December 31, 2010

Veracity and chasing the impossible dream

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — bilbo @ 9:24 pm

I see this most in historical games but it happens in any genre to some extent. The expressed desire that a game be “more realistic” or if it was just more “true to the period”. Sometimes it comes our as “OMG! There is no way that the dino-blaster 2000 could take out a neocybercryoTyanoRex 4500!!!” but it invariably comes down to a question of veracity.

Normally, I would say this is a simple argument of definition.

correctness or accuracy, as of the senses or of a scientific instrument.

I do not believe this is the case with RPGs. Why? Because in our little slice of the world, veracity has become a subjective idea. Yeah, you heard me punk, truth is subjective. Not to go all Kierkegaard on you, but since we are dealing with a fictional work and not one of scientific or non-fiction, you really need to ask a much more personal question, a more immediate question, is it entertaining? It never ceases to amaze me that this seems to be the last thing on many people’s minds when dealing with a game. It seems to them, and rightfully so, that their enjoyment is secondary or some how dependent on the veracity, the externally verifiable truth or factual correctness of a game.

Now feel that. Right there. Your first reaction, you initial revulsion at the thought of a game riddled with errors, impossible to read, sentences that end in the middle. That is not what I was saying. It is the first reaction, a vague feeling that somehow if you have Caesar driving a Porche and shooting dinosaurs with his blaster that the game might be fun. However, add Caesar being born in the wrong year and the entertainment value is destroyed. The game is only good for kindling.

It gets worse. No matter how “correct” the game is, you will always have “errors” in the game. Gamers seem obsessed with this. Designers are driven by a need to try and fill this impossible gap. “Not impossible,” you say,”you merely need to get your facts straight”. I fear this is not the case. It is that subjective truth I mentioned earlier. Someone, somewhere will find something you changed, you made the call on, like how strong a t-rex is or what social changes were important, and hammer them. True veracity, even if attainable, is not a shield either.

In the end, you can only make games that you would play, that you would like. Instead of objective veracity, a designer or GM should shoot for consistency. This is much more attainable, and I believe, far more rewarding not only for the designer but also for everyone involved. With consistency, you have the idea of a thread or theme that persists through out the book. Much like a novel, your character, you world, should not have rules at one point that change at another. Your framework is the basis that you engage the reader from.

Finally, to be clear, I am not advocating inaccuracies in a fictional setting. Far from it, I am advocating creative license coupled with consistency and thinking through the repercussions. So, gunpowder in early Roman Empire is going to have a great deal of far reaching effects on history. However, whether Romans had gun powder in the first century is not the point. If you thought it was, you missed mine. 😉

July 5, 2010

System on a more positive note.

Filed under: Business,Games — Tags: , , — bilbo @ 5:22 pm

So, what does all this naval gazing really get us? Not much at the end of the day but it may make for some entertaining reading. Recently Clash over at Flying Mice Games talked about system as a distinct set of components. In those he included things we would all nod our heads in agreement but added a few that we would most likely shrug at. In those, we have things like character generation, initiative, resources and abilities. Sure, we would probably say, you either rolling the dice for those or defining the dice you would roll. This is off course system. This is the toto of system, the alpha and omega. Or is it?

The problem here is we are looking at the trees, we are classifying them, defining the as the forest and not understanding how the moss, the brush, rivers and creeks, hills and vales all figure into it. We are leaving out what fundamentally gives system meaning. In a word, that is system.

System is the glue that binds, this is the elements that gives system meaning. System has no purpose, in and of itself. Setting though, this can exist without a shred of system. Wait! you might say, you have setting-less systems like DND!!!!! Not really. Sorry, but DND has a fantasy setting. Upfront. Very few systems are sold without a shred of setting. D20 Modern?!?! Well, a modern world setting. Palladium Fantasy?!?! Right there in the title. However, lets flip it around. Greyhawk? Sure, it was made for DND but it is not tied to it in the least. The many setting books by Green Ronin and others? You can sell a setting without a system because it is the glue that binds the system. It is the hills, vales, rivers and whatnot outside of the trees and types of trees. A truly setting-less system will fall flat because it boils down to a flat engagement of analytics. It does not engage our imaginations, it does not fill that craving for a story that we find so engaging. I am not saying setting equals story but that a setting engages the same area of our imagination and sparks the ideas for a story.

So, bottom line, how does the tripe above make for a better gaming experience for you, the reader. Going forward, assuming it had not already occurred to you, one could take the understanding of setting over system as a means to:
1. Present a setting to your group and let system work itself out. The group likes Palladium, then adapt it to your setting.
2. When picking a gaming product, look more closely at the setting, less at the system. The system, at the end of the day, can be replaced, setting, not so much.
3. When you are disappointed with a game, think about why that is. Is it really the system? It may well be. Is it the setting? If it is, you may have a much more fundamental problem with the product.

Good luck in finding a game you enjoy and Good Gaming!

April 6, 2010

Skills for AI

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , — bilbo @ 10:49 am

Skills for AI have been handled in two ways in Iridium. First, there was essentially spending XP in learning new skills. This was meant to mimic neural learning nets. Second, there were S.C.I.M. slots. There are basically computer programs as they could be swapped out. The basic bays could be upgraded to and added on to increase the total skills. Ranks in the skills would cost more credits but take the same slots. So, you could have Unarmed Combat a 1 or at rank 5 and it would skill only take 1 S.C.I.M. slot but would cost the difference between say, 1 KC and 25 KC.

I can see the argument for the first way but really favor the second. Thoughts?

April 1, 2010

Creating Races in Iridium

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , — bilbo @ 2:57 pm

This is taken from an article on the site. I will be updating it for Iridium V2 but surprisingly it probably will not change much.

The following is for people who might wish to create their own races for any of our settings. The process is very simple and can be accomplished in about half an hour.

Racial Concept
The first step is to form a mental concept of the new race. For example, a new, inoffensive race is needed to populate a newly discovered planet in a Nebuleon (Sci-Fi) campaign. Knowledge of the planet (a temperate water and swamp world) and what is needed for the campaign (primitive natives that can help or hinder the player characters, depending on how the first meeting goes) should help develop a racial concept. With that goal in mind, the following concept for the new race, called the Rihdahn, can be created.

The Rihdahn are amphibious and live on the many riverbanks of their word. They use tools but are not very dexterous. They stand between 1.4 and 1.8 m and weigh about 50-60 kg. The have rubbery skin like a dolphin but have a large number of tentacles for their base and an upper body with three primary tentacle stalks that they use as hands. Their heads are compact and they have no neck and shoulders to speak of. Their face is a mash of six eyes placed around their head and a central mouth filled with teeth. The Rihdahn appearance can be misleading, allowing one to believe they are ferocious hunters when they actually prefer a form of fresh water vegetation.

The Rihdahn are willing servants and love the chance to travel. They were first discovered by a RFW survey team and have since worked well in water environments as scouts. Unfortunately, they have little aptitude with technology and have had little success in the greater sense of the Nebuleos.
Racial Modifiers

Racial modifiers should reflect the nature of the race to be defined. Minor modifiers of plus one or two should reflect natural aptitudes, such as an increased agility for multi-legged creatures. Larger modifiers of plus three or more should be restricted to truly super-natural attributes beyond the ability of humans to attain. On rare occasions, a guaranteed above 20 stat may be appropriate, such as the appearance of elves in our fantasy setting. It is not necessary to have stat pluses and minuses balance out, but any obvious stat advantages need to be compensated with a social or physical restriction (race is discriminated against, or lacks a corporeal body, etc).

The Rihdahn have the following adjustments:
-5 +4 -1 +2 -2
+2 -4 +0
Spiritual LUC PIE WIL
+0 +2 +2

Remember, not every attribute needs a modifier.

Racial Abilities
Racial abilities are innate things like natural armor, spell casting capabilities, or flight. Abilities like night sight and extraordinary sense of smell can be defined in terms of percentage beyond normal sense or their chance to use it. For instance, extraordinary sense of sell of 40% means the race has a 40% chance of smelling a scent not normally available to humans. A race with 40% night sight would be able to see 40% as well in the dark as they would in daylight. Alternatively, the GM could make the character check on percentiles making them roll under the 40%.

The Rihdahn have a thin layer of blubber that gives them a small amount of protective armor. This equates to 10 points in all areas. They are also amphibious and can hold their breath under water for 20 minutes.

Racial weaknesses should also be included here. The Rihdahn dehydrate quickly and do not handle heat well. This translates into a CON check for every day they are away from water. If they fail, they will collapse and be unable to even walk. They will need to be immersed in water for one hour for every day of dryness.
Racial Skills

Racial skills are those skills that a race shares coming from a similar culture. In other words, elves from the woods might use and make bows but elves from the desert would more likely be able to find water. The number of racial skills depends on the general likelihood that all in the race would be exposed to learning it. Alternatively, it can be an indicator of cultural diversity within the race.
The Rihdahn are excellent swimmers and trackers. They also know a great deal about plants.

They receive the following skills:

* Two Tracking Skills
* Three Swimming Skills
* One Herbology Skill

And that’s an example of creating a new race for Nebuleon. This example was more detailed than necessary. A faster creation method merely requires an outline of Racial Modifiers, Abilities and Skills.

Here is a printable version of the Rihdahn
. Have fun creating races!

March 30, 2010

Stars in Neb SE

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , — bilbo @ 10:09 pm

So, out of the planet generate arises the question of stars that the planets would be orbiting. On one side, we have the “Be as scientifically accurate as possible”. On the other we have my preferred method of operation “Whatever is cool and fits”. Either way, I suppose there should be some sort of chart. So…

O Blue stars
B Blue-white stars
A White stars
F Yellow-white stars
G Yellow stars (like the Sun)
K Yellow-orange stars
M Red stars

Single Primary
Variable (this is assumed Intrinsic i.e. the star swells and shrinks over time varying output).

Size is often related to color so I am not sure having a second chart works here. Perhaps a notation on the color chart?

Anything else?

Thanks guys. I will hopefully be writing up all the ideas here shortly.

March 22, 2010

Aspects as applied to Ships in Neb SE

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — bilbo @ 9:31 pm

I have been giving some thought to Aspects as they could be applied to ships in Nebuleon SE. A few things I think would be useful:
1. Ships should still be divided up into 10 areas that are the systems of the ship. So, you might have
1 – Main Computer
2 – Propulsion
3 – Life Support
and so on…

2a. Aspects are specific characteristics of the ship. So, you might have “Over protective” for the AI in the computer.


2b. Aspects are the abstract characteristics of the ship. So, one example could be “Battered but never falls apart”.


2c. Aspects are game mechanics applied to the ship. For example, “Built for Atmospheric Speed” receives a +20 to any piloting in the atmosphere.

I can see advantages to any of those. What to you think?

March 18, 2010

Nebuleon SE: Planet Gen – The summing up

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — bilbo @ 9:28 am

So, putting together the comments from previous threads let’s try to sum up.

1. Price index seems to be good as is.

2. Basic Civilization – Add History, reworked some charts.
1 None
2 Hierarchy
3 Republic
4 Despotism
5 Theocracy
6 Parliamentary
7 Totalitarian
8 Plutocracy
9 Kleptocracy
0 Corporatism
11 Timocracy (Property owners rule)
12 Tribalism

1 Basic Trade
2 Market (Capitalism)
3 Planned (Command Economies)
4 Mixed (Part Capitalism, but regulated)

1-2 World Governemnt
3-8 Many (tens of different governing bodies)
9-10 Great Many (hundreds or thousands) of governments

1. Peaceful
2. Peaceful
3. Peaceful
4. Moderate
5. Moderate
6. Moderate
7. Moderate
8. Warlike
9. Warlike
10. Warlike

1. Cultured
2. Expansionist
3. Expansionist
4. Extroverted
5. Extroverted
6. Introverted
7. Introverted
8. Isolationist
9. Isolationist
10. Xenophobic

1. Introspective
2. Pacifist
3. Shallow
4. Changeable
5. Proud
6. Traditional
7. Rigid
8. Impressionable
9. Shallow
10. Neophilic

1. Civil War
2. Plague
3. Famine
4. Technologic Breakthrough (i.e. recent advance in TL)
5. Victim of Invasion
6. Invasion Repulsed
7. Independence from a planetary invader
8. Mounted an invasion
9. Economic Collapse
10. World War
11. Religious War
Note: This has been edited
3. Environment – Not much changed here but I am not pleased with it. Not sure why. Maybe not enough options or some such. I will think on it more.
1 Artificial habitat
2 Asteroid
3 Moon
4 Rocky planet
5 Gas planet

1 Artificial G
2 Light G
3 Moderate G
4 Heavy G
5 Super Heavy G

1 Dry
2 Arid
3 Watered
4 Wet
5 Aqueous

1 Lifeless
2 Scarce
3 Abundant
4 Thriving
5 Riotous

Note: Old table
1 Artificial habitat
2 Asteroid
3 Moon
4 Mercury sized
5 Mars Sized
6 Earth Sized
7 Neptune Sized
8 Jupiter Sized

1 Hazardous, protective gear needed
2 Hazardous, breathing mask needed only
3 Thin Atmosphere, breathable
4 Standard Atmosphere, breathable
5 Thick Atmosphere, breathable
6 Exotic Atmosphere

Note: the following has been edited
4. Tech Level – This the only way I can address tech level in a manner I can stand. So, here is my idea, I am MORE than happy to modify it.

We have several areas that can have independent ratings. The base though, is the following:
Physical Science (Physics, Chemistry, Geology)
Biological Science (Biology, Medicine, Psychiatry)
Social Science (Archaeology, Racial Studies, Social Engineering, Language, Law)
Applied Science (Engineering, Communications, space craft)

The tech level is chosen then modifers for the above areas applied. The mods are:
— Very Low
– Low
+ High
++ Very High
This effectively adds to the TL of the area the mod applies to. So, for instance, you have a TL5 + Applied, – Social, means that the civilization has a general TL of 5, an Applied Science TL of 6 and a Social Science TL of 4. All mods should sum to 0.

Start with a base Tech Level.
0 None
1 primitive
2 basic applied results
3 basic knowledge
4 basic applied knowledge
5 Moderate
6 moderate applied knowledge
7 Moderate theoretical
8 Advanced
9 Advanced theoretical
10 Advanced theoretical and applied

I could see an 11 and 12 where you have Hyper Advanced and Hyper Advanced Theoretical and Applied. The above range is open with an effective bottom of 0. Now, the tags of Theoretical means they understand but cannot do, Applied means they are able to apply the theoretical and no tags means they are limited to observed results (I put this plant on Bob and he died, o.k. that is bad).

Alt TL:
Instead of a range like the above, we say 0 is the Nebuleon norm level. From this, Neb civilizations actively involved with space travel can range from -5 to +5. Below -5 and they just do not possess the understanding to be more than cargo. More the 5 and they are most likely not directly in contact with the rest of the Nebuleos.

The range would be broken up with primitive orbital craft at -5 and advanced FTL at 5. Wormhole travel would be beyond 5. Non-space travel would be below -5.

The same problem for me pops up. What do the gradations mean? What values do we assign. Grrr.

So, thoughts?

March 8, 2010

Nebuleon SE : Classes

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — bilbo @ 12:56 pm

Now, even more so than in V1, Iridium V2 has essentially classes with little meaning beyond character generation. So, classes become life path short hand for skill packages. Essentially, you are picking what you have done for X years. One idea I have is to allow a package to be picked for each 10 years of age beyond 10. For instance, I might be 30 years old and I have been a spy and a soldier garnering me 2 groups of skills.

The problem I have with this and with any life gen system is that I have seen more than once, a group of impossibly old traders bumming it through the galaxy. I am not sure I will incorporate this but it is an interesting idea. You could also stack the packages taking spy twice and getting a better initial package.

Now, all of that said, this is the “classes” from V1:
Fighter Types
Bounty Hunter Pilot Police Soldier Specialist
Performer Types
Actor Artist Craftsman Reporter Tech
Intellectual Types
Medic Engineer Psi
Thief Types
Criminal Investigator Politician Raider Smuggler Spy

The two classes I have received the most flak from are the Reporter and the Politician. These are not popular. I was thinking of cutting them. Thoughts?

Also, I am considering adding Marine, Scientist, historian (although I expect the same “They are worthless”) comments.

So what do you think? What should I cut, should we go with the more life pathy setup?

March 4, 2010

Neb SE : Planetary Generation II

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — bilbo @ 7:57 pm

So, I like the sheet and I like the idea of just whipping ideas in the form of Aspects out there. However, a lot of times it is not the description that is the issue but the inspiration. Well, folks (clash I am looking at you) have convinced me that tables can help here (or random rolls). First, the primary points that i think need to be included in the Planetary Gen system. In no particular order.

1. Price index – This is how much something will cost compared to normalized charts. In a perfect world we would have about 500 products to establish a basic strength or buying power of our currency but lets keep it a bit less painful. I can see two ways to approach this. A generic multiplier, for example, .7 or 1.3 times the cost of an item if the world is an ample or wealthy one as opposed to a scarce economy. This might be a good initial, quick and dirty, solution but I feel the second is a better way. Second, we could list broad categories like Weapons, Electronics, Food, General Supplies and transportation. Maybe 1 or 2 more but keep it under 10. This could be used to flesh out the planet once things get rolling or even as they are happening. In general, a d10 could be rolled with a d6 (or even another d10. The first generates a 1-10 range and the second wither it is + or -. Thus we get a range from -10 to +10 which then reflects the PI from 0 to 2. Now, this could be interpreted that a result of 0 is a hyper common and thus undeveloped item. No one uses horses and they run wild but that makes them even more difficult to find. On the other end, we could have a 2 indicate hyper-scarcity and indicat a second d10 roll that is added as integer increments to the 2 and thus generate a PI of 3 to 12.

2. Basic Civilization – I am torn on this. I believe it is vital but the truth be told, it might need to be derived. Well, if we are going to have a table how about:
1 None
2 Hierarchy
3 Republic
4 Despotism
5 Theocracy
6 Parliamentary
7 Totalitarian
8 Plutocracy
9 Kleptocracy
0 Corporatism
11 Timocracy (Property owners rule)
12 Tribalism

1 Basic Trade
2 Market (Capitalism)
3 Planned (Command Economies)
4 Mixed (Part Capitalism, but regulated)

1-2 World Governemnt
3-8 Many (tens of different governing bodies)
9-10 Great Many (hundreds or thousands) of governments

1 Peaceful, cultured, introspective, pacifist
2 Peaceful, expansionist, shallow
3 Moderate, extroverted, little cultural memory
4 Moderate, introverted, culturally proud
5 Moderate, isolationist, culturally rigid and traditional
6 Moderate, extroverted, culturally impressionable
7 Warlike, expansionist, culturally shallow
8 Warlike, xenophobic, culturally traditional

3. Environment. Something needs to be said about this but I really do not care to get into the planetary science of it. To me, it should be a setting descriptor. Need an earth-like planet? Then do it. However, if folks are looking for inspiration…
1 Artificial habitat
2 Asteroid
3 Moon
4 Mercury sized
5 Mars Sized
6 Earth Sized
7 Neptune Sized
8 Jupiter Sized

1 Hazardous, protective gear needed
2 Hazardous, breathing mask needed only
3 Thin Atmosphere, breathable
4 Standard Atmosphere, breathable
5 Thick Atmosphere, breathable
6 Exotic Atmosphere

Honestly, I could run a game on such a thing. However, do we have suggestions? The numbers could probably be changed to weight it towards certain things. Also, what am I missing?


March 3, 2010

Size and concise writing

Filed under: General — Tags: , — bilbo @ 4:52 pm

For what it is worth, as I write more I find myself to try and say more with fewer words. This is not to the detriment of understanding or clarity, in fact, it is in aid of clarity. I have found my squirrel books at 60 page of big margin digest format say a whole lot more than some of my larger books. I have had more than one newbie to role playing thank me for a clear rules set. To me, at this point, that is what I am talking about. It is what I prefer.

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