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Archlyte

The Best Qualities of CRPGS

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I am playing around with the best elements of Computer Role-Playing Games in order to see what might be fun to incorporate into tabletop games. I recently fired up KOTOR for the first time in years and had some fun with that style of play. I'm not fond of power gaming, so that is one aspect I won't use, but some potential elements I might use are:

  • Great Story with deterministic but variable path
  • Resource Management and a Persistent Inventory
  • Random Loot
  • Random Encounters
  • Morality Tracking for all characters based on their decisions and choices

What are some of your favorite aspects of CRPGs that may actually translate in some form to tabletop? 

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Posted (edited)

The first game I thought of is Starflight, a 1985 exploration-sim RPG that was phenomenally ahead of its time and deeply influenced me, playing as a kid.

Its galactic game world was not only persistent but uniformly large on multiple levels of interaction: you could visit 250 systems by traveling, approach some of the 800 planets cumulatively in orbit, select landing coordinates from any points of latitude and longitude, then travel along the surface with procedurally generated fauna and minerals as far as your terrain vehicle could manage a two-way excursion. No Man's Sky 30 years earlier, but more effective due to constraints of icon-based UIs.

I definitely like procedural generation at the table. But what I've found most valuable is a sector map with 40 detailed systems where the entire 3-year session has taken place. Instead of always going to a new place the GM has dreamed up, locations are undiscovered but *within* well-established areas. It lends substance and consistency. 

Edited by wilsch

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Important NPCs in the group that have deep back stories that impact events at the table, whether directly or by becoming side quests or illuminating the ongoing story.  This isn't necessarily a trademark of computer games but it was of the KOTOR series (I'm playing through it again as well).

 

 

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4 hours ago, Jedi Ronin said:

Important NPCs in the group that have deep back stories that impact events at the table, whether directly or by becoming side quests or illuminating the ongoing story.  This isn't necessarily a trademark of computer games but it was of the KOTOR series (I'm playing through it again as well).

 

 

Agreed. But I think this role is also taken by PCs and their Motivations/Obligations. 

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13 hours ago, Archlyte said:
  • Random Loot
  • Random Encounters

I actually dislike these.

Random loot feels awkward and silly. "I really want to know where that flamingo I killed was carrying the Claymore I looted from it, and why it had it." I don't mind semi-random "treasure chests" so to speak, provided the items are appropriate to the crate and location. Finding medical supplies in a hospital supply closet works, finding a heavy repeating blaster... not so much.

Random encounters are fillers to prolong the game. That's why they are random, because they don't matter. In a TTRPG a poorly executed random encounter can even toss the campaign. I had one D&D campaign go off the rails when we hit a random Drow ambush. The GM just did it because he rolled "drow ambush" on his table, but we didn't know that. So we assumed they were actually involved and spent a lot of time trying to track down a connection that didn't exist.

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28 minutes ago, Ghostofman said:

I actually dislike these.

Random loot feels awkward and silly. "I really want to know where that flamingo I killed was carrying the Claymore I looted from it, and why it had it." I don't mind semi-random "treasure chests" so to speak, provided the items are appropriate to the crate and location. Finding medical supplies in a hospital supply closet works, finding a heavy repeating blaster... not so much.

Random encounters are fillers to prolong the game. That's why they are random, because they don't matter. In a TTRPG a poorly executed random encounter can even toss the campaign. I had one D&D campaign go off the rails when we hit a random Drow ambush. The GM just did it because he rolled "drow ambush" on his table, but we didn't know that. So we assumed they were actually involved and spent a lot of time trying to track down a connection that didn't exist.

I loved that line about the flamingo lol. I agree wholeheartedly that if stuff is too random it can be lame. 

I should specify that while I am doing random loot, the rules I am using aren't that random enough to give loot like that to animal encounters hardly ever, and even then only in a lair. 

The Random Encounters thing is similar in that it does account for context as the GM still interprets it. That's a good cautionary tale about the drow ambush encounter and I think I need ot think some on that point of not drawing the players off the main story on accident. You are absolutely right that it can be a grenade thrown into the midst of the game so I thank you for your input on that. 

I like the idea of the Gm being able to play too, and so I want something to have that element of surprise as things roll up in the moment. Kind of like using the Patrons in Traveller and rolling on their list of hooks. The Narrative Dice would be the main driver of the encounters, as some other check would be the trigger for the encounter as a result of Advantage/Threat & Triumph/Despair. Like having a Despair on a Streetwise check while trying to buy something. 

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7 hours ago, wilsch said:

The first game I thought of is Starflight, a 1985 exploration-sim RPG that was phenomenally ahead of its time and deeply influenced me, playing as a kid.

Its galactic game world was not only persistent but uniformly large on multiple levels of interaction: you could visit 250 systems by traveling, approach some of the 800 planets cumulatively in orbit, select landing coordinates from any points of latitude and longitude, then travel along the surface with procedurally generated fauna and minerals as far as your terrain vehicle could manage a two-way excursion. No Man's Sky 30 years earlier, but more effective due to constraints of icon-based UIs.

I definitely like procedural generation at the table. But what I've found most valuable is a sector map with 40 detailed systems where the entire 3-year session has taken place. Instead of always going to a new place the GM has dreamed up, locations are undiscovered but *within* well-established areas. It lends substance and consistency. 

Thanks for this Wilsch. I was wondering if you feel this is somewhat related to hex crawls? It seems like what you are advocating for is massive world prep, which I think is a good idea. 

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1 hour ago, Archlyte said:

Thanks for this Wilsch. I was wondering if you feel this is somewhat related to hex crawls? It seems like what you are advocating for is massive world prep, which I think is a good idea. 

Yep, exactly. Not for every game or everyone, but a certain level of grounding can push a campaign from "whatever the GM thought of this week" to "living, breathing world."

Like, Starflight's graphics will put a lot of people off, but if they click with the iconography, they're going to have fun and they're going to take something practical away from it. Just that incredible of a game.

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On 4/11/2019 at 8:49 PM, Ghostofman said:

 So we assumed they were actually involved and spent a lot of time trying to track down a connection that didn't exist. 

Randomness can work as inspiration,  but it should be tied into the narrative. This GM should have considered how to use the game's storyline and themes with this Drow ambush.

Just plopping down some NPCs that aren't connected to anything in the game world obviously isn't satisfying.

 

 

 

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On 4/11/2019 at 9:38 PM, Archlyte said:

I like the idea of the Gm being able to play too, and so I want something to have that element of surprise as things roll up in the moment.

Check out Ironsworn.  It's a tabletop RPG that can be played without a GM.

You can play it solo, or cooperatively with other players.

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