June 21st, 2008

What I Want in RPGs I

I want to know what the game is about. Screw teaching me about roleplaying games. I could care about roleplaying games. I want to know what your game is about. What do you do? How do you do it? Is it about combat, politics, intrigue, travel, adventure? What sort of people go adventuring? What sort of perils do they face? Stuff that crap about playing a role, I want to know what my character can do and is going to be doing. It's a roleplaying game. Whoop. Tell me why I should play your game over any other. Sell me on your design instead of RPGs as a whole.
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What I Want in RPGs II

A world. Explicit or implied I want a world. A place to be, places to be from, and places to go. I want people, scenery, events. I want stuff happening offstage, and events that interrupt my carefully plotted schemes. I want surprises, successes, and interesting failures. I want friends, enemies, and contacts. I want folks I can trust, betrayals unforeseen, and surprising acts of altruism from sources unsuspected.

Though it be imaginary, I want to live in the Baghdad of old, when Sinbad sought cargoes for Cathy and the Malay. I want to visit lost Cahokia when priests fed gods of field and forest the beating hearts of young men and women. I want to sup with Baba Yaga as we negotiate the price of the blood mortar that will seal the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow in the days when the Tatars brought low the princes of Khitai and enslaved the kingdom of the Khazakh Jews.

I want the game to happen somewhere. Somewhere that is not an endless battlefield, where life has no purpose, and the rewards are empty of any true meaning. I want my weapons to have legends and my spells to have a history. I want my characters to have a social life, and my enemies to have hobbies. I want a reason to go shopping for stuff other than bat guano and jewelers rouge. When I play the game I want to belong somewhere.
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What I Want in RPGs IV

(Part III isn't ready yet, because it requires an argumentation that is harder to implement than can be mustered in a few measly hours. What you're getting here is the first draft of an essay I'm putting up on my blog.)

Consistency. If a player comes up with a use for a minor, innocuous item that produces massively destructive effects, I don't want to see a "fix" that nerfs it. If a doo-dad can be used for certain unexpected things, then that doo-dad can be used for certain unexpected things. Don't change the rules so the doo-dad can't do those unexpected things, that's cheating. Figure out how people in your world could, and would adapt to this new knowledge. It's all part of bringing the players into the world, and keeping them there. Nothing says bogus like changing how the world works. So you made a mistake where one part of your game works, accept it, adjust for it, and move on. If the Water Mask spell lets you drown people on dry land, then figure out a way to save victims of that use of Water Mask
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