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?
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.
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.
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!).
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
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.
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: musings, news, roleplaying, rules, writing