RPPR Episode 122: It Takes a Village to Carry My Inventory

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Synopsis: The new Fallout game has a settlement leadership feature that allows the player to design and run small communities. It’s impressive but tabletop RPGs can capture more complexity and sophisticated narratives than any video game. Games about community leadership should be different than the standard murderhobo dungeon crawl/investigation campaign model. Tom, Aaron, Caleb, and I discuss how they should be different and what players and GMs can do to make them more interesting. Tom also has a letter, plus shout outs and anecdotes!

Shout Outs and Reviews:

Music: Various tracks from SOUND_TRACK ~ [MP3?]?.?torrent  by R23X

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  1. This is one of the topics I’ve been waiting for years for RPPR to tackle. Thanks a ton guys!

  2. it kind of baffles me that I sometimes hear the same complaints I have about Bethesda games/its tenure with Fallout in particular (YES I CAVED ROSS I’M WEAK AND PAYING THE PRICE FOR IT) from other people who still seem to be big fans of them. the completely inconsequential and colorless nature of the townbuilding, the absolute void of effort to make you care at all about your settlers, is a really strong example of Bethesda’s “just pile stuff on and don’t apply polish” design aesthetic–Caleb himself voiced it extremely well here, that video games, Bethesda I think chief among them, tends to heap on “more” instead of developing “consequence.” consequence is something that Fallouts 1/2/NV were pretty good at implementing, on a video game scale, so the shift in focus to mere “bigness” and “moreness” is heartbreaking for me. especially released in a year where The Witcher 3 made everything feel of such moment and often did give you no right answer, even if those consequences tended to be pretty local, individually. I mean, F4 doesn’t even do an ending “state of the wasteland” slideshow, for fuck’s sake, which I’d’ve hoped the return of in NV would’ve shamed Bethesda into doing a -little- work.

    and the dialogue, cheee-rist.

    also mod out your weight limit, I couldn’t even keep trying to find the fun if I couldn’t carry around one hundred thousand pounds of bullshit

    those movies both sound awesome, and we need those God’s Teeth games in the world as soon as possible. are they gonna be posted as oneshots here and there, or will we get one every nine days for a bit?

  3. kingdom and Urban Shadows do a good job of being set in a specific environment apparently.

    Darkest Dungeon inverts Fallout 4’s trend. You toss adventurers to the blender so you can save a town after all.

  4. I might run one on Skype sometime. But I still need to work out the rest of the system. I will finish up the four part game first. Then…might do that.

  5. Also, this is Tom. WordPress has me logged in under Lustrian.

  6. Cool, Tom!

    I like this topic. The concept of developing a settlement over the course of the game probably goes all the way back to the first time a D&D player asked Gary or Dave if they could use their gold to buy a castle.

    It seems to me that there are a lot of different degrees to which community development can factor into a game, on a continuum from “The town is where we buy potions between dungeon crawls,” all the way up to “Why don’t we just play Dwarf Fortress?”.

    I think it’s a good idea to try to work out as a group how much you want it to matter in your game, and make sure that you’ve got mechanics that help the players engage at that level satisfactorily. Pathfinder, for example, has a published Adventure Path that’s all about developing a city/kingdom (Kingmaker), that’s very popular among their players. They added on a quite elaborate set of rules to make it playable, instead of just relying on the standard adventure/combat-focused Pathfinder rules. There’s still some tension there, though, since it’s pretty obviously a new system bolted onto the existing rules. The campaign basically alternates between two separate gameplay modes: kingdom management, and adventuring.

    If you want your game to be all about setting development at its core, you might be better off with a system that focuses on that from the ground up, like “The Quiet Year” for example. Look for mechanics that both immerse the players in the community’s identity, and also give them choices that dramatically affect their community’s evolution.

    Anyway, thanks for the episode. It’s got me thinking about how much I enjoy games and stories like this.

  7. I know this is more Rules than Story, but IMO the best way to make a community actually matter to a PC is to actually incorporate it into the character’s mechanics.

    Tom touched on this by mentioning a Fallout game where the settlement granted power armor, and this is the simplest way to do it – make the character’s gear dependent on their community; If you want plasma weapons, you need to build an advanced armory. Want to learn extra spells or get magic items, then you better convince that wizard that your town would be a good place to build a tower.

    From there, you simply increase the proportion of the character defined by the community. Better plumbing translates to a higher CON equivalent because your sick less often, and automated turrets means you take fewer injuries fighting off enemies, and so on.
    The changes you want to make to the community become defined by the character/campaign’s needs, which in turn creates plot opportunities for the GM to exploit.

    As an aside, I’d really love to see a O.R.E game based around community building. In my head it’d be a better-angels-esque system where the community takes the place of the character’s demons.

    I also found it interesting that Spaceships were mentioned, but the parallel wasn’t drawn between a groups community and their conveyance.

    In any case, yet another inspirational episode 😀

  8. Have you guys tried Undertale? It’s a game where choices really matter and I think you’d like it.

  9. In response to the intro of the “She Walks in Darkness” review, let’s make something clear here.

    Lovecraft was incredibly racist, even by the standards of his time.

    Lovecraft was not sexist. Especially by the standards of his time. There are very few female characters in his stories, which is actually the least sexist option for someone whose real-life experience with women consisted of several insane female relatives who ruined his life and a wife who told him to marry her and then divorced him a few years later because he wouldn’t stop listening to his crazy aunts. All of his characters are either villains, victims, or minor characters, so it doesn’t mean anything that all of his female characters fall into those categories. Compare his works to the stories published besides them in the pulps, and you’ll see more racism but a whole lot less sexism.

    Of the female characters we do get, Asenath isn’t actually female (nor transgender, the wizard possessing her wants to have a male body again), and Lavinia Whateley is pretty minor. Lovecraft gets downright ahead of his time in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” – while authors after him, and many to this day, portray breeding with the Deep Ones and similar situations as “fishmen raping our hot wimmin”, in Shadow the breeding is enthusiastically consensual – and while it goes both ways, the only mentioned Deep One spouses are non-sexualized women. We even meet the protagonist’s grandmother and great-grandmother at the end of the story, and find them to be superhumanly wise, powerful, and immortal creatures living in a city of “wonder and glory”.

    If you read Lovecraft’s essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, he has considerable praise for a number of female authors, even mentioning “The Yellow Wall Paper”, considered an explicitly feminist story.

    Further proof? There’s actually a letter of Lovecraft’s in which he claims that the subjugation of women is an “Oriental superstition’ that European types should never have adopted. With that blend of feminism-fueled racism, he’s practically a modern neoliberal when it comes to women.

    That said, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of “She Walks in Darkness”.

  10. Aaron, Have you heard about Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt? Looking pretty good. PV video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMqu-iHKaT0 and a description taken from here: http://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3746278&userid=0&perpage=40&pagenumber=34#post453160555

    The Thunderbolt sector.

    Once, it was Side Four, a peaceful, prosperous spaceborne nation on the edge of humanity’s slow expanse into the solar system. The One Year War, the apocalyptic struggle between the Earth Federation and the rebel Principality of Zeon, changed all that. Now, it is a vast field of ghosts, debris, and savage electrical storms, where nothing lives except an elusive pirate radio station, broadcasting ancient music from the Anno Domini era to Federation and Zeon alike.

    It is into this eerily beautiful hellscape that the Moore Brotherhood intrudes, former Side Four residents seeking to reclaim their homeland and secure the Federation’s supply routes as it prepares for the final battle at A Baoa Qu. Waiting for them is the Living Dead Battalion, a ramshackle, under-supplied, and grimly determined mob of crippled Zeon veterans serving as expendable guinea pigs for the Principality’s horrifying psycommu experiments.

    Io Flemming is the black sheep of Moore’s former ruling family, a hedonistic but supremely gifted adrenaline junkie addicted to mobile suit combat and classic jazz. The Brotherhood’s ambitions mean nothing to him – he signed up to the Thunderbolt campaign to test himself in the solar system’s ultimate proving ground. What he finds there, though, is utterly beyond his imagination.

    Darryl Lorenz was once a Zeon infantryman, one of the thousands of teenage bodies it threw into the meat grinder to stave off defeat for another few weeks. Now, he’s one of the Living Dead Battalion’s greatest weapons, a superhuman sniper with literal nerves of steel. The Battalion is the only family he knows, and he wants nothing more than to keep it safe… but how high a price is he willing to pay when his very humanity is the currency, and will be even be given a choice in the matter?

    As fleets clash in the shadow of the huge, dead colonies, these two men’s fates will become inexorably entwined…

    Shame it’s gonna be only 4 18-minute OVAs.

  11. Having just listened to the first After Hours, I’d love to see that Graves and Rec idea played out of managing an undead community using Hillfolk/DramaSystem.

    Great thoughts as usual about drawing out the interesting potential of community building within an RPG, especially about making it rewarding overall as opposed to just a time/resource sink.

    It also seems like community management can pretty much take over a campaign. I’ve heard about that happening with the Pathfinder campaign – basically the game just shifted over to d20 Civilization. While that’s fine if it’s what everyone wants, I don’t think it plays to the strengths of RPGs so well as the personal side and the up-close consequences of your decisions.

    @ Pth’thya-l’yi

    You make some interesting points, but I’m not sure I would go so far as to say the Innsmouth breeding was entirely enthusiastically consensual. Zadok Allen mentions:
    “God, what I seen senct I was fifteen year’ old – Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin! – the folks as was missin’, and them as kilt theirselves ” when he’s recounting the history of Innsmouth, after the deep ones have made it so “sarten haouses hez got to entertin guests”.

    I also find it more interesting to consider the story more about voluntarily accepting the deep ones to keep the town going, but the “them as kilt themselves” were probably not too on board with the whole thing.

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