Informing RPG design with board game mechanics

Jewel of the Sea continues to be a delight to work on, partly because going to my local board game meetup and playing Arkham Horror or Escape the Dark Castle counts as research. AH 3rd edition in particular has yielded lots of fruitful mechanics to mine.

To start off, character creation via card selection allows both for randomized chargen and for speeding up the process of choice. Arkham’s investigators start with an array of personal items, traits, allies, and more on cards just for them – but you don’t get to start with all of them. Deciding what you take before the game lets you tweak your “build” to better serve the role you anticipate filling in the group. Jewel of the Sea does the same: your species, vocation, and starting equipment are on a stack of cards that allow you to either deal out characters and begin right away, or lay out the spread and weigh your alternatives.

AH3 also uses cards to drive the story; not only are the neighborhood event decks from prior editions still around, but the “codex” introduces a branching-path method of determining your group’s objectives. In Jewel of the Sea, each of the locations you can visit has a deck, and some of the encounters will nudge the story toward one of three final decks in which the characters finally reach the Jewel and unravel its mystery.

I’m looking into whether making Jewel of the Sea print-and-play is feasible; it’s likely to receive a small “official” print run as well. More on that later.