So, on the suggestion of my brother, I’ve decided to try my hand at creating aan RPG. I’ve been criticizing D&D a bit, and I have strong opinions on gaming in general, and it’s always something I wanted to do. Though, I want to be clear, that this is mostly going to be a thought experience, I have a clear idea of what my skills are, and it’s very likely that the idea that I come up with won’t actually be particularly fun. So, here’s the start of a series of posts about Generations (tentative title), and through the development posts, I hope that any readers get a better idea of where I’m coming from when I criticize or talk about games.
The most important rule to me, when it comes to gaming is that the mechanics of the game need to reinforce the setting and style of the game. Look at D&D, it’s a game of heroic fantasy, and a horror game run with D&D would be vastly different than one run in, say, Dread. The D&D one would pretty much be Castlevania: The Tabletop Experience while Dread would reinforce a feeling of unease and tension, due to the Jenga tower. So with this sort of guiding principle, the first thing that I needed to do was come up with both a sort of setting, as well as the style of game that I wanted to create. And while brainstorming on my walk home, the first idea that really resonated with me was using generation ships, which are basically colonies situated on a spaceship, designed to last for generations, until they can reach their destination of a far off planet.
The next thought was what the style was going to be, nearly any system or genre can be run using a generation ship as a setting, you could do a fantasy thing, where the technology behind the ship has faded from recent memory, so all these scientific things seem like magic, you could do horror, where there’s something stalking people on the ship, and so on. So what was going to be the real hook of the game? What was so compelling about this idea, and what was the real gold idea?
What came to mind was the idea of myths, legends, and historical figures, how actions in the past get blown up to something impressive and mythical, and how these previous generations affect the future, and that was the hook. Generations. Exploring the events that made a character famous or important, and then jumping forward in time to show just how exactly that event rippled into the future.
This is what I ended up jotting down as kind of a rough idea:
-There would be two different phases in this game, a zoomed-in personal phase, and then the fallout phase, where the game passes over a generation to figure out just how that personal phase affected everyone.
-Due to this, each personal phase would have to be about a group that were somehow important. However, it would be possible to do a nihlistic ending in this, if the heroes fail to prevent something, or don’t accomplish their goals, you can fast-forward and show that fallout from failing.
-Personal sessions could go on for as long as the players want, but ideally would wrap up in as little as a single play session to three or four. This is important because the time investment in RPGs can get a little ridiculous, and I think that’s a barrier of entry to the hobby.
-The fallout phase needs to have actual mechanics to it, and not just be reliant on a ruleless narrative, because this is a game.
-The fallout phase really needs to feel like the characters are being stripped of their identity as they fade into legend. A spitball idea that I have at the moment based on both this, and the previous entry is that the mechanics of the fallout phase will involve removing stat/ability/whatever points from the personal phase characters. The more impressive/badass/impressive the character the more far-fetched their legend becomes.
-The random aspect of the game needs to use items that can be found around a house, thinking about using a deck of cards. Another barrier to RPGs is that you have to grab materials you might not have, D&D relies on odd shaped dice and a wet-erase mat, Dread needs a Jenga set. Cards seem like something that most people have arround and additionally are something you could buy for pretty cheap and sell at a con while you’re selling your game.
-While the primary catalyst for this was thinking of generation ships, and the default setting would use that, I would like for this to be expanded to a variety of settings. The game is about exploring how fact becomes myth.
Those are my current thoughts on the game. This isn’t to say that I might scrap all this and try something else, but this idea really appeals to me for the moment. There are some warning signs here though:
-The zoomed-in/zoom-out mechanics feels like it could be very much like Microscope (I haven’t played or read Microscope, but it seems similar)
-The personal phase needs more of a hook. The current one is kind of weak, and all I can think of is the idea that these characters are mostly normal, so going for a more low-powered feel by default, but… I’m not sure what I like.
-The phases thing can also be similar to Mouse Guard, you have the player phase which is sort of like the personal phase, and the GM phase is similar to the fallout phase.
And now it begins, let’s see if I can come up with something fun and interesting…