Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stupid RPG Concepts

That last post was el retardo, I admit. This alphabet crap is becoming annoying because it's forcing me to write stuff I don't really care about simply based on a letter. E...I couldn't think of shit that began with E that wasn't already being used by eleventy-billion other bloggers. Thankfully, I have something in mind for F tomorrow I might actually want to discuss. Anyway, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, I was playing Street Fighter II via MAME and thought, hey, the fighting tournament would make a pretty cool roleplaying game. Right? Then I had a recollection of a SF game White Wolf did a long time ago. And boy did it suck.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think the system sucked, per se. In fact, I happened to think it was rather well implemented given the medium. I'm sort of annoyed I didn't buy it when it came out because I was a major SF fanatic. Maybe I'll look for it on ebay or something. Anyway, it still sucked as a game. It's pretty awesome to think about, pretending you're some badass world warrior, beating the shit out of dudes with can throw fireballs or fly or whatever. I'd really like to play that. Well, I can...that's sort of the whole point. That game already exists. What purpose is there in creating a roleplaying version of something that already implemented the idea in a way that makes sense? I can play SF2 and do exactly that: beat the shit out of dudes. What would a roleplaying version of this game offer me?

Okay, so I thought of some could make NEW heroes not in any of the games. That's a good idea. But who cares? Most of the time RPG characters are just variations of an existing archetype anyway. Hell, every movie, tv and literary character resembles some sort of existing proto-character from the past. Yeah, so I make a new guy for the SF2 RPG and his name is Chicanery. He basically has Guile's moves and is paramilitary, too. Wow, that's pretty lame, isn't it?

I guess I could play out the adventures of Ryu as he roams the land, looking for new battles. Lengthy sessions of Ryu crushing kids in villages who took karate for a year. Ryu can do a fucking dragon punch. Those kids will die instantly. So, either the DM has to make up random bad guys (which is fine, I suppose) or let Ryu fight legit bad guys from the games that already have a back story and are plausible threats. Time to fire up SF2 again so I can beat Bison.

Hmmm, maybe I could come up with a completely new concept and have him fight new concept bosses. Sweet, now we're getting somewhere. But what ruleset shall we use? I know, how about an RPG called Street Fighter! It describes how to have Street Fighter-style battles. And boy is that a pain in the ass. My new character has to conform to the SF2 paradigm of fighting, which means he's not new at all. Good thing I didn't turn off the emulator.

The same thing happens with a game like the Dragonball Z rpg. I bought that and thought it would be great. Instead, I get to read how Goku would kick my character's ass. Great. Another game based purely on fighting that sucks.

WEG's Star Wars RPG, is oddly enough, probably my overall favorite game ever. I could play a SW character from now until the day I die and never mourn for my loss of D&D. Why is that? Surely the SW setting is just as closed as the SF setting, in fact more so. There's no functional difference, at least from an objective view. So why is the SF game crap (even though the system itself is decent) and the SW game awesome (with my favorite non-D&D system)? Everyone inevitably ends up making a Han Solo clone or a Jedi Luke clone...EVERYONE. Why wouldn't you? That's fun as hell.

There have been a billion SW video games made, and you know what...except for Dark Forces and X-Wing/TIE Fighter, I'd have to say most of them weren't that engaging. KOTOR, yeah it was fun, but dammit, I didn't really care too much about a random Jedi dude, I wanted to fight Darth Vader and kick his ass. Oh, so I did...The Force Unleashed. Yep, I fought Darth Vader, owned him, and still "lost". Can't beat Vader without messing up the SW canon, can we? Even if it's only a game. Maybe that's the whole point as to why the RPG is more fun than a lot of the video games, because we can do things that we imagine doing that the computer medium won't allow us to, either by technical limitation or some other impediment. Sure, we could make a video game and I could kill Darth...then what? Just seems a bit anti-climatic to me. If we did it within the confines of an RPG, that'd be great.

Most licensed games suck balls. That's just the truth of it. It's nearly impossible to capture the feel of the world properly without losing a lot of the flavor. SW D6, that game is great. The revised version, not so much. D20, mediocre. Saga version, utter crap. MERP is pretty good in my opinion. The Decipher Middle Earth game, ehhh. Not awful, but really didn't do much for me. Is it possible that there really aren't any stupid concepts for an RPG, but the games based on those concepts suck because of how they were implemented? Is it possible to create a Street Fighter RPG that is more fun that the video game, more engaging?

I have a bunch of weird games based on movies and anime...Sailor Moon (don't laugh), Tenchi Muyo, Ghost Dog, Bubblegum Crisis, Star Trek, Hellboy, some other stuff. The FASA Star Trek game is good, the other versions aren't. Most of those games I listed are excellent sourcebooks but make lousy games. BESM is a pretty fun game, as long as you don't try to use it to play Sailor Neptune (and spend the whole session detailing a lesbian love scene with Sailor Uranus...see a couple posts ago). Again, why aren't these fun to play? The Tri-Stat system itself is good; it sucks within the confines of Bubblegum Crisis.

All this can be boiled down to a simple question: Is Gygax the only one who could run Greyhawk? I'm inclined to say yes. It seems to me that a good RPG should provide a framework for a certain style of gaming (like the old Traveller did) with perhaps some implied setting for reference, but nothing specific. It should be open ended, allowing the players and DM to dictate everything. I hate playing in Forgotten Realms because it seems like there are a million NPCs way more powerful than my character will ever be running around, doing important crap. I thought the PCs were supposed to be saving the universe, not El Minister. Am I misguided, or simply missing something?


  1. I agree completely. Settings based on popular media franchises and settings filled with Mary Sues definitely suck. I can't give Star Wars a pass either, awesome setting but it might be the Example of the problem. I believe re-imagining it in the ancient past, a la KOTOR was a great idea.

    I'm trying to avoid this in Humanspace, manage to have a detailed setting (probably too detailed for some but not so different from Traveller with Spinward Marches, some issues of the Journal, and the Library Data books) without any Luke Starkillers having pre-stolen the glory.

    There may be a few Mary-Ssú(Tekumel joke...)