So what is Delve? And what sets it apart?

Let’s start with the bad news. In a lot of ways, nothing sets it apart.

I know–In a marketing sense, a designer is not supposed to say that. I should be dancing up here with pom-poms shouting at the top of my lungs about how your life has been empty without Delve, but that’s just not true.

It’s a six-attribute, d20-resolution game, with leveled advancement. When playing it, you take on the role of an adventurer in a world of fantastical wonder. Trust me; you’ve seen much of it before. It’s probably a lot like the game you’re playing right now.

And then it swerves.

The attributes have different names: Agility, Athletics, Endurance, Awareness, Knowledge, and Charm. Why the change? First and foremost, I was sick the old terms’ baggage. Some were still pretty good, but I wanted ones a tad more holistic or descriptive.

Back when I was developing the 4th Edition game, I had a hard time convincing folks to take a broader look at ability scores and what they could do. I championed Charisma attacks with melee weapons and used Al Swearengen from Deadwood as an example of the phenomena in a story. Eventually, the rattling rogue build made its way into Martial Power. Pushback on the idea had me wondering if momentum was the roadblock on creativity. I walked away convinced that sometimes it was.

Lucky for us, English has no shortage of words to toy with.

It’s easy to dismiss such change as purely aesthetic. In some ways it is. But it does allow me to recast and redefine some attributes. For instance, let’s look at Charm. One of three mental attributes, it measures not only how well you get along with other creatures, but it also determines your luck, your ability to apply heroics, and even how to tap into the magic potential that dwells within your being.

Charm, being an attribute has a score.

I’ll fill you in on a secret. I hate numbers that represent other numbers; especially when that’s all those numbers do. I’m also not a fan of rolling ability scores, which makes me a bit of an aberrant for an old grognard, but I’ll speak more on that later. For those reasons (and many more), Delve abandons that old chestnut the 3-18 attribute scheme. In Delve, attributes start at 1. When you create a character, you get 7 points to increase attributes, but you can’t spend more than 3 points on any attribute. Race can also increase on or two attributes, but we will get to that later.

When all increases are applied, you’ll have six attributes all with scores between 1 and 6. Some of you will see where I’m going with this: the attribute is the modifier of the older systems. What follows is that when you attempt an Agility resolution, you add your Agility score to the roll. When you determine Agility Defense, you add 10 to the Agility attributes. Rolls and defenses may feature penalties applied due to the situation, or bonuses due to the situation, your itemization, your characters talents, and magical effects placed upon you. But that’s also a discussion for later.

Bonus and penalties aside, the attributes for a 1st-level character look something like this:

These are the 1st-level attributes for one of Delve’s iconic characters: Ez, a young rogue from the mean streets of Nessrin ready to escape the city and see what kind of wonders the wider world has to offer.

While there’s a lot more than Agility, Athletics, Endurance, Awareness, Knowledge, and Charm swirling around that knot, those six are the primary attributes. The secondary ones are derived from or affect by those core six. We’ll talk about the secondary attributes next time.


Author: SRM

Stephen began working on RPGs in 2000, when he became the RPGA editorial assistant at Wizards of the Coast, working on both Polyhedron magazine and Living Greyhawk Journal. Over the years he's administered the Living Greyhawk campaign, aided in the development of the D&D 3.5 Edition rules, was a developer for D&D 4th Edition and Star Wars Saga Edition, taught numerous game design classes in the Seattle area, and contributed to the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide and Ultimate Magic as a freelance designer. He worked at Paizo for nearly nine years as a designer and then senior designer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He's also the guy who designs the Pathfinder Flip-Mats, Flip-Tiles, and Map Packs. His current credits include Southlands for Kobold Press, as well as Hell’s Vengeance: For Queen & Empire, Horror Adventures,  Villain Codex, and Ultimate Intrigue, Ultimate Wilderness, Pathfinder Playtest, and Pathfinder Second Edition all for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He was also on the initial design team for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game and wrote Dead Suns: The Thirteenth Gate adventure for that game. He served as the senior designer for the Pathfinder Playtest and the Pathfinder Second Edition Roleplaying Game. Currently, Stephen is a freelance game designer, content writer, and consultant working with various companies when he is not spending time with his family, wrangling kittens, and working on Delve. Delve is a culmination of Stephen's ideas about tabletop roleplaying games over the past 19 years. It's a new look at d20-resolution systems and traditional fantasy roleplaying game design and tropes through the lens of more modern modes of game design. And Stephen sincerely hopes you enjoy playing it because that's the point.

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