I’ve enjoyed playing some DARK FORT on my own. The group for which I was GMing was no longer able to meet consistently, and not playing tabletop RPGs killed the momentum that I had with my then-current tabletop RPG project, so I side-stepped into messing around with solo/GM-less tabletop RPG stuff. I’d honestly been intimidated by seeing the way that some people approach playing solo—feeling like both the GM and the player felt like too much work for me—, so I had never really tried it, but I remembered that DARK FORT existed, and I gave that a shot, and I really enjoyed it.
As always, I wanted to mess with things. DARK FORT’s d4 just had to go. Needing only one d6 unified all of the rolling and it meant that I only had to carry one die around—and, of course, six-sided dice are the most common die type; so, this would make it a bit more accessible to newcomers or when I forget my dice (because, if I’m visiting my mom, I know she has “normal” dice). Furthermore, I didn’t want to play alone-alone, but I also didn’t want to GM one-on-one for my partner, so I wanted some co-op rules for this game. (I tried one-on-one before to little success. My partner was able to make decisions way faster than I could keep up with. After that, I never complained about party bickering again. I get it. While my players took forever to decide how to do one simple thing, I could breathe and laugh and jot down more notes.) My approach to co-op is when DARK FORT really turned into d6 ARKFORT because I felt the rules really needed an overhaul to accommodate multiple
players Kargunts. Each player can take an action, and each foe must have a reaction taken against them—it’s all player-facing just like MÖRK BORG, of course. So, if my partner and I are facing two goblins, we might both attack the same goblin as our action, but one of us also needs to dodge the other goblin’s attack as a reaction. This feels pretty good!
Of course, these new rules took up space. DARK FORT was already well-squeezed into a single front-and-back sheet. If I was going to have to add another sheet, I was going to fill it! More weapons. Unique weapons. There are brutal weapons that can get stuck in foes, sweeping weapons that can get around blocks and parries, and there are even ranged weapons. I’m most proud of the ranged weapons and the accompanying distance mechanic. If you and/or your foe has distance, attacks suffer a penalty while defenses get a bonus, but a ranged weapon allows you to attack over that distance. But how do you gain distance or close distance? Well, you can maneuver as an action (and the maneuver action is also used to flee), which, if you’re successful, allows you to gain/close distance. If you are hit by a melee attack, the distance is assumed to be closed as well—of course, like I said, attacks are penalized, so it’s always easier to close distance by spending your action on a maneuver (as maneuvers get a bonus like defenses). This also feels pretty good. It took a lot of work for me to feel satisfied with how to abstract the idea of distance in a manageable way. This is just a box that you can tick on your sheet (or the map) that lets you know who/what has distance. Wait, but there are all of these weapons and only a d6 for rolling damage? Yes, exactly. You don’t do d6 damage—you roll d6 to determine damage. A longsword does 3/3/4/4/6/8 damage. If you roll a 1 or a 2, that’s 3 damage; if you roll a 3 or a 4, that’s 4 damage; if you roll a 5, that’s 6 damage; and, if you roll a 6, that’s 8 damage. I’m not a fan of table look-ups, especially for damage. This put me off of Troika! for too long. However, this blog post over here made me go: “ugh, fine, you got me”. It’s trve. Who likes rolling a 1 on a d12-damage weapon? Not I! Damage look-ups mean I can change the feel of how specific individual weapons do damage, but I wanted to go a step further than Troika! and just list damage out like 3/3/4/4/6/8, so, at least, I didn’t have to flip back and forth for charts.
But wait—there’s more! Inventory and encumbrance has more weight to it. Literally. Both weight and size (in terms of slots) of an item matters. I tried to keep this as simple as possible, but I can foresee critique over more book-keeping, but my goal was to get players to feel that what they decide to carry really matters. Because OSR typically defines your character by what you can carry. Slot-based inventory systems seem quite popular—it’s even there in MÖRK BORG. But I also wanted to include weight. Now, the unit of weight is weight, and I didn’t want things to be too fine-grained. Things can weigh 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20*, 30, 50*, 70, 100, or 150 weight. (*These numbers aren’t actually used, but they fit the progression.) Most stuff is between 1 and 30 weight, but I only utilize nine of those thirty numbers—I think that’s a pretty solid reduction in having to think about and add a bunch different too-specific numbers. Weight matters. In fact, some “things” have weight but do not take up slots. Like fatigue and petrification. Of course, slots matter too. Choosing between a shovel to dig past obstacles much faster and a couple of sacrificial knives to sell for a pretty penny matters. Do you risk death for money? (Capitalism, amirite?)
Death and money. Escape the dungeons below back to your home above. You need to. Healing is even more scarce down below, and you need to donate your treasure to get XP. If you accumulate enough XP, you advance, and, when you advance, you can choose a perk. You can get perks from the Path of Onslaught, the Path of Craftiness, or the Path of Foolery. Of course, even if you can’t get all the way back to your home, you can take a beat in the dungeon. Rest to remove fatigue, perform first aid on fresh wounds, use that shovel to clear an obstructed path, etc.—just pray that you don’t become the prey of wandering foes.
Each additional mechanic was carefully crafted to feel good to me. That may not sound super appealing on its own, but I assure you that those words are not some self-aware ploy to escape critique if you don’t enjoy the mechanics. My point is that I’d like to think that I have a good feel for what a good mechanic feels like, but different folks like different mechanics. So, I am trusting that, if I really enjoy playing d6 ARKFORT, others will too.
So, who and what is d6 ARKFORT for? If you’re a GM and your group cancels, here you go. If you’re taking a dump† and you don’t have a shampoo bottle to read, keep a couple of d6s in the bathroom for this. If you’re sharing a wet cappuccino with your partner at a coffee shop, it’s easy to play this game quietly together. If your family doesn’t know what an arr-pee-jee is, this might be a decent entry point. If you want to play an RPG videogame but you can’t stand more screen-time, spend a couple of hours on this instead. If you’re suffering from GM burnout and you just want something simple, standalone, yet engaging, then I hope this helps. Waiting for a flight? Between classes? (Or in class?) On your lunch break? (Or where your boss can’t see?) Want to do a one-shot between campaigns? Here you go. I’ve been in all of these situations, and I think d6 ARKFORT is a good solution for these problems.
Seriously, I’m hoping that I can finally get my mom on board. It’s a two-way issue. I think I’d feel silly GMing for her (which I know is silly in itself), and I think she’d honestly need a better on-ramp. She got a copy of Börk Morgue #666 because she’s a nice mom (most of the time), but she can’t play that. She’s just not that cool. I mean, also, it’s not a standalone product, and I don’t expect her to wholly invest themselves in dozens of pages of artpunk bullshit just to say: “Wow, good job, son!” Even if she doesn’t love d6 ARKFORT, I’m hoping that she’ll try it a couple of times and go: “Huh, that’s pretty neat. All of that in just a few pages, huh? And it fits in my pocket? Well, if I were some stranger on the internet who was really into this stuff, why, I’d pay $1000 for a copy even though it’s so easy and simple to print at home which is also a great selling point.” But she’d probably just stop after that first sentence.
There’s also more to this than just d6 ARKFORT. That’s why the Kickstarter campaign is called d6 ARKFORT etc. A certain really great GM turned me on to sci-fi tabletop RPG stuff with her amazing work and art, and then I made this, and then CY_BORG started happening, and I was like, yeah, I can do a cyber thing. Thus, Ψ.borg() was born! Take everything I said above, add hacking and psionics and more punk shit, and… yeah, you got it.
Oh. And Feculence. That’s another game, I guess. Remember that “†” up there? Yeah. You can even make me eat it. No, really. You’ll see.