What Ho, World! – now on Tabletop Simulator

What Ho, World! is a game that really benefits from the physicality of cards – you’re flipping them over, passing them around, stacking them and discarding them. But a large amount of roleplaying is done over the internet these days, which has presented me with a bit of a quandry. I’ve tried writing versions of the game that play in your browser (see Trying Twine) but as it turns out there was a much easier way – Tabletop Simulator.

If you haven’t seen this before it’s a game on Steam that’s focused on simulating the board game experience as accurately as possible – you can pick up and chuck about game pieces, flip tables, chat to the other players and so on. Importantly for my purposes, it’s very easy to make custom decks providing you have the art assets to hand. I’ve made a Steam Workshop entry for What Ho, World! – if you have the game, go check it out here:


It’s not the most recent version of the game – I don’t have card images ready for that yet – but it should be enough to test if it’s something people would be interested in. If so, I’ll keep it up-to-date and current with the physical version, which (fingers crossed) should be heading to the printers very soon.

What Ho World deck printing update

What ho,

Production is still moving apace on What Ho World – it’s nice to see it getting progressively closer to completion!

What Ho World deck proof

I got my physical copy of What Ho, World! from DriveThruCards today. Overall I’d say I’m very happy with it, especially as what little damage there was from its shipping to me won’t be an issue with the method I’m using to ship it to you. Here are some pictures:



One of the effects of going with DriveThruCards for printing is that I had to adjust the deck size to 90 cards instead of 100. With the smaller deck size, I wasn’t able to fit as much of a rules explanation as I’d like in the cards in the deck. To augment that, I’m trying out online manuals with links to them on the deck’s cards. I’ve made one for What Ho, World! and one for Wizards Aren’t Gentlemen. Give them a look and let me know what you think!

What Ho World: Playtest Report

It was the introductory meeting for Oxford University RPG society today, which gave me a great opportunity to see how people who never roleplayed before enjoyed What Ho, World. Overall, it was very positive! We spent a lot of the session laughing, and every character had a fun plotline. We had a blackmailing butler accumulating a hoard of antiques so he could sell them all and retire to the country, a general winning a golf tournament by default after arranging for his rival to suffer a clothing malfunction, and a pioneering inventor trying to sweep the country’s theatres with his one-man orchestra.

System feedback was less positive. It’s clear that the procedure of play needs a lot of tightening up and quite a bit of simplifying. With:

  • 8 moves per player with multiple options.
  • 4 different token types.
  • A scene framing procedure that forces you to choose 2 of 4 detailed entries every scene.
  • Goals to build up progress towards.

…it’s just all a bit unwieldy in play. I initially thought I needed to gut whole sections of the game, but I think I’ve found a way to keep most things intact while reframing certain elements so they work better. The first thing to try is giving a player a single discard pile rather than tracking per-move card spends. I’m also going to really simplify the scene framing procedure and make sure that when I give a player a choice it really matters rather than slowing down play. Fingers crossed it makes a better game!

Still, it was a fun time, and it’s a really encouraging sign that the game can produce that experience with 4 people who’ve never roleplayed before. It’d be great to hear how it goes when I’m not there to nudge things along, but my ability to arrange those playtests is limited – not many people willing to print off an entire deck for a game that isn’t even finished!

What Ho World Design Diary 6: Art!

Things are pretty quiet on the What Ho World front at the moment – we’re going through playtests and nailing down how card printing and deck fulfillment is going to work. That’s all pretty dull to talk about though, so instead I thought I’d show you something very exciting: the art!

Like the rest of the art, this is by the wonderful Jacqui Davis. I saw the art she’d done for Daniel Solis’ Belle of the Ball and thought her style would be perfect for our game. Here’s the character portraits- these’ll be the covers for each individual playbook deck.



What Ho World Design Diary 5: Trying Twine

What Ho, World! is in a bit of an interstitial state at the moment – while we wait for playtesting feedback there’s not much for us to do but source art and shop for printers. Still, one thing I’ve noticed: PDFs suck for playtesting a card-based game! They’re static, hard to handle, and don’t have any of the responsiveness and tactile feel I love with cards. So, I thought, what’s a better route? My answer – Twine!

If you don’t know it Twine’s an HTML-based interactive fiction framework that’s surprisingly easy to use. It naturally breaks things down into ‘passages’ that work a lot like cards, and has enough variable-tracking that I could run the entire game in it. If you’re interested in trying this out I’ve embedded it in the page below, or you can use this link to get a full-screen version. If you want to play the game with a group you’ll need the full rules – they’re all available here.

It doesn’t have assets, goals or locations included yet – data arrays have proved to be a bit more difficult than expected – but it should be fully functional as a play aid. Track available moves, card commitments and more! If there’s any functions you’d like it to include, please leave a comment or get in touch.

Twine Instance

What Ho World Design Diary 4: Ready for Playtesting!

Hi! It’s been a while since we’ve been able to focus on game design, but we’re happy to announce that What Ho World is now available to be playtested! It’s gone through quite a few revisions since it was last promoted, but we’re quite proud of its current status and hope you enjoy it too!

The game’s rules can be found in a google doc here. Feel free to comment with your observations even if you haven’t had a chance to try the rules out.

Those will let you play the game with just character sheets, but really it’s a game designed to be played with physical cards. To that end, you can get the PDF for you to print here. The file is ordered such that the 2nd page is the reverse side of the 1st page, the 4th page the rear of the 3rd, and so on.

Some cards from the current game. The photographs are provisional art, all of them taken from the public domain.

Alternative, the deck can be bought from PrinterStudio for the price it costs to print and ship it: follow this link. These are the guys we’re considering using for the eventual kickstarter, so if you end up ordering from them let us know what the experience was like!

If you want to submit detailed playtest feedback, use this form:

Contact form removed to avoid spam.


What Ho, World! Design Diary 3: Simple Setup and the Virtues of Cards

One of the weaknesses of RPGs compared to other tabletop games can be the high levels of investment a group has to put in before starting to play a game. While the majority of board games aside from the most complex can be set up and ready to go within half an hour, many RPGs need hours of character creation, not to mention however long people need to read through the game text to get a handle on how the game’s system works. With What Ho, World! we’re looking for something much breezier, to match the tone of the genre and make it easier to pick up and play.

Characters in What Ho, World! have three things that define them – their appearance and moves, their place in society, and their assets and needs. Going with an entirely card-based game makes it easy to streamline these three steps, and means that the players won’t need to need to refer to a book or make notes while making their choices.

First, appearance and moves. Each character archetype comes with its own mini-deck giving their basic description and appearance options to select, and 5 move cards to choose from – your 3 unchosen move cards then flip over into tokens to spend to get extra effects from moves.

Second, relationships. Each archetype also has two of these and each is unbalanced – one is in your favour, while the other works against you. For example, the Gentleman’s Gentleman is implicitly trusted by their employer, but struggles to keep their composure in the presence of someone else. Your character card reminds you how you can use your positive relationship, while your negative relationship card is passed to the player who it’s with.

Finally, each character in What Ho, World! has Assets they control and can use in game, and Goals they need to meet. Assets are things like A Fabulous Motor CarAn Engagement Ring, or A Journal Full of Secrets – things which can help you in your plans, but might need a bit of lateral thinking. Goals, on the other hand, are obligations or desires your character needs to fulfill, and could be anything from Get Out of Debt to Marry Above Your Station. They come paired on cards, and can be independent or linked (i.e. Asset: A Precocious Ward/Goal: Get the Ward Out of Trouble). Each player gets two cards, and should flesh them out and tweak them to fit into their character concept and their social position.

By the end of this process each player has:

  • A named, described character with two unique abilities and a pool of resources to spend.
  • Relationships with at least two other characters.
  • Assets to draw upon and Goals to aim for.

Ending up with a card spread looking something like this:


Next time: Playtest Documents!

What Ho, World! Design Diary 2: Stats and Moves

Thanks for joining us again for another look at the What Ho, World! design process! This time, I’m looking at the basic nuts and bolts of the game’s system.


Once you have the archetypes you want sorted (see part 1)  you’re most of the way to deciding on the stats you want. I tend to do this by looking at the different characters and working out what sets them apart from each other, what sort of things they’re all reasonably competent in and what things none of them are good at. In the source fiction for What Ho, World! people’s interaction with society and social mores is the key focus, so we needed to frame stats in relation to that with each character having some way of succeeding in society. The main distinction comes in whether you excel through perfect charm, quick thinking, roguish contempt, or knowledge of connections and etiquette – giving us our four stats.

Stat images are courtesy of game-icons.net

Wits (♦)

The intellect to guess other people’s choices, the quick thinking to take advantage of a momentary opportunity, and the insight to spot the tells others would want to keep hidden.

Grace (♥)

That combination of poise, elegance and charm that makes people pay attention to your words, desire your love and respect, and overlook your faux pas.

Knowhow (♣)

Knowledge is power, and with high Knowhow you’re able to use that power to know the right people for the job, the correct etiquette for a marriage proposal, and the perfect quote or fact to drive your point home.

Skulduggery (♠)

While society is bound by rules of convention and class, there is much to be gained by going outside the lines. You use Skulduggery to get leverage on people, to pick pockets, to sneak about and to avoid attention.

Using Stats

In a standard Powered by the Apocalypse game your character would then have a rating in each stat between -1 and +3, and added to a 2d6 roll such that a 6 or below is a failure, a 7-9 is a mixed success and 10+ is a complete success. For What Ho, World! we wanted to make the game completely card-based, though, so a different setup was in order. Taking inspiration from Avery McDaldno’s Dream Askew, the basic idea is that if someone is attempting something the default is a partial success, boosted to a full success by spending a limited resource. Failures, on the other hand, occur when the player wants them to and give the character more of that limited resource.

To adapt this for What Ho, World! characters will have a pool of ‘tokens’, represented by double-ended cards that count as a token for one stat or another. The cards a character has available to them vary according to their starting moves, because you flip the unchosen move cards to get your pool. Once you’ve chosen your two moves, you’ll have three of these token cards, giving you 6 different tokens to use and 0-3 of each stat. When you spend a token, it’s tucked under the relevant move card and unusable until you can trigger your archetype’s refresh condition to free it up again (in exchange for introducing some complication into your character’s life).

This leads to three types of moves; the first, where you spend tokens to get an additional benefit:


When you pull the wool over someone’s eyes with fast talk and misdirection, choose one:

  • They come away suspicious of your motives.
  • Your extravagant patter attracts further attention.
  • They repeat your story to others with their own embellishments.

They’re so entranced you can take something from them or place something on them.
Say where they go when you stop talking to them.

The second, where the default is to spend tokens and there’s worse results if you don’t:


When you’re convinced that two other people would be a good match in business or romance and let everyone know about it, spend:

To convince society at large that they would be a good match.
To convince them to give your proposal a shot.

If you spend no tokens, the match gains traction so long as you accept a match for yourself proposed by the target’s player(s).

And the third, where the move can only be activated if you spend a token:

Steely Glare
When you fix someone with your glare and spend ♦, they must choose one:

  • Stumble their words and reveal a secret motive or plan.
  • Flee the scene.
  • Offer to perform a task for you.

One side benefit of this way of doing things is that you can choose to spend multiple tokens on a move if you want to activate multiple effects of it. This system still has a few rough edges, but I’m looking forward to seeing it work in play – playtesting documents should be available soon if you’re interested!

Next Time: Character Creation and Game Setup

What Ho World Design Diary 1: The Basics

We’re big fans of the whimsical, free-wheeling chaos of books like P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories, Fred and Ginger films like Top Hat and The Gay Divorcee and similar works, so after I’d finished putting together Legacy I thought it’d be a nice change – not to mention a challenge – to build a game that tried to evoke that feel.

We started with a simple idea – a hybrid of the one-session improvised chaos of Jacob Morningstar’s Fiasco, coupled with the playbook and move framework of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World. Building from that, we set these goals for the system:

  • Flavourful but flexible character archetypes.
  • Mechanics that are consistent with the source material.
  • Simple and streamlined set up and play.
  • Good pacing and spotlight distribution without needing a GM.

The forth one’s probably going to be the hardest, but each present their own challenges. I’ll begin these diaries with our ideas for the first and most important one: interesting character archetypes consistent with the source material.


From the idiotic but endlessly optimistic Bertie Wooster to the relentlessly cheerful but ruthlessly ambitious Elizabeth Mapp the characters in the source material are active,  eccentric in their strengths and heedless of their weaknesses. There are other similarities – none of them reject the dance of society completely, violence is limited to threats and the occasional coshings, and overly grand ambitions (like the fascist dreams of Roderick Spode) are roundly mocked.

The first step in working out how characters are made in a game like this is to work out the main archetypes characters fall into, and the basic actions they all tend to perform. After a lot of enjoyable hours of watching, reading and listening, we came up with these archetypes:

The Gentleman or Lady of Leisure

A social butterfly very much at home in the galas and clubs of high society but utterly naive about anything else, the gentleman or lady of leisure is constantly in motion – getting engaged and breaking it off, showing impeccable etiquette and then flouting conventions, they can cope with pretty much anything so long as nobody pins them down and pens them in.

A little note on gender – we’re not making a game where your character’s gender is any more important than you want it to be. In the best of the source material, gender discrimination isn’t a factor – Bertie Wooster and Stephanie ‘Stiffy’ Byng are equally free to do whatever they like with whoever they like, and Aunt Agatha and Sir Watkyn Basset have a similar level of social power. A character’s capabilities in this game come from their playbook rather than their gender, and while that’s made the names of this playbook and the next one a little clunky we think it’s the best call. 

The Gentleman’s Gentleman or Lady’s Lady

Where the Gentleman/Lady of Leisure is mercurial the Gentleman’s Gentleman or Lady’s Lady is solid and dependable, always ready to offer sage advice, a bracing drink, or surprising skills from their time in the forces. Even when they’re unavailable to assist their master, it’s only because a more urgent or important errand has taken up their attention.

The Aged Relative

Their years have given the Aged Relative a healthy disregard for society’s mores, as well as the status needed to get away with it. Whether they’re foisting an inconvenient duty onto their nephew, throwing a grand gala to embarrass their social rivals, or demonstrating stealth and blackjacking skills that rival the best footpad, they’re an indomitable juggernaut of a force.

The Highbrow

Whether they’re an artist, a priest or a scholar, the Highbrow has been given a license by society to ignore social conventions, think strange thoughts and create shocking works – so long as they don’t go too far. Their moves play into this duality, whether it’s through being so oblivious you’re impervious to social influence and knowing the most obscure, strangely useful facts, or cannily putting together work whose ideas are just shocking enough to spread through the chattering classes like wildfire.

The Pillar of Society

The Pillar of Society is a key figure of the establishment – a judge, a major, a minor royal or the chair of the local Women’s Institute. Their word carries weight, and their judgement is feared by all, but their doctrinal mindset leaves them open to crafty plots and fast talk. Further, the organisation that is the source of their power can demand the Pillar’s attention at inconvenient times.

Next up: The basic mechanics and moves