Over the past two weeks I've been reflecting heavily on the kind of SF gaming that I love. Admittedly this is an ongoing thing, a kind of perpetual itch that I've been scratching whenever I have a few spare moments.
|Elite: Dangerous (used without permission)|
Amazingly three things have occurred which, when clashed together, promise something I'd not thought about too much before.
Combining three ideas which have been kicking around my head for ages, I think I might have come up with a way to engage in a new type of SF RPG experience... at least for me.
Back in 1984 all of my friends and I began to play a computer game called "Elite". A couple of weeks ago I came across the Kickstarter campaign for a redux version of Elite
which, if you've not seen it, looks really exciting.
Elite can be summed up by the byline from the Kickstarter page:
Take a ship and 100 credits to make money legally or illegally - trade, bounty-hunt, pirate, assassinate your way across the galaxy.
This game was something that I can remember playing for many hours, not least trying to perfect the slightly annoying process of docking my spaceship at a spacestation. Nonetheless, it was an open game... a game in which you chose the outcome. There was no real "winner" except for you having fun playing it.
About 2 years ago I went to a convention in Leicester, UK, and bought a new game (or two). The new game I am referring to was HeroQuest. Not the boxed game from Games Workshop from back in the 1980s, no. The 2009 publication from Moon Design written by Robin D. Laws.
HeroQuest is a narrative RPG system which can be used for any genre or setting. Again, let's hear from the blurb:
It presents a simple and flexible system that allows Game Masters to make decisions the way authors and screenwriters do when creating novels, TV episodes and movies. HeroQuest encourages creative input from your players, resulting in an exciting, unpredictable narrative created through group collaboration.
Reading this system has been a revelation. It's a shame that I never took the shrink-wrap off the book (and the Sartar book I got with it as a setting) until this week. Here is a geuninely easy-to-play and open style of narrative roleplaying that I think I might actually enjoy.
All week it's been in my mind to both try the game... and wonder if it might not be ideal for that new SF setting I have been musing about.
These two elements clashed this week and got me thinking about what they both have in common: sandboxes.
Elite was, essentially, a sandbox computer game. It was limited by the programming and 256 stars... but it was, in essence, a sandbox game. A game that allowed the player to explore and make their own outcomes matter.
HeroQuest is an open and narrative style of game that encourages player and narrator to collaborate. Each game played is built not from hard simulationist rules but from soft (yet firm) narrativist description.
Putting these two ideas together I can envision drawing in two other tools from my gaming box:
Stars Without Number, the excellent game and sandbox toolset, provides an excellent basis for creating a sandbox SF game. I might choose to change the specifics and not use the game engine... but the practical elements of sandbox design are the key here. The plan is to create an open gaming experience for the players.
provides a GM-emulator to either augment the creative skills of the GM or... well, replace the GM. Using it with HeroQuest might not be a 100% replacement for the Narrator but it promises to provide a way to reduce the creative workload and allow me to focus on actual gameplay... starting solo if necessary.
Putting It Together
So, here's the potential vision in my head...
A tabletop RPG campaign, perhaps played online with players who've shown an interest in the SF ideas already discussed in earlier articles. I can envision a Google+ Hangout or something similar.
An SF setting which is outlined from our present notes
and the creative ideas of the players, augmented by the use of sandbox tools and the Mythic
Want to play the crew of a small spaceship trading between worlds? Or a striketeam of corporate mercs? Or a politically-charged cell of civilian activists? Or whatever... I think we can roll with it and bring it to life.
Add in the determination to record the setting details as they develop and publish them online, perhaps using a Wiki or similar tool, and I think we've got a shot at creating something hot.
Maybe I'm crazy. Probably am. But I'd love to give it a shot.
Labels: musings, SF