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Brian Stanfield

What makes a complete game "complete"?

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16 hours ago, Brian Stanfield said:

That’s not surprising. I think the universal systems are faltering in unintended ways. And yet Powered by the Apocalypse games are multiplying like rabbits. It’s not the universal system that is a problem; it’s what people are (or aren’t) doing with it that seems to sell. This came up a few pages back. Compact and focused games are popular now because there’s little investment of time or capital, and people can easily try out a lot of different games each week. Consumers in our online e-conomy these days expect to be able to pick things up quickly, follow their curiosity, and then move on to the next shiny shiny. 
 

I think DOJ should seriously consider their own “Powered by HERO System” approach, with smaller, easily learned games that can also be modified in limitless ways. One-book games don’t have to be the ultimate goal, but they can be gateways to folks who might be interested in investing in the larger system after they see it in action in a smaller scale. HERO System should be trying to spark people’s curiosity rather than presume to give them everything they ever wanted. Lost of smaller samples seem more practical. And then we show them the larger system, devised as a way to modify what caught their fancies in the first place. 

I think this is a great idea. Imagine the new player experience! You saw a nifty book about the size of Fate Core or something on the shelf of a game store. It's got a picture of a secret agent using X-Ray contacts lenses to see a gun through the jacket of somebody he's talking to, or of a monk meditating in his room on a spaceship (make the room look all sleek and sci fi), something along those lines. The point is, they pick up the book and take a look and it appears to be an RPG set in some kind of super intriguing genre bend. In fact, maybe the book has like 4 genres that you are expected to mix and match as you choose. Anyways, everything in these books is "Power by the Hero System." To the user, however, this is an opaque detail. All the content in the book is built in such a way that you would never need to reference 6e1/2, but at the end of the book there is a chapter briefly detailing how to use 6e1/2 to mod the game. 

Lighting Bolt would read "Attack..." (which they would know stops your turn and takes half a phase) "...Costs 4 END, Range of 45m..." (which we would know is just a consequence of the points we spent to build it, but the players may sense a pattern anyway) "... deal 3d6 Killing Damage. For 3 additional END, you may also blind and deafen your target for 6 segments." We know this is just an RKA with a Flash (built using Standard Effect, no less, for maximum simplicity to the player) linked to it. We know how it works, and they could find out how it works, but to them it's a simple spell. 

I feel like this would be the best approach. Fate kinda does this, but Fate is a weird animal, what with all the wacky "storygaming" and "narrativism" and whatnot. Hero could actually let you fight a Ninja against a Pirate against a Knight, with combat rules and stuff. It could be very popular like that.  

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Yes, this is the approach many of us have been advocating for some time.

 

Where I differ slightly from the general take on this notion is that I emphasize the importance of the provided setting more than anyone else does. To me, there is no game without a setting, and it will be the setting (which obviously also implies a genre) that catches people's attention and makes them want to play the game. It is also the setting which makes it a concrete game, and not just another generic book full of genre advice and unconnected examples.

 

In addition, I think that for anything like this to have lasting, meaningful impact on the the brand and the marketplace, these games have to be planned out and marketed/advertised as full product lines so that potential customers feel that they will be investing in something with a future; i.e., games that will continue to be supported and expanded upon for years to come.

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1 hour ago, zslane said:

Where I differ slightly from the general take on this notion is that I emphasize the importance of the provided setting more than anyone else does. To me, there is no game without a setting, and it will be the setting (which obviously also implies a genre) that catches people's attention and makes them want to play the game. It is also the setting which makes it a concrete game, and not just another generic book full of genre advice and unconnected examples.

 

Here's our point of disagreement, it looks like.  To me, there is no game without something for the characters to do.  There can be an implied setting -- every edition of D&D's mechanics go a long way towards implying a larger setting, and making a few changes can go a long way to defining the setting.  

 

A setting can be -- and in D&D, often is -- not much more than a sheet of paper with a few towns, roads, forests, rivers, mountains, etc., and a dungeon to go crawl with a flimsy rationale for crawling it.  

 

There's at least one Adventurer's Club issue from back in the day that included a Fantasy Hero adventure.  If you have pretty much any edition's core rulebook you could probably play it with nothing else.  Having that edition's Fantasy Hero book would definitely help, and if you have a setting to drop it into that's probably helpful for a campaign.  But you could run it with probably not much more than the sheet of paper with geographical features.  

 

For the most part, even without an explicit full description of a magic system, you could get away with using spells, monsters, magic items, and so forth, provided in the adventure.  The Grimoire, Bestiary, Equipment Guide, and so on would certainly be helpful in this regard.  

 

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19 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

To me, there is no game without something for the characters to do.  There can be an implied setting -- every edition of D&D's mechanics go a long way towards implying a larger setting, and making a few changes can go a long way to defining the setting.  

 

A setting can be -- and in D&D, often is -- not much more than a sheet of paper with a few towns, roads, forests, rivers, mountains, etc., and a dungeon to go crawl with a flimsy rationale for crawling it.

 

Oh, I agree that characters need something to do. But any setting description worth its salt will provide plenty of ideas for that. A sample adventure in a core book should provide a good example of the kinds of things characters would do in the setting. To my mind, "what do we do?" is a question for which the answer is implied in the setting (and the core book) if it is written properly.

 

And it is my deepest belief that a setting which is "not much more than a sheet of paper with a few towns, roads, forests, rivers, mountains, etc." is simply not going to cut it in this day and age. Today's RPG marketplace is too cluttered for that old fashioned approach to work. That only creates the impression of a setting, and fails to do the very necessary work of delivering a setting that becomes the game's unique selling proposition and primary means of attracting customers. 'Cuz I guarantee you that nothing else will (attract customers), aside from really awesome artwork which, if directed properly, visualizes the setting and the kinds of things that happen in it.

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3 hours ago, zslane said:

And it is my deepest belief that a setting which is "not much more than a sheet of paper with a few towns, roads, forests, rivers, mountains, etc." is simply not going to cut it in this day and age.

 

I keep harping on the D&D 5e starter set, but that's about how much setting it has.  That's about how much setting FH 1e came with.  

 

I'd be happy to have setting, if it eliminates the need for the GM to have to create everything -- primarily a magic system.  That in itself can be a barrier to entry for GMs.  That's probably what I would want most from a Fantasy Hero setting, to be honest.

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11 minutes ago, Chris Goodwin said:

I keep harping on the D&D 5e starter set, but that's about how much setting it has.

 

D&D gets away with things no other brand can simply because it is the 800lb gorilla in the marketplace. But even so, the starter kit resides in a well-known setting, the Forgotten Realms, and even though a complete newbie might not realize this from the starter kit alone, they will soon figure that out as they become familiar with the other products in the line. WotC doesn't need to push Forgotten Realms as D&D's unique selling proposition; they can rely on brand name recognition alone. The HERO System can't do that, and any game "powered" by it can't either. Nevertheless, WotC knows that setting is still critically important, and makes an effort to embed all their products in either Forgotten Realms, or an FR-adjacent setting like Ravenloft.

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5 hours ago, Chris Goodwin said:

I'd be happy to have setting, if it eliminates the need for the GM to have to create everything -- primarily a magic system.  That in itself can be a barrier to entry for GMs.  That's probably what I would want most from a Fantasy Hero setting, to be honest.

 

I agree with this, Chris. I believe we should have books that have implied settings in them, but also vague enough that someone wanting to worldbuild could easily take the setting out. Rather than a generic "Fantasy Hero" book, how about a book called "Mana Realms" that contains a chunk of the Hero rules that have been catered to a fantasy tone with setting info toward the back?

 

5 hours ago, zslane said:

D&D gets away with things no other brand can simply because it is the 800lb gorilla in the marketplace. But even so, the starter kit resides in a well-known setting, the Forgotten Realms, and even though a complete newbie might not realize this from the starter kit alone, they will soon figure that out as they become familiar with the other products in the line. WotC doesn't need to push Forgotten Realms as D&D's unique selling proposition; they can rely on brand name recognition alone. The HERO System can't do that, and any game "powered" by it can't either. Nevertheless, WotC knows that setting is still critically important, and makes an effort to embed all their products in either Forgotten Realms, or an FR-adjacent setting like Ravenloft.

 

I think Hero could get that recognition, and for a time I think they they had it with Champions. But that was some time ago.

 

4 hours ago, Greywind said:

Worldbuilders need to get their hands dirty. Not be spoon-fed someone else's world to run in.

 

3 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

Before we make sweeping statements, let's consider not just those without the inclination, but those without the time, and beyond them, to with both the time and the desire, yet completely devoid of the talent.

 

Yes,  worldbuilders may not need a setting, but it's handy to have some setting info to see how things are built and get some inspiration from. I also agree that not everyone has time to work on a setting, or to make their own adventures. 

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5 minutes ago, Scott Ruggels said:

Sadly, world builders are a distinct minority in the new crop of time slammed gamers.

 

This is true.

 

4 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

Before we make sweeping statements, let's consider not just those without the inclination, but those without the time, and beyond them, to with both the time and the desire, yet completely devoid of the talent.

 

I get what you're saying, but I stand by what I said. If they can't, for whatever reasons, or simply won't, then they aren't really worldbuilders. Just simply a gamemaster.

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I'd say relying on "worldbuilders" isn't a much more likely success strategy than relying on "gamebuilders".  Those sectors can already use Hero - this model needs to provide games for those who do not want to build from scratch, a vast market segment Hero has moved away from.

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6 hours ago, Sketchpad said:

Yes,  worldbuilders may not need a setting, but it's handy to have some setting info to see how things are built and get some inspiration from. I also agree that not everyone has time to work on a setting, or to make their own adventures. 

 

To me, this is where one book games would have dual benefit.  If the toolkitting info was online somewhere, then not only does everyone get a game they can play straight off the shelf, world builders (and proto world builders) can see how a published game went about it.

 

If I was HERO, and publishing these games, I would have a podcast with the designer, talking about the book and how they used the toolkit to achieve their aims.  This would be decent advertising for the game but also provide oxygen for the toolkit itself.

 

Doc

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9 hours ago, Greywind said:

 

I get what you're saying, but I stand by what I said. If they can't, for whatever reasons, or simply won't, then they aren't really worldbuilders. Just simply a gamemaster.

This is where the market currently is. It's where WoTC and Paizo live, putting out adventures and supplements  at $50 USs a pop, and selling them, A mere game master at this point still has the duties of the floor director of a published stage play, and that is that the show goes on smoothly. That is still a lot of work.  It's only those before college graduation, and retirees that have the luxury of time for home brewing these days. 

 

One thin book, "powered by Hero, with adventures published later, if it sells. Keep it short, simple and without powers. We should not make an "ideal game for an ideal situation". We should make "a good game for the situation that exists". 

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World builders have always been a minority. 

 

My first Champions GM was an _excellent_ GM, and alousy world builder.  Pretty much all of our D&D was module-based, and all of our supers stuff was straight from comic books (I've never seen a larger comic collection in my life) 

 

There was a plus side to it, though: 

 

My original Traveller GM was a dedicated world-builder.  We were essentially using the "a traveller system" to play in a completely unique universe doing interesting and fun things. 

 

My second Traveller GM... We were using Traveller to live out his Star Trek fan fiction....   That was mercifully brief.... 

 

If it hadn't been for Jim"s inability to put together a solid world,--  and don't get me wrong:  he had the time, as he was the only real trust-fund kid I ever knew.  I don't think he even considered a job until his mid-thirties, and even that was just to meet people.... 

 

Anyway, he had the time, and I know for a fact that he _tried_, over and over.  He was just terrible at it...  :(

 

But if it hadn't been for this lack of talent, I would have never known the depth and breadth of the amazing published Traveller universe, which seems to have something for everyone. 

 

To be perfectly straight, even through all the incarnations of Traveller and the dozens of different people I've played under, I've never seen any homebrewed world that rivals it.  People who think it's about space merchants and royal intrigue haven't really paid a lot of attention to the other materials, but I don't evangelize it because I'd rather you didn't sit down with a predisposition to negativity anyway.  It's not going to be fun for you or anyone else if you do, right? 

 

I started this to state quite clearly that if everyone could build a world on their own-- and they can't, and few who can are able set aside their personal wants to create the broad appeal needed to entice enough people to keep coming back, year after year--   

 

If everyone could do it, there would never have been a shortage of material for _any_ game, ever. 

 

HERO is dead, and it's dead for lots of reasons, all of which none of us are ever likely to know, but targeting the extreme minority audience of "people with time, desire, and ability to craft their own worlds" strikes me as a likely contributor.  I could be wrong, but the resulting play model of "scour the planet looking for a GM wo can also build an interesting world and is maybe willing to travel a few hundred miles a week" couldn't have been great for the success of it. 

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8 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

Practically, if we have a GM who is a world-builder, and a game-builder, how far is he from writing his own rules rather than buying any published game, whatever system powers it, or even any published system to use to build his game?

 

32 minutes ago, Greywind said:

You'd have to ask him.

 

A world-builder isn't necessarily a game designer.

 

As one of those game-designy world-buildy folk: 

Why in the world would I reinvent the wheel? 

 

I could certainly start from scratch and make something.  It'd probably take a while and need playtesting and revisions and be a lot of work, and in the end it'd be a pretty neat thing that was all mine. 

Or I could take something somebody else did, and rip out the parts I don't like while adding parts I want.  Way less work, way less time, way more fun for the playtesters since we skip the alpha, and I still get a pretty neat thing in the end.  And it's mineish, which is nice too. 

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1 hour ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

As one of those game-designy world-buildy folk: 

Why in the world would I reinvent the wheel? 

 

I could certainly start from scratch and make something.  It'd probably take a while and need playtesting and revisions and be a lot of work, and in the end it'd be a pretty neat thing that was all mine. 

Or I could take something somebody else did, and rip out the parts I don't like while adding parts I want.  Way less work, way less time, way more fun for the playtesters since we skip the alpha, and I still get a pretty neat thing in the end.  And it's mineish, which is nice too. 

 

Sure - but it's a lot further to go from D20 to "do it all myself" than from "assemble my game from Hero parts" to "do it all myself".

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37 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

 

Sure - but it's a lot further to go from D20 to "do it all myself" than from "assemble my game from Hero parts" to "do it all myself".

For me it's the opposite. 

If I want to tinker with d20, I don't have the slightest clue what the underlying structure is or why things are the way they are.  I'm going in pretty much blind.  And at that point, why bother trying to drag a giant blackbox over to where I want my game to be?  Might as well rip out a few good ideas and make a fresh start. 

But HERO is easy to modify.  The covers pop right off and there's labels everywhere.  There's far less incentive for me to abscond with good ideas. 

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On 3/4/2020 at 1:49 PM, smoelf said:

At this point I'm probably only halfway through this thread, so I'm not sure where the discussion has moved by now, but I just wanted to share this: 

 

@Ptolus

 

So I am following this one and haven't decided on which selection. 

From the tidbits I have seen, the city layout is very close to one I need for one of my own ideas.  A good map is worth it's weight in gold.  I should clarify, a good usable map.  Hudson City is a fantastic city setting that also has a usable map so I have used it in almost all of my games that are set in the industrial age.  for me any game that has a investigative element really needs a good map with a minimum of names streets.  I can flesh out and place buildings, but streets need to be named so they can be identified on the fly.  Vibora Bay is almost good.  The book is well done but the map is not a city map.  It is a snapshot taken from Pluto. 

Ptolus has been around for a while and has evolved.  From what I can tell it will have an actual usable map. 

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13 hours ago, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

For me it's the opposite. 

If I want to tinker with d20, I don't have the slightest clue what the underlying structure is or why things are the way they are.  I'm going in pretty much blind.  And at that point, why bother trying to drag a giant blackbox over to where I want my game to be?  Might as well rip out a few good ideas and make a fresh start. 

But HERO is easy to modify.  The covers pop right off and there's labels everywhere.  There's far less incentive for me to abscond with good ideas. 

 

Absolutely.  My question is how big the "I want to build my own world and structure my own game" to "I want to  tinker with the rules" market segment is, falling between "I want to play the game already written" and "I want to design my own game" segments.  Not big enough for 5e/6e to sell enough, if history is an indication.

 

I think a lot of people on these Boards will fall into that segment - but that's why they are playing Hero, which brings them to these Boards.  The broader market had not been as supportive of "DIY game with Hero rules".

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3 hours ago, Hugh Neilson said:

I think a lot of people on these Boards will fall into that segment - but that's why they are playing Hero, which brings them to these Boards.  The broader market had not been as supportive of "DIY game with Hero rules".

 

From what I see at the 3 tables a week I'm either playing or DM'ing at (1 HERO, 2 D&D currently) is that 75-80% of the players fall in the "I'll show up to play" bucket where they'll buy products for leisure reading or to make their characters, but they have no interest in running a game and negative interest in building their own content.

 

I used to build custom content all the time, but with family obligations and work I don't have that kind of time any more.

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Lately, as a player when I'm creating a new PC for a game, I'm usually working on it the night before the game, sometimes not submitting it to the GM until a couple of hours before the game.  It's not just GMing.  And that's even using HD, Champions Powers, and the Champions Character Creation Cards.  

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1 hour ago, Chris Goodwin said:

Lately, as a player when I'm creating a new PC for a game, I'm usually working on it the night before the game, sometimes not submitting it to the GM until a couple of hours before the game.

 

I don't quite see the problem there. That sounds like a perfectly reasonable approach. At least you are making an effort to create the character prior to showing up at the table, and you give the GM ample time to look it over. The GM may have to scramble a little to fit the new character into the current narrative (if the group is in the middle of one), but that's just part of being a GM.

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