Monday, May 24, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board ...

Blah! Look at that last post ... what a mess! All those tables and notes and all in the name of making Xceptional easier?! LOL. Sometimes I need to take a step back and look at my work objectively. Or at least attempt to look at it objectively.

Xceptional is supposed to be an easy to use rules light system. It's not. The "control damage" mechanic is interesting in its own way and I like what it does in theory. But in practice I find that I am constantly trying to "fix" it. Okay, maybe it's time to admit that sometimes something isn't worth "fixing" and just leave it be.

The Xceptional document as it appears here doesn't suck. If someone finds something of interest within it ... that's awesome. But, as a playable game I believe it's scope of appeal is small and it's flexibility for growth and adaptation is even smaller.

A good game should be "home rule-able." That is the system should be accessible enough to encourage tinkering and tweaking from the folks around the table who play it. I think that "Five by Five" manages to capture that appeal. I don't think Xceptional does. The system is too inflexible. I am discovering this as I try to "home rule" the system myself ... and fail.

So I am scrapping those efforts and moving on. No harm; no foul. I just use what I have learned from this exercise and move on.

To start with I am going to define some clear cut design goals.

[1] A generic (read genre flexible) super-powers RPG. (I like superheroes, but believe the best thing about a good superheroes RPG is that it can be adapted by it's players to be any genre.)

[2] Choice based character creation that can be randomized (Xceptional does this, as does Hi/Lo Heroes - see those for examples of what I am trying to do. New players and players who are uncertain what sort of character they want to play can roll a few dice for inspiration. I think this is especially important in a genre as wide open and versatile as comic-book heroes.)

[3] No point buy. (I hate math based character creation. It's slow and demanding. It seems to be the "go to" method for most of the games of today which is the main reason why I believe there is still room in this crowded RPG market for what I hope to offer.)

[4] Character Classes (These old-school RPG mainstays remain to my mind the easiest way to introduce new players to their role in a play group. It's adventure hero stereotyping, and although some players argue that a class system in limiting, I have yet to experience a game where my character class prevented me from playing the character that I wanted to play.)

[5] Levels (Clearly defined character advancement guidelines that like the character generation mechanic do no depend on a "point" system to purchase power ups.)

[6] An easy and flexible resolution mechanic that lends itself to house-ruling should the players wish to do so. (The system should use 2d6 as the primary randomizer - this is my randomizer of choice.)

- There you have them ... my goals for the game I want to build. Any thoughts?

If you look back at my previous games, you can see signs of these goals in my works. That being said, I have not yet managed to capture that "perfect" mix. Hi/Lo Heroes is actually pretty good, but all the powers in the game are merely fancy names for die roll modifiers and nothing more.

I like Xceptional's approach to powers. The idea here was establishing a tight game mechanic and then using powers to "break the rules" in a very "collectable card game" kind of way. I'd still like to explore this, if I can do it without making the game too complex.

Interestingly, the soon to be released ICONS RPG comes close to matching many of my goals and I was tempted ever so briefly to simply abandon my quest for "my perfect" RPG and just to house rule Icons (It's system looks very easy and flexible and open to the type of tweaking any group might require to make the game their own.)

But, then I would have to live with the knowledge that I was never able to achieve this goal for myself. That I had presented myself with a challenge and that I had failed to meet that challenge. I like tinkering with game design. I want to see this through. Ultimately, If I can ever beat this beast it would be available here for free ... and that's a cool thing too for all us poor gamers who unfortunately can't afford to support a market that desperately needs our support.

That said, buy Icons when you get a chance. It's a good bit of work. If nothing else, use it to roll up random characters when you are stuck for ideas ... then convert the randomly created character to the "point buy system" of your choice ... if that's the way you roll. If that's all you ever used it for, I think you'd still get your money's worth. (Although, you might also try using my own Hi/Lo Heroes in this same capacity. I really do believe that Hi/Lo's random character creation works pretty well.)

Anyway ... this is me ... back to the drawing board.


Jeff Moore

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