Thursday, August 9, 2018

RPGaDay 2018 #9 How Has A Game Surprised You?

I would say that 2 games have really surprised me over the years.

Despite the buzz of it being based on a popular teen drama, I expected Smallville to be just another variation on the supers genre. No matter how coarse or fine the power scaling was, I expected powers to be rated on fairly objective measures. If you're super strong, here's the chart that shows how many tons you can lift based on your Super Strength rating. Super speed means you can move this many times in a turn and run at so many miles per hour.

But once I got it and started reading it (I have yet to actually play), it was unlike any superhero game I had read before. Because the challenge wasn't making sure that Superman and Batman were balanced against each other, but making sure that Superman and Lois Lane could share a playing field. Powers were just one resource a character could have and the focus was more on story impact than quantification.

Another surprise came from a game called Diaspora. A pre-Fate Core FATE game of fairly gritty space adventure. They specifically said they were going for a Traveler feel while taking advantage of FATE's narrative tools. And that's what the majority of the game is. The big surprise was the social combat system.

"Social combat" was a fairly new idea at the time. Most implementations were just revisions or expansions of the traditional combat system, because that's how social interactions works, right? But Diaspora created a system of maneuvering and positioning, where putting yourself closer (ideologically) to someone increases your ability to change their (rhetorical) position. You can still do typical "social attacks" to remove someone from the map, but rather than being the standard action, it's one of several options, and not always the best one.

Both of these things surprised me, not strictly by their quality, but also because they stood out from what surrounded them. Smallville should just be another licensed game with a recycled house system, but it really had a new way to play bundled in there. Diaspora should have been full of dry technical rules, but those rules contained a much more realistic way to handle social conflict than I had seen before.

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