Our Core Development Philosophies

September 27, 2020
Development Diary

Player Choice & Free-form Progression System

Acheron is a game with several core philosophies, the first of which is Player Choice. At Dark World Studios we always want players to feel like they have control over their characters and their destiny, even if the situation they find themselves in is dire (a.k.a. Our Die Hard and Sanity systems). This is the reason we’ve implemented a free-form progression system. It's our view that classes can be highly restrictive, and while this is helpful when balancing a game it also stifles the options players have to fiddle around with. I've had many games in which I wanted to be a blind monk or magician confined to a wheelchair (Professor X was always my favorite X-man character). However, games that lean heavily on classes, even when multi-classing is allowed, never gave me that kind of freedom. What characters do and how they do it is just as important for having a fleshed out character as any backstory or role-play. The way a player will solve problems should be different depending on what character they choose to create, and not just which class they pick.

Simplified Realism

Another of our core philosophies is Simplified Realism. Our core team is made up of a Biologist, Engineer, and Anthropologist. With our backgrounds it’s important to us that the world, it’s races, it’s dangers, and it’s societies all feel grounded in reality while also being unique. We've put a lot of time and thought into each system, how it functions, and how it interacts with other systems in the world. For instance, we know that a bullet proof vest can protect you from several otherwise fatal wounds. Thus we had to have an Armor system that worked well with our low health approach to combat. How characters push through a stressful situation, and suffer the consequences, was another important aspect of our game we think a lot of other systems don't address as well. We think that the ability to regain Sanity by relaxing, getting professional help, or just connecting with friends over drinks is an important aspect of trauma that most systems ignore.

It's important for us to make sure that the systems in Acheron are realistic, but also approachable from a mechanical standpoint. A realistic system is useless if it is too complicated for players to want to use it. It's also important for us to keep the more brutal edge of life, which gets us into our third philosophy. Gritty Combat.

Gritty Combat

In a lot of table top role-playing games the combat can feel lackluster, either because the same actions are taken over and over, or because the systems are lacking a certain oomph. In Acheron we deliver Gritty Combat with a punch to the gut and extra side of adrenaline fueled terror, which we feel resembles how tenuous things can be in reality. We also work very hard to balance this Gritty Combat so players never feel cheated or shoehorned into building the most optimal character to survive a gunfight. After all, it's better to avoid the gunfight all together if your silver tongue or perfect planning will allow it. While other games have you constantly gaining health, leading to bullet sponge like players and enemies, Acheron has players always hanging on by a thread of, typically, 6-8 health points. One unlucky roll separates a character from life or death at all times. Or it would without the Die Hard system. In short, Die Hard allows players to nullify otherwise lethal damage by taking a permanent flaw. A Character Altering Consequence if you will.

Character-Altering Consequences

With power comes Corrupting Consequences. This is our fourth development philosophy, and ties in with the tried and true "with great power comes great responsibility." While many games such as the beloved D&D lean into the responsibility aspect of power, we've leaned into the corrupting force it can be. To gain great power in Acheron a person must continuously balance between sacrificing parts of themselves and growing in strength. Often this can be quite literal, as one may sacrifice a natural limb for a Soulmender replacement, or their very Sanity to cast Eldritch spells. As always it's up to the player how they progress, but that Corrupting Consequence of power is always present, tantalizing them at every turn.

Fun Down to the Core

Our fifth and most important philosophy is simple. Fun. Games should be fun, bring people together, and let everyone leave the table top with a story to tell. This is where you come in. We’re still balancing. Still deciding on details here and there, and while it may be fun for us, that doesn’t mean it’s fun for everyone. So we invite you to download our first Beta, take a crack at Acheron, and let us know your thoughts.

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