Interview: Greg Saunders

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About a week ago I wrote about Greg Saunders’ Exilium Kickstarter. Since I was interested in learning more about his new game and the man himself, I asked him to answer a couple of questions. He’re are his answers.

Stargazer: At first I want to thank you for taking your time to answer a few questions for us. So, who is this Greg Saunders anyway? Please tell us a bit about yourself. When did you start playing roleplaying games and what made you writing your own?

Greg: I’m a father of two who’s been playing RPGs for years, since about the age of ten when AD&D was my game. I’ve played a huge number of games, especially in the eighties and nineties, my favourite from my youth being WHFRP and the Enemy Within campaign, and of course CoC. I first started writing games when I didn’t have much time to play them, due to the arrival of my two children! I have a fairly creative streak (I also do some sculpting of miniatures to an amateur level), so it’s an expression of that same desire. The Indie RPG scene really put me on to the idea that mechanics can be used to reinforce themes, and that’s at the core of my writing. Exilium uses an open generic rule set, but it has been adapted to specifically work with the ideas of redemption that drives the narrative of the game.

Stargazer:  With this out of the way, let’s have a look at “In Flames” and “Exilium”. You’re currently running a Kickstarter project that is supposed to fund a reimagined version of “In Flames” called “Exilium”. What made you considering creating a new version of the game and can you elaborate on some of the planned changes?

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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. 😉

Kickstarter: Exilium–An Open D6 SF RPG

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Today Greg Saunders, the designer of “In Flames” contacted me. He is currently trying to fund “Exilium” which is a reimagining of the aforementioned “In Flames” RPG. So what is Exilium all about?

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Exilium is a science fiction roleplaying game based on the Open D6 System. In the game you play a character who has the feeling of being trapped in a body not their own. Eventually it turns out that your character was once part of a group of post humans living in a paradise-like realm called Elysium. Because of some crime committed, you have been banished. Your ultimate goal is to earn the right to return to Elysium.

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Greg is trying to raise enough money in order to add full-color art and professional layout to Exilium. The rules are already written, and all the material already released for “In Flames” will be included. But Exilium is not a simple patch job. The setting has been overhauled based on player feedback, and some details have been tweaked for ease of play.

The funding goal is set as 1500 £. As of the time of this writing 662 £ have been raised. So is Exilium a Kickstarter project worth your attention? If you are a fan of either the d6 System or scifi you definitely should check it out. The risk is minimal, since there are no unrealistic stretch goals, and the text is already done. As soon as the project is funded (and if you pledged at least £10) you’ll get an art-free version of the game (and of course the final release version at soon as it’s done). Sounds like a fair deal to me.

If you want to learn more about Exilium check out its Kickstarter page.

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