Repurposing a Tabletop RPG for MU* Play


  • Coder

    Okay, what would people say are the things required for tabletop RPGs in order to get them ready for online play?

    WoD included, but seeing that people want to try things like City of Mist, by no means is it the only one.

    Yes, each game has its own list of specifics, but what in general do we need to look into? (Fun Fact: The Arx skill system is originally based on 7th Sea and and Legend of the Five Rings, so don't tell me it's not possible.)


  • Pitcrew

    @thenomain I'm not quite sure what you're asking. How would you turn most table top rpgs into a MU setting? What table top system would you use? What parts need to be coded?

    Right now I'm trying to get Eclipse Phase into a form that could be used for a MU and I can tell you it is a bear and a half. I can see the overall path and the fact that I'm using an SQL database makes some things far easier but there's still just so much 'oh, because you bought this trait then your characteristic maximum for one specific characteristic is 10 points higher/for all characteristics is capped at 10).


  • Coder

    @the-sands

    What do you need to consider in turning a tabletop RPG into a Mu*?


  • Coder

    A system that allows for the players to engage in the theme, without a GM/DM/ST present.

    That is the absolute /one/ hard rule.

    However, most systems can do this, if the theme and setting is written in a way that can handle it.

    Personally, the one thing the system must have is actually a /not/.

    A system must not be map based. If it is map based it adds a whole other level of difficulty to trying to learn the game, or do anything beyond roleplay.

    Take for example, Warhammer 40K. Sure you could try and convert it to an RPG (They have, as a matter of fact) but if you tried to whole sale recreate Warhammer 40K, just trying to manage the armies would be horrific.

    So, for example, say 5th edition D&D. Great system, I love playing it, but it is tied heavily into the map, which means you need the map in order to control positioning of the monsters and the players /or/ you need players who are cool with just being 'told' numbers and running with it while the DM keeps track personally.

    As for else is required...

    Depends on how much automation you want to do honestly. Almost any TT RPG can be turned into a MU if you automate it enough. Even something like Dragon Quest.


  • Pitcrew

    @thenomain The basic path I should be using is

    Step 1: Be capable of storing a complete character. This just means that a person with the proper rights could look at the data and write out a charactersheet if they were so inclined. It doesn't mean the player has that ability, just that you have a format in place that can handle (more or less) any character. There might be some extreme outliers that require a bit of information stored in the form of +notes but for the most part everything uses a dedicated data setup. (Lots of games don't fully implement Step 1 since, as an example, a mortal with Professional Training-5 often needs a note detailing what their asset skills are).

    Step 2: Create code that can extract that data. This includes functions that can retrieve the value of a stat, +prove style commands, and +sheet commands.

    Step 3: Create commands that allow you to manipulate that data. Up to this point data has been set 'by hand' by a wizard (or whatever the equivalent is for the codebase). By the time this is done it should be possible to set up a completely new character without any hardcoded commands.

    Step 4: Build a CG. This should be robust enough to allow the vast majority of characters to be created. There might be some outliers that require staff intervention at the end (such as a feral for a completely new race) but for the most part nearly any gameplay legal character should be able to be created. Bonus points if the system can quickly confirm to staff that everything is legal (e.g. a CG system might allow people not to spend all their skill points but will present a flag to staff that the character has done this).

    Step 5: Add ancillary systems. These would be things like dice rolling, code for recording injuries, and spending points for temporary bonuses (such as Willpower in WoD). When this is done two characters should be fully capable of interacting with one another in most capacities (such as combat or passing resources back and forth) without GM intervention.

    Of course this is the roadmap I drew out for myself and then I immediately veered off road and started building a CG before I even finished the system to store all the data required for a character, and now I'm paying for it.


  • Coder

    I'm really not asking about the coding side of things. This thread was borne about because people were talking about how tabletop games are not designed for Mu*. "Have a sheet" is a given. "Roll dice" is a given.

    What do we need to do to make sure that people have things to do, that people are involved, how do we take what is a small-group game session and make it available to a larger number of people, with and without GMs?

    It's a game design question. What game design considerations are involved?


  • Coder

    @thenomain Easy to understand rules for conflict resolution, or at least something that people can point at and go: Rules say this.

    And the Rule is the Rule.

    A system where the player character isn't designed to be the protagonist, but just another cog in the machine.

    In some ways I think it is like the whole KISS principle: Keep It Simple Sweetie.

    Or the other side of the coin: A system where everyone /can/ be the hero.


  • Coder

    @lithium said in Repurposing a Tabletop RPG for MU* Play:

    @thenomain Easy to understand rules for conflict resolution, or at least something that people can point at and go: Rules say this.

    And the Rule is the Rule.

    Except the rules are made for small-group gameplay.

    I honestly thought this was a viable discussion after another thread banged on about how TT RPGs were not meant for Mu*s. This is true. This is a problem. And yet, even starting this discussion is more trouble than it's worth.

    I will be deleting this thread shortly, because if I have to fight just to get people to talk about what's in the topic title, it's not worth it.

    I'm not interested in what already works. I'm interested in what doesn't, and how to fix it.

    So, y'know, fuck it.


  • Pitcrew

    The things that I look at in particular for a TT system that I'm looking at for inspiration/transition to a MU*:

    1. As @Lithium said, can this be run without a GM present? Seventh Sea 2nd Edition and FFG Star Wars are hard in that way, because there are so many effects to play with. Savage Worlds' Bennies are hard too. Shadowrun is hard too, because most action takes place on Runs which either require plots-in-a-box or a GM. Any game with an integral crafting system is hard for this too, because crafting -usually- takes Staff input (crafting is the easiest of these to overcome with a little code, of course).
    2. How does this work with 24 hour, long-term play? In other words, how does it do with dinosaurs? If there's no cap built in, how am I going to institute something that will limit the effects of dinos? Is the game/setting built for interesting downtime, or is that usually just handwaved? Most RP will happen during downtime, and if it isn't compelling, there won't be RP.
    3. How will new characters still be valuable to older characters? This is at its worst with level-based systems, because a Level 15 character doesn't really need a Level 4 character for anything, while a 100 XP WoD beatstick may still need a 0 XP WoD techie for something.
    4. ... that's what I've got for now. There's lots more, but that's what I thought up off the top of my head.

  • Pitcrew

    @thenomain Having a better idea what you're looking for now:

    Standardize how various things work. Most tabletop games do an awful lot of 'things work this way, except when they work this way. Occasionally they will work this way and on rare occasions they will work this way'.

    Probably the biggest thing, though, is don't just assume something (especially a social skill) is going to be used on an NPC. Provide some kind of real framework for what things mean (if someone is intimidated, wtf does that mean? Can they not attack the person who intimidated them? Do they need to make a willpower roll? Do they have a penalty if they attack? Don't just say 'the person has been intimidated).


  • Pitcrew

    @thenomain said in Repurposing a Tabletop RPG for MU* Play:

    @the-sands

    What do you need to consider in turning a tabletop RPG into a Mu*?

    I don't think you have to use a tabletop system but I know nothing would get me to not consider a game faster than an undocumented system.
    I would not play a card or board game where I was not allowed to see the rules either.



  • The big two: scale and anonymity vs. face-to-face interaction. These two battle for #1, because of the bastard child that exists as their love-child and is #0: who shows up to play.

    The third is about on par: how does the game function without GM/ST/authority oversight, namely, how easy is it for people to manage the rules themselves?

    These sound like small things, but they're not. Every one of them is enormous, and all of them have many moving parts.

    People like to behave as though tabletop rules are somehow perfect for M* or sacrosanct while pretending not to notice how many house rules are required for their favorite game, and the number of 'well except for... 's and 'well everybody knows you can't use X online... 's they could rattle off for you that are the elephant in the room they're pretending isn't there.

    WoD is in fact the perfect proof of this, and all of it's canon, formally published material: because the LARP rules and the tabletop rules are different. The developers realized this: not everything works just as well when played in different environments/ways/with different quantities of people/etc..

    The first Night Owl games LARP in 1992, don't think we weren't walking around with printout character sheets with STs running all over the hotel like madmen trying to roll dice on neon plastic clipboards teetering on top of a stack of sourcebooks while something like 2/3 of the White Wolf staff squinted at how awkward and impractical this all was, because that is exactly what happened•.

    And it's how a lot of people act re: M*, too. "Allow us to observe how this doesn't work, and squint at it with a combination of amusement and sheer boggle."

    Later they tried cards. They tried a bunch of things. They adapted things over and over and over; there were new 'different from tabletop' things almost every time -- and it was for a reason. There are real reasons the LARP rules are different from the tabletop rules. (Most of those have to do with rule #2, the scale factor of #1, and definitely #0.) I couldn't tell you what all of them are (in part because I haven't played in well over a decade) but they observed what did and didn't work, and adapted, because adaptation was needed.

    With all the dice rolling off and away forever under hotel lobby couches and random con hookups having people wander off out of play and people awake for 72+ hour stretches STing fueled by a combination of Jolt cola and giddy geeky glee you might imagine. Now imagine like, three times as much of all of that as you just imagined, because that's at least how much there was.


  • Coder

    @surreality said in Repurposing a Tabletop RPG for MU* Play:

    There are real reasons the LARP rules are different from the tabletop rules.

    Totally agree with the whole post. Look at how people actually play (and how you want them to play for a hypothetical new MUSH) and then figure out which parts of the tabletop system support that and which parts you need to throw out.

    Like - I love Shadowrun but the base rulebook is hundreds of pages with hundreds of "it does this... except when it doesn't" type of twists and turns. That's an utterly absurd level of mechanics for a MUSH where people are running around doing BarRP and political plots with an occasional gang fight.

    Strip it down. Way down. Reminds me of this scene from Armageddon where they're taking all the useless junk out of the Armadillo. Then you'll have something that's more suited for strangers interacting without a GM on the internet.



  • @thenomain The question comes with contexts you aren't sharing, so no one has their bearings.

    Maybe give an example of a part of a game that in particular doesn't translate well so is often ignored or altered? Like the Wastelands effect of Prometheans as written can't be sustained with a game that is settled in one city region.

    So what can we do? Reduce it? Turn it into a lesser Blight that is a telltale, and may upset the local spirits but fades when they move around some?

    Take it away and focus more heavily on how failures to be human makes them get lost in mazes of bad ideas to try out before they get back on the right track for the Great Work? Exchange "chase the monster away" with "tragedy and lost in the social wilderness".


  • Coder

    @misadventure said in Repurposing a Tabletop RPG for MU* Play:

    Maybe give an example of a part of a game that in particular doesn't translate well so is often ignored or altered?

    I specifically do not want to talk about specifics up front, because I feel it would poison the conversation for people who want jumping-off points.


  • TV & Movies

    @thenomain Hey, I'll take a swing at this because yay actually productive game design? Plz don't delete.

    If I'm understanding correctly what you're asking, I think before you even start going into individual systems, you'd want to identify the relevant elements of play that differ between TT and MU. I'd argue that these are so wildly, often fundamentally different that we're not even close to playing the same games, which of course highlights the oddity of using the same systems.

    Think about player patterns, for instance.

    I'd say that tabletop WoD (yes, I'll use the lowest common denominator example here) tends to be some mix of co-op PvE and individual competitive PvE. IE you may have players with competing motivations while the group struggles against whatever antagonists the GM provides, but they're (with rare exceptions) rarely in direct conflict. By comparison, I'd argue MU is a mix of individual & team PvP and team PvPvE. Players compete over their own goals, individually and in small groups, and also compete (as small groups or larger factions) over achieving larger metaplot milestones.

    I could probably go into some of the other formal elements, depending if this is actually going to get nuked or not :D


  • Coder

    @bored

    I apparently did get drunk enough last night to not clearly know what I was doing, so I accidentally deleted only the starting post, thinking it would nuke the whole thread. By the time I realized this, enough other people had responded that I figured I'd leave my shame up for everyone to see.

    Alcohol saves civilization.

    --

    The purpose of the thread was to see what people saw as shortcomings in using tabletop RPGs as the basis for a Mu*, and what they'd look into in overcoming it.

    The complaint that we're trying to shove a square peg into a round hole came up multiple times in both the Social Systems thread and the Min-Maxing thread, so the logical question that follows is: Okay, what do we cut or add to that square peg?

    This is what I meant, yes:

    @bored said in Repurposing a Tabletop RPG for MU* Play:

    If I'm understanding correctly what you're asking, I think before you even start going into individual systems, you'd want to identify the relevant elements of play that differ between TT and MU. I'd argue that these are so wildly, often fundamentally different that we're not even close to playing the same games, which of course highlights the oddity of using the same systems.

    And yet, we do. We love it. We want more of it. People over and over say, "I would love to play <rpg system> online!" that we should identify the challenges and methods of overcoming them so we don't end up with more WoD Tabletop Shoehorn Madness.


  • Pitcrew

    One thing I would suggest is that a tabletop character progression expectation does not work in a persistent, indefinite environment, which means that XP or how it's used needs to be rethought. Giving out lots of XP is an easy way to attract players, but it leads to long-term difficulties with a game, because tabletop systems aren't built with the expectation that someone will simply progress forever but that the challenges and plots they encounter will not fundamentally change with them. And MU*s typically don't have the level of staffing needed to be able to provide diverse experiences to both starting players and 'dinosaurs', which tends to cause a lot of long-term difficulty.

    How do you fix that? If I knew that definitively, I think I could win hearts and minds. Sadly, I don't. My gut feeling is that it lies in recognizing that MU*s provide a 'slice of life' experience, and vastly cutting down on the amount of character improvement points received, and instead get people invested in more temporary and environmental improvements like territory and status. Things which can be built to decay or be challenged more readily than inherent character power.


  • TV & Movies

    @thenomain To be clear, I'm not saying it's a doomed endeavor or anything. I just think we need to dig deep and realize we've basically built new games on the mangled corpses of their original incarnations. Repeating basic WoD-isms in every 'new' system is probably the quickest way to assure we have all the same problems, right?

    To maybe give a productive example of the process, see FATE in the other thread. All my other likes or dislikes with aside, I think it borderline totally fails for MU because of Compels. They're critical to the TT working, but also really work best from a GM stance: I bribe you with points to make you accept difficult yet narratively intriguing consequences of pre-established fiction. They work poorly from an adversarial stance, where people would tactically pick untenable choices to drain you of FATE points.

    Fixing them is tricky because they're tied to Aspects as a whole. As a 'FATE is tricky in general' person, I might suggest replacing free-form Aspects with an established list on your game, and giving them some more defined rules text that could be used for Compels. Kinda a hybrid of CoD conditions/tilts?

    I DID A CONSTRUCTIVE THING.


  • Coder

    @bored

    So let me see if I can boil that down to something more generic:

    • Bribing people to accept negative consequence leads to people making stats to resist the bribe system, or players will become resentful of the suffer-or-pay system

    And to summarize @Pyrephox's post:

    • XP must be tooled for a slice-of-life (with occasional bursts of action) game.

    Going backwards and trying to make the most of people's responses to my vague beginnings:

    • Misadventure: Systems that negatively affect the setting are hard to enforce.
    • Faraday: Strangers must easily interact
    • Surreality: Adapt to the players.

    Going to pause on that last one.

    The problem with "adapt to the players", while perhaps the most spot-on advice, is a lot of a Catch-22. Most people designing games aren't game designers, and by the time a game is up and running you can only hope you've set it up right, or that the systems you didn't create yet—or systems that you alter mid-gameplay—will be accepted by the players.

    I deeply believe:

    1. Build a game you want to play
    2. Build a game other people want to play
    3. Hang the rest

    This is a lot easier to say than do.

    • ThatGuyThere: Document, Document, Document!
    • The Sands: K.I.S.S. x2
    • Seraphim73: Must be playable without a GM
    • Lithium: K.I.S.S. (remember going backwards up the response pipe here)

    Looking at it this way, patterns are starting to emerge, which is good.