Guest Post by Scott Krammer on making his own Table Top RPG
It was on a cold day in the winter of 2009 that I found myself and my friends surrounded by swarms of aliens in a tight corridor, miles below the surface of a mining planet. We were sorely outnumbered, and every last one of the alien creatures was determined to tear us limb from limb. In spite of the situation we found ourselves in, we had no fear. We were heroes — we had travelled the stars, discovered new worlds, and claimed them as our own. We hurled ourselves into battle, wielding laser gun, chainsaw sword, and giant mechanical fist, laying waste to those fiends that assailed us.
So long as the dice were on our side, we could accomplish anything.
At least, that’s what we thought. We didn’t take into account the type of person we had running the game as the Game Master.
Now, at this point, you’re probably guessing where I’m going with this. Oh yes, of course — the unfair GM that throws impossible challenges against the party, just for his own amusement. While we were standing our ground against the regular aliens, he was about to bring out the big bad alien broodlord, or perhaps shock us with a sudden betrayal by the overpowered NPC he’d introduced earlier in the scenario. Though we were epic heroes in a dark and distant future, a total party wipe was just around the corner.
That’s not where this story goes. This GM had no intention of killing off our heroes. Rather, his only intention was to keep them from being awesome. How, you might ask?
By sticking to the rules.
Sergeant Palmer was an aggressive, unpredictable fighter, wielding a massive metal fist charged with energy, which he liked to use to beat his foes into a bloody pulp. Sergeant Palmer was played by my friend, whom I shall refer to as Weasel — a boy with a wild imagination and a knack for adding dramatic flair into all of his characters. Roleplaying games weren’t about the mechanics, to him, they were about the story.
In this story, Weasel decided that Sergeant Palmer was going to punch one of the aliens, knocking it back into another alien, causing them both to topple to the ground. Weasel rolled his dice, and got a near perfect score — Sergeant Palmer was sure to pull off this glorious punch.
Unfortunately for Weasel, nowhere in the 396 pages of this RPG’s core rulebook did it contain rules for punching one enemy and knocking them into another. The GM, sticking to the rules, reduced the alien’s health to zero, and described its gory death. The alien didn’t get knocked into the one behind it; the alien just died. According to the rules, that’s what was supposed to happen.
And that bothered me.
Although Weasel had successfully defeated that alien, he had been robbed of the one thing that he played RPGs for — the chance to be creative and dramatic. The GM had stifled Weasel’s creativity, and robbed him of his joy.
After that game, I resolved to never be that GM. I would never stand between the players and their ideas. If the players wanted to do something that the rules don’t cover, I wasn’t going to stop them. I would improvise, and come up with a reasonable way to allow their idea to happen, provided they rolled well enough.
But then I had another idea — what if there was an RPG that allowed for players to be creative, and not beholden to a strict set of rules? An RPG that gave the GM no reason to shut down player ideas. An RPG that didn’t just allow you to be creative, it encouraged you and rewarded you for being creative. The perfect RPG in the which everything was possible.
And thus, my decision to make an RPG of my own, in the which not even a hardcore rules lawyer could keep you from punching one alien into another alien — if that’s what you’re into.
TUNE IN NEXT WEEK FOR MORE “MAKING A TtRPG”