Saturday, March 24, 2012

[RPG] Answering the Question

So back to real blogging, mostly on RPGs, with some intermittent tabletop games and the now and then MtG posts. (And the occasional riff from SinSynn.)

A little while ago, Von posted the interesting Old Stuff Day post and I was interested in the ideas he presented here- the "Less is More" concept for game setting and even to some extent, game description.

I spoke in the comments about an idea for a game I have that is still in development. I mentioned that to me, it can't be nicely summed up in tables or mechanical descriptions; but WHY is a difficult thing to explain.

Not quite. I'm trying. 

I'll blert a little about my game idea, and then walk through the problems I'm facing, and then see if Von (or anyone else) has any comments that can get me on the right path.

The setting is pretty much this; but some major points have been changed around. Instead of "cities", the localities will in essence be islands. The distance between the islands isn't made of water; but rather made of 'void space' that takes special training to traverse.

Another chance since I last visited this idea seriously is the knowledge of other places. Rather than knowing that each place has strange but predictable behaviors, the inhabitants of the universe DON'T know very much about outside lands.

The problems- 

Describing the "void space" idea is pretty tough. I still haven't nailed down exactly how it works. I'm not sure if it's psychic, magical, mathematical; or something else.

Because I haven't decided what the void space IS yet; determining how to traverse it is equally challenging.

What if any wilderness and beasties are on each "island", and why- it seems silly, but "the stuff you encounter' seems to be the crux of both Von and Zak's commentary for gameable material and setting my setting apart. I haven't really considered that yet.

I'm still very much of the mindset that the environment alone (the voids and the inhabitants of the various islands) are treacherous enough without throwing beasts/monsters into it. But somehow that seems lame, and I'm struggling.

System is my last real issue. My concept has wild variations in theme or setting- because it changes everytime the PCs go somewhere new. A flexible system seems to want to lend itself here, but the underlying plot and it's supporting cast mean a deeper system might be needed. I'm looking at 5 different possible systems at the moment, and none of them offer everything I need. So a hybrid might be in order.

(Aside: Anyone have a Mage:The Ascension book they're willing to sell or trade? I have lots of interesting trade material....)

Trying to describe this setting in an effective fashion has me stumped. People ask me "what kind of game do you want to run?" and I have no real way to answer, because I want to run every kind of game.

So how do I answer the question?


  1. Sometimes it might be better instead to describe what might happen in a typical session, or what kinds of things might happen in a typical story arc.


    High-octane chases and fight sequences, frequent captures and escapes, starship combat and personal growth as bonds form with long periods of the "party" being separated-

    is different from

    Mystery/survival horror in the confines of a spaceship

    While both can be listed as "a space game", Star Wars and Alien play out pretty differently.

  2. The things you encounter don't have to be monsters and beasties, and I think this is something that a lot of the DIY-D&D lads haven't necessarily caught on to. An event is also a thing. You can show what voidspace is like through the mechanics for travelling in it; navigation mechanics, event charts, rules for vessel design (various features that help to moderate and mitigate the events encountered).

    Hell, you could even have a whole set of different subsystems that allow voidspace to be a different thing depending on how the people traversing it perceive it. Navigating mathematically ('calculating the tides') would work differently from navigating psychically ('wanting something, and focusing on that desire to provide motive force') would work differently from navigating magically ('using ritual to impose your will on the space you travel through').

    Sounds like an interesting setting, too. I like the openness that ignorance provides; you can always slot in something new without fretting about the whys and hows and wherefores of nobody noticing or interacting with it before.

    As far as system goes... I don't own an Ascension book, but there's some material at Wayland's Forge in Brum that I wouldn't mind picking up and shipping to you (even if it means traversing New Street Station - now there's navigating a perilous void space if ever I heard of it...). There's probably an easier/cheaper way though.

  3. That sounds pretty interesting. I would say to not worry about what the space is yet, think about how you want the travel to go.

    Look around for as many sea travel rules, space travel rules, island or ocean sandbox and space sandbox examples as you can. If you want the travel to be a big part of the setting then you need to devote an appropriate amount of the rules to it. The players would need a way to interact with the world and influence what happens. It's no good saying 'you encounter a psychic storm, roll d6, on a 1 your ship is destroyed and you all die'. All the characters should have something to do. The encounter should last a similar amount of time as a combat encounter. They should gain experience, and possibly other rewards, from the encounter/travel. They should have ways of avoiding or interacting with the encounters in different ways. e.g. with a standard wandering monster they could talk to it, trade with it, kill it and sell it's corpse, hide from it and follow it back to its lair, etc. With some strange storm they could harvest a by-product of it, use it to travel faster to another place, use it to power some strange communication (commune?).

    Look at Traveller spaceship travel through the void.

    Look at information about astral travel and planar travel from D&D.

    You could try starting it as fiction first. Write about a ship and how you imagine it.

    Write about a few of the islands to get an idea of the type of civilizations you want. This may help steer you towards how you want the travel.

    Good luck,


  4. I'll +1 Von's response, in my experiences with RPs, the events that pop up due to travel or problems experienced can be just as provocative to a roleplayer than beasties that could stand in the way. A couple buddies and I have run an RP that lasted for going on 5 years now, rarely have beasties been encountered, and combat doesn't nornally ensue, but there has still been content and events that have popped up because of things that are conflicting with things the players did.

    And as far as systems go, DnD 3.5 (and pathfinder) have been the most versatile system I've experienced for roleplaying. Especially as you have the d20 Modern, and all variations of that with which to pull content, planar travel included.