Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday #19

CP2020 was the first game to expose me to in-game factions. There were all these story-related entities that all wanted the same thing. Mega-Corps, Booster gangs, Nomads, Governments, rebels, etc. It excited me the way no other game had. I had tried to do interesting faction play in D&D and Top Secret, but the foundation was not there. In D&D the rules and write-ups of possible factions (such as Duergr) forced them into a set pattern that the players could not really affect. In Top Secret, I tried making my own factions and it worked, but not well enough. I was the only one who truly understood the factions in play. But CP2020 had the solution, the factions were well known, had easily understood and competing motivations that could be manipulated by the PCs if they got their stuff together. Even today, more than 25 years later, this is the yard stick I measure game settings by (even my own).

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday #18

When I discovered that the makers of CyberPunk had made a Mech game (Mekton II), I had to check it out. Once I learned you could make a mech that was ANY shape, I never went back to BattleTech! This is another one of those watershed moments for me. Up until this point, I had always assumed that tactical systems had to be deep. And that the math of buildng them was a requirement of the system. I had let go of this idea for PCs, but somehow their equipment seemed to still need it in my mind. Especially when that equipment was a big, old honking mech that should take some work to overcome. Mekton II disabused me of these notions. I later went back and checked out the original Mekton. It was OK, but you couldn't build just any Mech. And I was sorely disaponted by Mekton Z, it seemed to be headed more in the direction of Battletech than towards a modern RPG.
Mekton II was a game where the RPG elements and the tactical elements were compatible and overlapped so well. It didn’t take long until I integrated CP2020 into the game and we had a real good time on Mars.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday #17

  CP2013 had a hacking system. It was pretty cool if prone to GM fiat. But CP2020 had NetRunning. In this system, an entire ‘Run happened in a single turn in real space. To make matters worse, all the rest of the group did in cyberspace was slow down the NetRunner. Because of this, I ruled that either the entire group would be NetRunners or none of the PCs would be. NetRunning was a critical part of the setting, so I made sure the PCs had access to a friendly, reliable NetRunner (usually one of the first friends rolled during Lifepath). Other games have had this issue as well, Mekton, various Star Trek games and to a lesser extent, games that needed mass combat rules. In each case, you either had to have all the players involved in both the street-level system and the special subsystem or none of them. From this I learned to make sure that all the PCs are operating in the same arena/level with my designs.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday #16

I played CyberPunk from 1988 through 2004. Parts of it were flights of fancy (the EU forming), parts of it were sheer genius (mega-corps) and part of it was absurd (poser gangs). I felt inspired by Bubblegum Crisis, Blade Runner, RoboCop and Gibson. My style was to suppress the PCs while allowing them to change the world. One example was to give the players 1,000,000 EuroBucks each in their accounts. Then after they spend it, that is when the Russian Mafia comes to retreive their money. And of course there is the classic rescue that is actually an extraction. This was when I developed a habit of, "if things get slow, Ninjas!" Also, I really learned that there is no reliable way to make a recurring villain (thanks Mike!). The only complaint I ever had about CP2020 was the power creep as more supplements came out. It wasn’t as bad as Rifts with MDC riot armor, but it did escalate to the point where it felt like Power Armor was needed to enter a fight.
In my own games I do my best to avoid power creep and to enable GMs to throw the kitchen sink at the players.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday #15

    Many games feature Luck, gift dice or effort systems. I absolutely love Luck systems. The vast majority require you to spend these resources before the roll. The issue I have with this is one of risk vs. reward. You risk a resource that may or may not replenish, and you pin your hopes on attaining this one roll/accomplishment. However, you have no recourse if the one roll that you identified as being important to you fails. By and large, I allow players to spend these resources after the roll. It allows players to identify which rolls matter to them and allows them to achieve those successes on occasion. When I design these sorts of systems in my games, I make sure that players can use them after the roll as well.