Electric Bastionland: The Rival Clock

I feel like this Rivalry would end in an “Indy shoot-out.” No gun beats a djinn…

Twenty days since the last post. Finals, moving, and many, many, papers behind me. A whole summer ahead!

I can’t, CAN’T, CANNOT stop reading Electric Bastionland (EB). The flavor, the three-pointed lists, the artwork! It’s all delicious and I can’t wait to run it. (Finally purchased a physical copy too as a graduation present to myself, hehe).

With this post, I’m going to connect two dots to increase the fictional and mechanical interest of your game.

The Rival

The character generation spread has the Conductor (GM) roll up a character that is also leading an expedition for the same Treasure. I LOVE this. Rivals, be they your Garys, your Dios, your Sabretooths, your Green Goblins, are great for your game. They reflect the players but are better. The game does this by having the Rival be rolled up literally the same way as the players, but with d6 additional HP. Brilliant.

The Rival adds tension. Who will get the goodies? To answer this question, the game says:

If you delay, your Rival might reach the treasure first.

Now, this is all well and good. But it can feel arbitrary. “The Conductor always makes it so that we get there EXACTLY when the Rival does. Nothing we do matters.” It can be tense for that to happen, but it can begin to feel repetitive.

Progress Mechanic

Chris McDowall has also been writing some excellent blogposts on playing EB collaboratively. This post is one I would like to focus on that has rules for setting progress towards a Journey through a series of Milestones. It goes like this:

  • Start with 0 Progress.
  • Each Milestone (step taken to overcome the challenge) adds d6 Progress.
  • Lose 1 Progress when you rest, delay, or otherwise stray from your Journey.

When you Arrive at Journey’s end, roll d20,

  • If you roll equal or lower to your Progress, then success is in sight. Just one last Milestone to reach.
  • If you roll higher than your Progress, then your Journey ends in failure. There’s no going back. You should consider a new direction for your life. 

Simple and it works. It’s a d20 version of Ironsworn’s own Progress system, mixed with Blades in the Dark’s clocks. At least, the elements are there.

My only problem with this (as with Ironsworn) is that YOU DECIDE when the progress matters. You also can make it such that you don’t fail the final roll, which is why there’s that “one last Milestone to reach.” The tension is still there, even if you auto-succeed the roll.

Time to connect these dots.

The Rival Clock

  • The Rival starts with 0 Lead.
  • Add d6 Lead when the players rest, delay, or otherwise stray from getting the Treasure.
  • Subtract d6 Lead when the players take a shortcut, act on insider information, or otherwise speed up their journey to the Treasure. Lead cannot go below 0.

When the players arrive at the Treasure room, roll d20,

  • If you roll equal or lower to their Lead, the Rival got there first and they now have the upper-hand.
  • If you roll higher than their Lead, the Rival hasn’t made it here yet.

There are a lot of dials on this.

  • Do you make the Lead visible to the players? Do the players make the roll? Is the roll visible? Up to you.
  • What does “the upper-hand” look like? Does that mean they already left? Or are they lying in wait? Or are they literally JUST grabbing it?
  • What if the players got there first? Will the Rival arrive at all? Did they get lost elsewhere? Will they arrive right in the middle of the boss fight with the Treasure guardian? Or worse, are they waiting outside the dungeon entrance for you to deliver the Treasure right to them?
  • Some Rivals may be tougher to beat to the Treasure. Maybe they start with more Lead than 0 because they heard the rumor before the players did. Maybe they roll d8 when the players rest or delay because of their superior resources.

More questions for you to answer. I hope you find it useful at the table and it sparked your interest.

If it didn’t, try to outdo me. Let’s start a Rivalry.

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