Semi-Wasted Space

Comments & Thoughts

Jim Vassilakos (
While going through some back issues of APAcalypse1, I stumbled upon one issue (T-91 to be specific) where the members were ranting and raving. Were they angry about the dues? No. Were they having a big, political brouhaha? Nope. So what was the big deal? I’ll tell you, but you’ve got to promise to keep it a secret. They were angry (fuming, stomping angry), about a lack of commentary on their zines. Well, I guess there must have been a big lightbulb right over my thick skull, because I can swear I saw the light. Of course, I already knew that everyone likes to get comments. It lets us know that somebody’s reading. But, honestly, I never before considered just how important they are to everyone. And I suppose I should have realized. I mean, I like getting comments as much next guy. But, at the same time, you see, I don’t want to be wasting everyone else’s time with idle commentary, because what I have to say isn’t all that illuminating There’s more too it, of course. Having considered it for awhile, I think I have a real sense of unease about making comments, which I’m not sure most people feel. I guess my feelings on this go all the way back to 1990 or so, when I was first getting acquainted with Usenet.2 Back when I first got on the Net, the community of gamers online was something similar to an APA. It was a small community, widely geographically separated, communicating the writtenword in a sort of campfire cookout type of way. There were jokes, retellings of gaming experiences, more jokes, snide comments, still more jokes...and, well, you get the idea. It was a lot fun, a real sense of community. Anyway, the first time I went to post an article to Usenet3 the following message got displayed: This program posts news to thousands of machines throughout the entire civilized world. Your message will cost the net hundreds if not thousands of dollars to send everywhere. Please be sure you know what you are doing.4
APAcalypse is a Canadian APA. See 2 Usenet is the part of the Internet which carries newsgroups such as∗, none of which I’ve looked at for several years, sadly enough... (ohmigod, I’m getting old) 3 To see a copy of my first Usenet post, see: U&output=gplain 4 For those who care, this warning message was written by the immortal Larry Wall, the computer guru who gave us rn (once a popular newsreader), perl (the programming language), as well as other nifty tools.

Now, I read this, and I wasn’t sure whatever it was I had to say was worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. In fact, I wasn’t sure it was worth reading even if it was free. And I suppose, when you think about, it really was free. I mean, our messages (they were more properly called posts or articles) were just electrons zipping around the world. It wasn’t like we were cutting down any trees. The costs were all sunk into the computers and the cables, the harddrives and all the keyboards and monitors. It was just about as cheap, per idea, as longdistance mass communication can get aside from two guys yelling at each other with really loud voices (which, even online, would happen online all too often; see below). Nonetheless, even realizing all of this that first time before pressing that send-button, I still contemplated if what I had to say was even worth anyone’s time to read. Would anyone be interested? Was what I was posting worth the muscle-movements in anyone’s eyeballs? Even though it was a relatively small group of people compared to what it later became, I still stopped to consider if my verbiage was worth the distraction of a few dozen or fifty or a hundred or however many people comprised that newsgroup back in 1990. Was it worth their time? Or was this just more of the general cacophony which even then had a tendency to sometimes take hold? Was this signal, or was it noise? Wheat or chaff? Because if it’s just chaff for most people, then why even bother? Why waste their time? That was my feeling, reading Larry’s little warning, and it’s continued to be my feeling whenever posting material for general consumption. This article is basically a post. It’s the same thing. The crowd might be a little bit smaller, but it’s the same idea. If I’m wasting your time with this, then I didn’t do my job. Hence, I generally try to avoid spilling too many words on the frivolous (this particular tirade, of course, being an exception). I try to get to the point. And I eschew wasting space on stuff that people can’t use. “Give them something,” my inner voice pleads. “Create.” That, when you think about, it the really cool thing about our hobby. I mean, okay, the games can be fun too; don’t get me wrong. The gaming itself can certainly be fun. Now quite often, particularly with a new group, it isn’t. I mean, once in a while it’s okay. Getting the right mix of people is really the trick. You, know, I could talk about this endlessly, and perhaps we should, but that’ll be for another time. The point is, the main fun thing about gaming isn’t gaming. It’s creating. The main fun thing about

roleplaying games is (at least for me, as a gamemaster) creating new places, new characters, new situations, new memories for myself and the players that couldn’t have been had in quite the same way via any other format or media. After all, it’s purely in the imagination. The game is a story. And because you’re in it (as a player) it generates a completely different experience than reading a book or watching a movie. In a way, it’s really a form of art, or perhaps not.5 And so, I think, we are somehow driven to not only play these games, but also to write about them. Whether our thoughts pertain to “usables” for a particular game, a particular campaign write-up or novelization, or whether the subject is a new game system or even a new style of conducting the game, we never seem to run short of words. Like all of you, I find these topics somehow irresistible and completely worthy of discussion. And I don’t know what that makes me. I’m not a gamer’s gamer, but neither am I someone who just dips their toes into the hobby. I don’t know what it makes me, because I do like to discuss gaming with gamers, but I really detest force-feeding people my opinion. My opinion on what you wrote isn’t really worth a damn, and even if it meant to be constructive, it may end up leading in the opposite direction. Y’see, it wasn’t just Larry’s little warning about the money and resources being wasted. At the same time, a little demon crept into the newsgroup unnoticed, the sorts of people who amuse themselves by trolling for flames (in any group of people large enough, there will always be these sorts of critters). The campfire mode slowly dried up and blew away, and replacing it were the shouting-matches, the flame wars. I remember the first time reading people absolutely screaming at each other in print. It was damn funny. I probably laughed out loud. I mean, by around the time I got online, flaming had already progressed to such a form of art that they actually had an entire newsgroup devoted to it: alt.flame. Nonetheless, it was also extremely childish. I remember thinking that these people, whomever it was flaming each other, that they were pretty stupid for getting tangled up in something so pointless. I mean, they were ultimately doing what? Venting their rage at each other on a newsgroup on the Internet for gamers? I mean, c’mon? If you’re gonna scream invectives at people, isn’t screaming in cyberspace just a total waste of time? I mean, you could be doing something useful. You could be creating something of value to people, or engaging in an interesting discussion, and instead you’re getting sucked into some bizarre waste of time that won’t affect anyone or anything.
For much more on this controversy, see Brian Duguid’s article, “I Know What I Like” in Interactive Fantasy #3 and reprinted in Imazine #34 which you can find at

“But isn’t gaming itself a bizarre waste of time?” “Shaddap! Am I talking to you?!” So, you see, aside from their purely comedic value, I decided pretty early that flame wars were essentially a huge waste of time, and that idle commentary was pretty much a waste as well. Very often it was idle commentary that led to the flames in the first place, people letting their opinions become too precious, their point of view too imperative, their ideas too holy. I mean, how else does one really put it? And then those with a different way of looking at the same thing end up slugging it out, and, y’know, it’s frankly annoying. So I decided early on that I’d be one of those people who doesn’t make comments, not because I’m afraid to do so, but rather because they rarely lead anywhere productive.6 Much better to spend time producing something worthwhile than engaging in such debates or criticizing other people’s work. Or so I’d thought all these years. Then, as I was looking through APAcalypse the other day, issue T-91 to be precise, I came across several zines where the authors bitterly complained that they weren’t getting enough feedback. And to be honest, that was a bit of an eye-opener. I mean, I like feedback also. I admit it. When I open an APA just as when I open my email, my first thoughts are pretty much the same. Is anyone out there addressing me directly? Never mind what they’re saying to the world. Of course, that’s a selfish perspective, when you think about it. I mean, what Joe says to the world is probably quite a bit more considered than what he’s rattling off to me in particular. But, of course, we’re only human, and like any sort of animal, we think first about ourselves. It is a curse if our evolution. In any case, I decided to send the APAcalypse members some commentary, and after I got done with that, A&E #349 was just sitting there waiting for the same treatment, so I figured, “Why not? So what if I kick off a flame war? It’s not like they weren’t warned.” So here are my comments on the last issue: Myles Corcoran: Regarding all the crime in your neighborhood, my sympathies. I also live is a somewhat high-crime part of town. I decided to invest in a car alarm (as well as “the club”) very early, and that’s probably saved my truck more than once. As for living arrangements, I’m on the second floor. Definitely safer, though certainly not a proof against crime. Someday

Of course, there was a unique instance where I did break my own rule and eventually came to the forefront of a very long debate which lasted for several years before finally being won, in my opinion, by the good guys. Of course, I’m speaking of the TSR/Copyright debate. See my article in A&E #300 (or request it from me via email) and see the debate’s text archive:

maybe we’ll be able to move somewhere nicer and buy a house in a nice, quiet place away from the assholes of the world. That’s one of my dreams, anyway. Michael Cule: Regarding your GURPS:Traveller writeup, I’ve never played or npc’ed a hiver, but having one run across a restaurant with murderous intent just doesn’t seem to be in their racial character. Also, I’m no fan of psionics, but perhaps that’s because I still haven’t figured out how to use psions properly. When I wroteup the Harrison Chapters7 some years ago, I had a problem with this. My tendency, I think, is to leave their abilities mysterious and vague, and then subtly expand them every time I need a new plot device to either save the characters or provide a new “gee-whiz” moment. Not a good idea. I think I finally decided that fantasy and science fiction should not cross paths, although, of course, there’s always the urge to do so simply in the interest of novelty. I still think it sets a bad precedent, however. Regarding your Blog the Barbarian example on dithering, it reminds me of one time I brought a stopwatch to the game. I’d set up the combat situation, asked the players to declare their actions, then looked at the stopwatch and added, “You have six seconds before you all lose the initiative.” Funny how quickly that gets people moving. The only problem was that everyone was screaming at once. Robert Dushay: Regarding world-busting characters, they are a pain. However, one thing that can be said for the D&D system is that there’s no shortage of gods. Jinx was essentially at the point where, to get any higher she had to look for help and protection. She wasn’t able to acquire the spells or training she needed from the usual sources available on a prime material world. Likewise, she had a badass demon after her in the form of Ahriman, and if she poked her nose too deeply into worldly affairs, eventually he’d find her. This was rubbed home one session when she stumbled across one of his enemy’s minions who had fled from the bloodwar and was hiding out, masquerading himself as a powerful elementalist by the name of Malabris. Jinx knew that but for the grace of fate, she could have been caught right there and then, but this cambion (half-demon) was in no mood to tell any of his superiors about her, as he’d have to turn himself in as well, and that would have been suicide. In any case, they eventually allied, and for quite awhile he was her most powerful friend in the area, although each worried about the other’s ability to keep a secret. Eventually, Jinx was the first to crack, as will be shown later in the campaign write-up, but the upshot was that she knew the clock was ticking. If she didn’t go to Hell, she could have gone elsewhere, but

she’d always be running the risk of eventually being found by her enemies. Regarding your comments to Myles Cocoran on the learning of skills, you make a number of useful observations. I would add to this list that practice is critical. Although a character may have had a skill at one time, when was the last time he used it? I feel that there should be some sort of game mechanic to force characters either to maintain their skills or see them become eroded by under-utilization. Granted, this would probably dramatically increase the level of recordkeeping necessary, which could bog the game down in paperwork. I wonder if there’s some sort of elegant solution that could be easily applied. Lee Gold: Did not enjoy reading your comment about the game with the late Dave Hargrave. After looking through the Arduin Grimoires, I’d always imagined that he’d be an outstanding GM. The way he killed off your character seemed awfully unfair, unheroic, and frankly, rather stupid. Being a killer-GM is one thing. Being an unfair, sloppy tyrant is another. I’m disillusioned. Enjoyed your story about searching for those “noises outside in back.” I must admit, if I were a burglar and a mob of people came out of the house I was intending to rob, all of them armed with swords, fireplace pokers, and kitchen knives, I’d run as fast as I could, and I’d never come back. Most likely, though, it was just two of the neighborhood cats having a party, and, just like a prospective burglar, they probably ran like hell. Regarding “groupthink” and your comment regarding the LAPD, I’m more inclined to think that their perspective probably comes as a result of years of confrontation with the dregs of society. Of course, while this may be a justifying element8 to most people, the system is clearly rife with abuses. The one you mentioned to Myles in issue #348 regarding the retarded diabetic is, indeed, shocking and horrific. Somebody’s head should have rolled over that one, and I’d be surprised if the family doesn’t end up suing the department. Richard Iorio II: Excellent write-up as usual. You’ve been one of my favorite contributors since you first showed up, so I’m not surprised. I especially loved Luciano’s line from his hospital bed after he’s nearly murdered: “Don’t you cops lose any sleep, I’ll handle things myself.” If that’s not classic, nothing is. Also, on the strength of your recommendation, I went ahead and ordered Same Difference and Other Stories from Amazon, and I finished reading it the same day it


I tend to agree with much of the dinner table speech by Edward Norton’s “Derek” in American History X, though, predictably, his character’s well-portrayed anti-Semitism was the next obvious and ugly step of this sort of us-them mentality. I still don’t know which ending of the movie is better

showed up. Excellent stuff. I wouldn’t say that Derek Kirk Kim’s artwork is breathtaking, as you commented, but his pacing, his sense of character, and the wellhoned notion of reality with which he tells his stories is something that is often sorely missing in comics. All in all, I have to second your recommendation. The book is a good, fun read, and I look forward to more of his work. Joshua Kronengold: Regarding the coincidence in the Jinx campaign write-up, I think I follow your train of thought, but I’ll spell out my thinking on all this just to be sure. Jinx was sent to Dis to interrogate Malarea (see Part 3 of the write-up in A&E #319). Also, it was, in part, because of Nethrys that Malarea had fallen from grace. Hence, Jinx knew that she would be meeting both Nethrys and Malarea again upon her arrival in Dis. This, actually, is a large part of the reason that she’s thinking about her past. The real coincidence is that Jinx meets Gwyr, who happens to be from Jinx’s birthworld, leading even further into her ruminations of the past. That is a definite coincidence, as the multiverse is a really big place. I probably rolled some dice to see where Gwyr might be from, and to see if she had any connection to anywhere Jinx had ever been, and I probably got a couple of sixes in a row, or something like that. Such events occasionally happen. In this case, however, it’s relatively meaningless, as Gwyr is only a minor character. There have been many such minor character entering and exiting throughout the campaign. For one of them to have this sort of connection isn’t really unreasonable, although it does come at an awkward time for Jinx, at a time where she can’t really do any follow-through. Jinx has more important fish to fry, and to be doing favors on Gwyr’s behalf would not be understood by any of the devils she’s met so far in the write-up. Actually, as fate should have it, Gwyr does eventually end up with one of Jinx’s friends, though not in a situation that Jinx would have chosen. As for your question, “Why did you decide to start your write-ups with the Jinx in Hell sequence?” I guess the reason is that I realized that Jinx was entering a really complex society, one which has never been given an adequate treatment (although Greenwood took a decent stab at it), and I realized that this was something different, something that most gamers never confront head on. It’s not your hack-and-slash type of gaming. It’s not a treasure hunt. It’s not even a job for some rich patron. Rather, it’s politics on the small and the grand scales, simultaneously, where relationships matter even more than sheer power, and where the power of the nobles of this society would be such that Jinx would have to watch her back at all times. I knew that Kurt’s playing would be elevated by these factors, that my GMing (hopefully) would be elevated as well, and that

as a result, the story would be elevated, and I wanted to record that. I wanted there to be some sort of record of what happened. As I expected, doing the write-ups is hard work, and it gets harder as the events I’m describing become more distant in my memory. At some point, I began recording the sessions on an mp3-player/recorder, so when we reach that point in the story, hopefully the write-ups will become easier for me. In any case, I find it to be a very interesting campaign, although just as with any setting, I would be much better prepared and, hence, more competent as a GM, running it a second time. Paul Mason: I downloaded Beyond Role and Play, and it is damn impressive. Regarding “In Search of the Self”, you’re writing seems to be well-researched, as usual, however, I would have liked to learn more about the classification schemes you mentioned (preparation, diagesis, and metagame versus game, simulation, and drama). Granted, I’m sure there will be some disagreement over definitions of the various axes, and your well-stated comments to Patrick Riley seem to confirm this notion. Nonetheless, I’d be curious to learn more. Also, you bring up the reticence of roleplayers to enter into theoretical discussions about their hobby. I think this may be due to simple ignorance, not lack of interest. Although I enjoy reading such discussions, they can become overly academic at times, particularly when arguments begin to turn over issues of semantics. “You thought I said that, but what I really meant was this, you ignorant, pompous, blowhard!” Instead, it may be more useful to write the arguments in a more approachable fashion aimed toward a 9thgrade reading level. In short, make it fun, and the masses will come and ponder. I think this is what games like Ars Magica & Vampire achieved. By incorporating cutting edge ideas into their games, they put these ideas into the mainstream, advancing the entire hobby as a result. Similarly, I think, a book on gamemastering could be designed incorporating all the latest concepts, but written in an approachable, usable manner. Robin’s Laws is a good example. It has a player taxonomy and the crunchiness continuum, and it includes discussions of the various literary parallels (genre, setting, theme, tone, plot rhythm, and mood). Likewise, there is considerable discussion on the structure of both plot and setting, and there’s even a great deal of useful advice on controlling the party’s focus. All in all, a good book, but like any book, it could be better. Come to think of it, Paul, I think you could write a better book. Call me crazy, but I think you’re itching to write a better book. My only suggestion, if you should ever try, is that you make is so approachable that the average GM would actually enjoy reading it.

Lisa Padol: Regarding your comment on PCs occasionally being suicidally stupid, and this raising the issue concerning what GMs should do when it happens, I’m reminded of that incident in the Jinx campaign where Jinx tried bargaining with Mephistopheles, the Emperor of Hell, and rather than demean himself by negotiating with her, he snapped his fingers, inviting his guard dogs (the red raptors) to feast upon her flesh for a few seconds. Jinx tried to cast an attack spell at this point, but fortunately, because of the way the spell failure rules work in my game, she was unable to get the spell off. In such circumstances, a wide variety of different things can happen, but in this case, due to a single die roll, the spell merely fizzled, and there was no physical manifestation that it was ever cast. That was indeed fortunate for Jinx, as had the Emperor realized that she tried attacking him, it all would have been over for her then and there. The campaign would have taken a drastic turn, but fortunately, due to the dice, it didn’t work out that way. The upshot is that even when the player is being dumb, I still try to give them a way out, even if it means saying something like, “Are you sure you really want to do this? Are you aware of the probable repercussions?” I do this, in part, because their character would know more about their world than they do, and there is more at stake for their character than there is for them, but also, I think, because rolling up a new character is an avoidable pain, and also because a character’s death should be a little more dramatic and a little more meaningful than “Oops.” Regarding the fight between Firemaker and Nicklaus, one imagines that Nick would be able to see Firemaker catch the apple on his knife, but other than that small point, nice write-up. I especially liked the dialogue between them at the end. For myself, dialogue is the heart of the game. In your write-ups you typically tell us about the main plot points, but you don’t always toss in the associated dialogue. It is in dialogue that we get to know the characters. Of course, what they do is important as well. But it is when they speak that they come alive for the reader. That is where we hear their “voice” and begin to envision them as an individual. Dialogue, of course, can also be used to develop tension and conflict, and, likewise, it can be used to illuminate the setting. In short, it doesn’t just need to be about two people talking about what’s going on. It can be much richer, much more layered with history, desire, and intrigue. So if I had to ask for one thing from your write-ups (which are already extensive), it would be to include more meaningful dialogue. You finally do include more dialogue late in the writeup. From reading your summaries of various conversations, though, I do understand why you wanted

to limit the number of actual quotes. Your 11-page submission would probably have at least doubled in size. Such are the problems we face in doing these game write-ups. Simon Reeve: Interesting news about that electo-laser. Makes one wonder if Roddenberry was related to Nostradamus. Regarding all your WW2 research, if I ever write anything for that period, I want you to skim it over for a reality-check. A lot to ask, I admit, but you are a veritable treasure-trove of historical knowledge. Regarding “coins of communing”, neat idea. Of course, gods would have the ability to dispense spells for the creation of such items. This brings up the question: if you were a god, what methods would you want your followers to use to contact you? Just a stray thought. For myself, I think I’d have them send me email. Phones are just so 20th century. In a fantasy game, you could have messages sent carrier-pigeon style by a certain type of fast-flying bird known to be friendly to the god. In my AD&D campaign there’s a type of intelligent blackbird which can speak common mannish and which is often used to send messages between kingdoms and such. Since Jinx has gone to Hell, I’ve been toying with the idea of making these birds a servant-race of Agares9, one of the dukes of Stygia, the fifth plane of Hell. Of course, that would be a big secret of the campaign, as while all these princes and kings are happily using the birds to deliver their messages, Agares can have his scribes copy them into journals so that he can read them all at his leisure. If nothing else, it would be a great way for the devils to keep up on prime material politics. Eugene Reynolds (hopefully you’re still getting A&E): Although you didn’t write a zine for this issue, I wish to comment on your self-flagellation in issue #346. My basic feeling is that we all have negative experiences at the gaming table. The hardest thing to do in this hobby, I think, is to find a group of compatible minds with which to enjoy gaming. This is particularly true for long-time gamemasters, as we suffer from what I call “GMitis”, an incurable disease that causes us to think, “Boy, he’s really fouling up. His description is good, and his enthusiasm is high, but he’s completely lost Jane over there, and his plot is ridiculous, and his NPCs are all talking with that same idiotic accent... blah blah blah...” Of course, I never say such things out loud. That would be really rude. But I think them. In a way, each time is a learning experience, because by seeing what other gamemasters do right and wrong, I’m able to better analyze my own style. Believe me, my own style

See Dragon #75, pg33.

is far from perfect, and I’m sure that one of these GMs visiting my game would find ample fodder to criticize. Nonetheless, this is the old curse of us GMs, and I’m not really sure what can be done about it. In your case, you seem to be claiming that your problem is with putting the rules over the story. I’m not sure if this is really a problem. In any case, one way you might consider curing yourself might be to join (or perhaps even run) a play-by-email game, where the medium of exchange necessitates story-telling over wargaming-style confrontations. Combat does not play particularly well in PBeMs, as it’s just not that exciting to read, and also to apply all the usual rules for a roundby-round combat would slow down the game immeasurably. Hence, the PBeM medium might be a way to force you to “kick the habit” as it were. Just a suggestion for your consideration. Finally, even if you do drop out from the hobby for awhile (in terms of actually running games), that’s no reason to quit A&E. After all, you’ve been gaming for a long time, and you’ve got a lot of ideas and insights to share. In short, you don’t have to be rolling dice to be a gamer. Patrick Riley: I love your write-up of Ingrid Atherton. Simply marvelous. Despite there being a few minor typos, this is quality writing, and perhaps the best character background I have ever seen. It’s nothing short of inspirational. Brian Rogers: Regarding medicine in Star Trek, yes, the rules need a lot of help. There was once a book called the Star Fleet Medical Reference Manual published in 1977 by Star Fleet Productions, Inc. Actually, I’m not sure it would be of any value to you, although you might find it an interesting curiosity. You might also want to take a look at /medicalguide.html Also, if you want to cross-pollinate some ideas from Traveller, you might want to take a look at Regarding Filthy Lucre, I like your idea on the faerie as once-angelic bystanders (and, hence, outcasts from heaven). Sweet idea for me to incorporate into the Jinx campaign. Of course, that raises another question. Where does that place elves? Marco Sudias: I went to your Borderlands site ( and was intrigued by the work so far. It’s always fun to see what different groups are up to, and yours is certainly no exception. However, one question I came away with is whether there was any attempt to address Fermi’s Paradox (see my article in A&E #298 or get a copy from me via email). Also, what’s with those space hamsters?

Igtheme (Starting Character Power): How powerful should a starting character be? I always felt they should be weak. Of course, I started with D&D, which had the whole class/level system fully in place. Shortly thereafter, however, I began playing Traveller, and there was no character progression system to speak of (a huge oversight in my estimation). However, character generation was a lot more fun (although, granted, it was also more time consuming). I liked the whole idea of generating a character’s career history along with their skills/abilities. Furthermore, this method gave a sense of the setting along with a sense of belonging to that place and time. Unfortunately, it also meant that if you wanted a highly skilled character, you’d better pump him full of non-age drugs, because otherwise he’s gonna be so old that he’ll be washing his teeth in a jar. All in all, Traveller had good ideas, but the implementation showed a lack of appreciation for such obvious issues as game balance and character development. When I finally get back around to working on Ragamuffin, I’ll likely try to blend tactics from both camps, taking the best from each and disposing of the stuff that, in my opinion, causes problems. Some of my initial suppositions I’ve come to disregard, and this was in large part due to some of the comments I received in these pages when posting my initial character generation rules. I now realize that I’m going to have to rework things from scratch, but that’s okay. It’s not really a setback. I think of it more as an opportunity to get things right. One thing that still bothers me, however, is that while cinematic story-telling advocates the sort of character development that transforms a farm boy from Tatooine into a jedi knight, the “realistic” end of the genre doesn’t. Nonetheless, I’ve come to believe that players want the cinematic. They want character progression. They want heroics. Regardless of whether or not the genre supports it, they want it, so for a game to be wellloved, I think character power progression is a must. That Traveller made is so far without good rules in this regard still mystifies me, however, I think the overwhelming popularity of the d20 system supports my belief. Not only was it well-marketed and wellsupported, but it was well-designed in terms of giving players what they want; that is: power, progression, and heroics. Players want to start out above the average NPC. They want unlimited progression. And they want bizarre and unusual feats with which to smash their opponents and win praise from their friends. I could be exceptionally misinformed, but in my less-than-perfect opinion, those are the ingredients that make d20 tick. I would, of course, be interested in hearing alternate opinions. After all, I’m just one guy spewing nonsense in semi-wasted space.

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