Starter RPG Project

Well, the first project I’m going to share progress on is my attempt to create a roleplaying game custom built to introduce new players, with a strong emphasis on quick character creation, one-off or pick up game playability, and ease of learning the rules.

Here, I’m going to layout some of my general philosophy behind what I’m doing, and in later posts I’ll get into more specifics and make references to games that have influenced me.

Part of my reasoning behind a ‘starter’ focused RPG is pragmatic. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t have easy access to my gaming friends, but I still have a strong desire to run and play RPGs. So I want to create a gateway drug to get interested friends hooked on a hobby that has entertained me for over a decade already.

I also am intrigued in the process of refining down to the essentials of an RPG. The quintessence of roleplaying games, if you will. I imagine there’s something of a judgement call to be made here, but in reviewing minimalist and alternative roleplaying games, it’s become more clear what makes even more traditional games tick.

So, in summary, my goal is to create a game that will be fun, easy to learn and run, and that emphasizes roleplaying and collective storytelling over tactical planning and fighting (not that fights won’t be involved, of course, they’re just going to be seen more through the lens of why they’re dramatic rather than how to most effectively tackle them). I’ve got lots more on where I’m coming from, with examples, but those deserve more detailed posts.

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4 Responses to “Starter RPG Project”

  1. You’ll need some way (which I’ve yet to see) of balancing character growth with pick-up-ability. People may like games, but I think it’s character growth that hooks ’em: almost everything thinks fondly of their first long-time character. That said, the playing field has to stay pretty level: everyone always wants to be Ox Bellows, but that’s rarely much fun for Prof. Soon-to-be-Eaten-By-Shoggoths.

  2. Heh, that’s a good point. One of the games I’m going to talk about soon (Spirit of the Century) manages this by keeping growth limited to a very narrow ‘lane’, but allows rearranging of the core skills/stats, such that you have the same number of skills at the same levels of ability, but you can switch what’s the best and what’s not so good around, so it’s ‘traveling without moving’.

    The other advice it gives is fairly counter-intuitive to the D&D experience traditional model: you advance everyone at the same times, regardless of how many sessions they’ve played or their character has appeared in. Because otherwise they’re being punished for keeping a different schedule than you, and those times they are able to show up will be less fun if their character lags behind.

    I think tweaks like this will be easier to manage in a rules light game, where character advancement is less directly focused on smashing things better or shooting them deader.

  3. Actually, D&D 4th ed. incorporates the “advance everybody at the same time” rule. It works well for the sort of game I’m running (where people frequently miss sessions) but it seems to have distanced people from their character progression in a way that I find sad.

    • Yeah, I agree with you that it serves its purposes, but takes something away from the experience. I read about a completely opposite approach over at Ars Ludi in his ‘West Marches’ game, where there was a large pool of players who showed up when they could, and the treasure and experience were very much handed out individually, to create an incentive not to get left behind and to show up to games whenever you could. But it worked out because it was a total sandbox game with no overarching storylines, just locations to go explore and random wandering monsters to run into. Also, to keep it as fair as possible, the players got together and planned when to have the game sessions, rather than the DM (Although he, of course had the final say if he could be there or not) so that it wasn’t like ‘hey, be here on this day or you’re screwed!’

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