Taking Advantage of Being People

By | June 16, 2012

Hello and good morning on this fine Free RPG Day!  If you’re not already planning on it, we encourage you to travel to your Friendly Local Game Store and enjoy some of the events they’ve probably got planned for today–no doubt there are Pathfinder and D&D 4E games galore, and in some stores perhaps even some other RPGs will be available.

Today I’ll be brief, not really providing specific insight into Infinite Earths but rather talking about something that we’ve been keeping in our minds as we develop the system.  Specifically, I’m talking about the fact that we’re people playing a game with other people–no computers involved, limited only by the boundaries of our own imaginations.

Now, I love a little Skyrim or Diablo III as much as the next guy. . .but throughout those entire games, you’re playing the same way.  You’re a sturdy adventurer delving into monster-filled places and slaughtering them, trekking back to town to sell your loot and/or craft more, then heading back out into the field.  It’s very fun, but it’s ultimately very limited compared to the infinite options available to players when playing tabletop games.

And yet.

And yet when we play tabletop games, so often our games become. . .go into this place, kill everything that fights us inside, gather loot, now head back into town to sell the loot.  What madness is this?!?

Yes, that’s fun, but don’t we have video games to do that kind of playing for us?  Granted, the hobby predates video games like what we have now, but now that we do. . .shouldn’t we strive for something unique in our tabletop experiences?

To our minds, the true advantage of tabletop roleplaying over RPG video games is that, at the table, a human being filled with cleverness and personality has taken the place of the computer.  And that changes the possibilities of the game, makes it such that the game can be shifted in direction and focus at the whims of the players and the GM, working together collaboratively, leveraging their creativity, and adapting their entertainment in ways computers just can’t do yet.

And one of the core ways that’s possible is by changing the nature of the game.  When you’re an adventurer in your teens, and you have spells that allow you to routinely have a chat with the gods, or can step across entire continents with a word and a bit of powder, or can slay entire armies with a few swings of your sword–why are you still going into the dungeon to murder green people?

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to us.  People, when they accumulate power, accumulate also people who flock to them–either to try and take advantage of that power, or to benefit from it.  Such people build allegiances, they build organizations, they build strongholds.  This was evident in systems such as D&D and AD&D, when the rules explicitly stated that by the time you were in the double-digit levels, you were probably lords in your own right.

In modern games and game systems, that seems to have disappeared.  We kind of wish it hadn’t, because that was kind of cool.

So what we’re trying to do is build a ruleset where, if you want to go dungeon-delving from levels 1-20, you’re welcome to do so.  The power imbalance of the teens, the sheer insanity of spells and abilities increasing exponentially in power from one level to the next, is gone.  The power curve is much steadier now, and we like that.

But we’re also going to include rules for developing your own organizations, building your own strongholds, and becoming powers in your own right.  Not so much that doing so will become the focus of the game (such as it tends to be in games like Reign or Adventurer Conqueror King), but so that–should you and/or your players want–they will be available as options to help you expands your play beyond the dungeon.

We hope it’s a good idea.  As has become our mantra around here as we prepare the Infinite Earths rulebook, “We’re gonna have to playtest that.”