Freitag, 20. Juli 2012

Rule Systems & Licenses

I have made some posts about RPG rule systems in the past. I ranted in most of those, at least to a degree. I probably annoyed one or another who bothered to read these blog posts. I must admit I don't like my own rants either. Enough so that I decided to go about it a bit more constructive. 

Over the years I bought numerous RPG rule books, in part to see if I could find the one rule system that would fit me perfectly. As some of you could guess I was of course doomed right from the start, although I came so very close with the recent release of the Contact! roleplay game and the rules it uses. That rule system was as close to perfect in my eyes as anything written by someone else could be. And that is the point exactly. If I wanted a rule system that would fit me perfectly I would need to either write it myself or find an author that could read my mind. Most of you will agree that the former is ever so slightly easier than the latter.

Thus I decided to try and write a system of RPG rules myself. "Duh!" you will say. There have been only thousands of others who have tried. But like with many other gamers and game masters I have had ideas about it floating around the back of my mind for years. With me those ideas where never very clear until I got into contact with my first percentile rule system written by someone else. I think it was a second edition book of the Warhammer Fantasy RPG.

Ever since then those ideas have become a more clear. I think it helped that I had to take a few hours worth of courses on statistics in college. Reading through many more rule systems and other designers blogs since then probably didn't hurt either. By now those ideas have resolved themselves into a few pages worth of scribbled notes in a spiral notebook. What do I want to do with those notes now? Well, I feel inspired to try and put those notes into order and turn them into a readable PDF document which I could release for some peer review (in a very loose sense of the word).

"Peer review?" you might ask. "Are you not afraid that someone else will steal the ideas?" The answer would be no. I'm not afraid, as I plan to release it as an open game system, probably under a creative commons license. Why release my ideas under a license that allows others to copy them for free? Well, if you managed to read through some of my other blog posts you might know that I'm of the opinion that a RPG company (or an individual) should not try to make their money through the sale of a rule system. Instead they should sell content for that rule system. An opinion by which I stand.

And it is hard enough to not write up a rule system that reads like a rip off of any one of the many other rule systems out there anyway. Walking on the right side of the thin line between simple inspiration and stealing someone else's ideas will probably be one of the biggest challenges. There are after all only so many ways to make use of some basic principles of probability theory. I already noticed when brainstorming for a working name. With all the other rule systems and creative people out there picking a name and a logo that, as far as I know, is unique was a tough first challenge. Here is quick preview of the cover I use for my work in progress document (as a kind of appetizer):

Work in progress cover mockup

More information on this project later. Probably once I'm ready to ask for a first round of feedback. In the meantime I'd like to mention something else I stumbled upon. A blog post my Monte Cook to be precise. It is titled "A+". Read it, in my opinion its worth the few minutes of your time it will take. Anyway, I'd like to adopt this as my second project for the time being. Have a positive attitude! It will be challenging enough for me for sure, but I'll try anyway. Wish me luck.

Mittwoch, 11. Juli 2012

Anniversaries & Space Ships

It seems that ever so slowly I'm approaching the 100th map aniversary. In addition it is almost a year since I uploaded the first of those maps to DriveThruRPG on August 1st in 2011. Current plans include the release of an aniversary mapas the 100th map the last week of July. Just not sure yet what the theme of that map will be.

Until then the month's schedule will include the release of at least one more Traveller compatible space ship. For a change not a pirate ship, but possibly a rewarding mark for a pirate. Here is a quick preview of the Work in Progress Cover:

Yacht Cover Preview

"Fire!", the adventure module I'm currently working on is not making as much progress as I would have liked. Writing elaborate character and location descriptions is taking longer than I like. It doesn't help that I tend to make adjustments to the maps and the plot time and again. Trying to keep that plot non linear is no picnic either. Still it is growing page by page. Expect an update on its maps soon at the very least.

Dienstag, 10. Juli 2012

Retro or not so retro Gaming

Over the years I have amassed quite a collection of Pen&Paper roleplay products. Some of them are solid hardcover books, but  just as many are soft covers and boxed products. Not to mention all the PDFs I purchased since I discovered DriveThruRPG. I'm not quite sure I should call any of them Retro, as the oldest among them are my crates full of 3rd edition books and boxes from "Das Schwarze Auge". And none of those are older than about eighteen years. Still I get a nostalgic feeling when I pick them up these days.

And that is something I have done quite often as of late. I find myself browsing through the books of one RP series or rule system or another. And with many of them I get the, probably somewhat unreasonable, urge to buy another book or two that I am still missing. Something especially true for the felt bazillion d20 setting products I own. So far I have mostly resisted that urge, but at the very least I tend to look those books up on Amazon, Ebay, the publishers webpage and if there is a chance that there might be a PDF version of it, at DrivethruRPG or its sister sites.

As is to be expected with series that have fallen out of fashion or are downright out of print the products that can actually be found tend to be quite pricy. Sometimes to the point where it becomes ridiculous. Really ridiculous. Most books are to me not worth the price of a 1000+ pages monster like Monte cook's Ptolus. This is probably the main reason I managed to resist the urge to buy any. The other reason is that there is not even a snowball's chance in hell that I will get to play or master a game for even half the systems I already own. The last reason those old and not so old games only manage to elict a nostalgic sigh at best is that I have found the two or possibly three RP systems that come as close to my idea of perfect as is possible. At least that is what I would like to think. 

The first of those would be the 4th Edition DSA system. A very solid point buy system with a setting so rich on information that I doubt I could find an equal. No, not even the good old Forgotten Realms come close. The second would be the Warhammer 40k Systems. Any percentile system is in my mathematically inclined mind superior by default. It helps of course that the Warhammer 40k games have, again, a strong license at it's back. And the third and most recent addition to this list would be the Contact! RPG. Again a percentile system, even better implemented than the Warhammer one if you ask me. An additional plus would be its learning by doing approach, doing away with traditional XP. Its background or game world is not as throughoutly flashed out as for the first two, but it still manages to invoke a powerful sense of deja vu for anyone who liked any of the UFO / X-COM games.

After a few paragraphs of my rambling (sorry I did that again), maybe I should sum up what I look for in a Pen&Paper RPG :

  • A mathematically sound system. Preferably one using a percentile system to express challenges and the like. Preferably without any artifical built in level caps.
  • Said mathematically sound system should have no problems providing GMs with the mathematics necessary to build content of their own.
  • One or more licenses to allow your gamers and game masters to share content they created, for free or for money.
  • A system that does not reduce role play to a combat simulation. This one really important. Combat is fine. Battlemaps are too. But it should never ever be all your RPG is about. Else you are better of calling it a wargame.
  • A rich world into which the game is set. A single Campaign book just won't do. Book upon book describing parts of the world, to the point where a dedicated GM will never have to use a generic NPC or building, unless he really wants to.
  • Adventure modules by the dozen! The writers at Paizo are doing something right there with their adventure paths if you ask me.
  • A noticeable lack of splat books introducing new classes, items, rules, ... those have become a serious turn off for me (looking at you D&D).
  • A long product life. A new edition every few years? Not with me. Not anymore. Your system should be solid enough that it can make do with regular errata at the most (!) for decades. Make money by selling applications of your rule system instead of selling ever new rule systems!
A bit more elaborate than my last blog on the topic. And don't mistake me, I still like browsing through my collection of RPGs. They still make me feel nostalgic. But when I pick up the books I can't help but think that most of them, even my favorites, are somewhat lacking in one regard or another. 

Now let me ask you, what do you want from a Pen&Paper role play game? What are you looking for? Take a minute and share your thoughts.