10 March 2005

"The Ship" Progress Report & Thoughts About Traditional RPG Design

Well, the game's coming along pretty well. I'm actually quite surprised how easy it's been so far, but that might just because it's a new and fun project.

My last big effort was the Kapcon LARP, of course. I suspect that writing and publishing The Ship is going to end up being a fraction of the work.

I've found it interesting that some of the decisions I made are very unusual for a roleplaying game.

For instance, your player character will never die unless you specifically wish to risk their life in response to at crisis. In some ways that's a really obvious choice - we know that Aubrey and Maturin are going to survive each novel to continue their adventures. However, it's astoundingly rare in roleplaying games, even though it is a natural way to go - in almost all games, we want our character to survive and develop. Obviously we don't want it to be easy for them, otherwise it would be boring. So why do most games allow player characters to die so easy? The only reason is historical - D&D came from wargames, most other games evolved from D&D. At the end of the day, though, it should almost always be a player choice.

Enough ranting there. Anyhow, I've also recently begun reading Vincent Baker's blog which is mainly about game design issues and I've been getting a lot of "he's so right" moments going through the stuff there. A lot of "hmm, that's where I'm going in writing The Ship" as well. Recommended if you are interested in some extremely insightful thoughts on how roleplaying games work. You might disagree with him, but I suspect that you'll think about gaming with a bit more clarity. He's the author of Dogs In The Vineyard, my latest game purchase. I'm reading the pdf now while the hard copy is put in the mail. Expect a review soon. Sneak preview of the review: it's absolutely amazing. Also, the links he has on the Dogs page are great. Except that gentleman's Emporium place won't ship their wonderful Victorian style coats outside the USA. Bah!

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