Lew was Contributing Editor to Dragon, White Dwarf, and Space Gamer magazines and contributed monsters to TSR's original Fiend Folio, including the Elemental Princes of Evil, denzelian, and poltergeist. You can follow Lew on his web site and his Udemy course landing page.
I was watching a game played with a dice pool, and could see that the GM was waiting for the dice roll and then deciding by what felt right, rather than having any kind of precise resolution. How precise are the RPG rules themselves, and what are the consequences of imprecision?
Worlds of Design: “Old School” in RPGs and other Games – Part 2 Rules, Pacing, and Non-RPGs For me, the difference between Old School and anything else is not in the rules, but in attitude, as described last time. Yet the rules, and the pacing, can make a big difference; parts 2 and 3.
If you’ve GMed a long-standing campaign where players reached fairly high levels, you may have run into problems of too much magic, or of too many low-powered magic items (such as +1 items) in the hands of the heroes. What to do?
When I first saw D&D, I was in my Diplomacy playing phase. That’s a game with no dice, no chance mechanisms at all, but with lots of uncertainty owing to 7 players and simultaneous movement (which can involve guessing enemy intentions). I said, “I hate dice games” and that was it. But not long after (mid-1975), I played D&D at a game convention and loved the possibilities despite the dice.
I often compare fiction writing and publishing with game designing and publishing. They’re similar creative efforts in many ways, especially in tabletop and in the lower ends of video games where you can have one person creating the game.
I’ve played and GMed FRPGs since 1975, yet I’m sure I’ll never see all the different styles of play that are possible. I describe an immersion-breaking but popular style, “All About Me”, that differs greatly from the cooperative semi-military style.
Although I design board and card games as a business, if I want to play a game for pleasure I play tabletop RPGs. They are naturally co-operative games but with human opposition, more or less unique, because computer RPG “GMs” cannot begin to provide the flexibility and freedom of action that a good human GM offers.
Morale is vitally important in real battles. Units didn’t become hors de combat because most of the unit was dead or wounded, instead their morale broke when there was still a majority able to fight, and they fled. Morale has fallen out of use in RPGs – why?
The video game focus on “boss” monsters doesn’t make sense for tabletop RPGs. Video gamers are disappointed if the climactic monster doesn’t kill them several times; in RPGs, once you die, you (usually) don’t respawn.
Bear with me a while, as the following becomes a lesson for writing stories in RPGs. My wife and I have been watching the HBO Game of Thrones series on DVD. We’re now into the fifth season. Not long ago she started to read the Song of Ice and Fire books (I read them long ago, and only remember major events). It’s interesting to hear how the show simplifies things, and sometimes drops characters altogether, as they must to fit into a “mere” 80 hours*.
Some of you have seen Peter's "Evil Overlord List" from 1996-97. It's "The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord" such as "Shooting is not too good for my enemies." If you've not read it before, it may help you make your opponents-for-adventurers more effective. It seems only fair that a similar list should exist for the heroes.
Recently I was at Infinity Con in Lake City Florida, where I encountered two gents (young but older than college-age) in a small booth offering the Shattered Dawn RPG. The con turned out to be a multimedia con with almost no gaming interest so I spent a lot of time talking with the guys and playing in both their demos on the day I was there.
A large subset of board games is Eurostyle games. These games are almost exactly the opposite of RPGs in many ways. Keep in mind, board (including some card) games are a vastly larger segment of tabletop gaming than RPGs in monetary terms, and Eurostyle games are a large part of that segment. So even if you have no interest in non-RPGs, a comparison may help you understand what you do (and could do) with your own campaign or RPG design.