Thursday, August 25, 2016

The First Alternity Design Blog

Over at the Sasquatch Game Studio blog we are getting the first design blog post about the upcoming relaunch of the Alternity science fiction RPG. We still don't know a lot yet, unfortunately, because the rules are still being developed, according to the people at Sasquatch Game Studio.

I would really like to have something meaty to analyze in this post, but supposition is all that we have to go on at the moment.

This is one bit that stood out to me:
We also want to preserve some of the mechanical “feel” of the old game (remember rolling all the polyhedrals?) while updating the system from a mid-90s design to a mid-10s design.
One thing that I have talked about in podcasts, on social media discussions, and in other places is my dislike of a design choice that was popular in the 90s but has since diminished in popularity (but hasn't completely gone away). This design choice was the idea that, no matter how competent or ultra-competent a character may be, there was always a non-zero chance of failure in their actions. Sometimes, there was a chance that a highly trained character could have a significant chance of failure when trying to resolve a task. GURPS could be particularly annoying with this.

This doesn't mean that I think that characters should never fail at their actions. Far from it.

The thing is, I do think that characters should fail, I just don't think that spending half an hour, or even five minutes, rolling and re-rolling dice in order to be able to pick a lock, when your character is allegedly one of the great thieves of the world to be fun. I know that some do, and that's great. More power to them. This is why there are different games for different people.

While I don't like the idea of having to keep rolling at what should be a routine act, I do think that there should be some form of failure that makes things more interesting. Does the guard rotation notice the characters because they spent more time than needed in the hallway, due to the complexity of the security systems? Does a bad guy get away because the characters could be where they needed to be, when they needed to be there? Why can't we just add some drama to a situation, rather than having to keep rolling dice over and over?

Well, without more detail we don't know what they mean about "updating the system from a mid-90s design." I doubt that they feel the same way about this "whiff" tendency in mechanics, but you never know. There might even be other things that they don't like about it.

I am interested in finding out more, and I hope that these design journal posts are frequent (and that we start getting to see some hints about actual mechanics soon). Another thing that I don't like about that 90s school of design thought is having all of the information about a game, and how it works, wrapped up in mystery. Everything doesn't need to be wrapped up in an NDA these days. We're talking about tabletop RPGs, not state secrets here. To me, trying to divert talk away from how your game actually works says to me that it either 1) isn't as revolutionary as you want people to think or, 2) it just doesn't work the way that you want us to think it does.

Don't insult us, or our knowledge of games.

Anyway, this last bit isn't directed at Alternity or Sasquatch Game Studio. It is just something from the 90s that lingers, and it bugs me.

So, let's see what the next reveal about Alternity will be.

 
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