Innovations in RPG Delivery and Presentation

The year? 2020. The tabletop industry at its core is still books, pen, paper, and dice. PDF’s are just electronic versions of role-playing game books. With all the technical advances in today’s modern era, are there different ways of delivering and presenting rpg’s?


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Random Encounter

Voicemail from Chris Shorb on episode 283 audio in rpg’s

Todd Crapper of Broken Ruler Games writes in about hit points in episode 281

Evening, gents. I know it’s been a while since I wrote in but I’ve never had to call BS on your show before. Don’t worry, it’s not you two… it’s the players who say they want to be like Jason Bourne! Yep, I’m talking about all this crap about hit points in Episode 281 (and it’s okay, I can use the word “crap” without invoking the wrath of the Great Plumbing God and so I bless thee with the gift to speak-ith this unholy word). I’ve got news for everyone out there; if your game makes room for any margin of error that could cause your character to suddenly die before they can finish the story, you ain’t never gonna be playing Jason Bourne!

If there’s any problematic mechanic in a majority of RPGs, it’s damage/hit points. From a straight-up game mechanic, sure, why not? If we weren’t trying to emulate specific novels, films, TV shows, and the occasional off-Broadway play, no problem. But ask yourselves – and this goes out to everyone out there listening to this in Podcast Land – is this accurately representing other forms of fiction? Personally, every licensed RPG that I’ve ever played with some form of hit point mechanic immediately misses the mark on the original source material. When I played the d20 version of Star Wars as a Jedi and took damage from a blaster while blocking with my lightsaber, my suspension of disbelief called for a union meeting and went on strike. When I heard the comment that a player wanted to be like Jason Bourne, I couldn’t help but shout out loud that Bourne doesn’t get shot at left, right, and center. Now I’m that guy yelling at the voices coming out of the car speakers. Great. Characters like Bourne only get shot when the writer writes it down and it’s for a purpose. Ramp up the tension, demonstrate the overwhelming odds, give a character motivation to confront the villain, etc.

Whenever a character is harmed in other works of fiction, it’s with narrative purpose. They get injured because it serves a purpose to the story, even if that purpose is to show the character(s) hardships, like when McClaine runs over broken glass to escape Hans and Company. It doesn’t actually do anything that hinders the rest of his actions, it’s there to remind us how the character is just one man vs a dozen trained criminals. Indiana Jones got shot in the shoulder so that the Nazi bastard guarding the truck could throw him out and complicate the scene. And I’m sure something happens to The Rock’s character in the Fast & Furious movies but I’ve never seen them. Insert more modern example here. Damage serves a narrative purpose in all other forms of modern storytelling except games and yet we’re constantly trying to emulate these other forms of fiction and getting it right 9 times out of 10… except when it comes to damage and hit points.

This is a subject I could get into for hours, I’m sure, so I wanted to ask you fine hosts a follow-up question. If you could skip hit points and instead run with an alternate rule or system that would instead provide a narrative complication for the character to overcome, do you think it would be easier or harder to run with your regular groups? I guess what I want to know is whether games use hit points of any kind because that’s what we want or because we’ve never had a choice.

Thanks for the hours upon hours of great podcasting and for your support with my own games. Y’all rock and I look forward to every episode. Unless it’ll be the last one then I’ll choose to ignore it and force the both of you to continue podcasting Misery-style. Is he kidding? Here’s hoping we never have to find out.

Spook408 comments in the forums on episode 282, Practice in RPG’s

I posed the question, of what are “rule mechanics that encouraging role playing.” I have been thinking over Brett’s response, and I am paraphrasing, but as I recall it was something like, “I am experienced, so it’s not a problem.” Well, huh?

I am too, but I need help at times. My gaming group goes back decades and tends towards power gaming and D&D.

Systems and rules that would help them role play more and dovetail into power gaming would be nice. Do they exist? Maybe?

We do practice and they are good power gamers. That said, I will still try and loosen them up, but, as the “Rule of Sean” states, “give them what they want” and so I do.

As for practice, it does help, but needs to be coupled to interest to make the most of it.

Experience and practice go a long way of making most anything better which I guess is what Brett was getting at. And I do agree, but it is not an absolute.

If I was to play Cold Shadow’s and I am not well-read on 70’s spy craft, rule mechanics could be helpful with setting a tone and environment for the game. In doing so it could encourage role playing.

That said, practice, practice, practice and everything gets better.

Please excuse the following diatribe, but creativity is an important subject to me.

Does the idea of 10,00 hours of practice apply to creativity? Absolutely! It does, because creativity is a skill.

Just like with any skill practice matters. How do you come up with stories, tavern names or game maps? Easy, you do it. This is not a cop out, because the first time might be difficult. The more you do it the easier it gets. Why? Because you go to the internet, ask friends, listen to podcasts. You gather information and choose what you like. Guess what that is…it’s creativity.

Sean mentioned Apollo 13 and the box of stuff they had to work with to save the astronauts. In art that might be called, “a limited palette.”

The act of limiting choices does not make creativity harder but helps focus thinking and in doing so makes it easier.

People are creative. Hard stop. This podcast is all about creativity. At the beginning of an episode a question is posed and what follows is often fun and creative solutions to it. However, for some reason when we grow up many forget, ignore or chose to believe otherwise, but all of us are creative.

Die Roll


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About the Author
The 'S' of Gaming and BS podcast. Besides producing and hosting the show, Sean enjoys long walks on the beach, running rpg's, and killing player...characters.