*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
June 18, 2021, 01:48:37 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 201 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: My Game: Middle Earth my way..  (Read 8029 times)
Ben Miller
Member

Posts: 49


« on: May 15, 2003, 02:52:21 AM »

Hi all.  This is my first post but I've been lurking around The Forge for number of months now.

I've been trying to design a game that me and my friends can play based on Middle Earth.  I used to run MERP many years back and gave it another go recently.  This lead me on to RoleMaster but that just got me all irritated...

I've tried to capture the elements that make Middle Earth Middle Earth, if you catch my drift.  These are the things I came up with (in no particular order).  Any other thoughts you have would be great.

* Good Vs Evil
* Physically improbable actions can be undertaken by heroic types.  Detemination and resolve are often important.
* Characters are often based on archetypes (e.g. Ranger, Hobbit, I'm not fussy!).
* The abilities of a person can belie their physical appearance (does Gandalg look like he could take on a Balrog?  Does Aragorn look like a king?) .
* Despair.  Despair and resolve against it are key.
* A skilled combatant can take down many enemies quite easily.
* Character ancestry is important and has an impact on character destiny (not sure about the word 'destiny').
* Magic is powerful but rare.  Enchanted items and banes are more common than people casting powerful spells.  Many spells are minor cantraps of illusion, the major spells tend to be heavily elemental.
* Songs are often used to improve or harm the morale/resolve of characters.
* Many languages and hence people, places and things often have many different names.

So, I sat down and brainstormed these things - I want to make a game whose rules complement and encourage these (and possibly other) ME elements.  (I've made various attempts at creating generic-setting rules systems but have rarely used them in more than once setting).

I also have a set of rules that I have already come up which I hope complement the setting.  I'll post those in this thread a bit later (as I don't want my first post to be huge!).

For now, any thoughts on how I am approaching my design and any other major Middle Earth tenets would be gratefully received.

All the best.
Ben
Logged
Ben Miller
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2003, 03:00:00 AM »

I have no plans for publication or anything like that, but it seems that I am talking here about Game Design rather than RPG Theory.  (I must say that although I read the posting guidelines for each of these two forums and I know that the title Indie Game Design seems to fit what I am doing, I am still left with the uneasy feeling that I committed some kind of minor misdemeanour by posting here.)

Sorry in advance then, if requried... :)
Logged
deadpanbob
Member

Posts: 201


WWW
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2003, 04:44:05 AM »

Ben,

Welcome to the forge!

You seem to have captured a reasonable list of Middle Earth tropes - assuming that you are satisfied with these, then great!

I'll ask the questions that are usually asked of first time game designers: Why would someone paly your ME game rather than one of the other ones on the market currently?  What do you envision, in your own words, a session of your game to be about?  In other words, what are the characters, and equally important the players doing, how are the interacting etc?  Put suucintly, what's the point?

Since you're trying to capture the feel of Middle Earth, I would direct your attention (in case you haven't seen them) to the following threads:

Aesthetics and Conveying Reality and Aesthetics and Reality

Eventually, someone around here is going to ask if you've read the articles, particularly since a lot of discussion around here references the terminology as defined therein.  So, in case you haven't already, it's worth your time to read:


System Does Matter and GNS and Other Matters of Role-playing Theory and perhaps Fantasy Heartbreakers .

It's not absolutely nec. for you to read those, but it often helps bridge the terminology gap and gives everyone a baseline set of terms to use in design discussions.

Finally, I look forward to seeing more of your system and hearing your vision of how the game is to be played.  Only then can we begin to discuss whether or not the game as designed seems to acheive your vision.

Keep us posted.

Cheers,


Jason[/url]
Logged

"Oh, it's you...
deadpanbob"
Ben Miller
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2003, 05:50:05 AM »

Thanks for the pointers.

Yeah, I've read a decent amount of stuff about the proposed GNS model and I've been mentally categorising all the previous games I have designed.  Most of my design work was done around 10 years ago, both by myself and with a close circle of friends.  So it is only relatively recently (the last 1-2 years) that I have got back into pen&paper RPGing.

The main reason I am writing this game is, as I say, for me and my friends to play.  I have no real interest in even attempting to market it.   My aim is produce a game that feels more like Middle Earth than the commercial games in the setting (MERP and Decipher's The LOTR RPG).  That's why discerning Tolkien fans would want to play my game.  

While I tend to design to maintain a blend of all three GNS categories, I suppose I am erring on the side of Simulation here.  Heroic simulation anyway, and I have no fear of introducing meta-game mechanics to achieve that.  (In other words I'm not aiming for a re-write or MERP or similar, which rule-wise is quite a dry simulation.)

I would envisage a session of the game would center on character and plotline progression (in tandem).  Rules for character development are therefore important to me, although the manner is not intended to be the standard XP trail by any means.  The plots will likely center on stories that are are significantly lower-profile than the War of the Ring and the characters within them will be similarly not as heroic or larger than life (although the rules would also allow that kind of play).  NPCs might be big heroes - PCs would be trying to make their way there.

I'm aiming for the players to have to work together (yawn!) and to apply solutions other than fighting to situations.  Exploration and the meeting of new peoples would be prominent.  Familiar creatures from the stories would come up often: trolls, orcs, elves, dwarves.  Issues of scale (such as man fighting troll) need to be realistically dealt with.

I'm not looking for the players to really get involved in taking a narrative role (I'd rather leave that to the GM) but I'm keen to provide incentives for them to get into character and embellish the descriptions of what their characters are up to.  I'm aiming for a fortune-in-the-middle method of dicing... I think.

I'll go look at the Aesthetics.. threads you mentioned and I'll try to post my rulesystem thoughts very soon.

Ben
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2003, 06:04:47 AM »

Jason, he knows he can't publish this, so perhaps it's for internal use only? If that's the case, then maybe he doesn't have to make the case for "why anyone else would play".

But your other question is spot on. How will play look? Importantly, what sort of characters would be allowed, and when, in the timeline, would they exist? These are important questions.

If you haven't seen it, Ben, check out:
http://www.decipher.com/lordoftherings/rpg/index.html


* Good Vs Evil
I agree, with the caveat that evil is as often internal as it is external. We fight not only the evil without, but the evil within as well.

* Physically improbable actions can be undertaken by heroic types. Detemination and resolve are often important.
Yes. There is a dichotomy of characters, it's been noted. One type that gets things done by being kickass, and the other that just has to use sheer grit. Do a search here, and you'll find all manner of discussion on this subject as well as games inspired by the material that might help.

* Characters are often based on archetypes (e.g. Ranger, Hobbit, I'm not fussy!).
I can't strongly enough disagree here. At the time nobody had ever heard of hobbits or rangers (other than park rangers, etc). These were completely original inventions of Tolkien. Instead of having knights in shining armor, which you'd expect, he has something more akin to a cowboy in his romantic fantasy setting. That's original.

Ironically it's RPGs that have taken these characters and made them into archetypes.

I'd work to make a system that got away from categorization, and instead worked on identifying the unique nature of the beings of ME. Anything else is just not right.

* The abilities of a person can belie their physical appearance (does Gandalg look like he could take on a Balrog? Does Aragorn look like a king?) . OTOH, creatures like a Balrog, Dragons, Trolls, and ents all display their power in very easy to see forms. Yes, for a couple of characters hidden power is a theme. But this is not a theme that's particularly central to ME. More coincidental.

* Despair. Despair and resolve against it are key.
Pertains to determination above. And makes me think that you've played the recent board game. :-)

* A skilled combatant can take down many enemies quite easily.
Pertains to physical feats above.

* Character ancestry is important and has an impact on character destiny (not sure about the word 'destiny').
I'd say it's definitely destiny, but another theme is that things are not predestined. That our actions have power. Destiny is an interesting thing when seen in that light. See The Riddle of Steel RPG for how to do Destiny right.

* Magic is powerful but rare. Enchanted items and banes are more common than people casting powerful spells. Many spells are minor cantraps of illusion, the major spells tend to be heavily elemental.
Actually even small magic is somewhat rare. And there's often a theme that involves not knowing when something is magic or not.

But magic things are an important theme. What they represent is the immortality of magic being lost through investment in things. That is the magic beings of the world put their magic into parts of Middle Earth for power, but eventually that just leads to them fading away. This happens to Melkor, Feanor, Sauron, Celebrimbor, Saruman, and numerous other powers. It's Tolkiens lament at the loss of green space in England to industrialization to be precise. And it's so central that people often miss it.

* Songs are often used to improve or harm the morale/resolve of characters.
This goes to the "is it magic or not". Doesn't really matter in game terms, because it'll be effective magic or no. See Hero Wars for how to get that effect.

* Many languages and hence people, places and things often have many different names.
Perhaps the most realistic thing about ME. Given that ME was invented as a place to "house" the languages that Tolkien invented, it's no surprise.


Just some comments on what I see as important thematically.

Mike

{edited to note the cross post with Ben}
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
deadpanbob
Member

Posts: 201


WWW
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2003, 07:48:36 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

Jason, he knows he can't publish this, so perhaps it's for internal use only? If that's the case, then maybe he doesn't have to make the case for "why anyone else would play".


Mike,

Yeah, I understood that.  However, I feel like answering this question can help bring the designers vision of the game into clearer focus.  Certainly Ben has ideas as to why the current games on the market for ME don't meet his needs, and how his game design addresses these concerns.  I just thought if we could hear that in his words, it would help to bring his vision into a tighter focus.

Cheers,



Jason
Logged

"Oh, it's you...
deadpanbob"
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2003, 07:55:47 AM »

Cool.
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Ben Miller
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2003, 08:32:38 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes

* Characters are often based on archetypes (e.g. Ranger, Hobbit, I'm not fussy!).
I can't strongly enough disagree here. At the time nobody had ever heard of hobbits or rangers (other than park rangers, etc). These were completely original inventions of Tolkien. Instead of having knights in shining armor, which you'd expect, he has something more akin to a cowboy in his romantic fantasy setting. That's original.

Ironically it's RPGs that have taken these characters and made them into archetypes.


I think you may have missed my point, or I didn't make it clear enough.  I am thinking in terms of what defines a character in Tolkien's works.  Whether or not you argue that archetypes grew from Tolkien's characters (I agree!) or vice versa isn't really relevant to my mind.  What I want to capture here is that a few short words describing the character's race and profession/culture can say a hell of a lot about that character.  Aragorn being a "ranger", for example, gives us a good picture of what Aragorn is like - it provides a strong template/archetype and this is surely very Tolkienesque: it's a testament to the magic of his work (and various others who have built upon it) that we can picture a typical Hobbit very easily.

Quote from: Mike Holmes

* The abilities of a person can belie their physical appearance (does Gandalf look like he could take on a Balrog? Does Aragorn look like a king?) . OTOH, creatures like a Balrog, Dragons, Trolls, and ents all display their power in very easy to see forms. Yes, for a couple of characters hidden power is a theme. But this is not a theme that's particularly central to ME. More coincidental.


I think it is central inasmuch as we learn that Hobbits, although seemingly weak and inconsequentual, prove to be very strong willed and important.  It's not just that either: the way magic manifests in Middle Earth often makes a character seem one way but then actually appear another way.  Yes, there are other games (most forms of D&D) where physical appearance may belie underlying power more, but I'm looking at this game from first principle as much as possible, rather than contrasting it with other games.

Quote from: Mike Holmes

* Despair. Despair and resolve against it are key.
Pertains to determination above. And makes me think that you've played the recent board game. :-)


Interesting... actually I haven't, but they are the main themes that strike me when reading LOTR.

Quote from: Mike Holmes

* Character ancestry is important and has an impact on character destiny (not sure about the word 'destiny').
I'd say it's definitely destiny, but another theme is that things are not predestined. That our actions have power. Destiny is an interesting thing when seen in that light. See The Riddle of Steel RPG for how to do Destiny right.

Cool.  I'll take look at that.  The reason I'm not sure about calling it destiny is because I'd like to work some sort of meta-game that rewards players for heading towards their goals/destinies by making tasks that do that more easy to succeed at.  I was thinking of each character having one or more Destiny Paths or something, but perhaps what I really mean is Goals (since, as you say, people in ME can change their destiny).

I'm also toying with some kind of system along the lines of the Taglines in The Dying Earth RPG (from which I've also taken some ideas which form the key dice mechanism for the game).

Some good thoughts here... I'll take a look at Hero Wars and The Riddle Of Steel some more.

Cheers
Ben
Logged
taalyn
Member

Posts: 370

Aidan Grey


« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2003, 11:17:19 AM »

Quote from: hatheg-kla

Cool.  I'll take look at that.  The reason I'm not sure about calling it destiny is because I'd like to work some sort of meta-game that rewards players for heading towards their goals/destinies by making tasks that do that more easy to succeed at.  I was thinking of each character having one or more Destiny Paths or something, but perhaps what I really mean is Goals (since, as you say, people in ME can change their destiny).

I'm also toying with some kind of system along the lines of the Taglines in The Dying Earth RPG (from which I've also taken some ideas which form the key dice mechanism for the game)


Yeah, you REALLY need to investigate the Riddle of Steel - it handles Destiny like you say you want. Basically, following your destiny results in bonuses to rolls involving that destiny. Say you have an obsession about getting the family sword repaired. Everything you do towards that goal gets a bonus - the stronger you feel about something, the better you're chances of succeeding. TRoS also ties this to character advancement. It's an EXCELLENT game, with exceptional combat mechanics, and you couldn't do better than give it a look-see.

Aidan
Logged

Aidan Grey

Crux Live the Abnatural
Jeph
Member

Posts: 338

Jeff Schecter


« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2003, 03:57:04 PM »

About archetypes, and Rangers in particular. Yes, Aragorn is a Ranger. But so are Faramir and his men, and aside from their ability to travel lightly and quickly, they have little in common. If I remember correctly, Faramir's band used mostly archery when fighting the Southrons, while Aragorn preferrred the sword. Additionally, Faramir's rangers traveled in packs, so to speak, while Aragorn went alone.

I think that while many Archetypes exist in Middle Earth, the members of these archetypes differentiate so greatly as to make them almost irrelevant. Also, you should think to yourself: What does Archetype based chargen give my system, that priority, point, or class based generation does not?
Logged

Jeffrey S. Schecter: Pagoda / Other
Ben Miller
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2003, 03:15:22 AM »

Hmmm, interesting point.

I suppose it gives the players and I convenience in chargen.  You're right about the different styles of ranger but they do have a set of similar aptitudes  (such as living rough, tracking and hunting).  It strikes me that there are also possible social/interaction effects of certain "archetypes".  

Perhaps the word "archetypes" is conjuring a subtly different meaning to my mind than it would some other RPGs that use the term Archetype.  For me it would give a base-line for a the character, but not just for their skills - also their ancestry and background.

It just seems to add Tolkien colour to me - does anyone get what I'm trying to say?  :)

Anyhow, I've been agonising over rulesystem ideas all day yesterday.  

I got so frustrated that I've almost scrapped my original ideas!  To summarise where I'd got, I wanted to describe a character with a number of Traits such as "Keen of Eye", "Light of Foot", "Cool Demeanor", etc.  This would appear pretty much as a list on the char sheet and would give a nice overview of the character (most of these Traits would probably be inherent/racial abilities).  On top of this a training level with various skills or archetypes would be listed, also as Traits.  Then, when resolving an action each Trait (of any type) that a character can usefully apply to the activity improves the chance of success.  The Traits could also define negative aspects of a character too, but not sure I really need this.

I came up with this method after thinking "What makes Legolas so good with a bow?".  He obviously has various aptitudes which make him a natural, along with years of practice.  Legolas's Traits might therefore be modelled something like "elvish eyesight, nimble fingers, steady hand, quick aim, practice: bows".  

Representing the different scale of creatures and levels of ability, whilst also allowing a reasonably fine granularity of character advancement is the bit I find hardest.  I was wanting to make the dice mechanic open ended in some way and I'd set myself up (with the above Traits idea) for a relatively low number of distinct ability levels.

So I went round in circles for a good while and eventually gave up...

I don't know if anyone is familiar with the old Conan RPG published by TSR in 1985.  A wonderful set of rules that really evoked the Hyborian myths.  I'm now thinking of adapting them slightly to fit my Middle Earth vision.  More on this later...

Ben
Logged
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2003, 05:47:54 PM »

Get anywhere with it?

Mike
Logged

Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.
Ben Miller
Member

Posts: 49


« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2003, 03:33:32 AM »

Yes and no...  :)

I'm still looking at the Conan rules and Trying Them On For Size.  I know it's a little off topic, but if you get the chance and you've never read this game it's definitely worth a shot.  It's designed by David Cook who I beleive was responsiblt for a fair amount of BD&D and AD&D design.  The Conan game could never compete with the likes of the established D&D books but in my opinion is a far superior system.  The rules are fast, easy and flexible.  It has various aspects which I recognise in more recent games, including indie ones.

Anyway.. I shall try to calm myself down and bring myself back on topic!

It's fairly straightforward to convert to Middle Earth, but I have to be careful that I don't end up with a horrible mismatch of setting Vs rules.  There are a large number of Talents, each of which is attributed to one General Talent Pool.  The Talent Pools are (originally):

Prowess
Fighting
Endurance
Knowledge
Perception
Insight

Within each Pool you total up all the Talent scores and divide by 10, rounding down.  This gives the character a General Talent Pool rating to be used for actions that they do not have a specific Talent for.  So, for example, you may not have the Climb Talent so you use the General Prowess Pool's score instead.

I like this idea - not particularly realistic but it seems to work OK.  I also like the way that the scores with each Talent are not given any scale comparisons.  Although I was brought up on Runequest (and the like) where a Strength of 15 could be related to a maximum carry weight, for example,  I don't want to get that way in my game.  I guess I'm into simulating relative character ability in my system rather that absolute ability.

To bring it back to ME though, one thing I want to do is review the list of Talents and Talent Pool names so that they match the setting better.  Off the top of my head, I could change the pool names to something like:

Prowess
Battle
Fortitude
Lore
Perception
Empathy

I'm thinking I may also need to add to this list (Magic might be separatable from Lore or Empathy).

Resolve will become a Talent in the Fortitude Pool, points from which may be 'spent' to affect success in some way (probably allowing re-rolls).

As far as I can see, getting the feel of Middle Earth here is largely down to the character generation rules.  They'll be point based (as in the Conan RPG) with the optional selection of Weaknesses to increase the points a player can use to buy Talents (my players are not the type to take weaknesses purely for the the thrill of it).

The basic mechanic (from the Conan RPG) is:

1. Look up Talent score on table.
2. Throw % dice.
3. Read off a white, green, yellow, orange or red result.
4. A certain colour (or better) is required depending on task difficulty.

I'm not completely happy with the resolution table.  I'll post it if that would be acceptable?

More later..

Ben
Logged
simon_hibbs
Member

Posts: 678


« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2003, 03:51:42 AM »

Quote from: hatheg-kla

I got so frustrated that I've almost scrapped my original ideas!  To summarise where I'd got, I wanted to describe a character with a number of Traits such as "Keen of Eye", "Light of Foot", "Cool Demeanor", etc.  This would appear pretty much as a list on the char sheet and would give a nice overview of the character (most of these Traits would probably be inherent/racial abilities).  On top of this a training level with various skills or archetypes would be listed, also as Traits.  Then, when resolving an action each Trait (of any type) that a character can usefully apply to the activity improves the chance of success.  The Traits could also define negative aspects of a character too, but not sure I really need this.


This soudns superficialy similar to Hero Wars, in which you can name pretty much any aility you like, and give it an ability rating. Whether that ability is a learned skill, innate talent, magical ability or whatever doesn't make any (well, much) difference in game mechanical terms.

Also in HW you can use one ability to augment another - give it a bonus based on the value of the augmenting ability. Nowadays most people used fixed augments, +1 for every 10 points in the augmenting ability (round up). E.g. "I shoot him with by Bow (Ability = 14), augmenting with my Elvish Eyesight (Ability = 18) for +2. I'm rolling against 16!"

Later on the party might be ambushed by Orcs, and our elf bowman might use his Elvish Eyesight (18) to spot the ambush.


Simon Hibbs
Logged

Simon Hibbs
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!