Teach me how to let go

edited November 2007 in Story Games
So I come to you with a problem, Story Games people.
I'm working on this game, called ''Fallen''(I've posted a little about it here, maybe someone remembers). It's about fallen angels, demons and humanity. It's not important. My problem while working on the game(and why I became frustrated and abandoned it for a few months) is that I can't seem to let go of my preconceptions of how an rpg ''should be''. And by this I mean, I can only see this game as a WOD game clone. I love games like DitV, DRYH that have specific systems that don't follow the ''Abilities-Skills-Perks'' template(and have 20 of each), but when it comes to creating a game, I can't get my head around NOT going that way.
So what do I do? I think im afraid that deviating from the ''traditional'' rpg model I might make a system that doesn't work or something.
Help meeeeeeee!

Comments

  • I suggest you make the very best WOD game clone you can. Play it like crazy, and every time you feel something doesn't fit right, just fix that little thing.

    This will do several things:

    1. Get your mind off the whole "oh no, must be original" vibe, which destroys creativity in anyone.
    2. Give you lots of fun play.
    3. Get you a game that works great.

    I'm currently revising a traditional RPG, and in doing so, I'm coming up with all sorts of neat RPG mechanics that I'd never have thought of if I tried to make it like it "should be". Cool ideas come when you're just working on stuff.
  • Posted By: MatthijsI suggest you make the very best WOD game clone you can. Play it like crazy, and every time you feel something doesn't fit right, just fix that little thing.

    I'm in a weird situation where I don't have any players(moved to a new country, no friends and such). I get what you mean though, maybe I should just write everything else but the rules and then use WOD as a starting point.
  • Have you tried reading lots of games? Read all the Game Chef entries from last year. You'll get loads of ideas of different sorts of games.

    Graham
  • Well, try this...

    Take your game, and then take a look at your themes and agenda. What exactly are you trying to do with this thing? What's the premise? What makes it cool as hell? Consider what you want the table experience to be like actually playing your game- what sort of gaming night do you want you game to foster?

    Then mercilessly cut out everything that doesn't directly serve these essential things.

    When you have the handful of mechanics which you can say for sure push your agenda, then you can start adding in fiddly bits, stuff you like, gamey elements you think will add fun... other stuff. But building upwards from your premise rather than trying to drill down to it through a more generic system can often help keep you cognizant of what your whole point is in doing the thing.

    -B
  • edited November 2007
    Why don't you tell us about it. It's certainly important to you and that's all that matters. I love me some angels, demons, humanity games. Talking about a specific game is way easier than talking about this in abstract. What's the game about, what led you to work on it, what excites you about it, and what frustrates you about it (specifically, not just the "NO, I've recreated the WOD!" thing)?
  • The original form of the game(which I've talked about on my blog and here a little) was too general and unremarkable(or so I felt). Since then I decided the game is a bit similar to CoC and DitV in it's heart. It's about fallen angels travelling and taking care of business with guns and powers. It's focus is on violent, gritty action but a bit on the realistic side. To draw a pararel, I'll mention Fight Club's fights and Tarantino shoot-outs.
    My main problem is, I'm not a system guy. I don't have any specific views on systems. I'm rarely impressed by systems(though I do like alot of indie games since I've started reading them) and mostly I just go along with the system.
    For ''Fallen'' I want something that can handle brutal and visceral fights and battles. It's a big part of the game but I want it to be more fun than realistic, so in this regard the Storyteller system(d10) works relatively well. You get to throw a shitload of d10 dice(more dice the better you are), can soak damage(fights last longer, players have more chances of surviving a fight) and is generally fun to play.
    On the other hand, I don't really need all those abilities and skills. The game is mostly investigation>fight>resolution/consequences.
    I want some mechanics that can give me deeper gameplay when it comes to characters(right/wrong, social bonds), but it's too early for that.
  • Posted By: northerainMy main problem is, I'm not a system guy. I don't have any specific views on systems. I'm rarely impressed by systems(though I do like alot of indie games since I've started reading them) and mostly I just go along with the system.
    Don't think of that as a problem, think of it as an advantage. You don't have any specific views on system? Great! Now you can steal inspiration from all of them without worrying whether they fit into your preconceived notions of what a system "should" be like. You're rarely impressed by systems? Awesome! Now you're freed from the burden of having to make your system "impressive". Mostly you just go along with the system? Perfect! Now you can just go along with the system as you're creating it.

    Imagine yourself playing a session of the game -- not the in-game fiction or the actual mechanics but just what you want the experience of sitting there playing the game to be like. It sounds like you've already got a good idea what the structure of play is like, with your investigation>fight>resolution/consequences, so think about how you, as a player, want to do those things.

    Investigation, for example. Your character is investigating something; what are you doing as a player to make that happen? Are you "just talking" with the GM, waiting for him to feed you clues? Are you rolling your Investigate Stuff skill? Are you talking to NPCs to get bonuses to your Investigate Stuff skill roll? Are you playing out a full-on Investigative Combat encounter, attacking the mystery's Inscrutability Defense with your +2 Laptop of Penetrating Research? Something else altogether?

    Wait, did I say NPCs? Where do those come from? Are you the one saying "OK, so my guy goes and chats with the sexy librarian at the university" or is the GM telling you "OK, so you go chat with the grumpy old occult bookstore dude"? Say your character is trying to wring information out of a reluctant source. How's that work? Are you "just talking" with the GM, waiting for him to tell you whether you win or not? Are you rolling your Wring Information skill? Are you in full-on Social Combat, attacking the guy's I Ain't Telling You Nothing Defense with a synergy bonus from your +4 Badass Leather Trenchcoat of Unspoken Menace?

    What if your character doesn't succeed in wringing the information out of the source? Can you try again? Can you buy a do-over by spending a Screw You, Man, I'm a Main Character Token? What if you're out of tokens? Can another player give you one of theirs? Even if they weren't in the scene with you?

    Wait, did I say other players? Oh yeah! What are they doing during your wringing information scene? Are they just listening to you and the GM while patiently waiting their turns? Are they offering you suggestions? Giving you resources? Injecting color and detail into the scene? Are they taking over NPCs? Are they heckling you and wagering resources on the outcome?
    On the other hand, I don't really need all those abilities and skills.
    Yeah, that's a problem I have. I'm always falling into the trap of trying to put in all the abilities and traits I think I need to make a "complete character", rather than just concentrating on the ones that reflect what the game is about. That's where I find visualizing the act of play really helpful. By paying attention to the times when I'd want to reach for the dice/hand over a token/scribble on the character sheet/whatever, I know what rules I need to write in order for the game to play the way I'd like.
  • What Ron said. It sounds like you know what you want and even know how you want to do it (hack WOD to have less abilities and skills, etc.). That's a great start. Keep on keepin' on. And tell us about it as you begin working it out.
  • edited November 2007
    You want a crazy suggestion? Okay.

    Box up and lock away every other game you own, and run your setting freeform for three sessions.

    Then decide what you're missing, and add that.

    (Sane suggestions have already been added. I recommend those highly. This is a crazy one).
  • Posted By: northerainI think im afraid that deviating from the ''traditional'' rpg model I might make a system that doesn't work or something.
    The system you design by trying will be vastly superior to the system you design by letting your hesitation prevent you from trying. That is to very emphatically state: It's okay to screw up. It's very okay to make a system that doesn't work at all. You learn from that, internalize it, and try again. Mistakes are okay. Our bad designs teach us a lot. And if you feel that the system you designed has some deep, deep flaws that make it worth trashing, that's okay to do -- you're allowed to completely switch out anything when you're designing, even things you think are fundamental.

    This is the design equivalent to the important advice in fiction: "no matter who you are, your first draft always sucks. Get over it, and you're on the way to achieving something more."
  • If you aren't a system guy, maybe you don't design a system at all. You could make a killer supplement/campaign setting for another game. It worked for Dictionary of Mu.
  • edited November 2007
    Along that same line, if you started by making a WOD clone, maybe that's a signal to instead just take WOD itself and add your hacks into that.

    Just remember that if you want, you can always change your mind later, in any direction. Any work, even in the "wrong" direction, will help you better understand your game.
  • *Golf clap for Ron*


    For a suggestion of my own: consider doing Investigation as abductive reasoning, rather than deductive-with-clues-littering-the-world. In short, show the situation (the shredded body, the shattered window) and have in mind the cause/case (Demon Dan the milkman has fed) and let the players suggest clues (the footprints under the window, who was around at the time of day). This could even go further: don't even have a case planned; let the players define their own opposition, organically.

    So, if a clue would fit the case, Say Yes--they find the footprints, the foot prints lead to the curbside, the tire tracks are readable. If not, say No But--the tracks are from a step-van truck not a car, you can't follow them but can take a photo (and then, Yes, the local mechanic can recognize the tread--it's from the milk truck).

    That way, the players are doing the investigating more than the characters (i.e. they are thinking, not rolling); and the moment they start to go too far afield, you can reign them back in a freeform manner, with a No But. "Investigation" stats are sucky, anyway: "Ooo! I'm so smart 'cause I got Investigation 25! OK, GM, tell me how it all happened--spare not a single detail--and then we'll get to The Real Game of Killing!" Bleh... I'll be the Dumb Brick who plays Wii while the Smart Investigator makes rolls to figure out where to Aim Me.

    Just 2¢ from a GM who's written up far too many breadcrumbs, only to have the players searching for Theseus' string instead....
    David
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