This week was the RPG JAM, where we were tasked with creating and then playing a tabletop RPG (roleplaying game). This concept is similar to Dungeons + Dragons, where one player is the “Dungeon Master” and controls the game narrative, and the other players create characters and attempt to win the game.
At the beginning of the week, we played through two example RPG’s. In the first we were pirates tasked with finding treasure. Each player created their respective pirate character (mine was Dave The Terrible) and the game began. We arrived on a desert island and attacked a camp of cannibals, and then stole their golden trophy. I was killed in a spider-infested cave.
The second game had a completely different setting; we were superheroes tasked with saving the world from an evil corporation that had nuclear missiles and intended to use them. Each player had to then choose a superpower for their character; mine was super speed. Our team of heroes then successfully infiltrated the enemy camp and the speedsters (myself and another player) rounded up all the guards. The missiles were then disabled and the day was saved.
Playing these RPGs gave a good insight into the kind of game we were going to create, as well as a clear idea of how RPGs worked and what they used to progress the game.
Using this knowledge my team and I came up with our setting; a dystopian future ruled by evil corporations. The full synopsis is here:
“The game is set in a dystopian future ruled by corporations and corruption. The players are a group of characters (humans, androids and augmented) who are tasked with taking down a corporation by either killing the leader or stealing the corporation’s money.
Players break into the corporation headquarters and make their way through multiple floors.”
We settled on giving players a select group of characters to choose from as well as a small range of mission options and a limited number of items they could take with them on their mission, in order to steer them down a particular narrative path. Our game wasn’t as open as the RPGs we had played as we wanted the players to experience a certain story.
We came up with a list of items that players could take with them, and then a Health System (each player has 2HP) to add some risk to the game.
We then decided to give the players some say in who their characters were, so we came up with a skill system (taken from the Rulebook) –
“Each player has four skills that are in a 1,2,3,4 system. The skills are Subtlety, Strength, Tech and Dexterity.
- Subtlety – players are good at avoiding combat e.g. stealthy, persuasive etc
- Strength – Physicality
- Tech – Hacking and gadget usage
- Dexterity – steady hands, lockpicking etc
Players then assign numbers to respective skills, for example –
- A 4 in Subtlety
- A 3 in Strength
- A 2 in Tech
- A 1 in Dexterity
When using their skills players roll a die. In order to succeed in skill usage they have to roll their respective skill number or below it, for example –
- If they have a 4 in Subtlety, they must roll a 4 or below to succeed. This has a high chance of success.
- If they have a 1 in Dexterity, they must roll a 1 to succeed. This has a low chance of success.”
We then came up with a Character Type system (taken from the Rulebook) –
“Players choose their character type at the start of the game. Different types have different abilities –
- Humans can obtain disguises
- Augmented can change their fingerprints to match someone else’s
- Androids can send notifications to people as distractions
Once their ability has been used it cannot be used again for the rest of the floor the player is on. Once the next floor is reached, a die is rolled and players have to roll a 3 or lower to regain their ability. If they then use the ability again they must wait until the next level to reroll the die, this time needing a 2 or lower to regain it. This can be repeated once more (rolling a 1) so players can only use their abilities a maximum of three times.
Types also have drawbacks, however –
- Androids are naturally loud
- Augmented are affected by electrical devices
- Humans only have two inventory slots”
The rest of the game was then left up to the Dungeon Master. They would decide how the building layout would be as well as where the enemies and objectives were. They were also given the option to implement a Timer if they felt the players weren’t being challenged enough.
Once all the mechanics were in place, we had a test playthrough. We found the game interesting and fun to play, and although there were a few tweaks needed (for example, it was decided a map needed to be created as it was felt that the Dungeon Master had too much freedom regarding map design) overall it felt like a solidly well crafted RPG.
A default map was then created. Here are some example floors (third and fourth) –
Third Floor Fourth Floor
I then created the Rulebook for the game, which can be found here.
The game was then played through by other members of our year on Friday. Overall we received quite positive feedback, so I felt that the RPG JAM went rather well. We successfully created a functional and actually rather fun game with some decent mechanics. Although we did limit player options rather a lot at the start of the game I felt this was made up for with giving the Dungeon Master a great deal of freedom as well as having many different scenarios once the players were inside the building they needed to attack.
Overall I learned a great deal from the RPG JAM, having never really done anything RPG related before. I found the experience quite fun and also very free, as we were not limited by the technical limitations of Unity or having to physically build something so we let our imaginations run wild.