I'm going to take an intermittent look at the Insilico role playing system, largely examining its rule mechanics highlighting areas I believe could use some work, reasoning and explanations will be provided in concert with all points of order.
I've chosen to do this as a blog post rather than a forum post due to forum posts being lost over time, here I have direct access and can edit more readily for what I envision will be ongoing, periodic contributions.
What this is not intended to be is a purposefully negative review or an exercise in nitpicking. I don't believe in criticizing something provided for free, what I intend to do is simply express an opinion in order to highlight areas where I believe improvements to the system could be made. I have purposefully avoided analyzing the role playing system since I created my character Mikolaj precisely for the reason I can address points sequentially as I intend to examine in tandem with successive blog posts in a sort of stream of consciousness type of review with a bit of grammar and text polishing here and there.
One of the big draws of Insilico for me is that it features its own tabletop role playing system, to be honest if it wasn't for this factor and appreciation of the cyberpunk genre I would have oohed and aahed at the pretty sim for a while and then moved on with Second Life travels. In fact, my main reason for Second Life is that I see it as a tool to expand the virtual gaming table and I'm always on the lookout for sims providing the option of tabletop role playing as part of the experience, unfortunately they are few and far between.
To be honest I don't really enjoy pure role playing, it's pointless in my opinion because there's no permanency to anything beyond the scope of the imaging within the contributors minds. It follows that if all acts and actions are consensually dependent on the actors contributing then the same can not hold over the course of successive and varied contributions by multiple actors. In addition I feel unless held in check by those familiar with setting lore pure role playing can stray from its origins and become somewhat fanciful.
And on the other end of the extreme we have the combat meter system, which I suppose you could say is pure mechanic. I.E collision detected either you or I fall over and pretend to be dead for approximately three minutes and then get back up again if no one is kinder sooner, maybe due to lag I'll accidentally fall off a high ledge next time </sarcasm> Or to phrase it another way if I wanted to play space invaders that's exactly what I would do.
The role playing system not only offers a happy medium of these polarities it also provides a means by which progression or in fact regression can be measured over time by way of numerical information approximating the make up of a character creating a permanent record of the character's Insilico experiences. This to me is the most enjoyable aspect of any role playing game and why I wish to promote the use of the role playing system above any other resolution and is why I wish to examine the system in order to highlight any areas that could be improved.
So with that said, let's crack on.....
So the first thing to address is cosmetic, it makes sense to tackle character generation first and foremost following the almost obligatory ‘What is Role playing’ introduction. This is because the user is initially drawn to this page because he or she wishes to create a character but instead is reading about how to make tests without knowing anything about the skills and attributes that govern those tests, which I suppose is fine if you already know ‘what is role playing’, for someone new (not uncommon) is a different matter. In fact instructions on how to create a character begin halfway down the page; I think reorganisation here may assist readability.
It’s established the role play system is percentile and involves rolling below a certain target number, there’s also varying degrees of difficulty modifier that may be applied to make the task more challenging. In the example provided describes the action of bypassing an electronic door’s heavily secured AES. The way it’s worded reads to some extent as if the physical action of hacking through a door (with an axe?!! Here’s Johnny) is being attempted.
The text then goes on to ask the question when to make a roll and ‘whenever you want’ is the long and short of it. Using the role playing system in the security bypass example above is the province of a player and G.M type interaction more so than player to player because as we know hacking a door is ‘serious business’ perhaps an example of how the role playing system can apply to social interactions between players would be more appropriate? Example of which could be two characters meet for the first time they agree to use the role playing system to form first impressions of one another, so the appropriate skill to check would be Intuition. Player A forms a general impression of Player B’s mannerism, a modifier (or lack thereof) is set by Player A & B’s agreement depending on how well he or she intends or believes those motivations are presented. Perhaps player B is being interviewed for employment by Player A, is nervous and doing their best to conceal it. How blatantly conveyed or hidden that feeling is depends largely on Player A’s Intuition, the dice roll and the modifier imposed by Player B.
You might be thinking how’s that supposed to work? Like anything else by co-operation, I don’t agree that player to player interaction using the role playing system should be inherently dissimilar to G.M to player interaction. Simply it requires upfront agreement to utilize the system in a sort of hybrid role as co-G.Ms
Speaking of which before I wrap this one up, the door example raises an intriguing consideration. In the example ‘hacking the door’ obviously there’s going to be a difference of opinion between the entrant and the securer and inevitably will require D.M intervention. An open to all repository is one possible solution which could contain relevant role playing statistical information for a plethora of ‘things’ sim related. We know for example the side entrance to ‘the Blue Ant’ has an encryption bypass difficulty modifier of X, it has hit points of X, damage resistance of X among other details. I think not only will this encourage further use of the role playing system and contribute toward promoting player independence within it but also help to bring the sim further to life.
Me signing off……