Author Spotlight: Jack Caesar
This is the second in a series of posts focusing on the authors and guest authors of the game. Our author this week is the mind behind the rules of the game: Jack Caesar.
Jack is a board game designer and writer (My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria, Highlander: The Board Game, Pacific Rim: Extinction) for River Horse. He spends the vast majority of his work time and spare time thinking about dice, cards, and other ways of randomly generating numbers, then spinning that into fun!
Jack on writing the rules to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Adventure Game:
The Labyrinth was a very interesting project to work on, as the design of the game meant that we wanted a simple system, but the weird world of the Labyrinth meant that the rules needed to fit a wide variety of situations.
We started by deciding what mechanic we wanted to use to resolve conflicts within the game – this is the core of most game systems. We landed on an easy-to-use D6 system where players roll a D6 against a difficulty value, (2 is very easy, 6 is very hard) if they roll high enough they pass. If a player is good at the thing they are trying to do they roll 2 dice and take the highest value, if they are bad at the thing they are trying to do, they roll 2 dice and take the lowest.
This system means that players never have to do any maths (not even one math!), they always know what number they are looking to roll. It also gives the Goblin King (the player running the game) a very easy way to approximate the difficulty of actions.
The most unique difficulty to designing the rules for the Labyrinth were exploration itself. It was apparent early in the process that a gigantic labyrinth map wasn’t going to cut it: that was too mundane and predictable. We landed on a unique system of exploration where players roll to discover new scenes, and must puzzle their way forward. Each scene has its own criteria for success and failure, and if the players cannot progress they can always try to find a way around, under, or over their problems!
With these core tenets, we built upon the system, adding rules for NPCs, teamwork, action scenes, and equipment. The majority of the complexity in the game comes from the scenes themselves, written by the fantastic Ben Milton, adding in extra rules for special scenes throughout the book. He would add a feature into the scene and we would have to work out whether it was a feature that needed to be in the rules section, or something that was unique to that scene.
All in all it was a gratifying experience evolving the rules alongside Ben’s writing of the scenes and trying to give him the tools he needed to make an exciting adventure while keeping everything accessible to new players.