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Sturgeon's House

The Design-an-RPG thread


Toxn
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Based on discussion here, I have decided that we need to hash out argue futilely and at cross purposes about a role playing game we would all like to see exist.

 

Once we have come up with something workable, I move that we usher it blinking in the light of day, to conquer or die choking on the hot sand of reality as it will.

 

Given our argumentative tendencies and communist leanings, I am also calling for a commission to be established to select and judge the results of this discussion for inclusion into the finished product. Here, I ask all interested parties to PM me with their gaming qualifications, for inclusion into a 3-man overlord committee. Members not of the committee are requested to include some information about what they can contribute to the finished product (coding, artwork, writing, editing etc.) along with game suggestions.

 

Topics to be discussed are:

 

- The title

- Format

- Core mechanics

- Setting

- Background and lore

- Detailed implementation and resources

- Artwork, fiction, characters etc.

- Playtesting

 

My hope is that, in time, we will have something playable that also scratches our collective pedantic/grognard itches.

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Is "gets unreasonably angry at games" a qualification? Inquiring minds must know.

 

Also, depending on some important decisions made early on (such as going with turn based), an intermediary product of what's needed to make a video game would be a goodly fraction of what you need to make a PNP RPG (which is what I've really been mucking about with in off-time because assets are not a thing I can do at this point in my life).

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I've always kind of wanted an update of Twilight 2000, the old pen and paper RPG, the setting was right after the end of WWIII, that had only gone a little nuclear, and you were Americans stranded in middle of Poland after the last US ARMY attack or something. 

 

I think it would have a big market, the USA prepper nutballs, and Red Dawn fan boys, plus if it was very FPSish, FPS fans if the game play was good.

 

The setting would need an update, because we wouldn’t want to have to buy the rights to the name, plus, who cares about WWIII in the 80s now?

 

I’m not sure what help I could be.

I’m sure I could help with world/character/story lines. I could also help mechanics as long as I don’t have to do the math.

I’ve got a killer system and have beta tested a lot of software. Not just games, I got paid to write bug reports and FAQs at one time.

 

So, I guess it would really be a more realistic no mutant Fallout, with a much bigger world.

 

I’m only really interested in PC gaming. 

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At first I thought this thread was about shoulder launched anti-tank weapons.

We can do those next time.

 

I can now announce that the first overlord chair has been filled by dint of actually PMing me an application.

 

Two positions now remain, and I urge anyone who wishes to exercise nigh-dictatorial control over the form and content of the game to apply.

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Like Toxn mentioned in the other thread that spawned this one, I'm a fan of quite a few of the mechanics of Dwarf Fortress, such as the wounding system. Of course, that'd probably be a royal bitch to code, and I doubt we'll see any of DF's source code any time in the next few decades.

 

As far as setting, I like Jeeps' idea, although to increase the hipster quotient, make the character a Red Army soldier on the eastern bank of the Rhine that just had their unit's logistical tail nuked out from under them.

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I would step up to the artist's plate if I were practiced. As it was, I had talent only for sculpture and drawing, not painting.

I am highly tempted to veto Jeeps' idea, because I feel the market is totally saturated in post-apocalyptic fiction. However, I don't wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I feel there are some very positive elements to the idea that could be reincorporated elsewhere.

At any rate, I believe Toxn wanted to focus on mechanics, first.

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I would tend to think that a good system for pre-gunpowder and modern eras would probably look a bit different (having played decentish systems for each), but other than differences in focus and where the complexity in the rules is, basic stuff like resolution and so on should work decently regardless, and skill checks are pretty constant. My biggest concern would be trying to do computer stuff without significant amounts of assets (or even programmers, stuff is reasonably tricky, and using free libraries brings baggage).

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Most of my experience is in MATLAB (though I did have a couple classes of Java in high school), so I'm afraid I won't be able to be much help with that.

 

One issue that would need to get worked out fairly early in the design process is character progression. Would there be character levels as a whole, or instead a bunch of different skills, each of which would have a different rating, or some hybrid?

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I've always kind of wanted an update of Twilight 2000, the old pen and paper RPG, the setting was right after the end of WWIII, that had only gone a little nuclear, and you were Americans stranded in middle of Poland after the last US ARMY attack or something.

 

I think it would have a big market, the USA prepper nutballs, and Red Dawn fan boys, plus if it was very FPSish, FPS fans if the game play was good.

 

 

 

In my Gaming Den days I actually wrote some fluff and mechanics for an RPG whose premise is that you're playing a Special Forces team operating in a Central Asian Republic torn apart by Civil War, but then Warhammer 40K came out with Deathwatch and being able to play special ops marines dropping on different worlds seemed much more interesting even if the D100 system kinda sucked.

 

Another related project I've been doing is a block tabletop wargame with the working title of "Just Another War in the Darkest Corner of Africa", which basically simulates a small African country falling apart over resources (diamonds, oil, etc), with both sides possibly supported by foreign powers in the form of special armaments (e.g. A Hind Gunship for rebels with links to Russian oil giants). There's also a civilian death toll / humanitarian crisis element wherein the United Nations and a peacekeeping force may eventually be dispatched to try and stop the killing; albeit there's also the possibility of a "Black Hawk Down" ending if one side manages to bloody the UN forces enough to force a withdrawal.

 

I realize I really don't like doing Third World War designs because the scenario is unrealistic to me unless nukes start flying; at which point it isn't much of a game. The only scenario I really liked was "Revolt in the East", which posits a mass Warsaw Pact revolt followed by a massive NATO ground intervention. That one is actually interesting since NATO isn't so hopelessly outnumbered and there's reason for both sides not to simply drop nukes.

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That makes sense, any non-shit mechanics system should be able to be used in a wide variety of settings.

That's the plan, although as Xthetenth points out your mechanics change a bit once you hit the modern era.

 

X also brings up another good point: that we don't have enough skills present here to make a full game. My feeling, then, is that we should work on mechanics, backgrounds, etc and limit our digital aspirations to the creation of a roll resolver or similar. Then again, there is nothing stopping us from going really old school and relying mainly on text.

 

As Sturgeon mentioned, I think we should hash out core mechanics for a bit:

- What platform are we going to use (computer, pen-and-paper, tabletop, cards, hybrids etc)?

- What are we going to use to provide random chance and resolve events?

- What general approach to characters and their growth will we take? (mentioned by Unstart)

- What is our overall philosophy going to be for mechanics? (touched on by Sturgeon)

 

At the same time, I'm going to make another topic to allow people to play around with story and settings. Once we've resolved the core game design and setting, then it's time to work on more fine-grained mechanics, fire up a character or two and test to see if things hold together.

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In my Gaming Den days I actually wrote some fluff and mechanics for an RPG whose premise is that you're playing a Special Forces team operating in a Central Asian Republic torn apart by Civil War, but then Warhammer 40K came out with Deathwatch and being able to play special ops marines dropping on different worlds seemed much more interesting even if the D100 system kinda sucked.

 

Another related project I've been doing is a block tabletop wargame with the working title of "Just Another War in the Darkest Corner of Africa", which basically simulates a small African country falling apart over resources (diamonds, oil, etc), with both sides possibly supported by foreign powers in the form of special armaments (e.g. A Hind Gunship for rebels with links to Russian oil giants). There's also a civilian death toll / humanitarian crisis element wherein the United Nations and a peacekeeping force may eventually be dispatched to try and stop the killing; albeit there's also the possibility of a "Black Hawk Down" ending if one side manages to bloody the UN forces enough to force a withdrawal.

 

I realize I really don't like doing Third World War designs because the scenario is unrealistic to me unless nukes start flying; at which point it isn't much of a game. The only scenario I really liked was "Revolt in the East", which posits a mass Warsaw Pact revolt followed by a massive NATO ground intervention. That one is actually interesting since NATO isn't so hopelessly outnumbered and there's reason for both sides not to simply drop nukes.

On the one hand, I loathe how darkest Africa has become this lazy stereotype that we all wallow in whenever anything happens on the continent.

On the other hand, a game which shows just how fucking impossible was for any of the post-colonial countries to develop in a stable and productive fashion during the cold war would be pretty neat. And grimdark.

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Ooh, because triple-poasting is the acme of good forum behaviour:

 

We have another overlord! All hail!

Now we just need one more...

 

Also, I can offer my writing and drawing skills to this effort, with the caveat that I cannot into digital art or human figures. I have also happily played around with building a few RPGs and similar, but will readily admit to a tendency to make mechanics that only I seem to like. You may notice this tendency more and more as time goes on.

 

Speaking of which:

http://sinisterdesign.net/the-battle-system-i-wish-rpgs-would-stop-using/

 

I also want to put in a plug for description-based skills that can get used on a per-scene basis. I love 'em because they are flexible and work more like law than accounting (which is what a lot of these systems devolve into). For peeps not in the know, a description-based skill (not the proper term, because I've forgotten the proper term) involves simply that: your character gets a simple description or phrase which you can then apply creatively to many situations. 'Cool under fire' can then be used, scene to scene, to grant a bonus roll for accuracy or brush off a vehicle skill check. These can also be used against the player, in the form of descriptions forcibly added or inherent descriptions attached to items or locations. Or, you know, the GM could just argue that 'quick on the draw' means that your character failed a conversation check.

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I sadly have no practical experience designing games on the computer or pen and paper.

I'm only here to throw in oddball ideas and to act as the straight man in any comic routines.

I do like the Gothic Wars idea but am probably the only one who'd dig post Roman stuff.

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I sadly have no practical experience designing games on the computer or pen and paper.

I'm only here to throw in oddball ideas and to act as the straight man in any comic routines.

I do like the Gothic Wars idea but am probably the only one who'd dig post Roman stuff.

Post-Roman could be an awesome idea, as I think a lot of us have mentioned already.

 

As for your qualities as a straight man, I think you'll find your talents better served in other roles.

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That's the plan, although as Xthetenth points out your mechanics change a bit once you hit the modern era.

 

X also brings up another good point: that we don't have enough skills present here to make a full game. My feeling, then, is that we should work on mechanics, backgrounds, etc and limit our digital aspirations to the creation of a roll resolver or similar. Then again, there is nothing stopping us from going really old school and relying mainly on text.

 

As Sturgeon mentioned, I think we should hash out core mechanics for a bit:

- What platform are we going to use (computer, pen-and-paper, tabletop, cards, hybrids etc)?

- What are we going to use to provide random chance and resolve events?

- What general approach to characters and their growth will we take? (mentioned by Unstart)

- What is our overall philosophy going to be for mechanics? (touched on by Sturgeon)

 

At the same time, I'm going to make another topic to allow people to play around with story and settings. Once we've resolved the core game design and setting, then it's time to work on more fine-grained mechanics, fire up a character or two and test to see if things hold together.

 

*flashbacks from 10 years ago when Zinegata was very active in The Gaming Den*

 

The Essence of RPGs

 

The essential thing to realize about a roleplaying game is that it is ultimately a conflict generation and resolution mechanism. The game must be able to create conflict scenarios, that is then resolved by the players using their characters.

 

Hence, before beginning development, you need to define what kinds of conflict the system is supposed to generate and resolve. All successful RPGs, at its core, must feature interesting conflicts that players would like to participate in - be it a "dungeon crawl/adventure" conflict (D&D), a "military" conflict (Twilight 2000), a "space opera" conflict (Star Wars) or whatever.

 

And in general, I'd note that specificity is very important for good RPGs. D20 Modern for instance is mostly forgotten because it didn't have a strong central core conflict - it was basically seen as a D&D port in a quasi-modern setting that didn't necessarily subscribe to the dungeon crawl style of conflict to begin with. Shadowrun by contrast, despite its mechanical clunkiness, has niched itself solidly by defining itself as the RPG that combines both magic and cyberpunk elements in a sorta coherent whole.

 

Tabletop vs Computer Implementation

 

In general, tabletop systems are the easiest to develop because the premise of the system is that there is a human Gamemaster to nudge the system along even when the rules fall short. On the other hand, the ease of development means there's also a massive glut of tabletop gaming material out there, plus it's not exactly a growing market. This will apply regardless what your conflict resolution mechanism is - be it dice, special dice, cards, etc.

 

PC games by contrast are much harder to develop, as the computer game program must come out fully understanding the rules with minimal bugs; and it must also have the resources to generate conflict scenarios. A tabletop Game Master can, with a few hours of preparation, create a dungeon that the players will tackle. A computer can't do this - it must have a pre-loaded scenario or it must have very robust tools for creating random encounters (as eptomized by the random dungeons of rogue-likes).

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Computer game design and writing is a finicky beast. The goal of an RPG design is at its heart to get the players to make choices as their characters (both in and out of combat and I desperately hate how Combat is combat with combat mechanics and Not-Combat is not, and never the twain shall meet). Good choices to present them with can vary. Difficult choices that really present a hard choice for the player and easy choices that affirm the character for the player (such as acts of self-sacrifice for one example) and the party are both and have their place. In PnP it's really easy to present a section of the adventure such that it poses a dramatic question and the players can to try to solve it. There's no worry if one of the players comes up with something unexpected because the GM can design after the players make their decisions. Often the end result is that they still went from the question to one answer, but they took a different path. That's not a huge deal because you can design with any consequences of that baked into your work.

 

Yes I did just say something functionally similar to what Zine just said, but that's the essence of the difficulty of Computer game scenario design (and actually a role that doesn't have an equal in tabletop game design other than designing premade modules). It's the move from having a conversation to preparing for a debate, where you need to have a prepared response for anything your opposite number brings up. There's two tools you have. The first is anticipating the likely answers. This is obvious, but each answer takes time and effort, and consequences from those choices result in progressively more possibilities. Other than a very few games (such as superlative gem of game responding to player choices Alpha Protocol), that means the choice branches off, and then the paths get necked right back down. A neat way to do that is the Bioware formula where you have a bunch of parallel goals that all need to be accomplished and will be by definition when you finish them, and they don't depend on each other. The other tool isn't as easily noticed by players, but it's vital. It's constraining the likely choices by scenario design. If a good chunk of your players are going to want to do something that you can't let them do that's a badly designed scenario. If a game is a conversation, then computer game design is planning leading questions so you know what sort of answers you might get and preparing responses for them.

 

Also I'd love something late Roman to early Medieval, that'd be awesome (and there's a reason it's one of the periods my recent literary acquisitions has focused on, the other of course being the Early Modern).

 

A fun example of a very different design philosophy to what that article is complaining about would be Expeditions: Conquistador. Simple ruleset, a few very powerful abilities with great synergy potential, and the resulting combat is tight.

 

I don't think we have the skill sets to do much more than Dorf Fort Graphics RPG, unfortunately. However, the nice thing is that complexity for (turn based primarily, and I will fight for turn based as the best for delivering good choices in combat) computer games that can be really well reasoned about and pnp games that can be really well reasoned about is that they have similar complexity limits. Design the ruleset, test it by playing with dice and so on while the game design happens.

 

Also I'm pretty busy at work, so that's a shame, but I do programming for a living (and occasionally playing karoshi chicken). I draft more than draw though.

 

Lastly, my general opinion of DnD is that it's a bad ugly dinosaur that shouldn't be mentioned in polite company. When the entire choice of a whole section of character design (attribute choice) is actually rolling a save on system mastery vs. a bad character, that's not a good sign.

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