Hello, Old Friend (Thrash 2.0)

I haven’t had a chance to do any testing with Halo: The Covenant War, but over at the Fudge Forum a fellow who goes by CmdrCody posted saying that he gave it a spin with his friends and they had a blast. I mostly design games because (1) I wanna play them with my friends, and (2) designing games is fun, but being able to share them is definitely nice. That third one is part of why my next big thing is to get back into working on Thrash 2.0, something that, if my old notes are any indication, I’ve been failing to do since 2002. Of course, I’ve mentioned here and elsewhere that this partly has to do with me getting so much more experience with RPGs, from every angle (designer, player, GM, reader, theory, etc.).

Thrash 2.0 has a lot of major changes, but compared to some of the things I could be doing with it in terms of creating a fighting game system (like going all Narrativist all of a sudden) it’s still true to the earlier versions. And it’s still doing a genre that no one else is really bothering with right now. There are some new martial arts related RPGs (like Weapons of the Gods and Final Stand), but they’ve tended more towards the kung fu movie end of things. Living Room Games had announced their Capcom World Tournament thing a while back (and I was very interested, even if I wasn’t hellbent on playing it), but a few months ago they announced on their forums that it was going on “indefinite haitus.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard that from an RPG publisher before, but I think it’s safe to say that CWT is kaput. The LRG guy was scant on details, and no doubt had to be for contractual reasons, but the combined weight of printing and licensing costs were apparently the main problem. This kind of thing is part of why I don’t particularly aspire to run my own company. The indie approach I think would work much better for me.

While I’ve been a fan of Street Fighter for ages (and of KoF, DarkStalkers, Samurai Shodown, etc.), I’m planning to concentrate primarily if not exclusively on original content for Thrash 2.0. I already have a laundry list of things I want to add to the game (and Weird Powers is at the top), though I’m going to be putting out Thrash 2.0 under a Creative Commons license, so everyone will be free to make whatever they want for it anyway. I also want to try to be more active on the mailing list, and having a version of the game I can stand to look at will help make that happen. ^_^; I’m also thinking of putting together an inexpensive POD version, so that those who are so inclined will be able to order a nice printed book, but that’ll wait until I’ve gotten through plenty of playtesting, feedback, and editing, and added some artwork.

At the moment, I’ve gotten the basic framework of the game all figured out. It was pretty simple overall, and what innovations and changes I’ve made were mostly either logical extensions of what was there before (like the more extensive rules for super bars) or stuff that should’ve been blindingly obvious (like getting rid of styles as a character trait). The bulk of the work I have to do right now is, unfortunately, the annoying grunt work of putting together the stats for all of the character traits, especially the maneuvers. Granted, I need to take care of writing the GM chapter too (which, like everything else, I’m rewriting from the ground up), but it’s the maneuvers and whatnot that will fill the system out to the point where I can run playtests. Just like with writing novels, everything I work on has gotten more time-consuming, but of better quality when it finally does arrive. :P

After so long writing/designing RPG material, I think I’m starting to get tired of writing descriptions of skills and other traits. To a certain extent it’s possible to design an RPG without these, or at least without too many of them, but apart from the annoyance it causes when I have to sit down and write descriptions–which inevitably becomes repetetive and boring–it’s not worth it to try to fit the whole game around that design concept. Risus has only player-defined traits for a specific reason, but other games rely on pre-defined ones for specific reasons. I just wish I could figure out a good way to write them without getting bored, especially considering that if I’m bored writing that part of the game, the reader can’t be all that enthralled either. The only time I ever manage to make that sort of thing remotely interesting is when I get sarcastic, but that only works for certain games (like with Mascot-tan).

Did you notice I’ve been trying to talk in terms of “designing RPGs” instead of “writing RPGs”? There was a blog post (and crap, I can’t remember whose it was) that pointed out that there is a difference, and an important one. I think it’s important to keep in mind that what I’m doing here is making games. There’s a side of it that’s similar to writing stories (but then, I do that separately), but I feel I need to try to give higher priority to the design aspect, and thereby make better games.

And once the beta version of Thrash 2.0 is done, I need to get back into Tokyo Heroes, my sentai/magical girl RPG (the combination makes sense if you read the game). All that one really needs is for me to finish up the rules for bad guys and write up some of the sample characters, and it’ll be ready to playtest. I really do come up with too many projects for myself.

9 thoughts on “Hello, Old Friend (Thrash 2.0)

  1. Joshua BishopRoby, .

    This is what Jared Sorensen did, find a system you like, create one, and use it for most of your games, copy/paste for the unimportant mechanics!

  2. Thrash 2? For real this time? I spent many years on the list waiting, but I figured it was gone for good, especially with all the other games on your plate. I dropped the mailing list as it basically consisted of a few messages every few months on pointless topics.

    I’ve been a fan of Thrash for a long time… back in the days of 1.0, when it was one of the only indie RPGs out there. Me and my friends had many great games, and I miss those days.

    Of course, as you said – older and wiser will do you in. I remember the games fondly, but not the system. I’m confident you can do a much better job this time though.

    Design has become a hobby of mine lately as well. I’ll admit, I’m doing a d20 game *gasp* but I’m picking up an existing line from an author who has moved on. It has the advantage of all the boring stuff already being written for me.

    It’s a Supers game, so I get to write up all the cool powers and crazy stuff, which is the fun part. Class design was quite challenging as well. I had to come up with my own balancing system, but it works well.

    I would love to see Thrash 2.0, and would be happy to contribute. But until it becomes active and focussed again, I won’t be rejoining the mailing list.

  3. Holy crap! More comments!

    Thanks. :3 I should’ve suspected Ludanta Retero’s blog would be the place. I have been using bits and pieces from the abandoned anime-inspired Fudge flavor I was working on, but right now everything I’m doing doesn’t allow too much of that.

    I miss Thrash too; the original Karyuu Densetsu campaign I ran still stands out as one of the best my group has had. The last time I got close to being able to finish it I got ambushed by my first published RPG project (which in theory was supposed to be coming out this month, but who knows?). And then I’d get distracted by stuff like writing novels and the aforementioned Tokyo Heroes game. But yeah, especially with relatively little that actually needs to be done, I’m going to try to push and get it finished while I still have the free time.

    I can’t blame you for wanting to hold off on joinin the Thrash ML; on the whole it’s been pretty dead, and we’re past the days when my flailing attempts to come up with changes for 2.0 would provoke massive discussions. A lot of the posts are that crazy Fillipino guy asking incoherent questions. ^_^;

    As for d20… this pretty much sums up how I feel about the anti-d20 nonsense.

  4. One of the things I loved about Thrash was the source material and genre… I was big on fighting games at the time, and the system was very tactical, which appealed to me. I am very much a number-crunchy gamist at heart – after 20 solid years of D&D, it’s a habit I’ll never break.

    It’ll be interesting to see it when it finally is done. If you’re planning an online playtest, I’d be up for it.

    The massive discussions were the best part – I love talking shop. I miss the old days of me, you, Russel and NotMousse arguing endlessly over this or that. And now it is, as you say, incoherent Filipino questions. My question is “When will he realize Thrash 1.8 is dead?”

    I’m going d20 because my source material was d20, and it’s just easier. You may have heard of the game – Deeds Not Words. I’ve taken over the license from the owner, Scott Lynch, as he moved on to novel writing. His first book (The Lies of Locke Lamora) comes out in a couple weeks and has glowing reviews thusfar.

    I went the same route you did with Thrash – grabbed the pre-existing fan community and dragooned them all into helping design it. But I’d learned from you, and set myself up as absolute dictator first. They could argue and persuade, but I called all the shots – and votes were never even mentioned.

    As expected, there was a flurry of interest and then it dropped off. Now it’s just me doing 80% of the work, and one guy I bounce stuff off and who does the copy-editing. It’s going slow, but it’s progressing.

    I like your little poster there :) Sums it up quite well. D&D is a great system for doing what it’s designed to do. Everyone who seems to have complaints about it seems to have them on a design philosophy level – they’re more rules-light and narrativist and conflict oriented vs D&D’s freely admitted rules-heavy, gamist and task oriented system.

    I have the same answer for D&D bashers as I have for opponents of gay marriage.

    “Don’t like it? Don’t play it. Now STFU.”

  5. For whatever reason roleplaying online, whether for playtesting or otherwise just never clicked for me. I’m sure the game could benefit it, but… eh… (this). Still, I definitely could use some commentary from a hardcore gamist like yourself.

    I know I’ve heard of Deeds Not Words, but it’s kind of gotten overshadowed by M&M in my brainspace. I’ll have to check it out some time, but for my group Truth & Justice has been a good fit.

    What’s interesting (and cool) is that by and large the indie scene gives d20 a fair shake. D&D is a gamist RPG, and it meets its intended goals very well. IPR even carries d20 products from three different creators.

  6. Online RP can be tricky. You really need the right kind of people to make it work. I had an awesome group doing a hybrid email/chat game for over 2 years and had a blast. Tried it again with a new group and it flopped.

    Gamist commentary is on tap. Just twist my rubber arm and endless babble and power balance, front-load co-efficeints and abuse foils will spew forth :) You should see the arcane math I formulated to balance class benefits.

    DNW was a moderately successful go from an unknown one-man operation. E-published an edition, then a year later was a major overhaul of the system. Now I’m trying to patch some glaring holes (like the fact DR is so cheap, against a decent build, the only viable combat options are Str 50, anti-tank weapons or mind control) and overall unify the system more. It’s slow, but interesting. I should have enough for playtesting in a few months though.

    I’m not expecting to take the industry by storm, but I’m hoping to put out a good game I like and maybe a few others will as well. And I’ll admit, Thrash has been something of an inspiration and influence on some aspects of the game. Witness wall jumping rules in the Super Jump power, and a Slide Kick feat. And Zanshin. And probably other bits here and there.

  7. Just like to say “YAY!”. I had given up hope on Thrash 2.0.

    There where two main problems when we tried to play Thrash several years ago.

    * A lot of maneuvers with little difference was the first. Try to have it so that there are 5-9 basic maneuvers. 2 to 3 punches: Light. Medium & Heavy (can skip medium). Same with kicks. Grapples you could either have one or do the same as with punches. Then have special maneuvers.

    * Combat is SLOW if anything but 1 vs 1. You mention WotG, use the idea of all mooks counting as one opponent.

  8. Paring down the selection of maneuvers to something more manageable is one of the things (along with the new AP system) that finally gave me the direction I needed to give the system a proper and thorough redesign. I’ve got the basic maneuvers about where I want them now, and I’m setting up the game to use them a lot more for the non-special maneuvers (e.g., if you want to do an elbow strike, you use a Punch maneuver and say that you’re hitting with your elbow).

    I’ll have to look into that thing in WotG with mooks. So far I’ve mostly taken some notes from Cinematic Unisystem in that regard.

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