Thursday, August 2, 2018

#RPGaDAY2018 - DAY 2: What is the first thing you look for in an RPG?

Day Two of #RPGaDAY2018 asks "What is the first thing you look for in an RPG?"

Back when I was young and just getting into the hobby, the first thing I'd look at in an RPG would be the character sheet. It sounds shallow, but you could tell a lot about a game from the character sheet. Attributes, skills, whether it used Hit Points, and you could get a pretty good idea about how complicated it was.

The first game I ever bought was Star Frontiers, way back in the early 1980s. Possibly one of the simplest character sheets ever, and we ended up playing a heck of a lot of Star Frontiers. Back then I wasn't so fussed about complexity, or how the rules worked. If it was complicated, we'd sort it - and possibly just wing it. We were more interested in the game, the setting and how cool it was. And let's face it, Star Frontiers was pretty cool. Space fantasy that would tide us over until a real Star Wars game would come out.

I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that back in the 80s I didn't care about how complicated a game was, as long is it was cool.

Now, it's a different matter.

If the game looks cool, I'll still give it a look, but the first thing I look for is how complicated it is. At my ancient age I don't have the time, the inclination, or the attention span to dedicate hours to working out ranges, detailed encumbrances, the effects of dehydration on the average elf when left waiting in a car park. I want cinematic action and drama.

I know my chances of survival of jumping from the cockpit of a destroyed spacecraft entering atmosphere is almost zero, but I want to be able to ride that flaming carcass of a ship down, jumping at the last minute to land on the enemy vehicle and continue my struggle to free the oppressed planet from the grip of the evil empire. I want to be able to do that without looking at hundreds of tables trying to add "realism" to the game.

Again, this usually boils down to looking at the character sheet.

Numenera character sheet for 1st Edition

Above is the Numenera character sheet. It's a thing of beauty. At first glance it looks pretty complicated, but if you look closely it's really just the absolute basics and shows off the simplicity at the core of the Cypher system - 3 Attributes, 15 slots for Skills, and a few special abilities and cyphers. Pretty easy.

Must admit, I haven't played it yet, but it looks pretty simple though I know things can get more complex with that system (I'm looking at you Invisible Sun)...

Of course, I've been fooled by that in the past. Just look at the simplicity of the Nobilis character sheet below...

Nobilis 2nd Edition Character sheet from the "Big White Book"
Super simple, but I'm still trying to get to grips with how the game works... after fifteen-plus years of reading it. (That said, Nobilis (2nd edition) is everything I hope to produce in a game...)

So there you go. To "skip to the end" as they say in Spaced, I usually look for...
(a) a cool game - the concept, the art and the design has to make me want to open the book first,
(b) simplicity - if it's too complicated for my simple brain I will probably just put it back, and
(c) look at the character sheet - to gauge just how complex it is quickly, I'll just look at the character sheet.

That's it for day two! Hope to see you again tomorrow!

Until then, stay multi-classy!

1 comment:

Batjutsu said...

A great overview. I think Numenera's character sheet is divine :-D