Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Missing Dice and Twirling Tops

Hello world, I'm your wild girl! And this is your first real post from me, SpacerGal, the latest contributor to Sin City Dispatch.

Social Interaction Dice-ectomy

The Snowman really dug into one of the things that has become a signature of my GM style, and that is the removal of social interaction skills in 3.5 OGL/d20 system games. I've never been a fan of the Intimidate or Diplomacy rolls, as they just don't make sense to me. Granted, I like a more abstract game with less emphasis on rules and more emphasis on both storytelling and character development for my players, but even setting my distaste of rules lawyering aside, they seem so counter-intuitive to roleplaying. In my mind, the purpose of a roleplaying game is to, you know, play a role, and using dice to determine how NPC feel about you detracts from this.

Part of removing these dice actually lies heavily in how detailed an environment is, and it does take going an extra couple of miles on the GM's part. Not going to lie to you, I spend hours upon hours developing even the most minor of NPC, delving deep into imagination to forge histories, personalities, quirks, and flourishes for the people my players will be meeting. Creative writing has helped make Leviathos feel more like a living, breathing world, and I have several very lengthy stories about the adventures of my main NPC that I'll probably end up sharing here.

As far as game elements are concerned, I find my players open up much more when they have to actually talk down a furious guard captain or frighten a native into telling them about an ancient secret. This opening up leads to better player chemistry, deeper, more interesting characters that players want to come back to time and again, and a fuller world for the GM to dig into.

I ultimately decided to start trying this method out a while ago. I had kind of a falling out with D&D after a very poorly run game, and most of the problems came from the heavy-handed book ruling. After wrestling with myself about what could be done to get away from the rules without completely stripping them away, I decided to do two things. The first was to remove those interaction dice, and the second was to remove alignment (but that's a story for a different time!). I sat down and started collecting all the characters I had ever played, reworked them into a new world of my design, and ran with it. After further developing this place, I thought about all the best roleplaying experiences I had ever played out, and realized they all happened when the players were entirely in control of their path. And that, my friends, is also a story for a later day. More on my style coming soon!

Childlike Nature: Let It Rip!

I work at a toy store, so naturally I see all of the kid's games, fads, and the latest anime tie-ins. And of course, I buy these things! Occasionally, there's a real gem in the midst of the loads of crap spewed out by the major distributors. One of those gems is Beyblade, the game of high-performance top battles. On the surface, the toy line and game elements are just a cash grab based on the new show, but when you dig a bit, it's actually a surprisingly deep game with a certain appealing simplicity.

The goal of the game is to make sure your top is the last one standing in the "Bey Stadium," a big plastic bath tub with a bowled bottom and two side pockets in which your tops can get stuck. You and your opponent count down in sync and on the last count, you both launch your tops into the stadium from a launcher powered by a toothed rip-cord. They clash against each other, breaking down each others speed until one falls over. Simple enough, right? Now let's look a little further.

There are three types of tops, and your choice can literally make or break the game before you even launch.
Attack types are super-aggressive, ripping around the beveled stadium at ridiculous speeds, often fast enough to fly out and hit bystanders if they aren't careful. They hit hard enough to knock most tops over or into the pockets, making them lose. But of course, this speed and striking force come at a cost. They have little to no staying power, so if they don't win quick, you're going to be outspun.
Defense types are heavy, wide-bottomed tops designed to withstand the brutality of attackers. It's rare that an attacker will be able to even make a defense top budge further than a few inches before running out of steam, and while these have more staying power than attack types, they still suffer from higher friction due to their bottoms and weight.
Stamina types weigh in at almost nothing, stand very tall compared to other tops, and can spin for upwards of 3-4 minutes when not being hit. The obvious weakness here is the lack of weight and high profile. Attackers will eat them alive, whereas defense tops will be struggling to keep up with the speed of these lighter contenders.
Balance is self-explanatory. They draw from the strengths of each of the other types, but this blending of strategies more often than not ends up in expanding weaknesses or lower performance compared to specialized tops.

So it's kind of a rock-paper-scissors, where Attack beats Stamina, Stamina beats Defense, and Defense beats Attack. Where this can really get interesting is in the customization. Oh, did I not mention all of these tops can be stripped down to five parts and reassembled in whatever configuration you find fits? This is where all of our physics lessons come into play, and savvy players will spend time digging through parts and testing all sorts of combinations to find what works best. There's more to it than this, but I'll get into that next time.

Last Transmissions

There ya have it. I hate dice outside of combat and I enjoy silly kid games. You'll definitely be seeing more of me in the coming days, as we have another Pathfinder session with more wacky elements coming into play every week, including a discussion about my "persistent world" experiment. And of course, there's more to say about high-performance tops, so be on the look out for your favorite space-faring gamer! Ya'll have a good one now, y'hear?


Aaron O. said...

Have you seen much of the 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I really think you'd like it due to it being less combat-centric. And what combat there is happens to be brutal. If you were around, I'd show you my copy!

SpacerGal said...

I have seen WHFRP, but have not had a chance to play it. I really like the combat mechanics with the little card/stance doohickies, and of course Warhammer flavor is always welcome at my table.

Sin City Snowman said...

Wow, I didn't know there were "little card/stance doohickies" but it sounds intriguing. Glad to hear that they were able to capture the brutal nature of the world in the combat system since that flavor is what Warhammer is all about.

Chonen said...

I really had no idea how Beyblade worked, that was kind of interesting. It would seem like a "match" would be very short so do people just do lots of matches in quick succession and score that?