The Interactive Tool Kit

OnceFarOff's picture
August 21, 2012 - 11:01am
 Since I first found this site, I have been intrigued by Jedion357's sig line from Gary Gygax that says in a nutshell that rules are not necessary. While I'm not saying that there should be no rules per se - it has shaped my approach a little as I am returning to gaming after nearly 20 years, and playing with my children. I find myself striving to make the game more story driven than I did when I was younger.

Anyways, I found this online and thought it was an interesting read. a four part series of articles regarding story driven campaigns. I don't advocate chucking everything, but I found it very thought provoking.

jedion357's picture
August 25, 2012 - 5:49am
Alright I finally read that. Thank you so much for sharing as it gave me something to think about, and now I need to look for Castle Falkenstien on scribd.

I have no problem with a story driven game and actually like to see more story worked into standard RPGs.

I really need to think about this more as I just wrote an article that sort of dealt with introducing more story into a typical SF campaign.

Edit: Interesting examination of the baggage from wargames which wanders into the camp of more abstract gamings ie ditching miniatures and battle mats.

I'm not against that but I do have a big love of miniatures.

Interesting look at combat being broken down into minute pieces and rolling for each thing and watching the combat draw out for 3 hours- which is what happens in most/many incarnations of D&D and I presume several other RPGs. and yet lock picking is a difficulty set by the GM and a dice roll and you move on. His proposals for shortening combat are worth considering.

However, I have run 2 star frontiers combats in half an hour with some role play elements thrown in and it was the most fun of that night's 3.5 hours of role play because after that 30 minutes the last player who had to attend dance school with his wife finally showed up and then we got down to the serious business of D&D 3.5 edition and had one combat that took 3 hours! Personally I found the D&D portion as much fun as swallowing thumb tacks.

Now is story games like Vampire the masquerade the future of role playing and is the traditional form of this hobby about to die and become museum pieces? I would say to answer that you need to ask where is the money? Which model commands the money in the market? I dont know and have no hard facts for that but I suspect that old dinosaurs take a while to die and that older models of RPG's still have some life.

I also think that the newer model is not to be discounted. I like interesting stories. I would like to have characters with interesting stories and 3 hours of dice rolling to adjudicate combat is boring.

I think the lessons to be learned from that series of articles are
1. short combats are good, keep the rules simple and dont get hung up on trying to simulate realism- its a bunch of crock anyway

2. group character creation with all the pcs have some connection to each other and a reason to work together is a good idea; a thread that ties them together despite the fact that there may be motivations and goal that drive them apart. and each character really ought to have motivations and goals that could potentially drive wedges or attract trouble.

3. a cast of characters that get played allowing one character to move off stage and come back when appropriate for him in the story. even on character that gets passed around by multiple players if need be. Focus is on story and what a character's story is. this has merit.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

OnceFarOff's picture
August 25, 2012 - 10:45am
I'm glad you liked it.

By no means am I advocating ditching exerything and going forward in that direction. I actually like some of the wargame "baggage" as he put it. That said, I believe that in all things there needs to be balance. I also remember from my earlier gaming days-digging out books in the middle of a battle for some obscure rule or these ridiculously long battles because everyone keeps roling poorly. Then there was the playing through unrelated modules in AD&D and other games. I just thought that the approach he mentioned was useful in gleaning some good ideas to influence the way I approcah being a GM. These days I use a lot more GM fiat to keep things moving and back onto the story.

I don't think I'll move away from maps either. My kids find the visual part stimulating.

I totally agree with your three points to take away. I think to add to the concept of the cast of characters - I need to add a lot more depth to the NPCs as well and will strive to do so. My kids were not happy when one of their favorite NPCs got killed in the final battle on Volturnus. I was kind of happily surprised by that. They made some poor decisions, and I really don't like killing off PCs for no good reason, so this was a step before actually making them make a new character. It made them think about how they play.

I'm also discussing making additional characters with them, since there is now a LOT of material that it would take a serious amount of tweaking to make work for their current PCs. My younger son is going to be meeting his father soon in our campaign which will set up his inheriting a really cool mansion that I will be mapping out. But my other kid found out that prior to his memory loss he was an assassin and wants to make things right by taking down his old boss with Star Law. Neither one of them will have reason to stay together at that point in the game - at least for a while. It would make a lot more sense to have them play an different character at those times. The concept of passing a character around would make it interesting. It would also give them more value as an NPC at a later time if necessary. Lots of interesting things to consider there.

I guess another angle to take would be to have a few characters in the same timeline doing different modules/missions and periodically hearing from or interacting with one another. An advantage of that is they would be able to experience the frontier from a lot of different angles (kind of like the different introductions in the Dragon Age:Origins game) which would give a lot more depth and realism to the entire setting.

OnceFarOff's picture
August 25, 2012 - 10:47am
An approach like this would make it a lot easier for me to be able to introduce alternate setting as well. Meaning - I really want to do a post - apocolypse kind of campaign setting. My kids just landed on Mahg Mar in the Waller Nexus for KH3. The older one commented on how he was glad they didn't get stranded this time like they did on Volturnus. That caused me to think about how tired the whole, ship crashes/breaks down so I can railroad the PCs angle is... How cool would it be to run the kids as new characters growing up on this GW type planet - running a campaign that makes sense in that setting, and then when the campaign concludes, having the Eleanor Moraes set down and they run into their other characters or some NPCs that their other characters know.

This would also work for the lost colony kind of setting as well.

Interesting implications...

jedion357's picture
August 25, 2012 - 5:37pm
Funny but the last update i could see for that site was May 23, 2000
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

OnceFarOff's picture
August 25, 2012 - 7:29pm
Yeah - I noticed that too. Glad it's still up. I tried out a variant of those ideas tonight with my kids. I told them that if they wanted to play additional characters that I would be fine with that and then helped them make some up.

Every time they went for the power ranking kind of characters, I asked them if they wanted yet another character like the other ones they had or if they wanted to try out something different. They both decided that they wanted more exploration focused characters, one with a science PSA and another in Tech PSA.

I walked them through making a back story - my youngest decided that his folks died in a Sathar attack on their ship and he escaped in a launch with his siblings. He chose to join the UPF to explore and help find the Sathar to get his revenge (Yazirian). The other decided to be a Vrusk who works for the CDC and decided to be an explorer for the adventure of seeing new worlds and also in hopes of havin his own ship one day so that he can make his fortune exloring the frontier. They seemed excited by the prospect.

Their other PCs are still in the Clarion Royal Marines and had just landed on Mahg Mar to answer a distress call by the Eleanor Moraes. I was originally planning on skipping the first Beyond the Frontier module, but they told me they wanted to be explorers. So I put their new characters as crew members on the Moraes and began the first module. I guess I'll have to make sure to help them get the distress call off or I'll rupture the space-time continuum or something... I don't really plan on making a pattern of the whole timeline thing, but they opportunity was there to run the module and introduce the cast of characters concept, so I jumped on it before it was too late.

I figure that they can meet "themselves" at the end of the first module and decide which characters to play out after. From there, they can all know each other and have each other as contacts.

Anonymous's picture
w00t (not verified)
August 25, 2012 - 8:25pm
OFO, that sounds great. Mutiny is one of my fav modules - I used to sit and read it over and over, even tried to trace-draw some of the images.

I'm running a SF game after post-snowball contact with the Mhemne. The crew will be using the Explorer Scout from Issue #8.