Saturday, November 04, 2006

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Can you believe I've put up 80 posts on this blog so far? Anyway.

My order from Titan Games came in the mail today. Elton, one of my best friends doesn't do birthdays or Christmas for religious reasons, so I constantly intend to get him something cool but forget because there are no calendar dates to force me to do something. But finally, at long last, I've gotten him a copy of the Ghostbusters RPG that was published by West End Games in 1986 (Wikipedia article, RPGnet review). I'm especially interested in it because (1) I've heard it mentioned a lot, particularly as an example of a perfect introductory RPG, and (2) S. John Ross listed it as one of the major influences on Risus, which is by far my favorite free RPG.

It comes with some inserts and cards, and two rulebooks -- a 24-page Training Manual for players and a 62-page Operations Manual for the GM ("Ghostmaster"). Since Elton is going to be running the game for our group (that was one of the stipulations for me buying the game for him), I'm avoiding reading the latter, since it seems to consist mostly of adventures. (And while they're not part of the original package, for some reason the box also contained two adventure modules!)

This game was literally published 20 years ago, yet it reads like a crazy mash-up of D6 Star Wars, Unisystem Buffy, and some crazy John Wick game (and InSpectres is definitely its successor). And one of the things I totally didn't know was that it was published by West End Games, but the game was designed by Chaosium. Anyway, characters have four stats (Muscles, Brains, Cool, and Moves) rated 1-5, and one talent for each stat. You roll a number of dice equal to your stat, plus 3 if your talent comes into play. Each character has Brownie Points (20 to start with), that work a lot like Drama Points. The game doesn't have any kind of hit points/wounds either; you either spend enough Brownie Points to convince the GM to let you off the hook (and you narrate how exactly your character does it) or suffer the consequences. Overall, it reminds me a lot of certain indie games, and for that matter some of the games I'm working on. On the other hand, there are elements of the design that are very old-school, and a few that are sort of board-game-like. It comes in a box, after all, and comes with all the dice you need, plus equipment cards and handouts. It also has a goofy sense of humor that very much fits the tone of a mid-80s humor RPG.

As an aside, each character also has a "Motivation," which gives them an avenue for gaining Brownie Points. And to my surprise, one of these is Sex (which, naturally, is Peter Venkman's). The game description talks more about going on dates with random partners for shallow reasons, but even today you don't see the word "sex" in RPGs all that often.

The only thing that was missing from this used copy of the game was, unfortunately, the handout that supposedly explained the basic rules in the space of 2 pages. Although the rules are simple enough that it's easy to imagine how they could fit in such a small space (it might look something like this), I'd really like to see with my own eyes how they did it. The other handouts have an example of play and some amusing handouts, so the GM can have players fill out their characters' Ghostbusters International franchise paperwork, last wills, etc.

Especially considering how big of a Ghostbusters fan he is, I'm very much looking forward to playing when Elton runs the game.

Back to the video game thing, the other day I got Children of Mana for Nintendo DS. I haven't played it much because I'm still obsessing over Final Fantasy IV Advance, but the thing that CoM does (which isn't unusual or anything) is to introduce you to how to play the game a bit at a time, and through the characters in the game speaking to you. It can sound a little odd to have someone saying "Hey Tamber, you know you can press Y to use your healing items, right?", but I wonder if a similar approach could actually work with the right kind of RPG, with an NPC (or just the GM as narrator) telling the players/PCs how to do things in the game, in the early stages of an adventure. Hmm...

1 Comments:

Blogger R. Edward Downe said...

the thing that CoM does (which isn't unusual or anything) is to introduce you to how to play the game a bit at a time, and through the characters in the game speaking to you. It can sound a little odd to have someone saying "Hey Tamber, you know you can press Y to use your healing items, right?", but I wonder if a similar approach could actually work with the right kind of RPG, with an NPC (or just the GM as narrator) telling the players/PCs how to do things in the game, in the early stages of an adventure.

In-character button explanations by NPCs tend to be an ongoing pet peeve of alot of gamers. Should Solid Snake be told how a ladder works? Does he really have a select button on his sneaking suit when told to press that button to access the CODEC menu?

A good example of what could be done as a tutorial would be like the case of the Xbox game, Breakdown. In no way does anyone say "press this button/hold this trigger", instead they just put you through a particular situation that requires a certain action to be performed (with on-screen "hints" on what button to press)- in the context of a physical test in a research lab. Once you knew the basics, it went immediately into the main storyline without the segment feeling like being strictly a tutorial.

I suppose that could be implimented rather easily with a "prologue" adventure- play begins immediately and provide simple obstacles that introduce the basic mechanics one by one as the adventure continues until it gets to the main hook/storyline.

11:54 AM  

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