Adventures in Roleplaying Game Design

As a child, I was introduced to my first roleplaying game. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd edition. It captivated me at the young age of 9 and drove my interest in roleplaying. Something I still enjoy some 25 years later.

AD&D 2e was a great game when I was introduced to it, but it wasn’t a great work of art in regards to being the ‘perfect’ roleplaying game. The system was fun, but flawed. Some classes were much, much better than others and some rules were imbalanced. I think this is a common line with roleplayers. That first game – their first love, is one that they always have fond memories of. Even through all those flaws.

And it seems that is the case with whatever people start with. That first RPG is often one that people go back to time and time again. I think it’s why Dungeons and Dragons in its various editions have always had its fans and detractors. It’s not saying that one is better than another (IMO must D&D games are laughably bad from a plausibility angle), it’s more that there is a bias towards what YOU played back in the day. Continue reading

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Firestorm Armada – Why I love it

I love this game. I’ve played it since the first version of the rules and found it enjoyable. I also like v1.5 and the most current version – v2.

Since my enjoyment for Warhammer has waned with rules that embrace the pay to win methodology, I needed to find something to scratch that itch. I’ve picked up a few new games including some lesser known games like Godslayer by Megalith Games and Deep Wars by Anti Matter Games, both of which are fun games in their own right, but I really love Firestorm Armada. I’ll likely dedicate some posts to both Deep Wars and Godslayer later on, but for now I want to talk Firestorm.

So what makes this game so awesome? First of all, I love the company’s overall philosophy. I caught some pod casts by the guys over at http://element270.wordpress.com/. It’s a blog dedicated to all things Spartan, with a primary focus on Dystopian Wars (another Spartan Games product). The thing that really caught my attention was the interview they did with Neil Fawcett, who is the owner of Spartan Games. In this interview Neil discussed several things, but the point he made that really stood out was a desire to never make models or units obsolete. True to the words, Spartan Games has created new models for various ship types, but has given them the same stats as the older models no longer in print. Continue reading

Cheating in Games

Cheaters.

No one likes them. They are taking something that is supposed to be fun and takes the fun away. But what is a cheater? I think it really comes done to one of two things. Either a cheater is intentional, or they are not. What’s the difference? In short, an unintentional cheat is someone who moves a model a little too far without realizing it, misremembers a rule, or adds something up wrong.

What is an intentional cheat. Well… they move models too far… just like the accidental cheat above. They say a rule does something they know it doesn’t. Something that a player who misremembers it could easily be accused of. They can … add things wrong on purpose or say a 3 hits when it’s a 4…. something that someone can do by accident once again. Continue reading

Fixing WHFB – Multiple Wounds

Short one today on multiple wounds in Warhammer Fantasy. The rule is essentially that if wounded after save attempts, that wound will multiply by the multiple wound rule (2, 1d3, 1d6, etc…). I’ve always felt that this is a bit much. It only really penalizes things on the board with more than 1 wound. Basically that’s anything over man-sized (or Orc sized) and characters. The big issue I have with this is the random element is too high for kill potential. Most monsters are relying in high toughness and a mid level armor or regeneration for defense. Characters typically are low toughness and high armor and good ward saves for defense. Larger than man-sized infantry typically get the short end with a middle ground of save and toughness.

The big issue with these defenses if that you get one shot (or maybe two with Wards, etc…) to save the wound. When dealing with singular wounds this system generally works well – but when you are dealing with wound multipliers, it’s save or die.  This is compounded when looking at weapons that are extremely high strength like cannons which allow no armor saves. Continue reading

Beer and Pretzel vs. Competitive.

There is a big separation in the camps in which most gamers fall.

There are those that feel that games should be fun. Relaxing. A hobby. These are your beer and pretzel gamers. For those not familiar with the term, it paints the image of a few friends around the gaming table. Having a few brewskis and munching on snacks. The same general body language of one kicking back after work and watching a movie with their significant other or catching their favorite sport team on TV. These guys don’t care about how the game ends – it’s the journey that counts. Bunch of slackers.

Then there are those gamers would are the win at all costs lot. The ones that are frothing at the mouth if they are losing. The ones that get mad when people give ‘bad tactics’ online. These are what make gaming not fun. These are the problem group – they will tell you how much you suck at life because you aren’t playing to win at a pastime. Continue reading

The Necessity of Redundancy

One of the biggest tactical concepts that many newer players (and some older players) never fully realize is that of redundancy.

Redundancy is essentially having more than a single unit or type of force in a table top battle game. The importance of this is to strengthen a certain position to such a degree that an opponent cannot simply target and remove the threat. Players that hate this tactic will often refer to in in the slightly derogatory term “Spamming”. It’s a delicate balance, however. Having a lot of a good unit/item/etc, is a good thing. Having so many that it means you are lacking in other areas means that you build in tactical weakness.

A common example of this are Ork Boyz in 40k. Ork Boyz are good. They are cheap, have good combat stats, are able to bring incredible numbers. Having a bunch of Ork Boyz is a GOOD thing. But if you built an army with nothing but Ork Boyz you are weak to anything that doesn’t require massed combat troops (Vehicles for example.) Continue reading

Fixing WHFB – Magic

Well, this is it – the big one.

Magic changes in 8th ed. Fantasy have been disliked by many. The system itself isn’t a terrible one per se, but it does have a few subtle flaws that cause it to be vastly overpowered.

It was also considered overpowered in 7th edition too. So what changed? First of all spell casters used to add to the power pool. Depending on the levels of casters involved, each would add a certain number of dice to the power pool and defense pool when it’s your opponent’s turn.

8th edition turned this on its head and made it dependent on a random roll – casters don’t directed add. This is unfortunately heading in the direction of lazy game design that Warhammer games have been rapidly embracing. Winning or losing on random rolls is not good game design. Sure rolling dice is part of it, but there should be a level of expected outcome. It’s why games have stats to begin with. Otherwise we would just play ‘who rolls highest wins’. Continue reading