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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 43 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Worried that the gamesystem I'm writing is too niche  (Read 5717 times)

Posts: 10

« on: January 15, 2012, 03:02:47 AM »

I'm in the middle of writing a gamesystem called 'Morality', which focuses on the characters' moral conflicts and spiritual development. It's meant to be applicable to any setting, so that the characters can just as well be robots, goblins, vampires, earth-spirits or something more creative. There are rules for cultivating moral (or immoral) traits, betraying them and bearing the psychological scars of these betrayals; the moral traits themselves give bonuses to certain kinds of actions or relieve the effects of stressful circumstances, but cultivating them always creates responsibilities for the character and compels them to act in certain ways. Three of the six "hit point"-like stats are passion, hope and sanity, and these can be damaged within social conflicts.

In addition, one of the two game settings I have in mind for it uses a unique magic system that serves as an expression of the characters' personalities - only a vengeful character may throw fireballs, for instance, and the character will lose this ability when forsaking their vengeful nature, whereas a forgiving character will be able to channel their forgiveness to douse flames and hinder conflicts.

I've already written out, but not thoroughly tested, the rules, and thought I would start playtesting small scenes. I tried advertising for playtesters at forums.RPG.net, to no avail. I'm wondering whether this is because the core rulebook itself is unfinished (45 out of 70-80 pages), or whether it's because the game concept is not palatable to most people (which is what I'm really worried about). This is what I wanted to ask about here: what do you think of the general attractiveness of a gamesystem that gives rules for the characters's moral / psychological traits and focuses on how these traits develop in the character over time?

I realize that one gamesystem, Pendragon, does include rules for moral traits, but from what I gathered, it does not focus prominently on these rules; as there are no real precedents, I am naturally concerned that the game won't be a hit at all. I'm wondering whether or not people here find the concept interesting and whether they think a lot of people would be open to playing such an RPG. I think Morality would target a market that is currently beyond the scope of mainstream RPG games (I partly began writing it because I felt dissatisfied about what traditional tabletop RPGs and role-players had to offer in terms of character development), but I'm not sure if that market is large enough for more than a handful of people to ever hear about it or play it.

Posts: 280

« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2012, 08:28:45 AM »

Hi Andrei,

Welcome to the Forge! 

Do check out the stickies at the top of the forums, they have requirements for posting in each section, and, ideally enough, for here, a link to what you have completed is one of those requirements for this subforum.

Over the last 10 years there has been many games which use emotional traits, quite successfully, so it's not untested waters.  You may want to take a look at games like: Lady Blackbird (free PDF), Burning Wheel, or many of the FATE games as examples.

Do you have a group which you can playtest locally?  That usually is the best way to start. You get immediate feedback in seeing what you've made in play before you, while playtesting at a distance can range from good to really bad feedback depending on the group, what they think is important vs. what actually IS important, and how well they can communicate with you.  You should not take being unable to find playtesters on rpg.net as any indication of quality of your concept.

Finally, "worrying about it being a hit" isn't really a good place to approach this. This is too small a hobby to worry about "hit" in any meaningful sense, and, ultimately, a good game design adequately presented is really all that's needed.   

A possibly useful post: http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/so-you-want-to-make-an-rpg/


Posts: 10

« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2012, 11:19:04 AM »

Thanks for the comments. I did read the sticky, but thought it wasn't necessary to post the whole thing. Here's a link to the (badly unfinished) document:

And also a link to the character sheet:

Both were designed using OpenOffice, so if they look odd to you and you use OpenOffice, I should probably send the .odt and .odp files instead.

I'm worried that the wording of some paragraphs, particularly those pertaining to the manifestations of the moral traits, is too technical, and that too many sections have to reference one another.

A small part of the design doc is outdated, as I have revised some rules regarding the legacies of moral traits, and a few of the rules are jotted down on paper.

I don't much care about the game being a hit, honestly, so much as it reaching the right people. The reason I started writing it was because I've always used RPGs as a way to understand how one should act in various situations (i.e. as a way of developing my own morality), and it seems the genre doesn't cater to that sort of play. I will be playtesting it at my university's tabletop RPG club, though I also wanted to run games on the internet.

Posts: 657

« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2012, 12:36:48 PM »

Just my personal opinion - concentrate on your main idea and make the rest of the rules as light as possible.  I see rules in there for radiation damage and acrobatic skills etc, and I think "what am I playing here?"  One way to make a game generic is to have rules for everything.  Another way is to not have rules at all. (or at least not very detailed ones).

Also, If the character choices based on their morality is main thing, I would be inclined to 'let' the characters be 'succesful' in their actions, rather than roll to see if those actions actually happen.  Its like, OK, Ive just made a huge deal about a moral decision to kill this innocent character in order to save many more lives - now I roll my conflict skill and - I fail?  wtf????   Thats an extreme example, but you see what I mean? 

I like the idea that you skip social skills and intelligence skills and go straight form morality traits directly affecting those abilities - why not do that for every aspect of your characters behaviour?


Posts: 10

« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2012, 01:22:45 PM »

You're right about the charts for life and health damage, and I do agree that I should focus on the psychological aspects of play. As for skills, I can't see a way around including them, though I suspect I could make their descriptions more compact. The moral traits will fill a total of ~36 pages, so I can't say 8 pages of skills is a lot.

Letting the characters always succeed doesn't really work well with the theme. In real life, a lot of situations happen in which people act against their nature for some instrumental goal, fail at whatever it is they were hoping to achieve, and find themselves facing both the shame of failure and the shame of having betrayed themselves. This is something I want to capture in the game.

Incidentally, certain moral traits do provide bonuses to physical actions. Cruelty gives a combat bonus and simplicity a labour bonus, for instance. What skills and physical stats mainly do is define what the character can and cannot do regardless of the circumstances.

Posts: 500

also known as Josh W

« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 06:59:04 PM »

Notwithstanding Chris's great advice about building for yourself (and probably your friends) before some notional market, I have an idea; make your game system a game component.

Say someone is trying to play a game with robots, and they have a rule set for playing robots that suits their interests: It's really detailed with reams of tables and choices about roboty things like body types and power ratings, but they haven't really thought about morality. So then your game could come along, filling in the gap in their local system, allowing them to fill in the insides of their robot's heads. Not replacing those mechanics they have investment in but layering on top of them. Done!
The same could apply with other systems designed to simulate the physical aspects of other areas (and it's usually the physical stuff that is most easily simulated), the distinctive feature and main focus of your interests could be added to the work they've already done.

On the other hand, even though your primarily focused on the morality subsystem, you might find that you have to have other parts of the game in order to support the morality system, and find that there are certain design criteria that would shape how the other mechanics should work.

But these two approaches go together amazingly; you build a game around the subsystem to show it off, then you include examples of how to move this subsystem into very different games, what it would require to be compatible.

Either way I think it would help to create a seperate little document focusing on those parts of the game that focus on morality:

  • What parts of the character are there that relate to morality,
    (the persuits, passion, hope, sanity etc)
  • what things do each of those represent,
    (what do they stand for and how do they change what they stand for as their numerical values/relationships between them etc change)
  • how do they change
    (ie what events in the game are supposed to increase/decrease/rewrite/reconnect them, and are there "end of session" style game-world-independent reasons they change)
  • what effects should they have on other stuff
    (eg the bonuses to skills, or other stuff you might come up with like the magic stuff)
  • how are players expected to treat them
    (ie keep them high, portray them, value them, be annoyed by them etc)

That way you can get a look at how all the bits that you've developed are fitting together as a unit, how your game deals with the general "concern" of morality, and whether they are doing what you want. This'll alo help other people (like me!) to get a similar big picture of how it's supposed to hang together.

Posts: 65

« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2012, 01:00:06 AM »

Are you advertising for play testers of your system or of your game?

I would not generally want to playtest a system. I play games. Ask people to play superheroes, spies, knights, pirates, etc and you may get volunteers. Ask people to playtest a morality system and no one probably knows what you mean.

Even if you want the system to be generic, you might focus on a setting/game and make that and play it. If the rules work for that then branch out.

Posts: 37

« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2012, 12:53:02 PM »

I agree with dugfromtheearth
the problem isn't with your idea it's that you haven't given the audience something to focus on. Your idea is the system, but it is such a strong notion that it probably isn't suited to generic settings.
A great example is http://www.rpgnow.com/product/89003/Nobilis%3A-The-Essentials%2C-Volume-1 Nobilis - at least I think this is the right publication - the Original was much nicer and published by HogsHead

You are dealing with philosophical ideals - you need characters that can 'wear' those ideals, robots and day to day life isn't 'strong' enough on which to base a game that focuses on a beings spinning moral compass creating the truth of the world.

Digital artist/Game Designer/Aurthor/Illustrator
<I>It's time to take Fate into your own hands</I>
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