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Author Topic: [Ex Deus] System: Simple, Fast, Intuitive, Universal, Compelling  (Read 8556 times)
Tyler.Tinsley
Member

Posts: 52


« Reply #30 on: July 23, 2009, 01:30:48 PM »

You're right. In my first post, in Ex Deus' guiding virtues (AKA design priorities), realism was not one of them. "Universal" and "Intuitive" were, though, and I found the best way to achieve both of these was to make a system which worked on models that imitated something like reality. But that realism was only a tool towards intuitive and universal gameplay. Where realism conflicted with them, I threw realism to the wind.

A set of rules cannot be universal. Each rule you write is denying endless variations on that rule.

Trivial pursuit football edition plays exactly like trivial pursuit star wars edition. regardless of the face you put on your game it's going to play the same.

Of course there are plenty of people who are willing to try and sell you a universal game, it's a fantastic pitch. All you need is this one jar of snake oil and it will cure every aliment.

A truly universal rpg would be a blank book except for these words "please write your own game in this book".

If your goal is to capture a wide verity of narrative settings then you will still need to focus on a genre or style of story telling, and that limits your game in an entirely new kind of way. Check out the games Shock or Prime Time Adventures for an example. this is actually the kind of game I find most exciting.
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Simon C
Member

Posts: 495


« Reply #31 on: July 23, 2009, 03:34:00 PM »

Quote
staring at Ex Deus right now, it has everything I need it to have, which is also everything I imagine any other competent GM will require to pick it up, teach it, and run a campaign with it. The rest is campaign suggestions, GMing tips, and rules documentation written for readability (also playtesting).


If that's the case, why are you posting this in First Thoughts? It sounds like you're done.  Now you've gotta playtest the thing.  Posting here is just advertising your game, and you're wasting people's time if you don't really want advice.  Go post in Playtesting when you've actually played your game.
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Garbados
Member

Posts: 19

Good Life Advice


« Reply #32 on: July 26, 2009, 03:55:38 AM »

Man, this thread got harsh. Some of you are asking why I'm posting here at all, and I'm kind of coming to wonder the same thing. I posted here asking for advice, criticism, and for the eyes of the Forge to look the game over for holes. Some of you have given me great advice: "Your social combat system needs work" and "Compulsions aren't that great a way of doing it" specifically. I understand this about/goal/premise business as something like the formation of a mission statement, but other than that it looks like I'm just getting my design priorities curb stomped. I can understand some of the criticism on that, but if my design priorities are really that infeasible, I'm confused on how I've managed to get this far.

I started work on the handbook the other day (also put together a playtesting group, beginning testing Thursday) and realized 1.) Ex Deus is only sort of "about' conflict, in that I put a lot of effort into the conflict systems. 2.) I've hardly discussed one of Ex Deus' most important design features: Modules.

Ex Deus is broken up into a core set of rules, which facilitates most simple medieval campaigns (99% of anything you would ever run in DnD, only without magic). To add functionality, you snap modules to the core. Modules add skills and alter rules to expand the things Ex Deus can do, things like Crafting and Gathering, Tech Levels and Magic, Trait and Flaw systems, etc. When I put together the handbook's table of contents, do you know what the core rules encompassed? This:

0. Introduction
1. Basic Mechanics
  • Task Resolution: Attempt (Attribute + Relevant Skill(s)) vs. Challenge
  • Where multiple skills are relevant, add them together.
2. Attributes
  • Six attributes: Strength, Endurance, Alacrity, Charisma, Intelligence, Wit.
3. Skills
  • 11 skills, each with between 2-6 specialties.
4. Character Creation
  • Rules for making a character of power appropriate to your standard adventurer.
5. Character Growth
  • Attributes, skills, and specialties grow as you use them.
6. Physical Combat
  • Tick System details and mechanics.
  • List of actions, with details and mechanics.
7. Equipment
  • Equipment (Weapons, Armor, Shields, and Items) overview.
  • Equipment balance formulas.
8. Social Combat
  • Each participant attempts CHA + Persuade + Relevant Skills and Specialties. Persuade specialties interact in a sort of rock-paper-scissors way (except with five specialties, it's more like a star than a triangle), but the best way to buff your argument is to argue points or in ways that make relevant otherwise unrelated skills, such as Melee or Occult.
9. Miscellaneous
  • Rules for cover, helping, teaching, using your offhand, and attacks while moving.

All the rest of that "universality" and "realism" crap? You add that through modules. If you don't want to deal with tech levels, you don't have to. Don't want to slow the game down with crafting? Leave out the module. Or maybe you want to foster even more focus on combat: add in the Techniques module and watch your characters go kung fu crazy. Want to run political intrigue? Add World Skills. Fantasy? Add Basic Magic or make your own magic system through the Advanced Magic module. Compulsions is a module, but so is another system called Traits, which -- like the system Lance described -- gives players one bonus if they invoke a trait as beneficial and another if they invoke it as detrimental. Or leave both of them out and just go straight for the tried-and-sort-of-true Advantages (Connections and Abilities modules) and Disadvantages (Flaws module) paradigm. Modules facilitate universality by, as Tyler Tinsley suggested, letting you build your own system. But it's never more functionality than you need. I've done my best to make the modules simple -- most of them change a couple formulas or add a few skills, so the return on investment for added complexity versus added functionality is strong -- but the important part is that the rules are never more complex than the game you want to play, and moreover that the core is absurdly simple.

This about/goal/premise stuff confounds me because I have no idea how Modules fits into that idea. I intend to use Ex Deus to introduce new players to roleplaying using the core rules, and challenge experienced players with more world detail and character possibilities. Is that my goal? I have no idea. But as lacking an about/goal/premise isn't slowing down the game's development, it doesn't bother me.
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Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1962


WWW
« Reply #33 on: July 26, 2009, 04:52:26 AM »

::chuckles::

The "fuck you, I'm designing this bitch!" attitude is great. Everything here is advice. Take what works for you, scrap what doesn't. The primary thing that we're talking about is trying to get to the root of what you want the game to do, and make the rules about that. If you're not interested in doing something, don't make rules for it. If you want the game to do something, DO make rules for it.

Your modules sound like they're gonna be a crapton of work. A bit less if you're working from a single guiding principle and you're iterating it out into the modules, but a lot of work regardless. You're going to have to test every single module. You're going to have to test different modules together, to see how they interact.

Teaching the players how to pick the modules to get a particular feeling will also be interesting. Obviously they'll figure it out with some experience with the game, but you're gonna have to get them there to begin with.

All in all, I think Simon may be right. You're close to being done with First Thoughts. It may be time for you to move on to Playtesting. You're talking about putting together a group, so it sounds like you're thinking the same thing.

I look forward to seeing your playtesting posts. The fun part is over, now comes the hard work.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Luke
Member

Posts: 1359

Conventions Forum Moderator, First Thoughts Pest


WWW
« Reply #34 on: July 26, 2009, 05:49:18 AM »

Garby,

There's no need to get defensive. Everyone here is trying to help. And a few of us have suggested that you're done with this particular FORUM, not the site. It's time to move on to the Playtesting FORUM on this site:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?board=62.0

-Luke
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Bill_White
Member

Posts: 202


WWW
« Reply #35 on: July 26, 2009, 05:53:12 AM »

My sense of the underlying philosophy of the Forge is that it's about producing tight, focused designs where the mechanics are intentionally constructed to serve a particular aesthetic in play: the choices made the players reinforce and invoke the thematic underpinnings of the game, in other words. So, for example, Dogs in the Vineyard frames conflicts in terms of escalation, to reinforce the central idea that the game is about seeing how far you're willing to go to enforce your beliefs on others.

As an aside, I should note that there are those who, in good faith and in bad, reject this philosophy and assert that the rules to role-playing games should be kitchen sink-type affairs from which play groups pull material as needed. Some of these people call their philosophy "incoherentism," which amounts to a puerile flipping of the bird at coherent design (to my mind). But there's something to be said for the idea that no rules set survives contact with play--call it "micro-design," if you like.

In any event, a game that's simply intended ]to model "the real world" in a neutral way is, to Forge-trained sensibilities, kidding itself. Either the designer really wants the game to be about something and doesn't know what, or the designer is headed for "heartbreaker" country: a few good ideas in an incoherent design, unaware of both the economic realities of game publishing and the accumulation of pragmatic game design knowledge that would let the designer find his or her niche in a tiny but crowded marketplace.

So far, I read the comments you've received as asking you to revisit your assumptions about what you want this RPG to do; more specifically, what you want the rules to enable people playing the game to do. "D&D, but better," is one answer--in fact, it's the answer implied when you describe the heart of the game as:

Quote
a core set of rules, which facilitates most simple medieval campaigns (99% of anything you would ever run in DnD, only without magic)

--but it's an answer that will make a lot of folks here wince.

To bring it back to Ex Deus: I've seen lots of games that do the same thing as yours. What does your game let me do that I can't do with The Fantasy Trip (which came out in 1977, for Pete's sake, and also has task mechanics, combat rules, skills, and so forth)? One innovation you can point to is social conflict mechanics, but I know that if I want a special system for that that I can use Duel of Wits in Burning Wheel; otherwise, I can rely on a system that doesn't distinguish among types of conflict (The Shadow of Yesterday, maybe) or one which places them along a continuum (the aforementioned DitV). What's cool about how your game handles this?

In other words, a lot of people here will read your posts and want to know why you're making the design choices you're making, in the expectation that you are trying to produce a particular experience of play and seeking to match the mechanics with the intended experience. To the extent that you're not able to articulate your design goals, people are unable to effectively critique your effort (where "effectively" means "in a way that might be helpful to you").

Good luck as you find your way forward! I'll be interested to hear what your playtest groups do with your rules, and how they handle what your rules don't deal with.
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Lance D. Allen
Member

Posts: 1962


WWW
« Reply #36 on: July 26, 2009, 06:12:57 AM »

posting to fix Bill's last (wince) link: http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/9/

It's an article that I find educational to read periodically, especially so now considering my recent work on Mage Blade, which was in so many ways born of the Fantasy Heartbreaker, and to some, will always be one.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Garbados
Member

Posts: 19

Good Life Advice


« Reply #37 on: July 26, 2009, 10:03:57 AM »

Excellent essay. I laughed, and nodded. Ex Deus isn't supposed to be "DnD, only better" or bear resemblance to it at all, but because of DnD's market dominance, I didn't think it'd be a bad idea to point out that even the absurdly simple but somewhat restrictive core rules could already keep pace with the majority of what DnD does.

As I learn more, I discover that Ex Deus brings almost nothing new to the table, which, I'll be honest, doesn't bother me. There are design patterns which serve what I've wanted to do in roleplaying, like notions of attributes and skills, which I don't see a need to mess with. Ex Deus is, for me, more about synthesizing these design patterns into a single system than breaking the pattern's mold. Maybe my next game I'll shoot for that, but for now my sights are lower: make the game fast, simple, intuitive, and flexible; friendly for new players, and challenging for the more experienced. Many of the examples I've received so far saying, "Well, this other system does that already, so what new stuff do you bring?" included several different systems, each doing one or two things Ex Deus does. That's fine for me. Hell, I'll take it as a compliment, because it means Ex Deus represents all of those mentioned mechanics in one place, with the added potential of modules containing new and provocative material. It may not be revolutionary, but it does work pretty well, and for that I am glad.

Broader than discussions of about/goal/premise, you're right that Ex Deus would benefit from cultivating a focused idea of what kind of play experience it wants to foster or where its target audience lies. Seeing as I can't answer these questions very well at present, maybe I'll be more able after playtesting. But that I'm on the precipice of such action means I'm at the edge of this forum, as Luke pointed out. So, thank you all for your help, even if I didn't seem to receive it as well as it was intended. Your feedback has been invaluable to the development of Ex Deus.
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Tyler.Tinsley
Member

Posts: 52


« Reply #38 on: July 29, 2009, 07:43:36 AM »

Modules facilitate universality by, as Tyler Tinsley suggested, letting you build your own system. But it's never more functionality than you need. I've done my best to make the modules simple -- most of them change a couple formulas or add a few skills, so the return on investment for added complexity versus added functionality is strong -- but the important part is that the rules are never more complex than the game you want to play, and moreover that the core is absurdly simple.

This about/goal/premise stuff confounds me because I have no idea how Modules fits into that idea. I intend to use Ex Deus to introduce new players to roleplaying using the core rules, and challenge experienced players with more world detail and character possibilities. Is that my goal? I have no idea. But as lacking an about/goal/premise isn't slowing down the game's development, it doesn't bother me.

That may not entirely be what i was suggesting. No matter what you try to do your rules have an impact of the kinds of story and the way that story will be represented.

Take Luke's game mouse guard. from his descriptions of the burning wheel mechanics I can tell that he was trying to capture something like how people actually feel during combat or conflicts, this chaotic realism of acting on instinct. So when you play burning wheel that's how you feel. The rules don't let you make choices that are totally informed, you have to go with your gut.

Ex Deus sounds like players are making very informed decisions. I bet people will feel like tactical badasses while playing it, like a game of chess against death.

Just like your rules of combat are going to change how the game feels all of your game's rules are going to naturally lead to a type of story telling or experience.

If you want to cover a wide verity of subject matters using modules check out savage worlds, it uses a product structure like this. however even then the basic rules of savage worlds mean all games played using them will feel like savage worlds regardless of the subject matter. It's this feeling that cant be changed successfully without patching the system to oblivion and at that point your better off doing a total overhaul of a system like Luke does with burning wheel/empires/mouse guard.
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