Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Change gears – AD&D and Nintendo

  So, recently I've been transitioning this blog into a review blog, but I`ve been handicapped by income, which isn't good right now.  In an effort to branch out more and seek original content readers may value, I going to revisit this old grind of mine.

  I’ve grown up on two tortuously opposite games that I’ve long desired to blend together in the most seamless way possible.  One is Nintendo; there shouldn't be any question about that bias.  The other is AD&D, a brilliant and highly adaptable game of tabletop roll-playing (as in dice rolling) that is supposed to ground friends role-playing (taking on a role).  It’s no secret that I favor Nintendo over its direct competitors, as its games perfect and polish an article of playable content to a brilliant shine.  Role Playing, however, is one of the most down and dirty of concepts ever conceived.  So why try to mix them.

  Both have common elements, such as sharing secrets with friends.  Nintendo games have forever given you the means to share secrets and show off.  Role playing is built around a group dynamic; secrets are shared within the group, and can become an important source of tension with the world at large.  Recently, Nintendo games have largely borrowed from tabletop, featuring local, in-house multiplayer games that enable groups of friends to collaborate, or compete, for the honors of saving their worlds.  Too many role playing games I’ve played in fall into stagnant roles, the fighter fights silently and with no social role, and the rogue player goes for coffee whenever undead show up.  One could do far worse than try to sand the edges off both ideas for a more unified experience.

  Otherwise, I admit it, I am absolutely smitten with the feeling of a quality Nintendo game, the sort that cannot be found in other games no matter who makes them.  It is immense hubris to assume that I could replicate it where Sony, Wayforward, and more lesser-worthies than can be counted have failed.  But I must try; even if I fail, it is another step on the path to designing my own style of writing.  Live in the shadow of your heroes, until you can eclipse them.  Where did I read that?

  So I have reasons why I should try.  But as hinted above, this is not my first attempt.  I’ve tried this before, mainly sticking to D20, and finding class based concepts mostly don’t work.  Classes suggest a future to player characters.  They are easy for newer players, as the player, when sufficiently experienced, only needs to decide whether to follow the class or open themselves up to another.  There are penalties, but they are quantified, they can be weighed.  They can even be optimized, the stuff of D20’s huge success.  Players believe that they can master the system.  This concept is huge, and it is shared with many of the Nintendo games I love.  I wanted the classes to stick around in some form, to preserve these very important game effects, but I don’t think that it will ever work now. 

  Nintendo characters do not progress in a linear, or in any way predictable manner.  One would never guess that Zelda 1 requires a ladder to cross rivers until you found it, and then the ridiculousness of the Goomba/Kuribo shoe in Super Mario Bros. 3 just becomes so much fun, so novel and silly, that you players just roll with it.  Knowing the progression curve in advance takes so much of the fun of discovery out of the game.  It also makes AD&D’s convoluted structure more manageable.

  While I generally quite like class systems to learning to play, I find that making this be a classless, point-build system may be better overall.  Well, hang on, maybe I’ll find another use for them further into the project.

  What is the point?  Players create their own video game characters – I know a good setting in the 16 bit era that could work for all game types, from JRPG bosses, to Puzzle Wizard, to 40 foot tall radioactive Qberts!  Heh, he he he heh!  Players are refugees of their own game worlds, and are invited to cook up a background that involves making their own dream 16 bit game (we can fudge a little for 32 bit, lots of people don’t remember that age perfectly anymore).  At this time, the setting I am thinking of has established roles for the SNES catalog, but there will be no DM restriction on Genesis ideas.  It just has to be something that sounds vaguely like the 90s.

  All worlds were created by the creators, but they are all gone now.  The PCs characters are themselves refugees out of one of their worlds.  Maybe the Warp Zones leading to their worlds are gone.  Maybe their whole worlds are gone.  Maybe they don’t know!  Nobody in this world is quite where they were designed to be.  President Haggar of Final Fight is leading a huddled and terrified mass of citizens to attempt to work together and build some semblance of order.  He strongly depends on his Vice President Wiley, who handles the technical stuff.

  Finally, we need a dungeon to explore, and the inspiration here comes from Star Gate.  The Warp Zones are reopening, for the first time in a long time!  With unknown threats, and way too many RPG bosses stumbling through the Warp Zones, they represent too much of a threat to ignore.  General Pepper organizes a brigade of volunteers to go through the gates and see what there is to see.  The city of Nexus is such a mess, and the desert beyond it so desperate, that many are the volunteers.

  That`ll do for today, as it defines the broad concept.  Over the next few days I think that more can be defined, hopefully pushing towards the minute-to-minute game play.  I really like this setting, though I can’t claim to own it (and I don’t think Nexus’ creator can claim much ownership either). Maybe I should invest some time to convert the named characters above to parodies – it is their jobs that are more important than their copyrighted names.  Anyway, more tomorrow!

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