24 April 2013

Soar Engine Addendum: On Video Games and the Tabletop

As an addendum to my post earlier today about my new RPG rule system, Soar Engine, a thought or two about its (and RPG's in general) relationship with video games...

As I said in the previous post, playing Mass Effect was a big influence on developing the concept of Soar Engine. But it runs deeper than that. For basically all of my adult life, video games have been a huge influence on me (perhaps even more so than as a kid). And for many years I've yearned for a pen & paper RPG that more effectively captured a little of the feel, and aesthetic, of video games.

The things I enjoy in my RPG's – larger-than-life characters, over-the-top action, etc. – I sometimes describe as cinematic, but what I really want to say is video game like (though that obviously doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well). However, I'm not sure I've ever quite succeeded in bringing in this feel quite as well as I'd like.

Of course video game RPG's, one of my favourite video game genres, were (and are) heavily influenced by their pen & paper counterparts. But going the other way, drawing influence from video games, is a little more challenging, I think. Speed is naturally one of the main issues. You can devise a system that emulates the mechanics of some game, but taken to the table it inevitably becomes much slower. And that naturally detracts from the feel of the game.

So with Soar Engine I hope to emulate the feel, or perhaps I should rather say aesthetic, of video games, rather than paying too much attention to underlying mechanics, like counting HP and damage, equipment management and whatnot. The power system I explained in my previous post could, in all its simplicity, be used to emulate the special abilities of characters from all sorts of video games, from biotic attacks to summoning Bahamut to level your enemies. And that, in my mind, is what in the end defines these characters – their unique ways of making the action feel dramatic. That is what I want to bring to the tabletop.

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