progression

Whenever a character survives a dangerous adventure, they get 1 XP. As they gain XP, characters move up through 6 experience ranks, reaching the highest rank at 15 XP. At every rank, characters earn a mentor point, which can be spent to train with a mentor and learn a proficiency or improve an attribute. Characters also earn two traits as they gain ranks, and at the highest rank they earn a special heroic trait that's much more powerful than normal traits.

The mentor point system is meant to emphasize learning from more experienced adventurers. I wanted new characters to be able to benefit from the experience of older characters as a sort of "catch-up" mechanic, so that a player doesn't feel like they've lost all their progress when their character dies. As long as someone else in the party survived, their new character can be mentored to catch up to the older character more quickly.

Heroic traits are meant as a long-term goal for players to pursue, as well as a special reward for beating the odds and having a character survive for a long time. Player characters are meant to usually feel weak compared to the monsters they're fighting, but I thought it would be too easy for players to get discouraged if they don't think they can ever become powerful. The example heroic traits are inspired by action anime protagonists, because I wanted players to be able to feel that powerful if they're determined enough.

Combat & Injuries

Combat in Hellwilds is turn-based and designed to work with a grid to track combatants' positions. A combatant can take two quick actions each turn; these can include moving, attacking, or any other task like using an item or setting a trap. When someone attacks, the attacker rolls a die and adds a bonus if they're proficient with the weapon. The defender makes a die roll and modifies it based on a few factors. If the attacker beats the defender's roll, they deal damage based on their own weapon's strength and the strength of the defender's armor. Damage is dealt to the defender's Stamina pool; if they take damage while at 0 Stamina, they take a point of Lethal Damage, roll on an injury table, and then recover half their Stamina. Characters die when they take three points of Lethal Damage.

One of my major goals in making the combat system for Hellwilds was to not rely on many die rolls, for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to encourage players to prepare for fights in advance by doing research and bringing equipment that provides static bonuses against their foe. Too much randomness would detract from the importance of those bonuses. Also, I've often gotten lost trying to learn tabletop combat systems that use multiple die rolls for a single attack, so I wanted to make my combat system easier to follow. When a player attacks, they roll one die, the GM rolls one die, and that's all the rolling they need to do to resolve the attack.

The injury table was heavily inspired by another tabletop game, Kingdom Death: Monster. In KD:M, characters are a limited resource, so the other players and I couldn't afford to stop using characters just because they lost a limb in battle. It was a fun challenge coming up with how to best utilize our characters and work around their injuries. I didn't want injuries in Hellwilds to be too punishing because players only use one character at a time, so I made permanently debilitating injuries less likely to happen than temporary injuries. Also, with the mentoring system, even a veteran with extreme injuries can still be helpful by training other characters. My goal was for injuries to be impactful, but not to the point where they make someone unable to participate in the game.

hat by Jaohuarye from the Noun Project

die by Ben Davis from the Noun Project