Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In praise of D6

I know I'm in the Minority here, and I know my gaming tastes aren't the 'norm', especially when it comes to other game systems and settings, but in flipping through the Star Wars D6 rulebook (the revised, 2nd edition one), I came across something that again affirmed why it is I love this system so much. It was in the introduction section of the book, essentially laying out what the basics of the game are from a players perspective. It is probably one of the best and most direct explanations of what role-playing is and really captures the mood of the Star Wars system in particular:

"You'll be playing a character—a person who lives in the Star Wars universe. While playing, you pretend to be that character.

There is no board to move tokens on. Instead, one of your friends will be the gamemaster. The gamemaster acts as a storyteller and referee, describing each scene to you and the other players. Now imagine how your character would react to the situation. Then, tell the gamemaster what your character is going to do.

When you describe what your character does, the gamemaster will tell you when to roll the dice, and tell you what happens as a result of how well (or poorly) you roll.

In a way, you, the other players and the gamemaster are creating your own Star Wars movie with your characters as the star!

Winning. There are no winners and losers. Having fun is what counts.

Cooperate. If the characters are to stand any chance of succeeding in their adventures, you and the other players have to work together.

Be True to the Movies. Remember, you're playing Star Wars! Be heroes. Use snappy one-liners. And above all else, have fun!

Become Your Character. Don't be afraid to ham it up a little! Speak like your character and adopt his mannerisms in your movements and actions. You can act out scenes—for example, if you're a gambler, you could have fun trying to con the other characters. However, never act out scenes that could be considered threatening or dangerous.

Use Your Imagination. Your character can do whatever you can imagine someone in that situation doing. If you can imagine it in the real world (or the Star Wars universe), it can happen in the game!

Keep Things Moving. Don't worry about the rules. Simply tell the gamemaster what you want your character to do, ad he'll tell you what to roll and when."

-- Star Wars Core Rulebook, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded

Is this very basic? Yes! And that is the point. There was a very conscious effort in this game to make it accessible to new players—people who have never played ANY roleplaying game before. In this age of seeming 'decline' in tabletop gaming, it is important to make a game easy to learn. Now, as far as the individual points of this excerpt go...

Winning. Yeah, this is pretty much the standard line in all RPGs, even if it does sound more like the coddling 'everyone is a winner!' politically-correct line that some people try to force. But it's true in an RPG. You 'Win' by having fun. That is the goal of the game (and I don't want to get into the whole 'Tyranny of Fun' thing again, so I'll move on).

Cooperate. Yes. As much as some people think that 'party conflict' is fun, it is ultimately disruptive to running a campaign—especially a Star Wars campaign that is supposed to be heroic (see below). Inner-party tension? That can be fun, as long as it is in-character. But when every game session turns into one character trying to kill the other? Well...that isn't Star Wars.

Be True to the Movies. Hell yes. This is one of the main reasons I can't even fathom trying to run an 'evil' Star Wars campaign—because the movies are about HEROES and GOOD triumphing over evil. This is a personal bias of mine, to be sure, but...well, there it is. The reason I wanted to play Star Wars is to be a big, damn hero. Not to explore the depths of depravity of the Sith. That's just not my bag, baby. Not the type of campaign I'd run.

Become Your Character. To me, this is kind of the point of Roleplaying. Creating and playing a character role. If you aren't doing this, then you're just playing a wargame. Again, not the type of game I want to run. On the flip side, I don't much care for 'costumes' or 'LARPing', so...there is a limit.

Use Your Imagination. Of all the 'core' aspects of the game, this is one of the trickiest. On the one hand, you want your players to dream up heroic things to do. On the other hand, they'll occasionally come up with something that you (as a GM) would just deem...impossible—or something the stats of their character just couldn't support. While I agree with the free-thinking aspect of this, I would make a point of telling my players to temper their imagination with a dose of realistic expectation based upon their current stats and skills. But then again, when you throw Force Points into the mix...well, things are a lot more possible then. Oh, and as a GM, if a player attempted something I thought was outside of their ability to do, I would first TELL them that, out of character, before allowing them to go through with it—especially with new players. You don't want to frustrate people by saying. "Sure, you can do anything!" then have them roll and fail miserably all the time. Sends the wrong message.

Keep Things Moving. HELL YES. This is the reason I prefer D6 to any other system—the emphasis on speed and simplicity. It is especially true in a cinematic setting like Star Wars—known for its fast-paced action scenes and story-progression. You don't want to get bogged down in a full-scale tactical simulation every time you get into battle. Of course, the higher in level you get with Star Wars, the more dice are involved—and the slower things go. But there are solutions to that, too.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts on the matter and my gushing again at how much D6 rocks as a system for me and my gaming style.

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