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Sadly, I don't often have the chance to role play, and, from my group of friends, being the only one to own any kind of role playing materials (which resumes to a few set of dices, 4 AD&D books and 2 Vampire books, I'm really lacking in this sector), I hardly get the chance to role-play. This is a shame, because I enjoy role-playing so much. I have to resort to playing pen & paper on-line, with other friends, using chat programs like ICQ or AIM or mIRC.
At any rate, because of past experiences I had with my on-line group of players (and 2 of them that had started to write a RPG system from the ground up, but this project eventually went kaput out of lack of interest) I have myself, wrote an entire gaming system. I know, there are many of those out there, game systems I mean. But I think mine is different from the majority of them. Ok so, saying this may look pretentious, and I don't want to be pretentious, but my system is about half-way done, and already numbers upward of 250 pages. The core rules are made, and every time I can test-play it, I find new things to add, new items to create, new rules to write down.
So you might be asking yourself "Why is he telling me that...
What does he want?" Well, I don't want much really. Just some tips,
or info. I want to release a toned-down version of my system on the
net, for free (nothing at all). Because I want to thoroughly
play-test it, and doing so would be the best way possible of doing
it. So I was wondering if you could give me some directions, or
help, at how to do it, how to reach to enough people that would be
willing to help me. I know that I could set up a free web page, but
unless I advertise it, it wont go very far. Well, now I'm feeling
to start like a silly guy, asking you for help for nothing... well,
if you think I'm going to far, just reply with an e-mail titled
"/me slap you" and I'll understand.... At any rate, thanks for the
time you have given me.
We've already given Guillaume plenty of tips to gain publicity. We've posted his letter here so anyone interested in his game can contact him (on email@example.com) and get involved.
If you do, or if you could supply me with information, I'd appreciate it. I used to play with a small group in Garland but we have lost our DM. He was a stellar player and I really miss it. I'm mid-forties, my son is sixteen, and there are several other people who might be interested if we could find a DM. We've even talked about paying a small fee, if we can find someone with some imagination and flair. You can contact me through my work address: Pam.Wellborn@Verizon.com
We're not great on connecting gamers because we lack a big enough readership, but we'll take a chance and hope someone from Dallas is reading this, and can help Marla out.
He is wrong.
Such is only the case for those poor benighted souls that see Dungeons and Dragons as nothing more than a wargame; the hack and slash powergamers who don't care what their character's backstory is, just where their next magic item is coming from. I'm not saying that our esteemed author is one of them. I'm just saying that he doesn't realize something that deep down, he has to know.
Chess is, fundamentally, a different kind of game than D&D is, and has been for a long, long time. Chess has time limits, a winner and a loser, and the final event is the total defeat of one or the other of the players. Fun is, at best, a side effect; for serious players, it sometimes goes by the wayside.
Dungeons and Dragons has no time limits. It has no winners and losers; indeed, the belief that there is a winner or loser is the defining flaw of the munchkin, in my opinion. There is no final event, no ultimate goal, save one, and that is the entertainment of the people who are playing. For some, those I would call powergamers, the fun is in making a character who is as powerful as possible within the rules. For others, the fun is in making a character who is as alive as possible, within the rules. For others, the fun is cooperating to create an epic story. Jesse's points have no bearing on these.
Not all roleplaying games are played this way, by the way. Baron Munchausen (a very fun game, I might add) has a time limit, and a winner which is chosen at that time. Games like that are very unusual, certainly, and Mr. Burneko's point would apply to them just as clearly as it does to chess. But Dungeons and Dragons is not played this way.
For games where there is no winner, where the point is to create strong characters and epic stories, the rules play a different role than they do in games like chess. They exist to facilitate the kind of play that the players want to have. For this reason, the rules, especially character creation rules, need to be flexible. In the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, this wasn't a huge priority; its competitors offered no more flexibility than our venerable friend did. Now, however, with games like GURPS, Hero, Story Engine, and Big Eyes, Small Mouth out there, games where you can make any character that will fit in the GM's gameworld, it was only fitting that more flexibility be added to the system.
In short, Mr. Burneko's arguments only have meaning in a very
limited group of players, namely those who see Dungeons and Dragons
as a competition to make one's character the most powerful in the
game. Since most games aren't run this way, even among powergamers,
Mr. Burneko's comments are, for the most part, irrelevant to any
argument about the quality of the third edition rules.
Good points from Fred. If you have anything else to add to Jesse's article, please send it in. And now, the irrepressible Nick McCarthy strikes again!
Hello folks, me again :)
Anyway, congrats on a great issue, one in fact, that apart from the lack of a scenario, is probably one of your best.
Lots of nostalgia this issue, with Kevin Kaier writing about his first D&D boxed set (I wonder if there is any one who read that who said “What? They used to come in boxes? What the hell for?” If any one did...you used to get dice in the box as well! Dice so cheap you had to rub a wax pencil over them to make the numbers legible!
Scott Lynch also brought back the fond memories of some of my greatest characters who were wildly inappropriate to the setting, yet still achieved greatness, from the normal human in a super group (who managed to take down a super villain one time by running him over with a truck) to my wheel chair bound Cthulhu investigator...though he died when the rest of the party ran way from a hideous creature of such inhuman appearance that no one managed to keep there cool long enough to remember to help him to get out of the house. Still great fun to play though.
Thanks to Jon Carroll as well for answering my question, though I don’t know if I am intrigued enough to buy the book he recommended (who am I trying to kid...I am fighting the urge to go to Amazon right now!), and to Simon Hibbs for his comments about how too many rules make it harder to GM a game, and take away power (for want of a better word) from the GM. I have been saying this for a while and have been looked as an idiot by most folks that I have dared to voice this point of view to. Nice to know i'm not alone.
The two articles on system design were interesting, though
I’m not entirely convinced of the rule of three that Patrick
O'Duffy puts forward, but I will try every thing twice, and most
things three times. Antoine Dinimant piece was very good as well,
but don’t put Numbered notes in like that again please...I
hate that. I can offer no logical reason for this, I just do ok? I
also can’t go to sleep unless all the light switches on the
panel at the bottom of the stairs are lined up nice and neat, so
maybe I'm just crazy. Which is no doubt why I enjoyed Alex Lokes
tale of system less play gone awry so much, I had a good laugh at
that one all right!
Always great to hear your breakdown of each issue, Nick, and we're sorry about the footnotes thing. This issue Nick also gives us an article - welcome to the fold!
I refer to the article "Competence is Overrated" by Scott Lynch. In the course of this article the author makes two (two!) ignorant and bigoted swipes at that finest of all games, Rolemaster, viz:
"Hell, if you're playing Rolemaster, having your character stand still for five minutes watching the clouds pass raises the possibility of instant death by impaling critical."
"Some games are also patently skewed toward combat (Rolemaster, for example)"
The first is so bizarre it barely requires refutation. What he's getting at here, I'm not sure. If his experience of playing Rolemaster (and I assume he HAS played it since he is so quick to judge) includes being impaled by clouds, then I suggest he's playing it wrong - conceivably you could suffer an Electrical critical if a particularly mean-minded GM wanted to punish an inattentive player, but how a cloud could impale you, I cannot see.
The second statement requires a little more experience of Rolemaster, and roleplaying in general, to give lie to. Rolemaster certainly has a comprehensive combat system. In fact, it has a comprehensive magic system, a comprehensive skill system, a comprehensive character generation system and, if you want to look at every supplement ever produced, a comprehensive system for just about everything. The sad fact is that many more excitable gamers don't get any further with Rolemaster than the critical tables - "Haw, haw! You can disembowel a dude on a 98." and similar responses display the mindset of this type which Mr Lynch, regrettably, typifies in this article.
Played properly, Rolemaster combat actually works to minimize combat. Unlike D&D (for instance) where characters can stand for round after round of sword-swinging tedium, Rolemaster combat can turn quickly on a few blows that weaken opponents. Additionaly, torn muscles and broken bones are a far greater possibility than death, meaning that even victorious characters take away disadvantages from combat that are not so easily dealt with than in other games.
By contrast, the character generation and skill systems allow for the creation of characters with skills to avoid combat - influence, subterfuge and knowledge are more use in a well-run Rolemaster campaign than combat monster skills, the use of which will leave you maimed and damaged for weeks to come.
The magic system further encourages imaginative play, with less than a quarter of spells skewed toward magic. Far more common are spells dealing with subterfuge, influence and detection, the very things that allow for the resolution of conflict through non-violent means.
Rolemaster allows for the creation of exactly the sort of character Mr Lynch describes in his article, and GURPS and Storyteller are more easily min-maxed than Rolemaster, which ensures that ALL characters have some knowledge of their culture, region and language, and that they all have quirky skills and hobbies that make them individual.
Sorry to pick out these two asides from this article, but I get very fed up with the uninformed characterisation of Rolemaster as some sort of combat nightmare. The fact that it's combat yields results more graphic than abstract hit point loss does not, in my experience, lead to session after session of clashing combat monsters. On the contrary, when the consequences of combat are laid out so clearly, it becomes a much less appealing option.
We will point out that Scott has played Rolemaster a fair bit and his jokes were intended to be gentle kidding without malice. Rolemaster is a good game and one that is too often maligned out of habit and cliche. But as for Rolemaster's combat orientation, that's perhaps debatable...so we won't comment either way. And now, here's some more comments on Scott's piece to wrap things up:
The wolf died that same session; and that is one of the big problems with playing the incompetent hero. Roleplaying is a cooperative effort. The GM needs to create challenges that are, well, challenging. He/she will be bringing out the big guns because the rest of the group can handle it, which means your character is facing certain death if he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Meanwhile the other players may be getting annoyed at your lack of assistance in slaying the dragon, bringing the supervillain to justice, piloting the spaceship through a meteor storm, deciphering the ancient tome of Cthulhu, etc. In fact, they may be too busy saving your hide to do it themselves, which can be another source of frustration.
On top of that, every combat session is going to get a little boring if every encounter involves you stabbing the enemy in the toe and then running away before a retaliatory attack smites you verily. I know: I once played a halfling thief in the AD&D campaign - Against the Giants. It wasn't great.
So what's the solution? I think every incompetent needs to have some talent to make him/her/it playable. It the "just one' phenomenon except that it doesn't make up for the character's other weaknesses. Scott uses the hobbit example, and Frodo and the gang were good at sneaking around. It's the reason that most fantasy systems still include a thief/rogue class. Even if you're fighting the legions of Zarbon with only an accountant, at least make it an accountant who can throw his voice, or who can hold his breath for six minutes, or who has a knack for spotting when things are out of place. It's not much, but it's something the player can look for opportunities to use when he/she is sick of trying to constantly outsmart the GM.
The other thing to do is warn the other players as well as the GM. Tell them that you want to play an incompetent and judge their reactions. If they give you that look that says you're talking a new language, then it's probably not a good idea. Otherwise they'll only get annoyed at you getting in the way. But if they think the idea is cool, and so does the GM, then go for it. It can be greatly rewarding.
In a game full of super heroes and super villains, I once played a guy with completely invulnerable hands. Nothing else, just invulnerable hands. In the hero system, it's a very expensive power. It meant that he could stop knives thrown at him if he got his hands in the way in time, and he could wrap his head in his hands when running through a hail of laser eye beams, and it didn't hurt when he punched through windows, but generally he just watched the other super dudes lay waste to all around him. The flipside was that, because of his closeness with the average Joe, a lot of the roleplaying storyline actually revolved around him. And the moments when he did get to be the hero of the group were so momentous because they were so rare and unexpected.
The other thing to remeber is to still give the character enough personality to make him part of the group. Scott's example of Dr Watson is a poor one, simply because Watson is so very bland as a sidekick, whereas Batman's Alfred is a better example simply because of the constant sarcasm. In fact, an incompetent with spunk is much better than a hero with spunk. Who cares if Zalamar, champion of Tredgmir, challenges the evil Baron Merqu? That's his job. It's when Toby, the baker's son, challenges him that things get interesting. You get people wondering what little Toby's got up his sleeve, or is he just bluffing? That's the fun of playing the nobody. It means so much more when he/she becomes somebody.
Just some thoughts to ponder.
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