I helped turn a Chevy Blazer into a convertible today.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.“— Lazarus Long
We’ve got some character points. We’ve bought some stats. Let’s do something with those stats.
Most tabletop RPGs have some sort of “skill check” system. The most obvious example is if a thief wants to pick a lock. This is a fairly complicated action, requiring understanding of lock-picking techniques, as well as the physical dexterity to manipulate lock tumblers into their appropriate positions without the aid of the key originally designed to do so. Additionally, someone who has some practice in picking locks will, naturally, be better at it than someone who doesn’t, regardless of how smart or dexterous the second person is.
I don’t know how many of you out there read XKCD. If you don’t, you probably should, because it is often nerdy, thought-provoking, well-written, and well-drawn.
I was reading randomly across the author’s blog last night and came across a post from last year about one of the comics, XKCD 1190: Time.
So in my all-fired-up push to get pen to paper, I neglected to mention something VERY KEY to tabletop RPGs, and in fact, gaming in general: Balance. Specifically, how you balance the overall power level of your characters.
There are a few ways to do this. D20 and Palladium both promote a dice-rolling system wherein a character’s stats are determined randomly. That’s fun and all, but let’s be honest, it’s fun for about the first 6 characters you make, after which you realize that the dice aren’t going to turn you into a god every time, or may give you a really awkward stat loadout. “Well I could use a little extra Wisdom and I don’t need quite that much Dexterity, but all I’ve got here are a bunch of 16s and 11s.”(in D20, stats run from 3 to 18, though it’s incredibly rare to see a character with a single stat below 10, which is average.)
If only there were some way to trade points from one stat into another. Some sort of… “Point Buy” system.
RPG stands for “Role Playing Game.” It’s a game in which you take on a role of a character, in a world which might be very similar to your own or vastly different. The idea is that your character is participating in a story. A story you get to be a part of.
So we need a character. And we’ll want to describe that character. Is this character young or old? Male or female? Does he tower over members of his acquaintance? Do they tower over him? And most importantly, how many dice do I get to roll for damage when I land a double-critical with my Greatsword of Overwhelming Munchkinism that technically cost more than I told the GM I paid for it?
May as well use that Tabletop Gaming category, right?
This is actually a project I’ve been on for several years. And yes, like anybody else who has ever tried to make their own Dungeons and Dragons clone, the first draft was as unplayable as it was uninspired.
The second wasn’t much better.
But it’s been a couple of decades since then, I’ve played a few different systems, studied even more, and had a lot of fun in the meantime. I think I may actually have a solid concept, for a change.
An anime about people trapped in an MMO. Now where have I heard about that before?
When two things are released in quick succession, with very similar premises, and you know that one of them was good, there are pretty much two possibilities for the other. It’s going to be terrible, or it’s going to be amazing. With this in mind, I watched the first few episodes of Log Horizon with a cautious, but open, mind.
Log Horizon is definitely the latter of the two options.