Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Rant on The Homebrew & Why I Do It This Way

I've been asked about my private TRPG system.

As I said previously, it's meant to make the most of the one vital element in tabletop RPGs: liminality. Therefore it's a system only insofar as it provides a go-to rubric for resolving uncertain situations, where rolling the dice is worthwhile (because one of the sins of latter-day incompetency in TRPG design is to roll when it's not necessary, and it's not necessary when there is no ambiguity).

I don't use levels. They aren't necessary, and their inclusion is the source of the power inflation problem that RPGs in all media suffer from today. (A flaw born of a lack of understanding for the circumstances under which the original use of levels arose; the sort of abstraction needed then is not necessary now.)

The meat is where it's required most: combat.

Your man takes damage off his stats, which works like in Classic Traveller, so getting in that first hit can end the fight right there- much like real life. It makes fighting a serious risk, so it's not done lightly; one good shot and your man won't be able to lift his sword until he recovers. Recovery works the same way as in CT by default. Tech and powers change this, speeding up and slowing down as circumstances dictate.

The result is that my home rules are a set of tools for me to make rulings with at the time, and not something one can compile into a commercial product or a viable wiki, because the mechanics exist purely to handle things that are too common to spot-rule time and again yet are flexible in application to extend to other circumstances as necessary. (e.g. man-to-man combat easily applies to any fight in vehicles, as well as repairing them after the fact).

Because it's meant for maximized liminality, it's not commercially viable and that's why I don't share it; it works for me, but not meant to work for anyone else, much like the specific rifles and handguns for assassins seen in The Man With The Golden Gun.

So a fight would go something like this.

  • Determine who goes first. A single d6 throw per side works fine; ties mean simultaneous actions.
  • Winning side goes first and resolves actions. (Resolution in ties waits until everyone acts.)
  • Losing side goes and resolves.
  • End of turn bookkeeping. Return to initiative throw and repeat until done.

Because you're taking damage right off your man's STR, DEX, or CON scores you can't ignore mooks or do other typical gaming bullshit tricks due to high level or gear. You have to either get armored or not get hit at all. You've got a 10-14, and you get hit for 6, so now you're below the minimum for your weapon or your fatigue reserves just got halved, or whatever. Tends to throw a wet blanket on all that "I'm a hero because STATS!" bullshit that goes on too much.

No, that hero pulls off his deeds because he's smart and experienced. It's about skill, not stats, and that means Player Skill- part of which includes knowing when NOT to fight. (It helps that I don't do Kill XP either, another source of aberrant behavior).< By removing perverse incentives, natural ones reassert themselves and therefore more talking occurs- but what fighting that does go down gets done mean and with malice aforethought. Some of you will approve. The rest need to reacquaint yourselves with the source material.

So, what does your man get out of all this? What he does if this was real. I don't do XP either in the homebrew, so what your man gets is what he negotiates and enforces. By doing this, far more focus on natural language and organic emergent phenomena occurs and almost no Mech Piloting (because, with this set up, there is no Mech to pilot).

And that's how you get RPGs away from Mech Piloting: by ensuring that there no Mech. That's why it is this way- to kill the Mech. The cost is that I, as GM, have to spot-rule far more than most commercial TRPGs; I turn this into another virtue by making the most of the liminality of the medium, such that a game what starts as Ye Olde Knight Errants can easily turn into His Glorious Paladins of the Imperium of Man and no one notices so much as a shift in my tone of voice, much less a rule or ruling.

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