Monday, January 11, 2010

Tinkering and Vacillation

At the end of the month, I'm heading off to South Dakota (via Colorado) to hang out with some of my buddies from college—and to play some Star Wars (just like last year)! Unlike last year, however, I also want to run an event at the game convention (Vermincon) that'll be going on (yes, I am a geek). In this instance, I want to 'return to my roots', as it were, by running one of my favorite Star Wars adventures—Tatooine Manhunt. In a way, it's like going home for me, because this was the first adventure I ever ran at the first convention I ever went to—which just happened to be the first Vermincon ever! It was also the adventure that kicked off nearly two decades of my Vermillion campaign.

Though I've run Tatooine Manhunt many times now (at least 3-4, for different groups), I'm still putting some effort into my preparations for it—most notably into the stable of pre-generated characters I have prepared for it. About a year or so ago, while perusing the Star Wars Artist's Guild (an AWESOME Star Wars art site), I found a whole bank of great images from an artist named Stirzy. These were illustrations of all the 'Character Templates' from the original Star Wars D6 rulebook (Brash Pilots, Smugglers, Failed Jedi, etc.). While I usually go in for more 'realistic' artwork, I found myself loving the hint of 'cartoonish' sensibility in these pieces. I loved them so much that I decided to base my pre-generated Characters on them.

And that (finally) is what brings me to the subject of this post. One of the things that first drew me to the Star Wars D6 system was it's simplicity. The skill system was detailed enough to offer a lot of variety, and yet simple enough not to be 'cumbersome'. Starting with Second Edition, however, things began to change. A lot of more specialized skills began to appear. Instead of 'Starship Piloting', for instance, you had: Starfighter Piloting, Space Transports and Capital Ship Operation (or somesuch). While it makes sense that these would be different skills (as the handling characteristics of the vessels in question would be very different), it also added another layer of complexity to the system.

The increased number of skills sparked my own thoughts—and started up a lot of what I call 'Tinkering' on my part. As of last year, I had pretty much decided on a 'final' skill list. I wasn't entirely happy with it, but it was the best I'd come up with so far. In making up the Pre-Gen Characters for the convention, however, I began to have doubts—again. In other words—I began to vacillate. I marveled again at how 'simple' the character sheets were for first edition, compared them to my greatly expanded skill lists and...well—was adding so many different skills REALLY necessary? Why did Survival have to be broken down into Survival AND Orienteering. Couldn't Tracking ALSO have 'hunting' lumped in with it? GAH!

So here I am again, considering revamping the skill list AGAIN—paring it down to something closer to the original game. I know I don't want things to be exactly the same as the original. But I also don't want the unwieldy list I have now. So once more I am searching for that magic 'middle ground'. I imagine a lot GMs go through the same thing, no matter what system they use. I know for a fact that various Game designers certainly do—witness the increasing layers of complexity from Original D&D to it's current incarnation. Maybe it's a cycle all GMs and designers have to go through before they accept it—tinkering with rules until they finally realize that what they started with was not that far off from the 'optimal' way to play the game.

Anyway, in looking over my current skill list, I am pleased to see I am not TOO far off from where I want to be. In fact, it looks like I had already started downhill from the precipice of INCREDIBLY detailed skill lists to something more manageable. Hopefully I'll only have to tinker a little bit now.

Heh. I'm sure my players will be happy when I finally stop the madness ;)

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