The more things change…

I’ve been noodling around a bigger post about possible house rules for Shadowrun in order to neuter some of the aspects of it I’m not fond of. I don’t know that I’d actually use any of these rules, but maybe someone would find a use for them.

But that post, combined with having picked up Warhammer 40,000: Dark Heresy last night (a game I’ve been, in a way, waiting almost 15 years for), I’ve been mulling around aspects of game design that persist in staying around. For some of them it’s probably a matter of target audience. For others, it may just be a matter of design by committee. (As I’m fond of saying, a camel is a horse designed by committee.)

I mean, I can kind of understand why some games having keep track of your individual bits of currency. Shadowrun is all about your gear and using your gear to do missions. Okay, sure. But 7th Sea has a mechanic like that, when it’s supposed to be about buckling your swash and stuff. I think Fading Suns also has that as well, which makes a little bit of sense, but not entirely. As does Dark Heresy. You work for the church, but you have to keep track of how much Throne Gelt you have. I’m a big fan of abstract resource systems, like they have in assorted Storytelling games. I can see why that wouldn’t be a good fit for some groups, but I find it interesting what sort of games persist in treating money that way.

Random elements in character creation continue to survive. Dark Heresy doesn’t have any sort of sissified point-buy system. No sir, they have a hard core “you get one re-roll per stat if you want it, but you gotta keep the new result, n00b” attitude.

And then there’s the dungeon crawl. You can’t seem to have a fantasy game of any sort without having the option of going into ancient ruins and looking for cool swag. 7th Sea and Fading Suns both have options for that built into their cosmology. The one time I played in a canned adventure for Legend of the Five Rings, we went through a dungeon in the big finale. Even Exalted has it. In Exalted you are supposed to be larger-than-life demigods that will change the world. Their sample adventure that they’ve used for both editions? “The Tomb of Five Corners,” in which you put your characters through a very basic dungeon.

Now, there are of course many games that don’t have this aspect to them. But I find this lurking around the edges more than I’d expect. Especially in games where I wouldn’t expect it. I’m certain that there’s a marketing reason behind these choices. But I wonder how much of it is just due to inertia.

Anyway, I need to skedaddle, but I thought I’d at least toss this out there since I haven’t posted on here in a bit.

1 thought on “The more things change…

  1. idemandjustice

    My first L5R game I got to play in was a Shadowlands dungeon crawl. And I guess it was fun, but I really feel like I missed out on the real themes of the game by having it be like that. Is it weird of me that I don’t find the Shadowlands that interesting, actually? I find the wall, and the crab holding them back interesting, but the Shadowlands themselves… meh. Maybe I’m just weird for finding the clans and the politics far more interesting.

    Then again, I’ve played in games that almost never had combat, and I still had lots of fun at them. Some people really prefer more combat than I do. But for it to be constant? That seems like a throw-back to the most stereotypical D&D game (which I never play, because it’s not my thing).

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