Outlaws of the Water Margin

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
5,731
Reaction score
5,261
I would really love a published copy of the rules.
Just for the record, me too.
And the question which version is easy as well. Both of them, of course:thumbsup:!

I was doing it in the 80s, remember. A lot of the decisions in the game were based on a compromise bridging the vast gulf between what I believed about role-playing, and what the overwhelming majority of role-players seemed to believe.

To be quite honest, all that business of coming up with stats for characters and monsters and stuff, while being of immense interest to me when I was 16, had little to offer me in the 1990s when I was looking to complete the game. And my total lack of interest in it now worries me slightly. So don't be surprised if I take your post as an excuse to avoid doing much along those lines...
Wait, what? When did you write the Outlaws? 80ies? I've always believed it was a product of late 90ies at its most early!

Also, feel free to use me as an excuse to not do the work of statting up the Water Margin characters. The most you'd achieve is people arguing with your interpretation, anyway:grin:!
So let them come up with their own:shade:.

I don't much like the term 'storyteller system' as it seems to imply precisely the ref as auteur approach that I dislike. The original Outlaws is moderately rules heavy (actually too rules heavy for me, which was why I didn't use those rules too obsessively, and eventually came up with a set closer to what I actually did), But all incarnations have been based on the idea that there is a creative tension between the ref and the players, which benefits from balancing mechanisms.
That's exactly the reason why I adopted Referee and trained myself to use it instead of GM:evil:!
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
@Sleepyscholar of Shentian just to add to the chorus that I will deliver the finest silks from Samarkand to your court for a print copy of this.
Great to have a chorus (though I use a flanger more often, nowadays).

One reason why nothing came of the game back back in the day was that there didn't seem to be many people interested in it -- and those who were interested were mostly people I knew personally who I'd given the rules to. And don't forget that having been asked to do the game commercially by Hogshead Publishing (asked, I should add: I didn't offer it to James) I then got a letter from Andrew Rilstone telling me that they didn't want it, and my layout skills were rubbish.

Dave Morris's approach to getting print copies of games is to print out the PDF. I think that's quite sound. My experience of publishing Dave's book Heart of Ice (which I still contend is the best gamebook written) has made me suspicious of the costs involved (and the boxes of unsold copies, years later), but as Dave's encouraging me on this -- probably as a means also of encouraging his own progress with Tetsubo and Kwaidan -- I'll see what I can do.

Bear in mind that Outlaws was researched and mostly written pre-Web. One thing I fear is that if I look at it again and starting checking, I will find loads of errors derived from my reliance on dog-eared books from Chinatown bookshops.

I'll post more later. Unfortunately today I'm busy with pretty much the only role-playing I do nowadays: playing an Australian Border Force bod giving my Japanese students a practice run-through of what it's going to be like for them when they visit Oz next year. Currently done over Zoom, of course.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
Wait, what? When did you write the Outlaws? 80ies? I've always believed it was a product of late 90ies at its most early!
I think I started writing it while at Games Workshop (I left in 1986). I was working on it the same time Ian Marsh was doing Time Lord and we were swapping ideas since we lived in the same house. For this reason, the Outlaws mechanic was often called the 'Middle Flat' system, while Ian's was the 'Top Flat' system: 'cos that's where we lived! In fact, the original Outlaws involved picking cards to get your main ability, and that was probably influenced by the original, card-based mechanic of the Doctor Who RPG Ian did for Games Workshop in 1984, that got cancelled and was later part-recycled into Time Lord. Time Lord was published in 1991, which was the year I left the UK. I had been running Outlaws on and off (with breaks to run Tekumel) for several years before that.
 

Silverlion

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
1,041
Reaction score
1,405
Great to have a chorus (though I use a flanger more often, nowadays).


Dave Morris's approach to getting print copies of games is to print out the PDF. I think that's quite sound. My experience of publishing Dave's book Heart of Ice (which I still contend is the best gamebook written) has made me suspicious of the costs involved (and the boxes of unsold copies, years later), but as Dave's encouraging me on this -- probably as a means also of encouraging his own progress with Tetsubo and Kwaidan -- I'll see what I can do.

Bear in mind that Outlaws was researched and mostly written pre-Web. One thing I fear is that if I look at it again and starting checking, I will find loads of errors derived from my reliance on dog-eared books from Chinatown bookshops.
Your book resources are definitely better than mine, so I encourage it strongly to check both. As for copies, Print on Demand is now how a lot of smaller companies do things and sell to you through Drivethru Rpg. This isn't always optimal, but it prevents the unsold boxes and a lot of the sunk costs of printing your own books. Let me check with someone I know, however. A couple of people.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
Your book resources are definitely better than mine, so I encourage it strongly to check both. As for copies, Print on Demand is now how a lot of smaller companies do things and sell to you through Drivethru Rpg. This isn't always optimal, but it prevents the unsold boxes and a lot of the sunk costs of printing your own books. Let me check with someone I know, however. A couple of people.
I did Heart of Ice in the relatively early days of print on demand, using Lightning Source. I hoped that word of mouth, given that the book was up on Amazon (again, in the relatively early days of Amazon) would help. I should have made more effort at publicity. I think it's the publicity and support aspects that I'm weakest on. I've made enough books in various ways that I'm reasonably confident at that. With Outlaws, I would not be able to offer the sort of continual, grinding, social media presence that seems de rigeur nowadays. This was another reason why I wanted the game to be as complete as possible: I wouldn't be following it up with a stream of supplements!
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
13,453
Reaction score
30,794
I did Heart of Ice in the relatively early days of print on demand, using Lightning Source. I hoped that word of mouth, given that the book was up on Amazon (again, in the relatively early days of Amazon) would help. I should have made more effort at publicity. I think it's the publicity and support aspects that I'm weakest on. I've made enough books in various ways that I'm reasonably confident at that. With Outlaws, I would not be able to offer the sort of continual, grinding, social media presence that seems de rigeur nowadays. This was another reason why I wanted the game to be as complete as possible: I wouldn't be following it up with a stream of supplements!
At least with Drive-Thru as the venue for PoD, you have a very specific audience that is focused on RPGs. Reviews from users will raise awareness and bring visibility to your product. And, honestly, just in my 20 odd years on RPG forums, there is word of mouth regarding the game despite it's unfinished state. While it may not be a runaway best-seller immediately, I think it could be successful without the necessity of "social media grinding" or having to schill your book across the interwebs, especially if tied in some matter to a product like Tetsubo.

Moreover, have you ever thought of doing an OGL of the system? It could be that other people would gladly step up to do a supplement train for you.
 
Last edited:

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
5,731
Reaction score
5,261
And another!
At least with Drive-Thru as the venue for PoD, you have a very specific audience that is focused on RPGs. Reviews from users will raise awareness and bring visibility to your product. And, honestly, just in my 20 odd years on RPG forums, there is word of mouth regarding the game despite it's unfinished state. While it may not be a runaway best-seller immediately, I think it could be successful without the necessity of "social media grinding" or having to schill your book across the interwebs, especially if tied in some matter to a product like Tetsubo.

Moreover, have you ever thought of doing an OGL of the system? It could be that other people would gladly step up to do a supplement train for you.
Also, that OGL idea is a nice one:shade:!
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
It's getting dramatically Greek here, with this chorus on hand. Let's hope it ends up a comedy rather than a tragedy.

I will be asking what bits are necessary to finish the game. I must offer a caveat: I can't really overhaul what I've already done, for a number of practical reasons. My goal will simply be to add what is necessary to make the game runnable (personally I think it's runnable as-is, but there clearly are omissions in terms of 'marketing' it).
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
13,453
Reaction score
30,794
It's getting dramatically Greek here, with this chorus on hand. Let's hope it ends up a comedy rather than a tragedy.

I will be asking what bits are necessary to finish the game. I must offer a caveat: I can't really overhaul what I've already done, for a number of practical reasons. My goal will simply be to add what is necessary to make the game runnable (personally I think it's runnable as-is, but there clearly are omissions in terms of 'marketing' it).
I'll go back over my copy with a fine tooth comb tomorrow (er, I guess I mean later today, it's 5 am here, just about to turn in) but my impression was that it was pretty much 99% complete as is. I can't recall offfhand if there was an index, though.
 

Panzerkraken

Armored Squid
Joined
Sep 17, 2018
Messages
189
Reaction score
291
@Sleepyscholar of Shentian, @TristramEvans

I went ahead and flipped through Tristram's copy of the .pdf, here's the specific areas that were clearly left undone; this is only at a "Green Text" level and above, the actual text of the entries that are complete seems coherent and presentable. I would rate the whole thing as "FGU-equivalent" as-is; there's nothing left glaringly undone, but there is a sense of "time/interest expired on this project."

pg 137 - Placeholder for Motivation
Pg 142 - Descriptive text for the various gods
pg 151 - Placeholder indicating some need to fix the timeline.
Pg 164 - Empty entries for outlaw bands and secret societies.
Pg 172 - Geography section is fragmented.
Pg 195 - Creatures section has unfinished entries

Overall, the page numbering needs to be redone and, as Tristram mentioned, there's no index.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
I'll go back over my copy with a fine tooth comb tomorrow, but my impression was that it was pretty much 99% complete as is. I can't recall offfhand if there was an index, though.
Now you mention it, there wasn't and I did have plans for one. And since so many indexes are crap I wanted to do it properly, too.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
@Sleepyscholar of Shentian, @TristramEvans

I went ahead and flipped through Tristram's copy of the .pdf, here's the specific areas that were clearly left undone; this is only at a "Green Text" level and above, the actual text of the entries that are complete seems coherent and presentable. I would rate the whole thing as "FGU-equivalent" as-is; there's nothing left glaringly undone, but there is a sense of "time/interest expired on this project."
As I was very much a C&S devotee between 1979 and 1981, I very much like and appreciate the 'FGU-equivalent' comment. One of the things about RPGs in those early days is that they were almost all incomplete. I never bought D&D, but we started with the 'Basic Set' which only went up to 3rd level. Luckily before D&D I'd been playing (based on hearing about D&D but not having access to a set) with my own lashed-together rules based on some Middle-earth wargames rules, so I didn't get fazed by the incompleteness. People need a bit more now, though, I guess.

Modern role-players, they don't know they're born... mumble mumble... four Yorkshiremen ... mumble mumble ...
 

Panzerkraken

Armored Squid
Joined
Sep 17, 2018
Messages
189
Reaction score
291
As I was very much a C&S devotee between 1979 and 1981, I very much like and appreciate the 'FGU-equivalent' comment. One of the things about RPGs in those early days is that they were almost all incomplete. I never bought D&D, but we started with the 'Basic Set' which only went up to 3rd level. Luckily before D&D I'd been playing (based on hearing about D&D but not having access to a set) with my own lashed-together rules based on some Middle-earth wargames rules, so I didn't get fazed by the incompleteness. People need a bit more now, though, I guess.

Modern role-players, they don't know they're born... mumble mumble... four Yorkshiremen ... mumble mumble ...
That's entirely the spirit I intended for the usage. I was just calling attention to areas you appeared to have marked for later; the level of detail you provided for the world overcomes leaving out specifics of every character mentioned in the stories, and leaves room for the GM to provide his own.

Personally, I keep mentally coming back to the fiction of Barry Hughart's Master Li books (Bridge of Birds, Story of the Stone, Eight Skilled Gentlemen) for where I'd draw inspiration for running this. Unfortunately, most of my group right now wouldn't be able to get in the spirit of a game like this. I've put aside my "Flashing Blades in Southeast Asia" game for the same reason, but I'm working my way back around to Living Steel on them.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
That's entirely the spirit I intended for the usage. I was just calling attention to areas you appeared to have marked for later; the level of detail you provided for the world overcomes leaving out specifics of every character mentioned in the stories, and leaves room for the GM to provide his own.

Personally, I keep mentally coming back to the fiction of Barry Hughart's Master Li books (Bridge of Birds, Story of the Stone, Eight Skilled Gentlemen) for where I'd draw inspiration for running this. Unfortunately, most of my group right now wouldn't be able to get in the spirit of a game like this. I've put aside my "Flashing Blades in Southeast Asia" game for the same reason, but I'm working my way back around to Living Steel on them.
I really liked Bridge of Birds and the others. Gave me headaches, though, like many of the films, because they are set in a sort of 'timeless, mythical' China that differs from Song China in many ways. Another of my inspirations was A Chinese Ghost Story, for a long time probably my favourite film full stop. That also raised problems of compatibility. Luckily my players never felt the need to storm Hell!

But I mentioned film problems. Do I include 'hopping vampires' or not? The whole image of what I call kyonshi (as I've forgotten the Chinese) is Qing Dynasty. Never come across any reference to them in anything older (Pu Songling or whatever: I know he's Qing, but his stories are rooted in an earlier China). But I'm sure some people would feel betrayed if they couldn't do Mr Vampire with Outlaws. And my protestations that it's like complaining because you can't do Sherlock Holmes with Chivalry & Sorcery probably wouldn't cut much ice.
 
Last edited:

Panzerkraken

Armored Squid
Joined
Sep 17, 2018
Messages
189
Reaction score
291
But I mentioned film problems. Do I include 'hopping vampires' or not? The whole image of what I call kyonshi (as I've forgotten the Chinese) is Qing Dynasty. Never come across any reference to them in anything older (Pu Songling or whatever). But I'm sure some people would feel betrayed if they couldn't do Mr Vampire with Outlaws. And my protestations that it's like complaining because you can't do Sherlock Holmes with Chivalry & Sorcery probably wouldn't cut much ice.
When asked, you wave vaguely and say "Oh, just wing that. Give the vampires whatever magical abilities you think work; there's dozens of different legends about them. Maybe I'll write a supplement for it when I have the motivation."
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
When asked, you wave vaguely and say "Oh, just wing that. Give the vampires whatever magical abilities you think work; there's dozens of different legends about them. Maybe I'll write a supplement for it when I have the motivation."
The problem with this -- and it represents exactly the way I think -- is that it rather undermines my motivation to write anything in the game at all!

'Anything else? Just read a few stories and make it up!' is a seductive catchphrase.
 

Panzerkraken

Armored Squid
Joined
Sep 17, 2018
Messages
189
Reaction score
291
The problem with this -- and it represents exactly the way I think -- is that it rather undermines my motivation to write anything in the game at all!

'Anything else? Just read a few stories and make it up!' is a seductive catchphrase.
It is pretty much the origin story of the hobby, after all. But in that vein.. I think exemplary entries for the major sorts of monsters, undead, and demons, based on how you see their integration with the system of you've devised, is the key to being able to make those vague suggestions without regret.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
13,453
Reaction score
30,794
But I mentioned film problems. Do I include 'hopping vampires' or not? The whole image of what I call kyonshi (as I've forgotten the Chinese) is Qing Dynasty. Never come across any reference to them in anything older (Pu Songling or whatever: I know he's Qing, but his stories are rooted in an earlier China). But I'm sure some people would feel betrayed if they couldn't do Mr Vampire with Outlaws. And my protestations that it's like complaining because you can't do Sherlock Holmes with Chivalry & Sorcery probably wouldn't cut much ice.

If they aren't in the Outlaws books, I wouldn't bother. You shouldn't feel pressured to make this "China: The RPG", people will always be able to add elements they like from folklore and films on their own. I'd say the more focused it is the better, and the more content you try to pack in, the more of a likelihood the book will never get finished to your satisfaction.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
If they aren't in the Outlaws books, I wouldn't bother. You shouldn't feel pressured to make this "China: The RPG", people will always be able to add elements they like from folklore and films on their own. I'd say the more focused it is the better, and the more content you try to pack in, the more of a likelihood the book will never get finished to your satisfaction.
But as I mentioned, although Shuihuzhuan is the primary source of the game, things like A Chinese Ghost Story form a huge inspiration. The supernatural elements in the original books are relatively uninspiring (ironically, my lacklustre magic system probably simulates them pretty well!). The way the NTV series depicted magic as a sort of philosophical ability to manipulate reality-as-illusion was far more inspiring -- though very difficult to apply to a game unless it was the whole system, and you ditched all other magic. And then you have Swordsman Yan in A Chinese Ghost Story and a whole other paradigm. Not to mention the talisman magic which Laszlo Legeza describes so well in his Tao Magic.

I have to find a compromise with all this. But of course, you're right: one might almost imagine that precisely this lack of focus had led to the game languishing unpublished for decades...
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
This is going to kill my free time...

I have just discovered, not only an ancient print-out of the game that I used when I ran Outlaws here in Japan in the 90s, but the revised rules I worked on in 2005/2006. Unfortunately, I think the revised rules are better. But they are even more incomplete than the original rules. So I'll probably find a way to let you have them, so you can slag them off and I'll feel good about going back to the old rules.

The mechanic of the revised rules was pretty much the same. I just tried to streamline the way it worked. One development was that I suggested that most combat could be resolved with a single roll. Effectively, I decided that it was best to call time on the 'combat round'. Rolls in combat would instead be based on periods in which something was 'at stake' (whether that be 'jockeying for advantage', 'holding off the assailant long enough for comrades to arrive', 'striking a killing blow' or whatever) How long a period took would be determined by what was at stake and the results of the roll. I envisaged that most combats could be handled by a single roll (for more important cases 3 or so rolls would suffice). Long, dramatically important duels could be resolved in more detail.

I suspect that I was chasing an idea I called fractal gaming, where you could zoom in and out to focus on stuff based on how interesting it was, without having to wade through GURPS-style rules slogs whenever you wanted to brush your teeth. My feeling about wu xia movies is that the speed of combat is a large part of the appeal. Representing that with a lengthy mechanics-heavy system didn't seem sane.

Given that the bit I wrote describing this seems to stop without exploring all the possibilities, I guess I probably didn't work through all the statistical consequences (obviously variations in the number of rolls made can affect the relative probabilities of one or the other side winning: for example, when there is a disparity in scores, more rolls probably reduces the chance of the weaker party getting a fluke win).

By the looks of it, I also got rid of the specification of 'ease' for every task (which I'd found annoying in play) and went back to the traditional role-playing 'roll against your skill' idea, though with the ref able to apply difficulty penalties if appropriate. I'm going to have to read through all this stuff again and try to remember what I was thinking. Given that it clearly stumped me in the first place, I'll have to hope that the wisdom of age can cleave the Gordian knot.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
13,453
Reaction score
30,794
This is going to kill my free time...

I have just discovered, not only an ancient print-out of the game that I used when I ran Outlaws here in Japan in the 90s, but the revised rules I worked on in 2005/2006. Unfortunately, I think the revised rules are better. But they are even more incomplete than the original rules. So I'll probably find a way to let you have them, so you can slag them off and I'll feel good about going back to the old rules.
Um, yeah, definitely be eager to see them.

The mechanic of the revised rules was pretty much the same. I just tried to streamline the way it worked. One development was that I suggested that most combat could be resolved with a single roll. Effectively, I decided that it was best to call time on the 'combat round'. Rolls in combat would instead be based on periods in which something was 'at stake' (whether that be 'jockeying for advantage', 'holding off the assailant long enough for comrades to arrive', 'striking a killing blow' or whatever) How long a period took would be determined by what was at stake and the results of the roll. I envisaged that most combats could be handled by a single roll (for more important cases 3 or so rolls would suffice). Long, dramatically important duels could be resolved in more detail.
Hm, so I guess my first question is - did these rules revisions ever reach the table? I got the impression the prior version got a bit of play, from your game in Japan to them being used by others for Tekumal? And I guess the main relevant point is how well do they correspond to what version of the rules is being used for Kwaidan/Tetsubo?

Those questions aside, I completely agree speed in combat is vastly preferrable to crunch, just for keeping up the pace and tension in games, and Wuxia as a genre is particularly known for its frenetic clashes. But I aso wonder if by abstracting it to simply one one roll you could inadvertantly remove a degree of tension from the game - running out of Energy and Health (Body) as the battle continues, the perception of one or other opponent gaining advantage, etc. But then, you do mention, long dramatic duels resolved in more detail.

At which point, I wonder if it's entirely necessary to substantially alter the system. I'm just rambling off my initial thoughts mind (so take all this with a grain of salt, I assume you've had plenty of opportunity to put more thought into this than I have), but you already have a universal mechanic for the system. Which means, any competant GM is going to loook at any situation and automatically make the call how to implement that mechanic to accomplish what they want. If they want to simply resolve a specific issue with a single roll, or draw it out with a full combat, it seems like that's something they'll do automatically and the game already mostly supports - unless there's any substantial revision or complication to this new system that I am missing?

I guess what I'm saying is, does not the "fractal gaming" you want to express through the system simply arise naturally from running a game with a universal mechanic? (Or is that just me?) Or does it require a complete rewrite or simply calling attention to it as an option? Something to the effect of :

"These full combat rules are not necessary or even appropriate for every situation, as an alternative you can....yadda yadda yadda"

My feeling about wu xia movies is that the speed of combat is a large part of the appeal. Representing that with a lengthy mechanics-heavy system didn't seem sane.
lol, well, I never really saw the Outlaws system as I know it as "crunchy" to any degree comparable to GURPs as it is, let alone some of the more cumborsome systems I've encountered over the years, but point is taken. Honestly, though, with many current RPGs expecting combats to take half an hour to an hour or longer to resolve, I find in my own games, when I run combats that last 10 - 15 minutes at most, this pace is swift enough for players to comment on it.

By the looks of it, I also got rid of the specification of 'ease' for every task (which I'd found annoying in play) and went back to the traditional role-playing 'roll against your skill' idea, though with the ref able to apply difficulty penalties if appropriate. I'm going to have to read through all this stuff again and try to remember what I was thinking. Given that it clearly stumped me in the first place, I'll have to hope that the wisdom of age can cleave the Gordian knot.
If I understand you correctly, instead of Ease being set by the Ref, the Ease is determined by...the total bonuses applicable to the roll through the character's abilities? If that's the case, I'd have to spend some time wrapping my head around the implications of that.

Anyways, again, these are just my initial thoughts based on my interpretation/inferrences of your post. I would like to read over a copy of the new revision, no matter what state of completion it exists in and have some time to really process what the changes mean.

At the very least though, I would think that the background info is much more effort to write than the rules portion, and as that largely won't change, perhaps the revision would not be as big a setback as it seems.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
13,453
Reaction score
30,794
But as I mentioned, although Shuihuzhuan is the primary source of the game, things like A Chinese Ghost Story form a huge inspiration. The supernatural elements in the original books are relatively uninspiring (ironically, my lacklustre magic system probably simulates them pretty well!). The way the NTV series depicted magic as a sort of philosophical ability to manipulate reality-as-illusion was far more inspiring -- though very difficult to apply to a game unless it was the whole system, and you ditched all other magic. And then you have Swordsman Yan in A Chinese Ghost Story and a whole other paradigm. Not to mention the talisman magic which Laszlo Legeza describes so well in his Tao Magic.

I have to find a compromise with all this. But of course, you're right: one might almost imagine that precisely this lack of focus had led to the game languishing unpublished for decades...
I really do hope you haven't taken my comments regarding the magic system too much to heart! Even if I didn't heap praise upon them, it wasn't intended as a criticism. If there's any perfect way of systemizing magic in a way that's playable for an RPG and retains the unpredictable yet narratively appropriate nature of magic from stories, I don't think anyone in the hobby has struck upon it yet. This is one of the reasons I vastly prefer the rules-less magic of Pendragon over 4th edition's system - the very act of defining it for a game seperates it from the "occult mysteries". This isn't a "bad" thing per se, just one of the necessary compramizes of the hobby overall.

And it's not like one cannot gradually convert a player to a more freeform style, it's only new players that are already struggling with the notion of "what can I do?" If you assume the majority of your readers simply won't have the background in books and films that inspired the game, then it also seems likely to assume that the magic spells making up your system are as much a part of "world building" and "setting induction" as any other part of your game.
 

Silverlion

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
1,041
Reaction score
1,405
This is going to kill my free time...

I have just discovered, not only an ancient print-out of the game that I used when I ran Outlaws here in Japan in the 90s, but the revised rules I worked on in 2005/2006. Unfortunately, I think the revised rules are better. But they are even more incomplete than the original rules. So I'll probably find a way to let you have them, so you can slag them off and I'll feel good about going back to the old rules.
I really would like to see these published, but I'm not terribly picky, especially with someone's free time at stake.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
I really do hope you haven't taken my comments regarding the magic system too much to heart! Even if I didn't heap praise upon them, it wasn't intended as a criticism. If there's any perfect way of systemizing magic in a way that's playable for an RPG and retains the unpredictable yet narratively appropriate nature of magic from stories, I don't think anyone in the hobby has struck upon it yet. This is one of the reasons I vastly prefer the rules-less magic of Pendragon over 4th edition's system - the very act of defining it for a game seperates it from the "occult mysteries". This isn't a "bad" thing per se, just one of the necessary compramizes of the hobby overall.

And it's not like one cannot gradually convert a player to a more freeform style, it's only new players that are already struggling with the notion of "what can I do?" If you assume the majority of your readers simply won't have the background in books and films that inspired the game, then it also seems likely to assume that the magic spells making up your system are as much a part of "world building" and "setting induction" as any other part of your game.
I used to take things to heart in my 20s, but now I tend to be nodding my head in agreement.

It's no coincidence that the original Top Flat system (used for a very early incarnation of Outlaws, as well as Ian Marsh's game) was a heavily modified version of Pendragon. That game was one of the main templates for what I intended with Outlaws, and its magic system especially so. A better idea of how I actually ran magic appeared in the Pyramid of Skulls adventure, which essentially bypasses the magic system in order to say 'You know how this sort of thing goes... use what you've got to make it happen!'.

Going back to an earlier post of yours, you make the absolutely key point about the revised version -- although a response to problems that had come up in play with the original rules -- not having actually been tested to destruction in play. What I may do is see what points are salvageable from the revision and applicable to the original without altering the mechanics. The problem is -- and this is a reason I stopped working on the game -- I stopped being able to play role-playing games around the time my son was born. He's now 18, and I have neither available time, nor available players. I think since Dave Morris seems to be using the system for his Japanese game, and he does have a game going, I'll rely on him for system-oriented stuff, and mainly put my effort into tidying the bits needed to round it off.
 

BedrockBrendan

Legendary Member
Joined
May 3, 2017
Messages
411
Reaction score
786
My advice is make the game you want to play and that you can run. If having hopping vampires and certain kinds of magic in it, translate into full campaigns and exciting adventures at your own table, go with that, if you find yourself running more focused campaigns based entirely on Outlaws of the Marsh, I would say go with that. Everyone has very specific tastes around these things, and you can get dizzy trying to appeal to anyone. The most important person's tastes to consider are your own.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
My advice is make the game you want to play and that you can run. If having hopping vampires and certain kinds of magic in it, translate into full campaigns and exciting adventures at your own table, go with that, if you find yourself running more focused campaigns based entirely on Outlaws of the Marsh, I would say go with that. Everyone has very specific tastes around these things, and you can get dizzy trying to appeal to anyone. The most important person's tastes to consider are your own.
Well, possibly unwittingly you've just advised me to do what I've been doing for the last 15 years: in other words, abandon the game, because I'm no longer in a position to run it. It's hard enough to find players for this sort of game back in Britain. It's massively difficult here in Nagoya. And if there's one thing the present situation has taught me it is that I have no wish to role-play over Zoom.

Practically speaking, there's no point me making the game for me to run myself. I already did that.* Ran it for years. The question is what are the best compromises to make it useful to others? This forum is providing invaluable feedback on that.

*It strikes me as amusing that in effect a similar thing happened with my Song Dynasty-set detective novel. My agent had St Martins Press on the hook, but the editor's mother died, and the chance was lost... a few years later I read my own novel, and quite enjoyed it.
 

BedrockBrendan

Legendary Member
Joined
May 3, 2017
Messages
411
Reaction score
786
Well, possibly unwittingly you've just advised me to do what I've been doing for the last 15 years: in other words, abandon the game, because I'm no longer in a position to run it. It's hard enough to find players for this sort of game back in Britain. It's massively difficult here in Nagoya. And if there's one thing the present situation has taught me it is that I have no wish to role-play over Zoom.

Practically speaking, there's no point me making the game for me to run myself. I already did that.* Ran it for years. The question is what are the best compromises to make it useful to others? This forum is providing invaluable feedback on that.

*It strikes me as amusing that in effect a similar thing happened with my Song Dynasty-set detective novel. My agent had St Martins Press on the hook, but the editor's mother died, and the chance was lost... a few years later I read my own novel, and quite enjoyed it.

I think you should definitely not abandon it. This game has too many fans. You could always put out Outlaws of the Marsh, based entirely on the water margin, then release small books of support for other genres. Or have chapters in the back handling the supernatural stuff that can be ignored if people just want to run a water margin inspired campaign. If you are not running it though because of circumstances, you should definitely get people to playtest it for you, so any new mechanics or changes can be vetted as much as possible at a table.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
13,453
Reaction score
30,794
Well, I'm going through the copy I have now, and as I've said previously, it's not far away from a finished product. If we at The Pub can help in any way to push it those last few steps, even in just inspiring work on it again, that would be incredibly gratifying.

I'll try and post all my notes soon.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 21, 2020
Messages
54
Reaction score
184
If you are not running it though because of circumstances, you should definitely get people to playtest it for you, so any new mechanics or changes can be vetted as much as possible at a table.
Right. So there's a useful suggestion that I not be tempted by the Dark Side of rules tinkering, and stick with what I had (and used for several years). Now I know why Dave Morris seemed to be advocating that. I think I'll go with maximum compatibility with Tetsubo/Kwaiden. Which means any mechanics changes will get analysed, tested, and ripped apart by his gang.

I don't think abandoning is good either. I know its tough work--but look for as I said above basically blind alpha testers as you build. You still know what you want from the game right?
This is what I've been hinting at. Like all the previous games/campaigns that I designed, what I wanted from Outlaws was a good role-playing experience. As I am not in a position to play anymore, I no longer have that motivation. Outlaws differs from its predecessors in that, mainly thanks to James Wallis (and possibly because I started getting gamebooks published) the idea arose of publishing it more widely. But that's not 'what I want from the game'. It's an interesting possibility, but somewhat divorced from my primary relationship with the game itself.

Some time during the 90s, I remember feeling strongly that certain professional RPG writers with whom I was acquainted were doing something I considered bad faith: they were publishing all sorts of stuff about role-playing games even though they no longer played themselves. In the end, this was what led me to stop publishing imazine, and stop working on Outlaws. It felt somehow wrong.

So obviously I have that feeling again now, and it occurs to me that rather than worrying about the rules, and trying to catch up on the last 20 years of rolegaming theory that I've missed, I should just try to tie up the loose ends remaining in the game and get it finished. And as I was typing this, Tristram posted a comment which seems to suggest even more that this is the right strategy.
 

Silverlion

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2017
Messages
1,041
Reaction score
1,405
Oh yeah. I remember and know more than a few authors who don't play their games. I've not played High Valor in a few years now--that doesn't mean I'm not playing and learning game stuff. The important thing in this is if you want to wrap up what you started, FANTASTIC.

If you want to write a dream game? Ideal for what you'd want to play now, IF you had the time? Also FANTASTIC.

I understand where you come from because I've seen that all too often in the past, but one thing I've learned is not to judge them too harshly as well. If you've gained knowledge, and desire to do something in a new way? Do it so that you know, someday if your situation changed and you wanted to play? You'd have the game you wanted to play made. I love both my wee games, they need some improvements and cleanups, and some more material, and life throws curveballs at us all.

Will I play my games again? Sure. I ran both the systems (modified for genre reasons) in different settings about a year and a half ago (used one system for a space opera wuxia game) I've since been actually watching others fumble around trying to keep consistent games together in person even before COVID because of life, kids, work, etc.

Now, a lot of gaming has moved online (I don't use zoom, usually just Discord and voice, or Roll 20.) But I also have a novel to write, one to clean up and a game to finish up, and move to the next works I'm planning--but yeah I still play, however, I've got the luxury so to speak of being officially disabled and have way more free time to do so than a lot of other people my age.

Either way, you choose to go, I'll be happy to see what you do. I'll always keep encouraging people to make what they'd choose to play if they could.

But regardless of what we say--stay happy, stay healthy, we'll respect your choice regardless.
 

TristramEvans

The Right Hand of Doom
Moderator
Joined
Apr 24, 2017
Messages
13,453
Reaction score
30,794
I think there's a big difference between someone not currently gaming with a rules set vs a rules set that has never been playtested, which is what I thought was being referred to, and continues to be a pernicious trend in the hobby, tbh. I know people who have never even played a roleplaying game in their life who have contributed to RPG rulebooks (no, I'm not naming names, but I'll give everyone one guess what company they worked for). That, to me, is disengenuous, insofar as I know from personal experience the stark difference between writing rules and using them.

My own exerience is that, more often than not, no matter how clever an idea for a mechanic I come up with, only about 90% of those ideas survive the table, usually because it either turns out to be unnecessary when I can just make judgement calls on a case by case basis during a game, or the mechanic simply interferes too much with the game to justify it.

From what you're describing, Silverlion, it just sounds like these are rules you've used to run games with before, but aren't currently. I don't see any issue with that.
 

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
5,731
Reaction score
5,261
I think there's a big difference between someone not currently gaming with a rules set vs a rules set that has never been playtested, which is what I thought was being referred to, and continues to be a pernicious trend in the hobby, tbh. I know people who have never even played a roleplaying game in their life who have contributed to RPG rulebooks (no, I'm not naming names, but I'll give everyone one guess what company they worked for). That, to me, is disengenuous, insofar as I know from personal experience the stark difference between writing rules and using them.

My own exerience is that, more often than not, no matter how clever an idea for a mechanic I come up with, only about 90% of those ideas survicve the table, usually because it either turns out to be unnecessary when I can just make judgement calls on a case by case basis during a game, or the mechanic simply interferes too much with the game to justify it.

From what you're describing, Silverlion, it just sounds like these are rules you've used to run games with before would be using, but aren't currently. I don't see any issue with that.
I believe that would also apply to Outlaws:smile:. And I'd agree, it's different from releasing a game you haven't playtested! How much theory you apply is up to you, IMO, as long as you try it out.

That said, I'm sad for the Ease Factor going away (though I have mentally renamed it to TN because it's easier for me to remember it that way, and it seemed my players agreed:wink:). I liked it that you can reward solutions that are more likely to work with improved Ease, and that when you combine them with skill, it can make success automatic.
Then again, I also like CORPS and EABA, which are doing the same thing. So at least I'm quite consistent, there:shade:!
 
Top