RPG Design - The Doctor's In

Sometimes you write something down and it sounds good. Then you take a short break, come back and realize, that what you just have written doesn't make any sense. It is one of the biggest lessons you will need to understand when writing a book (be it a novel or an RPG book). You should be willing to get rid of stuff you just have written. You shouldn't get attached to any word you have written (especially when you didn't playtest them beforehand).

One of these section I felt that way is the Treatment section of the core rules. To be fair I took heavy inspiration from Vaesen RPG. I did already take some of its concept (especially when it comes to Conditions and Scars) so it made perfect sense (amongst others) to adapt it for A.D.A.

But lets take it from the top.

Out with the old ...

So my treatment rules were four different actions you could take: Stabilize Scar, Treat Broken, Rest and Heal Conditions. They were all in essence a Overcome action but with different results. Nnamely what and how much you healed your character.

In addition there was a timing element. These actions could only be taken under certain conditions or would take a certain amount of time. Rest for example could only be taken once per day, so you should think about on when to use it and Heal Conditions would take you several days, but had the benefit of not having a negative effect.

As I said, these concepts were inspired by Vaesen RPG that had a similar timing aspect and variations of effects on it. It made some sense - I come from a world of D&D and Rest and Heal Conditions have a feeling of short rests and long rests, so it felt "natural". It removed spamming of long rests to heal back up to full and created a narrative framework.

There were two problems though in my eyes, one more obvious than the other. First of all, these are just way too many actions for one thing. And some of them were really similar. Rest and Heal Conditions did basically the same thing, just the amount of conditions healed is different. This makes it hard to remember what exactly is happening.

Secondly, as it is written if you play with multiple agents, only one agent is taking this action. In case of Rest everybody is basically standing by, doing nothing (except maybe help) and the scene is done. On top of that if you wanted to treat multiple agents, each of them took their own scene to heal which felt a bit disconnecting. Especially when you wanted to treat broken and then rest you took two actions.

... in with the new

So what if some inspiration doesn't work. Right, you take a different one: Ironsworn.

In particular the Making Camp move. What is beautiful about this move (or action) is, that it brings all characters together and everybody can participate in some form. It is a self contained scene - everybody is gathering around a camp fire. The genius behind it is, that the outcome of the move gives the player a choice instead of a fixed set of outcomes. You can heal wounds, prepare or gather resources. It gives everybody something to do, and makes sense to do even if you don't need to treat yourself. It is a nice, end of the day ritual, to gather around tell some stories and prepare for the next day (and adventure).

So instead of choosing the right action beforehand I switched the choice to the outcome of the action and thus reduced the four actions in just one Treatment action. Some of the names make a return in the choices. And as a benefit everybody can participate in the scene and even give some advantages for next scenes.

Player agency

You might notice, that there is no more limitations on when (on how often) you can take that action. In theory you could just do the same action over and over again. Well kind of. Every agent can only do it once per scene (and you start a new scene when doing Treatment). But you are right, there is no more stipulations on how much time it takes.


It felt too constraining for the player (and consequently the GM). The player should choose in his narrative how long this takes and what consequences might arise if it takes too long. The big bad could further his plans for example. In addition if you played with clocks and you set the case on a timer, taking too many scenes is naturally discouraged.

Sometimes the timing aspect is given anyway by what you want to achieve (and thus becomes the purpose of the scene). So for example, if a scar has a timing of minutes on it - which means it has to be treated within minutes or it is deadly, the scene automatically becomes a frantic search for utilities and help to stabilize that character. On the other hand if it is just a flesh wound it doesn't make sense it is a daylong activity. Maybe the agents just go to the local pharmacy buy some bandages and that's it.

If the player wants to take more treatments, he should be able to do so. Does it make the game easier: maybe. But if you enjoy it that way, why should I forbid you to play that way? A philosophy I want to apply to my rules if I see it and it makes sense (and I have some in mind).

Core actions

Another thing that came out of this reworking is that I want to make sure, that everything can be handled and understood with the basic actions: Overcome, Create Advantage and Exploit Advantage. Each of the "special" actions so far is mapped to one of these actions: Treatment (Overcome), Gathering Clues (Create Advantage) and Draw Conclusions (Exploit Advantage). The only difference is on how you build your dice pool. That should make the game easier to learn and hopefully more approachable.

Same goes for conflict resolution. The hazard is an aspect and you overcome it. There might be some push back and resillience to the hazard which modifies the dice pool, but the essence is the same.

Download Rules