Cybernetic Kung Fu Mecha Jocks vs the Undead in Space Revisited

I’m a soda snob, a coffee snob and brand snob when it comes to buying groceries. (Pepsi Max aka Zero, Dunkin Doughnuts, Stok, or Caribou and anything not store brand or generic.) Coming up with a RPG system to do what I want seemed like a better idea than building a setting and mashing the system in.


Okay, we’ll call that a working title. It’s maybe not going quite as well on paper, or pixels as planned. I mean, it’s a work of art. That implies work. And while I am working on it one piece at a time, I’m sure gaining a lot of pieces.

I’ve now gone over the attribute system repeatedly. I’m still not satisfied. It seems to work amazeballs right up until I go to put together a skill roll. Suddenly, it falls apart.

I have a working skill system in my head, but then it looks like “X” systems wherein X = something-I’ve-seen-a-million times. Then I start looking at other systems again. Maybe there is something I can use. But then it comes with something else built-in that I don’t like.

Yes, I’m picky.

I’m an rpg snob. I’m the first to admit it. Just like I’m a soda snob, a coffee snob and brand snob when it comes to buying groceries. (Pepsi Max aka Zero, Dunkin Doughnuts, Stok, or Caribou and anything not store brand or generic.) Coming up with a RPG system to do what I want seemed like a better idea than building a setting and mashing the system in.

Here’s just the thing in terms of systems. It has to be balanced- skills are not too easy (World of Darkness,) not too hard (Shadowrun,) not too abstract (Cypher, Fantaji,) not too many (D6 Star Wars) not too tedious (Palladium,) not too limited (D&D.) and so on. The same can be said for combat systems. A lot of combat systems were born from fantasy games where firearms simply don’t exist. Which, of course, makes for horrid firearms systems and even more horrid vehicle combat. Then again, most mecha and martial arts games tend to be very unfriendly to new players and more than slightly complicated. Space games run the same gamut of too complicated, too minimalistic/oversimplified, or too fantasy-ish. I mean, do we really need magic AND cybernetics?

The design concerns keep rolling.

Also class vs classless. Classes are easier for new players, but very restrictive from a design perspective. Do I make a mecha jock class and let them take martial arts as a side skill? What about firearms and cybernetics? Do you make a Cyborg class that can also pilot a giant robot and maybe knows a little School Girl Crossing Guard style Kung Fu? Or a really great Sniper class that is completely clueless in a mech, but totally knows how to kick butt in Karate.

Or do we go classless in which case the min/max players have a field day? Completely inept in all social skills, but wicked deadly in combat. (Ever see a sniper at a social gathering? I see a bored player.) Or completely mentally checked out, but can swing a sword like a beast. (But doorknobs are super confusing.) Or, the other combo that cracks me up- Super hacker who can’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag because his hair weighs too much.

I’m starting to like Powered by the Apocalypse quite a bit. The system is a bit more narrative and a lot less crunchy. I’m not sure if that’s going to be okay for mechs. FATE appeals, but Mecha v Kaiju and Tachyon Squadron do it so much better. Cortex? Maybe.

How to pull it all together?

Point buy or random rolls? Again, a lot of players I know will min/max their way through point buy. If we dice it, randomly someone might be off the hook and someone might have a character die during character creation. (Don’t laugh, it has happened in a couple of games.) Or so many rolls that are off the charts no one would believe they were rolled had they not been witnessed.

I’m either going to write chunks of setting and build the system around them. Or write the setting first and kitbash an existing system into it. Or just give up entirely and go back to working on modern horror games or just play Dungeon Crawl Classics with the kids.

Thanks for stopping by. The topic of making a good space game still orbits in my mind. This all seemed so easy in my head (almost three years ago.)

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: