Monday, December 26, 2016

Roleplaying Rogue One

So I finally got around to watching Rogue One and if you haven't seen it you might as well stop reading here. Take this as a spoiler alert.

Ok, so you're still here. Good. First thing I have to say is that I loved it. And yes, I got chills during the last scene seeing Princes Leia Organa take the Death Star blueprints and jumping away into what becomes the start of A New Hope.

I must comment though that I was falling asleep during a few brief moments. Thought it was the age or lack of exercise, or maybe I was just expecting a movie with a lot of CGI and a happy deus ex machina ending in which the rebels are saved. But then it began to happen, things begun to get really tough. Main characters begun to die. First is Saw, which might go by like some NPC, but then Bodhi (the imperial pilot) also gets blown away. The grenade drops in and it's all over with just a brief "oh shit" moment. Same for Baze after his heroic dash after Chirrut's death. K-2SO also goes down holding the line against what seems like an interminable barrage of Stormtroopers. Finally Jyn and Cassian also perish in an inescapable situation. Oh and then there were all those Tie fighters, so many of them, like a swarm of bees. And the rebel ships crashing into Darth Vader's ship as they rush to light speed just as his ship drops out of hyperspace. Boy that's got to have hurt. Oh and Darth Vader was actually kicking ass with his light lightsaber in the last scenes. It was all awesome and I was jumping around in my seat like a 7 year old, which I am, but nobody seems to notice anymore, lol.

Anyway, back to the point and question I want to raise. Can we roleplay something like Rogue One? It is technically a TPK. All our characters die. Imagine you've been roleplaying Cassian for the last 5 sessions and he's a real good covert ops character by now. A new friend you invited to learn what roleplaying is takes Bodhi, the imperial pilot. Jyn is a character that a friend played a way back and is now "in prison", but she's freed so she can join in the game. K-2SO is run by another player who's shared many adventures with Cassian's player. Baze's and Chirrut's players rolled these characters up for the session, taking a long time to fill up the high skills and stats of such a character.

And then they all die.

Over the last few years I've heard endless ramblings about fairness, balance, equal participation, etc., all so players get to participate, all so players don't get upset by character death, all so players don't leave the hobby after their first session with only a TPK game on their belt. Simply put, ramblings that make roleplaying Rogue One near to impossible. Yet Rogue One is a great movie. A movie that left me with a great admiration of the sacrifice done by everyone of the characters involved. It really gave weight to the statement in A New Hope about the sacrifice made to "obtain those plans". Some of the characters died in "normal" battle related injuries, just like any other rebel soldier, also raising the value of everyone involved and not leaving the common rebel soldier as just some background prop.

How do you handle your games so they don't become a boring succession of "stat increasing" successes?

Saturday, September 03, 2016


The wayob is the animal spirit inside every character in Itza. As a character you are born with it, and you can learn to tap into the immense power it can grant you, but such power also poses great risk. Tapping too much or tapping recklessly can make your character succumb to the animal nature of the wayob.

Wayob powers are tempting as the game mechanics allow you to succeed while failing. This presents a great temptation as you can try to tap into powers way beyond your character's reach and preparation, and still succeed in triggering them. As a player I can deliberately try to tap into a power far too strong for my character's skill level, a power so strong I'll certainly fail in invoking. Yet it will succeed. How is this? Simply put, it's the animal within your character taking over and turning a success into a failure. My character isn't very skilled, but wants to grow bat wings and fly out. Such a task is beyond the character's current skill, I roll and get a terrible outcome and my character grows wings and flies out. What happens is that it's the bat within my character flying out and taking temporary control over my character.

This control can affect the character physically and mentally as well as affect fellow party members. There is nothing stopping the bat within turning against party members and draining a fellow player's character dry. Your character may also start to develop permanent physical changes such as fangs, leathery skin, strange eyes, etc., changes that may pose risks in towns and cities afraid of such creatures.

Overall, the final result is a grey zone of failure bordered on both sides by a zone of success when the character can control the wayob and a zone of success when the character can not control the wayob. Yielding control to the wayob can be tempting for a short term benefit with a superb and uncontrollable power.

How much are you willing to pay to gain such an advantage? As a player it may be seem ok to tap into such immense power once to save the character, but if you know there's this "safety net" wouldn't you be tempted to run greater risks in the adventure which may corner you to tap into uncontrollable wayob powers more and more often? Can you, as a player, roleplay the wayob against your own character's interest?


Image source

Sunday, August 28, 2016

You're on a need to know basis

The hardest part of writing Itza was boiling the player's handbook into two sheets of paper. That's it! Four pages going from 1 to 4.

Get your stats, write your character out, understand the skill system and get down to playing. You're on a need to know basis, and the less you know the better off you are.

That is the basics of old school gaming I grew up with and the basics of the games I want to design from now one (at least for the foreseeable future). The less you know about the rules the more creative you'll be as a player.

As a GM I want you to tell me what your character is and how such description will lead to a kick ass scene.

A few points:

  • Less rules means you get down to playing the game sooner.
  • Less rules means you get to play your game rather than the "rule's games".
  • Less rules means there's a lesser divide between the "rules savvy" and the "noob players" (more fun for everyone)
  • Less rules means a lot more burden on the GM or person running the game. Trust and communication is a must (which of course is a must in any situation involving many humans).
Of course all this goes against the intuitive business logic of selling more shit. So how do things unfold?