Cephalofair Games
about 1 month ago

Project Update: Big news for Buttons & Bugs and the RPG

Good day! Progress on all projects continues to move along as communicated in previous updates, but today I wanted to focus specifically on Buttons & Bugs and the RPG to talk about some major strides we've taken in both.

Before we get to that, though, I want to let everyone know that waves 1 and 2 are now closed in the pledge manager and all charges have been processed. Anyone who is still having issues with their order should contact [email protected] to get it resolved.  Wave 3 will be opening on Monday 11/6 and will remain open into January of next year (possibly later depending on when GH 2.0 starts printing). Any backers who had wave 1 or 2 items in their cart that didn't complete their pledge had those items removed and converted to store credit where applicable.

Buttons & Bugs

First off, all of the files are done! Most have already made it to the factory and back to us in the form of digital proofs, and the team has been pouring over those to ensure everything looks right. This means we can press print very soon.

We know there were a handful of questions surrounding the final rules—and what exactly comes inside the box—so we wanted to share the completed Learn to Play guide with you to give you a better idea of exactly what that entails. You can take a look at it here!

Learn to Play rules

We hope that this rules document can better set expectations about what the game is going to be (though there were many playthrough videos we made during the campaign as well). While the game is simpler and easier to set up and play than Gloomhaven, many of the rules are the same, so for those not familiar with Gloomhaven, teaching the rules can be a bit complex.

The team, most notably Nikki the designer/developer, Jason the layout artist, Arch the art director, and Jaym the editor, have put a tremendous amount of work into crafting this learn to play guide that distills all of those Gloomhaven rules nuances into an easily digestible document. It doesn't cover everything, but it will get you through the first scenario with a good understanding of the game. And from there, if you have any questions, you can reference the full rules document available on our website.

Even though this won't need to be finished until the game has been delivered, again, the team has worked tirelessly to get a preliminary version up right now for you to peruse.

This is a plain text document that is intended to be easily searchable with lots of hyperlinks for all cross-references. You will also be able to easily print it out if you want a physical version. And if the length of this document is intimidating, just remember that it is meant to be fully comprehensive and exhaustive. And it is also a living document that can be changed and added to if we discover additional clarifications are needed about anything.

Some other caveats for the document:
  • It is obviously not finished, we just wanted to have a solid draft of something to show you.
  • We haven't done a comprehensive editing pass. If you see typos, don't worry, we'll fix them.
  • Many of the component visuals are missing or aren't final. Don't worry about that either.
  • The document is also missing an index, but we'll get that taken care of too.

Hopefully these two documents give you a better idea of the rules and how we'll be communicating them to you!

Gloomhaven Role Playing Game

We've been letting the RPG stew for a while, but now that we are confident in where the game design is at this point, I think it is finally time to start talking about it more. And the first step in doing that is introducing you to the RPG project manager, Danielle Lauzon!

Danielle Lauzon is a freelance game designer, writer, developer, and gamer living in Austin, TX with her husband, two dogs, and three cats. When she isn't writing, developing, designing, or otherwise occupied in getting games organized, she is playing games instead. She has been working in the TTRPG industry for over a decade and has over 50 credits to her name from companies such as Onyx Path Publishing, Magpie Games, and Green Ronin.

Danielle joined the team about two months ago because we needed an RPG industry professional to come in and make sure everything was getting done in a timely manner. At this point, she has fully taken over the project and is currently contracting out lore writing to all our awesome authors. And one of the other things Danielle will be tackling is writing monthly blog entries on our website about the whole process. So every other update or so, Danielle will fill you in on her work. Here is the first entry:

Hello Mercenaries!

I’m Danielle Lauzon, the new project manager for the Gloomhaven RPG, and this is the start of a new series I’m going to do monthly in which I unpack some of the design decisions behind the RPG. Each month I’ll pick a topic about the design to discuss. The purpose of this design diary is to give you a little sneak peak at what’s coming from the RPG, and also give insight as to why things will look the way they do.

This month, I’m going to cover the very basic concept of turning a board game into an RPG. In a lot of ways, a board game is already pretty similar to an RPG. That’s especially true for Gloomhaven, where you pick a mercenary, go out on missions, earn rewards, level up, and learn a whole story about the town of Gloomhaven. Honestly, it’s the most RPG-like board game I’ve ever played. So how do we ensure that we preserve the great elements Gloomhaven already brings while making it more like an RPG with open narratives, more player agency, and connective tissue between combat?

The great thing about Gloomhaven is that it already has a pretty robust tactical combat system in the form of ability cards. The modifier deck similarly already provides an excellent randomizer system. So the goal is to keep these two elements and make them work both in and out of combat. The modifier cards are the easiest. Every time you take an action in which the outcome is uncertain, you flip a modifier card and add its value to a score. In the board game, this is always attack values, and it makes sense for negative numbers to bring your attack value to 0 or less. It makes less sense for that to happen on a check to pick a lock or calm down an outraged Vermling. We solved this problem by slightly tweaking the modifier deck to have two numbers present. One number is the familiar -2 to +2 from the board game, and the other number ranges from 1 to 6. This isn’t a perfect fix, but it allows the same cards to handle both attacks and other types of checks at the same time without needing two decks or to over inflate stat numbers.

Speaking of stat numbers, the other thing we needed to do was to ensure that there was some way to stack that card flip in your favor. Just like in combat when you want to do a big attack vs a small attack, your attack value will be different, we realized that we needed the character to have another set of non-combat stats to handle other types of encounters. So, characters have  a set of Attribute scores, rated 0-3. When you flip a modifier card, you add the value to the appropriate Attribute score and compare it to a difficulty. Our Gloom Master (GM) sets the difficulty level, anywhere from 3 on up depending on how difficult it is to accomplish, and you see how well you did compared. There’s more ways to get bonuses to your checks, but we’ll cover that in another design diary.

Now we come to the role of Ability Cards. In the board game, Ability cards are both how you take actions and a measure of your character’s stamina. If you run out, you are out for the count. In an RPG, it sucks to run out of resources and suddenly be completely out of the action. While Ability cards are still an expendable resource, if you run out, you can still take actions, just at a small penalty. Ability cards are still how you take most actions, although only big or stressful actions will require a card expenditure (discard or loss) outside of combat. So while sweet talking a guard might not require a discard, calming that Vermling probably will.

A lot of the Ability Cards will look familiar to those who have played the board game, but there will be a few changes that I’ll chat about later in future design diaries.


Phew! I know it has taken some time, but I am really excited about the direction Cephalofair is headed with all these projects, and the momentum we've now built up. Expect more good things, and I'll see you next time where we plan to have some updated official timelines for everything for you!
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