Community Post #169 - For The System That Does Everything

Discussion in 'Community Posts' started by Tyro D. Fox, Sep 9, 2017.

  1. Tyro D. Fox

    Tyro D. Fox Ho, hog, heg! I can does Game Dev thing, yes!
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    So, after this, I need to get back to watching Season 6. I know, I know; Season 7! But, I want to talk about Season 6 at some point because it's got a lot of issues and then I'll get to Season 7 where I'm hearing some very interesting things.

    Apparently, we're getting a B-Team lead by Starlight Glimmer? Is that it? I'm onboard, probably maybe.

    My other excuse is that I've been building a game in Phaser and HTML5 (Phaser is really good you guys!) so that's held me up a bit. It's a smallish thing I'll try showing it off when it's done. Or try steaming me making it. How's that? Coding, doesn't that sound fun kiddies? Eh, it's my voice going on and on with some swearing when it doesn't do what I expected.

    But yes, back to MLP soon because I want to talk about another RPG thing this time round and I shouldn't do them too close together. Might give the impression I'm obsessed or something. Which I am, I just should space them out a bit.

    Community Post #169
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    G.U.R.P.S
    The Everything Ever System​

    Picture this; you're a DM and your trying to come up with a story and events for a game session. To drum up ideas, you ask your players what they'd like to play. And, of course, they give a miriad of different things in response. Some tell you they want to be deadly, armoured space marines. Some tell you they want to be wizards that hide in modern day, using their magic to influence the populous. And some tell you they want to play as a weird horse person with forelegs and gains sustenance from the blood of the fallen or heartfelt hugs, they haven't decided yet. In fact, most of the other players describe pretty strange monsters they want to play as, describing the sort of thing in the background of a Star Wars film. The last guy wants to be a Wookie.

    Right, so D&D is out. In fact, most of the books you have are out as Pathfinder might take quite a lot of work to figure out things like how a horse-person is supposed to function without hands. You'd also be spending a decade and a half trying to stat all the creatures you'd been told about. You could borrow from the Star Wars Tabletop games but then there's balancing. You don't want any of the characters to get overshadowed. The space marines and modern wizard could easily overshadow the benefits the Fiz'Wurkit or the Wookie would bring, no matter how powerful they are.

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    A Fiz'Wurkit (?)

    It's a lot to try to handle without much help from the system itself. Unless, you tried G.U.R.P.S!

    The Generic Universal Role Play System (GURPS) is a system designed to not only allow for almost any kind of playable character to exist but it also makes a concerted effort to ensure that characters from disparate technological backgrounds can co-exist mechanically without too much overshadowing on either end. A good DM would be able to handle characters meeting from alien worlds, King Arthur's Court and even Deep Space together with a system of carefully measured metrics to chart way more about your character than any other system would bother with.

    For anyone reading at home, you might be familiar with Fallout and yes, it's version of 'S.P.E.C.I.A.L' and it's skills, perks and such were created after Fallout decided to drop their GURPS licence in favour of something similar. The reason it was likely picked up originally is that GURPS is really good at letting you piece together characters from a long list of advantages and disadvantages you buy and then bolt onto your character using a point system.

    The idea is straightforward; your GM gives you a Point limit (let's say 200 would be considered a decent, midish level character while 400-700 would be super competent or ridiculously powerful). Advantages have a point cost to attach them to your character that deducts from your total in exchange of their perk. Disadvantages have a point bonus that gives back points to your total at the cost of their effect. This means that you have a lovely cost/benefit choice with everything you do when making your character. Do you take no downsides and go only for few benefits, or do you create a strange bundle of ticks and bad luck that has plenty of hidden talents?

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    A Visual Representation of a Usual Tabletop Character

    This is something that tickles my brain something fierce. I love cost/benefit systems like this because I love tinkering with characters for different effects. The lovely thing is that they aid with roleplay too. Disadvantages are normally centered around something a player agrees they must do while playing the character which would inconvenience them, like being cowardly or selfless.

    Yes, selflessness is listed as a disadvantage because it requires you to spend time and resources on helping people that you could be spending on fighting monsters or finding loot or something.

    A few of them are pleasing such as being a 'Weirdness Magnet', which gives your GM an excuse to throw some strange monster or quirk of fate at you with little reason because it's just a thing about your character that they seem to attract this sort of thing.

    "You brought Garrak along?!"

    "Yeah. Weirdest thing. We were walking and he uncovered the remains of a thermonuclear bear. So strange. There might be more in the area."​

    "Well, yeah! You have Garrak with you. Be careful or you'll get Psiren Spiders like the last time we had him along. Nearly lost two men to song because of him. He's a jinx! A walking curse! Good with lockpicks though."

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    "Sews like a demon. Makes a wonderful pair of bellbottoms."​

    Advantages and Disadvantages help shape a character. Like in that small example I threw together, it helps mould what your character could be. Other examples include their reputation, who they know, their looks and even how well you treat others can help or hinder you, forcing you to play in a particular way. You often must think around your character, using both advantages and disadvantages to ensure you're goals are met. Being stubborn could save your arse while being good looking could land you in trouble with the wrong crowd. There's potential in every character.

    Now, points buy everything about your character, such as damage threshold on their limbs (sound familiar?) to base stats like Strength, Dexterity, IQ and Perception. You may also hamper your base stats for big bonuses to your points by lowering them. I like doing this to Strength as I tend to like smarts over strength but you could easily make a dumb as rocks behemoth of power just as easily. They also dictate the skills you'd be best in, which also has to be brought with points. Here though, the system gets complicated.

    One aspect of the game that governs a lot of it is Technology Level. The DMs setting will have an attached Technology Level that it operates at which dictates everything from average wage of a citizen in the setting to the technology people are most familiar with. This is designed to handle characters that travel in from other locations that might not had heard of cars or computers or Kanye West arriving and then handling the chance they might have to operate the technology they encounter.

    For example, you're playing as a Renaissance-era Florentine Poet in a 1985 Shopping Mall.

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    Something like this maybe.

    That falls under the 'Digital Age' as dictated by the book, which counts anything from 1980 to 2025 as that era. Roughly 'Now' where computers are the big tool everyone uses. Our setting is at Tech Level 8. The Poet is from the Renaissance which came after the Middle Ages but before the Industrial Revolution. So, GURPS would place him in the 'Age Of Sail', which makes him Tech Level 4. If he tries his best to use an Amstrad CPC computer in a shop to compose a poem, he can attempt to roll for his skill check but the technological difference imposes a disadvantage as he tries to figure out how to operate the 'lightbox's' mechanisms. The 'button tray' before him would be strange to him so he'd be rolling with a...Oh! It's considered impossible as there's a 4 Level gap between the two. He automatically fails and just jots it down in some notebook he finds.

    Interestingly, being of a higher Tech Level doesn't help. If say, a Starfleet Officer tried to use the same computer to look for clues on it's memory about the Poet they time travelled with by mistake, they'd be considered to be using a computer skills at a Tech Level higher than 8, probably around 11/12 as they have Warp Drives and Replicators and Red Matter. As such, they'd be familiar with a computer but it's so old, they'd not know enough about it's use because they'd be used to more sophisticated software that does most of it's operations for you. An Amstrad CPC is not voice controlled and is still harder to use for someone that is used to computers you can talk to, so would take a -4 to their roll at worst case because it would be considered too old to have total familiarity with.

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    He kinda looks like my grandparents trying to log on to Skype.

    This applies more to IQ skills like computing or physics or something like that where it's a hard barrier to accessibility. Tech Level on other skills, like ones that require Dexterity or Perception, are less likely to prevent access just because it's more advanced. A gunslinger from the 'Old West' could still recognise and use a Blaster Pistol because it's roughly the same shape but there's still a disadvantage as they get used to the quirks like having no distance falloff and handing heat venting.

    Or what have you. You can tell I like to DM if I'm coming up with excuses for the numbers.

    Skills is where stuff gets really complicated because it's dictated by it's base skill, how many points you spend on it, how difficult it is considered to learn and at what Tech Level you take it at. Skills relating to science, medicine, engineering, computing and so on are dictated by a Tech Level that illustrates a level of familiarity. This is obvious; a Industrial Revolution Era engineer is going to know more about steam power than a Medieval Inventor. The Inventor will have a harder time trying to figure out the Engineer's machines because of their complexity.

    However, the applied mathematics, knowledge and physics and engineering knowledge are all individual skills that are taken at a given Tech Level and are all considered to be, at least, Hard IQ based Skills. While they have the same skill sets in order to be able to use the Engineering skill, their background technology level means they're able to take the skill at different levels, allowing them to apply the skill to different technology. In a setting where everyone is from the same place, this doesn't matter. But the system accounts for that disparity. The Engineer can be competent with technology from his era, allowing him to know how a Steam Train works.

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    Pictured: Early Users of GURPS trying to make machines to build characters for you.
    This does take a bit of time to wrap your head around.

    The Medieval Inventor has penalties applied to his Engineering skill to to the difference in tech level of his Engineering knowledge and the knowledge that built the same Steam Train. It doesn't prevent him from knowing how it works but it does mean that he has a harder time figuring it out. In order to be as good at knowing Steam Trains as the Engineer that's familiar with them, he has to put more points into the same skills to buy better versions of the same skills, becoming an artisan on Medieval Engineering to have a better hope of figuring out that a Train is just a really complicated kettle driving wheels forwards.

    Because the Industrial Revolution Engineer is familiar with the technology of the setting we've implied here, say Victorian London where the Medieval Inventor was frozen and thawed out hundreds of years later, the Engineer doesn't need to spend as much on his Engineering skill to get as much out of it. He can coast a little more, maybe afford to be a lazy Engineer but good at cards. Or with a Pistol.

    Then you consider that skills have point costs that are tied to how hard they are considered to be to learn. Engineering (can you tell I've made an Engineer in GURPS so it's the skill I know the best so far?) is a Hard skill that has lots of Hard and Very Hard skills needed to be learned even in the first place. It's expensive to take it and make yourself competent. But, you're allowed to take Skills cheaply, allowing you to perform what they entail, if you take a disadvantage at them.

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    Not too many cheep skills or your end up with him be default.

    Easy skills, like using a gun, are cheep to be 'competent' at as 1 point grants the basic skill with no negatives. Average and above skills, like everything from Acting to Applied Mathematics, can be brought at roughly the same price but with a negative modifier to your roll, making it more of an amature dabbling than a proper skill. This means you can take skills all over to flesh your character out more so than other systems while still being able to sink points into things you can do really well. Skills can grant positive modifiers if you spend more on them, which gets more expensive the harder something is.

    The only other thing the books I have mention is magic. It exists and appears to be a skill unto itself where you can learn a spell and use it at the cost of FP or HP. Yes, you can either fatigue yourself with spells, or channel your lifeforce into their use. Otherwise, they appear to function similarly to skills, which are complex enough on their own without arcane forces getting involved.

    Who would play this? Well, it's that argument over what makes a good RPG. There's a lot to be said for taking premade ideas and trying to build your world, your characters, your story within that box. Systems that take place within Lord of the Rings or Star Wars are fun, especially if you know lots about the cannon in question. You have the means to tinker around with your idea of these legendary settings, maybe granting life to your own spin of some forgotten part of the lore.

    When I played a Star Wars game, we all boarded a ship with a super-powerful hyperdrive that catapulted us all outside of the known galaxy everything normally takes place in where we needed to figure out the new, truly alien places. We were even grading how dangerous the situation was by associations between our situation and other TV shows. I think we got as bad as Star Trek Voyager once when we realised we either got the super-hyperdrive working or face using a crappy hyperdrive to limp the next few decades home.

    Having structure defines what you can do and what would be considered transgressive. It would be strange if a Star Wars game suddenly landed in Gotham City. It would be strange if a D&D game ended up in Downtown Detroit.

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    Doesn't mean some didn't try...

    GURPS seems closer to Lego. Modern Lego, probably The Lego Movie. GURPS is like that scene with the Master Builders of a decent number of known franchises and characters all sitting in the same place, in a unified form. No one stands out too much because they're all Lego Minifigures. And that's cool.

    I really dig GURPS ability to build a character from it's basic blocks thanks to it's lack of a central theme or narrative. There's no classes or trees, it's just what your character can do and what they're like. If you want a Poker playing ladies man to have hairdressing knowledge, you can. If you want to try to marry the disparate ideas of a character knowing ninjitsu even through their a ten-ton troll, it's possible. My character is a dwarf from a previous game I played set in an alternative post-civil war America where magical creatures existed. He's a British inventor that specialised in weapons that tagged along to help another British Agent bring justice to a gang of criminals and find out who they worked for.

    I'm sure there's a joke in there about how the...'Boston Grog Party' ticked off the British or something. Though I now know that there's nothing cooler than a Grey Orc gunslinger.

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    Looks like Hellboy. I'm not knocking that. It's a good look.

    I decided to transfer him over from that setting after it ended and into a new setting where he's fallen through a spacial anomaly into Modern America after a catastrophic event destroyed everything. Lucifer joins a post-apocalyptic village as a weapon smith.

    In this setting, he currently exists next to two Rito (bird-like humanoid creatures from The Legend of Zelda), a man from far further in the future that has a bunch of broken future tech, a 10-foot tall creature that relied entirely on a subservient race of creatures for all means of interacting with the world that now has to learn his craft of alchemy mostly from scratch, and an adventuring Earth Pony from Equestria that people are trying to figure out how to strap a gun to.

    That's what attracts me to GURPS. I want to read more of the books in order to get more building blocks to work with and make characters from. Similar to Lego, the more stuff you have, and the core book is hardly weedy, the more you can pull from disparate ends of fiction to create something new. Like making the Batwing and the Millennium Falcon merge somehow, you could have samurai robots or a society of clowns. It's nuts! I love it!

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    OK, I couldn't find a Batwing/Falcon murge but I did find this.​

    Failed Attempts

    I tried about three times to write this article in a manner I thought was worth doing, with a subject I thought was worth doing. The other subjects I wanted to make out of this are still interesting but I couldn't comfortably make into an article. GURPS won out but I'm going to get them off my chest. It's mainly why I took a while to get this out. Trying to be confident something was interesting enough is tricky.
    • South Park 'Fractured But Whole' difficulty settings are getting a lot of comment and I was going to be in favour. Mainly because it's one of the most audacious pieces of satire I've ever heard of. Very South Park with it's characteristic sledgehammer wit hitting pretty hard. For those that don't know, it's a sequel to the Stick of Truth where the game's difficulty settings change based on your skin colour and your chosen gender. Combat wouldn't change but peoples reactions would change, meaning you would get different amounts for loot or have different reactions from different people. Assumingly, the most difficult and short-changed character is a Trans or Gender Neutral Black person.

      God damn.

      I avoided it because I couldn't find anything interesting to say about it without sounding exactly the same as every other article on it. I wanted to try and link it to Hatred, the shoot-em-up where you play as a crazed gunman. I wanted to try and make a 'how to court controversy properly' sort of thing by comparing the two games on their leaked features and the hubbub around them but I felt it was out of my depth.
    • I have completed Birth By Sleep and it's honestly made me pretty damn sick of Kingdom Hearts. What I wanted was a fun, enjoyable romp turned into a slog through several hours of drivel. Not even Lenard Nimoy and Mark Hamill voicing 'Evil McEvil' Xehanort and 'Samurai Master Standin' Erazmus respectively, elevated the rather goofy narrative that never seemed aware that I gave a damn anymore. It was using elements of the original games to prop up very dull characters that I never really cared about. A level with Experiment 626 or a level where I ran around Cinderella's house was fine but the cracks in a series that never seemed to be properly growing and improving was starting to show.

      - Why do all the areas have to be so barren apart from the Heartless encounters? The original Pokemon on gameboy did more to convince me their world was populated.
      - Why does Braig have the same powers as Xigbar? Don't they see how that messes with the mythos and mystique of the Nobodies?
      - Why does Venitas look like Sora?! WHY?!

      Again and again, it felt like the game was insulting my intelligence. I was supposed to be slack jawed and amazed by this low effort shlock and here, I wasn't taking it. Even the gameplay felt like it was missing something. Novel? Yes, but lacked something to grip on to. It's made me even less interested in Kingdom Hearts III and then I find there's a HD II.8?! Which has Dream Drop Distance and a bunch of other scraps? Ugh...Avoided because it just became me *squee!*ing and moaning. Would also need too much inherent knowledge from the reader.
    • I would have talked at length about that HTML5 game I'm working on but, as of writing, it's got a bug in it that's taking up too much memory and I need to find it. How we doing on that Scotty?

      [​IMG]
      Oh dear...
    - Recommended Reading

    I read through this and this seemed up my staBe. @ndogmario has suggested examples of low-key episodes of the show. The one he put forth is quite sweet.

    @VG_Addict asks whether MLP:FiM is the best show of the last decade. And, yeah I'm writing for a fan site buuuuut I still think Gravity Falls beats it over all. However, it's an excellent show marred by the fact that it comes out in a time where shows, at least felt like, they were taking way more risks. It was going up against the likes of Steven Universe and Adventure Time, not to mention everything else that doesn't get quite the same prestige. Friendship is Magic doesn't seem to gamble as much on things like high energy, jokes and underlying lore. It's not bad to have a show about characters you like going about their mad-cap lives. Ponies, in my opinion, tends to be more comforting.

    It throws down when it wants to. When it does, we get battles across time and space or hyperlaser fights.

    Dots and fluffy things. Thank you @RoyalAgate

    [​IMG]
    FLUFFY!

    @Poisonous Nightmare comments on The Daybreaker Ask Blog, which his being heralded as a spiritual return of Molestia. I've looked at it, it looks neat.

    @Mister Asmodeus has decided to talk to us about Drunk Watching and the types of behaviour you might encounter when watching those highly inebriated.

    Lastly, me. I'm running an experiment on whether it's possible to run a Tabletop game in the RP forums and so far only @Prince of the night is playing. I can handle that but it would be nice if others were to play. There's a little bit of faff to make a character but once it's done, it's plain sailing.

    Oh! Also this. This is really well done and really interesting. It's on Polybius, the mythological Arcade Game.

    There! That'll do. See you guys next time.
     
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  2. Mister Asmodeus

    Mister Asmodeus The Element of Asmo
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    Does Tyro ever get drunk, go back in time, and play Polybius?
     
  3. Tyro D. Fox

    Tyro D. Fox Ho, hog, heg! I can does Game Dev thing, yes!
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    Two of those things are impossible.
     
  4. Mister Asmodeus

    Mister Asmodeus The Element of Asmo
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    Which ones?
     
  5. Tyro D. Fox

    Tyro D. Fox Ho, hog, heg! I can does Game Dev thing, yes!
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    Me and this bottle of cider are too drunk to say.
     

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