Generic RPGs: Do we really need those?

Yes, the caption is meant to be controversial. If it works for big media, why not for me? Smiley mit geöffnetem Mund But in all seriousness, what is the big deal with generic rules systems like GURPS, Fate, and others?

A friend of mine came up with the question earlier today. He’s no fan of generic system. He prefers the “one book – one system” model. If he wants to play Star Wars, he picks the Star Wars RPG from the shelf. If he wants fantasy, he picks up D&D. And if you think about it, this is something you don’t see that often in other types of games. There is no generic strategy boardgame ruleset which comes with various expansion for different settings or genres. You don’t see this with video games either.

If we look at the history of RPGs we notice that the first modern RPG, Dungeons & Dragons (1974), was basically generic. It was meant for fantasy, yes, but there was no setting. The game assumed that the GM came up with his own stuff. Nowadays D&D is more than just the rules. Settings like the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk are part of what we call “D&D” today. But things have been vastly different a few decades ago.

While it didn’t take long for RPGs written with a setting in mind were released, but generic RPGs still were very popular. In my opinion the main reason is that GMs still love to create their own worlds. And this is much easier if the rule system you use doesn’t shoehorn you into a certain genre or setting. Continue reading Generic RPGs: Do we really need those?

NaGaDeMon: It’s Full Of Stars!

One thing which makes NaGaDeMon so hard for me is that I tend to read a lot of roleplaying games especially the ones I like while I should be focusing on writing stuff myself. There are a couple of systems I love, and everything I write tends to slowly transforms into a bad copy of those systems. Instead of hanging my head in shame, I decided to share some of these games with you.

The main reason I started to work on WR&M Pocket Edition was that I wanted to create something as simple and elegant as Chris McDowall’s Into The Odd. Chris took D&D, stripped away almost everything and combined it with a very unique and awesome setting. The free version is still available on his blog, while a new version (which will also be available in print) is being worked on right now. Into The Odd has all the weirdness of a game like Numenera while being extremely simple to run and play. If you haven’t checked it out, you definitely should do so.

Apropos Numenera, Monte Cook’s Cypher system is another rules system I recently fell in love with. It’s fully player-facing, very easy to run, and has a couple of very intriguing mechanics I wish I came up with. One thing I love about the system is the Effort system. The players can lower the difficulty of tasks by spending points from their attribute pools.

This also reminded me of the way General skills in Robin D. Laws’ Gumshoe System work. Like the attribute pools in the Cypher system, the skill ratings in Esoterrorists, Trail of Cthulhu, etc. are resources to spend. Skill checks are done with a d6 and you can add points from your skills to improve your chances. I always wanted to write a system which uses skills/attributes in such a way, so it was no surprise that my updated version of Galaxy Core started to look a bit like a Frankensteinian creation – one part Galaxy Core and one part Gumshoe or Chyper. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you.
By the way, Gumshoe is now available under not one but two open licenses (CC and OGL). If you haven’t done so, you definitely should check out the SRD.

By the way, I also found the perfect magic system to be included in WR&M Pocket Edition or a WRM 2nd Edition.  R.E. Davis recently told me about his fantasy “rule manifesto” Patchwork Fantasy which is partly based on WR&M. It features an awesome spell system, which basically allows players to design their own spells by assigning 3 to 4 tags. Brilliant! You can check it out here.

At the moment I am not sure how I should proceed with my NaGaDeMon projects. I am tempted to put the two projects I wrote about earlier this week in favor of a simplified version of the Gumshoe system. It might even be possible to turn it into a system suited for fantasy games. And since it’s now licensed under CC it’s even perfectly legal now. It’s very tempting to mess with a system written by my favorite game designer, it really is.

Note: The image above was created by Pauline Moss and has been used under the terms of the CC-BY-NC 3.0 license. Check out her DeviantArt site!

NaGaDeMon: So, what am I working on?

Yesterday I wrote that it was still a bit too early to talk about my projects. Today I think it’s already time to reveal at least some details to you, my dear readers. Yes, I made a lot of progress yesterday. It seems my creative juices are flowing. Smiley

First I have to admit that I don’t have one but two projects for NaGaDeMon this year. I thought this might increase my chances of at least getting one project done this year. Let’s hope it doesn’t achieve the opposite instead.

The first thing I am working on is Galaxy Core, the rules I wrote for NaGaDeMon 2012. The game used a d% for task resolution, which didn’t actually make that much sense, so I am now reworking it to a “d20 roll under” core mechanic. I also want to generally simplify things. If you are interested in what Galaxy Core looked like in 2012, feel free to check it out on the Stargazer Games website. Any feedback is highly appreciated, by the way!

The second project is … *drumrolls*Warrior, Rogue & Mage Pocket Edition. It has been a couple of years since I last worked on anything WyRM-related and it felt way overdue. The Pocket Edition will be a simplified version of an already simple game. The first thing I did was to throw out skills and talents and rework the magic system. There’s no mana anymore, but there’s some backlash if spells fail which cause damage to the caster. I also made some major changes to the combat system. Overall I try to make things simpler, while keeping the spirit of the original game. This is actually harder than I expected, and it may take some while until it feels right. This new edition of WR&M will also be released under a more open license than the original game. It will – if I ever get it done – be my gift to all the WR&M fans out there. So stay tuned!

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