Saturday, June 29, 2013

On Changing Game Rules

It is a personal affront to my good friend, +Jonathan Henry, to mention the “hacking” of games. He has a point. We keep recycling words instead of using words that have worked well in the past or even creating new words. So, I’ll refer to it as modifying game rules here.

As someone who is interested in game design, I have a tendency to look at the rules and wonder how I would do it differently. This is one of those times when “why?” rears its ugly head again, but it seems fitting here. Are you making a change to the roleplaying game system just to be different? Are you adding complexity for complexity’s sake?

I am going somewhere with this. I really am. Bear with me a moment while I give a little bit of background.

For two years, people have been trying to get me to play Savage Worlds. I have invested in the books. I just haven’t had the opportunity to play. This, for some reason, was not a game I wanted to try running straight from the book. I wanted someone to run me through this RPG at least once before I tried to do anything with it. Those suggestions to give Savage Worlds a try got stronger in the Google + RPG communities.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a lengthy discussion with +Keith Bailey regarding roleplaying games. Keith has been playing for longer than I have been alive—no, really. He has been in it since the beginning. I don’t think he had the opportunity to purchase the wooden box set for D&D, but he bought the white box just after that. Since then, he has played a LOT of games. He has played in a variety of different campaigns, made rules adjustments that were 20 or so years ahead of their time, and tried just about every flavor of roleplaying game system out there. He seemed to enjoy the games that I enjoyed most. He played a lot of games in the way that I prefer to play them as well. So, when you add his lengthy experience and similar preferences together and he tells me that his recent experiences with Savage Worlds has made it his “go to game” for the time being, at least, it carries some weight.

So, +Robert Brumbelow agrees to run a quick one-shot for us last night. +Jerrod Gunning , a bit of a Savage Worlds sensation joins in along with the aforementioned Jonathan. Jon was a bit under the weather and the game neither supplied clear direction or the freeform, story strong systems Jon has been having a lot of fun with recently. Keith was held up due to real life and weather, so didn’t make it until later in the game. There were some bad rolls in the beginning and the game took some unexpected and unfortunate turns. Were it to carry out, it would’ve turned into an almost TPK game.

But, you know what?

It was fun.

This was the first time in a long while I had to wonder if my character was honestly about to die do to something besides my own blatant stupidity. The rolls were easy to understand, although I asked to verify more than once just to make sure I wasn’t screwing anything up. The company was great. The adventure and combat was there. It had everything that I think of when I think of a great RPG.

So, what does that boil down to?

Well, I read the book. I have skimmed it a few times. I finally finished reading most of it straight through between yesterday and this morning. There were certain things that I thought, while looking at it on paper, that I might want to change. Those things were mostly minor, except for some changes I might make to the use of cards. But, I realized, for what I want to do with a roleplaying game, I do not NEED to make any real changes to Savage Worlds. It was what I need there for a wide variety of games.

I had a great opportunity after the game to speak with both Robert and Jerrod about what I liked and didn’t like at first. And, it wasn’t even so much what I didn’t like, because I really enjoyed myself. It was more a discussion on what was different. They gave me feedback. They answered questions. They provided me their point of view and even pointed out how not everyone agrees with them 100%. That’s wonderful.

So, what it has come down to is me looking at using Savage Worlds as the base for a few games I would love to write. The really cool thing about this is that the rules are just simple enough that I won’t have to spend the next three or four years learning all the little trivial things, yet complex enough to allow for a wide variety of actions and options for characters. I am great at analyzing things. I can balance a checkbook, but anything more with numbers and I can get a bit lost. I am NOT a statistics guy except in very specific areas. Savage Worlds has already done the crunch and the balance for me. With the added support of a Google +, it’ll be relatively easy to bounce ideas off of fellow gamers.

The great thing for me is that I have finally found a system that doesn’t force me to believe I need to reinvent the wheel.


Now, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Others might say the same things about a different system. But, this is how I see it and I feel and I am excited to find something that has worked out the way I wanted and needed for it to.