Thursday, July 16, 2009

Draft of Tankards and Broadswords RPG Introduction

The following is a draft - I repeat, just a draft - of the introduction to the Tankards and Broadswords RPG. It is interestingly similar to a post I made over a year ago, during the first few weeks of this blog's creation, where I was contemplating the design of a new RPG homebrew.

The post in question.

Anyhow, here's the introduction for your reading and review. Comments and suggestions are, as always, welcome and appreciated.


About The Game

Since as far back as 2002 I had been tinkering with designing a set of role-playing game rules meant to facilitate casual adventure gaming. My previous home-brew RPG system, while well-received by my players, was much more detail oriented, and I discovered as time went on that it didn't really facilitate the sort of gaming that was becoming more common among my circle of gamers; we were engaging in less of the typical rolling campaign that met every week and required a lot of effort and work on the part of the players to have a strong working knowledge of the rules. More and more, our gaming involved sessions that were irregularly scheduled and spaced weeks, if not months, apart, and my player base became less focused on the game mechanics and rules, and more on the social interaction that was going on amongst us players, and the "thrill of the adventure" that kept everyone laughing and coming back for more.

My tinkerings took many forms over the years, from a solely "swords & sorcery" design, to an ultra-light generic RPG, to a lightweight revision of my earlier home-brew system. In the end, I found myself abandoning the process as a largely frustrating waste of time, and most of my design notes sat dormant for a while. But in mid-2008, as I became more and more involved in writing a casual, generic gaming ideas blog, I found myself turning back to my old design notes. The idea struck me that the same philosophies about gaming that drove me to write my blog columns were those that had fueled my desire to write another RPG; bringing the two together was a natural union for me. That people were actually taking the time to drop by my blog and offer up comments and discourse meant that, were folks willing, I also had a natural sounding board for my ideas in the form of my kind readers, who have been willing to offer up lots of good feedback and led to a number of design changes and reinforcements.

The design goals of the Tankards & Broadswords RPG are relatively simple, and have stayed largely the same since my initial conception all those years ago:

- Allow players the ability to create their PCs quickly, with a healthy balance between character design options that provide for flexible and original characters, while at the same time avoiding the "over-choicing" problem that is, I feel, too common in a lot of character creation systems.

- Provide rules for gameplay that are powered by a simple and efficient core mechanic, one that's proven, requires no math that can't be done in one's head (even after a beer or three), and most importantly, won't overly-penalize players who aren't very familiar with the rules, or overly-empower those players who are, levelling the playing field between the "casual players" and the "rules-lawyers".

- Encourage a style of play that keeps the focus of the gaming away from bean-counting, or rules debates, or overly-tactical combat decisions, or any other micro-managing of the gaming session, and focuses instead on keeping everyone in tune with a spirit of "high adventure gaming"; gameplay that's fun and fast and promotes people making decisions less on what's the most mechanically efficient way to play, and more on what seems the most entertaining.

- Facilitate a campaign structure that might see players drop in or out, irregular scheduling of sessions that might be too far apart for players (or even the GM) to keep track of everything - an episodic campaign structure that would allow for different characters between adventures, and adventures that might not be taking place one right after another in a rolling "storyline" narrative, but instead could be weeks, months, even years apart, and in wildly different locations and circumstances.

- Finally, allow for a wide variety of campaign settings, both historical and fantastical, modern and sci-fi, serious or comedic, whacky, light-hearted adventures or grim, bloody struggles. This requires a system that can handle a lot of optional rules expansions being "plugged in" to the game depending on the needs of the setting; a magic system for fantasy, ray guns and robots for sci-fi, mutations and diseases for post-apocalyptic horror, etc., all without over-burdening what is meant to be a quick and easy-to-parse rules set.

At the end of the journey, I've gone to some length to see that these design goals have been achieved. But to be fair, as the designer, it's not my place to say whether or not I was successful at accomplishing these goals - that is up for the players and GMs who pick these rules up and put them to good use to decide. If there's a better way that something could be done, I'll be happy to hear it and see that it makes its way into later printings of the game. And if, against all odds, I've put together something that seems to work, and provides people with a few enjoyable evenings in the company of friends and fellow gamers, then that's okay by me.


Rob Lang said...

Aboslutely best of luck with this venture. It's one hell of an undertaking. One theme comes to mind: how are you going to differentiate it from the hundreds of fantasy systems that already do what you propose? If you're making another boilerplate fantasy, why not just use one that's already out there?

Answer those questions for yourself and not for anyone else but do definitely consider them carefully. I've known people to get 80% through only to find a free game online that serves the purpose as well or better.

Darkwing said...

A good introduction, but I think you need a short paragraph right at the top that "sells" the game, before you delve into the philosophy behind its development.

What you have already is good--I'd just put a quicke blurb right at the front, like the kind of summary you'd find on the back of a novel, so a person can just read the first paragraph and get a general feel for what the RPG is about. E.g., high adventure, easy to learn mechanics, fast paced, ideal for casual gaming but still fun for veterans, that kind of stuff.

Badelaire said...


Trust me, I ask this question of myself pretty much every day. Three things spring to mind.

1) T&B isn't a Fantasy RPG, it's an Adventure RPG. Might be nit-picking, but I make the distinction because as it stands now, the core rules contain no magic whatsoever. In fact, of the four or so ideas I have in mind for the "Campaign Starter" that I'm going to bundle with the Core Rules, none of them are fantasy oriented. However, I want to put together at least two supplements to support fantasy magic systems.

2) Bouncing off of #1, I want to be producing a steady stream of Campaign Starters and supplements for this game - I don't want it to be a one-off "Free RPG" that lacks any followup. I've got a folder full of Free RPGs on my computer, and most of them are just one-offs that lack any other support material, and I don't want my game to be one of those.

3)I do think the guidelines for supporting episodic play are kinda cool, and while I won't say "unique", I don't think I've seen its like before, at least not in an "indie" free RPG. This is different than a game designed for one-offs; T&B actively supports a campaign where adventures are spread out over considerable spans of time and helps determine what's gone on during that span of time.


I've got a "back cover copy" para kicking around - it was the original intro paragraph, but then I wanted to expand on it. I'll try to find an appropriate place to put it in; perhaps on the second page, before getting to the real meat of the document, or perhaps below "Introduction" but before "About the game".

SuperSooga said...

Sounds good! It seems like there's a lot of common ground with one of my projects. If you skim over the posts on my blog tagged with The Adventurer's Tale you might find something useful.'s%20Tale

Best of luck!

Brunomac said...

even after a beer or three<

I had a feeling you were a GM from my school! Fill the air with herb smoke on!

So, are we sort of talking along the lines of GURPS with this new game? Core book, then particular books for particular genre?

Badelaire said...

"So, are we sort of talking along the lines of GURPS with this new game? Core book, then particular books for particular genre?"

On a much smaller scale, yeah.

The main book will be somewhat like the main GURPS book (but think more older GURPS editions, not so much G4). Touching on multiple genre ideas (brief rules/stats for modern firearms, sci-fi guns, etc.) but only just. Then I want to put out a series of relatively short "Setting Starters" that would cover the rules that'd be exclusive to that setting.

I'm also looking at doing a Big Book of Magic and a Big Book of Bad Guys, both of which being separate from the Core rules book.

As for the rest, since I hate the reek of "herb smoke", that's not on the menu, but I don't mind drinking as long as people remain reasonably coherent.

Anonymous said...