Thursday, January 27, 2011

1d6 based RPGs

Adam's post about Teenagers from Outer Space got me thinking again about RPGs that only use a single die. If you take the idea of a rules lite game seriously then it seems to me you should go all the way and only use one die. Besides, the 1d6 roll has a long pedigree given that most wargames use a single die to resolve actions.  There are actually quite a few 1d6 based RPGs around. Or at least there were. Several of them, like Bad Attitudes and Superteens, seem to have vanished into the Phantom Zone. But the ones that are still around are pretty cool.

Aside from R Tal's games ( the other being Dream Park) the only other commercial 1d6 based game I know about is The Dying Earth RPG. (Or maybe I should say was since it's now out-of-print.) It uses a clever mechanic where instead of rolling more dice you have a pool of points you can expend that allow you to re-roll your die. Very much a story-telling game, but I like the mechanic.

As for free games using just one die there's  Zak Arntson's Adventures in Space!!  It's a cool little game focused on space opera. The clever bit is that not only do you roll 1d6 for for character actions, you also have the options to roll the die to introduce plot twists to the game. Again very story-telling oriented, but very cool. There are a few others out there, like Simon Washbourne's Have a Go Heroes, but the one that really stands out for me is Michael Wolf's Warrior, Rogue and Mage.

It's a great fantasy RPG that uses an open-ended 1d6 roll allowing for higher throws. Check out Rob Lang's review for a good overview. It's a really well done RPG and the system could work in other genres as well.

Are there any other cool 1d6 based RPGs out there that I should know about?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Grand Campaign

I've long dreamed about running a Grand Campaign. Not just an extended campaign involving the GM and players in an epic adventure. By Grand Campaign I mean a huge game setting involving multiple gamers acting as both GMs and players. You would map out the game world, or at least the general outlines, and then each gamer were be given a section of the world for which they would be the GM. For example, if you were  playing Traveller, you could take a sector map and assign each player 2-4 subsectors that they would flesh out and run adventures in.

Each gamer would take turns being both a GM for their portion of the map, and running characters in the other player's games. That means you would have several characters coexisting at different places in the game universe. (Obviously this would require the various GMs to take turns running their games, and I don't pretend to know how that would work without conflicts.)

The game would also work on another level. You could play out the strategic conflicts of the various regions as wargaming sessions, using a space combat game or even a strategic 4X game. The results of the wargaming sessions would influence the background events of the roleplaying universe, giving the whole setting an extra level of depth.

For example, Stellar Conquest

Of course actually coordinating and running a Grand Campaign like this would be almost impossible. Maybe if you had a tight-knit gaming group that kept a regular schedule you could attempt it. But considering how hard it is just to run a an extended campaign and get everyone to show up when they're supposed to, it seems like a pipe dream. But it's a fun dream.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cheating Death

One of the worst ways for a GM to do in a PC during the course of an adventure is by means of some kind of instant kill. This most often takes the form of a trap, like the ones in the various Grimtooh's Traps books. (I can't think of a time this ever happened to one of my PCs, which is just as well because I probably would have made a scene.) But there are times when PCs face certain death. The ancient tower collapses around their heads, or the starship's hull is breached and they're blown out into space. Assuming script immunity isn't an option, what do you do then?

Some games have a special mechanic. I think it was TSR's Top Secret that gave each PC a (secret) limited number of Fate points that they could use to cheat death. Once your points were gone, well tough luck. CORPS has a similar mechanic with its ASPs, or "Ass Saver Points". So that's one method. Give your PCs a special pool of points the can expend to save their necks when all else fails.

Another method is that the PCs make some sort of very difficult saving throw. For example, in V&V if your character is in a situation they shouldn't be able to survive they can make a saving roll of 1d100 against their current Power to see if they miraculously survive. Mike Stackpole's Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes has something similar with its Megadeath Luck Saving Roll. The idea is that if the PCs want to perform some kind of death defying stunt, and presumable also if the want to cheat death, they have to make an appropriately high Luck saving throw.

Both of these are good systems. I like the idea of tough saving throws more than special points, but either way would work. In any case I think there should be a way for characters to cheat death. Is there another way to handle this that I'm missing? Do you think one way works better than another? Which method do you use in your games?