Thursday, August 30, 2012

Perfect System: Genre Matters

Yesterday's post stemmed from a friend asking me after I got done discussing the short coming in my current Dresden Files game, "So what IS your favorite gaming system?" My knee jerk response was "For what setting?"

Genre matters a great deal for me and the system. Even something as simple as the base dice mechanic, for me, changes how I perceive and internalize a game.

For example, a game that allows for "exploding" dice (such as Classic Deadlands, L5R/7th Sea, or World of Darkness) mean that every roll has a potential for extreme results. Other games, like the Cortex+ system, the results will be within a certain spectrum of results - one gets better results by adding more dice to the equation. And in D&D there's a 5% chance of rolling a 20 (the meaningfulness of which varies from rules set to rules set and table to table depending on in/formal house rules).

Similarly, a system should incorporate what it considers important into the rules. Unknown Armies has an entirely different feel to how it approaches madness than does Call of Cthulhu. Or for investigations, Gumshoe's system of spending currency to make declarations versus Wick's Houses of the Blooded where successes on a roll allow you to declare another fact to be true, even if you lost the conflict.

What does it boil down to - rules matter for creating the reality that the players create a narrative within. If the genre calls for over the top action, roof top chases, and "devil may care" antics, but the system penalizes any sort of risky maneuver with penalties, then there is a disconnect; or on the other side, if you are seeking to play grim, dark horror that leaves the players/characters feeling alone and in the dark; however, the dice allow for amazing swings of luck, or some other mechanic that allow them to pervert the threads of doom (chips from Deadlands) then you remove some of the horror because you provide a way out.

So why am I pondering all this? For the usual reasons - my life is slowing down enough so I'm playing with developing a game system. But I'll be honest - I'm more of a heavy adapter than a creator of new stuff. Take some stuff from this game, take some stuff from that game, take some of my own "What do I want" from my own attempts and piece it all together.

Right now there are two genre occupying my mental design space. The first is a more classical fantasy game that is designed around how I tend to run games - heavy on the every day, social activities, a fair bit of investigation, with violence not too common. Mostly, I want this game to be about using what drives a person for and against them. I want determining their motivations to be an important part, and figuring out how to use it against them to be even more critical in the success of plans. However, I want it to laid over a fairly traditional looking system of attributes and abilities. This game I'd want to support my more traditional longer running arcs and stories and allow for more growth and change in the characters. My current version is using Cortex+ as its inspiration. The core questions I'd want to ask here is "What drives you to succeed?"

The second one is far less developed, but it is all due to an actual play podcast of a Mass Effect game. The game itself uses the World of Darkness as a backbone, but I look at the idea of running short 2-3 session arcs that have clear mission format and want to play around with that concept. I'm still not sure what questions I want to ask here for the system, perhaps it is the home for my nascent idea of "What are you willing to risk to succeed?" I'd want something quick to generate pools of dice to roll to maintain the kinetic nature of the game, as well as something that allows for more differences in tools (i.e., weapons, armor, and other tools have more of an effect on the game play than I normally care about).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What is the "perfect" game system?

I've been trying to answer the question "what is my perfect game system" for years. And I keep failing to find one or develop one for myself. But I was asked again recently and figured I'd actually write it out. All thoughts, statements, what-have-you, discussed here can be assumed to be prefaced with a "for me" as there's no perfect for all people system.

This got long.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gaming Podcasts?

I need more gaming podcasts.

Why? Because I've finally found a situation in which I'll listen to them - at work. For some reason, I don't get annoyed at them at work versus at home, or in the car.

Right now I'm listing to a U.K.'s gaming table play a home brew of Mass Effect campaign. And it has me itching to play in that world, enough that I'm being tempted to play the video games, which I've tried and failed at before.

So does anyone out there have any good gaming-focused podcasts? Less so rambling, and more focused on either playing at the table or focused discussions?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rambling and Pondering on Stunts

Normally I'd apologize for two months of silence, but I've been busy with family (a couple of birthdays) and focusing on other areas of my life. Good stuff, but it has kept me busy.

But I have been gaming. The Deadlands game run by a good friend of mine is still going like gangbusters as we are coming closer to resolving a/the major storyline. My huckster is doing fine for all that he's grappling with what might be something beyond mere lust, and the fact that he may have a demon living inside of him.

The same friend is trying to start an Eclipse Phase (well the bare bones of the setting) game, set pre-Fall, and it is going to be a Leverage/Ocean's 11 style crime game; what should be folks used to living in the grey areas of the law doing good things for good people.

I'm looking forward to the game, now that character creation is over. It was painful. So many points to spend and variable rates of costs. Just so painful. I transferred to a spreadsheet generator and discovered I had another 100 points to spend. Whoops.

The other thing that struck me was how you differentiated characters - skills, advantages, flaws, and equipment. I just kept looking for "stunts" or something similar to change how I use "guns" versus how this other guy uses "guns".

And as I get settled into my job (gee only took almost 6 months), I find myself playing around with system creation more and the idea of modifying or creating something useful for my table. Something that works well with what I want to do, and encourages people to play in the way that I want them to play at my table. Something that rewards a character having motivations and connections to the world around them. I'm no Rob Donoghue, but luckily I'm more than willing to steal liberally.

Now I can see why Eclipse Phase creators decided to have the only variable on skill usage being "So what specialization do you get +10%" in. They have around 50 skills (and that's counting all the skills such as Piloting that specific focuses that must be taken as one skill), and coming up with all the variable usages would have been insane. And also, not what the game is about - it isn't about what you know, it is more about interacting with the world and the horror out there.

I'm going to try and be better about writing here, even if it is just small random gaming updates of what's going on inside my head. We'll see how long that lasts.