The Devil’s Brand v1.4 – Now Even Better

Excited to share some updates to The Devil’s Brand!

(Crossposted to here.)

80% of the game – along with its core structure of minimal, micro Wild West outlaw roleplaying inspired by the OSR and NSR – remains in place. So much about the game has worked well with my players, but there have been some opportunities for improvement that have revealed themselves in play.

What to Expect in The Devil’s Brand v1.04

  • Simplified & Streamlined Math: Now all math, mechanics, and character abilities use only addition, and only two bonuses max. There’s no more “if you have a bonus, apply to situation X, if you have a penalty, apply to situation Y” in the Smarts Checks. Much faster.
  • Consistent Dice Types and Usage: I’ve kept the d20 base (as befitting an OSR-adjacent game), and now use the 1d4, 1d8, and unloved 1d12 consistently across all mechanics.
  • Levels 1-7: Two more levels! However, numbers remains relatively low for PCs and their enemies.
  • Better Social Combat: The social attack mechanics in v1.03 were a step in the right direction to capture the “man in black” and “sheriff’s badge glinting in the sun” moments from Westerns where what the protagonists and villains wear is as important as what they shoot, but… it was clunky in play. This is a much simpler, faster solution.
  • Simplified, Abstracted Weapons and Accessories: Likewise, the large table of weapons chock-full of keywords and a plethora of die sizes has reflected the more simple approach my gaming table has taken in play. So, the complexity has been culled, and what remains is a simple die-size-as-category approach.
  • Rebalanced Loot and Level-Up Economics: This is a game about outlaws making money and then squandering it, creating ripe opportunities for a GM to make their foolhardy lives more exciting. I’ve tinkered with the debt, vice, and payout numbers to make live even harder for our ne’er do well protagonists.
  • Phased Combat: Taking a cue from OSR games and retroclones, conflicts now have a phased turn order. Strategic decision making and hard choices for the players is less about ranges and tactical positioning, but rather when they choose to take their turn and what tradeoffs they make in doing so.  I’ve designed a combat tracker to make this phased approach fast and simple to track!
  • Cover and Leverage: In simplifying and streamlining the mechanics, I’ve added a damage reduction roll separate from attacks (which still always hit and always cause damage). In this case, the use of Cover for weapon attacks and Leverage in social situations. To keep the swingy, harsh, and random nature of the rules in play, damage reduction is a die roll, not static.
  • Learning Lessons: Levelling up can now result in “Learning a Lesson” – a short, open ended phrase that can allow Players to invoke a bonus when relevant, in the same way their Former Lives work. Inspired by Beliefs and Instincts in the Burning Wheel.

All in all, this represents a real improvement for ease of play for The Devil’s Brand. I think you’ll enjoy it! You can get the updated rules on Itch:

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