Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Design Philosophy - Advantages and Disadvantages

Welcome to our first post on design philosophy, where we'll be talking about the choices made in creating the rules and setting for Venture! Unlike Fridays in AEthrem, these posts will appear irregularly, as topics present themselves and time permits.

In this post, we'll be discussing Advantages and Disadvantages. These are a staple character option in many systems (although some will use alternate terms for them, such as Benefits and Afflictions, Boons and Hindrances, Traits, Qualities, and so on), giving options to advantage and disadvantage characters in small ways. Advantages and Disadvantages are well-established and widely-accepted within tabletop RPGs, and are included within the OpenD6 rules on which Venture! is based. So, why are we talking about these today?

Venture! does not include Advantages and Disadvantages within its core rules.

Now, please give us a chance to explain this before firing up your torches or running for the nearest pitchfork. We love advantages and disadvantages. They are one of the most reliable options to tweak your player character to be just the way you want it to be, on top of encouraging roleplaying of characters at the table - since many disadvantages introduce character faults or limitations to be portrayed at the table (such as with Devotion or Prejudice in OpenD6), or story elements (such as Employed or Infamy).

However, we feel that Advantages and Disadvantages best serve the game as an optional rule. While many games now include these within their core rules, if you look back about twenty years or so (around the height of the D6 system) you will see that it was very common to include Advantages and Disadvantages within a rules supplement or compendium as one of several options that players and game masters could choose to include in their games. We believe this has several benefits:

1) Ease of access.

Although Advantages and Disadvantages may be a good and useful part of the rules, they are still additional things to be aware of within the game system. The game master must take time to be aware of their effect in the game system, and the players must be aware of the function of those they've chosen and when they apply in the game. This also calls on the issue of system mastery, where an experienced player (or just one that is better at optimizing characters) would know to make a character with Advantage X, making their character superior at Skill or action Y than any other character that neglected to do so. For a new player, it can be disheartening to be outdone by another player character due to a simple lack of familiarity with the rules.

2) Speeding up character creation.

This is tied to ease of access somewhat. In our experience, character creation for a player new to any system goes fairly easily and quickly, except for two standard steps: selecting Advantages and Disadvantages and purchasing equipment. Why is this? Because in both of these steps, the player needs to look through a large list of options, weigh them, and select only a few that are appropriate for their character. If the player wants to make the "best" character they can, they will want to spend quite some time in these steps. This slows things down in even the most comprehensive systems, but in OpenD6, with its otherwise rapid character creation, it can be similar to hitting a brick wall.

3) Avoiding default use.

By including Advantages and Disadvantages in the core rules, you are assuming default use. If the game master doesn't want to use these rules (such as for the above reasons), they will have to point this out to their players, and this may involve revising already-completed characters in cases where a player creates their character without the GM's involvement. ("But it says here: 'select Advantages and Disadvantages'.") This isn't a huge concern, but if these are provided as an optional rule, the players typically feel more positive about their lack of inclusion.

4) Organization and page count. 

This is primarily a concern just on our end of things. If we wanted to include Advantages and Disadvantages, we could either include all of those we want to include in Venture! or just the most common or representative ones, providing others in a supplemental book. Including everything uses up a big chunk of the core rulebook's precious page count (would those 20 pages be better served with setting details?), while splitting them between the core rules and a supplement can complicate referencing rules for these at the table ("What book was that in, again?") and still use up page count (although much less).

So, we will most likely be including Advantages and Disadvantages in Venture! at some point, contained within an optional rules supplement. This simplifies things for both us and for new players, and frees up space within the book for more setting details, which are really the draw of the game (as the majority of its rules system is freely and publicly available online). There were pros and cons to consider when coming to this ultimate decision, but we feel that it best served the style of game we wanted to create to proceed in this way.

Agree? Disagree? Have a question? Leave a comment below!


Venture! Thrilling Adventures in the World of AEthrem and its associated characters are the property of Weird Science Games, LLC, Copyright 2015.

West End Games, OpenD6, and The D6 system are trademarks and properties of Purgatory Publishing Inc.