Tomeforger is a strategic cooperative multiplayer board game about exploring a shattered and scattered world, and uncovering what remains of its rules. The players are tasked with completing six quests to obtain six artefacts to allow them to restabilise the world, before the lost fragments of that world run out and reality is again scattered.
The gameplay focuses on combining card-based rules to create new emergent rulesets, and tasking players with building and maintaining their own unique rulesets to allow them to achieve the impossible. The rules are different every time.
This project tasked me to focus entirely on design for the production of an extensive game design document, which would be made so that it could theoretically be used in the production of the game itself. Since I was focusing entirely on design rather than practicality, I decided to challenge myself to create something high-concept, deep and unique while ensuring minimum component bloat and keeping the final product simple to set up and start playing. The initial concept I chose to work from was 'A game where the players don't know the rules when they begin, but which is nonetheless a replayable experience'. While this concept shifted over the course of developing the design, it shaped the pillars and form of the game in a very interesting direction.
"Due to a disaster of possibly magical causes, this fantasy world, and the board game rules that built it, have been scattered. The six lost artefacts that once held the world together have been tracked down to six important locations, but those locations are unexplored and likely unrecognisable.
The players, trusted Tomeforgers, must search what remains of their homelands to rediscover the rules that once built this game, and must each devise a new ruleset in their journey to repair these lands. But they do not have long: when the rule fragments run out, the world will once again scatter, and all their progress will be lost forever."
The game design pillars are Understanding Over Control, Discovery, Unpredictability, An Uncaring World and Player Mutability.
Inspired by Tracery, Mad Libs and Calvinball, Tomeforger's primary systems all focus on building emergent mechanics. Both the world and the players do this: the world consists of six pairs of cards which each combine to make a single cause-effect rule, and the players play cards into their tableau to build a personal ruleset and set of abilities they must abide by and utilise to complete their goals. At the start of a game of Tomeforger, every quest will seem fundamentally impossible, but players must utilise the cards they gain to conceptualise combos and formulate plans. Here, the focus on Understanding Over Control is at its strongest: the players can't do much to change the world, but their understanding of the systems and rulesets they discover allow them to do impossible things.
My design process for the game utilised a detailed design notebook and multiple large whiteboards to articulate my thoughts, and quick experimental playtesting to ideate mechanics using the intentionally limited components. Towards the end of the process, a Tabletop Simulator prototype was made which could be used for larger scale playtests.