Friday, 12 August 2011

Skinning a Cat

I am the Warden!!

Let's not get into particulars with the title of today's post, let's instead focus on the intent behind the old saying "There's more than one way to skin a cat." It has nothing to do with the fact that my cat, Markus, woke me up two hours earlier than I wanted to get up because he threw up his food overnight and was now hungry for more. Despite how I feel about that little shithead this morning, I'm still a cat person. For now.

There are two reasons why this week has been quiet on the blog front. One, I've been pondering over two matters this past week: a publishing name and a new setting/game for the OSRPG. Two, I'm under specific order to play Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by one of my occupational therapists. I know, it's horrible, but she feels learning to control my stress by playing frustrating video games can be very helpful. And since I love Zelda games but can't stand the Z-tracking system, it's a perfect fit. Plus, I'm under orders to play video games for my mental health!! How the hell do you turn that down?

What's come to light during this past week while playing video games is the singularity of most problems we offer in our games. And for this, I'm not just talking VGs. Oh, no. It seems a constant issue with many GMs out there. Your villain teleports whenever he is hit for X amount of damage, sometimes escaping when he's brought down to half and the only way to stop this madness is by finding the teleportation circle and destroying it. There is only one key to open that locked door. A demon's only weakness is..., there's only one door leading into this castle..., your gun can only fire this type of ammunition, and on, and on, and on.

This practice seems to work against one of the fundamental principles of roleplaying games: you can do whatever you can imagine. The idea of a single weakness or tactic capable of ending a dilemma is counterintuitive to such an exciting element to RPGs and traps are the worst example. Almost every single trap I've seen in any game has a single way to disarm it and the players must race to figure that answer out. Has it ever dawned on any of us to blow that fucking thing up with a grenade or fireball spell? This isn't always a smart idea, but has it ever been thrown out there? It's why I don't particularly like puzzles in RPGs because there's only one answer. It's the definition of meta-gaming; you have to think like your GM.

Combat has an unfortunate habit of falling into this trap as well and it's something I want to make an active point of avoiding as the OSRPG continues to evolve. That's not to say everything ever produced will avoid this like the plague, but a system with the word "option" in the title should have, you know, options. Heroes should always be able to fall back on something else when one tactic doesn't work. There are many facets to this game where's it not about exact definition, but acceptable application. Case in point, master dice. I've been toying with a gunslinger creed for playtesters and developed a Notorious master stat for them. Whenever a gunslinger identifies himself for witnesses to see, he gains +1d12 master dice to all rolls; you can do this through a unique nickname, gold-plated six-shooters, a distinguishable mustache, whatever you can come up with that works with your Director.

Other master stats are a bit clearer on the matter and can therefore apply additional dice to situations other games would frown upon. The rogue creed gains +1d12 master dice while acting unaware to any opponents, including any active or opposing Mind rolls. Rogues are not just physical masters of infiltration, they have studied the art of stealth and think about it 24/7. So long as your rogue is acting stealthily (wow, that's really a word?), you will get +1d12 to whatever roll you make.

Stats Resolved
I've been uncertain about stats until this week. Truthfully, they were quickly devised to account for the base die. "Uh, yeah, you have 6 stats. 3 active, 3 opposing. Sure, sure, that'll do." It seemed better than just telling everyone they get 1d20 minimum for every roll. Now that I've pondered this issue, I feel better about stats and how you can train your character to use them to keep you in the fight.

All early characters - a term I'm using to replace "low-level" - will have 6 stats. It's really all you need to get started. Then tack on one or two creeds with odds they'll both rely on either Body, Sense, or Mind. You're rolling dice, kicking ass, taking names, when all of a sudden... half penalty to your active Strength rolls. Oh crap, you need your Strength stat to attack with. Suddenly, you have an entire fight to go through with no exploding dice, no training points, and no awesome rolls. Now you have a problem.

By training in additional stats, you can switch to another active Body stat and remove that half penalty without dedicating your Team's next turn to actively removing the penalty, the ass-kicking continues without skipping a beat. Once again, options.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when you find your work is solving problems before you can devise said problems, you may be on to something.