Outlaws of the Water Margin

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Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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OK, I've had some time to read it.

Graphic design-wise, as I said previously, I like it. Very clear, visually clean, the borders and use of quotes and sidebars is nice. And I didn't see a single typo.

As for the content, I like the conversational tone. It's friendly while providing a strong authorial voice that gives the discussions a unique flavour. The only part I found that didn't work (for me) was the "What is Role Playing?" section at the beginning. I think if you believe (and I tend to agree) that it is unnecessary to define this for readers, then it seems to me equally unnecessary to tell them that you aren't going to define it or to suggest they do a web search. From the opening question the paragraph comes across as....well, "hostile" isn't the right word, but the tone seems somehow off in comparison to the rest of the chapter. Personally, I'd either drop it entirely or replace it with a much more utilitarian "What you need to play" - as in "this game uses a pair of six sided dice," etc.

Other than that, seems great. Curious, when you consider print, will this be in a 6x9 format? It just comes across that way to me, as opposed to the atypical oversized RPG tomes.
You're right about the hostility in that section. I have to be careful about the bits I add in. And it's a slaphead moment to discover that there's no mention of 2D6 there. There'll be a new version of that going up anyway. The Characters chapter is taking me forever, though.

6x9 isn't really a format I'd thought about. I'm designing on to A4 at the moment, purely out of habit (unlike most other formats, it's relatively universal because it ports very easily over to the fat American format). I do have a bad feeling though, that I may have ripped this layout off from Hero Wars (my copy is at work at the moment, so I can't check).
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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I've just been reading a blog about Millar and Morrison writing strips for Judge Dredd, and it has got me thinking further about this notion of heroes.

Outlaws has no alignment. This is not surprising, alignment being something I ditched from my games a couple of years into the 80s. One of the reasons I ditched it is that it is essentially a means of setting up, and justifying, conflicts, which purports to have a moral dimension, but in fact doesn't. It's a sleight of hand to avoid having to think about the very reality that Aos has identified: namely that the majority of RPG characters are murderous thugs.

In the years before I came to Japan I was probably playing more Tekumel than I was Outlaws, and I guess I just got accustomed to taking a diegetic view of things. In Tekumel, conflicts and so on are driven by the complexities of society. There are clan rivalries, for example. There are the various deities, which the D&D-influenced original EPT maybe made people think had a moral dimension, but of course actually are far more sophisticated.

When I play a character, although I tend to the immersive end of things, I don't play characters with my morality. I try to play characters who have some kind of believable moral system from the background they inhabit. I played a pretty unpleasant Livyani bodyguard, a straight-up clan-above-all social climbing warrior, and a super-nervous adherent of Dra the Uncaring. I wouldn't defend any of them from criticism. But I don't play them in order to propose them as moral exemplars. I play them to experience what it's like.

I actually dislike violence. I find much of the work of Mark Millar (for example Kingsman) pretty sick. But the key issue here is whether you are advocating the violence as morally justifiable in our time, and our world, or whether you are playing a role in a work of subcreation. I am most emphatically not doing the former, and I don't for a moment want anyone to think that I have anything but revulsion for most of the actions of the Water Margin characters.
 
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TristramEvans

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The modern conception of Hero has definitely been (the opposite of?) "tainted" by the moral strictures imposed on North American media by censors/family practice standards over the last century, having little to no relation to the Hellenic origin of the concept. There's certainly a reason that every time Hercules has been translated to celluloid over the last 60 years he's ended up more Superman than Argonaut.
 

AsenRG

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The modern conception of Hero has definitely been (the opposite of?) "tainted" by the moral strictures imposed on North American media by censors/family practice standards over the last century, having little to no relation to the Hellenic origin of the concept. There's certainly a reason that every time Hercules has been translated to celluloid over the last 60 years he's ended up more Superman than Argonaut.
This "opposite of tainted" is "purified to death", IMO:shade:.

Well yes, obviously. This is a very good point. I defy anyone to read the stuff about Li Kui and not have their jaw drop.

But the next stage after that "Having read the novel, I have hard time considering any of the characters heroes" moment is to have a look at the overwhelming majority of what we consider 'heroes'. I grew up loving James Bond in both movies and novels. But Bond is as unequivocally a villain as the 'heroes' of Liangshan Po. Look at any other Hollywood action movie, and consider the behaviour of the hero(es) in moral terms.

Over the course of the years it was shown, I watched the crime drama Luther. Clearly Luther was the 'hero' of his eponymous show, but he was a bent cop, no doubt about it. Breaking Bad tackled this idea pretty head-on. In other words, 'heroes' are people who occupy a particular role in a story. How often are they moral exemplars? Very rarely.

I think this confusion is quite injurious to society as a whole, but that's a rather different topic. What I will mention, however is that heroes often become so by a process of opposition. Robin Hood is a hero primarily because he opposes the Sheriff, who is clearly villainous. The Taliban are heroes to some people because they oppose both the corrupt officials, and those who have been massacring their families for the last few years. Luther is a hero because he opposes murderers and other significant villains. And the 'heroes' of Liangshan Po are not heroes because they are moral, but because they oppose a corrupted political system.
I remember reading a book about Bond... the first book that introduced Bond to the Bulgarian public in the 90ies.
So what did the translator mention as "striking" (might be my word)? That Bond is actually kinda villainous to what we're used to reading - but that it makes him more believable, and after all, spies aren't supposed to be moral exemplars, it's a different profession:thumbsup:.

OTOH, I raise you a Die Hard here. The character has no bad qualities: he's fighting to save people from terrorists who would sacrifice them to send a message. And among those people is his daughter as well. So basically, he's fighting to save himself, his family and other innocent people.
I explicitly don't have any moral qualms with this behaviour - those killed, apart from the hostages, had it coming...as two proverbs here go "had you remained in peace, you wouldn't have had an adventure" and "he who pulls out a blade, dies by a blade":angel:!
Granted, he's just like a PC who was basically railroaded by the GM into being in a secluded location. You can almost imagine the talk:
Player: "I'm alone and unarmed.. now ninjas are going to attack me, right?"
The GM, throwing a look at his notes: "No. Terrorists arrive and take everybody hostage":grin:!
"I'm alone and I've got combat training. Can't I wrestle a gun from one of them?"

So no, heroes don't have to be villains. But they're often complicated characters, as Hercules evidences:tongue:!

I've just been reading a blog about Millar and Morrison writing strips for Judge Dredd, and it has got me thinking further about this notion of heroes.

Outlaws has no alignment. This is not surprising, alignment being something I ditched from my games a couple of years into the 80s. One of the reasons I ditched it is that it is essentially a means of setting up, and justifying, conflicts, which purports to have a moral dimension, but in fact doesn't. It's a sleight of hand to avoid having to think about the very reality that Aos has identified: namely that the majority of RPG characters are murderous thugs.

In the years before I came to Japan I was probably playing more Tekumel than I was Outlaws, and I guess I just got accustomed to taking a diegetic view of things. In Tekumel, conflicts and so on are driven by the complexities of society. There are clan rivalries, for example. There are the various deities, which the D&D-influenced original EPT maybe made people think had a moral dimension, but of course actually are far more sophisticated.

When I play a character, although I tend to the immersive end of things, I don't play characters with my morality. I try to play characters who have some kind of believable moral system from the background they inhabit. I played a pretty unpleasant Livyani bodyguard, a straight-up clan-above-all social climbing warrior, and a super-nervous adherent of Dra the Uncaring. I wouldn't defend any of them from criticism. But I don't play them in order to propose them as moral exemplars. I play them to experience what it's like.

I actually dislike violence. I find much of the work of Mark Millar (for example Kingsman) pretty sick. But the key issue here is whether you are advocating the violence as morally justifiable in our time, and our world, or whether you are playing a role in a work of subcreation. I am most emphatically not doing the former, and I don't for a moment want anyone to think that I have anything but revulsion for most of the actions of the Water Margin characters.
I also find it best to have a character with a believable moral system for the time and place. I've played a street-raised mob enforcer who had his own whorehouse, I've played mercenaries, noblemen*, a xia who was trying to also study for his exams and got into clan politics**, a retired police Chief from a planet on the frontier of the Third Imperium who got involved with the intelligence service, a werewolf who was being chased by an entire clan of wizards, and so on.
But almost none of them were moral exemplars. Many of them wouldn't really be excusable in our day and age, but then most of them didn't live in our day and age...
So my criterion for whether I'm playing a hero, antihero or anti-villain*** is simple: when you enter a room, does everyone feel safer? If yes, I'm playing a hero. If unsure, an antihero. If people are sure they're less safe now than a minute ago, I'm playing an antivillain... but I only know who was what after the campaign concludes.
Because the goal is just to play my character, and see where it goes:devil:.

*The difference with the mercenaries was literacy and manners. And sometimes not even that, since an hidalgo can also be a mercenary.
**Let's just say this lead to some interesting deals being made...
***Borrowed by Sgt. Rory Miller, who is, AFAICT, the same Rory Miller who has written the introduction to Kobold's Guide to Combat.
 

AsenRG

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I recall hearing that Patrick McGoohan was offered the role of Bond before Sean Connery, but turned it down because he though the character was too immoral.
"To play a violent womanizer with a drinking problem who works for the Crown? Never! I'm applying for the role of D'Artagnan instead!"
 

Aos

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Well yes, obviously. This is a very good point. I defy anyone to read the stuff about Li Kui and not have their jaw drop.

But the next stage after that "Having read the novel, I have hard time considering any of the characters heroes" moment is to have a look at the overwhelming majority of what we consider 'heroes'. I grew up loving James Bond in both movies and novels. But Bond is as unequivocally a villain as the 'heroes' of Liangshan Po. Look at any other Hollywood action movie, and consider the behaviour of the hero(es) in moral terms.

Over the course of the years it was shown, I watched the crime drama Luther. Clearly Luther was the 'hero' of his eponymous show, but he was a bent cop, no doubt about it. Breaking Bad tackled this idea pretty head-on. In other words, 'heroes' are people who occupy a particular role in a story. How often are they moral exemplars? Very rarely.

I think this confusion is quite injurious to society as a whole, but that's a rather different topic. What I will mention, however is that heroes often become so by a process of opposition. Robin Hood is a hero primarily because he opposes the Sheriff, who is clearly villainous. The Taliban are heroes to some people because they oppose both the corrupt officials, and those who have been massacring their families for the last few years. Luther is a hero because he opposes murderers and other significant villains. And the 'heroes' of Liangshan Po are not heroes because they are moral, but because they oppose a corrupted political system.
I feel like you’re confusing heroes with main characters, but, at any rate, I draw the line at cannibalism and child murder. I’m also comfortable with my own definition of what makes and doesn’t make a hero. I certainly never feel even a tiny bit of sympathy for Walter White, that’s for sure. He’s the main character, but not a hero. Anti-hero is about as far as I’d stretch it. I kind of think the title Heroes of the Water Margin is meant to be ironic. Not unlike in the Three Musketeers when they’re all patting each other on the back and telling each other how awesome they are, when, in fact they’re a bunch of treasonous murderers. That’s the joke.
 
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TristramEvans

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I feel like you’re confusing heroes with main characters

Well, that is a definition of "hero" in literature.

000hero.JPG

The term can be used interchangeably with "protagonist"


, but, at any rate, I draw the line at cannibalism and child murder. I’m also comfortable with my own definition of what makes and doesn’t make a hero. I certainly never feel even a tiny bit of sympathy for Walter White, that’s for sure. He’s the main character, but not a hero. They’re two different things.

As I was talking about earlier, the term has acquired different cultural meanings over time. In this case, it's a Western concept applied to a work from a non-English country. There's nothing incorrect in the use of the term to describe the main characters of the Water Margin,; in fact I'd say it's closer to the original meaning of the term than the way you are using it - mythologized heroes such as the aforementioned Hercules acted in ways that would definitely offend modern sensibilities.
 

burbles

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Here's my observations on Chapter 1...

p2 para1 line 4 "and so that the systems".
- I don't understand why the plural is used. Are you refering to subsystems (eg combat/carousing/persuasion subsystems) or are you providing multiple different systems to play this game with (a simple version and an advanced version)? This relates to an identical question later.

p2 para1 "background"
- possibly replace with 'milieu'?

p2 para1 line 6 "In fact, that’s how the companion Tetsubo game finally reached print".
- Forgive me for my poor research skills, but did this actually occur? I can only find reference to an unpublished manuscript for Warhammer (unless one counts someones printing of a copy of said manuscript (ref: http://carnel.sdf-eu.org/tetsubo/)), I understand that Grim & Perilous Studios were looking to redevelop a 'Tetsubo', but that fell through. I apologise if I've got the wrong Tetsubo, or failed to identify the actual manufacturer.

p3 para3 (Chapter Title) "The Systems"
- Relates to earlier comment, I think this should be singular. It seems to me that singular is used within the section eg 'the core rule' and 'the basic system'

p3 para10 "drop me a line insisting that I correct this fault."
- Could use an email address? At this stage, I assume one for the publishing 'company' doesn't exist, Maybe grab 'ootwm@gmail.com'?

p9 para1 line 1 "the rules or your kind nature to give herself a powerful character"
- I had to reread this sentence to understand it. Possibly add commas to assist understanding.
"the rules, or your kind nature, to give herself a powerful character"

p9 para2 As an aside - Does watching kung fu movies really give one 'a deep knowledge of China'?
 

Mankcam

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I recall hearing that Patrick McGoohan was offered the role of Bond before Sean Connery, but turned it down because he though the character was too immoral.
I read that Oliver Reed was in line for the James Bond role as a more serious replacement after the Connery run, but the popularity of The Saint led them to choose Roger Moore and go down a more comical goofy path. I think given the 'immorality' of the 007 character, Reed may have been an ideal choice actually

1631442707452.png 1631442947639.png 1631443074089.png
 
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TristramEvans

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p2 para1 line 6 "In fact, that’s how the companion Tetsubo game finally reached print".
- Forgive me for my poor research skills, but did this actually occur? I can only find reference to an unpublished manuscript for Warhammer (unless one counts someones printing of a copy of said manuscript (ref: http://carnel.sdf-eu.org/tetsubo/)), I understand that Grim & Perilous Studios were looking to redevelop a 'Tetsubo', but that fell through. I apologise if I've got the wrong Tetsubo, or failed to identify the actual manufacturer.

After Zweihander pulled out when Fox caught retarded, Dave Morris decided on releasing it himself, and in looking for a system to use, settled on Paul Mason's Outlaws system. Discussion of this is what instigated this thread. We haven't gotten any public updates on it from Dave Morris for a bit now, but hopefully we will be seeing it published soon as well. Together with Outlaws, that means we'll have a Japanese and Chinese setting using the same basic system framework.

 

TristramEvans

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p3 para10 "drop me a line insisting that I correct this fault."
- Could use an email address? At this stage, I assume one for the publishing 'company' doesn't exist, Maybe grab 'ootwm@gmail.com'?

I don't recommend using an email address in a manuscript. At the stage the game is finished, professional contact information can be included in the indicia.
 

burbles

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I don't recommend using an email address in a manuscript. At the stage the game is finished, professional contact information can be included in the indicia.
I would normally have expected a contact to be the publisher, and have used their contact details. I’m a little confused as to whether this will be self published (almost a vanity project?) or something more serious. Given your note regarding Tetsubo above, this would now seem to head in the more serious direction.
 

TristramEvans

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I would normally have expected a contact to be the publisher, and have used their contact details. I’m a little confused as to whether this will be self published (almost a vanity project?) or something more serious. Given your note regarding Tetsubo above, this would now seem to head in the more serious direction.

I don't think any of that is relevant when talking about RPGs, where the average "professional publisher" is two guys in a basement
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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Here's my observations on Chapter 1...

p2 para1 line 4 "and so that the systems".
- I don't understand why the plural is used. Are you refering to subsystems (eg combat/carousing/persuasion subsystems) or are you providing multiple different systems to play this game with (a simple version and an advanced version)? This relates to an identical question later.

p2 para1 "background"
- possibly replace with 'milieu'?

p2 para1 line 6 "In fact, that’s how the companion Tetsubo game finally reached print".
- Forgive me for my poor research skills, but did this actually occur? I can only find reference to an unpublished manuscript for Warhammer (unless one counts someones printing of a copy of said manuscript (ref: http://carnel.sdf-eu.org/tetsubo/)), I understand that Grim & Perilous Studios were looking to redevelop a 'Tetsubo', but that fell through. I apologise if I've got the wrong Tetsubo, or failed to identify the actual manufacturer.

p3 para3 (Chapter Title) "The Systems"
- Relates to earlier comment, I think this should be singular. It seems to me that singular is used within the section eg 'the core rule' and 'the basic system'

p3 para10 "drop me a line insisting that I correct this fault."
- Could use an email address? At this stage, I assume one for the publishing 'company' doesn't exist, Maybe grab 'ootwm@gmail.com'?

p9 para1 line 1 "the rules or your kind nature to give herself a powerful character"
- I had to reread this sentence to understand it. Possibly add commas to assist understanding.
"the rules, or your kind nature, to give herself a powerful character"

p9 para2 As an aside - Does watching kung fu movies really give one 'a deep knowledge of China'?

Much appreciated (and taken in hand). The email address appears in the front matter which, for reasons which should be obvious (not least that you need to be credited!) is going to be done last. The line about Tetsubo is there to give Dave some incentive, though since he's been busting his gut on Vulcanverse I may be optimistic about that. Incidentally, the only reason why 'systems' was there in the plural was that it was an attempt to avoid using the word 'rules' too often, and the plural just carried over. But it's fixed now.

In answer to your final question, you may notice that the rules are laced with a vein of mischievous/annoying* sarcasm.

*delete as applicable.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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Here's a Characters chapter. Still lacking in artwork, and my experiments on how to integrate that haven't been very successful so far.

I somehow resisted the temptation to include a line in this chapter pointing out that Liangshan Po outlaws are not actually goodies, but are really baddies.

Incidentally, I tootled along to the Kickstarter of the Podcast thing by James Wallis and two other luminaries, and there is no mention of Outlaws, so I may have dodged a bullet on that one. Maybe he just contacted me about it in the hope of getting me to contribute to the Kickstarter?
 

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burbles

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Incidentally, I tootled along to the Kickstarter of the Podcast thing by James Wallis and two other luminaries, and there is no mention of Outlaws, so I may have dodged a bullet on that one. Maybe he just contacted me about it in the hope of getting me to contribute to the Kickstarter?
I think they’ve already analysed/reviewed it here.
 
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Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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I think they’ve already analysed/reviewed it here.
So they have. Nice of James to tell me. Then again, he says such nice things about me at the start of the podcast (I haven't listened to it all yet, of course) that I cannot carp. A little further on they start thinking about how to redo the game for contemporary times, which is useful. Of course, I actually already did so 20 years ago, and the first suggestion (focus on piling loads of skill bonuses on to each roll) was something that occurred to me years ago and I deliberately ditched for being too meta.

They are absolutely right about getting rid of special cases, though. I'm glad that James was able to point out, after they were mocked by one of the other participants, that they aren't really there to be used, but to provide tone.

Anyway, I'll post this and get back to listening to the podcast.
 
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Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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I've now finished the podcast. Interesting and worth listening to, although full of mistakes. I did not host a Tsolyani banquet with Mike Cule (I was playing a Livyani: I was the only person present who did not eat. Dave Morris describes the occasion in his blog. And the rules of the game do not derive from some mythical 80s Dave Morris game called Kwaidan (someone clearly has trouble understanding what 'shares a common system with' means). Mistakes aside, though, there are lots of insightful comments.

Greg Stolze wants to rejig the game into something that, ironically given that in the podcast they have correctly identified Outlaws as being too rules dense, would be way more mechanic-heavy than anything I'd like to play. He seems to have missed the point made earlier in the conversation, that the rules are there for non-rules-related reasons: to evoke something. Although as he seems to recognise at the end, he would actually just design a game he wants to play, because he has no interest in what Outlaws actually does.

Anyway, I felt a little sad, because here am I working on the 90s version of the game, with all the 'special cases' and stuff, when in fact there was a 2000s version of the game that does much more of what these guys seem to be saying a game should do. But I've made my bed, and I will lie in it.
 

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I've now finished the podcast. Interesting and worth listening to, although full of mistakes. I did not host a Tsolyani banquet with Mike Cule (I was playing a Livyani: I was the only person present who did not eat. Dave Morris describes the occasion in his blog. And the rules of the game do not derive from some mythical 80s Dave Morris game called Kwaidan (someone clearly has trouble understanding what 'shares a common system with' means). Mistakes aside, though, there are lots of insightful comments.

Greg Stolze wants to rejig the game into something that, ironically given that in the podcast they have correctly identified Outlaws as being too rules dense, would be way more mechanic-heavy than anything I'd like to play. He seems to have missed the point made earlier in the conversation, that the rules are there for non-rules-related reasons: to evoke something. Although as he seems to recognise at the end, he would actually just design a game he wants to play, because he has no interest in what Outlaws actually does.

Anyway, I felt a little sad, because here am I working on the 90s version of the game, with all the 'special cases' and stuff, when in fact there was a 2000s version of the game that does much more of what these guys seem to be saying a game should do. But I've made my bed, and I will lie in it.
I like Greg Stolze's games, but I've also learned that it's seldom a good idea to listen to other people's ideas about what a game should do.
If you do, in the end, you'd end up with D&D (or an incongruent mess...or both:grin:), and I'd purport that this isn't a goal worth chasing...it already exists:shade:.
 

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6x9 isn't really a format I'd thought about. I'm designing on to A4 at the moment, purely out of habit
I greatly prefer smaller formats (probably due to playing so much Tunnels & Trolls and Traveller), but aside from the physical size I'm finding an advantage these days in how such books display on a tablet. Many books designed for A4 or 8.5x11" are hard to read on an iPad… not that my eyes are getting old or anything…
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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I greatly prefer smaller formats (probably due to playing so much Tunnels & Trolls and Traveller), but aside from the physical size I'm finding an advantage these days in how such books display on a tablet. Many books designed for A4 or 8.5x11" are hard to read on an iPad… not that my eyes are getting old or anything…

Very good point. But I've been contributing to a PDF-based APA for a number of years, and the A4 formatting there seems to work fine on tablets (like you, my eyes ain't what they were, but I look at stuff on two largish monitors). I deliberately ditched the 2-column format and went for a single column of reduced width in the hope that this would solve the problem. If it would cause a problem: please let me know. This is one reason I'm laying the thing out and putting PDFs up here, even though those yawning voids in the China chapter are still beckoning, malevolently, at me.

As the guys in the podcast point out, Outlaws is a bit on the long side. Putting it in a smaller format increases the page count, which makes it feel even longer!
 

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As the guys in the podcast point out, Outlaws is a bit on the long side. Putting it in a smaller format increases the page count, which makes it feel even longer!

I have no problem with the A4/8.5x11 page size, but my experience of e-readers is that the smaller pages actually reduce effective length, because the reader will display two of them side-by-side, like a book that has been opened. So more pages but fewer screens. And shorter line lengths, which you get with smaller formats, means there is less space lost when a paragraph ends without extending to the right margin.
 

AsenRG

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I feel like you’re confusing heroes with main characters, but, at any rate, I draw the line at cannibalism and child murder. I’m also comfortable with my own definition of what makes and doesn’t make a hero.
So am I.
And your definition excludes Hercules/Herakles, BTW:thumbsup:.

I kind of think the title Heroes of the Water Margin is meant to be ironic.
I strongly doubt that. You'd have to ask the English translator of the edition you're refferring to, though...because the other titles in English were "Outlaws of the Marsh" and "All Men Are Brothers".
In short, I highly doubt that's the actual title. Sleepyscholar of Shentian Sleepyscholar of Shentian could probably explain more.
And if by chance it does mean "outlaws"...well, what did you expect from outlaws?


Not unlike in the Three Musketeers when they’re all patting each other on the back and telling each other how awesome they are, when, in fact they’re a bunch of treasonous murderers. That’s the joke.
Treasonous to whom, the Cardinal or the Queen:devil:?
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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So am I.
And your definition excludes Hercules/Herakles, BTW:thumbsup:.


I strongly doubt that. You'd have to ask the English translator of the edition you're refferring to, though...because the other titles in English were "Outlaws of the Marsh" and "All Men Are Brothers".
In short, I highly doubt that's the actual title. Sleepyscholar of Shentian Sleepyscholar of Shentian could probably explain more.

The Chinese name of the story is 水滸伝. Translated literally: 'Water Margin Legend'. No mention of heroes. I use the word 'heroes' in the game in a conscious echo of the Japanese TV show that inspired me to do the game. But as you have correctly noted, I named the game Outlaws. Heroes of the Water Margin is the name of the version of the game I adapted to Hero Wars rules, and those rules were never made available in any shape or form.

The translations are called All Men Are Brothers (Buck), Water Margin (Jackson), Outlaws of the Marsh (Shapiro) and The Marshes of Mount Liang (Dent-Young bros.). The NTV TV show was shown in the UK and translated by David Weir as The Water Margin.

And if by chance it does mean "outlaws"...well, what did you expect from outlaws?



Treasonous to whom, the Cardinal or the Queen:devil:?

Exactly my earlier point: they are defined as heroes by their opposition to the Cardinal (which stems from romantic loyalty to the Queen).

Always had a soft spot for Dumas. Like me, he traces his ancestry to Saint-Domingue.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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I have no problem with the A4/8.5x11 page size, but my experience of e-readers is that the smaller pages actually reduce effective length, because the reader will display two of them side-by-side, like a book that has been opened. So more pages but fewer screens. And shorter line lengths, which you get with smaller formats, means there is less space lost when a paragraph ends without extending to the right margin.

Interesting. Because I'm not from the smartphone generation, I still have a page aesthetic which regards white space as a good thing, but you seem to be suggesting that on a screen it's better to avoid 'wasting' space?

I see the point about shorter line lengths, but against that is the disruption caused by more page breaks. If I keep the same point size, then a smaller page size increases the number of page breaks, and then you have way more problem with tables and so on being broken across pages. Or in the case of the little ones in Outlaws, not broken: which means more empty space at the bottom of pages.

Incidentally, it's not that I'm ideologically opposed to smaller page sizes. Back in the day, when I used to argue against these huge, colour-background-page extravaganzas, I used to say that I felt game rules were books and should be laid out and sized accordingly. The books I do nowadays (mostly academic ones: conference proceedings, that sort of thing) tend to get sized at Japanese B5 (7.2"x10.1"), which is as annoyingly incompatible as the US's stubborn refusal to join the rest of the world in the ISO camp. The international journal I do is ISO B5 (6.9"x9.8") and I'd happily go with that.

I had been working with the idea of a narrowed measure, allowing the outer margin (pun accidental) to be used for stray notes, quotes and art. Going down to B5 would make that idea impractical. I'm also wondering now whether even the relatively light page furniture I have (the chapter titles in the margins in toned bars) might be too much for a device screen.
 

TristramEvans

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I just listened to that podcast and...oh man, what a bunch of wankers. Seriously. I have many times on this forum stated that I am very often oblivious to pretentiousness, especially when it comes to RPGs, but it was so thick in the air in that podcast that even I felt it oppressive.

Detailed rant incoming, I'm going to have to listen again and take a few notes
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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I just listened to that podcast and...oh man, what a bunch of wankers. Seriously. I have many times on this forum stated that I am very often oblivious to pretentiousness, especially when it comes to RPGs, but it was so thick in the air in that podcast that even I felt it oppressive.

Detailed rant incoming, I'm going to have to listen again and take a few notes
To be honest, I expected James to be much more critical, but what seemed to end up happening was that he would defend the game, and then the others would launch in with some mockery. But in amongst that, I still feel there was some insight to be had. These are not gamers who are really looking for the same thing in RPGs that I am, but for the most part (I felt especially with James, but also with Ross and to a lesser extent with Greg) they recognised that and allowed for it.

What I did find funny was the compliments about the system... followed by the firm suggestion that I do the game for Fate RPG (which I did actually consider a number of years ago, as it happens). Without the system, what you mainly have is a load of wordy background about China. It might as well be a GURPS supplement, or the C&S China thing that I was contracted for years ago but which never went anywhere. There was this strange contradiction about whether or not a system was important. On the one hand: do the game for Fate; on the other: turn the game into an exercise in rules-manipulation by allowing players to use any and all skill bonuses for a task.
 

TristramEvans

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To be honest, I expected James to be much more critical, but what seemed to end up happening was that he would defend the game, and then the others would launch in with some mockery. But in amongst that, I still feel there was some insight to be had. These are not gamers who are really looking for the same thing in RPGs that I am, but for the most part (I felt especially with James, but also with Ross and to a lesser extent with Greg) they recognised that and allowed for it.

Yeah, it was very clear, filtering out the "90's games Tut-Tut!", that what these fellows were looking for in a game is definitely nothing like a culture game, rather an avant garde (their words) sort of high concept thing only suitable for one-shots. Near the beginning Impro was brought up, a book I happened to pick up purely based on discussions about it in Imazine, and I found it an extremely useful book when it came to portraying NPCs in my games. I internalized several of it's techniques. But when it was claimed, I think by Wallis, that it was "the best book on game design ever written" I was like "ummmmm....what?".

And then he brought up Baron Munchausen, and I suddenly saw what he meant, it just happened to not mean what I mean when I think of an "RPG". I liked Munchausen, I think it's a very enjoyable roundtable storygame when you have the right group of people. But despite spending quite a bit of time parodying elements of role-playing games in the rules, Munchausen is more of what I'd consider a "party game".

What I did find funny was the compliments about the system... followed by the firm suggestion that I do the game for Fate RPG (which I did actually consider a number of years ago, as it happens). Without the system, what you mainly have is a load of wordy background about China. It might as well be a GURPS supplement, or the C&S China thing that I was contracted for years ago but which never went anywhere. There was this strange contradiction about whether or not a system was important. On the one hand: do the game for Fate; on the other: turn the game into an exercise in rules-manipulation by allowing players to use any and all skill bonuses for a task.

That was the main thing that occurred to me - they essentially wanted to either ditch the system or change it into something completely different, in which case all you'd be providing was the background on China. This just baffles me, because I could simply pick up "GURPs China" or some equivalent, or just do web research for a game if that's what I wanted, it's the system and the marriage of the system to the setting that is important to me. I think Wallis kinda got that, while the other two did not - he would, albeit seemingly reluctantly, always counter with "well, it was evocative".


I also have to wonder what version of the game these people encountered. I know Wallis was primarily drawing on actual experience playing in one of your games in the early '90's. The earliest version I saw would have been around the millennium. Some of the complaints didn't ring true to me exactly.

(at this point I should reveal I wasn't exactly sure who was who so I assigned them just the monikers Participant A, B, and C when note-taking. "A" is definitely Wallis, but the other two I couldn't say. "B" came across as the biggest ass IMO, while "C" was the fellow seemingly fixated on FATE).

So B kept complaining about the laundry list of skills. But what was strange to me was his statement:

"There was this big pile of skills, and in true '90s fashion, they're subdivided and cost different things, and apply at different times, and some are very broad and some are very narrow and it's fiddly to the extreme"

The only subdivision I know of is the divide between talents and skills, and I don't know what he means by them "costing different things", and in general I wouldn't say they are that mixed between very broad or narrow - certainly some are going to apply to more circumstances than others, but as far as "fiddly to the extreme"? I'm really not seeing it at all. I think of WFRP, where each skill has it's own mini-rule system, or the vast skill lists of GURPs and Outlaws seems perfectly sensible and streamlined to me. They all seem to be chosen either as basic abilities common to every person (such as strength, as talents replace the atypical attribute list of most RPGs) or specific proficiencies that are important in some way to the culture of China during the period.

This is why I wonder f he's referencing some early '90s draft of the game that I never saw.

Moreover, when Wallis brings up the Bad Joss rules as a significant point he makes in the system's favour, B plainly states he "didn't even take notice" of the Motivation/Bad Joss rules as anything significant. That honestly leaves me flabberghasted - it's one of the most unique innovations in Outlaws, and I can't imagine anyone reading the game and glossing over it.

Speaking of, though Wallis particularly singles this system out for praise, I was immensely frustrated in the horrible way he explained it for the audience. He seemed to skip over Motivation altogether, and talked about Bad Joss like it was akin to Marvel Super Heroes' Karma Points, a GM "reward system" to enforce acting correctly for the culture. Whereas the truth is it is much more subtle than that, and, as I described on the first page of this thread, is something almost entirely in the hands of the player while the rules clearly specify that a GM should not apply them as a form of heavy-handed punishment handed down from on high. The charts enforce this divide from what the GM is doing in his role as referee and the effects incurred by the accumulation of Bad Joss, primarily through the players accumulating Motivation.

Then C chimes in with this idea that, to him, the system "sounds like" Fate (and since he never read the game, that's basically what he focuses on the rest of the podcast, just talking about how he'd convert this game he's never read to FATE, oh, after getting someone to check on your scholarship of course...). And B says "You don't define them though - it's just this huge laundry list. They're weird .. well no, they're '90s". He's complaining about skills again, but he' comparing them to FATE aspects, even though FATE games also have skill systems, and aspects aren't the same thing.

It feels almost disingenuous.

C, the guy who spends the majority of the podcast just saying how he'd convert it to FATE, and B, who apparently wants to turn the system into Wushu, both in the changes they propose and the complaints they have (what few that rise above "oh, we've progressed so far from game design in the nineties") have one major thing in common that I noticed .

Their systems (they're preferred "evolved" style of RPG they seem to think everyone should be making these days) are ones that focus entirely on system at the expense of role-playing. To explain, my preference (and one of the reasons that I hold the Outlaws system in high regard, is a "Rules Medium" or "Medium-Light" system that is robust but does not require much in the way of referencing the rulebook during play and largely "fades into the background" during a session or campaign, except in certain circumstances where it provides flavourful interactions (like combat in this case, or the aforementioned application of Motivation and Bad Joss). By "flavourful interactions" I mean what I guess is best described as "emergent properties" of a system, interactions within the system itself that are particularly satisfying and, in effect, "justify" the rules when a more handwavey or "rules-lite" system could otherwise get the job done.

I feel like I could probably pump out an essay just on this, but tangent aside, a game like FATE, or the Wushu-esque construct that B proposed, will never "fade into the background". FATE is a constant commerce of metacurrency points that keep attention focused on the mechanical interactions, where role-playing is never allowed to simply "happen", but is bought, sold, and bid on.

Likewise, B's conception of just piling on as many skills as you can to any action (as he puts it "- if you can find a way to get your kicking skill and your social class and your knowledge of Chinese classics involved in your attack, you will be unstoppable") might be an entertaining exercise in absurdity, but it's not gaming from the perspective of the character, let alone assuming the viewpoint of a person in the culture, a character in these legends. It is a purely narrative third-person lark, better served by Risus than a culture game.

There's no place to immerse in character in these systems. I recall something that you wrote in Imazine, a phrase that laid it's hooks into my gamer brain and never let go over these 20 years hence, that "the GM's job is to bring the beer". What they seem to want is a game where the GM brings the beer pong. Beer pong may be greatly enjoyable, but ultimately it's jus a distraction if what you really want to do is just sit there and, well, just role-play.

ANyhoo, I could keep on ranting, I've only touched on about half my notes, but I'm probably better off going back to reading the Characters chapter and posting my thoughts on that.
 

AsenRG

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Yeah, it was very clear, filtering out the "90's games Tut-Tut!", that what these fellows were looking for in a game is definitely nothing like a culture game, rather an avant garde (their words) sort of high concept thing only suitable for one-shots. Near the beginning Impro was brought up, a book I happened to pick up purely based on discussions about it in Imazine, and I found it an extremely useful book when it came to portraying NPCs in my games. I internalized several of it's techniques. But when it was claimed, I think by Wallis, that it was "the best book on game design ever written" I was like "ummmmm....what?".

And then he brought up Baron Munchausen, and I suddenly saw what he meant, it just happened to not mean what I mean when I think of an "RPG". I liked Munchausen, I think it's a very enjoyable roundtable storygame when you have the right group of people. But despite spending quite a bit of time parodying elements of role-playing games in the rules, Munchausen is more of what I'd consider a "party game".


It seemed like even the concept of a culture game was foreign to the other two fellows.



Yeah, that was the main thing that occurred to me - they essentially wanted to either ditch the system or change it into something completely different, in which case all you'd be providing was the background on China. This just baffles me, because I could simply pick up "GURPs China" or some equivalent, or just do web research for a game if that's what I wanted, it's the system and the marriage of the system to the setting that is important to me. I think Wallis kinda got that, while the other two did not - he would, albeit seemingly reluctantly, always counter with "well, it was evocative".


I also have to wonder what version of the game these people encountered. I know Wallis was primarily drawing on actual experience playing in one of your games in the early '90's. The earliest version I saw would have been around the millennium. Some of the complaints didn't ring true to me exactly.

(at this point I should reveal I wasn't exactly sure who was who so I assigned them just the monikers Participant A, B, and C when note-taking. "A" is definitely Wallis, but the other two I couldn't say. "B" came across as the biggest ass IMO, while "C" was the fellow seemingly fixated on FATE).

So B kept complaining about the laundry list of skills. But what was strange to me was his statement:

"There was this big pile of skills, and in true '90s fashion, they're subdivided and cost different things, and apply at different times, and some are very broad and some are very narrow and it's fiddly to the extreme"

The only subdivision I know of is the divide between talents and skills, and I don't know what he means by them "costing different things", and in general I wouldn't say they are that mixed between very broad or narrow - certainly some are going to apply to more circumstances than others, but as far as "fiddly to the extreme"? I'm really not seeing it at all. I think of WFRP, where each skill has it's own mini-rule system, or the vast skill lists of GURPs and Outlaws seems perfectly sensible and streamlined to me. They all seem to be chosen either as basic abilities common to every person (such as strength, as talents replace the atypical attribute list of most RPGs) or specific proficiencies that are important in some way to the culture of China during the period.

This is why I wonder f he's referencing some early '90s draft of the game that I never saw.

Moreover, when Wallis brings up the Bad Joss rules as a significant point he makes in the system's favour, B plainly states he "didn't even take notice" of the Willpower/Bad Joss rules as anything significant. That honestly leaves me flabberghasted - it's one of the most unique innovations in Outlaws, and I can't imagine anyone reading the game and glossing over it.

Speaking of, though Wallis particularly singles this system out for praise, I was immensely frustrated in the horrible way he explained it for the audience. He seemed to skip over Motivation altogether, and talked about Bad Joss like it was akin to Marvel Super Heroes' Karma Points, a GM "reward system" to enforce acting correctly for the culture. Whereas the truth is it is much more subtle than that, and, as I described on the first page of this thread, is something almost entirely in the hands of the player while the rules clearly specify that a GM should not apply them as a form of heavy-handed punishment handed down from on high. The charts enforce this divide from what the GM is doing in his role as referee and the effects incurred by the accumulation of Bad Joss, primarily through the players accumulating Motivation.

Then C chimes in with this idea that, to him, the system "sounds like" Fate (and since he never read the game, that's basically what he focuses on the rest of the podcast, just talking about how he'd convert this game he's never read to FATE, oh, after getting someone to check on your scholarship of course...). And B says "You don't define them though - it's just this huge laundry list. They're weird .. well no, they're '90s". He's complaining about skills again, but he' comparing them to FATE aspects, even though FATE games also have skill systems, and aspects aren't the same thing.

It feels almost disingenuous.

C, the guy who spends the majority of the podcast just saying how he'd convert it to FATE, and B, who apparently wants to turn the system into Wushu, both in the changes they propose and the complaints they have (what few that rise above "oh, we've progressed so far from game design in the nineties") have one major thing in common that I noticed .

Their systems (they're preferred "evolved" style of RPG they seem to think everyone should be making these days) are ones that focus entirely on system at the expense of role-playing. To explain, my preference (and one of the reasons that I hold the Outlaws system in high regard, is a "Rules Medium" or "Medium-Light" system that is robust but does not require much in the way of referencing the rulebook during play and largely "fades into the background" during a session or campaign, except in certain circumstances where it provides flavourful interactions (like combat in this case, or the aforementioned application of Motivation and Bad Joss). By "flavourful interactions" I mean what I guess is best described as "emergent properties" of a system, interactions within the system itself that are particularly satisfying and, in effect, "justify" the rules when a more handwavey or "rules-lite" system could otherwise get the job done.

I feel like I could probably pump out an essay just on this, but tangent aside, a game like FATE, or the Wushu-esque construct that B proposed, will never "fade into the background". FATE is a constant commerce of metacurrency points that keep attention focused on the mechanical interactions, where role-playing is never allowed to simply "happen", but is bought, sold, and bid on.

Likewise, B's conception of just piling on as many skills as you can to any action (as he puts it "- if you can find a way to get your kicking skill and your social class and your knowledge of Chinese classics involved in your attack, you will be unstoppable") might be an entertaining exercise in absurdity, but it's not gaming from the perspective of the character, let alone assuming the viewpoint of a person in the culture, a character in these legends. It is a purely narrative third-person lark, better served by Risus than a culture game.

There's no place to immerse in character in these systems. I recall something that you wrote in Imazine, a phrase that laid it's hooks into my gamer brain and never let go over these 20 years hence, that "the GM's job is to bring the beer". What they seem to want is a game where the GM brings the beer pong. Beer pong may be greatly enjoyable, but ultimately it's jus a distraction if what you really want to do is just sit there and, well, just role-play.

ANyhoo, I could keep on ranting, I've only touched on about half my notes, but I'm probably better off going back to reading the Characters chapter and posting my thoughts on that.
I think you just helped me put into words what I dislike about my own favourite wu xia system (namely Legends of the Wulin)...:shock:

But yeah, some people don't even get the concept of wanting the system to fade into the background, and to just be a character in a different culture. In fact, last time I tried to explain this on a different forum, it was met with almost open hostility.
Well, I no longer post there, and that's part of it:shade:.


Either way, carry on, I prefer to read your thoughts on the Characters chapter:thumbsup:.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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Yeah, it was very clear, filtering out the "90's games Tut-Tut!", that what these fellows were looking for in a game is definitely nothing like a culture game, rather an avant garde (their words) sort of high concept thing only suitable for one-shots. Near the beginning Impro was brought up, a book I happened to pick up purely based on discussions about it in Imazine, and I found it an extremely useful book when it came to portraying NPCs in my games. I internalized several of it's techniques. But when it was claimed, I think by Wallis, that it was "the best book on game design ever written" I was like "ummmmm....what?".

And then he brought up Baron Munchausen, and I suddenly saw what he meant, it just happened to not mean what I mean when I think of an "RPG". I liked Munchausen, I think it's a very enjoyable roundtable storygame when you have the right group of people. But despite spending quite a bit of time parodying elements of role-playing games in the rules, Munchausen is more of what I'd consider a "party game".



That was the main thing that occurred to me - they essentially wanted to either ditch the system or change it into something completely different, in which case all you'd be providing was the background on China. This just baffles me, because I could simply pick up "GURPs China" or some equivalent, or just do web research for a game if that's what I wanted, it's the system and the marriage of the system to the setting that is important to me. I think Wallis kinda got that, while the other two did not - he would, albeit seemingly reluctantly, always counter with "well, it was evocative".


I also have to wonder what version of the game these people encountered. I know Wallis was primarily drawing on actual experience playing in one of your games in the early '90's. The earliest version I saw would have been around the millennium. Some of the complaints didn't ring true to me exactly.

(at this point I should reveal I wasn't exactly sure who was who so I assigned them just the monikers Participant A, B, and C when note-taking. "A" is definitely Wallis, but the other two I couldn't say. "B" came across as the biggest ass IMO, while "C" was the fellow seemingly fixated on FATE).

So B kept complaining about the laundry list of skills. But what was strange to me was his statement:

"There was this big pile of skills, and in true '90s fashion, they're subdivided and cost different things, and apply at different times, and some are very broad and some are very narrow and it's fiddly to the extreme"

The only subdivision I know of is the divide between talents and skills, and I don't know what he means by them "costing different things", and in general I wouldn't say they are that mixed between very broad or narrow - certainly some are going to apply to more circumstances than others, but as far as "fiddly to the extreme"? I'm really not seeing it at all. I think of WFRP, where each skill has it's own mini-rule system, or the vast skill lists of GURPs and Outlaws seems perfectly sensible and streamlined to me. They all seem to be chosen either as basic abilities common to every person (such as strength, as talents replace the atypical attribute list of most RPGs) or specific proficiencies that are important in some way to the culture of China during the period.

This is why I wonder f he's referencing some early '90s draft of the game that I never saw.

Moreover, when Wallis brings up the Bad Joss rules as a significant point he makes in the system's favour, B plainly states he "didn't even take notice" of the Motivation/Bad Joss rules as anything significant. That honestly leaves me flabberghasted - it's one of the most unique innovations in Outlaws, and I can't imagine anyone reading the game and glossing over it.

Speaking of, though Wallis particularly singles this system out for praise, I was immensely frustrated in the horrible way he explained it for the audience. He seemed to skip over Motivation altogether, and talked about Bad Joss like it was akin to Marvel Super Heroes' Karma Points, a GM "reward system" to enforce acting correctly for the culture. Whereas the truth is it is much more subtle than that, and, as I described on the first page of this thread, is something almost entirely in the hands of the player while the rules clearly specify that a GM should not apply them as a form of heavy-handed punishment handed down from on high. The charts enforce this divide from what the GM is doing in his role as referee and the effects incurred by the accumulation of Bad Joss, primarily through the players accumulating Motivation.

Then C chimes in with this idea that, to him, the system "sounds like" Fate (and since he never read the game, that's basically what he focuses on the rest of the podcast, just talking about how he'd convert this game he's never read to FATE, oh, after getting someone to check on your scholarship of course...). And B says "You don't define them though - it's just this huge laundry list. They're weird .. well no, they're '90s". He's complaining about skills again, but he' comparing them to FATE aspects, even though FATE games also have skill systems, and aspects aren't the same thing.

It feels almost disingenuous.

C, the guy who spends the majority of the podcast just saying how he'd convert it to FATE, and B, who apparently wants to turn the system into Wushu, both in the changes they propose and the complaints they have (what few that rise above "oh, we've progressed so far from game design in the nineties") have one major thing in common that I noticed .

Their systems (they're preferred "evolved" style of RPG they seem to think everyone should be making these days) are ones that focus entirely on system at the expense of role-playing. To explain, my preference (and one of the reasons that I hold the Outlaws system in high regard, is a "Rules Medium" or "Medium-Light" system that is robust but does not require much in the way of referencing the rulebook during play and largely "fades into the background" during a session or campaign, except in certain circumstances where it provides flavourful interactions (like combat in this case, or the aforementioned application of Motivation and Bad Joss). By "flavourful interactions" I mean what I guess is best described as "emergent properties" of a system, interactions within the system itself that are particularly satisfying and, in effect, "justify" the rules when a more handwavey or "rules-lite" system could otherwise get the job done.

I feel like I could probably pump out an essay just on this, but tangent aside, a game like FATE, or the Wushu-esque construct that B proposed, will never "fade into the background". FATE is a constant commerce of metacurrency points that keep attention focused on the mechanical interactions, where role-playing is never allowed to simply "happen", but is bought, sold, and bid on.

Likewise, B's conception of just piling on as many skills as you can to any action (as he puts it "- if you can find a way to get your kicking skill and your social class and your knowledge of Chinese classics involved in your attack, you will be unstoppable") might be an entertaining exercise in absurdity, but it's not gaming from the perspective of the character, let alone assuming the viewpoint of a person in the culture, a character in these legends. It is a purely narrative third-person lark, better served by Risus than a culture game.

There's no place to immerse in character in these systems. I recall something that you wrote in Imazine, a phrase that laid it's hooks into my gamer brain and never let go over these 20 years hence, that "the GM's job is to bring the beer". What they seem to want is a game where the GM brings the beer pong. Beer pong may be greatly enjoyable, but ultimately it's jus a distraction if what you really want to do is just sit there and, well, just role-play.

ANyhoo, I could keep on ranting, I've only touched on about half my notes, but I'm probably better off going back to reading the Characters chapter and posting my thoughts on that.
Well, I'm not going to disagree with any of that, am I?

I also noted with amusement the mention of Baron Munchausen, and James was tactful not to say that I really pissed him off with my review which was, in TLDR; format: 'It's fun, but it's not role-playing'. But he did remember my review of Erick Wujcik's Mystic China, which I slagged off mainly because it was pretty much what they said I should do with Outlaws: namely genericised, Orientalist mush. Or rather, James thinks I should write the Monkey RPG (which would be fun, I agree, but it's not the game I did write).

There were several comments that I found provocative. One, which sadly didn't lead anywhere, was the layers of an onion comment at the beginning. I felt this was potentially the most interesting angle to follow, but it was just left to hang, as if it was a slam, like the 'future conditional' thing that set one of them off. And it was funny because there are more layers to the onion than the guy realised: a Brit, living in Japan, writing a game inspired by a Japanese TV show, inspired by a Japanese manga, based on a Chinese legend, written in the Ming Dynasty about an earlier period. In other words, I've been aware of the onion skins from early on. Dave Morris commented on the way in which you find echoes of your own culture when you play a culture game (which is not the same as playing fantasy elves as 21st century Americans), and inevitably that's the case here: James was probably right that Outlaws was a product of Thatcher's Britain. Unlike him, I was not a trustafarian, but an actual signing-on, Enterprise Allowance Scheme scraper. But I wasn't interested in warping China to suit my own culture (or even morals: thinking about the argument we just had with Aos).

Of course the 'authoritative' plain wrong comments were also annoying. 'They're all men!'. Well I grant you, there aren't many women among the 108, but to deny the existence of Hu Sanniang, for example, suggests that you're privileging an agenda over reporting the truth. There are more women at Liangshan Po then there are around the Round Table, or in Sherwood Forest...

I think the version of the rules they had was the usual one that's out there: the errors are of reading comprehension (so a comment that Outlaws 'shares a system' with a game that Dave hasn't written yet gets transmuted into a legendary game written by him in the early 80s, from which I ripped off the rules...). Blimey, they were right that I need an editor (I am an editor: I'm acutely aware of the need for one). But the 'historian' comment was odd. I don't need 'a historian'. That would be easy: I teach in a university that has a history department, and I'm friendly with many of the faculty. It's like they are valorising 'academic knowledge' without any regard to what the academic knowledge is! And even if you did find that rare bird, an expert on Song history and Ming literature, they would need to have some understanding of what a role-playing game actually does.

To be honest, I would consider it far more important to have someone Chinese go through it for obvious non-speaker goofs. That's what I've tried to do at various stages, but never with the complete manuscript.

It's very nice of you to remember the 'fetch the beer' comment. To his credit, James remembers an occasion when I extended that to 'go and cook lunch'. But then, I gather that James hasn't actually done much gaming over the last 30 years, so it would stick in his memory. There used to be a Tekumel game run round at his place. By all accounts, he sometimes didn't even turn up for the sessions that were held at his own home. Yet of the three, James was the one with the most self-awareness, and recognition that there are other styles of gaming (that aren't just 'the nineties').

However, and this is being written in 100% agreement with your points about apparently complex rules which are sort-of designed not to be used, that very difference in styles of gaming leads people to see different things in different games, and in many ways that's a good thing. It is a shame, yes, that parlour gamery has become such a dominant strand in role-playing. As James mentions, back in the 80s and 90s I believed things could be different. But having spent 20 years unable to get a group together (because the only gamers I know here are old-school D&D mavens, and because I play role-playing for social interaction, which I prefer not to do online), I'm going to recognise that it isn't about me. People have latched on to the games and game styles they like (which seem, for some reason, to be D&D -- who would have a Demogorgon in a regular game anyway?). Years down the line, when I find that a bunch of Fighting Fantasy fans want to vote a character I created the best in the series, or when one or two people are still interested in Outlaws, I can only feel happy.
 

Panzerkraken

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(at this point I should reveal I wasn't exactly sure who was who so I assigned them just the monikers Participant A, B, and C when note-taking. "A" is definitely Wallis, but the other two I couldn't say. "B" came across as the biggest ass IMO, while "C" was the fellow seemingly fixated on FATE)..

You did better than I did. I knew that English Gent was Willis, but the other two were labeled as "Guy Who Talks Like This ALL The Time!" and "Guy who needs to fix his mic."

Tristram's comments cover anything I might have had to say as well. I did listen, and I really liked the outtake at the end about the gaming community in England in the 90's. It really reminded me of smallish town gaming in Michigan around the same time period.
 
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Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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You did better than I did. I knew that English Gent was Willis, but the other two were labeled as "Guy Who Talks Like This ALL The Time!" and "Guy who needs to fix his mic."
What you talkin' about, Willis?

Tristram's comments cover anything I might have had to say as well. I did listen, and I really liked the outtake at the end about the gaming community in England in the 90's. It really reminded me of smallish town gaming in Michigan around the same time period.
I enjoyed that, too. It kind of reinforced the feeling I got at various points that James (Wallis, in case my earlier attempted witticism was baffling) would talk about something, and B and C would just be completely blank, not interested at all. In this case, they were so uninterested that they sliced it out of the conversation and stuck it at the end!
 

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What you talkin' about, Willis?


I enjoyed that, too. It kind of reinforced the feeling I got at various points that James (Wallis, in case my earlier attempted witticism was baffling) would talk about something, and B and C would just be completely blank, not interested at all. In this case, they were so uninterested that they sliced it out of the conversation and stuck it at the end!
Well, that's what I get for typing when I'm not fully awake. My apologies to Mr. Wallis if he ever comes by to see where we've been talking about him.

If Tristram didn't drive it home well enough though, I agree wholeheartedly that their take on the core system of OWM was off the mark. As someone who has a taste for crunchy systems (I love the quick play in CP2020 and find Savage Worlds and D&D 3.5 to be quaintly entertaining to optimize; I'm perfectly willing to engage in BTRC or Fire Fusion and Steel construction systems, as well as willing to run Phoenix Command/Living Steel with the normal or Advanced rules.. overall, I'm kind of a mathocist.... ) The play in OWM is great, easy to guess the ranges on but really hard to min/max into something that doesn't feel like it belongs in the setting anyway (the extremes of the Martial Arts Master or the Courtesans' social focus).

Overall, I like it quite a bit, and I'm looking forward to printing off your revised-ish version and forcing my group (who are currently involved in playing Living Steel with the Free League Twilight 2000v4 system) into giving it a good one-shot.
 

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Here's a Characters chapter. Still lacking in artwork, and my experiments on how to integrate that haven't been very successful so far.

I somehow resisted the temptation to include a line in this chapter pointing out that Liangshan Po outlaws are not actually goodies, but are really baddies.

Incidentally, I tootled along to the Kickstarter of the Podcast thing by James Wallis and two other luminaries, and there is no mention of Outlaws, so I may have dodged a bullet on that one. Maybe he just contacted me about it in the hope of getting me to contribute to the Kickstarter?
I was going through the new .pdf, and since you copied forward the template method from the Extras chapter, I noticed that you had Fighting listed as both an Aptitude/Talent (Name Changes!) as well as a Skill on several of the Warriors that were previously in the Extras chapter. I only bring it up because in the original copy, Fighting was specifically listed as Aptitude only, with the complementary skill being Martial Arts (and its derivative skills). Is this an oversight on my part, or yours? Fighting isn't listed in the Specific Skills list in either version, so it seems like those experience on the templates should have been spent on some subskill of Martial Arts (although they have several already). I also notice that the Martial Miss (which appears to be a new template) doesn't have the duplicated Fighting entry.

I might be mistaking how it came about though, I'm interested in how anyone else saw that.
 

Sleepyscholar of Shentian

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I was going through the new .pdf, and since you copied forward the template method from the Extras chapter, I noticed that you had Fighting listed as both an Aptitude/Talent (Name Changes!) as well as a Skill on several of the Warriors that were previously in the Extras chapter. I only bring it up because in the original copy, Fighting was specifically listed as Aptitude only, with the complementary skill being Martial Arts (and its derivative skills). Is this an oversight on my part, or yours? Fighting isn't listed in the Specific Skills list in either version, so it seems like those experience on the templates should have been spent on some subskill of Martial Arts (although they have several already). I also notice that the Martial Miss (which appears to be a new template) doesn't have the duplicated Fighting entry.

I might be mistaking how it came about though, I'm interested in how anyone else saw that.
Well spotted. I've been back and forth on fighting. Since this is always just reaching for abstractions, and trying to pretend that they are specific, I will admit to being swayed by whatever the dominant argument is at any particular point. In the case of fighting, I decided that there was such a thing as general learnable fighting skills. I am open to persuasion.

Incidentally, you mentioned about printing out the game. So the crucial question is: what size paper is your preference?
 
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