HinterBlog

September 25, 2011

Design Note: When a mechanic works properly

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

So, it has been a while but I had a bit of inspiration the other day. I thought back on the many vehicular combats in Nebuleon and how happy I am that they work out well most all the time. This comes from having envisioned how I wanted a mechanic to work and then putting to paper just how to do it. More than that though, it is the realization of a idea in a corporeal form.

Example: A team was sent to a polar region of the planet Dons-Kal-rien, a Dremin world. The arctic region was a corporate preserve and proving ground for W.A.R. Ind. These jokers were supposed to use their formidable stealth skills to infiltrate and do some espionage. What they found surprised them. It turned out to be an illegal clone farm for elite Dremin looking for spare organs and such. Well, lots fo adventure later, they end up in a hanger for experimental vehicles with a ton of security. Basic running fire-fight (remember, stealth). They come across a crate of AP shoulder mounter ground to air missiles. One of the security guys is a pilot and powers up a vtol with an experimental (and illegal) particle cannon that basically melts flesh. They get the drop on the pilot as he has to roll piloting to take off (weapon wont fire on the ground) and a weapons tech check (usually you have a gunner to handle that) at a minus. Joker ex-marine has a Heavy weapons skill. Whips out the Missile launcher and fires.

Here is the part that filled me with joy. The weapon hit. We determined the location randomly, and it turned out to be the weapons pod holding the beam weapon. Bam! Taken out. But this monster has high velocity rapid fire gauss rifles on it as well and the pilot switches over to auto-fire and blazes away taking down one of the Jokers. The medic is on her in a flash and begins life support. Ex-Marine joker fires a second missile and this one hits the engine taking the vtol down.

What is missed in that description is the effortless back and forth of the system. It PLAYED like that. The system did not get int he way, it faded but emphasized, it guided but did not dictate the actions.

In short, the system was informative to the outcome of the actions of the players. That, to me, is cool.

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. 😉

April 20, 2010

“You’re playing that wrong”

Filed under: Games — Tags: , — bilbo @ 8:36 pm

I have never, in my 30 some years of gaming, understood this as it applies to RPGs, especially in the context of “as the game was intended”. I have run WoD with super heroes, DND in sci-fi settings and monopoly as an RPG. I have yet to find a system that you cannot tweak to do what you want or even just play it out of the box but put a different setting to it. I have seen these, I have no good name for them, shall we try systemic zealot, who believes in some sort of holy grail of “as the designer intended” or “goals of the system”. No one has ever shown me a system that can enforce a type of play and short of a seriously broken system, I doubt there is one. All systems are universal. You may not like the elements that system produces or your opinion may be that the system does not support the elements that you believe are necessary for a setting/genre but those are highly subjective and far from a valid basis for declarations that someone is “playing the game wrong”.

Now, you might say, Bill, my demented game designer, what about the designer, surely, he must know the intended form of play!! First off, stop calling me surely. Second, no, not really. Once you have a game, especially an RPG, it is yours. The designer is irrelevant beyond possible comments or explanations of how he viewed it while writing and playing the game but [b]those views are equally as valid as yours or anyone who plays the game[/b]. I know, as a game designer, I am supposed to push the myth that we are somehow the authority. Somehow, we know what is right for our games and that they can never be played except in the manner we conceive. Sorry to disappoint but no dice…er, diceless…yeah.

So next time you have the urge to tell someone “Oh! you aren’t playing that game the way it was intended!!”, take a deep breath and don’t. Just say no.

Hint for those without a sense of humor: The above may be directed at you, but most likely it is not. If it is (and you would be a weird minority if it did) the good, and I hope it pissed you off.

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