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A geek post, in two parts.


I'm signed up to run No Higher Authority at ACUS again this year.

I've been toying with the idea of running another game, based on some dreams I had a while back. The basic idea is a world with secret organisations of mildly super powered individuals built on 0-5 points in ADRPG style, running around grabbing for power. I have some basic plot ideas that I could probably run with, but I'm not sure I want to put in the work to present the game well before the deadline next week. I'm a little gunshy after having had at least one game cancelled at every con I've tried to run games, and like to have a website up explaining the idea behind a game. I suppose if it seems that the con is *really* short on games, I'll sneak this one in.

Fantasy gaming

Fantasy is perhaps the most well-mined genre in role-playing, and I'm not immune to it's lure. However, I find Dungeons and Dragons games don't generally, scratch my gaming itch properly. The system encourages the sorts of things that I don't take much pleasure in (long combats that involve a lot of number crunching, for example). I like my games to have more story and character development and less number crunching. This is a big reason why I tend to prefer diceless games. It's possible to get what I want from diced games, but the heavier mechanics tend to be geared towards rewarding the stuff I find boring.

I haven't been gaming much in the past year or two, outside of cons, and I'm feeling the itch again. I don't think I'm likely to find a group of people with congruent patches of free time who also agree with my goals, so this is mostly to generate discussion.

So, what exactly do I want out of a fantasy game?

I want the reward system to be untied from combat. This means that advancement isn't based on killing monsters. The reason I want this is that far too much time in games is spent looking for random monsters to kill to "level up" and find treasure - that's what the reward system encourages, so GMs need to schedule half of each session for combat, since otherwise, the players receive no in-system reward for the session. I prefer, at a minimum, to have rewards be based on player-derived story goals. I'm more tempted to just say "every session, each player gets X advancement units". Ever-increasing power levels are a definite theme in popular fantasy literature, so I feel that the games need to include that part. I'm just not sure that there needs to be a reward mechanic to fill that need. I prefer a character/story based game, so for me, the big motivator is getting my character into interesting situations, and pursuing the goals of my PC (from concrete power-based things like "learn X power" or "become king of $FOO" to more story-based things like "explore romance with $NPC"). The reward for excelling at these things is self-evident - when I work at my character's goals and story, those things become a bigger part of the game, and I get what I want. No mechanic needed.

I also want a setting that's participatory. When I really get into a game, I like to develop a lot of back story, supporting art, culture, etc. for my character. If I'm playing an elf, I want to have input into what elves are like in the game world. I'm just obessive-compulsive that way. As a GM, I find if I put in heavily developed weirdness (like races or classes not found in D&D), it's hard to get players interested in them at the outset, mostly because unlike various fantasy franchise games, I don't have a body of supporting literature and art to draw them into my headspace. My theory is that by opening things up, and letting the players define these things for themselves, a rich setting will grow organically around the players and what they want. As a GM, I could just fill in the blanks and build the story around the framework my players define.

Mechanically, to support the kind of things I want, I need the character generation system to be open and flexible - I dislike the race/class boxes in D&D, because they constrain character concepts. I find when I first meet a game, I spend time making characters to see what the rules turn out. My favourite systems are the ones where I can come up with a character idea, then just pick out the rules to support it, rather than starting from the rules, and seeing what I can do with the set of options. Of the systems I've played with, I like the newer iterations of Guardians of Order's TriStat I haven't run into anything I can't build with their system yet, and the actual game play can be done pretty loosely without falling apart. I hate randomness in character generation, and haven't met a non-points based chargen system that I've been happy with.

I'm also fond of providing a mechanic for allowing the players (as opposed to the characters) to influence the story - I've done some experimenting with giving out "story points" that players can spend to change details of the plot or setting on the fly. I'm a little concerned that it could end up making the game too "soap opera" in the long run.

Also, GIP.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2006 07:46 am (UTC)
I find I like Diceless more when I run games. This is mostly due to my laziness though, I can't stand when gaes are more complicated then they have to be. It's like ShadowRun, I'm reading through it now and it seems to have 4 different rules sets for combat: Magic, Physical, Astral, and Computer. Why can't it just be 1 set of rules. Blah I say. Blah!

While we're on the subject of lazy Bastards do you wanna run a game with me at ACUS? I was thinking something easy, like we odify rules already in exsistence and run a world from another RPG. Maybe After the Bomb, or ShadowRun. Or if we want to be really lazy All Flesh Must Be Eaten, which comes with diceless rules already. I just don't feel like running two games by myself.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 10th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)
Re: The Shadows of Yesterday
Hmm. Not bad, though I'd prefer more crunch on the char gen side and less on the play side.
Jan. 8th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
Dude you should totally join my D&D game when I start running it this summer (after I move to and settle into my place on a TTC Subway line). I'm much more free formed when it comes to combat. Yeah you have to role attacks and stuff, but I allow more Feng Shui like bonuses for good description. Also combat ends when I get bored with it.

As for rewards I have a table with column headers labelled thus;

Kills, Good Role-playing, Clues Uncovered, Plot Advanced, Made GM Laugh

Every time one of these events happens I put a tick in the column for that player. At the end of the session I add up the ticks and use that as a multiplier for exp. That way if there are two players who both participated in combat, but one role-played at the same time he'll get twice the exp as the other.

Also the world will be one that I created so if you want to have a background in something I haven't developed it'll be exactly what you want.

I've already started some prep work for this. I can't wait for the summer.
Jan. 10th, 2006 03:35 am (UTC)
I'll definitely play, and enjoy myself. However, the nature of D&D means it's necessarily going to be a compromise on my itch scratchin'
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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