Let’s try and clean up that brainstorming session into something more coherent.
The heart and soul of this RPG is inventing new solutions to difficult problems through cooperation. That’s the main skill that I’m trying to impart to my 5th graders in general, so finding a way to do that in an RPG would be perfect.
The premise of the game is clear and straightforwards: players play a company of mercenaries, or sellswords, looking to do dangerous work in exchange for food, supplies, and fame. They’re a bit more professional than murderhobos but still only barely qualified. As they become more influential and better-equipped, their goals might change, but lets leave that for later.
The game should be simple and intuitive, so pretty much everything they need should be on their sheets. No magic, no classes, no restrictions on what they can try to do. It’s all about creative solutions, right? Character creation uses an array of scores that are assigned randomly to different stats. Everyone starts at the same level, but with plenty of variety in where their talents lie.
Challenges are group-participation efforts, where players come up with a plan, and then all roll at once to see if it works. The GM gives them bonuses for good plans, or can negate rolling altogether. The challenges are like a puzzle game where they have to figure out the best way to overcome things, with roleplaying in between. I’m aiming to find a way to achieve a degree of flow in an RPG. There’s probably going to be a phase structure, similar to Torchbearer or Mouse Guard.
Poor planning results in deaths. Flip over dead characters, write their tombstone, and add them to the graveyard. Success results in more fame, influence, and more options during challenges. The trick is to present a type of challenge and then re-present it several times over the course of a session with new twists, in order to keep players focused on what they’ve learned so far.
In my opinion the element with ‘Sell Swords’ your downplaying is its truly innovative spell system. Sell Swords, (‘Maze rats’ and ‘Knave’) has us using them because your work on the spell system and their plug and play utility with old material. Let me expand on that point especially in the context of SellSwords, I and my rpg friends-circle (we are in our 50’s) we _want_ the streamlined content of your presentation (value proposition 1) and we want the plug and play utility if further offers (value proposition 2) i.e. we have a plethora of old modules many of which we want to (re-)play as well as the newer OSR mega-dungeons. we want the “basically as is” utility of the rules. YET we want to move away from the core vancian magic system which even going back in time to the early days of the hobby has always been a friction-point and your rules offer that (value proposition 3) and in my opinion your would be best served in exploring your approach to magic rules and a magic centric “implied” setting. So in a way not “Sell Swords” but “Spell Swords”! now thats an exciting proposition in my mind.