30 November 2013

Minor(?) Brain Dump

I've been sitting on this for a while. Sometimes it's just bet to let shit fall out of my head.
I feel kind of between worlds with respect to roleplaying games.
I like the OSR movement. I love the old D&Ds. I cherish my copy of Holmes and AD&D DMG that I permanently borrowed from my mother. The retro-clones and derivatives of retro-clones and all the other kinds of permutations of variations on D&D all fill me wonder and excitement.
Yet, everytime I want to run a game I cycle through my library and endup just hacking Basic Roleplaying and Pendragon. Which is most assuredly because of the DIY culture of the OSR movement. But, it seems as though there are not many people discussing BRP and its derivatives, at least in comparison to D&D. And I feel awkward even wanting to share my personal Pendragon campaign on the official Pendragon forums, because Pendragon is a very heavily genre flavored game, and I outright disregarded two genre conventions, one in a horribly pop-culture way.
Who the crap am I supposed to discuss my campaign with? My wife runs Pathfinder, and is no where as interested in the guts of the games as I am. The other players in my game are even less interested, they just want to throw dice and have fun, which is pretty fucking awesome. Do I talk with mecha fans? I'm a little ambivalent about Mekton.
Other random thoughts with regards to BRP Mecha.
  1.  I think I discovered a disconnect between my assumptions as the assumptions of the author of BRP Mecha, in that melee combat is extremely damaging even in the default rules for the real robot suggested rules, and melee combat seems to be intended to not be a part of RR games for Size Classes 1 and 2. Where as Super Robot games with the default assumption that all mecha are Size Class 3 and the kaiju they fight are Size Class 5 or higher, the armor values due to the way that armor is calculated based on Size Class and the assumed tech level or genre, are higher, and seem to scale faster than damage does, which I guess could be why he suggests that no matter how large a SR actually is, it stays Size Class 3. Like, a rough conversion of a Battletech Atlas, a 100ton mech, had it doing the same damage as a Spartan, a 29 metric ton Destroid, despite being over 3 times the mass and 50% taller, but that larger height was enough to bump it into Size Class 3 vs the Spartans Size Class 2, giving a bump in armor, and the capability of carrying larger ranged weapons.
  2. There is also the whole "fate points" and "motivations" thing. Fate points really being replenishable HP that are used to bump skill rolls during combat and therefore take on the plot armor role that increasing HP have in games with levels. Naturally I have no problem with players dying. To me a situation is much more tense if a character doesn't have some kind of plot immunity. That is not to say that I don't think that a heroic character should be prevented from calling up on some kind of inner reserve of strength to triumph over crazy odds. I mean the PKs are piloting 12m tall mecha. Which brings me to...
  3.  Since I am using KAP, I have those lovely Passions, which can be used to become impassioned, giving sizable bonuses to rolls that are pertinent to the situation. The downside is that failing a roll will make the Passion decrease and fumbling one will cause the PK to go mad for one or more years and essentially removed from play until GM fiat returns her to play. But to me this is extremely in genre for Arthurian Romance, and even anime. Along side Traits that can, and eventually will, compel a PK to act against his interests, the Traits and Passions do model the fact that many anime heroes do stupid shit that they know they shouldn't, or are hopelessly mired in conflicting Passions and their innate natures. Like those stupid love triangles: Rick, Lisa and Minmay from Robotech being a good example.
  4. This for some reason flies against the views of author of BRP Mecha. One of his opposing points makes sense in the context of player agency:
    Moreover, the KAP or RQ6 passion system is often used to direct a character's course of action by requesting a roll in order to act. This should NEVER - and I stress NEVER - happen in Mecha, where activation of a motivation is always decided by a player. Once the players have learned how much they need Fate in battle, no one will dare start a game without throwing in his or her in-character scene. At this point, there is little reason to request "rolls to see if you can do this or that": you will probably identify the correct course of action by yourselves.
    And
    It is your game, but personally I feel that compelling a player character's actions is always the worst option. When an ethical choice is to be made, there are plenty of people who are uncomfortable if the GM or a game mechanics tell them what their characters would actually do. If you leave players a choice, those who like rolling on their traits can still do it - the GM cannot prevent them deciding their player choice based on a Motivation roll, even if this is not prescribed by the rules - and this will be fun for them. However, if the GM is given a tool to dictate PC behaviour, then those players who prefer to make their own ethical decisions will feel their characters "taken out of their hands" and cease to have fun. One option is fun for everyone, the other option is not fun for someone: in such a situation, I always choose the way that guarantees fun to everybody.
     BUT KAP Traits don't absolutely compel action until a character has a 16 in that Trait. Granted acting contrary to a Trait should get a check on the opposing Trait. Also, the default for Traits in KAP 5.1 is that Relgious Traits start as 13, Valor is 15, and everything else is 10, which the option to increase one or more Traits during character gen. So to me, in the context of KAP and even an anime game, the Traits help a player remember what she intended with her character without being a straight-jacket against player agency.
  5. And he thinks that Passions would be terrible Motivations because they lack verbosity and specificity.
    Nothing prevents you using Traits and Passions, as they are, as Motivations, save the facts that the suggested formulation of Motivations in BRP Mecha is way more complicate than that given in KAP. And there is a reason for this. If you read the full-page example about Motivations, there is one thing about it that I have not transcribed. One of the players (the one playing Baron) had "Brave" as a motivation, the other had "I never turn my back to danger". As shown in the example, "Never turn..." is way more significant and has many more facets that you can effectively exploit in game. KAP and RQ6 are not as verbose with Traits/Passions as HeroQuest, and Mecha is best played with verbose Motivations.
     Which to me is just silly. A Passion that a character starts with or acquires during play is going to have reasoning behind it. Every default PK has Hate (Saxons), and there multiple reasons why they would, many of them simultaneous: they are invaders is the first most obvious, but there is the implication that everyone will have had at least family member slain by the invaders. Why does a character need a full bleeding sentence with a very specific reasoning?
    We recommend that you phrase a Motivation
    so that it contains at least two major themes,
    so that the Gamemaster and the other players
    have a wider choice of options to interact with
    your Motivation if you activate it. For instance,
    “Hatred for the Zaburai aliens” is an allowed
    Motivation, but “Hates the Zaburai for killing
    her beloved Patrick” is way more interesting
    and useful in game terms. The Gamemaster is in
    charge of asking questions to players about their
    Motivations before play begins (“What are your
    actual reasons to hate the Zaburai? Do you have
    anything personal or is it just that they are the
    enemy?”), and inviting them to better specify all
    details about them.

    I don't understand the need for verbosity with a character's Motivation. Maybe it's because his assumption is that BRP Mecha is going to have pre-combat scenes for each character that has non-combat drama, but I still don't really understand where this concept actually comes from in anime. Also the idea that Motivations need verbose specificity seems to be an attempt to both ensure that the GM can't say no, and to curtail the amount of GM fiat that gets used in the name of greater player agency. For some reason this reminds of the proliferation of narrowly defined feats and combat maneuvers in 3.x and PF.
I guess my stupid need to tinker and make things simpler, and less specific is why I'm attracted to the OSR movement, and DIY gaming.
Shoot if I were to institute some kind of Fate rule, it would probably be much more along the lines of the Doom that follows Elric. The powers that be will intervene, when you want for a price, and even when you don't want them too, they will, all to ensure that their story goes their way, with no regard for the feelings of the hapless mortals caught up in things. Which sounds strangely familiar....