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Showing posts with label PDQ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PDQ. Show all posts

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Let's Talk About Atlas Games' WaRP: The Wanton Role-Playing System

Let's talk about the WaRP system from Atlas Games. For those who may not know, these are the rules, now released under the OGL, that powered Atlas' groundbreaking game Over The Edge. For me, Over The Edge was really one of the first freeform and rules light games that really clicked for me. Over The Edge came out in 1992, designed by +Jonathan Tweet and then revised by +Robin Laws. Over The Edge was a weird game, with a setting that is strange even for RPGs, and the light approach to the rules for the game really benefited that weirdness. By focusing on a stripped down approach to the system it meant that players (and game masters) could come up with strange concepts for characters (I once ran an Over The Edge game at a convention where the characters were all different media incarnations of the author Hunter S. Thompson, racing against time to solve a murder on the streets of Al Amarja, the default setting of the game) without having to worry about having to rationalize their ideas within the framework of the game's systems. It is like Hassan I Sabban's famous quote "Nothing is true, everything is permitted."

Many game systems have the mindset of "If it is not covered by rules, it is not permitted." With a system like WaRP, that is turned on its head with the idea that the rules are there to help and to guide, but not to limit. That's a sensibility that was once much more prevalent in the design of RPGs that I think people have lost over the years. For some, the idea that rules have to cover every distinct possibility that could ever arise during a gaming session means that they are protected from unfairness, either from the rules themselves or by those who run the games. Sadly, no matter how explicit rules may be, or how many of them that there are in a game, ultimately they will not be able to stop someone who wants to make their fun more important than the others at the table.

WaRP uses an idea of defining characters with fairly freeform, and player-defined, traits. Fans of more contemporary games like PDQ or Fate will recognize the DNA of these ideas within those games. Each character is defined by four traits, one of them a disadvantage of some sort or another. Each of these traits has a physical "sign" or tell that helps to define the character's physicality. This way, the interior life of the character informs the exterior. It is an elegant way to cover many steps in a streamlined fashion. Physical traits (like Tough, Former Soldier, Boxer, and the like) also help to define the hit points of a character. Traits can also determine if a character has special or exceptional powers and abilities (called Fringe Powers in the game). Fringe Powers can cover anything and everything from psychic abilities to magic to the powers of super-heroes to the extraordinary abilities of aliens and extradimensional beings. And WaRP does all of this in 28 pages (which includes the OGL as well).

Developed for a surrealistic game of conspiracies and strangeness, this basic engine can be used to cover a lot of different sorts of games. It can be used for playing super-heroes. Author +trey causey has been using it to run online games set in his excellent Weird Adventures setting. By the way, I cannot recommend Weird Adventures highly enough if you are a fan of the heroic pulps and the fantasy literature that informed the creation of D&D. WaRP is a flexible gaming system that has a lot of juice in it. If you haven't checked it out before, I suggest doing that now and maybe checking out Over The Edge, or the supplements for the game that Atlas Games has produced over the years. If you're looking for a simple and streamlined game that's different from all of the D&D-inspired games available and yet has had a huge influence on lighter, more story-oriented styles of gaming, you really should check this game out.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fantasy Doesn't Always Mean Escape

From time to time, I use this blog as a sounding board for things that I am designing. I find that it can help to get my ideas out there and into some sort of tangible form to help me figure out what I want to do with a particular idea that I may have.

An idea that has been rolling around in my brain for a while now, something that I have talked about to gaming friends and mentioned on places like RPGnet has been a game setting that I have called Gutterpunk.

There has been a bit of resistance in the minds of some "typical" gamers when I talk about Gutterpunk because it doesn't have any of the standard trappings that you would find in an RPG. The characters are very normal people. There are no "kewl powerz" of any sort, no magic or anything. The game is about people who manage to find themselves in fairly crappy situations and have to deal with these situations as best as they can. The resolutions to their situations aren't always all that good either. Like I said, not your standard RPG fare, but it was something that I went into realizing that whis wasn't going to be the next D&D. I know that this game will have a fairly limited appeal, but I don't want to let that stop me from doing it.

Mind you, this isn't some "art for art's sake" game either. I can't stand when people do that with any sort of endeavor that they undertake.

The characters in Gutterpunk are, as I said above, normal. They are squatters, dropouts, homeless people, and the working poor who are just trying to get by in their lives and keep things from falling apart. It is a game about people outside of the normal social structures of American society, whether by choice or circumstance, who just want to live their lives as best as they can. I'm sure that this sounds pretty boring, huh?

But I think that I have finally found a system that would support what I want to do with Gutterpunk. That would be Chad Underkoffler's Prose Descriptive (PDQ) System. Follow that link to Chad's company site (Atomic Sock Monkey Press) for more information about the system. You can even find a free stripped down version of the game in the Freebies section.

What I like about Chad's system is that it can allow you to make normal people who can do something without having to have a lot of special powers in order to be unique and to be able to accomplish something. Yes, it does at time perhaps flirt with those "narrative" labels that I really don't like but for a game like Gutterpunk I think that it would be a good system choice. Yet again, it gives a way for "normal" characters to be able to stand out and do something without having to have a laundry list of powers, spells or special abilities.

I want to be able to tell other types of stories with the players during a game session, and play other types of games. "Escape" isn't something that is only one option which is fulfilled the exact same way for everyone at the gaming table (or in the gaming hobby). So, if I want a game to fill that On The Road meets Fight Club niche that I am looking for from time to time, Gutterpunk will be able to do that for me. That's why I called this post Fantasy Doesn't Always Mean Escape, because there can be more to an RPG than just pure escapism, just like there can be for any other form of entertainment. I'm pretty sure that there are a few people out there who have some similar ideas to mine on this topic.

Part of the reason why I posted these very early "design notes" here instead of someplace like RPGnet is because I wanted to pull some of the concepts that have been swirling around in my subconscious without the typical responses of "That doesn't sound like fun" or "That isn't escape." Who knows, I might cross-post this elsewhere but for now I want to see what, if anything, comes up from the people who read this blog (regularly or irregularly).

Post a comment and let me know what you think. Let me know what you would do with a game like this.