Promoting On-the-Spot Tactics

By | December 6, 2014

Roleplaying games are about making choices and dealing with the consequences. A series of choices meant to help achieve a larger goal form the basics of tactics in a roleplaying game.

Games encourage different tactics based on which choices have the most impact on play. For example, an emphasis on character builds and options gained each level give character optimization more chances to shape gameplay.

Many roleplaying games reward the careful use of player resources. In these games, the management of hit points, magic, time and other resources in limited supply form the core of tactical play. This encourages a longer view at the table, planning not just for one potential conflict but the next two or three.

Games with limited resources and limited ability to learn about future conflicts encourage tactics that focus on being cautious and taking risks only when the potential payoff is worth it. This can be seen when players ration spell slots, fight defensively to save on healing or hoard bennies to manipulate the final scene of the session.

LIkewise, access to perfect or near-perfect knowledge in the form of divination spells or spy satellites tends to encourage players to form strike teams that hit an objective fast and hard. This often is called “scry and fry” at the table.

With Forthright Open Roleplay, our goal is to make rules that facilitate play that is tactical in the moment but not the long term. Tactical in the moment means there are consequences for failure right then – not achieving your goal in a conversation or gaining a lingering wound when you are dropped to zero Resolve in combat.

Not being tactical in the long term refers to the fact that Forthright Open Roleplay doesn’t track player resources from scene to scene. We want to reduce bookkeeping between sessions and during the game itself.

This is done for multiple reasons. The first reason comes from a desire to reduce or eliminate rules that are handwaved at the table. Gaming groups tend to ignore rules that don’t come up often, rules that use different resolution mechanics than normal, and rules that take up too much time for the value added.

The second reason is to remove resource tracking that goes away over time, such as the archer who has to track arrows until he finds an energy bow that makes its own arrows. Some groups don’t bother tracking any resources that aren’t important after the first few levels of play. That’s why Resolve regenerates between combats and ammunition is not tracked in Forthright Open Roleplay.

The third reason is our goal to make a game that can accommodate a wide range of playstyles without having to change or bend the rules. Tables that have one combat every three weeks and tables that have three barfights in the first hour will track the same amount of information in Forthright Open Roleplay. That’s why our rules for Factions and Domains will be something players can use from session one, not some distant point in the future.

Tactics are fun. Players like being able to overcome obstacles through cleverness in the moment and cleverness in using the available rules, even if that just means packing enough iron spikes without going over the encumbrance limit.

We knew at the beginning that we wanted to discourage or outright prevent some tactics from being used in Forthright Open Roleplay, such as character optimization. That’s why all character improvements in Forthright come from the successful achievement of goals in the game. There’s no way to plan out a character build ahead of time, because the advancement options available to characters only open based on their actions in any given adventure.

We want to make sure Forthright Open Roleplay rewards cleverness at the table without rewarding time spent studying the rules for loopholes. That is why we are trimming down the rules again – we want to make sure that you don’t have to spend a lot of time playing the game outside of gaming sessions in order to be successful and have a fun time in the game. That’s also why we make sure dice are used for risky or difficult actions – so no one is certain of the results ahead of time.

Planning around risk and chance, as expressed through dice rolls, is part of the tactics we want to encourage. Tactics that always work or protect players from the consequences of their actions are something we don’t want in Forthright Open Roleplay.

We believe this makes things fun for all the players, including the Guide, because it forces everyone to deal with the unexpected situations that come from emergent play. Please let us know what you think in the comments below.