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...
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...