Alright! With a gaggle of sessions under our proverbial belts, our Star Wars game and my new ruleset that powers it have been going great. Thus far, things have run very smoothly and has already fueled a lot of great moments. There’s still some rules gaps and wrangling to do, but the base document is pretty much complete (if written completely in point form language). I’m not quite ready to share it yet, but I will try to get back to writing its big gestures and intents. Until then, here several cool things that have emerged thus far, specifically around core Aurora Engine elements: Continue reading
I am very much excited about WotC’s announcement that they’ll be shifting how they portray (and thus limit) ‘inherently evil races’ to open up much greater latitudes in alignment, abilities, societies, and etc. For one, the term race is confusing, since these are really whole different species. For two, just as our species (humans) are vast and varied, so too should be and can be members of other species (whether elves, or dwarves, or kobolds, or orcs). For three, it’s far more interesting! Automatic evil is easy (and still available, be it through fiends or monstrosities or undead) but allowing for greater agency by the antagonists is more juicy, and the meatiest stories often deal with the ‘evil within’ (both individual character but fellow humans/etc acting in very bad ways) vs an external and ‘black box’ kind of auto-evility machine. For four, as someone who finds attribute bonuses the least interesting way to differentiate different species, I hope this pushes more games (even if D&D itself likely won’t adopt this unless they ever do make a new edition or come out with an optional ruleset) towards more nifty species talents/stunts/feats (such as the Dwarf’s resistance to poison, or the Dragonborn’s breath weapon) that create far more interesting options, capabilities, and side uses for players.
For five, and of great importance, is this: who we know ourselves as a person and as a collective people is/are thoroughly governed by story – the story we know about ourselves, the stories we tell about our community, the stories we speak of about the world. As such, the stories we make up and tell each other for entertainment absolutely has an impact on how we view, interact with, and treat the real world and others within it. They are not separate. Thus to say ‘this race is all bad’ or ‘this race is always big and scary’ or ‘this race is really only good at this’ creates mental traps for us as we relate to and deal with others in our actual and lived lives.
So yeah. Doing away with the more rigid stereotypes and tropes and that present a gameworld view that one’s place, role, competencies, and expected outcomes in the world are governed primarily (and almost entirely) by factors of their species and instead moving towards the item(s) that often draws us to our favourite fiction: culture, style, worldview, way of life, way of building things, and ways of dealing with things. In short: towards character.
Because character and characters are what an RPG is all about.
As you’ve likely noticed, I haven’t written anything further on crafting the ruleset for our upcoming Star Wars campaign. That’s because the starting date got moved up a bunch and my time had to be focused on writing the rules rather than writing about the rules. Our first session was last weekend and it went well! And there’s already a few tweaks to make, which is cool and exciting – I knew there would be plenty of things to fix and refine and it’s great to do some honest actual playtesting!
I’m prepping like mad for this weekend’s game (and I need to make the opening crawl, of course), but I fully intend to return here to share the rules writing process, the nuances of the rules themselves, and to demonstrate how to take the core Aurora engine and craft an entire system out of it that supports the style of gameplay perfect for the game and campaign.
Until then, let’s talk a bit about… Kickstarters!
For the first, I got my copy of the Cortex Prime book (in PDF form) and W O W. It is a thing of beauty in terms of graphic layout (and hopefully in terms of organization too… I haven’t given it a thorough enough read with a blank perspective to assess it yet). I already had experience with the rules and liked them, so there was no disappointment there either. But what really caught my eye and has me super thrilled was reading all the contributors. Because many of them worked on other systems I have enjoyed, some of which were systems that they created. Which means that these creators – and sellers! – of their own rules nonetheless helped develop and play with other rulesets and enjoy them. It’s this great circle of everyone having fun and supporting each other (again, even if some might otherwise see them as “competitors”) and playing all sorts of different types of games and using the rulesets that support them. That’s just super heartwarming to me.
For the second, a new campaign just launched today on Kickstarter for something that, if you’re picking up on the theme here by now, has me giddily excited: an RPG based on the genre of Franco-Belgian graphic novels (aka bandes dessinée).
First off, I’ve created a PDF compilation for your reading pleasure! Click below to grab it:
And so, where do we go from here? The big next step is to take this core engine and begin to create some full rulesets out of it, both for playtesting but moreover for actual campaign play. First up will be using it for an upcoming (and fittingly) Star Wars game I’ll be running. Over the coming months I’ll share the design diaries as I put it together.
After that, I have some ideas for at least partial write-ups for campaigns based on Zoids, spycraftian action, Broken Lands, and maybe even Firefly. Though the idea of a Tank Girl RPG I used as an example in the introduction could also be fun to try out…
Thank you all for reading, and if you try this out yourself and create a campaign with it, I’d love to hear any feedback. Game on!
Postscript – Breaking the Core Mechanic (In a Good Way)
Sometimes, hooking a sub-system onto the core isn’t quite enough to model the intricacies of a particular genre. Sometimes you just gotta directly hack the core. Here’s one example of how this can work well when carefully applied, centering around the fixed target number. Continue reading
Additional and Common Subsystems and Considerations
To round out and complete the resolution system… Continue reading
Creating the Base Pool
After going through nearly the entirety of the resolution system and outlining the bits that happen once the base pool has been gathered, it’s well past time to cover how that base pool, and its baseline value of 5 dice, is generated. This is no trivial matter. As every test or roll made by a character begins with these values, what gets included, measured, and listed on the character sheet not only defines that character but also has a huge influence on the overall genre, tone, and playstyle of the entire game/campaign. These values say what’s important about the characters, and thus what’s important about the game. They influence how the players view the characters, how they approach things, and what kinds of actions they will take. They provide flavour and guidance and ultimately are the lens through which the players/characters know themselves. All in all, the way characters are measured and defined is one of the most important choices in designing the campaign. Continue reading
The Twist: “Buying” Success
Riffing on the previous concept is a twist that complements the idea of MoS from the opposite direction: If I fail the roll, or if I succeeded but want extra MoS, I can “buy” extra dice to succeed (or succeed better) at cost.
While this doesn’t preclude the recommendation of using a “fail-forward” concept in scenario design, there are still times where I might want my character to succeed in this moment, right now. And so I have a choice… let things continue as I rolled them, or am I willing to put my character into some narrative (backed by mechanics) peril in order to get the win?
If I choose the latter, <devilish voice>excellent</devil>. Much like the ladder of options for MoS, each extra die bought in this manner raises the magnitude of the potential trouble. The number of dice to be bought doesn’t need to be stated up front, allowing them to be bought one at a time, rolling and adding to my total and gradually raising the stakes until either my character succeeds or I reach my limit of peril.
Note that the narrative/perilous cost of the extra dice is paid whether they lead to success or not! Continue reading