Design Quandary

I’m debating about writing my own Space game. (TTRPG, of course.) I know the first problem everyone has these days. Do I create my own system from scratch? Do I use someone else’s? (Plenty out there with their own open licensing.) Or, do I make this super easy and super hard at the same time and use “The world’s best selling RPG?” Or some other D20 OGL property?

There is a certain appeal to having all of the work already done for you. I mean, who wants to spend hours pouring over skill lists, measurements, benchmarks, and statistics while debating over realism vs dramatic or even animated physics? Okay, I really am that kind of nerd, but I have a life outside of my hobby, too.

My very wise friend always looked at systems in terms of “Fluff vs crunch.” I have almost any game system, new or old, one can readily name at my fingertips already. I have played, sampled, or run anything I can think of. So, what do I want to do? More story based roleplaying, or more combative, action-oriented gaming? Tough call, really.

Don’t get me wrong. I love designing characters with intimate back stories. I love plotting out complicated and interesting relationships between characters as a GM. As a player I love playing comedy relief. I’ve been in plenty of games where we could skip combat altogether or just narrate our way through big ship battles. Easy on the mechanics and dice rolling, lots of fun for everyone as long as we agreed ahead of time.

Personally, sometimes I just want to hit the ork in the face with my dwarf’s trusty battle axe or in the case of a space game, blow up T.I. uh..Y fighters (Don’t sue me Disney.) with my trusty transformable space fighter. I mean, why does the fate of the whole universe have to constantly be on the line? Roll the dice, move your figure, no one gets hurt in real life. Yell “Huzzah!” and drink copious amounts of Dr Pepper while we snarf junk food. Win-win-win, right?

Not everyone games for the same reason. I like to blow off steam and roll lots of dice most of the time. But there is a lot to be said for group togetherness and having a fun, shared experience. Most of my groups tend not to be real dramatical in game. But once in a while I do find a player who likes the deep, “talky” stuff.

Photo by fotografierende on
Mmm Shiny Math Rocks…

Then there’s dice. Tons of D6s? Everyone has D6s lying around in vast quantities, or can easily go raid mom’s Monopoly game for them. I stole my mom’s Yahtzee dice. Still have them, too. Don’t worry. I replaced them, eventually.

Or a full, standard rpg set? (d4, d6, d8, d10, d00, d12, and d20.) Or do we go with one of the hundreds of variations. FATE anyone? dFate are easy to emulate and affordable to buy. RPG Dice are available everywhere now, too.

No lie. Right now I’m missing the simplicity of D6 Star Wars all over again. It had a rich, universe-spanning setting, a built-in bad guy, tons of plot potential, easy character generation, theoretically unbreakable cannon… What was not to love? Except everyone wanting to play a J certain E type D of I character. And of course, that was usually the game breaker for most of us.

I think I may have answered my first couple of questions now that I have thought out loud on here about it. This is going to turn into Space Game Design 101 before it’s over. Lol! Seriously, though. It’s kinda my plan.

Then there’s the matter of style, which I think we’ll cover next time. Til then, happy gaming.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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