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  1. #1
    Activated Node J Arcane's Avatar
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    What do old school CRPGs mean to you?

    So, I'm doing some brainstorming for a new tabletop RPG project to kill time over the break between school terms and maybe actually make me a few dollars on Lulu and Amazon.

    The essential one-line pitch is, "Imagine the tabletop version you always wanted of your favorite CRPGs back in the 80s and 90s." I want to do something that captures a bit of the spirit of the old days of CRPGdom, the golden early days, before Garriot and EA murdered Ultima and took the whole genre down with them. From Rogue and Akalabeth to Darklands to Daggerfall to Ultima VI, it was a very fruitful time for the CRPG.

    There's already RPGs that well cover the JRPG style, but not really much that covers the heady days of Western RPGs. There was a house system at Origin that was used at a few cons and has been lost to time, and there's a couple very bad Ultima adaptations out there, but mostly it's virgin territory.

    So what I'm trying to think about is pinning down the style of those games, and the feel, and the gameplay, and what defines them for players. What makes an old school CRPG to you? What are your favorites and what kinds of things did you like about them? If you had one game you'd love to see a tabletop adaptation of, what would it be?

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Is this Wizardry bait?
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  3. #3
    Activated Node J Arcane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    Is this Wizardry bait?
    I seriously considered not posting this because of that jackass, because I know what a choice target it presents, but no, this is a serious inquiry, and I couldn't not ask it on RPS of all places, troll bedamned.

  4. #4
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    Desperate struggle for survival. Sometimes the most fun parts of an RPG are the most challenging parts, where you really don't know if you can make it or not. You're struggling to find escapes, resources, allies... If the thing is programmed to push everyone along and through, it doesn't feel like much of an accomplishment to survive.

    Mystery. The rpg is a lot more interesting and compelling when you really don't know quite how the world works, what groups, threats, resources, and opportunities are out there. Keep the mystery and discovery going throughout. I guess this ties in with exploration but I have to run for a bit so I'll cut this short

  5. #5
    Lesser Hivemind Node icupnimpn2's Avatar
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    Single-player. That's what it has to be. No DM necessary.

    You need to make it work as solitaire RPG experience. And if the player can control a squad of characters, all's the better.

  6. #6
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Are we talking system or setting? Because there's really nothing interesting rules-wise in CRPGs that can't be done in your basic fantasy RPGs, from AD&D and WFRP and Palladium onwards. Darklands and Daggerfall would perhaps work best with Burning Wheel or RuneQuest; pretty much everything else fits comfortably under the D&D-esque umbrella.

    Now on the other hand, if you want to put together a booklet about how to run a Darklands-style sandbox campaign in your favorite system, that'd be pretty cool. I love setting books, gazetteers, that sort of thing.

    Or if you are set on making up unique rules, at least build on something like GURPS or Savage Worlds.

    Oh, and if you manage to put together something remotely professional-looking, check out DriveThru rather than Lulu. They'll sell PDFs and do top-quality POD, with a much nicer storefront.
    Last edited by TillEulenspiegel; 18-08-2011 at 04:51 AM.

  7. #7
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by icupnimpn2 View Post
    Single-player. That's what it has to be. No DM necessary.

    You need to make it work as solitaire RPG experience.
    Yes! If you can figure out how to make that work well, do it.

    And if the player can control a squad of characters, all's the better.
    Easy enough to do in any RPG, really.

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Most importantly, no player ability can affect the game. If the character has a bad memory no map beyond a few key landmarks, if the character has a poor imagination or is dependant of some religious or social dogma all character actions must be drawn from a die roll/logic table. If the character is a poor strategist you must reflect that in your strategy. No player ability should impress itself upon the sacred CRPG.

  9. #9
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    A big part of the older (pre-Infinity engine) games was the hostility of the environment itself, and the mechanics of survival. Keeping a supply of food and water, finding places to rest, keeping your equipment in good condition, having appropriate weather gear, failure to do any of this tended to kill you. I was always really fond of this element, and you don't see it emphasized much in modern games.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    I always used to play CRPG in a manner not unlike you might a roguelike due to poor explanations of mechanics or enemies who were simply immune to you skillset/playstyle would result in many brutal deaths. Since leveling was a component you needed to get a sense of where you could manage, chasing the plot often got you massively out classed. Add to this the threat of dying to the cold, losing 80% of your equipment because you swam across a small stream, starving to death because the game says you can't eat giant shakes even though you were sure all animals made meat. getting set a quest which only makes the slightest thread of sense if you chose all of the conversation options first where essential details were drip fed. Most important is that you might kill someone (even as part of a quest) who turns out to be an essential contact in another quest chain (classicaly this would be the main quest chain).

    I troll good and long here, but these points are all relevent factors, these were wide open games with massive freedom, no focus testing and a peer review of massively hardcore developers. Some things are slowly being adopted by eastern bloc developers, Indies and the roguelikes, but they are uniformly a bad idea for a board game where bookkeeping should be as little as possible. Did he have 4 arrows or 3, does lightning damage chain around corners if it fails to damage one on the path? When did that warrior running away from combat with 1hp last eat, he's already hungry so he should be dead?

  11. #11
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    Oldschool cRPGs were pnp RPGs you played on your PC. Your question doesn't even make any sense.

  12. #12
    Lesser Hivemind Node icupnimpn2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mohorovicic View Post
    Oldschool cRPGs were pnp RPGs you played on your PC. Your question doesn't even make any sense.
    No, they were imperfect attempts at recreating elements of the pnp RPG on the PC. Certain things were changed or modified in the translation in order to make the experience work. For example, pnp RPGs may use figurines but CRPGs had much more elaborate graphical representations. Pnp RPGs used a human DM and were generally multi-player. Old school CRPGs were single player. Scripted events and dialogue took the place of the DM. Another feature of the CRPG not common in the pnp RPG is the ability to create multiple save points and then to restore from previous areas of the game.

    If you brought some of those design principles back into the pnp world, you'd have a different kind of game: Single-player, no human DM, many illustrations and elaborate game pieces, the ability to undo chains of decisions and return to a certain point of the game.

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    And what would be the point of that?

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Xercies's Avatar
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    I would kind of like to see a Tabletop roguelike, though I wouldn't know how you would do it with the monsters, the random turrein is easy with tiles and stuff. But getting the monsters there would be a bit harder.

  15. #15
    Lesser Hivemind Node Nullkigan's Avatar
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    There's very little a new product can learn from western CRPGs that has not been already published a dozen times over. By switching back to PNP you lose the ability to do large amounts of math very fast, so the gritty, granular nature of the games is lost and you're forced to work with core mechanics not designed for the free play you'd get at a real table. At best, you could try to scrape together an integrated system/adventure experience, but I remain unconvinced there would be much of a market for that.

    Your best bet may be to come up with a random generation system where you can quickly assemble random elements - find a magic item? It has a power rating of 3 cards, any of which could be a curse, bonus, or blank. This then leads you down the boardgame path towards Descent, Quest and Talisman, and could even let you dispense of multiplayer or DM requirements.

    In terms of mechanics, the only thing I can think of which MAYBE hasn't been done to death would be spellcasting through combining elements. Think Dungeon Master - to cast fireball, you'd pick a power level, fire, thrown (e.g. Pal Ful Ir was a fairly strong but draining variant). Translating this sort of experience would be very difficult as you'd have to prepare long lists of outcomes and players would no doubt reduce it to a list of spells that are actually useful/effective. Now that I think about it a bit more, the Black Company RPG did try to do something like this. You'd pick different effects, damage die sizes, etc, and roll against a summation of their difficulties to successfully cast the spell.

    Quote Originally Posted by icupnimpn2 View Post
    If you brought some of those design principles back into the pnp world, you'd have a different kind of game: Single-player, no human DM, many illustrations and elaborate game pieces, the ability to undo chains of decisions and return to a certain point of the game.
    So another option would be Fighting Fantasy: Actual Art Budget edition?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xercies View Post
    I would kind of like to see a Tabletop roguelike, though I wouldn't know how you would do it with the monsters, the random turrein is easy with tiles and stuff. But getting the monsters there would be a bit harder.
    It's been many, many years, but both Talisman and Quest (boardgames) got around this by having a deck of encounter cards. A room would have one card, a large plot critical room two, and so on. I *think* there are actually rules for assembling such a deck in the 4e D&D manuals somewhere, so it's not a completely lost art.
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  16. #16
    Lesser Hivemind Node icupnimpn2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mohorovicic View Post
    And what would be the point of that?
    What's your point in posting here? Wasn't to contribute, I take it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nullkigan View Post
    So another option would be Fighting Fantasy: Actual Art Budget edition?
    Or something like that but with a board and figures component for combat. Could you use some tables or charts to describe enemy movement and tactics, like a quasi AI?

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  18. #18
    A pnp RPG is easy for me to define. I'm playing through and interacting with someone elses narrative, that's all that's important. However a CRPG could be anything really, but seeing as Planescape and Morrowind are my favourites I will go for that. An interesting world to explore and discover and feel as though I am a part of.

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Sounds like what you'd need is just a really, really well-written campaign, with as many contingencies planned for in advance.

    So... basically the regular homework a DM already does.
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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    "His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy." - Woody Allen

  20. #20
    Activated Node J Arcane's Avatar
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    I think I'm gonna have to hire a better GM than me to write that chapter. ;)

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