Please review this RPG I am writing
March 17, 2010 10:35 PM   Subscribe

I am writing an RPG to play with my girlfriend, and I would like some advice on it. I have never done this before. Description of how the game I have written works inside.

Note: I've put everything I've made so far into a TiddlyWiki (an offline, stand-alone wiki). If you would like to view it here: (12 mb zip file, and for whatever reason "empty.html" is the file you want to open)

So, I have been working on this thing for a few weeks now. I have a level completed and I am starting on another, as introduction levels before the real game starts, when the player arrives at a space ship the size of a city. I feel pretty comfortable about what I have done before, but I am worried that when we start playing, it will either be too easy, or too hard.

Here is how my character system works. Please let me know what you think of it.

Characters have two sliding stats - getting better at one means you get worse at the other. These are Notice vs Focus, and Passive vs. Aggressive. These are changed when the player makes 100 successful rolls in any stat. For instance, if the player successfully focuses 100 times, they get +2 to focus, and -1 to notice.

Characters have two set stats, that can only be increased by equipment. These are Physical and Technology. These are rolled against any time the player takes an action that is in any way physical or technological - Physical being combat, running, health, dodging, or attractiveness etc, and Technological being computer usage, programing robots, flying a ship, etc.

Players have one mobile stat that consists of two sliding stats, which determine how people react to them socially based on where in society they are. That is, executives vs workers, and crew vs craftsmen. The workers resent the executives, who look down on the workers, and the crew and craftsmen have a rivalry slash feud between them. Therefor, if the player is wearing a hull-sanitation uniform, they get +1 roll against crew and workers, but -1 roll against interactions with executives and craftsmen.

Basically, the player may do whatever she wants, unless there is something trying to stop her, and then she must roll against whichever stat is most relevant.

As far as the story itself goes, I have written a map of a small space ship with descriptions of every room, all the characters on board with some dialogue for each, and a puzzle for the player to solve. I am worried that I have either prepared too much, or too little, but I don't want to post all that here so look on the tiddlywiki for more info on that, if you want.

So, what do you think? Too simple? To vague? Are there some noob mistakes I am making? Am I totally barking up the wrong tree?
posted by rebent to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What's the plot? It sounds like you have World Builder Disease.

All you really need is a really compelling enemy & a reason the main character would want to stop that enemy.

The rest will sort of fall into place afterwards. Just remember the character must always have a goal that's as urgent as if someone shoved their head under water.

Don't be afraid to shamelessly rip off what works and maybe, you know, use a rules system that already exists.
posted by MesoFilter at 10:52 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks, MesoFilter. The plot for the first chapter is to figure out how she got onto the ship in the first place, because she wakes up from a cryo-tube not knowing why she is there. Once she gets to the main ship, the over-all plot will be to figure out who had her home planet destroyed, and get revenge on them. But maybe that still is too slow of a start. I guess I can make it more blatant than that. What if she is a crime fighter who stows away on the ship to solve a case, but gets swept away in something bigger than she knew? That would work, I think.
posted by rebent at 11:05 PM on March 17, 2010

You could have her be a freedom fighter that had to be put in the tube to get on ship. Tube side effect is amnesia. Have a npc be a fellow spy already on the inside. Allude to a larger movement that can't be talked about yet.

100 checks is a lot of dicerolling to be keeping track of unless you have a lot of countdown tickers.

Much depends on your girlfriend's personality. Is she a puzzle solver or an I hit it with axe type? Develop some npcs with particular quirks/motivations and then freely layer on plot of intrigue, triple agents, double crosses, and other surprise reveals.

You can't tell what players will try so i'd include some sort of potpourri catchall stat. For when players decide to lasso the shoes off of a burning zombie using rope that's also on fire, all while falling out of a helicopter.

Also don't be afraid to kick down some doors if things ever drag.
posted by beardlace at 12:47 AM on March 18, 2010

You'll get a lot of viewpoints on this. There's no right answer, just one that works for you and your wife. Just about any system can be made to work. There is no right one. If she likes more game mechanics, you can go that way, if not, you can make the decision points more narrative, even diceless (yes, I know, "Heretic, unclean!" and all that). What ever works for you.

That said, there are a couple of problems new GMs tend to all fall into.

1. Being too committed to a a single plot line. Players are going to stuff you don't expect, kill your major villain on first meeting with a lucky shot, go the wrong way, miss "obvious" clues. Your plot may look great on paper will not play out that way with her at the other end of the table. Rather than a linear plot, I prefer to prepare a series of scenes or vignettes which I can shuffle around to bring the most fun to the game. Even just a couple of stock NPCs can be enough if you need a quick scene. If the player is "off course" then don't be afraid to rearrange things at the table. Approached as a challenge, this isn't a failure of your or of her to "do it right", but an interactive part of the game. You're not just a referee at the game table, you're also a creator and an improviser.

2. Let her be a creator too. Don't be afraid to let your players help you flesh out your world. If she has some good ideas, don't be shy to incorporate them. This gives her a feeling of ownership too and, more importantly, makes the game richer. Now, particularly with a beginner, you have to do this carefully, but let her make-up character details or tell you about pre-existing relationships her character(s) would have. Each secret society or long-lost sister that she invents are potential story hooks for you.

3. Finally, and most controversially, you're going to have to decide how to treat very bad (or very good) random chance. These are the things that both of you will remember years after the games, so they're pretty important. Do you ignore or modify bad luck in the service of your story or your players? Do you let the dice tell you what happens and lose a character she has a lot of emotional investment in? There are lots of valid choices here, but players generally prefer that you be consistent in the way you handle this. Special cases can lead hard feelings with multiple players. Some players will also feel patronized if your world doesn't have any sharp edges.

At the end of the game, it's all for fun. If something isn't fun for everybody, don't be afraid to try something different.
posted by bonehead at 6:58 AM on March 18, 2010

I like the idea of increasing one skill reduces another. I don't think I've seen that other RPGs. As a player and metagamer, I'd probably try very hard to be a jack of all trades, master of none. As the DM, Do you have early game play that will force one skill to be used more heavily, weaking the others, and then perhaps after a major plot reveal, the player would have to train up weaker skill?

the 100 rolls seems way too high for this be a noticeable change. perhaps you could lower that to 10 or 15 successful rolls, and increase the number of successful rolls as the character levels up? This could be explained in-game as a subtle effect of the cryo-tube causing amnesia but increasing brain plasticity, allowing rapid skill acquisition, but the effect gradual wears off, perhaps also with some long-term memory coming back, giving the player a clue their overall mission?
posted by jrishel at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2010

Just do the Chaosium/BRPG thing and if you use a skill during the course of gameplay, you roll at the end to see if it gets improved. If you roll above the number (it's a percentile system, so a 20% means a 20% chance to succeed, but in the case of improving, it's an 80% chance to increase), the skill increases by 1d6 points or something like that.

Or increase on a critical success - roll a natural 20, increase.

Skill based progression has the inherent downside of not giving big enough rewards. Level based play (a-la d&d) gives a built in reason to play - to level up.

Again, plot, plot, plot. "You wake up in a tube, now what?" is a mediocre plot for a text adventure game where part of the fun is exploring with no real pressure on, but you need to put the pressure on from the very beginning.

"You wake up in a tube... as you open your eyes you see something strange coming through the wall - daylight. But there should be no daylight, this is a sealed ship. Then beneath the buzzing warning sound you notice the slow hissing sound - oxygen is escaping. You were awaken early to deal with this emergency - something horrible has happened and you need to fix it..."
posted by MesoFilter at 11:56 AM on March 18, 2010

Thank you all for all your advice. I think I have to scrap my original chapter, and totally re-write it! Here is what I am planning.

The player is the owner of the space ship that is making a delivery to Bvixt (Which is the name of the city-sized space ship that I am in love with). Mid-way through the voyage, the ship is attacked by an archaic robotic pirate ship. The first chapter will be where the player and crew have to rescue themselves from the petulant, argumentative robots that have been trapped in interspace for 200 years. Then, once they free themselves and complete the journey (and maybe having picked up a few new friends) it turns out the pirate attack destroyed the engine of the ship in such a way that they are now stuck on Bvixt. The next challenge is to find enough money to replace or repair the engine, and in doing so, the player also is rewarded with a birth and permanent storefront on Bvixt, in order to keep her there. Then the player can choose to ply the shipping lanes of interspace, or stay on Bvixt and quest her way up the social ladder.

I am also thinking of adding that thing where every character chooses one "job" to be really good at, two to be ok at, and a flaw that they are really bad at.

Sigh.... rewrites here I come!
posted by rebent at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2010

one "job" to be really good at, two to be ok at, and a flaw

That's the Over The Edge mechanic, almost exactly. It's a nice way to quickly conceptualize a character. I've had newbies go from zero to playing within 20 minutes using that method. You really don't need much more in terms of character mechanics than that.
posted by bonehead at 1:30 PM on March 18, 2010

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