Thursday, November 4, 2010

Speeding-up role-playing

With the attempt to re-boot role-playing, I've been thinking through the annoyances. The main annoyance is the extreme time-wasting that can occur. Sessions can devolve into referencing and debating nothingness, rather than creating a shared narrative.

The biggest time drainers in role-playing are:
  1. Checking/arguing rules
  2. Book-keeping (checking/updating values on character sheets and GM material)
  3. Dice rolling
All of these make the game part of Role-Playing Games, yet when it becomes the bulk of a session, it's wearisome. I have a few ideas to reduce their impact:

Issue 1

Choose a simpler, more integrated game system. RuneQuest and Traveller win here, over things like D&D and MERP.

Choose a better game system. Even little nuances help, e.g., while playing D&D, one looks-up a modifier for a skill check (e.g., roll 1d20 +6) and references it with a required "difficulty check" (e.g., you need 13 or higher). Sounds simple? Yes, but that's two things you need to know ("+6" and "13+") and it requires two people involved to know the result. With RuneQuest, one looks-up the skill for the task (e.g., 43% chance of success) and that's all one needs (though the GM may modify the difficulty, e.g., -20%, given particular conditions).

Players should only attempt something that they already know the rules for. This could be linked with the character. "I want to knock-back the trollkin... just got to check how that works." "Bah baw, the trollkin anticipates the rush and sidesteps." The same thing can apply to the GM too, if they forget how an action works. Characters (and NPCs) can have momentary lapses of competence, so it may be explained in that way. Note: This is different to players considering options; decisions are what make it a game. Tactic talk is crucial!

Issue 2

For turn-order (in combat): Assign players a card (from a normal deck of cards, or wherever), e.g. "Jack of Spades", and create a deck from the order of each player's turn from first to last. Add opponents' cards too. Cycle through the deck as people take their turn. OR: Ditch randomised turn-orders entirely and have people sit around the table in order of their speed (i.e., Strike Rank in RuneQuest, Initiative in D&D). That way players will always know who's next. OR: Combine the two methods above; non-random turn order using cards.

If a player isn't ready on their turn, drop them down the turn order.

Use the numbered cards from a deck of cards to keep track of the round number (if you care about spell and effect durations).

For RuneQuest, each player could have a number of poker chits to match their number of combat actions. Throw them into the pot as they use them.

Issue 3

I'm worried about the amount of dice-rolling in RuneQuest. In combat, a player rolls to hit and the opponent rolls to parry/evade. If the strike succeeds, roll for hit location and damage. That's four dice rolls! I can think of two solutions:
  1. Roll all dice together. Attacker: d%, 1d20 and weapon. Defender: d%. Maybe you'll ignore a few of those dice, who cares?
  2. Use an average for damage instead of rolling (rounded-up or down depending on how deadly you want the game to be). At the very least, this is how the Damage Modifier based on strength and size should work in RuneQuest.

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