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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Retrospective: Building Onn as a Game

I thought this was important enough to post despite by self-imposed ban on posting til Monday. I spent about 6 fun-filled hours dungeon crawling with most of my oldest gaming friends and the people most responsible for the playtesting the budding idea for creating my own game for my Onn setting. I handed out Onn Core Rules books to all present, with a 'Merry Christmas' because these players are the ones that allowed me to begin the process of game deconstruction and design.

I was asked a few questions (I had not really told anyone about the books, as they were supposed to be Christmas presents, but I got a bit behind schedule) and when I made the statement "I knew I was making the game I wanted when Bob* walked out of the game that one night", some of the players nodded remembering the night in question and the player in question's wife gave me a confused look. We got started right after that, and I didn't have a chance to explain my answer (it sounded more negative than I intended, because without 'the Event' happening this game probably would have never have been created and would have languished as nothing more than defunct houserules for a different game), so I'll take the time to do so for all to see. It's also a lesson in design - sometimes you may have a great idea, but still be on the wrong track. Lastly, it's a lesson about friendship and gaming - sometimes you need to listen to what your friends and players aren't saying as much as what they are saying.

It started out, as noted elsewhere, for a 3.5e setting with rules 'modifications'. Before my last 3.5ed campaign was started (early in 2007), I posted to the group's website that I would like to run a houseruled game with some information on the changes. The group responded positively and green-lighted the project. Now, through what was turning into a rewrite of powered down 3.5ed rules, I would add some houserules and when we would get together there would be some discussion of them and either the group would agree to playtest the rules changes or shoot them down before almost each session.

I think throughout the campaign, I used 2 or 3 initiative systems and one of the players would always ask "so which Initiative system are we using this week?". Looking back the players were definitely more patient than I deserved and for the most part whenever I rolled out changes they would generally accept trying them. Except once...and it turned out to be the critical turning point that changed my tack and moved Onn away from being a 3.5ed supplement.

I had tinkered with all of the classes I wanted to have in my game but largely left the Fighter class intact at the beginning. Trying to deal with the enoumous amount of feats they amass and their combat power was too much a headache. I did get around to it though and the night we sat down to game and I had the proposed rule changes one of the players, Bob, with a fighter character had a literal meltdown, shouted a couple of choice words, balled up the proposed rule changes and walked out. Most of the other players had varying reactions and the wind was literally sucked out of the game for next few sessions. We all got together to play though, so play on we did.

Now, Bob and I have known and played together for a long time and Bob's opinion is something I value. While we don't see eye-to-eye on everything, we can hash out something from both sides and play on without any real issues. So when this happened, I knew I was on to something and at the same time knew I was on the wrong track trying to use 3.5ed and 'roll back' the power level of the game. We were in the middle of a campaign though and I couldn't and wouldn't just kill it after the other players had played though to that point.

From that point on, most of the rules changes were kept to a minimum. Ones that had been made were largely to continue previous changes to keep the game flowing at the level of power I had gotten it. Bob did eventually return to the group, we talked it over and it's water under the bridge. I continued to work on what was to become the Core Rules, using S&W for the framework and the successful rules changes I did get to playtest in that 3.5ed game, as well as the rest of the rules playtested in S&W/Onn games throughout last year.

But without 'the Event' happening, Onn would have only existed as a watered-down version of 3.5ed instead of its own game standing on its own merits. So in a way that can almost only be possible for a RPG, the World of Onn: Core Rules as a standalone RPG may never have happened if one of my friends hadn't gone Oldschool Rebellion.

Moreso than anyone else, thank you Bob, because in your moment of chutzpa, you helped me in a way I never though of and guided me in a direction I would have never taken on my own.

*Everyone in the gaming group knows Bob's real identity, but I don't see any reason to plaster it all over the internet. It was a single moment in time in the gaming group's history, but it was a defining moment for the creation of my Onn.


Dalamon WolfMage said...

I was there for that too. I had dropped off some books for the host while everyone was getting setup. That was even before I got to join the group for some great gaming sessions.

James Bobb said...

While it wasn't a shocking thing to have a player walk out (it's happened before in groups I've played with in the past), it did strike a moment of clarity as to my overall goal - what I really wanted to do was make my own game, not 'de-juice' another game.

If 'Bob' wouldn't have made such a dramatic point, Onn would have probably washed out as 3e-lite game and been shelved.

I really did enjoy hanging out with the old group and killin' some shadows. But I have to admit, I look forward to Thursday nights and my game.

Dalamon WolfMage said...

Since we don't get such a great review of Saturday's games, what is going on there? 'Wife' and I are sad we cannot attend them currently.

James Bobb said...

I'm not entirely sure what teh overall plot is anymore. I was there for the 1st session or 2, then got my schedule all jiggered, made a session in between and then again on Saturday...My memory is fuzzy on the origin story.

We fought Greater shadows, some other shadows, Bart killed Steve so Steve wouldn't turn into a shadow, there were traps, a prismatic wall and a was fun though.

Anonymous said...

Well, you know, it is just your typical, run of the mill, adventure (LOL!).

We are currently in Myth Drannor, fighting your everyday demons, devils, Blackguard Frost Giants (and a nasty high level Druid Frost Giant - you missed that part Jim), undead including your "typical" demi-lich....and, it seems, an entire family of Black Dragons... You know, pretty average stuff (another LOL!).

All this to recover one gem of nine (I think) which belong in a necklace and are at various distant locals throughout the Realms (like the famous Drow city that I refuse to mention by name -- ughhh)... Of course, without all the gems in place within this necklace, magic goes awry throughout the Realms, but that is such a "minor" point (third LOL!).

So, all-in-all, like I said, pretty run-of-the-mill stuff (LOL #4!).

Dalamon WolfMage said...

AHH!!! I think we were there for the start of that, but it was pretty close to my wife's due date with the baby that she was too tired to continue going.

Man, that sounds like fun! Poor Chuck Wagon, he missed all the killing. :-(