Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Of Stars and Whales

With the publication of the Leverage RPG I have caught my white whale. The prospect of a caper RPG was one of those ideas that had pricked at my brain for years as something that could be done, but hadn't. It was the big challenge, and if the opportunity to do Leverage hadn't come along I would have had to make something on my own. Leverage was a perfect opportunity though, and I'm happy with it. Happy enough that I intend to mess around with hacks and modifications for it as time goes on, but for the moment I'm just going to bask in the joy of it being out.

Well, mostly bask.

The problem about white whales is that they're a lot like good snack food. One isn't enough. I find myself pondering the next real challenge.

By coincidence, I have recently started sating my curiosity about the Star Wars Saga game. This is the recent d20 version of the game released at the end of the D&D 3.x life cycle and is a weird sort of bridge product between that iteration and 4e. It's a good game, full of good ideas, many of which were real improvements on 3.x. In some ways it seems to represent a a path not taken for 4e.

This has lead to me hunting down the more interesting looking supplements for the game, which have been by and large the slightly fringy ones. I cannot for the life of me imagine wanting to play a game in the movie eras. I did it in college in the old d6 game, and it was fun, but I really feel like there's nothing I particularly want out of the setting. Similarly, the post-movie material has been a pretty serious turn off every time I have delved into it. However, the period between the movies (the era of The Force Unleashed) and historical periods (as in, Knights of the Old Republic) both are fun. So I got to looking at books.

It's been interesting, and it vindicates all the worst part of my collector's instincts. Specifically, the little voice that tells me that if I don't get something now the opportunity will pass me by looked at the prices for some of these out of print books and laughed. That instinct used to be a big motivator for my my purchasing, but I've gotten more chill about it over the years, especially because most things either stay in print or are available in PDF. The two big exceptions are licensed products (because licenses expire) and anything WOTC puts out (because they just don't do PDFs). The Star Wars games are a 1-2 punch in that category, and the net result is that some of the books are going for more than $100.

Anyway, I mention all this because one of the books I picked up on a lark was the quite fantastic Galaxy of Intrigue which may have set up my next white whale. It's a good book full of interesting thoughts about how to run an intrigue-centric game. I'd like to talk about some of the ideas from it later, but it ends up falling a bit short of what I would like it to be because of the necessities of it being a Star Wars product. Those necessities include races and tech and trivia, all of which is excellent Star Wars material (and there's even a page on the Tapani Sector, one of my big weaknesses) but is separate from the nugget of intrigue at the center of things that really holds my interest.

Anyway, not sure where this is going to go yet, just wanted to kick it around to see what it knocked loose.


  1. For intrigue in a game I have been intrigued(:P) by the way 7th Sea works it's Montaigne courts. There you develop networks of people by earning and paying favors (one of which being introductions to other important contacts). Each PC/NPC has public reputation rank and Like/Dislike states with each person in the network, not to mention favors owed, etc. It is a bit of bookkeeping but not too much I don't think. If I take nothing else from 7th Sea, I think it would be this intrigue system.

    Also, just now Steve Jackson Games announced a GURPS Social Engineering splatbook is seeking playtesting. Maybe you'd be interested: http://www.sjgames.com/ill/a/2010-11-30

  2. The Montaigne book is fantastic for this. Something I would absolutely steal ideas from, though not necessarily lift whole cloth.

    And hmm. Social Engineering.....

  3. "All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever present perils of life." - Herman Melville, Moby Dick

  4. The tricky thing about Intrigue compared to heist is that heist is a fairly unified genre. Even when you plop it into a unique setting, most of the tropes are pretty much unchanged. There's a huge range of possible approaches to intrigue. I'm not even sure what the poles on the continuum might be. Compare stereotyped intrigues in the Forbidden Palace against populist mob politics in late-Republic Rome for just one set of possibilities.

    That's not to say that I'm not looking forward to seeing what you turn out, just that "intrigue" is a mighty big mouthful.


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