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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Archworld & Talisman: What Inspired Us...

What games inspired us?  Aside from the obvious.  We've all been inspired by something, and often, it's obscure stuff that never got much attention.  Last week, we talked about Holmes Basic and its impact on what we design and lean towards playing when not doing our own thing.  This time around, there's more...

First off, these were my first-hand inspirations.  But Robyn, who started gaming in 2002, readily concurred with the basic ideas inherent to them all.  If you're playing a tabletop game with actual people, she's reasoned more than once, then human decision-making and interaction should be pretty strongly emphasized.

So here goes.  More inspirations...   

ARCHWORLD (FGU 1977) - While (ostensibly) a war-game, Archworld expected that each player would have their own "personality figure" who probably represented a ruler or military commander.  Indeed, there were rules for building armies that roughly approximated the character creation process (in some ways, at least), which helped it feel like a RPG.  It didn't exploit this enough.

Archworld STRONGLY influenced our
own Pits & Perils in both style and approach!

But something that really stood out was the extremely simple mechanics (d6) that revolved around a few simple rolls modified by the choices of the players.  Magic was likewise very simple, but nonetheless had scope because of its power and all the varied human interactions it would doubtless impact.

Finally, its production was suitably amateur; manual type on a letter-sized sheet.  In the 70s, manual typewriters represented the apex of high-tech production for amateurs.  We all knew "that DM" who owned a typewriter and carefully documented his campaign stuff neatly and pseudo-professionally.  Need we say any more?

TALISMAN (GW 1983) - This board-game was extremely involved and emulated most of the details of a RPG.  You had individual classes, hit points, spells, and even an alignment system that actually mattered in the course of play.  And there's more...  

You also had a combat system that was fast and easy, yet employed armor and shield with a reasonable degree of plausibility.  You could win gold, spend money, and interact with supporting characters met on the board - and guess what?  The game was complex in that players had to make good decisions and manage their resources - and not because the rules were complex or intrusive.

Does your party rush in and close with the goblin longbowmen or scatter to the fallen rocks, take cover, and try to lure them out one by one in melee?  Much game time will be spent mulling these decisions, and none of them require complex rules beyond those that make these various choices relevant.  Purely interactive events, like bargaining with others, underscore this even more.

In the end, we have to decide.  Does the fun of a game come from personal (human) interactions or the manipulation of mechanics that automate these things as much a possible?  We argue for a middle ground that nonetheless puts the participants first, even when their decisions end in a total party kill.  It's the one theme that runs through all of these games and makes them great!

So what games have inspired YOU?  Don't hold back.  Tell us...

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