Thursday, October 04, 2012

In Which The Warlock Lauds the Commendable...

So, last post was something of a downer, no?  It's easy to criticize, easy to point out the negative.  By nature, I tend to be a bit cynical--then again, who among my generation isn't?--but there's a lot to love within the pages of today's roleplaying games.  Let's pull some of my favorites!

The Doom Pool!

Roll that Doom Pool!
Chalk one up for Margaret Weis Productions' Marvel Heroic Roleplaying for an absolutely fantastic mechanic.  Even the most experienced GMs sometimes balk at having to make a judgement call on complex environmental actions, and even the most worthy of players sometimes chafe at the concept of 'GM fiat'.  For me, the Doom Pool mechanically addresses this difficulty in a simple, but effective manner.

Making your way through a burning building?  Roll against the Doom Pool to avoid falling debris or smoke inhalation.  Weaving through girders while flying?  Roll against the Doom Pool!  Need to make that super-science device extra-fast?  Doom Pool!

While it's not a be-all, end-all device, the Doom Pool serves as a quick outlet for all those times where a GM might be stuck.  It keeps play at the table moving and keeps the GM with his players, rather than referencing a rulebook.  Really, any mechanic that provides a quick resolution fits here:  the Savage Worlds "common knowledge" roll, the WEGS "frozen roll".  They're great!

In Text Fluff!

Now, this one's a spot of divisiveness.  Some gamers love the atmosphere and mood that in-text fiction brings, while others tend to loathe it.  While I tend to view rpg books more as instruction manuals than fiction collections, the occasional bit of in-character fiction really hits home the ideas and themes behind the game itself.  Plus, it pushes those archetypal ideas that form the core of a setting.

While I have issues with their fundamental rules-set, the Fantasy Flight Games' publications of Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch really capture the essence of what it means to live in the Warhammer 40K universe.  While they have a ton of material from which to generate this setting info, the tone and descriptions in these books blend the world and the mechanics together beautifully.  If only the rules themselves weren't such a mess...


This, above all else, is something that I've been reveling in.

Burned spies kill vampires?
There's a game for that...
So many games for so long have been about "universal" mechanics.  d20, GURPS, even Savage Worlds, all try to wear so many hats that they fail to focus on one particular sort of game.  As I mentioned last entry, Savage Worlds makes for a great system for pulp and action, but I'd never want to use it for a horror game--it's just not built for that genre.  But GURPS?  What's the purpose?  Why this system?  Yes, I'm sure you could run a horror game, a sci-fi game, and a fantasy game with it, but why would you?

The print-on-demand and PDF era of publishing has granted us not just the freedom of choice, but also the ability to enter new genres and tell new stories using systems built specifically for genre-emulation.  Want to run a game about down-on-their-luck boxers?  There's a game for that.   Want a game that focuses on the backroom dealings of Japanese samurai families?  Yup, a game for that, too.  Want to be a former CIA agent hunting vampires?  Yes, you're covered.

The Kickstarter Revolution!

Yes, print-on-demand and PDF are great.  But, as I'm finding out more and more, getting a product off of the ground takes start-up capital.  Kickstarter and other crowd-sourcing sites like it have become great ways for rpg designers to not only come up with said capital, but also to publicize their works.

That'd be great in and of itself, but what's best comes right alongside the Kickstarter revolution:  the discussion and analysis of an industry that, for a long time, really hasn't had any intellectual critique at the marketing and distribution level.  Now, it's a daily occurrence, through Facebook groups and message board discussions aimed not just at the design and development end of role-playing games, but also how to take a game and make it into a clean, published product in a cost-effective, efficient manner.

It's that type of discussion that really pushes forward revolution and innovation.  While I can't say that every product has benefited from these discussions, they're a massive benefit to any would-be developer.


  1. I've posted some thoughts on this elsewhere, but in case we don't read the same blogs, I have a few problems with generic systems. mainly this comes from being a huge Deadlands fan, and being massively let down by the weak and watery flavour of reloaded using savage Worlds compared to original, much more immersive system.


  2. See, I found the exact opposite with the Classic vs. Reloaded debate, but then again I played the Reloaded version first. I found the Classic rules clunky (Wind, hit locations on every attack, etc.) while the Reloaded ones focused more on the action.

    But, in either case, things like Fate Chips, Poker-based casting and the like really make Deadlands a unique animal.

    Thanks for the comment!

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