Sunday, March 7, 2010

Indie Roleplaying and Me

I was going to start probing into the mysteries of the way our society looks at virginity but I think I will leave that for another time, mostly because I only have 15 minutes left of lunch. Anyway, through a series of pretty random events I ended up not working on Friday even though I was supposed to and I ended up running Asylum. If you don't know the game Asylum don't feel bad. Asylum was an independent game produced by a company that, to the best of my knowledge, only made three games. They also stalwartly did their absolute best to maintain absolutely no internet prescense what so ever. No seriously, like I wrote them an email telling them how much I liked their game and they never responded. By contrast the Cutter's guild which makes Deathstalkers gave me another copy of the book, a t-shirt, and a free adventure.

That's the thing about independent roleplaying games. They really do live or die based on not just their fan base but the internet prescense that they maintain. Obsidian and A-State are two perfect examples of small companies doing right by their clients. The Obsidian guys are just plain old fucking nice and they happily talk to everyone, and the A-State people take that a step further by publishing a monthly fan written news letter called the Mire End Tribune on their web page. All three of the games I listed are moderatly sucessful and well liked by their fans.

I LOVE the Deathstalker's setting and charecter generation, I LOVE the flexibility of Obsidian, and I love the setting of A-State. I also love both the setting and raw originatlity of Asylum. Our game session lasted for 6 hours, 4 of which involved them walking 4 miles just to get food. The thing is though, is that each of these games all have problems, not just little problems either but big shiny glaring super problems.

Asylum will be my primary example because I just ran it for the first real time on Friday. And while the game was massivly "Holy fuck that was awesome fun", it really became kind of a pain. First the system. The system tried to be creative, and because I am a fan of system mattering I was always a fan of this game's system in theory. Instead of rolling one or more dice to determine the outcome of random events you instead drew marbles from a bag, the marbles all were a certain color and what color you drew corresponded to a number and thats how you resolved rolls. It was cool, and very evocative, it also simulated the "I lost my marbles" feel of the game play. I was so enamored that I actually bought a special set of dice for the game we were gonna play. Now aside from how clunky it was every player had an arrberation, and at the start of every scene they would draw for that aberration to see how powerfullly it effected the charecters. The problem with that was there were less options on the corresponding chart than there were color combinations which resulted in redrawing and eventually us abandoning the system altogether and us rolling d10s. Of course each chart had only nine choices each so I quickly ruled that if you rolled a 10 you just weren't effected. In retorspect I should of chosen if you roll a 10 you choose the level of effect but there is only so much you can do while thinking on the fly. I also forgot that basic skill rolls were based around a 1d5 instead of a 1d10 so I had to make massive and rapid adjustments in my head that I just didn't tell anyone about. Like I said it though, some of the most fun I've had roleplaying ever came out of that game session, but god damn it takes a lot out of you.

Ultimatly that is the diffrence between indie games and normal ones. SO much more is expected out of the gm. In d20/4th edition game sessions are more or less handed to you. There are churches/mages/kings who get the players to go do things and then if you even need to fill in an hour or so of game play all you need are three dice rolls and you got yourself a random encounter that will take up the player's time and be roughly balanced. There are lists of gear, both magical and mundane, lists of spells, lists of special powers, lists of lists. There are entire books filled with completely unessisary crap that you can give to players including death. For D&D, white wolf, Shadorun, Traveller, and some of the other big names there is never ever any need for a gm to pick up a pen and write anythings orginal for the game other than the game sessions.

For SLA there are pices of gear that don't have any stats what so ever to them. So people just sort of gotta guess what they do. That's my favorite example, I never even noticed it until one of my players bought it because he thought he needed it and then asked me what it did. Man they didn't even errata that shit. As a result though there is more fan based material for SLA Industries than just about any other game in existence. I am talking about people writing entire books for the game, like 100+ page books. That is a level of devotion that most white wolf fans can't even muster. It is a different sort of gming essentially. It is the sort of thing where you have to fly by the seat of your pants so much more, where there isn't a rule for everything, and where loot sometimes has to come off of the top of your head because the book hold no answers. In the case of Asylum I just rejiggered the entire game system over the course of a few minuts while simultaneously narrating a scene. Sure the system wasn't very complicated but it still had to happen.

Alright off to werk I go!

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