#RPGADAY2020 - 27 - Flavour. I started off creating #TTRPGs because of the statement “but that’s not like the comics” and wrote rules to emulate specific experiences.
An early problem with #TTRPGs was people not defining what it was they wanted to achieve at the table and just writing rules to simulate “reality”. Even when reality was at odds with the drama in the genre.
The particular problem I regularly quoted as with guns. Because of the USA’s - and hence Hollywood’s - strange attitude towards guns they don’t behave in dramas anything like they do in the real world. In drama they’ve tended to miss or only graze opponents. In the real world they tend to miss because people don’t actually like killing people. Most people need to undergo a sustained period of indoctrination before they can put a lump of metal into another human being. In the real world, guns are simply f@cking awful things.
But early designers tried to design realistic rules for guns which players tried to use in Hollywood terms with mixed results. I’m old. I always used to use The A Team as my example. If they sprayed bullets around like that in the real world every episode would’ve been a massacre.
(I tried to think of a more modern example, but TV shows these days seem to be less iconic.)
Instead the only things that bullets in the A team seemed to do in old days was to limit movement (people kept their heads down and hid behind cover) or - when a certain threshold was reached - cause vehicles to flip over, stunning their occupants.
So I would go around saying that those were the game effects an A team game should produce and the Rules As Written should produce those results.
I just happened to be lucky that the genre I chose to start in - Marvel Comics - had a massive amount of built in rules already. Both written - The Comics Code - and unwritten - the Marvel “house-style”. And - at the time - nobody else seemed to be writing their games to adhere to those rules.
These days, most designers understand the importance of the emulation of source material and games are written to do that. The tensions are different, though. Do you write to simulate the mechanics of the source or to simulate its drama? (Just look at the different iterations of the Marvel license to see what I mean. FASERIP and Marvel Heroic both work, I’m told, but are totally different games.)
Nowadays, I can’t be arsed to do all that work and prefer a loosey goosey system that can be easily be adjusted to “taste” right, preferably on the fly.
To start with, I get the flavour by taking a quick look at the source material and writing a list of terms I can throw in during the game.
- Warp speed, load photon torpedoes, three to beam up
- Drokk, Lawgiver, Lawmaster, Stumm Gas
- Standard by 5, Federation Pursuit ships, Down and Safe
I keep that list in front of me all the time whilst playing the game.
The emulation of the source material is done by defining the loose outcomes of the system in terms of the drama AFTER the success/failure of the the event is determined. Ie. You roll to see if your gunfire works and describe its effects afterwards.
If I’m playing an A Team game and a player succeeds in their PC’s gunfire roll, they will probably describe how the shot cause the car to flip over and stun its driver. They can describe their target being riddled with bullets and dying a welter of blood if they want, but few will. (If they do, I feel a sense of failure as a Referee for failing to sell them on the Fiction hard enough.)
This post is so long I feel some kind of summary is in order. But I can’t be arsed.