Three Gaming Revelations

Yesterday I read an interesting statement over at The Iron Tavern:
I have been having some thoughts on just how many rules I need in an RPG as well. That thought is a subject for another blog post, but these thoughts have led me to lightly kick the tires of a few other systems. (Castles & Crusades, Oct 10th 2012
This rang true for me. Regular readers will know that over the past few weeks I've been tackling similar issues. How much "rules crunch" do I need? Why am I "butterflying" and what can I do to control it?

What has been happening this week to really kick this up a notch?

Three Revelations

That article was the second revelation in what has been a hectic week. The first was from a wargaming experience. The last came from fiddling with Google.

Wargaming
I was a wargamer long before I was a roleplayer. This explains a great deal.

My Dad was the one who got me into wargaming (not the first time I've mentioned it, sorry Mr Regular Reader). We used to idle away weekend afternoons fighting World War II battles with paper hexed maps, counters, d6 and generally complex rules.

Complexity was something that appealed to my Dad. I guess it rubbed off on me too because for most of my life I have been attracted to detail in my games. For him it was about simulation: making the game as "real" an experience as it can be... without, obviously, the actual fear and scent of death.

Oddly, however, Dad was never really much into miniature wargaming. As he punished me, the day I bought my first ever miniature SF models, Dad was ranting on about how expensive and what a waste toy soldiers would be. Wargaming, for him, was best simulated initially on hexed maps with chits and, eventually, on computers. It's ironic that, to my knowledge, Dad still hasn't found his ideal system. Nor have I.

This week I was taking a look at Hawk Wargames' Dropzone Commander. The models are stunning and the rulebook is very pretty. The terrain is lush too. Yet, reading the rules, I was under-whelmed. Don't get me wrong... the rules are fine; there are a lot of cool and innovative ideas... but it's still doing the same old "d6-roll-high" mechanic that most games do. Like Rick Priestley said recently, there is only so much you can do with a d6.

So... what was the revelation? Well, that came from Rick Priestley. Mentioned in the draft Gates of Antares rules comes the decision Rick has made to escape the humble restrictions of the d6... and opt for a d10. This isn't stunning... but it did remind me of something I wrote a few years ago: two sets of rules, one using a d8 and the other using a d12.

That's when it struck me: I'm truly fed up with playing other people's games.

Simpler Rules
Enter Jeremy's comment from The Iron Tavern: "I have been having some thoughts on just how many rules I need in an RPG".

Recently I've been poring over Fate Core and getting excited about running a new setting in this new-for-me system. Fine and dandy. But that's not all.

For months and months I have been reading system after system with one core theme running through most of them: a move towards stripping away complexity while retaining flavour. 

Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry, D&D 5th, Fate Core, Classic Traveller, Stars Without Number... the list goes on and on. Each of these has a single central connecting idea: less is more.

And yet... don't I love complexity?

What I actually love is detail and freedom in design. That's not the same as complexity. 

I don't really crave after complex rules because they are complex. I am attracted to games like GURPS and Hero because they offer me the choices to build the game the way that I want it to be. The side-effect is that those rules tend towards the complex (at least in terms of time needed to prep with them) because they offer a massive range of choices.

What I love in terms of day-to-day play, however, is simple and slick systems. I discovered that I happen to agree with the author of Castles & Crusades:
The core of any game’s philosophy has to have the goal of creating and capturing a mood charged with excitement. Anything that detracts from that objective detracts from the game. How does one capture that mood? Foremost, the rules guiding game play must be easily understood. Ideally, the basic rules of the game should be easily grasped within about fifteen minutes. A player should be able to sit down with another player, create a character, and have the basics of the game explained to them in just that time. As a foundation, the rules must be kept simple and logical, easy to comprehend and easy to enact. Expanding the game comes later, much like adding stories to a building. Start with a firm, square foundation and everything else follows. (Castles & Crusades Player's Guide, page 3).
And here was the second revelation: I don't want complexity, but I do want detail. When I play my SF game I do want to know the make, model and relative effectiveness of this laser rifle over that laser carbine. Detail. But not complexity.

That's why Traveller5 has me rolling my eyes. Lots of details (yes!) but 650+ pages of rules... and no standard equipment list (ouch!).

My Rules
That brings us up to this morning. This was the morning I (finally) got around to activating and setting up my Google Drive. It's also when I discovered what old Google Docs were stored in my Google Drive. Here comes revelation three.

Hidden in a folder on my Google Drive are a set of draft rules from 2010. They are the first draft of my "Alpha RPG" rules which, at the time, were being developed for the Dark Reich setting.

Finding these rules was the revelation. It led me to think about my other four attempts at writing my own system.

First, in 2004, was the d12-driven Engine12... which got bashed into a cowardly sub-version called Engine 6. I chickened because I didn't think that anyone wanted to play with d12s. I also got fed up with writing a very long skill list.

Then came Mission Team. This was a kind of RPG skirmish game. Very slick idea... but frustrating because I bound myself to the d6 and couldn't get a big enough range of modifiers to make long-term development of heroes taste right. Version two tried a d8... but I dropped the project because I felt people wouldn't play with a d8. Gutless, right?

Another d6-based system actually got playtested with the Friday Night Group just prior to our playtest with Warhammer FRPG 2nd Edition. It got pushed onto the back burner because we moved on as a group... despite having some very promising ideas.

Then, in 2010, I bit the bullet again and started to work on Alpha. We actually enjoyed a session of playtest with that too... only I lost the most recent files when the wiki it was stored on crashed. I assumed it was all gone and didn't have the heart to try and recreate it. Until today.

It turns out that all my old work has not been rendered photons.

What Conclusions?

Maybe it's time to (finally) write my system. Maybe not.
It's certainly time to figure out where I want to take my hobby.

It has been over 7 weeks since we last played on a Friday. I'm desperate for a game... and very much losing focus. 

On the one hand, I have a Rolemaster game to pick up and play; nothing wrong with that. On the other hand I have an SF setting we're building (currently using Fate); nowt wrong with that either.

Yet my heart wants to write. Create. Build. Mould. Produce. Play.

What do you think? Is it time to write Beta?


Labels: , , , ,

UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams: Three Gaming Revelations

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Three Gaming Revelations

Yesterday I read an interesting statement over at The Iron Tavern:
I have been having some thoughts on just how many rules I need in an RPG as well. That thought is a subject for another blog post, but these thoughts have led me to lightly kick the tires of a few other systems. (Castles & Crusades, Oct 10th 2012
This rang true for me. Regular readers will know that over the past few weeks I've been tackling similar issues. How much "rules crunch" do I need? Why am I "butterflying" and what can I do to control it?

What has been happening this week to really kick this up a notch?

Three Revelations

That article was the second revelation in what has been a hectic week. The first was from a wargaming experience. The last came from fiddling with Google.

Wargaming
I was a wargamer long before I was a roleplayer. This explains a great deal.

My Dad was the one who got me into wargaming (not the first time I've mentioned it, sorry Mr Regular Reader). We used to idle away weekend afternoons fighting World War II battles with paper hexed maps, counters, d6 and generally complex rules.

Complexity was something that appealed to my Dad. I guess it rubbed off on me too because for most of my life I have been attracted to detail in my games. For him it was about simulation: making the game as "real" an experience as it can be... without, obviously, the actual fear and scent of death.

Oddly, however, Dad was never really much into miniature wargaming. As he punished me, the day I bought my first ever miniature SF models, Dad was ranting on about how expensive and what a waste toy soldiers would be. Wargaming, for him, was best simulated initially on hexed maps with chits and, eventually, on computers. It's ironic that, to my knowledge, Dad still hasn't found his ideal system. Nor have I.

This week I was taking a look at Hawk Wargames' Dropzone Commander. The models are stunning and the rulebook is very pretty. The terrain is lush too. Yet, reading the rules, I was under-whelmed. Don't get me wrong... the rules are fine; there are a lot of cool and innovative ideas... but it's still doing the same old "d6-roll-high" mechanic that most games do. Like Rick Priestley said recently, there is only so much you can do with a d6.

So... what was the revelation? Well, that came from Rick Priestley. Mentioned in the draft Gates of Antares rules comes the decision Rick has made to escape the humble restrictions of the d6... and opt for a d10. This isn't stunning... but it did remind me of something I wrote a few years ago: two sets of rules, one using a d8 and the other using a d12.

That's when it struck me: I'm truly fed up with playing other people's games.

Simpler Rules
Enter Jeremy's comment from The Iron Tavern: "I have been having some thoughts on just how many rules I need in an RPG".

Recently I've been poring over Fate Core and getting excited about running a new setting in this new-for-me system. Fine and dandy. But that's not all.

For months and months I have been reading system after system with one core theme running through most of them: a move towards stripping away complexity while retaining flavour. 

Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry, D&D 5th, Fate Core, Classic Traveller, Stars Without Number... the list goes on and on. Each of these has a single central connecting idea: less is more.

And yet... don't I love complexity?

What I actually love is detail and freedom in design. That's not the same as complexity. 

I don't really crave after complex rules because they are complex. I am attracted to games like GURPS and Hero because they offer me the choices to build the game the way that I want it to be. The side-effect is that those rules tend towards the complex (at least in terms of time needed to prep with them) because they offer a massive range of choices.

What I love in terms of day-to-day play, however, is simple and slick systems. I discovered that I happen to agree with the author of Castles & Crusades:
The core of any game’s philosophy has to have the goal of creating and capturing a mood charged with excitement. Anything that detracts from that objective detracts from the game. How does one capture that mood? Foremost, the rules guiding game play must be easily understood. Ideally, the basic rules of the game should be easily grasped within about fifteen minutes. A player should be able to sit down with another player, create a character, and have the basics of the game explained to them in just that time. As a foundation, the rules must be kept simple and logical, easy to comprehend and easy to enact. Expanding the game comes later, much like adding stories to a building. Start with a firm, square foundation and everything else follows. (Castles & Crusades Player's Guide, page 3).
And here was the second revelation: I don't want complexity, but I do want detail. When I play my SF game I do want to know the make, model and relative effectiveness of this laser rifle over that laser carbine. Detail. But not complexity.

That's why Traveller5 has me rolling my eyes. Lots of details (yes!) but 650+ pages of rules... and no standard equipment list (ouch!).

My Rules
That brings us up to this morning. This was the morning I (finally) got around to activating and setting up my Google Drive. It's also when I discovered what old Google Docs were stored in my Google Drive. Here comes revelation three.

Hidden in a folder on my Google Drive are a set of draft rules from 2010. They are the first draft of my "Alpha RPG" rules which, at the time, were being developed for the Dark Reich setting.

Finding these rules was the revelation. It led me to think about my other four attempts at writing my own system.

First, in 2004, was the d12-driven Engine12... which got bashed into a cowardly sub-version called Engine 6. I chickened because I didn't think that anyone wanted to play with d12s. I also got fed up with writing a very long skill list.

Then came Mission Team. This was a kind of RPG skirmish game. Very slick idea... but frustrating because I bound myself to the d6 and couldn't get a big enough range of modifiers to make long-term development of heroes taste right. Version two tried a d8... but I dropped the project because I felt people wouldn't play with a d8. Gutless, right?

Another d6-based system actually got playtested with the Friday Night Group just prior to our playtest with Warhammer FRPG 2nd Edition. It got pushed onto the back burner because we moved on as a group... despite having some very promising ideas.

Then, in 2010, I bit the bullet again and started to work on Alpha. We actually enjoyed a session of playtest with that too... only I lost the most recent files when the wiki it was stored on crashed. I assumed it was all gone and didn't have the heart to try and recreate it. Until today.

It turns out that all my old work has not been rendered photons.

What Conclusions?

Maybe it's time to (finally) write my system. Maybe not.
It's certainly time to figure out where I want to take my hobby.

It has been over 7 weeks since we last played on a Friday. I'm desperate for a game... and very much losing focus. 

On the one hand, I have a Rolemaster game to pick up and play; nothing wrong with that. On the other hand I have an SF setting we're building (currently using Fate); nowt wrong with that either.

Yet my heart wants to write. Create. Build. Mould. Produce. Play.

What do you think? Is it time to write Beta?


Labels: , , , ,

4 Comments:

At 13 January 2013 at 19:18 , Blogger Precinct Omega said...

I love d12s. In fact, most of the One Pound Wargames, from Precinct Omega will use them (and the first publication, MechaWar, doesn't seem to have struggled for sales on the back of it.

That said, I tend to find myself firmly, as a GM and game designer, on the "less complexity AND detail" side of things. I tend to see detail as something that should be embedded in a setting rather than in the rules. Thus, I prefer it to be player-driven.

 
At 13 January 2013 at 20:36 , Blogger Che Webster said...

Yeah, I guess detail is setting-driven. Can't deny that easily. That implies a system and setting are separate entities in many ways.
You seem to favour player-driven setting design, from what you say above. My thinking doesn't deny that... Just admitting that I like my detail when I play.

 
At 14 January 2013 at 00:58 , Blogger Swelter said...

I find myself really interested in settings more than systems. That said setting-less systems or system-less settings seem to be difficult. Generic systems have a lot of inherent fuzziness that complicates things while generic settings often require additional setting specific rules to address things important only to the setting. Systems influence settings and settings modify or influence systems.


I do find myself drawn to descriptive stats rather than numeric ones. Poor, average, good, excellent, amazing, etc... even if the name conceals a numeric base it just seems to help define and limit the attribute.

I do love detail in a setting yummmm!

"Wow that DAHL Viper Mk. VI is DAHLICIOUS! and finally fixes the feed heat issue that peaked with the old MK V which was junk compared to the classic MK III... (Unless you're talking about the MK. Vc which was inspired... but HUGE!"

 
At 16 January 2013 at 00:01 , Blogger Wolfchild said...

I really don't see the fuss over getting others to use dice beyond the ol' d6.
Surely folks just use different dice. If it fits the build ur using then surely its the right dice?
Personally I don't particularly like d100, but anything with a bell curve works. I guess ur choice and number of dice just changes the shape of that curve to what u need.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home