Wednesday, May 21, 2014

[AFHOTWTTGS] Iron Kingdoms: Three House Rules

Recently, I've been mulling over my experience with playtesting the Iron Kingdoms Role Playing Game, as reviewed on this very blog last month, and in my reflective trance I have hit upon a few things which I'd consider altering by default.

First up is 'Unconventional Warfare' - an Intellectual feat which enables the character to turn some aspect of the environment to their advantage, by spending a feat point and describing how they'll do it. This sort of thing is the behaviour I try to encourage in all my players - hell, it's the way most people with whom I play RPGs approach them by default - and having to tell the players who haven't picked Intellectuals and haven't chosen that feat that they're not allowed to be clever players because their character build doesn't include that sort of cleverness.

As far as I'm concerned, Unconventional Warfare should just be a part of the player character's armoury. I'll be keeping it as a Feat, in order to restrict it to player characters and important NPCs, and trusting the regular churn of feat points to keep up regardless. I suppose, for balance's sake, I should probably replace it with some extra doohickey for Intellectuals... perhaps a Moment of Genius feat which works like the Idea roll in Call of Cthulhu, to whit a 'reactivate the plot if the players get stuck' button?

Second up is an extra playable race. I'm a big fan of the Nightmare Empire of Cryx and quite a few of my players are big fans of the Satyxis - and why would you not be? I mean, look at 'em!

Fortunately, the Designated Monster Race here are in essence human; they just come with these rather fetching horn-like things. I'm thinking 'replace the free stat upgrade you get for picking Human with the Head-Butt ability, no prerequisites required'. That gives them their game effect - they nut you and you fall over - and the option to enhance that effect with extra STR and Unarmed Combat points.

And finally, there's the area of play. The notion of using squared or hex paper is nothing remotely new to RPGs, but to an RPG that's so heavily and directly derived from a wargame in which measurement - precise and frequently argued down to the micron - is so vital and failing to accurately calculate distances such a big deal, it's quite a fundamental shift.

The thing is, though this isn't Warmachine. We're not playing a competitive game. We're not standing here shaking our heads and going "well, that's your fault for not knowing exactly how far 9.5 inches is and no, I don't have to divulge my intent to stay out of that range, second-guessing me is part of being good at this game" - we're supposed to be having fun, making cool action-hero-movie-stuff happen, and I don't think that failing your charge move by a sixteenth of an inch is part of that. Sure, sometimes it's dramatic to break cover and be mown down in a hail of bullets... but not, I think, by accident, in some random combat where you just happened to eyeball a distance slightly less than perfectly.

Lest it be thought that I am in some way pledging allegiance to the church of story gaming, let me sliiide gracefully in here with a closing thought. As a GM, my personal principle is this: I am not trying to kill the PCs. I am not opposed to the players. I am simply a referee. I administer the operation of the game system on an environment which I designed - an environment in which, through recklessness, or ignorance, or overconfidence, or lack of awareness, players might get their characters killed. I am not of the opinion that players who have been cautious, informed themselves, selected their challenges carefully and paid attention to their surroundings should be fucked over just because they can't eyeball distances down to fractions of an inch, or roll more than two or three on a few dice.

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