There’s a game sitting in the garage of my friend’s house. My friend is a “miniatures guy”, and he’s my mentor when it comes to all the fiddly bits of the hobby, things like painting, airbrushing, assembling and gluing. The game is called “Runewars.” Not the board game, mind you, the “starter set” edition of the miniatures game.
I was immensely excited when I first heard about Runewars. I had previously played a fair bit of X-Wing, and taking the dial-driven game-play of that game and applying it to a fantasy, rank-and-file tabletop game seemed, to me, like a match made in heaven.
In design, re-roll mechanics sometimes get a bad rap. The thinking goes that if a game is designed well enough, they effectively become superfluous, and at worst, damaging. After all, if the players can re-roll the dice any time they like, why even bother rolling? There is a school of thought that says once the dice hit the table, there are no take-backs. The die is literally cast, come what may.
But here’s the thing. No game is perfect. Whenever you introduce variance, you will, inevitably, run up against edge cases. The master thief rolling a 1 and crashing through pots and pans. The famed warrior botching a roll and sending their weapon flying out of their hands. If these eventualities happen too often, the game becomes slapstick. But, argues the other side, if these things never happen, then the game becomes stale and boring.
What I think is missing from such a view is the prospect of player agency. When a player rolls the dice, they are, in effect, giving up some amount of agency. The GM, or the system, or some mixture of the two decides what happens next. If the result determined by the die is too incongruous with the vision the player had of their character, it can lead to disassociation and frustration with the game’s mechanics.
As I’ve been working on a new game, I’ve arrived at probably my least favorite part of the process. The major mechanical work is done, everything’s written up, and I’ve even started playtesting. Which means, alas, that it’s time to ask for feedback.
As I’m going through this process, I thought it might be helpful to share some observations that might make the process less miserable for those who come after me.
Sigmata: This Signal Kills Fascists is a tabletop RPG by Chad Walker that is up for backing on Kickstarter. At the time of writing, it’s almost hit its funding goal of $9,000, and I’m pretty certain it will hit that goal soon. I have some critiques about the game, as it’s currently presented.
First off, a couple caveats. This critique isn’t coming from a place of trying to tear down what someone else is building. It’s always a bit weird critiquing a Kickstarter, because you’re not critiquing a finished product. Essentially, I’m critiquing the idea of a product as presented by its creator. But, again, this is a thing that you are asking people to pay money for so I consider it to be fair game. Also, as a sometimes-creator myself, I can imagine times when I’d wished someone had critiqued my work a little earlier in the process before things were set in stone, so I at least had a chance to address the criticisms before the work was finalized.
Second, I think my politics probably line up with Chad Walker’s. This isn’t gonna be some right-wing screed denouncing Sigmata as “ANTIFA THE GAME HOW DARE YOU, SIR.” I can appreciate what he’s trying to do (or at least what I think he’s trying to do), even if I do think there are some flaws in the approach.
Okay. Let’s buckle in then.
If you read my previous article on Advantage in 5e, you can probably guess that I have “opinions” on Fantasy Flight’s cute little dice systems. Opinions one might describe as “unpopular” or “hateful.”
Look, I’m not going to lecture you on why these dice are badwrongfun / not much of an improvement over binary dice systems (That’s the Angry GM’s job, and he already did a better job than I could), but I will point out how the disconnect between dice mechanics and game design made the new Star Wars FFG games take a major step backwards from where the system was at with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying 3rd Edition.
Yes. Of course it is. That’s a stupid question. Sorry for the inflammatory title. But, the Angry GM recently raised the question of what kind of RPG it is. A question that’s been asked a dozen times and answered in about as many ways, but I’m going to take another stab at it. Because damn-it-all, I’m entitled to my very own, super-special opinion on the topic.
Feature image taken from here.
I have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the d20. That icosahedronal sonavabitch has been my ruin many a time. Hell, from the name of this blog you can probably tell that I prefer d6’s.
Part of this is an accessibility thing. Any game that prides itself on “special” dice is actively throwing up barriers to it’s entry. Everyone has d6’s. To get a d20, you need to go to a game store, pick out a set, maybe buy a couple extra d20’s in case one betrays you, roll it a few times to make sure it isn’t cursed, have a maiden true blow gently upon it, etc etc. It’s a bigger hassle than cannibalizing a game of Yahtzee is what I’m saying.