Bits and Pieces


Scarily I’ve noticed a trend that the majority of my postings as of late have been about D&D. I wonder if that means I am spending too much time on D&D? Perhaps so. Scarily, I’ve got at least another three or four RPG-related posts stewing in the background. Perhaps I ought to reorganize my WordPress categories with “RPGs” rather than D&D specifically.

I just primed a group of miniatures and will, with luck, be doing a bit of painting of them later on today. I have managed to make some headway on making backstory material available on my campaign website, but it’s not nearly enough. The major things that lie before me are the complete overhaul of the Magic system and fleshing out the main areas of the city in which action is centered. Both of these are huge projects and, to be honest, I can’t see myself completing them even within the month. I simply have too many other things on my plate.

Our group hasn’t met for roughly a month now, and I’m wondering whether I should email everyone and tell them that we are on indefinite hiatus until I can get things more in order — I’d feel very bad to do that considering I have given every indication thus far of taking this campaign much further, but I can’t justify continuing to play in this game as I’m rewriting the rules. And rewriting D&D rules, as important as it may be, is just not as important to me as some other things I could be doing with my time. Funny how I’ve essentially made up my mind on the issue as I’ve written this post.

Despite, I suppose, my newfound decision to put off my campaign for the time being, I’ve been thinking a lot about alternate mechanics and such.

–One of the things that I thought of and decided to implement was a system whereby I would send out a small quiz during the campaign’s off-week to try and maintain some interest in the campaign. This was also a system whereby I could reward attentiveness during the game sessions and also a system whereby I could reward characters with additional skill points (or other benefits) to round out their characters. This seemed like a better option than simply saying that I was granting extra skill points, either restricted or unrestricted in use.

–Another thing I recently decided to do was to try and create some sort of aid for my players, who seemed to, in my eyes, flounder as far as portraying themselves went. I heard plenty of justifications along the lines of “I’m evil!” but very little along the lines of, “My character is doing this because…” I decided that since my players were primarily using Alignment as a sort of personality descriptor that it might help them conceptualize their characters by requiring them to give a set of goals to their character, which they would receive benefits for pursuing.

Both of these are pretty ad hoc processes, not for everyone I imagine. I’m interested to see how they work out, but I probably won’t have a chance to in the near future.

On a somewhat related note, one of my major reactions to discussions at The Forge is just how much what people talk about doesn’t seem to jive with my sense of reality. The sense I get from discussions about Design Patterns in RPGs, as much as I think that’s an excellent idea overall, is that they want some sort of pure game mechanics and ignore the ways in which RPG systems come into conflict with storytelling. As much as you accept a certain degree of randomness within the context of a game, in my experience there is always the chance for a story to go completely haywire when extreme mechanics results come in a series.

–Bankuei posts what I think is an excellent house rule (“gamehack” as he calls it). This is a seriously good idea, as the only D&D games I’ve seen that didn’t have problems with excessive magic items were games without magic items. I’ll definitely be thinking about creating a set of rules along these lines in the future.

–Reading over the Nobilis system of powers makes me envious of how freeform it is, and yet how sensible. Division into distinct and intuitive categories: Creation, Destruction, Protection, Discernment, or Alteration. I crave making something like this

–For a long time I’ve been eager to introduce the alternative Shield Combat rules that the A Game of Thrones D20 setting provides. Maybe I’ll be able to introduce something like that when my campaign reconvenes. If I do that, I think I’d need to offer the opportunity to revise characters.

–I’ve been using the Sanity system of Call of Cthulu, and I’ve been using my own Karmic system to adjudicate effects that normally depend on alignment. Neither of these systems are deeply bound to the game mechanics though. Sanity, in particular, is strange. I need to think of a way to make its effects tangible without being overly specific or overly strong.

–I strongly desire to create a system where having millions of different core and prestige classes is unnecessary. As I have been writing this I have touched about the idea of a sort of dynamic allocative system. Essentially the idea is to give a set number of points out at each “level up”, points which would be spent on better saves, better Base Attack Bonus, skills, or special abilities. The catch would be that a character wouldn’t have enough points to purchase in every area. Presumably organizations with strong resources could provide training (translates to lower cost) against the default, encouraging factioning. The immediate pitfalls would be potentially a lot of conflict if characters aligned with radically different factions, and factions with political power but not otherwise powerful.

–Last but not least, I definitely need to create some kind of comprehensive document, maybe a “playchart”, detailing the various ideas I’m mulling over implementing here.

5 Responses

  1. Hi,

    There are plenty of games that have rules to support good storytelling, but they might not be the kind of games you are familiar with. I was in a similar position to you a couple of years ago: I had a hard time visualizing how the kind of play that they talked about on the Forge worked. It wasn’t until I started playig the games (which went somewhat royughly at first) that I grokked how it worked. For instance, while it is true that the story can “go haywire” in any game, it is very unlikely in games like Primetime Adventures or Dogs in the Vineyard for this to happen (if you and your group are following the procudures in the rules). The story might not go where you had intended it to go, but that is part and parcel of playing games of this type.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve had very good luck running Primetime Adventures and InSpectres.


  2. Hi,

    …ignore the ways in which RPG systems come into conflict with storytelling.

    It may interest you to know that a lot of game systems conflict with storytelling because the mechanics are built to do something different than storytelling (yes, this includes WW’s “Storyteller” games as well).

    As Jon points out, there are games whose mechanics DO support storytelling, and the rules do not come into conflict with the goal of creating a story at any point. Aside from the two he mentioned, you may wish to check out The Pool, Polaris, With Great Power, or a number of other recent games whose mechanics focus less on “what your character can do” and more on setting up pacing and drama.

  3. Thanks for the recommendations Jon and Chris, I will keep them in mind. I do have a mind to get into all of these RPGs that I continually hear about (Dogs, Sorcerer, and others that both of you mentioned), just a matter of juggling my existing campaign-setting work, games I’m playing in and a million other time sinks. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to look through some of the rules for these and make some proposals for playing them.

  4. Might I add in response to Chris — Maybe it’s my inexperience with these games but I don’t quite understand how you can have a game without defining limitations on character abilities. Does such a system work on the trust that someone doesn’t try to narrate impossible actions?

  5. Does such a system work on the trust that someone doesn’t try to narrate impossible actions?

    Some do, some have veto mechanics. The ones that do rarely result in troublesome play. The group usually goes, “WTF dude!?!” and the person either learns to stay within boundaries or finds themselves not playing. It’s really no different than the “trust” players have that the DM won’t be dickheaded and throw 3000 giants at the party in one encounter.

    But, here, let me give you a simple example of a rule that helps the system support story, instead of going against it. In Dogs in the Vineyard, there is a rule called, “Say yes or roll the dice”. In D&D, if a character does a mundane action, you don’t roll. But in Dogs, it doesn’t matter if the action is mundane, or exceedingly difficult- the question is if it’s interesting to bother rolling the dice about.

    So, if a party is trying to clear a cliff, you would roll in D&D, because it’s a difficult action. In Dogs, if you don’t really care about the cliff, you don’t roll the dice. Even if it’s really really hard to climb and it’s raining. Just narrate it and be on your way.

    Now, in play, you’ve stopped rolling dice and wasting time on things you don’t care about. The story is that much easier, instead of spending 10-20 minutes figuring out how to get up a cliff or taking falling damage and healing, etc. when the real fun stuff is at the temple at the top.

    Notice that the shift is in priority- realism? Who cares? Good stories are interesting more than realistic. Because that’s a baseline rule in Dogs, already the system is designed to engage for story instead of realism, so the clash is knocked out right at the gate.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>