Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tower of the Faceless Clock

Or Challenges Extracting Rules Text from Solo Adventures

My discussion of the difficulties extracting system from setting in roleplaying game supplements reminded me of an abandoned project. It was an experiment to design a programmed solitaire adventure (with numbered paragraphs, like the
Choose Your Own Adventure books) to present a specific setting without reference to a specific rules system. Having written plenty of solitaire tutorial adventures intended to teach game mechanics along the way, designing one without considerations for typical rules – how to run combat, procedures for skill checks, how to make saving throws, etc. – proved challenging.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Extracting System & Setting

 If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.”

Katharine Hepburn

For most roleplaying games the mechanics and setting remain bound together. Extracting one from the other often proves challenging from a game design standpoint and dubious from a marketing perspective. Few game systems exist entirely apart from any given setting, though they claim (with different levels of efficacy) to operate with any genre. Over the years various games have released as standalone rules sets – Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS, Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying (BRP), Hero Games’ Hero System, S. John Ross’ RISUS: The Anything RPG, even West End Games’ popular D6 System – with varying degrees of success. Some emerged from existing games, like D6 from the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and BRP from favorites like Call of Cthulhu. These find some success among pockets of gamers willing to do the legwork to adapt them to their original settings (though some, like RISUS, make this quite easy). Yet few products have made their mark as settings extracted from or produced without rules systems. Such oddities require a delicate touch, a very generic approach to anything smacking of rules, and finesse in inspiring gamers to undertake the work adapting them to a favorite game system.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

RPGs’ Band-Aid (R) Issue

 Band-Aid: A trademark for a type of adhesive bandage.”

The Associated Press Stylebook

When I mention I’ve written for roleplaying games to average folks unfamiliar with the adventure gaming hobby (often called “mundanes” in fandom parlance) the inevitable reply almost always amounts to, “Oh, D&D.” Recent discussions about Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast drastically changing the Open Gaming License (with the advent of a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons) have noted we have many roleplaying games with various mechanics and settings, all of which have the potential to provide a satisfying game experience given the confluence of good gamemasters, players, and inspiration. It reminds me of the Band-Aid brand name falling into what some might consider a “generic trademark” usage in our society...yet many mundanes, and even some in the hobby community, use the specific brand name “D&D” when they mean roleplaying games. Words matter. I encourage people to get in the habit of using “roleplaying game,” “RPG,” and other equivalents when they don’t specifically mean D&D.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Remembering to Find Escape in Fantasy

 What a pity. Love is, I think, wasted on the young.”

Cardinal Richelieu, The Three Musketeers (1993)

Christmas train succumbs
to holiday chaos.
I am finding some solace immersing myself in my current work designing a fantasy roleplaying game setting...when I can. The demands of the holiday season often supersede other activities and priorities (as I’ve noted before). But between gift wrapping, decorating the tree, setting up the trains, wrestling with the outdoor string lights, and the everyday interruptions of “Dad can you do this?” and “Honey did you take care of that?” and everyone’s favorite, “What are we having for dinner?” I managed to savor the few moments I got to immerse myself in my roleplaying game writing.