I am struggling with this question. In the RPGaDay set up there are alternative questions in case you don’t like a particular question and I nearly plucked one of them out instead.
I have been gaming since I was about 13 or possibly 14 years old. I have never stopped. I gamed at school both literally, in lunch breaks, and during my school years. At college I found a new group to game with and I still migrated back to my home town and gamed with my school group.
After college I found a group of roleplayers where I worked and introduced them to RM and that was the last time I played D&D, probably 1993 and I think it was 2nd edition. I still migrated back to my home town to play with my school years group.
It was in the early 1990s that I discovered PBP which was snailmail back then and in 1993 I discovered dial up bulletin boards which allowed for daily updates or sometimes even more frequent updates. We used to download a text document, type out your characters actions and then upload it to the board to post each move.
That has turned into web based/forum based games. I pretty much game at least for a couple of minutes every day. That is on top of writing games, writing about games, writing adventures and blogging.
I do not think gaming changed me in so much as it is an integral part of me and has been since those important formative years. Gaming is not the be all and end all of everything for me, I am also a serious company director, and I compete at an international level in currently two sports but if things go well that will be three sports although one of them is as a ‘veteran’. I have a family, dogs and horses all of which take up a lot of my life. I am not one of those people who can only express themselves though their gaming or their social circle is entirely made up of gamers.
So I don’t think gaming has changed me or if it did it did it so long ago that I was not mature enough to notice the change. So that is my far from satisfactory answer.
I wrote an article about this for this month’s Fanzine at the weekend. This month’s fanzine is all about adventure writing and I was discussing three approaches.
The first is what I am dabbling with at the moment. Having every encounter multi statted for low, medium, high and very high level groups. That is what we did with the city of forgotten heroes. I also like relative encounters so the number encountered is based upon the number of heroes.
The second option is the traditional way of writing adventures of writing to a specific level and number of heroes. If one were to write a series of adventures this can work. If your party is not the right level right now then eventually they will reach the right level or if they are too high then one day you will start a new campaign.
The third way that I was discussing is writing for a fixed level, I picked 7th level as it gives a nice balance between competent PCs yet not too powerful. Every adventure is written for 7th level but it also comes with a selection of pregen characters.
The reasons I am suggesting this is because RM is incredibly hard to write for. There are just too many optional rules the shift the power level up or down that a stock NPC will either be totally out classed or will wipe the floor with the party. If each GM is having to rework the adventure anyway to make it work with their house rules then they are just as well off with a well fleshed out adventure concept as they are with a statted adventure. On the other hand if you had a collection of adventures with pregen characters any GM could run an introductory adventure for new players off the cuff. We all know that RM is really easy to play but using RAW character creation is a real chore. So starting everyone off with pregens means that new players get a good sense of what a rounded character looks like, what skills are useful and how stats and skills interact. This means that you end up with well informed new players when it does come to their turn to make characters.
Another nice thing about packaging pregen characters with adventures is that you get suitable PCs for the adventure. Think of a pirate based adventure and a normal PC group and half the party will have drowned in their platemail before the adventure is half way through. If the next adventure is all camels and desert ruins then knights and lances are still not really suitable.
I would like to see packaged adventures with both pregen characters, say eight or ten potential PCs along with a suitable adventure. This overcomes another ‘new player problem’. If you are not used to RM then rushing into combat and not parrying is a great way to end up dead. If there are spare pregens to hand then the unfortunate player can be reintroduced quickly and easily without having to go though the whole char gen process.
So my answer is that RM needs a culture of bundling pregen characters with EVERY adventure. It makes it easy to introduce new players, it sidesteps the house rule problems and it is justt as functional for experienced GMs as a fully statted adventure.
Today’s answer is not Rolemaster related. I was looking at different games for a different blog earlier this year and I came across the FUDGE system.
So strictly speaking FUDGE is not a game but a toolkit from which any game could be created. FUDGE aims to be universal and it achieves this at a level way above many other games that claim to be universal but in truth are just genre neutral.
FUDGE Characters can literally be created just by writing a paragraph of text and all the characters would be balanced and quite possibly as detailed as any RM character.
I really didn’t expect to like the FUDGE system but I have to say it is impressive. I have mainly pkayed modern-day stuff but I have read fantasy rules. None of the fantasy stuff has the brutality of Rolemaster (yet) but creating such a system would be relatively easy. It is also a back burner project on my to do list.
So how has a system surprised me? By being truly universal and elegantly simple. At the same time great fun to play.
This is something I can struggle with in my face to face game. When you have played so many campaigns with the same players over decades it gets hard to get that feeling of excitement and feeling that the the results really matter.
Our game is very hack and slash and in consequence most of the stakes and crisis points are combat related.
I don’t need to tell anyone here that in RM the odds in combat is that someone is going to get hurt. I think that does up the stakes somewhat and I don’t use FATE points or fudged results in my combats. The die fall where they fall. My solution to the lethality of RM is to have life keeping and lifegiving available to the characters.
With this group right now they are carrying a rune of lifegiving but once that is gone they are a long walk away from further help. If you die in my game it is your turn to make the tea while the remaining characters work out how to save you.
Every once in a while I like to throw in an encounter where the ideal outcome for me is for the characters to lose the fight. The players don’t know this but I want them to lose, to be captured or end up fleeing into an area that was way outside the plan. I hope this does trigger that feeling of increased stakes. There is a point in the fight where it becomes obvious that things are really not going to plan.
So I think my answer is to avoid the binary win/lose style of fights where the characters need to win to progress the story.
I am going to start with an anecdote before I answer this as it will give my answer a little more context.
In the world of horseback archery there is a brilliant and very popular french coach. Here in the UK we tend to try and be all inclusive and use supportive language. When I was training to be a coach it was emphasised that you shouldn’t structure your feedback to students in a positive BUT negative format such as “That was much better BUT try and not drop your hand after the shot.”. We would turn the feedback around so that you end on a positive. At a training camp in France on of the best British youth horseback archers did a run down the track and then turned the coach and got this feedback…”Do that again but be less shit.”
So my answer to Day 6 is that the players should be less shit.
What the French coach meant was that there were obvious things that the archer had done wrong and we all knew they could much better and normally would be much better but sod’s law says that when the coach is watching you for the very first time everything goes wrong.
As it is with players. They can create brilliant characters with great back stories that entwine with the setting and campaign histories. They hand craft their cultural background and influences and carefully pick their character race and profession to bring this concept to life. Then you start play and what you get is not Forgin the Dwarven apprentice safe cracker from the slums of Waterdeep but Bill from Sales playing the same thief he has played for 20 years in all your games but with different stats and name.
At the end of the day if everyone is having fun it doesn’t matter if Bill plays exactly the same thief with the same attitudes and personality (probably Bill’s personality) in every game. The flip of that though is that if the players really do weave their characters into the world then the world will seem more real for everyone. If when I am playing my character I turn and speak to Forgin and I get Forgin’s opinions on the plan that will be more fun than if I am talking to Bill and getting Bill’s opinions.
To try and keep people ‘in character’ more I have each player write just a single post-it note do describe their characters personality and it lives on the front of the character record in dayglo colours. There are no stats or skills for personality and no numbers or bonuses but they are vitally important to actual role playing and a tiny box labelled “Demeanour” and space for a one word answer is not sufficient.
So there you are… be less shit.
In my Forgotten Realms campaign we started off playing some D&D modules converted to RM. The second module the players ran though was FRQ3 Doom of Daggerdale.
The villain in this module was Colderan the Razor and when my players ran through this Colderan survived and has started plotting his revenge against the characters. He has been behind several plots now and in when other modules I have used would have introduced another evil magic user I have substituted in Colderan.
In my players perspective this NPC has slowly been revealed to them as the root evil behind countless plots and intrigues.
You may remember back to some plot outlines I have suggested in the past of evil alchemists and how they could stockpile magic in the form of potions or use a range of low level magic to good effect? All these posts were inspired by what Colderan was up to in my Forgotten Realms campaign.
I should have mentioned this at the time of writing but it slipped my mind. Egdcltd has just released a supplement on NPCs that fitted in well with the recent NPC related questions.
100 NPCs You Might Meet At The Tavern
Characters will often spend a substantial amount of time in taverns, whether following up leads, meeting contacts, resting or looking for clues and information. Some of the people met may be important for whatever quest the characters are currently undertaking. But what about the others?
Taverns and inns are not frequented just by people who are immediately needed. They will have other customers and staff as well. Rather than simply glossing over these individuals, this supplement provides a detailed list of 100 different people to flesh out a tavern. Each is given a name and described. Some of them may have skills and knowledge that characters find useful and others could be a potential source of adventure hooks.
This supplement currently in the Christmas in July sale on RPGnow for $1.99.
Sorry, I am already playing catch up on this. I was kind of hoping to post every day and sometimes multiple times a day.
So my most memorable NPC was probably a Spacemaster mercenary, “Doc Murray”. He used a lot of the character enhancing meds, so he could haste pretty much on demand and could ride out stuns and bleeding criticals, if I remember correctly. The character was originally inspired by Rogue Trooper from 2000AD but without the blue skin.
He was pretty much a tour de force of heavy weaponry with the light machine gun and grenades as his weapons of choice. There were times when he joined the characters as a mercenary and they needed extra muscle and he returned to hunt the PCs down as it was known that he knew them and could get close.
Despite appearances he was not an Armsman profession but a Criminologist. This was before I had moved over to No Profession but I found myself gravitating towards using Criminologist more and more for NPCs as they were simply the best ‘all rounder’ and if you wanted to put an NPC into multiple adventures the generally low skill costs across the board made the Criminologist a good choice.
I think there are two elements to this but they could be rolled into one, ‘playability’ but I want to break them out into ‘characterisation’ and ‘compulsion’.
The real answer is probably “A great GM” as that can make any shit really enjoyable just as a crap GM can make the best game unplayable but I don’t want to go there.
What I mean by characterisation is the ability for the player to play exactly the character they had envisioned. This is one thing that I think RM does extremely well as there are very few hard limits. If you play ‘no profession’ then there are even less limits than stock RM. By that I mean in RM2/RMC a fighter can only learn spells from open lists and up to level 5. There is no fireball or even shockbolt on those lists so now if you really wanted fireball then you needed to look at a different profession and for that you are looking at importing companion professions and before you know it you are in massive bloatiland. This is not a NP rant but the case is still true that RM really allows you to build your character the way you want it to be. There are no arbitrary rules like magic users cannot wear armour or clerics cannot use edged weapons and all that stuff.
If the players are really invested in their characters then I think they are more likely to really buy into the world and the story. If the players want to keep on playing to find out what happens then that will give the game staying power.
Some games or actually settings or even just campaign concepts just have to be played. They are so compelling that they bring out the best in GMs and players alike. Games like these I think come with a certain amount of ‘scaffolding’ in that the players just know how their characters should act or speak. I mean things like a pirate based game has such an iconic central theme that everyone knows how a pirate should behave, you can almost smell the salty sea air and the seaweed encrusted docks. The same can work with oriental adventures as the whole culture and customs thing is so easy to envisage. If the game experience has just the right balance or elements to make the game compelling then the players will keep on coming back.
For me there are two ideal components.
- A compelling setting, either a world I want to explore or a genre that I can get excited about. Right now when I am not playing RM I am dabbling with Ghost Ops. In actual play it is super light and fast to run but is miles apart from RM in just about every way.
- The absolute minimum of rules. I have a brain, common sense and imagination. I can fill in the blanks once I know the flavour of the game. I know many GMs and even players dislike it when things come down to arbitrary GM decisions but I quite like that. I would never simply decide that an attack hits or misses but on the other hand there are times when I don’t want the characters to drown just because the rules say they do, I want them washed up on strange foreign shores.
So I think my perfect game is one that absolutely demands to be played so much that it is all you can think about when I should be working on other stuff but has a rulebook I can memorise and run without referring to. That may be a tall order but I have played a few of them. To be honest even RM fits into that definition if you have a setting you love. All the heavy lifting is done during character creation, resolving most skill checks and role play situations require no rules. It is only combat that chains you to tables. (I am assuming here that each player has their spell lists printed out as part of their character record)
So we have RPGaDay2018 starting today. You should get a post a day for all of August from me and something to think about.
The answer to this question is sort of a rod for my own back. I suspect I am somewhat autistic. My mind tends to race with ideas constantly and if I cannot get those ideas out I tend not to be able to get to sleep. RPGs give me entire fantasy worlds to set my mind free in and then simply jotting some bullet points down may be enough to get the idea out.
One of the hardest things about blogging apparently is knowing what to write about. It is fine for the first few weeks when you have loads of fresh ideas but if you are in it for the long haul then constantly having to come up with fresh ideas can be a problem. With a brain like mine this is rarely a problem. In fact this is my 351st post on blog and I tend to write an average of about 600 words each time so that is over 200k words or the equivalent of an 800 page novel according to Google.
RPGs are also incredibly flexible. I can play with my friends in our periodical game two or three times a year, I can play One GM, One Player games several times a week when my player is back from university, I can play almost daily using PBP and I can solo play. Of all those options I use Rolemaster for all the regular games. I tend to Solo play either games I have bought but never got to play and much simpler game systems so the rules do not impinge too much on the stream of consciousness style of play that Solo play requires. Right now my favourite Solo game systems are FUDGE based, which is not something I ever thought I would say.
From a writing point of view RPGs keep pushing me into new directions. I am writing adventures at the moment with the goal of making them extremely flexible. You have seen this with the undead adventures where I am trying to make the level neutral. I am also working on making them HARP compatible and I have even bought the RMFRP single volume rules. Don’t worry I am not about to abandon RM2/RMC for RMFRP but I want to start statting things for all three ICE systems. You may even get some RMFRP stuff in the fanzine!!