Monday, October 24, 2011

Setting up your own Tabletop RPG: Cruel animal testing

The other day with my last post on actually setting up my own game got a lot of responses that seemed to find it complicated. That isn't really true. It's less complex then it sounds, there's just a lot of little pieces to it. And 3-5 large ones named your players.

The only thing I'd consider a challenge is the latter.

And even then, they're alright. In response to that post, the 'slowest' friend actually was quite motivated and I helped them make large swathes of progress with planning their character. So much so that we actually got a lot of testing for a very, very basic set up of a single character using all the rules against an enemy a few times.

It ended very... appropriately to the series that inspired it. On the third fight too. It was however a very interesting And reassuring.

The most controversial part of my game would definitely have to be the very harshly limited mana people have. Its the most bitched about thing among my players but I find it an intrinsically important aspect of setting up the world. So I have been deeply paranoid about it.

Complaints against it include such that it's a broken, horrible system if you can't always turn a profit with a fight with the main enemies that provide the way to get mana back, and that the sheer amount of things you have to pay for are cruel. (E.g. You'll pay a little with reactive use of a defense power in response to being attacked.)

The first I really want to be a point of the game. In a group you likely won't get a fair share. That's part of the harsh reality you're meant to overcome. (By friendship or violence.) When alone your chances are better, but in addition to the risk of death that comes with no support, you're the only target and need to burn more mana to win. The only real way to overcome that is gauge how little defense and offense you need, by holding back your full levels of ability you save little bits of mana, how miserly can you be (e.g. could the environment help kill?) or just overwhelmingly strong, so you need few attacks to put them down.

Anything less, being wasteful or of poor judgement should end in disaster. It need not be lethal, that's its own thing. I feel thats appropriate.

The test, largely a single character against forces, in one case obscenely powerful in comparison, in another case drawn out against multiple fairly weak gated enemies in small number and the last against a few strong enemies with a smidgin of tactics were all very revealing.

Each drained a large percentage of mana, causing only a very small profit of gainback from the kills. But then that might be a perfectly reasonable point for being alone. The risk of death I can only describe is deliciously accurate to what I want. The ability to escape exists but isn't a given, and on re-learning that the arbitrarily weaker minions are capable of lethal damage as well as nonlethal was very uplifting. Approaching death is both predictable enough to be fair, and erratic enough to still snatch people before a guaranteed escape.

To get back onto the first paragraph and the main subject of this, if people do actually have interest in tabletop games. They need not feel so afraid. Not every person nor game needs silly things like playtests, common sense and the typical book's suggestions are all you truly need. These help a game, but that's just like anything one does a lot vs. something one does casually as a hobby. It's practice for the future.

Try it and see.


  1. You should add some photos of your setup to make it easier to follow along.

  2. Pictures would help - but it's understandable without them too. I think I'd be the 'slow' friend, I kind of suck at any tabletop, you wouldn't imagine.

  3. Not having enough mana all the time sounds depressing.. :/