All posts by Peter R.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

Mission Aborted!

It was my intention today to write about the new open play-test of Eclipse Phase 2nd Edition. As it happens on Saturday morning the play test files were updated the latest edition so before I can post about it I need to check everything to make sure I am still right.

So today I am going to write a bit more about me.

I have set my self a challenge recently to try and write 2,000 to 3,000 words a day either blog posts, game notes or creating resources. The actual target is 20,000 words a month. I am lucky in that I have a variety of outlets so I do not have to sit and grind away as just one document if the ideas are not coming. This week I have written posts for three blogs, six posts in all. I have written the first drafts of seven articles for a fanzine I publish. I have written one adventure, also destined for the fanzine. In addition I have started writing chapter one of my latest gaming book.

The book is the most interesting project and it is my carrot. I am not allowed to work on it until I have finished my other tasks for the day. This book is a sort of roleplaying for dummies. I didn’t actually realise that there were Dummies books for role playing but they have a range for D&D, GURPS and Vampire Requiem. What I have in mind is a little broader than their offerings and to be honest the examples that refer to actual play examples all use my own game as the rules system. You can spot the ulterior motive there I guess.

As a daily target I only hit the 3,000 words on two days this week but the lower goal of 2,000 I managed on three more days. I am pretty pleased so far. It seems to be a case of the more I write the easier it is to sit down and write. I think it is a case of once I have an achievable goal it is easier to strive to hit it. If on the other hand if you just say I want to write a book, a manual or a game then the goal is a bit amorphous and way too big to tackle in a single hit.

So why am I telling you all this? Well Roberto mentioned the other day that he has ambitions to write his own game. Michael has written Warrior, Rogue & Mage and I have released 3Deep.

The 3Deep core rules is about 30,000 words. WR&M is 5,400 words. It is very easy to produce a first draft of a game in just two weeks. Mind you, unless you are an absolute genius then writing a game is not going to make you rich. What sites like rpgnow have done is democratise games publishing so that anyone can produce their own game. The market is extremely crowded with homebrew (or roll your own as we always called them in our gaming circle) games, adventures and settings. Sorting the diamonds from the lumps of coal is a task in itself and trying to get your own game to stand out is even harder.

My RPG Howto guide is going to cover fantasy, modern and Sci Fi settings so I don’t care about the context. I just want to make the booklet as good as it can be. If I base it just upon my own experiences then that is a pretty limited window of experience.

So this is hopefully where you all come in. If you could give yourself some advice as a starting out role player what would it be?

P.S. That is 621 words done, 2,379 more to go.

Eclipse Phase (quick-start rulebook)

I have been looking at the Eclipse Phase quick-start rules this week. This is a system after my own heart. It is d100 which is my spiritual home anyway, it is visually beautiful to look at and something that really appealed to me is that it breaks the rules of dice rolls.

Eclipse Phase is a d100 roll under system but unusually 00 is not 100 it is zero. 99 is then the worst possible result and an automatic critical failure.

These quickstart rules are an ideal primer. At just over 40 pages a quarter is about the setting and the premise of the game. One quarter is the game mechanics needed to play including how to resolve ‘tests’ such as skill rolls and the last half of the book is a starting adventure and pregen characters.

I don’t like games that are class and level based. I find classes restrictive and I don’t feel that the lumpy progression of levels reflects how people’s skills improve in real life. I appreciate that games are not real life but the only reason we have rules is to create a model of some fantastical setting and make it feel real.

Eclipse Phase is both leveless and classless, you see I told you it was after my own heart. In the game anyone can do anything, if you don’t have the actual skill you need then you can default down to the linked stat that governs the skill.

Another nice feature is that all characters are basically immortal. You can back up your characters personality and if the body dies then you download it to another body. You can even swap bodies to best fit the mission you are going on if you have the resources. This makes your physical stats largely arbitrary.  If you want to play a hulking terminator style character then you can put on a heavy weight morph (body) (or sleeve as the slang has it) and away you go. Next time you may want to play a different sort of character. The personality remains the same but the physical stats all change depending on the morph you are wearing.

As far as I can see there is little not to like about this game. In the eight years (2009) since the games initial release there have been 70 supporting products, some of them free and the paid for ones ranging from $0.99 to $19.99. These quick start rules are based upon version 1.4 of the core rules. I think the fact that the rules have remained largely unchanged for 8 years is a testament to how solid the original concept was.

If you want a Sci Fi one off this weekend then you could do a lot worse than this quick-start PDF.


Taking a Look at White Star

I am working on a number of projects at the moment and in an effort to make them as good as I can I am also looking at a lot of other peoples work. I like to look at really good examples and then see what I can apply to my own work. To that end someone recommended that I read the White Star rules.

This is the first D&D 0e clone I had read cover to cover. I can see why people like the concept. I haven’t played that sort of game in several decades but felt I could pick it up and run with it in minutes. The single volume rule book contained everything from character creation, GMs only section to starting adventure.

I am a huge fan of minimalistic games and to that end I liked how accessible White Star is. I also quite liked the caveat that the game is not intended to be complete and you are almost required to add more rules, change existing rules and generally make the game your own.

As an aside I have spent the last few years blogging about just one system. I have published 256 posts all on the same game. I have posted adventures, new monsters, book reviews, house rules and essays about what the system does well and what it does badly. To finally get to talk about different games feels slightly like an infidelity. To now try and talk about another game and not compare it to the system I know and love so well is really difficult.

I am not going to play White Star. For me it comes so close to achieving what it set out to do and that is to be a light weight, fast to learn and play set of rules and something that can be tweaked to fit any science fiction setting but it lost my sympathy by page 16 of the rulebook.

One of the cardinal sins in a pen and paper RPG is to say “You cannot do that!” If I wanted to be given a set of limited options to choose from then I would play a computer game. In a rpg you should only be limited by what you character knows and the reality of the situation they find themselves in. On page 16 the rules told me exactly what weapons an aristocrat may use and that they cannot use shields. Sorry but if I was an aristocrat setting out for a hostile world I would damn well make sure I had a shield if they existed! Each class or profession in White Star has a list of weapons they can use and for some reason a Star Knight, think Jedi, is prohibited from using a club. Surely that is the most basic of weapons and in a game with so few weapons and types of combat defined the club is going to be the default stand in for a bar room chair, a beer bottle and everything else that you just grab in a cantina brawl, but not Star Knights, apparently they either do not get to go to that sort of establishment or they escalate from throwing slurs against your mother to drawing a dagger. To me that says they probably have anger issues, either that it that is the reason why they do not get invited to the cantina for a drink very often.

White Star does cover itself by saying that all rules are there to be changed and that you are supposed to create house rules but if you start by changing every character class/profession before you even start that is a slippery slope. Where do you stop?

White Star uses the D&D six characteristics and 3d6 for each one. I guess they did this to make it feel as easy to digest for the D&D and Pathfinder players. These make up probably 90% of all players out there so making it an easy transition makes sense. 3d6 for stats has very few merits. It does not scale well to percentages. One point of stat is not 5%. 3d6 tempts people into 4d6 drop the lowest. Why do you need characteristics that go 3-18 anyway, neither the upper or lower bound have any particular resonance, surely 2-12 is sufficient or if you want more variation try 2-20 that at least scales well to percentage and d100 and still has an average of about 11.

You see as soon as you start saying house rule everything you don’t like then you open a can of worms. In my opinion ‘house rules’ frequently equates to ‘untested’. Not all house rules just fiddle around at the edges. I could say that all classes can use a club as a sort of lowest common denominator. I could say that anyone can use a shield after all it does say they are just built into the collars of cloaks or capes and worn around the neck. Why cannot everyone use them? The answer is game balance I guess but it could just as easily be class differentiation. It cannot be that the instructions for switching them on are written is six languages, none of which you speak, and are too complicated to figure out as they let fighters [mercenaries] use them.

I can see the simplicity and elegance of White Star disappearing very quickly as it becomes deluged with house rules and then ore house rules to fix issues introduced by the first house rules. A bit like the lady who swallowed a fly, I don’t know why she swallowed a fly but I do know she died.

I think if I was 12 again and had just seen Star Wars for the very first time and someone gave me this game I would be as enthused as I was when I got my very first D&D box set. I know that all systems have short comings that we forgive and overlook if we love the game but White Star is not one of those games, for me. The problem is that I out grew my D&D basic set and White Star does not do quite enough to make me want to forgive it its short comings.