The Scaffold System

In ancient days I wrote about scaffolding, a technique by which one uses the bare minimum system to allow testing of a more detailed subsystem you’re interested in. Here is a perfectly workable scaffold, a game that can be played entirely on its own but that can better serve as the connective tissue for your components under test. Of course it must grow and modify (hopefully until it is unrecognizable) to meet the needs of the bits you want to test, but it serves to get to the table.

And that’s the rule for scaffolding: don’t yammer on about your idea. Don’t trawl for acceptance. Don’t wonder aloud and publicly if you have the probabilities right. Get it to a table tonight.


A bare minimum on which to hang subsystems for testing.


A character has two stats: the answers to “what are you good at?” and “why are you here?” Extend this to suit the needs of your subsystem under test. Whoever wants to play a character should invent one.

Core System

When an external resolution is required (that is, there is no consensus on what happens next) the player invested in the outcome rolls 1d6. If their character is good at this, then they succeed on a 2 or better. Otherwise they succeed on a 3 or better. Extend this to suit the needs of your subsystem under test. If they have no character then wonder why they are so invested in this scene. Why are they even here at the table. Perhaps they are observing and should be invited to play.

Scenario and motivation

Everyone should pay attention to everyone elses “why are you here” and narrate stuff that leans into those answers. If there’s a ref, they should pay special attention. Challenge it — make why they are there a problem. Make it difficult. Make it a moral dilemma. Make it require resources. Kick it in the nads.

Now of course you could do this differently, but I want to remove every single obstacle in your path to getting to the table that I can. You need to find the people, you need to work up the nerve, and you need something you care to test, but I have taken care of the other excuse. There’s your scaffold. Like any scaffold it should be entirely absent once you are done, or at least invisible. We might see traces of it — bolt holes unfilled in the sidewalk perhaps — but your objective is to use it only until it is replaced.

And grow the scaffold itself if you need to. Paint it. Cover it. Raise it. Whatever it takes.

scaffold is available in PDF form from itch if you need a PDF version.