UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams

UbiquitousRat's Roleplaying Dreams: October 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Little Pot of Randomness

Over the past fortnight, I've been pingling around with a number of different RPGs. While musing and mulling over thoughts relating to our own home-brew system, UbiquitousRPG, I've been delving into a few designs by other people.

What I found has revealed a few things that might be worth mentioning...

Logic Fail

So, I've been reading "Rifts" by Palladium Books. What an awesome setting... and a nightmare book to navigate. It's so badly organised that I've posted to their forums to ask another person to teach me how to play. 

But it's so lush a setting!

The temptation, of course, is to hack the game to a system we know how to play. Along the way, a hack lets me fiddle with and personalise the setting too. And yet...

The problem with the Rifts book is this: it's not written in a logical (at least to my mind) order. Character Creation starts on page 297 of a 375 page book. The O.C.C. (think character class) templates start on page 42. Somewhere between are the core rules. It's all over the place!

Solution 1: Re-write the book and put it in order.
Solution 2: Get someone to help de-code it all. 
Solution 3: Give up and play something else.
I bet most people would choose Option 3.

Learning Point: Figure out the best order to introduce a new player or reader (even and experienced GM) to your setting and system. Genius setting won't be enough if your game is impenetrable. 

And it's not like I'm a newbie to roleplaying games.

Which got me thinking...

...about why I persevere with reading so many games, even when I probably won't play them.

I'm absorbing them. Like some kind of Gelatinous Cube of the gaming 'verse, I am simply sidling up to each game world and system, enveloping it with my mind, and absorbing the goodness... excreting the crud.

Learning Point: Some gamers (like me) are collecting and sifting to fuel their own creations. 

Yes, I want to play in a fantasy apocalyptic world. No, I don't want to play Rifts... not exactly. I want to understand the system so I can appreciate the setting. Then I am going to run my own version of Rifts like a kind of Burger King-esque fanatic "doing it my own way".

90% of games I buy are food. 5% are tempting. 5% get played.

...and led to some thoughts for my own design...

Keven Siembieda, the author of Rifts, is a self-declared expert in writing games. To be honest, he's got a lot of successes to crow about, so I'm willing to agree that he's a bit of a gaming wizard. 

One of the things he talks about in the early pages of the book, however, is the reason why he wrote his own games. In short, he wanted one system for all the settings. This is a goal I can relate to.

Learning Point: I am sick and tired of learning new systems for each setting I play.

That's why games like GURPS, Fate, Cortex Plus, and Rifts appeal to me. That's why I am engaged in developing my own adaptable system for many settings.

I wonder how many long-term roleplayers have that same thought. It seems to contradict with the Gelatinous Cube of game reading... but explains the relatively few systems that actually get played. 

What might that suggest? What does it mean? 

One thing Brian Jamison mentions in his seminal book, Gamemastering, is that he only ever uses his own system. It's a home-brew engine that he just adjusts to fit whatever setting the players throw at him. That was largely what inspired (again) the shift to designing UbiquitousRPG

Is that something that, as a GM, we should aspire to? I'm not sure... mostly because "one size fits all" is a pile of Bantha doodo. But I wonder.

Ramble on, fellow gamer, ramble on...


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Star Wars: Edge of the Empire

This weekend, having left the book on my reading pile for months, I finally took the time to take a look at Fantasy Flight Games' Star Wars: Edge of the Empire.

My usual approach to new games is to browse through the introduction and then design a character. Having already played the system, using the excellent Introductory Game, I was able to jump in and do just that.

What I have found was... very encouraging.

Fringers, one and all...

The first thing to say is that this incarnation of the Star Wars RPG is focused on the thing that I love most about the whole setting: edgy fringers clinging on for dear life in a hostile universe.

This isn't a Jedi game, like the Saga Edition, and it's grittier than the old d6 version. It's also designed to encourage story-telling and cinematic action, despite the funny dice. 

In an hour, working from scratch and reading the rules as I went, I was able to come up with my very own Star Wars character... and it was pretty straight-forward to customise him to my taste too.

Careers and Specialisations

What I particularly liked was the way in which you pick an archetypal Career for your hero and then get to choose one (or more) Specialisations - easily thought of as "the job you do right now" - to fit your concept. 

I've chosen to build a thief - a kind of ex-ganger who steals for a living. That made him a pretty good fit for a Smuggler with the Thief specialisation. What is neat is that the game gives you lots of cool choices to make your hero your own, whilst retaining a template-building system.


Of all the things that I like about this game, however, by far the best is the system for Obligation. Basically, everyone owes someone for something... and your obligations can get you into trouble. This wonderfully emulates the kind of things that come up in the Star Wars movie - think of Han getting a "talking to" from Jabba, all because Han owes the Hutt a dropped cargo, and you've got the idea.

My hero betrayed his gang boss and had to flee Coroscant, stowing away in the smuggling compartments of a friend's freighter. He owes his friend and he may have to face the consequences of his betrayal. Both of these past events might rear their heads during the campaign. It's a neat system to encourage some cool background stories... and include the past in the present action.

Getting a Game

The only barrier to a game will be, as mentioned last week, persuading players to take an interlude and try a session. With all the games vying for my attention, including Shadowrun5, this game is going to have to wait in line. And yet... it's really slick, neat and very atmospheric. It leaves me itching to play it now.

Game on!

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Sunday, 6 October 2013


This week has been an eye-opener in relation to a setting that I have, until now, never really got into: Shadowrun.

Harebrained Schemes have created a surprisingly entertaining game, Shadowrun Returns, which I got playing this week. Admittedly, I'm playing the iOS version (which only has one campaign and no editor)... but it has been cracking fun!

Sitting on my shelf for the last month or so has been the Shadowrun5 rulebook. This tome is beautiful and seems very complete, if a bit arcane in some ways. Using the Quickstart Rules (link above), however, you get to use some pre-generated Shadowrunners and push yourself through an example encounter.

These two elements, Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun5, have me itching to investigate the game further. Although set in different period of the Sixth World history, each has drawn me deeper into the techno-fantasy that is Shadowrun. I know the teen players at the school would love it... and I'm pretty sure the home group guys would enjoy it too.

So... what to do about it?

As with all new games, I need to have a run-through. Quickstart characters, short mission, and some willing victims  friends. But I also need to consider what a break from the main action of our existing campaigns might mean.

How do you handle the desire to try something new? Do you break from a campaign... or set up a one-off game day... or do something else?

Right now, I'd appreciate some advice.
Game on?

P.S.: Have you seen the promo vid?

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