Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Different Ways to Play

There is no one RPG that rocks everyone's boat. Some people like stories steeped in intrigue and mystery, where others could care less what it takes to get into a good brawl. The perfect RPG, if one would exist, would allow for any and all of these styles of play.

Focusing on one style, on the other hand, has made a lot of indie RPGs very popular. Apocalypse World, Fiasco, and Blades in the Dark are all great examples of games doing one thing particularly well. Considering the ever-growing population of RPGs being created, it is considered sound advice to pick a style, find your unique niche, and focus in on what makes your game special.

But I've found that while this encourages people to try your game, and often sucks them into a good session or two, it rarely has the staying power of larger, more robust systems like D&D or Genesis. These systems grant the players more opportunity than a single type of experience, and allow for flexible, long-term campaigns.

I plan on having three distinct modes of play described in the Hostargo book. Each will cover a popular way to tackle campaigns, one-shots, and various player styles. It will be a challenge to cover these in a meaningful way, but I hope to lay out enough groundwork for players to find their own unique way to play that is best for their group: they will anyway!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Weekend Game Jam

Letting an idea sit on the back burner can feel like wasted effort. If it sits too long, it can run out of gas and become a dark corner of your mind you may never see again. But if you keep it lit just long enough, you might just get a slow-cooked, pulled-pork style BBQ.

This past couple of weeks I've been pulled back into a fantastic card game, Android: Netrunner. I haven't played seriously in about a year, but I got a glimpse of new cards and got sucked back in. The deck-building is an incredible puzzle to think about on your off-time, and once in the game it's always a brilliant challenge of prediction, planning, and execution.

Unfortunately, I quickly got deep enough that I remembered some of the reasons I pulled out in the first place. There's a few major problems, not really with the core design but with the competitive meta that makes the game less interactive and more of a combo race, which just isn't my style. So being the designer/tinkerer I am, I remember that I had set off to create my own version of netrunner at one point.

Luckily, this idea had been shoved way in the back. The first time I had designed it, it fell apart pretty quickly, and I couldn't get past some of the core issues. But with enough time past, I was able to shake away those pre-conceived ideas and come up with new solutions to old problems. Over the weekend, I was able to completely rip out and replace the problematic core mechanics of the game, redesign all new cards, and get that to the printer for my first play test!

Well, the printer is actually my good friend Gray and we'll hopefully get to test this upcoming Thursday, but regardless. This post is really just to remind designers that it's okay to put ideas away for a while - it'll often turn out better when you revisit it! Cheers!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Character Contacts

Nothing makes a tabletop game come alive like a good NPC. Social interaction is at the core of RPGs, always leading to the trouble that is soon to follow. Having reoccurring, changing characters for players to interact with can boost the overall enjoyment at the table.

Granting players access to such NPCs is difficult without hours of prior gameplay or backstory work. Some games, like Shadowrun, allow the PCs to easily create a few contacts during character creation (if they wish!). This immediately hooks the character into the world, and gives both the GM and the player an NPC to use over the course of the game.

Mechanics can drive gameplay and encourage various behaviors, so having character contacts give mechanical bonuses incentivizes players to introduce them into the game. Heavy role players will take the opportunity to add in extra RP scenes, while more rules-focused players will still inject them into the story the same as most players use their physical equipment.

These contacts are unique to each character, reoccur in the story as they're used, and ground the characters in the world they find themselves in. The character contact idea is definitely something I'll be using in Hostargo.