roleplaying games

What your prep demands: Big choices in writing a roleplaying campaign

Yesterday, I contemplated how to adapt mechanics in order to run a hypothetical near-future/Cyberpunk game. In brainstorming this initial pass at writing a new game, my brain has gone in two different directions: mechanical minutiae, in this case adapting the incredibly specific mechanic of “Born” lifepaths from Burning Wheel, and the expanse of narrative intent, asking myself why I want to run my game this way.

A lot of this questioning is because of The Sprawl. The Sprawl is an excellent game and one that I really want to run, so it stands to reason that when a large and potentially tedious writing endeavor is set before me, I need to answer the question “why am I doing it this way, instead of one of the other ways I have available?”

This question is answered either from relatively straightforward mechanical reasons or much more obtuse “feel” ones. I’m not using Cyberpunk 2020 because the system is too easy to exploit and requires too much houseruling for me to be satisfied. I’m not using Interface Zero because the Savage Worlds system feels very cinematic and the setting makes some assumptions that I don’t want to use.

I don’t have a similar straightforward answer to why I’m not using The Sprawl, and that’s in part because I think I very well could run a game with it that has the feel I want. The variables that make things ambiguous are non-mechanical ones. If I knew that I could broadcast the desired feel of the game to my players with either system, I’d be comfortable using The Sprawl.

I’m still leaning towards this GURPS mashup, but I’m not sure. I have eight months or so before there’s any realistic chance for me to start running a campaign, so I have a lot of time to think about this. I also have some opportunities to run The Sprawl some more, and see if I get a better handle on making the system do what I want it to.

In the end, I want my next game to be a character study. Apocalypse World does this fabulously, so The Sprawl certainly could. It’s up to me to figure out if I can make that work within the tight parameters of the system, or if I need the breadth of GURPS to really set up the game the way I want. For now, I’ll write, and I’ll research.



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