What is Heroes & Other Worlds?

Heroes & Other Worlds is a game of adventure inspired by Metagaming's classic Melee/Wizard/TFT system combined with inspiration from the Moldvay edited basic game. The rules are easy to learn and use standard six sided dice. The system is simple, sensible and flexible in the spirit of classic role playing games from the early 80's. Become a Hero, Other Worlds await!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Inquiry into Gaming #2: Exploration

illustration by Noobaka
Thank you for your great comments and thoughts on Inquiry #1. I hesitated to jump in as I did not want to influence comments--but I sure did love seeing so many great thoughts. Now on to random inquiry #2

At the core of what makes playing an RPG different from other games are 4 central concepts
1) the lack of pre-defined endgame
2) the lack of singular victor
3) the shared success or failure of an adventure by the group as a while
4) One person creates and referees the game

Do these unique game concepts create an insurmountable barrier for potential players?

If I were to explain monopoly or poker to someone--the basics are the person with he most $ wins.  If you have no money you lose. The dice rolls or cards dealt will influence your choices-but it is you against everyone else--the person with the most stuff wins.

The all or nothing mechanic is also true of a game like Risk--you lose your countries, you are out of the game, the person with the most countries (all of them) wins.

Pretty basic stuff, and overly simplified, but pretty clear to on what my goal is as a player. We all start on equal footing and then based on my skill--and the luck of the draw or roll I work to beat all of my opponents.  We are in competition against each other--and only one of us can and will win.

This is a more difficult thing to try to do for an RPG:.  
-We are not in competition against each other (usually)
-We each have varying abilities/skills/spells/powers
-There is no victory condition, beyond completing the adventure--but the game never truly ends
-If your character is killed.   You can make a new one and get back into the game.
-One person creates the adventures, manages the game experience and acts as the antagonists and narrator describing the scenes--and a bad one can ruin the game completely.
You can't explain it as the person with the most: gold (?)  Hit Points (?) Magic Items (?) wins--because success isn't just about individual achievement. It's about survival--both personal and group as well as completing the mission/adventure. A player may have an individual goal but achieving it at the loss of companions,  and instead to finishing the mission, can destroy the game experience and swiftly end your session-as well as your place at the table for good.

Okay so what's my point?
I am not sure--except to say as RPG's are so unlike the usual gaming experience--it is unreasonable to expect a mass market player base.

It takes unique individuals who want to experience a theater of the mind game/story game in which there are no easy/clear answers.  They are thrust into strange and difficult situations in which their own wits, some dice rolls and some scribbled stats/skills/spells on a piece of paper represent their arsenal against the unknown.

Further, It takes a unique individual to dream worlds and create them not only for their own enjoyment, but to inspire and to befuddle a group of potential interlopers ready to break stuff and set about exploring this unknown land. Worse than just spending time creating? You then have to bring it to life--verbally--and you have to referee not only the game in process but act as referee between players if they come into conflict.  All the while being impartial and allowing the players to have the flexibility to explore that strange hole in the wall, sound in the well, or misty mountain in the distance that you had no intention of them exploring.  Flexible, impartial, creative and colorful is a tall order and a rare skill set.

But key to all of that? For me in RPG's it is all about exploration: There are strange caves in the Borderlands, and old underground temple in the jungles of Parwu, a lost dwarf mine in the Hills of Greth, the rat cult growing in the sewers beneath Dolon, the lonely abandoned tower of the Elf Lord on the frontier, the crypt of the necrogazer, exploring the ruins of Dothar Keep or setting sail to the Dread Islands.

It's a unique type of game that posits exploration of the unknown as a key and central game concept. The reasons for exploring may be different: ship wrecked, recover an artifact, find loot, rescue a person, defend a city, destroy evil--but the central concept is that the player will have to go into an area/location that is totally unknown to them, risking life and limb with boon companions to achieve a mission/adventure goal.

Now to me? THAT is exactly my jam--sign me up every weekend I am good to go!

To many though, I am not sure it holds much interest.  It takes time, it takes working together, it takes suspension of disbelief, it takes active participation and it takes some mental creativity on the part of all involved to make the dream real.

If I take someone and describe "a group of five man sized, yellow-eyed, slavering, brown tusk toothed creatures holding stone axes and spears, making menacing gestures and noises approaches--what do you do?"  Not many will want to stick around or even enjoy that sort of thing.  But like the explorers of old--we few, we happy few--find those encounters and explorations to be best gaming experience money and time can buy.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Inquiry into gaming #1

Intermittently I'd like to discuss in a larger sense gaming--and it may be rambling. Why do we enjoy gaming?  What is it about adventure games or roleplaying games in particular? While roleplaying game online are on consoles are huge businesses raking up hundreds of millions globally--the dowdy old pen and paper based tabletop games are still far more satisfying and interesting to me. Why?

I have spent time trying to come up with reasons why--and though I am sure my thoughts and reasons may not be the same as your own--I'd like to share mine and hope you will share yours as well. I don't think there is a "one answer to rule them all" goal here, rather perhaps by sharing our own insights we can better understand-why we play, what about them brings so much enjoyment, why are they still relevant in our own lives--and why do so few other people have much interest in the table based games.

As I have been recovering I hooked up my old Nintendo and in a fit of nostalgia began to explore Hyrule once more in The Legend of Zelda. Having not played it since 1987 I had no specific memory of getting through the game and its dungeons but it all slowly came back upon re-entering Hyrule.

It hit me during play, and I do no claim this to be an original thought by any means, that The Legend of Zelda is just a wonderful hexcrawl.  You go across the terrain, you randomly encounter foes, you find some dungeons to uncover unique and powerful artifacts--and eventually amass power and experience to defeat the big baddie. Yet before Zelda, the Ultima's, Wizardry and Bard's tales games certainly had various dungeons and overland "hexploration" as well.  Yet the previous games were both more regimented/turn based and the platform/ systems they appeared on where less accessible (PC more adult/expensive) then the NES (cheaper/hooked up to a TV in the family room.) I think because of this delivery difference, most people would be easily able to have heard of Zelda, while Ultima, Wizardy, and Bard's Tale would be far less familiar--if at all.

 I tested my own lovely wife and she KNEW Zelda having played it herself as a young girl--but the other 3? I got that look when you ask about trying to find some obscure RPG book you left of reading downstairs, that she kindly put away somewhere but has no idea which specific book with a dragon or sword wielding savage I could possibly be tasking her to remember was shevled.

Second, Zelda has you controlling just one character--Link--the others had you controlling a party of 4 or more differing characters, generating names, all of their stats, picking classes and equipment.  With the Legend of Zelda--there is just Link. You start with 3 life and  the adventure begins. In fact speaking of equipment below is the TOTAL list of 26 equipment items in the Legend of Zelda:

Blue Ring
Red Ring
Wooden Sword
White Sword
Magical Sword
Small Shield
Magical Shield
Magical Boomerang
Book of Magic
Magical Rod
Silver Arrow
Heart Container
Blue Candle
Red Candle
Power Bracelet
Magical Key
Life Potion
2nd Potion

By comparison, just the arms & Armor list of 1985's Ultima 4 is 22 items on its own.

Yes the style of game is different, the level of detail is different and we can get into further discussions about verisimilitude differences in the games influencing the overall design....but that isn't really my goal or point.

I guess what I am driving at is the Legend of Zelda manages to deliver an extremely memorable and brilliant RPG experience--simply.  Zelda is extremely easy to pick up and play as well as one inviting you to get right into exploring and discovering.  Not that the Ultima's and wizardry are any less good--just that their design is more "detailed/hard core" and that complication making them appealing to a more narrow/specialized taste.

I am not inferring a "mass market" game is a better game by any means, only that removing barriers to entry can(potentially) increase the number of people both playing and overall enjoying this style of gaming (adventure/rpg). 

In the immediate gratification/ on demand App age,  is the pen & paper game simply an interesting artifact? Is it the effort to explore/create simpler designs a futile endeavor?  If not what are the basic elements necessary to impart a fun experience without over burdening players? 

This is where I leave off for now.