Monday, September 17, 2007

Roleplaying, the beginning

Roleplaying is a great passion of mine. I love sitting down with some friends, and being able to journey to another place for 4-6 hours. Sometimes its difficult, sometimes its not fun, but most of the time it is neither of those things. Its difficult to describe what makes roleplaying so much fun. Some of it is definitely the camaraderie, even though its all in our heads in reality, nothing quite compares to sitting down week after week, facing the challenges of the world (whatever world that happens to be).

Seeing as how spend something like 10 - 16 hours in any given week, I have some resources that I thought I'd share here. First Jane Epenson's blog. Jane is a TV writer on such great shows as Battlestar Galactica, Buffy, and others. More interesting than her credentials, however, is the insight she brings to the writing process. She talks a lot about how to discover and develop emotional arcs, which is really important in roleplaying, since that is the meat of any great game (IMO). Other than that, I've been following These Are Our Games. This blog covers the very interesting game Polaris, and a game I have incredible hope for Bliss Stage (playing children mecha pilots in a dreamland where your mecha is made of your relationships, AMAZING!). And of course, check out Tim Kopping's roleplaying site. He's written the very good and interesting Hero's Banner, and wrote up Persona, me and Mike's most successful game to date.

For those of you not in the know, Mike Hewner and I have developed a couple of games on our own. The Rules of Conduct, which has a playing card based mechanic a-la Magic the Gathering. TROC as it is known (trawk) had some interesting features. For one, only a few skills (1-3) and no attributes are present in the game. Our intention with this game was to make a system that really made you feel like a badass by naming all of your techniques and maneuvers. TROC, however, was too complicated, mainly due to character generation, which could take an half hour for a random NPC.

Another game Mike and I developed was Persona. This was our second system, and really our best. Tim has even written it up. This game had two things going for it: Just In Time character generation (genius!), and anything goes attribute/skill/fragment dice modifiers. No longer are you limited to a preset list of skills or attributes. Want points because you're fighting your father's killer, no problem! Want points for your awesome combat maneuver "Death of a Thousand Swans", also no problem. Mike and I have run Persona games for just about anyone that will sit down through one, and almost everyone has liked it. I'm even going to be trying to run a game at Ambercon North West using Persona.

The third system of note (we developed a persona-esque system that defined 3 axis of combat for any roll called Insight, but it never really hit it off) was Menagerie. Menagerie did a couple of things wierd. You were given the names of animals for your skill. Each of these animal names was a technique in your skill. In any test, you would select a technique to pit against another animal. You didn't know the point values of these techniques, you got a random one-third of technique between 1 and the level of your skill (so if you put 60 points into a skill, you would get 20 animal techniques, distributed between 1 and 60). You didn't want to open with your best animal, since allowing anyone to see your techniques gives them an advantage if you don't instantly dispatch them. Another twist to this system is that even the GM doesn't know the ratings of these techniques. Everything was done with a computer, and only it knew the point values of your techniques. The idea was you would try to build up knowledge (you the player) of the other skills, building a kind of skill yourself as you discovered more about the in game world. Unfortuantely the Menagerie game was lost in my harddrive crash last year, but it wouldn't really be hard to resurrect.

The most recent system (developed last month) is Chrome Dawn, a system with a cyberpunk setting. I'll post more on that at some later time.


Chris said...

Glad to hear you are running Persona at Ambercon Northwest this year; I feel that it was my harangue - which regrettably verged upon insult - that moved you toward running it there. So even as my chest swells with pride, I offer my apologies...conflicted much?

BTW, I highly recommend both Ambercon Northwest *and* Persona to any role-player. Intelligent Big Fun!

Ben said...

Other people put more into your comment than I did, I was very pleased to receive it (it was a vote of confidence, after all!), an yeah, it did give me the extra push to go ahead and run that game :).