Friday, June 21, 2013

Metal Ever After (EDITED)

[nothing to do with rock music]

So…a couple-three days ago I wrote about being drawn in again to the idea of playing/running/designing a “war” RPG, by which I mean “a game where PCs are members of a small military or para-military unit” and adventure sessions being composed of “missions” of a military nature.  Done on a small scale, I think such a venture gives you:

a)     Good setting for deep/dramatic role-playing, AND
b)     Good setting in which to kick some (imaginary) ass.

I’ve owned and/or played a lot of “war” type role-playing games over the years, including Albedo, Revised Recon, Twilight 2000, Godlike, 3.16, Grey Ranks, and Carry…and probably a few others I’m forgetting at the moment. Even Mekton Zeta had some aspects of “military” to it (if only “military light”…see also Palladium’s Robotech). Most of these focus only on one of those two things, though, with the second part being mostly “incidental” depending on the GM running the thing…which ends up meaning they fail for me (personally) as “games I want to play.”

Of course, it’s quite possible that I’m being too hard on the designers. In fact, I know I am…I’ve written before about the goodness of both Revised Recon (the best, most complete game Palladium has ever published…and I mean EVER) and Twilight 2000. Still, most of these games are either to crunchy mechanically (GURPS War? No, not interested) or two “soft and squishy” (hey, I liked Enemy at the Gates, too, but I don’t want to run the same scenario every week!).

And then the other thing is that I really want cyborgs in my game.

So round about Wednesday, I hit on a great idea for a series of blog posts…basically an inside look at my “design process” (such as it is) as I create, from scratch, my own World War III RPG. I could put my “talents” (ugh!) on display, entertain my readers, and (hopefully) end up with a little game to show for it. Kind of like my Land of Ice supplement series (I’ll finish it someday, really!)  except with a lot of sidebars explaining my reasons. Actually, I guess the whole thing would be a sidebar of “thinking out loud” with snippets of chapters pasted onto the end of each thoughtful post. I went so far as to write a few paragraphs that afternoon, but then (day job) work got in the way, and nothing got posted to the blog.

Next day (Thursday, AKA “yesterday”), I decided that my mental design process and my “thoughtful writing” process aren’t really on the same page…so I scrapped the "series of posts" goal in favor of just doing the game. I spent my free time yesterday crafting the rules, and by the end of the day I had a new one-page micro-game (haven’t done that in a while!), with a pretty silly working title (“Asian Land War,” if I remember correctly). We play-tested last night, and today I figured out a better name for the thing:

A few random notes for those interested:

-        Micro-games are notoriously short on explanation, but try to condense and distill all the essentials. If this was expanded it would, of course, be groovier and probably include a lot more setting material and rules for mission creation and antagonists. Sorry about that.
-        There’s a reference to RULE ZERO in the game. For those who missed that blog post, you should read this. It’s something I’m using in 5AK with great results.
-        The game steals some of (what I think are) the best parts of Revised Recon and Twilight 2000 (including combining the two for character creation). In a full version, I would probably use the alignment system of RR. The squad rules are based (very, VERY roughly) off Albedo Platinum Catalyst.
-        I’m not really satisfied with the "ranking" system…we had a Lt. Colonel in a five man squad which is really too high a rank for infantrymen in the field…even a borged out recon team. For an “expanded game,” I would definitely take more time and make a better matrix, and include rules for how rank would adjust RP rolls with other soldiers. Maybe. I’d probably look at Albedo PC or 3:16 for a better way of doing rank “advancement.”
-        The terms “light” and “heavy machines” are taken from Rifts’s Warlords of Russia.
-        The inspiration for the setting is 80-90% ripped off from the Appleseed films…if you ignore the utopian cities like Olympus Complex. Basically, the world (Earth) has been in a World War for so many years, society’s mostly broken down and units are operating with little supervision or accountability. PCs get mission objectives via satellite phones (literally: if they can get their hands on a phone they call a satellite and pick up a voicemail message…totally impersonal and without much rhyme or reason). The default setting is Asia but North America would be pretty good, too (tooling around the ruins of Cleveland in an alcohol-powered, super-tank sounds like good times). The key concept is this: large continental theater (ground war) PLUS ruined dystopia. Soldiers are rebuilt as cyborgs because it’s cheaper and faster than training newbies and getting ‘em up to veteran status. “Reuse and recycle” is the phrase that pays…or maybe just “use, reuse, and use-up.”

[here's a video link to show you what I'm talking's about 4.5 minutes in length]

-        There’s a derived ability score – "Cool" – that has absolutely no game mechanic/system purpose to it. I put it in because I loved it as a concept (it's from TL2K, where it works great), but as I put the system together I couldn’t really find a place for it. However, I left it on the one-sheet for "flavor" and in an “expanded version” of the game would probably use it as some sort of saving throw against long-term combat fatigue (or something). I just think it’s a good stat for “losing your shit.” Kind of like sanity in Call of Cthulhu.

Last night’s game found Greg playing in a re-skinned Vietnam-era adventure (of the “go find the charismatic dissident visiting him mother’s village” kind of thing) taken directly from Revised Recon. There was some good game play, a bit of casual brutality (zip-tying civilians and eating their lunch, for example), but we hardly had a chance to touch on combat before wrapping up (though what we did test worked the way I intended: quick & bloody). It’s definitely something in need of further play-testing…and since I’m waiting on 5AK edits to come back, I figure I have some time to kill.

Unfortunately, time to actually game will be in short supply the coming month. Next Thursday, my Dear Old Dad is in town and that’s the only day I’ll have to see him (his schedule, not mine). Following that is 4th of July, which my son has been talking about incessantly since March. Following that, my wife’s out of town till the 12th…and then we ALL fly down to Mexico, meaning I’ll miss the 18th as well. I won’t be getting back to the gaming table till July 25th which is just…crazy, man.

SO…I’m strongly considering running (or attempting to run) a play-by-post game over the internets. I’ve had good success with this in the past (at least when we’ve used simple systems) and I’m thinking that might be a way to “keep my hand in” AND get some play-testing in, even as I’m forced to do my drinking at home. If anyone’s interested, post a comment here or drop me an email at:

bxblackrazor AT gmail DOT com

Right now, the only game I’m interested in running via PBP is Metal Ever After (I don’t have a one-sheet for 5AK at the moment), so be ready to rock-n-roll with your chrome beret, pal.

[BTW: just in case I wasn't totally clear before, you can download the Metal Ever After micro-game HERE on mediafire]

Questions, comments, and criticism are (as usual) both welcome and wanted.
: )

Art by John Liew (used without permission...sorry)
EDIT: The game's name has been changed to WORLD WAR BORG. Links above corrected.

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