Pixel princess is the project title of a video game I’ve been half-designing. It is really more of a theoretical framework for thinking about video game mechanics and design rather then game to be produced. It might get made if I ever get the energy and resources to do so, but for the moment I plan to keep it fairly theoretical.
Monthly Archives: June 2011
I’ve been reading the Mouse Guard RPG I got as a birthday present. I’m not planning on playing or running it anytime soon, but have heard lots of things about it and the Burning Wheel system and wanted to check it out. There are some things that I’ve grown to dislike and a lot of things I think are really neat in the game.
However the thing that really grabbed me was almost a throw-away reference to the gear a mouse (you play mice in Mouse Guard) can carry. It is not a inventory-intensive game so you aren’t going to be carrying a backpack full of torches, door spikes, and rope. The limit of items carried isn’t even based on a stat. It’s simply the space on the character sheet. Which doesn’t seem very big. So if there isn’t room to write down something, you can’t carry anything else. You would have to erase/drop something to carry another item.
I’ve come to realize that one of the things that really interests me in the older editions of dungeons and dragons is the random nature of the dice. Been reading a lot of other blogs about it and my own experience with a couple of sessions running my own game with the older style of play has brought me to a realization. World-building is fun, I’ve spent a lot of time building worlds and designing special monsters and groups to populate those worlds. Using random generation in play, such as wandering monsters, random magical effects, or even just reaction checks when the PCs encounter monsters or NPCs is much more fun. Not because I get to discover what will happen along with the players, though that is a nice side-effect, but because I find that my bursts of inspiration when some random result pops up lead to much more interesting events.
I’ve read a lot of old-school (mostly D&D) blogs that comment on how the people writing them aren’t big fans of story-central games. I’ve semi-recently joined that camp myself in preferring sandbox/open-world/location-based adventures over predetermined story games. I played a several-months campaign using The Dresden Files RPG, which is a very heavy story-biased game. So I have at least a little hands-on experience outside of my general over-thinking things in my head.
One thing I have found odd, probably present because most old-schoolers (or whatever) haven’t actually played a lot of story-biased games and therefor can only really comment on what they’ve heard or read in the rules about them. Plenty of comments about how having a pre-determined story makes it so characters don’t die as often, or (pick your favorite comment against railroading), and the like. But one of the things that I noticed during play is that those types of games (again, drawing mostly on reading several and playing The Dresden Files RPG) is that, one, it rewards a very specific type of roleplaying. Two, when running a game like that it’s real easy to pick a single PC in each adventure as the ‘main character’ and everyone else is pretty much just along for the ride.
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A while back I played the Dresden Files RPG with my friends for a couple of months. We had fun, for the most part, but the game kind of fell apart after a while. Mostly because my gaming group of friends is drifting in different directions play style wise. I’ve resisted attempts to join a couple of other games using the Dresden ruls because of my growing like of sandbox style games which I’ve been learning more about thanks to all the old-school D&D (mostly) gaming blogs I’ve been reading the last year or two.
It wasn’t until just a few days ago that my dislike of the aspect system (and other fate points/bennies) finally crystallized into something I could easily explain. Which was nice because I used to really like those systems and have gradually shifted from fan to non-fan. I’ll use the Dresden Files rules since they are the ones I’ve had most experience. To recap: In Dresden you have several phrases (like ‘Strong as an ox’ or ‘berserker valkyrie’) that are Aspects you can spend a fate point to get a +2 to any game roll where that Aspect applies. You start with some fate points, but the majority of them come from triggering the bad side of an Aspect. So every time you make something bad related to the Aspect happen to your character, you get a fate point. As far as I can tell this is a fairly common type of mechanic for story-based games and it isn’t a bad one for that. Stories are better when bad things happen to the main characters.
I’ve come to realize that this type of mechanic (having bad things happen to get some later game mechanic benefit) ruin my sense of immersion and make it harder for me to roleplay during the game. Whenever I am trying to think of bad things to happen to my character it becomes me manipulating a game piece instead of playing a character. When creating/playing a character I don’t mind looking for game mechanic bonuses because my characters are pretty much always looking for an edge in whatever they are doing. But my characters (generally speaking) aren’t looking for ways to sabotage themselves, so when I’m doing that there is a disconnect which pops me right out of even the shallow immersion I have when playing.
Fairly sure that one of the major catalysts for this train of thought was this series of posts on the blog B/X Blackrazor: Cooperation and Your Own Objectives (Part 1)