Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Fallout 3 - intro and character generation

As I mentioned yesterday, I just picked up Fallout 3. I haven't had much time to play, but i like what I've seen so far. Good games often give me ideas about how to improve other games, so I may be commenting here from time to time on possible applications to tabletop RPGs.

This wouldn't be too weird. The SPECIAL system which runs the underlying mechanics of the game is, essentially, a tabletop-style system that runs behind the scene.

Anyway, the introductory segment to Fallout 3 is brilliant.

It accomplishes four tasks amazingly well:
  • It serves as an introduction to the plot.
  • It establishes the tone of the Fallout world.
  • It acts as a tutorial.
  • It integrates character generation into it near-seamlessly.
This all happens as a series of flashbacks to birth (where you set your name, gender, and eventual appearance), infancy (learn to walk and basics of interacting with your environment - and set your attributes), 10th birthday (learn basics of conversation, how to use your Pipboy, and how the combat system works), and 16th birthday (set your skills). These are all interspersed with things that set the tone and setting of the game, and they are handled very smoothly. Once you are about to begin the game you get more of a taste of combat and a few subsystems - and then you get a chance to make any changes to your character that you want.

Now, there are times when low-impact introductory scenes would be great in tabletop RPG play. They would:
  • let new players learn the rules without serious in-game consequences
  • let you match your character stats to both your actual play style and the demands of the setting/GM
  • give you a bit of practice playing your character
  • allow you to make changes to your character before game play really starts
Now, some games do allow for some of this. Various White Wolf games have included Preludes for characters as options. Spirit of the Century has some optional rules for establishing PC stats during play. Many GMs allow players to revise their characters during the first few sessions of a campaign. I'm sure there are other examples.

The weird thing is, I loved this in Fallout, but (while I've enjoyed running them) I've never been a huge fan of White Wolf style Preludes as a player. At best, they have been OK. Now, this might have been a combination of my attitude and the GMs, but I have to wonder if this is something that simply works better in a computer game? Are there games that do this really well?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I usually don't leave a 'null' comment, but I can't think of a single game that integrates character creation and pre-game roleplay. The possible exception that I've skimmed was Burning Wheel where the character is advanced through lifepaths and the player & GM can come up with new ideas for what would have happened to the character & how those events / friends / enemies would affect the start of game character.

(Although I suppose any game with a lifepath, like Cyberpunk 2020, would have the same mechanic).

rdonoghue said...

I think the rub is that this is something that works on a campaign level more than a system level. Doing preambles generically tends to lack bite, but doing them for a specific game can get a lot of mileage. Lifepaths can sort of fake this once or twice, but they don't tend to hold up well to re-use.

-Rob D.

szilard said...

Funny you say that, since I think that the pulp novel approach in SotC is one of the few system-level approaches to something like this that seem to work...

rdonoghue said...

*laughs* Fair enough, but for that I plead to the forgiveness of pulp as a genre - the setting is more of an excuse for cool stuff than an important element of its own.