Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Jam is ON!

So, I'm kicking off on this "MS Paint TTRPG Jam" today! I won't lie, I've been doing some prep leading up, mulling over ideas and all, but I didn't lay down anything I'll be using in MS Paint, or draft anything that's going in the project directly. If any of you've read my last post, you'll know that I'm aiming to crank out an RPG in 2 weeks! The name I've got for this thing right now is "Savage City" and it's an RPG inspired by Beat 'em Up, Fighting and Wrestling video games. The RPG inspirations most directly are 1.) Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game and 2.) Marvel Super Heroes (yeah, the FASERIP one).

In addition to writing an RPG, I was hoping I'd get a couple blog posts out of this as well and today I thought I'd begin by describing the core mechanic of "Savage City." The core mechanic is one I've had kicking around for a while, and it originated in me trying to come up with a die mechanic that kinda replicated the Universal Table from TSR's Marvel Super Heroes, but without needing the actual table.

(Yeah, you know, this thing!)

What did I come up with?

Well, one way to describe it that most parallels the Universal Table is to say you roll a d6 of a special color to represent "Shift 0", and you roll an additional number of d6 of another color equal to the column you would be rolling on. So, for example, rolling on Feeble would be 2d6 (a 1 rating plus the "Shift 0" die), Excellent would be 6d6 (a rating of 5 plus the "Shift 0" die), Unearthly would be 11d6, etc. To get the equivalent of a "Green" result on the Universal Table, you'd need to roll a single 6, "Yellow" would require two 6s, and "Red" would require three 6s rolled. Basically, you roll a die pool in a White Wolf kind of way, but only 6s count as "successes". Why is the "Shift 0" die a different color? Because if the "Shift 0" die rolls a 6, you gain a level of success and roll again, rolling until it no longer rolls a 6. Additionally, if no 6s are rolled on the die pool and the "Shift 0" die rolls a 1, you get the classic White Wolf style "Botch" result.

So, I think it is easy to see broadly how that emulates the MSH Universal Table, it generates failures, Green, Yellow and Red results anyways, yet I can sense that questions remain... "What if you roll more than three 6s? What happens then?" In this case, for each 6 rolled above three, the success gets bumped up a level of effect. Like, in Marvel Super Hero terms, imagine you rolled your Fighting and punched someone, normally you'd do Strength in damage, so if you had Excellent Strength you'd do 20 damage. Under this system, if you rolled 4 successes, it'd be equivalent to rolling a "Red" result AND your Strength would be column shifted 1 step to the right, and you'd've done Remarkable (30) damage! Sure... OK, maybe that sounds cool, maybe not. If you were really looking to replace MSH's Universal Table though, you'd wanna look at the actual probabilities, right? Well, yeah. I am happy to report that they are reasonably comparable! Take a look and decide for yourself:

(The classic Marvel Universal Table percentages)

(My percentages... you'll need to click to expand for sure!)

See! Not bad, in my opinion. There is no way a simple die mechanic was gonna exactly match the Universal Table, but it was way closer than I dreamed it would be when I first considered the idea. Again, the 1 die row on my chart is "Shift 0" on the Marvel chart, "Beyond" would be 18 dice on my chart. Probably easiest to compare starting at 4 dice vs. Typical. Now, even with the percentages being acceptably similar, if you were actually trying to clone Marvel Super Heroes, or simply substitute this die mechanic directly, there would be important questions about how Karma would work and how could it modify these rolls and so on. I have ideas along those lines but fortunately they don't matter too much, because "Savage City" is not a Marvel Super Heroes clone. Combat in "Savage City" will be vastly different, the Attributes... different, the number of dice rolled... determined differently.

Today, I just wanted to point out and explain the core mechanic I'll be going with. As for how it will be implemented... I'll be posting on that as well, in time. I don't want blog posting to interfere with me working on the game, so I'll shoot for describing the basics of the combat system in my next entry probably next week. Then after that, hopefully I'll be posting with a link to where you can grab the game and go on about how things wrapped up for me. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

My "MS Paint TTRPG Jam" Challenge

Well, we're a week past the end of #RPGaDay2021 and I need something else to do. Time for my first RPG Jam!

Over the last few years itch.io has become a fairly popular place for indie table top RPG creators to post up their work, even if it is more dominated by indie video games. One of the fun things about the place is that sometimes folks will start up "jams", where people are challenged to create a piece of work within a time limit. Usually that piece of work has a theme or set of limitations specific to the jam. It's a way to get some community happening, check out what other people are doing, and also motivate people who could use some motivation to produce. Anyways, about a week back Ian Yusum proposed an "MS Paint TTRPG Jam" that kicks off on 09/14 and runs for two weeks until 09/28. The idea is that you start making the RPG (or adventure, or whatever RPG related thing you want to make) when the start date hits, and you use good ol' MS Paint to do all of the art and layout, and kinda everything. It's definitely gonna produce a certain aesthetic!

Why am I doing this? Well, like a lot of role-players, I like to fiddle about with rules and systems. Also, there are games I've thought were great or had great ideas that have gone out of print and are no longer available. Rather that just type up my own half formed ideas over and over, but never really move them forward past a certain point, I thought committing to this jam might convince me to take some ideas further. I'm being public about it, so it adds that "Do I want to fail at a thing I publicly committed to?" factor to proceedings. This seems to have worked for #RPGaDay2021, so maybe it can work here!

Anyways... what is my plan? Well, when I heard about it I opened up MS Paint, checked what the default system fonts were, and experimented with mocking some things up. Here are a couple pix I produced:

(Possible Game Title?)

(Vague Page Layout Ideas)

No surprise if you know me. It looks like I'm aiming for an RPG inspired by "Beat 'em Up" games! My inspirations are definitely the White Wolf Street Fighter RPG, a dice mechanic I came up with ages ago that produces multiple levels of success, and a desire to keep the rules that are non-essential to the concept of the game nice and minimal. I mean, with only 2 weeks I'm figuring the best I'll be able to do will amount to a funny draft version that I will hopefully later firm up and flesh out, but I'm really hoping to get something nice and play-test ready made! If I'm lucky, the game will be satisfying for emulating any kind of beat 'em up, fighting game, wrestling & a decent amount of side-scrolling action while also totally being an RPG, but that's pretty ambitious. Better to keep to myself with the most ambitious of dreams, then "Show, don't tell" with what I produce at the end of this thing.

Hopefully I'll end up with some fun material to show you. Best of luck in whatever RPG endeavors you are currently up to. Also... if you're feeling bold, feel free to jump on in and try the jam with me! We've all got to start somewhere!

Monday, August 30, 2021

#RPGaDay2021 Day 31: Thank

The final day, and the final prompt: Thank. 

Yesterday I sprinkled some thanking in with my mentioning of other folks I've role-played with and enjoyed the company of while engaged in this hobby. Almost everyone I mentioned yesterday has been involved in making my life more enjoyable, and you can't beat that! I'd also like to thank everyone who read any of my writing this month, those who responded and those that provided support as well. 

When it comes to an event like #RPGaDay obviously I had some impulse to participate, but a post a day for a month is a lot of raw material to produce. Not everything I wrote was great or insightful. There is a part of me that feels like spamming my Twitter every day for a month is maybe wasting everyone's time, or is presumptuous as to the value of what I was laying down. I was satisfied with what I produced on some days, and on others I could think of blog posts I've read that have said similar things 20 times clearer. Why not just link to them? In the end, I dunno, I guess blogging is a self-expression thing and you have to do it to get better at it. There is also something to be said for producing in public, because in so much as you care what others think, you are motivated to meet a standard.

Another aspect of participating in #RPGaDay2021 for me was definitely that I'm hoping it acts as a method to kickstart more writing so that I can keep this blog rolling. I enjoy being a part of an RPG community, and part of keeping scenes alive is participating in and contributing to them. Blogging, forum participation, being a player or GM, or producing material for RPGs are all different ways to surround yourself and immerse yourself in the RPG world, and I guess that is something I'd like to keep growing in my life a bit.

Thanks again for checking everything out, and I hope somewhere in my blogging you found something enjoyable, relatable or possibly even thought provoking. Now for me to personally move on and keep going forward! What's next? Ideas for articles suited to Uzis, Capes & Katanas? Something pitched towards the Street Fighter RPG community? Maybe I consider putting in to GM something for my friends on the Game Night schedule? Maybe I take RPG thoughts I've had and do the grunt work to move them forward? Whatever it is, I'll be sure to blog about it here.

Rock on!

#RPGaDay2021 Day 30: Mention

Well, #RPGaDay2021 is wrapping up, and the prompts at the end here are really pushing us a certain way, what with their lack of alternates. Not the worst thing, however. I'll use today's prompt to mention some folks that have made my role-playing journey a source of joy (and missing a ton of others while I'm at it).

Let's see.

In my "Real Life" world I have a ton of friends I've been gaming with this whole time, starting with my friends Rich and Josh from back in the High School days, on to Chardin, then Bill, Bill, Bill, Andrew, Barry, Alisha, Drew, Tracy, Jacque, Kate, Dan, Mike, Jason (among others I know I must be forgetting)… Some of them are involved in activities that may strike your fancy!

  • Superhero Necromancer: A press involving a few friends, currently they have a number of pamphlets and a zine detailing the Rainy City, a doomed city at the end of the world (and setting of tons of sessions we've played over the years). Be sure to check it out and see if it tickles your interest. A unique setting with a great art style and beautiful maps. (Also: Twitter, Threadless Shop )
  • Center for Learning through Games & Simulations: A good chunk of my play group has work experience with Central Michigan University. A couple of them are active in games based learning. As part of this center they do outreach and presentations regarding the possibilities of games based learning, and also are looking to publish games that can be used in the classroom. I'm not an academic and have surely not described what they're up to as best as possible, but if you're curious check them out! (Also: Twitter )
  • BlackDogPath: Bill Spytma, who does the artwork in all of the Superhero Necromancer publications so far, in addition to a variety of art in various media he does on an individual commission basis (working with bone, leather among other things), has a shop where you can check out a few of his designs. You can also check out some of his art on Twitter, and probably a variety of places I do not even know!

In my "Online Life" I have another set of folks that have been pretty great, some of whom I'll mention here:

  • SFRPG.com: Matt Meade is a guy who has been active in the Street Fighter RPG community since all of the way back. This site, which used to be known as "Matt's Conversions" was one of better sites back in the day. Over time, however, it came to be the best Street Fighter RPG site in the English speaking world. His fan created supplement for this game, the G-File, and some of the resources he provided on his site served as an inspiration to me when I decided to tackle the Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game 20th Anniversary Edition. Just the way everything looked so professional and close to the look of the original books got me excited. After I started work on SF20 and I contacted him, we eventually met in person and we've managed to on occasion inspire each other a bit to continue working on our pet projects. He also provided some images and editing work on SF20, along with promotion. 
  • Batjutsu: Richard "Bat" Brewster is another guy important to the current online English speaking Street Fighter community. He's been around the block and has been involved in a few things in the wider RPG space, but for me personally I most have gotten to know him through the work done to translate the material produced by the Brazilian community, making it available to all of us English speaking folks. He's put in so much work, and it's been great.
  • Shotokan RPG: Relatedly, I'd like to mention the Brazilian Street Fighter community. When the English speaking community has lulled, they have been there keeping things alive the whole time.  Some individuals in particular that come to mind are Eric "Musashi" Souza, Ingo Muller and Odmir Fortes (among other contributors).

Yeah, I have found RPG goodness in many other places over the years as well. It would take quite a while to mention them all, even if I could remember. Forum posts, blog entries, maybe even a podcast or two have had interesting things to say that have broadened my appreciation of the hobby.

Day 30 done!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

#RPGaDay2021 Day 29: System


 A week ago I wrote on the prompt "Substitute", where I went on about how no set of rules or other decision has a larger effect on how well game night goes than being with good friends that you have creative RP sparks with. I talked about how great some recent Street Fighter role playing had been, and my suspicion that the same group of us could have fun regardless of the RPG. While I still hold this to be the case, by no means does this lead me to conclude that an RPG system doesn't matter! 

So, way way back now Ron Edwards wrote an article titled "System Does Matter" that was a bit of a reaction against folks who claim that a game is only as good as the people playing, and that any system can work with the right GM and Players. He then goes on to offer three styles of play (Gamist, Narrativist, Simulationist) and suggests that an RPG can't support each style of play at the same time, and so should focus on having a particular outlook and building the game to support that outlook. I found Ron Edwards' theory talk where he'd later expands and revises these ideas entertaining, even if I'm not sure that a good game must primarily aim to have rules matching one of these three outlooks. 

When it comes to the claim that "System Doesn't Matter", I almost wonder if it borders on being a strawman, or mischaracterization. What I mean is that it seems most role players have preferences for some RPG or another, or the desire for a certain style of play, even if they don't have the breadth of experience or vocabulary to express their reasons all that well. Rarely do you find (though you can) role players that are happy with an RPG that uses just GM fiat or simple coin flips to adjudicate actions, for example. If they are not happy with that, then system matters to them in some way, and it just takes some digging to figure out how.

If there is anyone out there who thinks "System Doesn't Matter", I'd think it would have to come from one of two places. One is that it is true that system doesn't matter in so much as you don't use it. The other is that, unless you know what the system is trying to do, you don't have a basis from which to claim that it matters or not. "What are the rules of this game trying to support, and what don't they support?" and "When we play, are we using the rules or glossing over some, and is this being done consciously on our part, or because we aren't noticing the differences between games and tend to run them as we always have our other games?"

This feels like some pretty vague talk I'm doing. I think what's important with system is just to notice. When you're playing a game, there are going to be moments you love, and there are going to be boring bits, and maybe there are bits you kinda loathe but grind through to get to the parts you like. The system you are using might be contributing in some way to all of these things. When you notice this, you may say to yourself, "Yeah, let's just get rid of the part's that are no fun", and that may be the answer. It is worth asking if there is a way the elements you don't like could be considered fun to someone. Like, is a game system aiming at providing an experience that the rules you don't like support? If you find this is the case, they you get into whether the game is still good for you after excising some bits, or if there is an alternative game out there better supporting the experience you're after.

Finally, I know I personally have a preference for trying to play a game using its rules, without immediately adapting or altering them into something I'm more comfortable with. The reason for this is that I want different games to show me different experiences. If I'm not open to at least taking a shot at using a game to aim for experience the author constructed it to support, then I'm missing out on the possibility of discovering something I might actually prefer to my usual tastes.

Anyways... we're almost there! It's well into Day 29. #RPGaDay2021, like summer itself, is inching closer to an end.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

#RPGaDay2021 Day 28: Solo

RPGs offer a lot of activities you can engage in by yourself. GMs have worlds of game prep they can do. There are also games in the table-top RPG space that label themselves as solo RPGs, some of them feel like creative writing exercises, or guided imagining, while others are a bit like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" kind of thing generated from random tables. Aside from that is the whole world of... well, so much. You could write and record music for your game as a theme. You could draw characters, artifacts and locations. You could write poems as one of the game's characters. You could create a map, generate worlds, locations, adventures, creatures, people and their relationships. You could build a gaming table, or rig up a projector system to project stuff on game night. You could build a web page or blog full of resources for your game, or documenting it. You could create or obtain props representing things in game. You could plan your character's stronghold or armies, level up, spend some cash.

Yeah, RPGs can be simple and require quite little, but the hobby can also incorporate almost anything you want to toss into it. If you have some other hobby or art interest there is a possibility you can use it to enhance or add to your RPG hobby, if that's your jam. For me, I really do need to eventually get some in-person time on game night with other people to really be loving role playing, but you can't role play all of the time. Fortunately, if you find yourself unable to get an actual session in and are really aching to be participating in some hobby activity, RPGs have you covered. They are waiting for you to feed them with whatever creative output you want to bring to the table.

Enjoy everything RPG in your life! 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

#RPGaDay2021 Day 27: Practice

For today's #RPGaDay2021 post, I'll try tackling "Practice." I could go off from yesterday's prompt, doing that "Theory vs. Practice" thing, but I think I'll use the word as a verb, as that thing you do to get better at something. Is it possible to be better or worse at role playing? Can you get better with practice? Interesting questions that I'm pretty sure the answer to are "Yes!" 

Normally this idea that playing RPGs could involve some kind of competence tends to be limited to the skills of the GM. The RPG blogosphere has tons of tools, materials and suggestions for ways to be a better GM. Some of this I think is because as a population, GMs trend towards more deeply interested in the hobby, more likely visit blogs and forums dedicated to the hobby, are more likely to be engaged in home-brew and blogging and all the rest. When I think back over RPG articles I've read, "How to be a better GM" feels vastly more covered than, "How to be a better Player." There almost seems to be a kind of... "GM prepares (rules, characters, setting, situations), and Players should only have to show up for the ride" philosophy going on. I don't think this is necessarily bad, but I also think it's worth examining and seeing if there is room here to make your games better (as in, more fun) for everyone involved.

How players play is discussed on forums and blogs and there is some advice written for players. Even when players are discussed though, a lot of that talk is GM facing. "How do I address this problem player?" or "Which of these 6 broad categories do your players fall into (Hack'n'slash guy, deep story guy, normal guy who is just happy to be there, etc. etc.) and how can you accommodate their styles?" This reminds me of my own experiences GMing. I am a player almost always, and when I GM I tend to get very nervous, worried if I'm doing well. I want the players to experience a great session. I also, I guess, don't want to be considered the worst GM in the group or something like that. It makes me think... why is this the orientation? What do I mean?

As a player... do you have the same thoughts? "I want the players to experience a great session." Do you look back and wonder where maybe you slipped up, concerned you may have flubbed a session the way a GM might worry? Do you think about accommodating other players' play styles? Like, there are all of these articles and this advice GMs read in an effort to make the game better, cooler, more fun, however you want to say. A player has a different set of tools compared to a GM, but I think this drive should reside in everyone at the table. There are a lot of motivations that can come into how you play a character. Some people really want to sink into that immersed thing of vicariously living through their character. Some people want to use their character to make interesting story things happen. Whatever it is though, to make it shine... you've got to bring it. Ideally, you've got to bring it in a way that helps everyone else bring it. You've got to look inside your character, look outside your character & into their world, and outside the fiction to the world of your friends sitting around playing this game hopefully trying to make it great for each other.

Yeah, I'm going a little hard on this. To maybe dial it back, we've all been more laid back and casual about RPing than I'm pushing for here. Good, fun sessions come out of these casual sessions. I just think there is potential in the idea of Players taking on a sense responsibility for the success of a game at a level a bit closer to that GMs feel to provide a great session. Orienting beyond your own character to take in how what you're doing is influencing the whole game.

The Jam is ON!

So, I'm kicking off on this " MS Paint TTRPG Jam " today! I won't lie, I've been doing some prep leading up, mulling o...