Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

Introducing Me

It looks like I managed to score the position of first non-podcaster on Master Mines. I’m honored. I’m also excited about participating here.

My name is Ben Taggart. By day, I’m a software engineer. Specifically, I’m in charge of multiplayer and UI development at Airtight Games in Redmond, WA. That means that my life is almost 100% game-related. This does, in fact, make me the luckiest man in the world.

My game is currently called Human Events, a space opera rpg. I’m currently in the Designing phase, though most of my effort now is in research. I’m looking at games that handle the sci-fi genres similar to my own, as well as games that provide mechanics similar to the ones I’m looking for. My official notes are kept on a wiki here. I would appreciate any comments you wish to post there, though I will try to avoid referring people to wiki links when I post here. That being said, I will probably not be as verbose in posts here if I have already entered detailed notes on my wiki.

Human Events is set approximately 150 years in our earth’s future and includes pan-galactic civilizations and FTL travel. The setting, however, is not where I expect Master Mines to help me the most. I am attempting to design a game system specifically for a space opera setting. Traditional RPGs seem to focus on what a person can “do”. I’m trying to focus on what a person can “accomplish”. The difference in my own personal lexicon is that accomplishing something takes into account all the resources at my disposal, while doing something focuses primarily on my personal skills and abilities.

I don’t know if I’m being clear here, so I’ll try to state this in one other way. All the sci-fi RPGs I’ve seen so far place mechanical weight on things I am (I have an IQ of <IQ>), things I can do (I can hack this computer with a proficiency of <Computer Hacking>), and things I have (This gun does <Damage> damage). Everything else seems to fall under the nebulous cover of “roleplaying”. In Human Events, I intend to make a black market contact as valuable to my character (mechanically) as a gun, a ship or a skill.

At the same time, certain things will be a bit more abstracted. Combat falls particularly under this category. While combat will still be an important game element, the number of plasma pistol shots my character can survive without power armor becomes increasingly zero in any realistic future setting. This means that combat serves as a story element rather than a mechanical obstacle, and even failing in a combat encounter provides new opportunities for a character rather than taking them away.

My background is almost exclusively traditional, crunchy games like D&D and Rifts, and I’m sure this game will reflect that, but I’m hoping to combine narrative control mechanics with traditional gamist/simulationist elements to create a story-based, pulp-action experience, and I look forward to having your help with this.

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October 11, 2007 - Posted by | Human Events |

7 Comments »

  1. The split of doing vs. accomplishing sounds to me a lot like most of the analysis I’ve read of task resolution vs. conflict resolution (or, if you prefer, ignoring player intent vs. privileging player intent). I think it might have been Capes that specifically said, “Your hero can do whatever he wants, but he can’t accomplish whatever he wants.” I know I read that phrasing somewhere.

    Ben, you say your background is “almost” exclusively D&D and RIFTS; what are the exceptions? By which I mean, what made you want to undertake this project?

    And welcome!

    Comment by misuba | October 11, 2007 | Reply

  2. Hi Ben,

    You sound like you are discussing what I call game physics. Game physics is about modeling the universe and how it responds, and is good for games where “getting it right” is one of the key concerns. Right could be realism, focus on immersing into a treasured fantasy like Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, Proper character emulation, etc. The game physics reinforce and define how the universe responds to character action.

    The other major way to design games is what I am calling right now story arbitration. This is what your narritive control games tend to do, focusing on success and failure, and typically use thematic elements to determine this success or failure. Glancing over your pages, I’m gathering you already understand this.

    Mixing the two could be interesting. Do you have to define thematic elements as part of the game physics? Could that lead to interesting behaviour?

    Anyway consider this rambling a bit of a hello.

    Comment by iamclyde | October 11, 2007 | Reply

  3. My actual play experience is with “crunchy” rpgs: D&D, Palladium (Rifts, etc.), GURPS, etc., but I’ve been listening to a number of actual play sessions on podcasts, and have therethrough become familiar with Spirit of the Century and (to a lesser extent) a few others.

    Which leads to Clyde’s comment. I am trying to combine game physics with story arbitration. My main inspiration for this is the Aspect mechanic of SotC, which I find cool beyond normal reason. SotC, however, still has skills and equipment that are handled through different mechanics. My ideal goal is to unify all these things under a grand Resource mechanic, allowing game physics concepts to aid in story arbitration (rather than defining thematic elements in terms of game physics). Did I understand your comment correctly?

    That’s what I’m going for, and hopefully I will at least come up with some interesting new concepts along the way.

    Comment by btaggart | October 12, 2007 | Reply

  4. Cool. (Along similar lines, you might have a look at Ryan Stoughton’s “Raising The Stakes” and “E-6” hacks for D20.)

    Comment by misuba | October 12, 2007 | Reply

  5. Hi Ben,

    I understand your answer, so I’m guessing you understood my comments. It sounds interesting, so I look forward to reading where the trouble spots are.

    Comment by iamclyde | October 12, 2007 | Reply

  6. Hey Ben, welcome (officially) I think a lot of what you are trying to do is what I am trying to do with NGHB. I think we’re going to be helping other out as we’re going to experience similiar pain points.

    Comment by commondialog | October 13, 2007 | Reply

  7. Yes, our ideas are going to be similar. In fact, I’m about to post some more thoughts on my stuff that I would otherwise have given as a comment to your latest post (though not explicitly stated as such).

    Comment by btaggart | October 24, 2007 | Reply


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