Monday, 31 May 2010

iPads and Game Information

I ordered an iPad the other day. It's not here yet, but it's not far off either. One of the reasons I bought it was to save me the trouble of carting gaming books around. Since most of the games I play also come with a PDF, a decent PDF viewer will help out no end. I hear that GoodReader is the way to go for this, so I'm sure I'll get it and cram every gaming PDF (along with lots more besides) into the iPad. It won't replace my interest in having the game book as a physical artefact, or even as the primary source for learning the rules. Rather, it'll be useful as a supplement to the book. A searchable PDF is more useful than a sparse index any day.

But, ah hah! This is a workaround to a larger problem: having the relevant information close to hand so that the story is uninterrupted. Most of my gaming is convention gaming, introducing people to new games. I have three hours to introduce them to a game, including explaining the rules and playing out a scenario. Even with the speedy resources of an iPad at my disposal, it's still a distraction from the fiction and a disruption to flow of the game.

So I'll still prepare my cheat sheets, the one-page summaries of the rules for new players, and hand them out (I may even save them as PDF for my iPad). These are more useful than you know. The only thing more useful than a cheat sheet, is a cheat sheet that is part of the character sheet. Giving a new player a single page, complete with their character and the relevant rules is the best supportive artefact I can give in that context. It keeps the focus on the game, not on the game book (paper or virtual) and allows us to fit more game into our day.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Not character, not story

For almost two years I've been thinking about a conversation I had with Robin Laws about how RPGs and story structures relate. He's made lots of comments about it both before and after, so the message continues to come back to me. The nub of the point is that if an RPG is to be a story-telling exercise, it needs to contain rules that go with the ebb and flow of good story telling. There are plenty of games that seem to contain rules like this. Just as one example, Spirit of the Century includes the potential for character aspects to be compelled, thus simulating the notion that the protagonist will endure hardship in the leadup to triumph. Compel enough aspects to get the hero in trouble and this gives the hero enough fate points to overcome even the most significant obstacle.

In order to incorporate this into Siege, I'm looking into an opportunity that is not character driven (like Spirit) and not story driven (as though the plot has a form to follow). It's... well, you'll have to wait until I flesh it out some more.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Addition, not subtraction

I'm changing the rules for conflict resolution in Siege from a roll-under to a roll-over idea. The maths changes without difficulty so all probabilities remain the same. The big achievement is that roll-over rules are more easily understood to players and this takes the rules out of the way of the fiction.

I like to think that rules are necessary, but they should never overshadow the fiction. Bring the rule in where it's required, but make sure that sends the players back into the fiction quickly. A less-convoluted rule helps to make this happen.