Category Archives: Game Design

#RPGaDay2017 Day 15: House rules always win!

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#RPGaDay2017 week three is here! Thanks for sticking around. Here we go…

August 15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I’m not a house ruler. Of course, I’ve written some house rules here and there, but incredibly in all these years, I haven’t really done so many.  I usually tend to play games RAW, at least on the first pass, so I can change them with some knowledge of how they system works. I usually move to a new system by then and end up never modifying them.

There are two old games for which I wrote extensive house rules documents. These were more a case of necessity that actual enjoyment. I compiled a long house rules list for Rifts and other Palladium systems back when I played them. I also wrote a hose rule document for AD&D 2nd edition, but this came out of a player trying to exploit the rules rather than my desire to do it.

You could argue that I’ve always enjoyed tweaking D&D, from making up new classes in D&D BECMI, to monsters and pantheons in all other editions. One system enjoyed modifying was D20 Modern. I adapted the skill system simplified it, altered the classes. That was fun! Continue reading #RPGaDay2017 Day 15: House rules always win!

The New Alternity Game: An Interview with Richard Baker

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I’ve talked about Alternity here in the blog before. Both Stargazer and myself are fans, and have posted about it numerous times. We even had an April’s Fool post back in 2011 about a 2nd edition of the game coming out. Who knew we were not merely pranksters but we were predicting the future!

Well not quite… Like Michael wrote last year when the initial announcement came out, Sasquatch Game Studio is publishing a new version of the game. As a longtime fan, I was onboard as soon as the idea was put out there. When the Alpha play test came out I was lucky enough to be part of that.

I got together with some friends at out FLGS and we played the play test adventure. We tried to broadcast the experience via Facebook Live, and while that was not totally successful, it did inspire us to create a video blog for Spanish speaking gamers Desde la Fosa. (You can read more about that project on the post I linked to in that last hyperlink.)

As soon as the new Alternity Kickstarter was live I became a backer. Wanting to support the project and spread the word I reached out to Richard Baker to inquire about his availability for an interview. Richard was extremely graceful and not only did he answer a written interview, which makes up most this post, but he sat down to do an interview for the Desde la Fosa vlog via Google Hangout. So, we are doing a two-for-one, and the first collaboration between Desde la Fosa and Stargazer’s World! Continue reading The New Alternity Game: An Interview with Richard Baker

Traveller: No Hero’s Journey

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During the preparation of my upcoming Traveller campaign I realized something about Traveller: it’s different in one important aspect from most other roleplaying game. Characters don’t get new abilities over time. There’s no (mechanical) character advancement. The skill ratings you have at the end of character creation will be the skill rating your character will have at their demise. The only changes you can expect are because of aging.

In a way this actually makes sense. In Traveller (at least most of its editions) a skill rating of 1 is enough to get a job in that field. With a skill rating of 2 you might have a bachelor’s degree, with a rating of 3 your skill level is equal to someone with a master’s degree, and so on. In most other games a skill rating of one doesn’t mean much.

You acquired these skills during character creation which simulates several terms of service in one of the available careers. It often took 4, 8, 12, or more years to learn and practice those skill, so it doesn’t really make sense that you can easily improve on those skills during gameplay.

A lot of games, especially fantasy ones, tell the classic “hero’s journey”. Traveller doesn’t want to tell that story. In Traveller the character’s journey begins after they left their previous careers behind. Your character is not a spring chicken, but someone with perhaps 20 or more years of professional experience under their belt. You are also not playing superheroes, but common people.

I actually find it quite nice to play characters of my age from time to time. In games like D&D playing an older character always felt a bit weird. Even though your backstory said you’re an old veteran, your skills and abilities are basically on the same level as the ones of your 16-year-old comrades. Of course you could let older characters start at a higher level, but that opens another can of worms.

Aside from Traveller I don’t know that many games in which your characters don’t improve their skills and abilities during gameplay. It’s definitely one of the more common tropes in roleplaying games. Even games that boast “RPG elements” often just take the “levelling up” mechanics and disregards the other aspects.

In a game like Traveller not having skill advancement makes sense. It fits the kind of stories the game was designed to tell. What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think mechanical character advancement is a must? Or can you live without it? Please share your thoughts below.

P.S.: The crew of the Nostromo (as seen in the image above), hasn’t been harmed during the making of this blog post. 😉