Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We got the map. Now what's the destination?

The articles so far have discussed game design in the broadest strokes. They are generic road map I plan to use to build a system; they are the road map. The question, then, is where’s the destination? I have some impressions in my head already, but it is silly to believe that it won’t evolve and change as I dive in and get to work. So instead I’ll post a sort of wish list, a set of things that I plan to build in and we’ll see what works.

The abstract elements
  • Easy to add. The launching point of this entire project was to create a skeleton of a system that could be easily populated with content by a community. To that end, the system needs to be sturdy enough to withstand people jumping in and tinkering before they are experts.
  • Tools and guides. Following on customizable, people need help becoming experts. That can be helped with tools and guides that explain how to generate content. If the game is comprised of well thought out mini-systems, then this shouldn’t be an issue.
  • Quicker combats. Using 4e as the baseline, I strongly feel that combat should be quicker. I am willing to sacrifice rule-complexity (or completeness) and introduce a little ambiguity if it speeds up play, but ultimately the combat experience has to be at least as strong as 4e and still play faster
  • Less grid-reliant. Rules that help grid-less games also help gridded.  The 4e movement rules that don’t charge extra for diagonal movement are a good example—it sped up play by acknowledging everything is abstract and reflects the fact that the battle grid is just a shared plane for our collective imaginations. I doubt many grid-less games charged people extra for diagonal movement.
  • Less to remember. Trying to remember conditions and marks and ongoing damage became cumbersome. Some of those rules are great, but it needs to be simpler, stronger cues need to be embedded so there is more time reacting and less time remembering, and the burden of the rules needs to be shifted onto the person benefiting from them.
  • Less to memorize. Rules should only be introduced when they make a difference, should be readily available when they are helpful, and should be out of the way when they aren’t needed.
  • Strong core system. The underlying math and expectations of the system have to be strong and clearly communicated.
  • Character building. This is mostly getting at multi-classing. I miss it and think a more robust multi-classing system is worth striving towards.
  • More room for adjudication. The thing that makes RPGs special is that you can do anything but the cost is that a person, not a computer, interprets the results. We want to continue putting power in the hands of the players and simultaneously empower DMs as well.
  • Favorable system assumptions. The system makes assumptions about the game; when first level characters can teleport that makes a statement. Whenever an assumption has to be made, the assumption that has the least consequence should be chosen. It is easier to add teleportation than to take it out.

All of these will be fleshed out and explored more fully as the project continues. Some will probably be bumped off the list and others will be added. I’m confident, though, that if the system achieves these goals, it will at least be worth giving a look.

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