Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Should I write a non-generic RPG?

One problem with finding a name for the new version of RTC is that it being a generic game makes it hard to name it.

Another concern I have with writing it is that, I'm doing this only partially to have a better version of RTC out there, but just as much for its use in the reincarnation time travel game that we're hoping to start. That will involve a few extra rules specific to how it's applied to that campaign, which means the clumsiness of having one rules document and another supplement with the exceptions. The obvious solution to that, since I have the source for the game, is to make a second copy that has those exceptions woven right into the document, so I can hand people one set of rules that are all they need, no need to have to cross-reference a rule and its exception.

All this leads me to the idea that maybe what I should be doing is not writing another version of a generic game in the first place. When I look at what is getting some notice in the world of amateur roleplaying games (and professional, for that matter), generic games are out. Maybe what I should do, to finally get a tiny bit of notice (or at least to finally have a chance to get a tiny bit of notice), is to take the two ideas -- the system, and this setting -- and put them together into one document that's written as if they were conceived together. Then the rules amendments will be integral.

Even professional games like the Serenity roleplaying game these days are often done this way: a core "generic" system that the company uses for all their stuff gets customized for each game, and then presented as if it were a new system for that game. The person who buys the game doesn't even need to know that the system isn't entirely unique for it, and doesn't have to juggle basic rules and special cases.

The trouble I have here, though, is that I have three competing visions of the game. First, there's what would be most interesting to me. Second, there's what might be intriguing enough to get some notice (I'll write more about that tomorrow). And third, there's what my group might like, what we'll actually end up running. If I try to write the game either of the first two ways, it'll end up feeling like I'm forcing my group to play something based on what I want, not what they want. But if I write it the third way, then it feels like I'm giving up my idea, and the chance that my idea could finally be something someone else finds worth noticing. And that's not even assuming that the first two versions wouldn't be irreconcilable.

So in the end, while I worry that writing the one unified game approach would finally be my chance to make a mark, as well as a solution to the name conundrum, I think I can't go ahead with it.


litlfrog said...

"First, there's what would be most interesting to me. Second, there's what might be intriguing enough to get some notice (I'll write more about that tomorrow)."

I would have thought the two of these would have significant overlap, if not be quite identical. Should I wait until tomorrow to ask further on this?

Hawthorn Thistleberry said...

Tomorrow's post is more about the question of whether I should even be trying, than about the specific differences there. I agree they should have a lot of overlap, and I haven't really thought about it enough to say what the differences are.

Except the specific one about inelastic time. That one is hard to sell, because it's hard to explain, and because it's used so very, very rarely in games and fiction.

I am not sure if it's "unusual" enough to appeal to the indie game market, or if it's too unusual even there. That's a tricky thing to measure. All the games that get notice in that market are based on ideas just as off the beaten track, but the converse is not true; plenty of games just as off the beaten track don't get noticed. It has to not only be intriguingly new, but also something that you can concisely convey the appeal.