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Choices

Matt Forbeck March 31, 2000
 

Matt Forbeck has been in the adventure game industry for over 10 years now. The game lines he's worked on include Deadlands: The Weird West, Deadlands: Hell on Earth, the WildStorms CCG, Silent Death: The Next Millennium, Mutant Chronicles, Doomtrooper, the Kult CCG, Doomtown, The Great Rail Wars, Warzone, Blood Bowl, AD&D, Middle-earth Roleplaying, Chill, and Space Hulk. He's also written short stories for Deadlands: The Weird West, Vampire, Changeling, Shatterzone, TORG, and Mutant Chronicles. His latest project is Brave New World, which he recently sold to Alderac Entertainment Group after leaving his position as president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group.

So far, about 90% of the feedback I've gotten on Brave New World has been positive. People love the background, they dig the art, they're dying to see where the story is going. They're ready to have fun.

Of course, you can't make everybody happy. That's something you've got to realize as a game designer and live with. You do the best you can, make your choices, and live with them. Hopefully your game finds an audience. Outside of a massive marketing campaign, there's not much else you can do other than put out what is--in your mind at least--a quality product and hope for the best.

Once the game actually hits shelves, that's when you get all the feedback you could ever hope for, both good and bad. And that's what Brave New World got: good and bad. I'll spare you the good stuff. That's just trumpeting my own horn. I'm here to talk about the bad stuff.

The biggest complaint so far has been from experience roleplayers who don't like the way powers are handled in the game. For those of you who don't know, Brave New World has a simple character creation system with which an experienced roleplayer can come up with a hero in about five minutes. One of the last steps in the process is to pick a power package, a preassembled group of powers that are (theoretically, at least) balanced and a good fit for the game.

In other superhero games, balancing out hero powers has often led to character creation systems in which you need several hours and a calculator to build yourself a hero. With the power packages, even a novice player can come up with a hero in under a half hour. An experienced player can do so in about five minutes.

For some people who have been playing superhero roleplaying games for years, this can grate on them. It doesn't offer them the flexibility--the ability to tinker--that they've become accustomed to, even demand. Some people have gone so far as to say they actually felt insulted by the approach.

Honestly, that was never my intention. I've been a gamer for years, and I've found that as I've been in the industry longer and longer my patience with complex rules systems has gotten shorter and shorter. Hero creation is one of those major design obstacles. It's where you introduce the beginning player to your game and set the tone for how it's played.

I wanted to emphasize simplicity, so that's the way I went. Sure, I could have come up with a "build any kind of hero you like" system, but why bother? It's been done before and done extremely well. Besides which, that's not what I wanted to see in Brave New World. I wanted something you could just jump into with and hit the ground running.

The fact is, though, that's not going to make everybody happy. I understand that, and I can accept that, but I think there's a solution.

If you still want more flexibility, I say go for it. Use a hero-creation system you love and play in the Brave New World setting. The whole point of a game is for you to have fun. If you're not, either change it or try something else. That goes up to and including ripping a game engine (or a part of it) out of a game and retrofitting it with something you already love.

My first choice for a system that lets you create any hero you like is Champions. The 5th edition should be out sometime soon, and if you're into games of that level of complexity, it's sure to knock your cape off. Please, check the game out, use it to build your Brave New World heroes, and then meet the rest of us back here so we can get down to some good, old, roleplaying fun.

Or use the system of your choice. Try GURPS, DC Universe, Providence, Fuzion, Heroes Unlimited, Blood of Heroes, Aberrant, whatever. Just keep in mind all of those guidelines on coming up with your own packages as described in Brave New World. As always, your game master has the final word on what gets into her game. Do your best to come up with a good fit, and you'll do fine.

Remember, the point of this all is to have fun. Don't worry about whether you're playing the game right or not. (Sure, I put a lot of brainsweat into those rules, and I think they work pretty well, but you're free to disagree. ) If you're having fun, you're as right as rain.

Matt

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What do you think?

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