I have an idea for an alternative encounter type that I’d like a little help fleshing out.

Hank uses a room Target for everything in the whole encounter. What if we abstracted that further and gave the room HEARTS and actions, instead of the creatures and tasks in the room?

Say there’s a basic long, narrow room with a locked door at the end. The PCs have to get through, but there are hordes of skeletons behind them. While someone gets the door open, the others must hold off the skeletons. Let’s give this room a Target of 15 and two HEARTS. On each turn, we’re not concerned with tactical movement or distance. We just ask each player what their character does to further their goals. The fighter wants to bash skeletons? Great! Roll against the Target and on a hit do damage to the room HEARTS. The mage wants to erect a barrier to funnel the skeletons? Great! Do effort to the room HEARTS on a hit. The rogue is picking the lock? Great! Effort to the room HEARTS on a hit. (Alternatively, the fighter or mage could do Target damage, as their actions make it easier for the rogue to work.)

On the room’s turn, you could give it two actions to do anything… roomy. Have the skeletons attack, have the lights go out, spring a trap on the door, etc.

Once the room is “defeated,” the PCs get safely through.

This is a bit more abstract than rules-as-written, but I could see this being useful for TotM games. What do you think?


Reminds me of 4E Skill Challenges or Savage Worlds Dramatic Tasks where the failure is PVs losing HP/hearts over time rather than them failing the challenge/task and getting a bad outcome.


I think this is great. Sure, why not?

This approach also works (maybe even better?) with social encounters. Here’s an example:
The characters are trying to persuade the king to gain some kind of favor. The king has “social hearts” as usual and they are damaged when a player succeeds with a social attempt, which usually uses a mental stat like CHA. When the social HP of the king is depleted the players get what they wish. This is the good ol’ effort mechanic, nothing is really new here.

However when you put hearts on the room and rule that whenever a player fails an attempt he/she rolls effort against the room’s heart(s), things can get interesting. When the room reaches 0 HP then the players fail. In essence this mechanic gives the room a hidden timer that ticks only on failure.

That’s what I’ve come up with in under 2 minutes, I’m sure it can be improved further. Overall a nice abstraction. :+1:


Damn that gave a whole new level to the room hearts idea and general Timers! :exploding_head:


It can be useful for any kind of game. I dig it.


Excellent variation— and great approach to social. Combine it with a timer and you’ve got a dramatic scene!


You god damn genius… this is an amazing idea.


Another thing this allows in terms of narrative is the one-blow-killing of enemies as more stream into the room, and the HEARTS are to break throgh the horde to move somewhere or something like that!


This makes me think of XDZ, where your weapon effort roll is actually how many xenos you kill.


Yeah, I get that from 3:16 too!


Back on G+ there was a really good discussion of this technique for Mysteries, Chases, etc. If the GM is on top of their improvise game, it works for rooms too. I’ve done it on occasion but it’s a bit too much of a workout for regular use. The challenge is keeping the descriptions fresh and moving forward and not succumbing to the abstractness of it all with blah descriptions of what “Progress along that Heart of Effort” looks like.


This is great. I could even see a room action to have it recover heart damage or maybe gain a temp heart that must be depleted first in whatever way makes sense for the scene.


This jives really well with some movement abstraction I’ve been wanting to mess with. I always liked the front/middle/back row of older JRPGs, and seeing that evolution with Darkest Dungeon has been very inspiring for modding combat for simplified tactical encounters. Using room hearts would be neat to interact with the environment aside from simply attacking monsters, like associating those hearts with triggering environmental hazards, accomplishing mechanical goals, etc. It’s all just ideas that need fleshing out, but my brain is really running with this. Thanks for a meaty post!


It would also work well to represent ‘Slow’ Trap Rooms like Rising Fluid, Trash Compactor and other such. You could use the Hearts/Actions to slowly tick downwards towards Zero while the Party does things to escape or slow it down. Similar concept to be sure. On the Table Top it would be a good visual/mental incentive for the players to react to.