Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Newbie friendly games - using probability

My last post was inspired by how my friend had a horrendous strike of unluckiness, which made his game nights less than fun. He is after all a seasoned gamer and while an experience like that might sour him on a game, it would not make him run screaming from the hobby. But, how about someone who never played a RPG before? Maybe it is actually more newbie friendly to use a game with a bell curve instead of a flat probability when introducing new people.

So would I use any of the games mentioned in my last post, or the systems mentioned in the comments to introduce a newbie?

The Fantasy Trip
This game has one big drawback, it's out of print. If you want to get it, you will have to search on eBay and be a bit lucky to get a complete set in nice condition. Luckily there are clones and derivatives out there. My favourite is Heroes & Other Worlds, which is an attempt to take some cues from B/X D&D and fuse it with TFT.

As most of you know, fantasy is the most popular setting for RPGs and TFT fits the bill. Also, there are only a few stats (one extra in HOW) and it's fairly easy to make a character in a short amount of time. Nothing weird, nothing fancy, just swords and sorcery.

Even though it's not as visible as it used to be, this is still a game supported and published. Since it's a generic system it can be used for whatever setting, making it easy to run a game set in whatever setting you newbie favours. The flipside of the coin is that a adapting a generic game to a specific setting will take some work.

Character generation can be overwhelming, to say the least. Since there are so many options it's very easy to get analysis paralysis. Then, even if you as the GM do your homework, and you use a template system, the game is detailed enough to cover any eventuality. That can very easy bog down a game. But, it's extremely versatile.

In my basement I have a big box with nothing but Traveller books. Science fiction is not a popular as fantasy, but considering how popular Star Trek or Firefly is, it's not exactly weird or exotic. There have been a ridiculous amount of stuff published for this game system, and many different editions of rules available.

Mongoose Publishing is a company that I would generally advice people to stay away from. They have a terrible track record of games with awful layout and abysmal quality control. But, their little black book of Traveller is really neat. It takes the classic Traveller and packages it in a very sweet package.

There is one thing that's less than ideal of Traveller for newbies. Since it uses a life path system where you take terms in different careers, and you can get thrown out of said careers on a bad dice roll, you never really know what kind of character you will get. As a mini game on it's own, it's quite fun. But, I imagine it could be less than ideal if you as a player had your eyes set on a specific kind of character with a specific set of skills.

Tunnels & Trolls
Everyone who looked at the text on the top of this page, or followed the blog, might know I have warm feelings for this game. It has some neat features, like a generic resolution and stunt mechanic. It also have a slightly comedic, or at least less than totally serious, attitude which I personally like.

If there's something this game does less well is probably the fact that it uses really big piles of dice, especially in later editions. Thus it can take some time to gather all the dice, roll, sum and subtract. It can be a bit slow.

HERO System
Everything I said about GURPS is valid for HERO, even more so. This is ridiculously adaptable. But, compared to TFT and GURPS which have a small set of stats, this game's character sheet can be intimidating. If I have to choose between GURPS and HERO, I'd choose the former, as it's as clunky to make a character, but it's more smooth in play.

Over the Edge
I have played this game system twice. Once was in the original setting, and once was a free adventure for Harn I found online and ran with the OtE system as I did not own Harn, and I did not really fancy it anyway.

In the original, and very weird, setting this system is just right. You have so much oddity to keep straight that the game system has to be very light and narrative. If it has a problem, it is probably the same as Fate. Both game system suffer from the fact you can make a Trait/Aspect out of anything, and that can make you stumble before you understand how it works in play.

It's a quite expressive system and I think the fact you can just ask a potential player to describe in a few words what they envision, and then put dice to that is a big win.

The D6 System
Most players of this system have probably used it for Star Wars. I have only played it once, and then it flowed very freely and the action was exciting. Since then I've read how the piles of dice can be cumbersome, and that there are some rules that are fiddly. The latter case would be the target numbers, that can be chosen from a range, but probably just works best if you just have a set interval of 5.

So would I use these games to introduce a newbie to rpgs? Well. I think the fact these games all use multiple dice, and thus probably have a more even spread of successes, yes that is a point in their favour.

Would I use one of the more generic ones, like D6 System, GURPS, HERO or OtE? No, probably not. I think fantasy is popular for a reason, and even though it's the game on the list I am least familiar with, I lean toward TFT/HOW.

You would maybe expect me to champion T&T, but I think that maybe for once I have to agree with those who think the names of the spells are less suitable. Also, the free flowing stunt system of SR are not very easy to handle even by seasoned gamers.

So, who knows. Maybe I get to try to use one of these systems to bring new gamers to the fold. Maybe I actually will try to use TFT/HOW! Today I started to read HOW and I really felt like I wanted to play it. We'll see.
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