dice

I actually own these steampunk vanity dice, but in beige.

I was really, really tempted to chime in and contribute my two-cents regarding the whole Jian Ghomeshi scandal that is sweeping our great Canadian nation. Then I realized that I would have nothing to add to the conversation and would just be offering my opinion based on hearsay and speculation. And hey, that’s what 9ES is for, am I right?

Instead, I will talk a little about the process that I am employing to build up to the first “proper” RPG that I will be running. This game is going to be the basis of a few articles about how I decided to run my first game, what I want the feel of the game to be, how I hope to achieve it and whatever other stories might come from running an RPG for the first time.

First bit of clarification, I’m talking about pen and paper RPG here, not some new-fangled computer role-playing game. Nor am I referring to bedroom roleplaying. I say “proper” RPG since in the past I used to run a terrible pick-up game that I called “ZOMBIES!!!!!” (and I am showing restraint with the number of exclamation marks employed in the title). I think it’s worth pointing out that I employed the all-caps, multiple exclamation marks titling before the Twilight Creations version of the game came out. Theirs was probably better.

Anyhow, the formula was pretty simple and based heavily on narration. Character creation took about 5 minutes: you would decide what formulaic character from a zombie movie you were, attribute a pre-selected amount of points into various stats, add bonus points that would kick in for “hero mode” (which was when some incredible act would probably save the team and kill your character) and then roll a few D20s on an ever increasingly large list of random items your character might have on them at the time of the zombie outbreak. These items could range from paperclips to a bazooka. The game was nearly always based in a high school and I would force the players to roleplay through a high school lunch hour for about 30 minutes (the goal being to create some character tension between the two dimensional characters; the jock hates the dweeb, the pretty girl is secretly a lesbian, the quiet kid is really a knife expert or whatever else the players came up with). When I got bored with the setup I would unleash the zombies and then systematically try to kill off every character as they tried to undo or escape from the zombie outbreak (which was almost always caused by a fictional version of Ronan, a creative choice we still often employ). The whole thing was very silly but lead to great moments at the table of silliness and fun. I would typically reward goofy role playing decisions and absurd plans with bonuses since if someone came up with something that would make you laugh or blow your mind if you saw it in a zombie movie I really wanted the player to succeed (or at least die trying). It was great times and loved by all who ever played.

The last time I ran my zombie game was easily ten years ago and not even close to a proper game system (it employed no formal system and I typically just made up dice rolls and difficulties or if dice weren’t around resolved conflict with rock-paper-scissors). I’ve always kicked around ideas for running a game using various settings and system, but just never got around to it due to scheduling or not having the time to flesh out my ideas. Finally, about a month or two ago after watching Guardians of the Galaxy I decided that it was time to finally give it the old college try again. The combination of 70s music and a feel good space adventure with a band of misfits made me want to run a game with a similar setting. It didn’t hurt that I also have a deep love of Cowboy Bebop and Firefly thrown into the mix (and maybe even a little Borderlands). Those four things were very much the inspiration for the game that I want to run.

MUTANTS!

MUTANTS!

As you probably gathered from my description of my zombie game, I value style and fun a lot in my vision of a game.  Not to mention simplicity. One of the best parts about the game was due to the emphasis on getting players into the game quickly and the looseness of the rules (and the rules never getting in the way of something cool) it was a great pick up game for non-roleplayers. Some of my favorite zombie sessions included hanging out at a friend’s place where the power went out and waiting around for an hour for a bus. In both those cases I had people with no experience playing in a role-playing game and having a blast. I thought that this was another important element that I wanted to bring into my game since I really wanted my game to not only have that fun vibe, but to also be accessible to a new player.

So I knew a little about the feeling that I wanted for the game and I knew a little about the setting. This was going to be a game about a group of rapscallions (incredibly I spelt rapscallions right on the first try) making a living in the far reaches of space and it was going to be silly and easy to get into. Right. What next? The other thing that I really wanted was to incorporate (if I could) miniatures for tactical combat. The D&D game that I’m in is 4e and I really like the tactical miniature combat since I feel that it does a good job of making a combat feel more epic. It doesn’t hurt that I think printing up slick colour area maps would really enhance the feeling of a game.

So I’ll bet you’re wondering what system I went with. Ignore that picture over there. The tactical combat had me thinking of re-skinning D&D 4e, then I looked into Star Wars D20. Finally, I remembered that once a few years ago I got Jon the starter box for 4e Gamma World. I borrowed the book and took it home to see if it would suit my needs. The rules immediately spoke to me. The character generation was quick. Most of your powers in game come from randomly shifting power cards which levels the playing field between experienced players and first time players (it’s hard to optimize a build when your powers shift around randomly). Hell, there was even a random possession chart to roll on to determine your wacky starting equipment. With 4e as the backbone it also leant itself to using miniatures in combat.

With a few minor tweaks to the setting (more on that in a later entry) I am incredibly happy with my choice of system. I hope that I’m about two weeks away from the first session.  Wish me luck.

Keith does all sorts of things here on 9to5.cc, he works with the other founders on 9to5 (illustrated), co-hosts our two podcasts: The 9to5 Entertainment System and Go Plug Yourself and blogs here as The Perspicacious Geek

Q-Workshop Polyhedral 7-Die Set: Carved Steampunk Dice Set (White and Black)

D&D Gamma World Roleplaying Game: A D&D Genre Setting (4th Edition D&D)

 

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