Memorial Day in the States, so I expect to see less people around today.
I'd like to write something positive. It's summer, it's a beautiful day where I am, I finally figured out what was wrong with the ebook publishing, the book is thumping along (I'm about halfway through the third and last draft now) and on the whole I'm feeling as if there's an end. Matt gave me some good news about things we can offer or give as a door prize for the fundraiser in Calgary, I have people in Toronto anxious to see me and I'm looking forward to it being a great year. So I'm in a good mood.
I was going to include a passage on why I love D&D in the book, but the feel of the book was wrong for it so I decided not. It's a difficult question anyway. Too, it should address the issue of why I love D&D and not, say, Pathfinder, or Traveller, or Top Secret that I used to play.
Traveller had some great qualities, and I ran a Traveller world for nearly a decade. Towards the end, I meshed Traveller and Top Secret together, as I really liked the Top Secret combat system (and very little else about the game). That took some tweaking, but in fact the games merge pretty well - in the end I called the composite 'Star Jumper.' Until I got out of university, it was a popular game.
There were two faults, I think. The first was that a realistic game set into the future is just too deadly. The weapons are profoundly kill-friendly, there are many, many opportunities for death and the character improvement system didn't really compensate for the weapons, the physics of losing your grip on something at high speed or the whole death in space thing. If you're going to play shoot 'em up games in the present or the future, there's simply more likelihood that the character is going to die. That makes it harder for the players to invest, and it makes it harder for them to willingly enter conflict. I used to say that the point of D&D was to find combat; the point of Star Jumper was to escape it.
The other fault was largely due to money. Money is a very important aspect of a future game, more important than it is in D&D, as very large sums of money are necessary to buy the toys and gadgets that keep you alive. And those things are expensive. Plus, there's just no fun in the game without a ship, and your ship can't be big without a lot of money, so there was always that to consider. The problem wasn't, however, in having too little money, it was that inevitably, what with trade and economics, a party would eventually acquire all they needed to fight with, and more money than that, until ultimately money just became meaningless. The game sort of churned down once that point was reached. The players would want to start another set of characters, which we would, running them until that natural limit was reached.
I was trying an experiment at the end of those games that had begun to prove itself, but never reached fruition because the commitment ran out and people went off around the world to start their lives (literally - I had a friend move to Vietnam, another to Montreal, a third to California and so on). Being '92, there was no internet, so that was that.
For those familiar with Traveller, the character generation system works sort of thusly (it's been awhile, I don't have the books with me, though I still own them, so I'm going on memory):
Basically, your character goes through cycles that represent 4 years of training. The character applies for training, it is determined which branch the training occurs in (I'm thinking of the more complicated Navy track now), the character rolls for skills, and the character rolls to see if they survived the four years. If the character fails to enter, then the character musters out and is finished. If the character dies, then a new character is started. It is the weirdest character creation scheme ever made, I think, but it is oddly appealing.
Towards the end of playing Star Jumper, I had conceived of starting the characters as new recruits in the Navy, and role-playing the above cycle. In other words, your character accepts that they are in the Navy. They don't want out, they want the training. First, as before, the branch is rolled, and all the characters are assigned to that branch. They meet their commander. The commander gives them a 'mission.' They are given a base level of training in order to accomplish the mission. Remember, the original character system presumed the characters would get "blaster-1" in four years, so this base training is "blaster-0.1." The mission was fairly simple, these were raw recruits. They were sent into a combat zone, they had one brief skirmish, survival was fairly likely and the mission was over. Back to base, and if they got really lucky during the skirmish, they'd have another 0.1 added to their blaster skill. Then they'd be paid, left on their own to explore around on their leave, before returning and getting another mission.
Meanwhile, there'd be role-play. A lot of shipboard stuff like Starship Troopers, other naval conscripts they had to contend with, girls they'd meet, officers to impress and so on, building up an operational framework. Between missions they could roam about, push around a few people, try not to get killed or worse, expelled from the Navy, and so on.
I had a group of sharp players and this was working very well. We'd gone through two years of missions, they were getting to know people, racking up skills, making a little money on the side, and not too much so as to spoil the game. One was thinking of getting married, another was considering officer candidate school (I would have run the missions so the party still worked together, or encouraged them all to try OCS), and in general they were feeling the role-play.
I never went back to it, however. I don't know. It just didn't feel worth it after the game broke up. I doubt I'd have a host of players like that again. I got to feeling like I just wanted to play D&D.
So, I'll continue in this thread tomorrow. Enjoy your holiday.