RPGs from Scratch Discussion
July 6, 2016 at 6:05 pm #53481
There is no forum for this so I’ve made the topic here. Discuss:
(I’ll have my own things to say once I’ve finished actually listening to the first episode, but I’m pretty confident I’ll have some things to say.)
Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!July 6, 2016 at 8:44 pm #53482
This is how the podcast starts off so it seems like a pretty natural place to start talking as well. My RPG experience is pretty broad but not necessarily very deep outside of a few games. I started playing Pen and Paper games at a very young age with AD&D, when my dad and his friends would play and my brother and I would sit in on their games. My dad would eventually try to run some games for us, but we were too young to really understand what we were doing and they never got very far.
What I’ve played more than anything else was 3.X, which I played quite a lot in high school with my friends. However I’ve also had brief stints at Pathfinder, D&D 4E, D20 Modern, L5R, Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia and probably a few other systems I’ve forgotten. Suffice it to say, I have experience with quite a lot of different systems.
As some people on this forum may remember, I also put some work into designing my own Tabletop RPG (check it out here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B6aYBDizVfY2SHpUUVRPX3ZyRUE ). I never quite got that one off the ground, but I had originally envisioned it as a sort of open-source game system hosted using wiki power.
Okay, credits over. The first thing that stood out to me from within this first episode was the progress system that was discussed. Hero Points, or Momentum Points, or whatever you want to call them. I think using progression as a resource for things like not dying or rerolling/modifying rolls is a great idea. However, something to keep in mind is that there is no functional different from XP. It makes sense if you want to use a different term to distance yourself from preconceptions people may have, but it is really a new name for the same concept.
Another thing, you mentioned considering a system where you add more dice to roll over time. I am a fan of this sort of mechanic and have experimented with it myself, but because of that I also know from that experience that it can be hard to actually balance that with other factors. Too large a die and a character who has more dice will quickly overwhelm a character with fewer. Too many dice and numbers start to hit closer to the averages more often, which can be an issue if you want big hits and big misses. Similarly, if you want to use a critical success/failure mechanic, it is tricky to determine the actual qualifications for that critical success or failure.
Last of all, since you didn’t get into it, could you elaborate on *why* you want to play on a grid? I think the answer to that question might be very informative into the sort of system you are actually trying to create.
Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!July 7, 2016 at 1:48 pm #53494
Hi, Kaosubaloo. Thanks for your feedback!
As for XP and Momentum having no functional difference, I’m not sure what you mean. They are both progression mechanics, but the Momentum system has far more in common with the Brownie Point system of the one used in GBR than it does with D&D’s Experience Points. It has some overlap, but in this episode and those upcoming, the differences are enumerated. Perhaps you think that the differences aren’t significant enough to have its own terminology, and that may be a valid consideration. However, because we have removed the idea of “leveling up” in the classic D&D and Video Game sense of the term, we feel that a change in terminology is appropriate to avoid confusion or conflation with other systems. I’m wagering that it will make the transition both to and from our system easier.
As for why we want to play on a grid, that’s an easy one. We like the tactical-style of gameplay that we’ve experienced in the past, notably from D&D 4th Edition, Final Fantasy Tactics, and classic boardgames like Chess. There are other systems that don’t focus on that which we enjoy, AND we would eventually like this system to have some footnotes to allow for play without a mat, but when starting from the ground-up, we believe that that kind of laser-focus on specific mechanics will aid design in the end.
I really appreciate you engaging with us on this. There are a lot of questions I’m sure we haven’t even thought to ask ourselves that can only make the end result better. Thank you for opening this line of discussion.July 7, 2016 at 3:34 pm #53496
I will almost always prefer to play on a grid or have some sort of battle map as a guide. Having it spread out in front of you takes the pressure off remembering where every enemy is and allows you to work together with companions more efficiently.
I never take the gloves offJuly 7, 2016 at 8:36 pm #53500
Im hoping momentum will add a role play element that xp hasnt. Players earn it and can spend it on furthering the game.July 8, 2016 at 12:11 pm #53505
This sort of thing is actually why I asked. Wanting the tactical aspect a grid can provide is a valid enough reason to have it. However, if your goal was only to keep track of the characters, there are ways other than a grid with which that can be done. You could play Warhammer style where you measure out distances, or you could further abstract an area. A grid is not the only way to play an RPG and I’m interested in seeing you experiment with new ideas as well as old ones.
Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!July 8, 2016 at 4:50 pm #53507
As a recovering warhammer player I shudder at the mention of rulers or personal tape measurers. A grid is a simple visual way to see the battlefield.
However, I see your point. We are making a new system and to limit ourselves to a grid goes against what we are doing.July 9, 2016 at 2:45 am #53508
My RPG experience started later in college with DnD 4.0(player), Whitewolf’s Mage the Awakening(player), Dresden Files(FATE system, player), Pokemon Tabletop Adventures(DM), Ghost busters(DM), Starwars Saga(player), Dnd 3.5(player), Atomic Robo(FATE, player), and one of the newer star wars(player). The system I’ve gone deepest into is FATE and its one of my favorites.
I would actually suggest a ruler system provided that you suggest that players and DM can fudge distances slightly. My room mate is running a couple of DnD 5.0 games with that mechanic and he says its pretty intuitive and easy provided that you don’t stress out if something is a little bit off. If a player needs an extra quarter of an inch to do what they want let them. You get a lot of the tactical elements from a grid or hex system but it can be faster and more intuitive with a guide stick.
I’m not a big fan of the d20. As a player and often as a DM I find its easier to parse larger delineations of skill. If you ask a player how good they are at a task on a scale of 1 to 20, the difference between 10 and 11 isn’t as significant as the difference between 5 and 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. It also makes situational skills more meaningful.
In terms of character progression, one of my favorite trends in RPG’s is asking players not to spend points on some of their abilities/skills/feats until they actually need them. Having players hold one or more of their character progression options in reserve until they need it can really help with adjusting the party balance as needed and it tends to guarantee that the selected skill is useful at least once. Another nice trick I’ve seen is having certain small milestones where characters and rearrange one or more of their skills or stats, either because their character has changed via roleplaying, or because they aren’t getting any use out of one of the skills they had previously purchased.
garayurcosplay.tumblr.comJuly 10, 2016 at 1:47 am #53511
In regards to the momentum mechanic, if a player gains and maintains a lot of momentum during a match, could there be an “On Fire” bonus or perk for that accomplishment? Kind of like how Overwatch implies being on fire, but I guess the NBA Jam comparison is also valid.July 10, 2016 at 10:36 am #53512
What do I know of Overwatch but any time we can add more NBA Jam elements into our game please let us know. I dont think the other guys would let me add a big head spell.July 18, 2016 at 5:52 pm #53584
My RPG experience is varied. I started with D&D 4E when I was 20. Since then I’ve played Hackmaster Basic (one session, player), World of Darkness (one session, player), Pathfinder (about 20 sessions, player), Star Wars D6 (4-5 session, player), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Stragness (misspelling intentional) (2 sessions, player), Shadowrun 3E (many sessions, player), Shadowrun 4E (many sessions, player) and Shadowrun 5E (many sessions, gamemaster).
When you guys were talking about wanting the skill system to be open ended, I was strongly reminded of how Shadowrun’s skill system is and think something similar may work. For those of you who don’t know, Shadowrun is a D6 system. How their skills work is you have a skill rating (up to 6) and an attribute (rating up to 12) that goes with that skill. You roll a number of dice equal to Skill plus Attribute, count the number of “successes” (dice that rolled 5 or 6) and compare it to the target number (either a set number or a counter-roll). You also have to keep track of the dice that roll as 1. If you roll half or more of the dice as 1 with any number of successes, you “glitch” meaning even if you succeed, something happens that makes things difficult (example: you go to fire your gun and the magazine ejects). If you have half or more of the dice as 1 and NO successes, you “critically glitch” which could be life threatening. (example: You go to fire your gun and the gun explodes in your hand).
The skills themselves are extensive, but even the rulebook admits they are not exhaustive. They are also not class-locked or path-locked as Shadowrun has no real class system per se. They cover A LOT of skills, skill groups, and specializations for skills but if you encounter a skill you want that isn’t covered in anyway by the skills given, the rulebook encourages working with the GM to create a new skill that would let you do what you are trying to do.
I hope this helps, guys, and I look forward to listening to more episodes of this show. 😀
PSN name: Wolfboy1988
Steam name: LG//Wolfboy1988m
Let's play some games sometime!July 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm #53600
I started playing with 4th edition, and I was attracted to it as a tool for developing characters I could draw more than actually wanting to Role Play. Talking about a class-less system is a thing that doesn’t appeal to me, because when I look at classes, I see a framework for progression, not a limiter to creativity. Invariably when I am presented with an open-ended skill tree, what I end up with is a diluted character that lacks focus and is sort of generally not good at anything instead of being good at most things (which is the dream for that kind of system). It is my belief that the general Difficulty Inflation that happens with characters that traditionally level are part of this problem, so a level-less, class-less system may be the answer; but at that point are you just having an Improv Jam instead of an actual Game Session?
Momentum sounds pretty neat; whatever you do, I would try to retain the fun of rolling both critical hits and critical failures. I think it may be fun to borrow the “roll doubles a third time and go to jail” thing Monopoly does to curb somebody on a streak, but maybe also do a “fail so epic, it might be a win” situation for a string of terrible rolls.July 19, 2016 at 4:30 pm #53607
New episode is out and I have a lot of stuff to comment on! Let’s go through them all in order:
Elves and Dwarves and other Humanoids:
My preferred take on these guys is to treat them as divergent evolutions to Humans. Historically speaking, real life humans have extremely little genetic diversity because we as a species almost went extinct thousands of years ago. Whether or not this is actually true, I like to think that, if that wasn’t the case, then greater diversity would have naturally lent itself to greater regional differences between populations.
Other than that, I think it’s important to make a distinction between a cultural characteristic and a racial one. However, a big part of this is also world building.
I tend to agree that alignment, as it is usually presented, is pretty unnecessary. It is first and foremost a tool for characterization, but there are better mechanics for that purpose where mechanics are needed at all. Something related that I wanted to experiment with in Shards was, instead of good and evil, to track fame and infamy. Regardless of the actual circumstances of an event, news of your deeds spreads around and people react to them accordingly. It need not be complicated, but it is something that forces players to think about the consequences of their actions without forcing all of the baggage of an alignment system down their throats.
I like the term “Quip”, personally, but this actually strikes me as a very good idea. I may steal it for shard. XD
I am not a fan of initiative myself. One of my goals with Shards was to have a system that could work in a play by post format, for which classical initiative is extremely bad. The answer I arrived at was simply to throw it out entirely and have everyone in an encounter take their actions at the same time. I’m quite happy with my solution, but this is also one of those places where I think a little more exploration is called for. classic initiative is so ubiquitous in tabletop RGPs that I suspect most authors don’t even consider alternatives. It very much strikes me as one of those things that people assume will work in a certain way without ever stating as such.
Multiple Boss Actions:
I also really like this idea, but I can’t say I’m going to steal it because I thought up my own version. I like the idea of characters, as well as creatures, gaining more actions as they grow more powerful. The real advantage of this sort of system, as I see it, is that it lets you better use casting time as a balancing knob. If you gain more actions as you grow stronger, skills which take a while to cast will also naturally become faster.
I’m not sure it’s suitable to the game that you want to make, but it’s food for thought.
Paths, Classes and Character Advancement:
I feel like I’m pimping my own project, but I would really recommend looking at the classette system from the previous version of shards, as I was trying to do something very similar with it as what you seem to be trying to do with your character paths. I eventually came to the conclusion that I would prefer incremental advancement and turned to something of a point-buy system, but before that I had a sort of Build-A-class system in which you picked several per-defined pieces and put them together. For more of this mechanic (and indeed where I got the idea from in the first place) I would recommend checking out Legend as well.
Last of all, I’d like to bring up a common division point in Tabletop games: simulation versus abstraction. You haven’t really addressed this directly, but I think it is actually a very important factor to be conscious of when designing a system.
Some players want to play a system that simulates the real world, or a magical facsimile of the real world, as accurately as possible. D&D before 4E, for instance was heavily skewed towards simulation. However, some players would rather focus on the experience. They would prioritize interesting and fun mechanics, and ones that have greater ease of use, over realistic ones. I personally fall into this camp and something like Exalted or Paranoia would be a decent example of this.
Either methodology is wrong and which you prefer comes down mostly to personal taste. However, when designing a system, it’s important to know where on the spectrum you want to be. If you don’t have a clear picture of how much simulation or abstraction is too much, you can easily end up in a situation where the levels of simulation and abstraction within your mechanics do not mesh with one another. If you want to focus on gameplay or accuracy then it’s important to stop yourself from letting any particular mechanic from becoming too complicated in the interest of realism. Conversely, if you want something to be accuracy, then you need to find a way to make it accuracy while still being fun. In either case, being able to identify systems that don’t need a lot of complexity is important, as going after those mechanics will allow you to improve ease of play.
Guess who, it's Kaosubaloo!July 20, 2016 at 9:22 am #53632
I have what I hope is seen as constructive criticism of the design process: Here in the second episode, I had the disappointing notion that you guys are kind of not really designing a system from scratch, but defining a set of houserules for 4th edition D&D. I can think of some reasons why that might be (D&D 4thEd was heavily playtested by a relatively large team of professional designers for a long time, so it’s going to be largely “good,” it sounds like you guys have spent a lot of formative RPG time playing it which is going to naturally make it the touchstone for your ideas, etc), and in an of itself that’s fine, just not quite what I was expecting after the pitch in the first episode. In this episode, the conversation seemed to take for granted 4th Edition combat ideas and concepts as starting points, and then little tweaks would be made from there; things that were often as simple as just coming up with a name you liked better for what was mechanically the same thing as where you started.
Designing game mechanics can (and arguably should) be done completely independently of fiction or settings. Your story idea is not in an of itself a “game.” The “game” of a tabletop is the set of inputs the players have at their disposal that allows them to interact with your story. When you’re designing a game, you need to come up with the Core Mechanic first, and everything else supports that. This Core Mechanic should be inherently fun, independent of how you skin it, otherwise your game will fail. The Core Mechanic of the D&D rule system is: players roll a die against a target value and attempt to meet or exceed it. Every other mechanic builds off of this. It works in every fictional aspect of D&D from combat to skill challenges to conversation. You know rolling dice against a target difficulty is fun in a fiction vacuum because Las Vegas exists. So first order of business should be: how often do we want people to roll, do we want them to roll high or low, and how often do we want them to succeed on those rolls? You’re trying to quantify fun in a way. You can (and should) tailor your mechanics to the flavor, but only after you are sure the foundation is solid. Look at supplemental mechanics as variables in the fun equation: I roll a die, compare my result to a metric, and some percentage of the time I succeed. The rest of the rule system involves playing with the variables in this equation to create situational variations on it. Determining what the variables are, and whether or not you modify it can be a lot of fun though:
-The player- force the player to stand up, lay down, change seats, close their eyes, use a cup, roll into a box top, perform a little ritual before they do it, etc
-the die itself – side count, number of dice (1d12 or 2d6 or 3d4 etc)
-the target difficulty – moved up or down through modifiers? revealed to players before hand? situationally determined or fixed for the whole game?
-the roll result – can players see the result? is the result modified by anything? are players rewarded or penalized for any special case rolls? Are they mechanically rewarded/penalized, or physically (change seats, take a drink, etc)?
The process of designing anything should start with a Razor Statement and Tone Words. The Razor Statement is going to be a single sentence that everything in your game must meet, other wise you cut it. The Tone Words should be three words that everything in your game should largely adhere to. Try to make these things useful, and be diligent about applying them to your process, and you will have a tight finished product. I worked under Rick Hall, who was a producer on Ultima Online among other things, and he in his book on game design describes razor statements thusly:
A razor statement establishes the project vision. It is a single, simple declaration that epitomizes the essence of the game. It’s not a catchy slogan or a marketing tag line. It is a functional tool for aligning the development team. It is meaningful and descriptive, clear yet concise, and intended to set the project focus. It is not intended to give precise information about design details, but rather to provide high-level direction. Let’s look at a few examples:
Good Razor statements:
·This game is about lightning-fast, tactical combat in a politically charged cyberpunk universe.
·The movie Wall Street meets the game Railroad Tycoon in the 22nd century.
·Strategic decision making in a humorous, Looney Tunes version of an urban singles club.
·Accumulating reputation and star status in a predatory Hollywood atmosphere.
Bad razor statements:
·Become a hero in a medieval fantasy world.
·Build the greatest MMOG ever.
·Create a world where vampires and vampire hunters engage each other in a series of dramatic confrontations, with one side armed with supernatural skills and abilities, and the othe rside armed with numerical superiority and a variety of classic anti-vampire weapons.
·An MMOFPS set in the universe of the movie Pitch Black
You can read the full excerpt here (it’s an older book, but this part is solid and holds up).
Anyway, my Tl;Dr is maybe take a step back from the fiction and figure out where the fun is in your game, then apply whatever story you want to it. Decide if what you want to do is streamline a system you already like most of or start from scratch, and then commit to that.July 20, 2016 at 11:31 am #53634
I like that skill system as well, and it’s very reminiscent of my experience with the oWoD system from White Wolf. My only gripe at the time was the sheer number of dice required. Thanks for the input!
You raise a lot of valid criticisms, so I’ll address a couple of them here. Some I need to consider further.
As far as whether the “from scratch” is deserved in the title, I had imagined that we were creating a system that, by the end, would be made from scratch in the same way that Tesla Motors has made the Model S. It is a unique vehicle that came from their attempt to combine currently existing but disparate ideas. They knew from the start that they had to make something that followed certain established guidelines that existed for cars, because that is the domain they wanted the final product to fall under. They probably initially just stole attributes from cars whose virtues mirrored their imagined end result, like the Porsche Panamera. They based their critiques on how well it drove based on their life experience from driving enjoyable cars. Once they settled on that idea, however, the problems and opportunities presented by powering it electrically caused iterative design changes that make the vehicle both entirely original AND familiar. It is still a four-door luxury sedan that still adheres to convention and requires only minor changes to existing infrastructure. We would love our system (when complete) to deviate at least this far. What you’re hearing now is our boardroom phase, where we’re deciding on what we think we want. I hope this analogy serves.
As for our project vision, I take this criticism seriously, and it’s eye opening that we missed a real opportunity. The razor statements and tone words (the ideas, at least. I didn’t know these terms before you explained them) were exchanged between myself and the group long before we started recording. They were what I used to convince them that this podcast and the potential system was worthwhile to make. I agree that I think the podcast is poorer for excluding that conversation. I hope that once this system is ready, that I’ll have the foresight and hindsight to include them at the beginning of our next RPG.
Again, we really appreciate this kind of feedback. It really helps us to think laterally.
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