Friday, January 04, 2013

Spit-balling my next RPG project.

I play D&D every week with some friends. I DM; that's my job. It's a good time, but I do find myself yearning for a new kind of experience every so often.

I have two roommates. My girlfriend, Mendi and my friend Michael. Michael has suggested we play a tabletop RPG with just the three of us where we can share the DMing chores between us in a round-robin sort of way so that I can get to play the character I want to play.

We talked about using D&D (third edition, this is the game Michael likes) and just taking turns as DM. The problem here is Mendi likes to play, and might even be willing to DM provided she could do so without too much preparation or time spent with the rules.

Mendi is a player who wants to sit down and play. She wants the immediately relevant information available to her in the moment of play where it is required, but she does not want to think about, read, or process game rules or information outside of what is necessary during the act of actually playing the game.

She wants to play. She doesn't want to read rules or think about game balance, or building encounters, or anything outside of what she perceives as the act of "playing." And she is not alone. Many players just want to sit down, roll some dice, have some fun ... and then go home and forget the whole thing until the next time we play.

There is nothing wrong with this, but to DM a player needs to be able to invest more. Given this, I have decided that a "round robin DM" D&D game isn't going to work out. I need a game that can be played without a DM, GM or Referee.

I have been searching for ideas on GM-less story telling fantasy adventure games. THE game that I am looking for may have already been written. If it's out there, please share it with me. I want to know about it. In the meantime, I have been thinking ...

The classic Hero Quest by Milton Bradley or Soda Pop Game's: Super Dungeon Explore are dungeon crawl board games. These exist to emulate the war-gaming style of the first RPG's while creating an experience more accessible to casual gamers. That's kind of what I want to do ... But these games aren't role-playing games.

I want to role-play. I want to combine role-playing and game playing in a format that is accessible to casual gamers. I want role-play that works without a GM, where the narrative voice can be shared by all players without prior preparation or diminishing the fun or flow of the game.

In trying to keep the GAME in RPG, but lose the board game / war game influence, I am thinking of making this RPG a card game. I know this has been done before, but I am not sure to what extent. I do not want to use cards as a substitute for dice. I do not want to emulate war-game battles. I do not want miniatures or those kinds of trappings that are common to war game inspired RPG's.

Instead, I want card game trappings. Each player will hold cards in their hand. A 'hand' will be dealt and played. Like in poker stakes will be set, the hand will be played out, then the player to the left will become the dealer.

I see the dealer as holding some manner of narrative control and this moving with the deal as each hand is played. I see a game where cards are played as a scene unfolds and each scene completes as each hand is finished.

I don't know yet how all of this is going to work ... But here are some thoughts:

I have been really into Japanese Anime of late, especially those anime stories about high-school students and their various antics. (I loved 'School Rumble', and 'Rosario + Vampire' for example) I want to start here. This will give the system a foundation and anime is versatile enough that once everything has been said and done, playing in other genres should be possible with little trouble.

So, starting there I have decided that characters are defined by RESOURCES. These resources provide the tools a character can use to complete a task. There are four Resources.

SPADES: a spade is a tool used in gardening. As a resource this represents 'skill use' for the character.

HEARTS: the heart is classically associated with love and passion. As a resource this represents 'emotional drive' for the character.

DIAMONDS: diamonds are a sign of wealth. As a resource this represents 'material possessions' for the character.

CLUBS: a common aspect of Japanese school-age anime is the participation in extra-curricular activities in the form of clubs. As a resource this represents 'social contacts' for the character.


Imagine that a player wants their character to do well on a math test.

Perhaps the character has studied very hard. This may represent the use of their SPADES resource.

Perhaps the character has a crush on their teacher and wants to do well on the test to impress their sensei. This may represent the use of the HEARTS resource.

Perhaps the character means to purchase a fancy scientific calculator to help them to do well on the test. This may represent use of the DIAMONDS resource.

Maybe the character has convinced a friend to let them look at their answers during the test and copy from their paper. This may represent use of the CLUBS resource.

Not sure yet what all of this will really look like during play. But this is what I have bouncing in my head. I am open to suggestions and ideas.


Jeff Moore

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Great post. This is something I've been thinking about recently, too. I've come to think that mechanics/system is there to allow impartiality for resolving actions. That is, the GM sets up a situation, the PC attempts an actions and the system allows resolution of that action (success/fail or something more granular) in an agreed-upon way. That way the GM isn't the one determining if/how a PC succeeds or fails. How much system do you need to have sufficient complexity for the story to be interesting? I look forward to your future posts as you keep exploring this topic. --Tim

  2. Thanks for the feedback. This idea is still so very undeveloped in my head. I know what I want to accomplish, but I really have no idea how to get there.