Thursday, 4 October 2012
Why not develop 40K the wargame into an RPG too?
Many people seem to think the official 40K RPGs are too complicated. I'll agree. So why don't we just use 40K the wargame to make another version? It could be quick and easy to play, and every 40K player would be able get started with it more or less right away.
Where we start is obvious. Even forgetting Killzone, INQ28 and In the Emperor's Name, which are three possible foundations, we have six editions of 40K and at least 25 years of material to build on. But even a newer edition - fifth or sixth say - should be enough.
To clarify, I'm taking a player character to be anything from an individual to a small force.
The way I see it, there are three areas needing a bit of thought: 1) use of a GM or other resolution system; 2) mechanisms for doing the cool stuff not generally possible in the wargame; and 3) space and time, i.e. where events take place and how they link.
Here I'll summarise these three problems, and in the next couple of parts suggest some solutions. I also want to offer a starting adventure to show just how simple it could all be.
1) Using a GM, or not
GMs were used in wargaming before D&D appeared of course, and the idea was there in Rogue Trader too. Bringing a GM into a 40K that doesn't currently need one raises two issues: a) finding a player to be GM; and b) agreeing what the GM actually does.
For a) the issue might be bigger than it looks. In 40K there are usually only two people directly involved, but here we could see many joining in, with one or more models each.
This makes me think the approach could focus on fast play and dynamic encounters, to have a session fit a game night slot, and get lots of rotation and experimentation with the role of GM. One or more players will likely take to it better, but many could be. After all, military SF does lend itself to splitting parties, across multiple fronts or missions.
For b), i.e. deciding what the GM does - good luck. In roleplaying as a whole the jury is still out on that. In the context of a 40K wargame-to-RPG expansion, it's probably fair to say that the GM would represent everything beyond that the players control - the world itself and the other things in it - and improvise or arbitrate where a situation is unclear.
In the next post I'll have a suggestion for a soft resolution system that can be used with no GM, and allows much more than the cards in the Nor the battle to the strong deck.
2) Doing all the cooler stuff
The essence is using existing rules wherever possible, and adapting them using familiar principles if not. As mentioned, we have six editions and over 25 years, which is a huge amount of material, fully official or not, but even a single edition has a useful framework.
Common areas for improvisation might be hidden movement, interaction with objects in a non-destructive way, like picking up and attempting to use lesser-seen items, and being creative with them, and of course communication with each other and any other factions.
For the last of those, which could seem the most problematic of all, have a look at the negotiation idea I once posted. It's not as impossible to rule as it might look. In general, I'm optimistic about resolution, and again, I plan to cover this element in the next part.
3) Space and time
The issue here is how a force moves between encounters and how these are played out.
I'm assuming miniatures and terrain will be used, but the amount of tabletop needed will be less and that setups and objectives will be more fluid. That said, some encounters may not need a physical representation, or could be avoided or resolved another way.
As a kind of halfway-house suggesting how flexible approach to space can be in a given situation, have a read of this general approach to simulating very heavy terrain, and this variation for fighting in hives and similar structures in fifth edition 40K. Anything can go.
Encounters could be created or generated by the GM or the players alone, even using tables or systems shared by other groups. I have a fair few ideas to use as examples too. A set of encounters, an adventure or a campaign could have certain end conditions, and maybe victory conditions to determine a winner, or could just be part of a so-called 'sandbox', with complete freedom of determination within the reality of the game world.
Could all of this be reduced to a workable form? I think it could be simpler than it looks.
Here's the idealised posting plan as it stands right now:
Part 2 - Using a GM or not, and doing all the cooler stuff
Part 3 - Running encounters, adventures and campaigns
Part 4 - The basics in a ready-to-use, easy-to-read form
Part 5 - A sample adventure, but modular for replay value
Just don't ask how long it could take. If you have any thoughts, or want to get involved, or even want to take it in another direction completely, go for it. It's just for fun, plus it's good enough for PP. As a working title, I'm calling the project RT6, but that's open too.