23 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #23

Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

Honestly, most RPG layout is pedestrian and vanilla. I've tried to do interesting things with layout in FUBAR and in The Law, but outside my circles, neither of these games has really caught on.

One of my old favourites, HōL has been mentioned a couple of times for it's layout technique, and I'll admot that it was an interesting choice to completely handwrite and illustrate a game... but the others mentioned today have been standard layouts with some nice illustration work scattered through them.

Live DJ set with Gamemaster as the MC

One of those "if I had enough money..." fantasies which keeps recurring to me is the idea of a live soundtrack for an RPG. This would have a reflexive interaction with the game as it unfolds, as the adrenaline pumps, the tempo of the music increases... as the character head to an industrial sector of the city, industrial music takes a stronger element in the mix... if they head to the more elite parts of the city, we get more jazz and classical overtones... in the ghettoes we get the various musics of the people who form that community. The whole thing becomes the ultimate mash-up, continually setting the tone, continually evolving... certain NPCs and villains might even have their own motifs that are inserted strategically into the jam when their influence is felt.

Morw than the turn of phrase used in games Powered by the Apocalypse, the person running the game truly becomes the MC... rapper, revolutionary, voice of the people. 

I'm revisiting this idea because I'm searching through musical mash-ups, trying to find the definitive tone for the urban sprawl in The Law. I'm thinking something blending heavy metal, punk, and rap...not as a seamless blend, but edgily competing against one another. If it had some left-field, unexpected element thrown in, that would be a huge bonus. I'm open to suggestions.

Abstraction versus Fine Detail

I don't remember who was posting about it the other day, but it got me thinking.

Back in the old days, our adventurers would delve into a dungeon with a limited supply of oil flasks, arrows, rations, metal stakes, and other consumables, marking them off our lists as we used them. These days it's just as likely that we'll be playing a game where we have a generic quiver of arrows, quantity of "adventuring gear", or collection of rations, where we don't specifically tracks individual expended units, but might instead roll a die to see when we have exhausted out supply.

The person whose comments reminded me of this concept, indicated that they thought it was silly that a character might give away their last ration to someone, not realising it was their last ration until the die roll specifically told them it was...and this was one of the things they hated about the game they were referring to. It seemed a valid comment to make, but I think it actually shows more of a fundamental difference in the way games are played more than a flaw in the design of a specific game.

Some might call it a flaw in the way of thinking about games, some might just say that it's different horses for diffent courses. We could dig make into that Forge game theory can of worms, where everyone has different interpretations of the underlying issues...but for the sake of this paragraph, the gamist tracks every bullet for the sake of getting the highest damage and most impact from every single bullet, while the narrativist really doesn't care unless a lack of bullets is interesting to the story, and the simulationist may vary depending on the genre they are emulating.

The gunfight at the beginning of Deadpool makes every bullet count, and it wouldn't make sense to simulate this in game with an abstract die roll after each shot to see it that was your last bullet. The bursts of gunfire from the Colonial Marines in Aliens, might be more appropriate for abstraction..."you've rolled poorly on your ammo die, drop from high ammo to low"..."you've rolled poorly again, you're spent"..."you've deliberately fired off a long burst, don't roll, just drop to the next lower ammo category".

In "The Law" I deliberately followed that second route because it seemed easier to simply allocate negative traits of "low ammo" then "no ammo" to a firearm. Such traits could be eliminated by spending an action to swap out an ammo clip. It basically works on the assumption that the Agents of the Law have plenty of access to ammunition and supplies, but doesn't reflect the possible desperation of a scene where ammo is a limited commodity. 

I generally don't like the idea of using different resolution mechanisms in an ad hoc manner, so that leaves me with a tough decision about whether to completely change the game to a bullet-by-bullet system (where a burst might do extra damage in exchange for more wasted bullets)... or just leave it as is. 

At the moment, tracking ammo clips specifically, but bullets abstractly seems a decent compromise. 

22 August, 2017

RPGaDay2017 #22

Which RPGs are the easiest for you to run?

This seems an odd question, I suspect it's asking if I prefer to run crunchy games, or if I prefer rules-lite systems. Maybe it's asking of I'm an OSR grognard or a hippy story-gamer.

Honestly, it doesn't matter much to me. There are types of games I don't particularly like to run... I don't particularly like railroading games that weave a specific narrative every time, which is probably why I never really got into many of the early Indie games. My GMing style tends toward giving the players a long leash, or maybe giving them plenty of rope to hang themselves by. Weaving logical ramifications to the actions undertaken by players through their characters.

If a game is "hard to run", I just ignore the hard parts, get stuck into the setting, focus on a few of the signature elements of the game, and in most cases, most players don't know the difference. They have a good time (or a gut-wrenching emotional time), and that's what's important to me in a game session.

21 August, 2017

RPGaday2017 #21

What RPG does the most with the least words?

Visit the Pocketmod Games community on G+, there are some great designers doing some phenomenal stuff within that format. I've probably seen more innovation there than in most other
parts of the RPG community, and I'm not just saying that because I moderate that particular community.

Otherwise, I'd be pointing back at the muse of a game GHOST/ECHO which has informed a lot of my design work since it's release. Many people have referred to John Harper's other minimalist game, Lady Blackbird, but for sheer minimalism of text and impact-per-word I have to sat GHOST/ECHO is far higher on the scoreboard.


I've finally gotten around to indexing the "Game Mechani(sm) of the Week" series. That means the tab at the top of the blog page is actually useful now. I've indexed half of the original series (which was done 8 years ago...back in 09), and will hopefully cover the later attempts to restart the series as well. Hopefully it won't take another decade to finish.


20 August, 2017

Images from the Sprawl (Part 3)

During this series of images, I reached the point where I needed to actually start creating the pictures necessary to address certain elements of the game rules. This gives us motorcycle chases, equipment depictions, a distinctive gang, and a conspiracy pin-board. Many of these images have already been added into the Dispatch Guide.