Friday, 1 November 2013

RPGs: things I like

As mentioned a while ago I've stopped playing RPGs for the time being.

What I'm doing instead is reading and thinking about games and what I want to get out of them.

I've been particularly taken with FATE and some of its bolt ons (that's rude in the Isle of Man apparently, which means I'll be using it as often as possible). Specifically I like the game creation idea in the core rulebook, the idea that the players and GM decide the setting together is something I've been chasing for a long time. I love the idea of a game where everyone chips in details and ideas equally and you all develop it together.

In the light of this, Diaspora's cluster generation system seems particularly good and I've had some fun mucking around with generating worlds and their relationships. I like the fact that even though Diaspora is a hard SF game (for hard SF read, no gravity drives, no psionics, no real alien races and so on) the cluster generation system is clearly portable and could be used to make islands for an archipelago game or even towns in a weird west or fantasy setting, simply by changing some words. I love this; its quite elegant and clever. It allows everyone to pitch in (the idea is that everyone creates the setting, echoing the sentiment in the new core rulebook, the only difference is that there's some systemisation and slightly less spitballing).

The other thing I love about FATE addresses something one of the guys I play with has raised, that character
history is often neglected for the sake of having an effective game piece and he often feels he doesn't know who his character is. My fear here has always been that I'll be presented with an immense history that I then have to navigate my way around to get characters involved in the game. FATE encourages some sketching out of history but channels it into Aspects (statements that players can use in the game or that the GM can tag to compell them to do things). There's also a group building element here, there's no chance of 'you're in a pub and an old man approaches you with a treasure map' because the chareacdters should all have histories that mix, creating a party with shared history from the very beginning. It seems to offer the best of both worlds; effective character history with enough detail but not so much as to make the character unplayable!


Another game I've been enjoying reading and hope to have a go at is Numenera. Here the attraction is in the way that XP is handled. The focus of the game is exploration and the XP system goes out to reward that, along with rewarding the players for accepting set backs and difficulties. Whilst the former takes the form of being given points for finding cool stuff (or terrible stuff, or old stuff) the latter works on the idea of 'GM Intrusions', which sounds like something to do with the Manx bolt on. Actually what it means is that if the GM makes life difficult for a player - say someone who's sneaking through a house treads on a squeaky floorboard, or a soldier with sweaty hands loses their grip on their sword - the player gets a couple of XP, or can spend an XP to knock the complication back. The thing I really like is that if they accept the intrusion they have to share their reward with another player, theoretically encouraging a more communal style of play where people cooperate more. This is something I like, if only because frequently PvP is a pain the proverbial.

Essentially I think I'm pushing towards something more cooperative with the GM seen not as an enemy but as someone to work with and where the mechanics support more group play. Next up I'll be reading Gumshoe games I think.