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[LoL] New Version is out today!

Started by dindenver, January 09, 2006, 07:15:49 PM

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Adam Dray

Okay, I want to dissect some things you're saying. When I combine different things you say in different places, they don't make sense together, at least not to me.

I'm going to assume you really know what you mean when you say that you want LoL to support a Simulationist CA. To me, that means your rules need to support, or at least get out of the way of, "constructive denial." Search for that term on the Forge if you aren't familiar with it. You need to make sure you support the Right to Dream for every player, not just the judge. I recommend you go read threads started by Silmenume (Jay). He's our resident Sim expert guy. ;)  I'm by no means an expert on Sim but I grok the basics, I think.

You say that you're trying to recreate the feeling of your novels. My fear is that without a LOT of very detailed source material in LoL, players will not be able to do this in a Sim fashion. Sure, they can play along in the Color of Lanasia, but that isn't the same as fundamentally giving creative input in a Sim way.

Furthermore -- and I'm not sure about this (it'd make a great topic of its own) -- can a Sim game be about breaking stereotypes? It seems to me that a lot of Sim play is about reinforcing stereotypes. If my hunch is right, you've set yourself up for a doozy of a fall here. Maybe they're not diametrically opposed forces (breaking stereotypes vs. Sim-style constructive denial) but I would think it is a very hard task to do the one with the other in the same game.

To perhaps clear some things up for you, games don't have a CA. A player has a CA and it can change from game to game or, theoretically, from reward cycle to reward cycle. A game can be said generally to support a CA. If it supports more than one, life doesn't end, but if different players have different CA's at the same time, the resulting game is usually lacking for one or more of those players. D&D 3E has strong support for Gamism. Earlier versions didn't really support any CAs very well but people had plenty of fun anyway, at least some of the time. A player can participate in an RPG without really pursuing a CA; that's called Zilchplay. That is, those players don't have a lot of creative input into the game. The GM puts artificial choices in front of them and they sorta drift through "the story." That's what I'm trying to prevent in LoL.

Let's look at your first three questions -- the Big Three. I'll quote your answer, discuss it, then give my own answers to what I think the answers ought to be.

What is Legends of Lanasia about?

QuoteIt's about breaking stereotypes. But this is done in the framework of Sword and Sorcery Adventure.

If your game is ABOUT breaking stereotypes, I'd expect to see a ton of support for that in the rules. Lots of games have skill-based generation and no classes and levels, so you don't get points for that. Your game has racial templates, too, and if race isn't the ultimate stereotype, I don't know what is.

What if your game had no races at all? That's not to say that your world doesn't have them. Players could make up any character of any race and pick and choose a handful of skills to get bonuses in. Each player character would essentially come with its own custom race. Want to play a half-gremlin, half-centaur with a specialty in medicine? You can. Now that is breaking stereotypes.

The "What's your game about" question is really getting to "core story."

I think your game, as written, is about exploring the mythical lands of Lanasia, developing one's own special talents and amassing personal power, and using them to kick ass and fight evil.

I think you have strong support for the middle stuff (talents and power), middling support for asskicking and fighting, very little support for evil as a concept, and next to no support for exploring (there's not a lot to explore, if it's going to be a traditional setting book, and you don't give any foundation to players to develop the setting during play).

What are the characters typically going to do?

QuoteBeing unique and being heroes. Saving the world, even if it is from themselves. Using their skills and Talents to go on adventures.

This is a bit unclear. How do you role-play "being unique"? "I, Frognarr the Barbarian-Mage, am different! No one is like me!"  Hee!  How do you save the world from yourself?  What is an "adventure"? 

Here's what I think LoL characters will do:  Characters will grow from modest beginnings to great and powerful movers and shakers in the world. They will use mettle and magic, luck and lore -- and their special Talents -- to defeat enemies of all sorts, including fantastic monsters, in strange environments and keep the world safe another day.

What will the players do?

QuoteTell a story with the GM, rolling dice as necesary.

Bzzt. You just described every RPG out there, pretty much. What will players do in Legends of Lanasia? In a typical game session:

Players will create unique fantasy characters, carefully defining them to their tastes by allocating points to the abilities and skills that are important to them and by choosing special Talents. They'll role-play these characters through difficult situations created entirely by the Judge, who interprets each player's input and decides what happens to them. They'll make tactical decisions during life-or-death situations in detailed combat scenarios, and use their characters' abilities to the fullest. They'll invent their own magical spells for their characters with a very customizable magic system.

Doesn't that sound much better?

Now, rewrite your answers in your own words and correct the things I got wrong and emphasize the things that you think are most important to your design. These three questions and your answers are your main vehicle (right now) for explaining for yourself and everyone here -- and eventually your player audience -- why they should be interested in Legends of Lanasia. When I write my own answers to these questions, I imagine them being printed on the back of the book. It's marketing material. It's also the charter for your design activities. You'll refer back to those three paragraphs and look at each design element and think, "Does this rule fit my charter?" If not, throw it out or rewrite it.
Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777

Adam Dray


I wanted to separate my discussion of your other answers. This post is less important than the one I just made. Focus on the other before you dedicate time to this one.

QuoteWhy do I have skills?
  I feel that training and experience does enhance people's natural abilities. This is represented, in my game, by skills. I could see, and have played, a game without skills, it certainly might make some things easier. But I decided to include them in my game because I think it can help to guide the feel and theme of the game world.

Skill lists are a powerful way to define setting, I agree. I don't feel you've done a good job of defining Lanasia through your skill lists though. I get the impression you thought, "I need a skill for everything a player could possibly try" rather than saying, "What is I want my players to do?" You might even rename some of them to capture the flavor of Lanasia. They're sorta flavorless, except where they remind me of D&D or CP2020.

Don't get me wrong: it is clear that you spent a lot of time choosing which skills the game would have. I think you did a pretty good job there. I just think they're a bit ho-hum and need a little spice.

If you want a game where every character is unique, where's the benefit in combining Butcher and Baker into a single Artisan skill?  Really, isn't your skill system one of the more powerful tools you have as a designer to put "uniqueness" power into the hands of the player?

You could do subskills or skill groups or traits or any number of things. I'm not saying you need to have more skills or more finely grained skills. Just consider the power you're giving up by condensing your skill list.

QuoteWhy a GM?
  I like games with GMs. I find that they are easier to explain to new/casual players and result, typically, in less PC deaths. There are "Social Contract" level weaknesses to GM-based systems, but those issues are acceptable to me. I want a game that does not regulate the social contract, but accounts for worst-case scenarios. When I was thinking about GM advice, GM guidelines and what I did and didn't want GMs to do, I spent some quality time on the "What's a DM to do?" forums on the WotC boards. There is a regular parade of examples of bad players, bad characters, bad stories, bad story ideas and bad GMs. My impressions from that experience definitely guided me into a situation where I feel like the players are free to make a good story together, but has at least some advice/recourse for BAD situations.

I don't agree that the presence of a GM keeps characters alive. They're totally unrelated. If keeping PCs alive is really one of your design goals, make it freaking hard to die in your game. There are plenty of other ways to make in-game failure suck. "I survived, but at what cost?!"

A game System cannot regulate the social contract. System is inside Social Contract. That said, maybe you mean you don't want a game that tells people how to play? I think you do. You're not saying, "if you don't play this way, you suck" but rather, "if you don't play LoL this way, your game will suck." Really, it's "here's the best way to play LoL."

A lot of your worst-case scenarios don't occur very often in certain games because those games have accounted for the driving forces of those problems and eliminated them or encouraged different behaviors through hard rules or play procedures, not friendly GM advice. You should consider that.

QuoteWhy combat rules?
  The genre I am tapping into almost always has combat. On a high level, my combat uses the same mechanisms as regular play. I like task resolution over conflict resolution. It's just a personal preference. I understand the advantages of CR over TR, but I don't see it for this game. So, the combat is Task oriented. But the players basically do the same thing they do outside of combat. In actual play, it is exciting and rewards creative play.

Okay, so you want physical combat and task resolution. Fine. Do you also want social battles? Mental battles? Are they less important than the hack-and-slash elements? You seem to say so in the rules a lot. What rules support do you give to those other conflicts that are more important than combat? Players will see all the crunchy combat bits and see that as an invitation or even an advisory to load up on combat stuff. Otherwise, they won't get to use all of the game. Give adequate support in the form of fun rules and crunchy bits for the type of activities you want players to pursue.

"But the players basically do the same thing they do outside of combat." I don't understand what you mean here. Can you explain? Outside of combat -- let's say in an argument with a Baron over poaching rights -- does a player do the same thing (use the same rules) as he would in combat? Do you use the combat system to handle arguments and I missed it in the rules?

QuoteWhy this gear?
  By and large, I looked at each item and thought about if it fit in MY setting. I can go back and check it again, but it is not just a random list. It should represent the tech level and resources that you should be able to buy and sell.

You look at each item where? On the equipment list of some other game? ;) Did you add a bunch of other stuff not on other lists? Did you change the items a lot to give the unique flavor of Lanasia?

QuoteWhy these races?
  I wanted to give plenty of choices, and I wanted a real world with plenty of nations. I think I accomplished that. Maybe I need more details about these nations, but I can come back and add that if it is really necessary.

Why any races? I asked this in my prior post. True uniqueness is bolstered by infinite choice. Do races serve any good purpose in LoL except to limit player choice? Races accentuate differences but also focus on similarities. The more you write about a race, the better the players understand what it means for Sim constructive denial but it pigeonholes people more.

QuoteWhat do I do that is special or unique?
  Talents. Each character has a Talent that makes them rise above the rules and do one thing well. And they can make any Talent they want and they can only have one, so I don't have to worry about them combining in unanticipated or unwanted ways.

I'll go back and reread this section more carefully and see if I have specific advice about it. The Talent system is going to have to be front-and-center in your game, not buried in the middle, if it is to be the defining characteristic of your game. It should drive everything else -- character creation, game play, and rewards.

Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777