I’m working on a full release of my tabletop roleplaying game LORE, which I released as a beta in 2009. The game will be extensively updated with clarifications, rebalancing, enhancements, and a far-better “conflict” system that provides a unified rule set for combats, debates, and other interesting situations. There’s one problem with the LORE beta that’s more visible than any of these.
The LORE beta is ugly.
I laid it out in OpenOffice.org, which is a word processor, not a document layout application. There’s a standard solution for the terminally technical author who wants to produce beautiful documents: LaTeX, hereafter referred to as “Latex.” Unfortunately, as great as Latex is at providing low-effort, decent layout for things like academic articles, it’s really awkward and frustrating if you need to do the kind of complex page layouts that a roleplaying sourcebook demands.
My alternative? ConTeXt. Or, for my sanity, “Context.” Context is based on TeX like Latex is, but it’s focused more on general purpose typography and page layout than Latex, which mostly tries to keep those concerns out of the user’s way. Despite its frustratingly limited documentation, Context has proved far better-suited to my project. I’ll explain in more detail below.
In January I resolved to release a game every month during 2009. There have been six months, and six games so far. I’m halfway done, and now is a good time to look back on those six games and how they turned out.
This world is not as it should be. There is no truth. Reality is what we believe it to be. If you think you can fly, then that flight is real to you. Others may see you plummet and die, but you might live on, soaring above the clouds. Anyone can dream, but it takes someone special to make those dreams real.
Here is the release of my May game: LORE, the Lightweight Omnipotent Roleplaying Engine, and its first sourcebook, Belief. Together, they form my first tabletop roleplaying game system.
LORE is an attempt to address some of the common problems with tabletop RPGs. It has an interesting dice system; a quick, easy, and original character creation system; and a system that’s lightweight, because roleplaying happens beyond the rules.
Belief is a game about changing reality, about subjective viewpoints, and about the search for a better world. It owes heavy debts to other sources, but it is its own being.
Download LORE and Belief.
Both of these books are beta releases. They have been playtested, but not enough for me to say they’re finished. Please, read them, play them, and comment with anything you think I did especially right or that I could change for the better. I’ve provided them in bookmarked PDFs slavishly laid out for optimal printing at your local print shop, and they’re released under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 License.
These are just the initial releases; I wanted to get them out and in people’s minds so that I could start getting feedback. Expect extras like quick reference sheets and maybe an adventure or three in the coming weeks and months.
I love tabletop roleplaying games. They are, in some ways, the perfect game. That being said, they certainly aren’t without their flaws. I’ve been working on a tabletop RPG system, and one of the things any creator needs to ask is “what’s wrong with what’s already there?” and “how can I make it better?” Here, then, is a list of the things wrong with tabletop roleplaying games.
Many tabletop roleplaying games and many digital games have a game mechanic called the “critical roll.” With this mechanic, a particularly good skill roll, say a 20 on a 20-sided die, can be a “critical hit,” which is better than a normal success. Likewise, a roll of 1 on a 20-sided die could be a “critical failure,” a “critical miss,” a “fumble,” or a “botch.” Critical failures result in an especially bad outcome.
Critical rolls typically represent the fickle hand of luck. Even in a game where randomness determines every important outcome, it is possible for characters to get especially lucky or unlucky. Sometimes, that arrow flies just right and hits the dragon right in the eye. Critical hits are often a cause for celebration among tabletop roleplayers, and critical misses are moments of frustration and (usually good-natured) anger at the game and the game master. Many digital games that use tabletop RPG-like mechanics also use critical roll systems. Notably, the action-focused game Team Fortress 2 also incorporates this mechanic in the form of random critical shots, which do more damage than normal shots and are more likely the more damage a player does.
Like many tabletop roleplayers, I’m working on a roleplaying system of my own, called LORE. During the development process, I’ve done a lot of thinking about a lot of the common elements of tabletop RPGs, and critical rolls has been one that I’ve focused on. I’ve decided that critical rolls have a part to play in game mechanics, but that there are many pitfalls that should be avoided. Here are my thoughts.