A Few Thoughts on Mark Kern’s Space RPG Idea
May 17, 2016
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Mark Kern has been looking for rpg help up on twitter. You can see it here, here, and here… or just read this summation:
Okay, so some of you know I’m doing a tableptop Space Opera RPG. I don’t know the lay of the land in RPG social media. Who to follow…? I’m trying to build an audience of tabletop fans my new space operat RPG. Mine has a big focus on space-craft adventures and battles…with 3D printable minis
Okay, he didn’t really ask my two cents on this. But this sounds a lot like the way we played Car Wars as an rpg… and a lot like how we wanted to play BattleTech.
Just some random observations after countless hours of play:
- You can take a six hour miniatures battle and prepend a role-playing segment that allows the players to gain intelligence, acquire allies, or influence where, when, and how the big show down will be kicked off. A lot of Car Wars scenarios assumed people would do that. At the end you’d (theoretically) do a bookkeeping phase, retrofit vehicles, collect reward money… and then go on to another big scenario and do it again.
- This isn’t what people think of as role-playing, but I think it’s valid. If you can get a combat game that plays thrilling scenarios in less than two hours… and then solve the campaign system in such a way that the resulting scenarios are both interesting and take a load of the referee having to plan everything… then I think you have something.
- Even better (in my mind) would be the chain or web of encounters… some of which can be skipped, some of which players can talk their way out of, some of which can provide information or side-quests. If you can combine several role-playing type encounters with some brief combat situations and maybe one or two epic battles in one session, then you’d got something.
- GURPS Autoduel really tried to push game masters to get the characters out of their cars. I never knew of anyone that wanted to, really. All the stuff engineered for that line really didn’t see a lot of use. And the existence of that line bled out all the role-playing material out of the rest of the Car Wars line. BEWARE OF THIS FOLLY!
- It’s perfectly fair to make a game where your vehicle is (in effect) the character. In Car Wars this results in a very different feel to the advancement. You might start out in a cheapo Stinger… graduate to a Joseph Special… salvage some kills and pimp your ride with the stuff people were just using to try to kill you with… and then barely survive a crash and burn, leaving you scraping up what dough you can to maybe get a subcompact or a cycle. THIS IS STUPIDLY FUN.
- Translating all of this into cool stunt fighters or small spaceships… yeah. Going into startown or whatever in each port… there you go, the players are out of their rides. People have a hard time running the wide open sandbox that, say, Traveller was meant to be. If you can solve this problem– take a load of the game master and work out a campaign format that can practically run itself, again… I think you’ve got something. Computer games have tended to be better at this– because they have to be! (I’m thinking of Elite for example.)
- For the tabletop you want to be able to leverage the human referee… but you need to watch for where you introduce friction into what he’s doing. Whole swaths of Traveller are used more to interpolate the nature of the Third Imperium than they are to run games. That’s a design failure.
Now, I’m probably crazy. I wouldn’t try to take all of my advice at once. Hopefully something here will inspire you to take something in a completely different direction or else save you from running up against a well known problem.
Besides, if you don’t make this game, I might want to do it myself!