Monday, December 25, 2017

Writing RPG's for Modernity

I had a few days off last week and I spent a good amount that time writing. I started working on an idea I had concerning the genre of 1970's Kung-Fu movies. These films are dear to my heart because I grew up watching them every Saturday on local broadcast television. Some people have Star wars nostalgia, I have have godzilla, Kung-fu theater, and WCCW wrestling out of texas.

So I  came up with a setting brief. I thought about what I wanted the game to achieve. What I wanted the dice to do, the kinds of decisions I wanted the mechanics to support. I started typing. Ten thousand three hundred thirty six words later I realized I forgot to think about one thing. How will I play this game?

I play mostly online via roll 20 these days. Roll 20 to me is the unfortunate artifact of being an adult  with  responsibilities beyond the gaming table. Our group as it is can't get together once a month, or even once a quarter during 2017. We can however usually get a weekday evening where we can spend a few hours on Roll 20. In its way roll 20 is a gift. I feel strongly that if Roll20 didn't exist, I would have given up RPG's. With that said  online gaming  isn't  where my head is  when I'm writing. It probably should be.

The  Kung-fu game involves a die mechanic where in the player rolls three dice often of different "sizes" then sum the results. However there are reasons to  keep the three die rolls discrete from each other and have the ability to look at each result separately. In other words if a player rolls 1d4, 1d6, 1d8 the result can and will be read as both 3, 2, 7 and 12.

Most online rollers don't handle that very well. On roll 20 I could write a macro for every possible combination of the three die sizes in play. I think  the permutations of objects in a group of three with repetitions allowed is something like 27. The internet can check my math.  Not impossible, but not  100% practical either. not practical in that I have to make sure the die results are shown in the order they are rolled. A macro may just give me the sum of the die rolls. I have to play with the  tools to see how they results are displayed.

A character sheet with macros built in would be even nicer. Though I let my roll 20 pro subscription lapse because I wasn't using any of the pro features anyway. Still I had looked at setting up my own sheets for another game at the time I didn't find the  formatting or scripting of character sheets all that intuitive, though I didn't give myself much opportunity to learn the tools.

Thankfully The handy dandy die roller window actually works perfectly.
Type in "/roll 1d6+1d6+1d4" and it will input the results in order and the total sum of the  roll in the chat window.
GERRRRATE!
However typing that command into the command window is not always the most intuitive or fastest way to use roll 20. In fact it can be darn distracting at times.

My point here is that in 2017  when designing games I should be looking at how games are  being played now. Much of that play is going on with the use of online tools. Creating a game that is inconvenient to online play creates and unnecessary barrier to play that many of today's players would find unexceptionable.

I suppose there is no moral to this  post. Just an observation. I don't plan on changing the game I was working on. I will however think more about how modernity in gaming might effect my design choices next time I start something new.

-Mark

Next post should be around New years.
Enjoy your holidays.