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#RPGTheoryJuly 2nd – Inclusion

My attitude to game rules is definitely less is more. When you add social inclusion into the mix then I think the less is more attitude is even more relevant. I am working on a Spacemaster retro-clone right now. In the original you had about 100 words or so to describe each profession, 700 words to describe each culture and 400 words to describe each race. When trying to fill that much content you end up with phrases like this:

…and there you have the immediate reinforcement of very traditional stereotypes.

Skip forward 40 years and White Star, which I am using as the source material for my retro-clone uses just 80 words for race, culture and profession. Just enough information for you to know the ‘spirit of the profession’. What you want to do with it is entirely up to you.

It is almost as if the old designers set themselves a word count target and then struggled to fill the quote. Before you know it you are thinking “We can make these a bit xenophobic, and these a bit nazi and these can be communists.”

If you just cut all of that out and leave it to the GM and players they can make a game that works for them. In my retro-clone version I have simply dumped all of the 1980s cliches and gone with the White Star minimalist approach. The only differences are that White Star ties race/species to specific professions whereas I have said that anyone can do anything. The second change is that I have included the rules for how to create a new species, culture and profession.

I have included three to six full examples of each so the game is playable ‘out of the box’ but the intention is that the players and GM will make their own universe. As the same rules are applied to every species, every culture and every profession they are all going to be equal. The deciding factor is what you want to do with your game. I will not prescribe anything or tell you how I think your universe should work. By ruling nothing out I am, by extension ruling everything in if you want to add it.

I think the conclusion is that if game designers cannot think of anything more useful to say, stop typing and don’t try to fill the white space. In the physical world you would say if you find yourself stuck in a hole, stop digging.

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#RPGTheoryJuly Role Play

My core activity in RPG publishing is as a publisher of solo rules. In addition to standalone solo rules supplements, every game I produce comes with solo rules built in. Way too many role playing games get bought just to sit on a shelf because the GM cannot sell the game or the setting to their players. Games with solo rules can be tested and played regardless of your players enthusiasm.

When it comes to Role Playing Game theory removing the distinct roles of player and GM. The Threefold Model Developed by Mary Kuhner suggested that any GM decision will be made for the purpose of game, or drama, or simulation. If on the other hand the DM decisions are being made by dice rolls they are not under the influence of game, drama or simulation.

What I am not keen on is the repetition of the word simulation. No actually wants simulation in a game, what they want, I would suggest, is believability which is a different thing entirely. In a simulation the Dragon would win every time, the BBEG’s hordes would over run the world and deathstar would probably not have been destroyed.

In a believable game system on the other hand as long as the rules are consistent and have some sort of coherent relationship with that they are trying to portray then most people are happy enough. There is a whole spectrum of games with different levels of detail in portraying the game world. In some you hit and knock off some hit points and others you shatter bones and wounds bleed and people go into shock. These are still not simulations they are simply portrayals of violence.

So any theory of role playing that hinges on the DM/GM has to be inherently flawed. Any that puts its emphasis on simulation is going to equally flawed. Of all the theories listed on Wikipedia that actually appeals to me is Color Theory.

Color Theory 
Developed by Fabien Ninoles in 2002, was developed on the French createurs-jdr mailing list. It is an inheritor of SCARF theory and SCAR theory, which then interacted with English language theories. In this theory the goals of system design are thought of as the primary colors of TV light – Green for simplicity, Blue for realism, Red for consistency, with notions like adaptability, tenacity, brightness, and visibility being extensions of the metaphor.[8]

One would hope that the systems I am designing come out bright white. I have a suspicion that they may come out a bit more fuschia/purple. I definitely favour simplicity and when you only have a few rule concepts in a game you naturally get consistency. Of course I strive for realism but if there was a weak suit, this would be it.

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Timeless Roleplaying

Timeless logoTimeless is one of those Netflix Originals that really appeals to me. I used to be a fan of Quantum Leap with its kitsch “Oh Boy” catchphrase. Rather than jumping from body to body as in QL; the Timeless team jump back to key moments in US history to try and stop someone from destroying the United States as we know it.

As the season 1 unfold a greater conspiracy unfolds and the season finale ends with an excellent cliffhanger, which I will not spoil for you.

The time machine of the heroes is called the lifeboat and was the back up for the mothership. The mothership is stolen at the beginning of episode 1. The lifeboat crew are jut enough of an adventuring party to enable them to handle a really nice mix of adventures. You have a military officer, historian and a tech. Between them they have enough of a skill set to cover all bases.

This whole idea of broadbased characters is one that has never fitted well with level and profession/character class based roleplaying games. The military character is called Wyatt Logan and portrayed as being Delta Force. He has the obvious combat skills but has also displayed skill in first aid, bomb disposal, military history as well as many social skills that turn up in RPGs such as seduction, public speaking, influence and deception. Rufus Carlin is the scientist character but also a programmer/coder, driver and pilot and even turns his had to black smithing to create some copper foil to build a capacitor. What character class would he be?

The other breaking point for many games is levels. The usual progression is from less competent or ‘1st level’ characters to more experienced and more competent higher levels. The characters in Timeless were chosen as the ‘best available’. They certainly are not incompetent.

3Deep characters are ideally designed to play these kinds of roles and tell this kind of story. The characters have wide ranging skills each of which can be nuanced by changing the stat bonus applied. A Blacksmith may use his Craft skill with his strength bonus when hammering lumps of pig iron but the same skill with his empathy when creating items of elegance and beauty. Sure characters improve their skills over time but you do not have to start from a point where their first encounter is 50/50 as to whether it will wipe out the heroes!

The Lifeboat Crew in period costume with their time machine

Playing in the Timeless universe is a pretty good intro to the the 3Deep game system. You do not need to know about magic and monsters (3Deep does both with ease). All the foes to be faced are humans, particularly Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s, The British, before American Independence, and the Mexicans at the Alamo. It is always useful when the bad guys where a uniform!

If you are introducing new players to RPGs for the first time then having a rule set that you can create a character in 10 minutes and the bad guys are obvious it makes life easier! The simple self contained plot is easy to comprehend and there is no real stretch of the imagination to try and visualise orcs, goblins and beholders! (Not that you would throw a beholder at a starting party but you know what I mean!)

If you have watched the show and you want a cute little one-off adventure then why not give 3Deep a go. It is available from Amazon (print only) and RPGNow both in Print and PDF!