Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gygax on Game Design, Part II

Part II

For today's Tomeful Tuesday, I'm finishing part II of the post on chapter 8 ( part I from a couple of weeks back) in Gary Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery (1987).  

Chapter 8

Non-player character generation
While observing that NPC generation will basically follow PC generation, he notes the need for shortcuts or pre-made parcels of information to keep the GM from being overwhelmed.

[Other] Opponents
In other words, monsters.  Gary proclaims what we already know: one of the charms (his word) of a fantasy RPG like D&D is the plethora of monsters.

Reward system for progression
"[O]ne factor is critical: The size or value of the reward must always be tailored to the scope of the accomplishment for which the reward is given" (147).

"When we move backward in time, forward in to imaginary time, or into a world of fantasy, we have less and less hard information to draw upon... Thus, the further removed from reality the RPG is, the larger must be the information base that provides the GM and players with specifics of unknown or unreal weapons and powers" (148).  "A well-designed RPG will include a lot of specific information, so that various campaigns utilizing the same set of rules will have much in common..., and to avoid the unpleasant situations that occur when a GM is forced to do game-design work in addition to campaign design work" (149).

The Do-It-Yourself Ethos
"Modify the advice given here according to your tastes" (149).

Vancian Advocate
On pages 149-150, there is a passage related to Gary's famous opposition to the use of spell points in AD&D.

Finally, one of the most interesting passages in this section of the chapter to me is this observation on the state of D&D rules in Gary's mind circa 1987 (or, arguably, 1986):
Now [sic: New] ground is no longer being broken in the D&D game rules; they are as complete and as comprehenisve as they need to be (151). 
This brings us to the end of the larger chapters of RPM.  The two final chapters (9 & 10) are short.  Thanks for checking in for this installment of Tomeful Tuesday.

1 comment:

  1. When I read this, it reinforces the fact that Uncle Gary is the giant whose shoulders we occupy, like Hobbits riding Ents through the woods...

    Since his era, some games have included meta-systems for helping the GM/Narrator "...do game-design work..." as part of the campaign design effort. _Burning Wheel_ is almost devoid of setting, instead providing rules to handle conflicts that range from martial to rhetorical. _Reign_ gives us rules to create organizations within the GM's cultures that the characters can join, interact with, or make enemies of.

    Even as far back as the middle 80's, Chaosium's work with the early releases of _RuneQuest_ and the Glorantha setting created cults and religions that your character could join and (by virtue of actions in-game) develop into. Granted this early in the hobby no one had thought to provide a how-to on creating an RQ cult, but just reading over the way the collection of cults and their descriptions were organized was enough to fire the imaginations of GMs all over.

    From this vantage point among the leaves, we can look down and see where the great ones have trod ruts in the woods. Given that this chapter is advice about designing your own game, I'm a little surprised that he'd write his opinion about Vancian magic into the book. Obviously, it was important to him. His reflection on the completeness of the D&D rules is also kind of telling. He wanted to expand wargames into the realms of the fantasical. That was what his game *was about* - modelling the fantastic literature he'd absorbed in a tabletop game.

    It did what he wanted, and that's impressive when you consider how he and his friends boot-strapped the hobby off the ground.

    Interesting reading! Thanks for sharing it with us.