April 2018 is the tabletop roleplaying game maker challenge. Each day, game creators will answer one question on Twitter. I’m participating, but I’ll be expanding upon my answers here as well. One of my goals has been to reconnect with the greater RPG community, as well as build a community specifically for Dancing Lights Press fans. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity that this challenge provides to do those very things. Today I’ll talk about the games that are most essential to my own design.
Day 19: Game That’s Most Essential to Your Design?
It would be disingenuous for me to not put Advanced, 1st Edition, at the top of this list. It’s the game I started with and it’s become a template, both for what it does and what it doesn’t do. While (to me) it’s not the be-all end-all of RPGs, it’s the foundation for everything.
I could list a lot of games that influenced me in various ways, whose ideas I have borrowed, expended on, and incorporated into my own designs. My own Appendix N of RPGS, as it were. Instead I’ll keep it to a dull roar and talk about three essential games, and how they’ve affected my own work. In no particular order:
Primetime Adventures allows the group to collaboratively create their own campaign setting. The premise is that you’re playing a television series. It’s not even limited to the usual genres of fantasy, science fiction, or horror. I’m played in a drama about paramedics in a small town in the Midwest, an animated version of a cooking show where famous cartoon characters compete to be the best chef, and a sitcom about a group of friends trying to create a sitcom. Everyone takes turn narrating scenes, and there’s even a way for people just watching the game to participate.
Fiasco allows you to play out a movie. There’s a premise to the film you’re creating, a rough genre and setting, but it really comes down to the relationships between the characters. In fact, instead of filling out a character sheet, you focus on establishing the details of those relationships. Where the plot goes depends on what the characters do. It’s another game with shared narration, and the game is structured like a film with a fixed beginning, middle, and end.
Fate lets you come up with your own abilities. The bulk of the system is essentially a rough guideline on task resolution. Players create characters that fit the outline of the world and the story. Sometimes it’s a little too squishy and free-form for me, but I love that it opens things up to player creativity rather than picking abilities from closed, canonical lists. Imagine if all games allowed you to make up your own skills, powers, spells, and such, and give them equal weight as goals, motivations, and other issues.