By Danny Boyle
Those Who Play is a narrative focused pen and paper role playing game that is designed to give you the freedom to do what you want. Whether it be epic adventures over the sands of Mars, a simulation of the life of an office worker in Hong Kong or character driven dungeon crawling in Narnia. Those Who Play gives you a lightweight, easy to learn system, allowing you to let go and enjoy yourself, without worrying about whether or nit its "functionally viable".
Q. Who are you and what is Those Who Play?
I'm a Scottish game developer based in Glasgow and studying Game Development at university. Those Who Play is a project of mine that evolved naturally with my gaming group as we played. Eventually I took most of the ideas that I commonly use and started making a system out of it. Then it snowballed into the game it is now, with two artists and a website for it.
Q. How were you introduced into RPGs?
I was introduced to RPGs by a friend of a friend back when I was 10 or 11 but I never actually played any until I was 15. We got into a discussion about roleplaying and the old memory came up, we ended up playing for 20 hours straight with just a few D6 from old boardgames. Those early sessions are still some of the funnest we've ever had. After a while, I found the AD&D 2.5 books in a bargain bin in Glasgow and we started playing that.
A terrible choice for beginners...
Q. There's no shortage of Kickstarters for tabletop players. What makes Those Who Play stand out as a project worth backing?
Personally, I think it's the combat system and the fact that there are no traditional stats.
The combat system is completely unique from what I've seen in my RPG journey and that dynamic combat is something I think a lot of players will really enjoy.
As for the lack of traditional stats, I think the Skills and Traits system makes for more believable characters that grow more understandably as the game progresses. Characters no longer gain levels in blacksmithing for killing orcs, instead characters actually learn their skills (Or use some sort of magic to quickly learn things).
Q. What made you want to write your own system?
As I said before, we started with nothing and moved onto AD&D. That jarring leap from narrative to gamist was confining and though we've used lots of systems, I always end up leaning more towards narrative rather than stay confined by the rules. That's not to say I don't like games with rules (Kobolds Ate My Baby is still one of my favourite games ever). I just don't like many of the clashes that happen between rules and gameplay.
Very often in D&D 4th edition, the party would get the drop on an enemy and tie them up for questioning. Then, when they had what they needed, they had to roll to kill them according to the rules. Sometimes not even able to kill them according to the rules!
So I departed back to narrative, explaining away many of the things I disliked and re-working what I did. But it wasn't the same as just starting from scratch.
Q. In your Kickstarter, you mention a “steady flow of content and support for the game post-release. I will be uploading pre-made adventures, world building tips and other awesome things”. What do you have planned?
Currently Those Who Play is looking to be a series of supplement books for storytellers and players to use as pre-made settings or even just a place to get ideas and help when running a particular setting. I figured I would get the rulebook into people's hands first so that the supplement books had a market to go into.
From what you're asking though, you mean the website?
The website will be updated regularly with pre-made adventures in various settings along with tips about how to do different types of play with the system. If I can, it will also hopefully open out into a forum for people to post their own ideas and creations for people to use.
(Hopefully I will be able to get some people on board to write for the site as well).
Q. What are your favourite parts of Those Who Play?
Am I allowed to say the whole book?
If I have to say one particular part, it has to be the combat system. The dynamic feel of it has really made combat in our own game feel much more deadly and satisfying. (Also the player's work together for once, instead of letting the ranger deal with everything).
Q. Who are the most scary bad guys?
I'm still working on the bestiary but as it's just a collection of common enemies and a few unique things, I'll tell you about my favourite enemy from the first supplement book.
The first supplement book is going to be a B-Movie setting with lots of different enemies and adventures to use. My favourite is Hitler Shark and his army of goose-stepping piranha.
Q. What stretch goals are you offering?
The stretch goals currently get you a supplement book lumped in with your pledge. So that when they are ready, they'll be sent out to you, free of charge.
Q: This is obviously a risk to take. What issues have you had in making this system?
I had a few issues at the start with the Skills and Traits system as there were no guards in place to make sure player's couldn't make broken characters but after extensive playtesting by two of my more... technically minded players and a few playtesters elsewhere, the system has been smoothed out.
The other issue I had was printing. It has been suggested that I use Lulu.com but the book would have cost near £20 which is more than I want to charge.
Q: You describe the system as setting neutral. Do you feel this adds additional risk to the project or do you think it will be a strength?
I think that it's a bit of both, some people like to have rules that they can draw upon for their own worlds and just want the system there to hold things together. Others want a rich world already created for them.
With Those Who Play I'm initially selling to the first group, with the supplement books giving those wanting pre-made settings just what they want. (Which I can understand as it's the only reason I buy RPG books now).
Q: What would claim were your most significant influences during the creation of Those Who Play?
I'd have to say Savage Worlds, mostly because of how much I liked the look of it then hated it when I tried to use it in my group.
I'm sure a lot of people like it and I can see appeal but it was too confusing to make a character and to keep track of edges and skills.
Apart from that, I suppose just the challenge and enjoyment of creating my own system really. It wanted to create worlds in a more structured way but I didn't want to fit into someone else's mould, so I made my own.
Q: What tagline do you think speaks best for the project and why is that?
"Do what you want, how you want!"
I think this speaks best about Those Who Play because of its light nature and modular systems. Don't like how collisions work? Re-work them. Don't like certain skills or traits? Remove them.
It's your game, Those Who Play just gives you the framework and tools needed to really make it fit.
Q: You say in the Kickstarter “Those Who Play has been in development since October and has went through many iterations as I've playtested it and simplified”. What was that process like and what lessons did you learn?
The playtesting phase was actually one of the funnest and also one of the most stressful as it let me sit with the system and a few friends as we initially worked out concepts and ideas, running small campaigns in various settings and testing out what worked in what. The combat system was tested in historic battles, large scale warfare, vehicular combat, magical combat, firefights, space combat, the list goes on. This was really fun to playtest as it meant we got to play things we normally wouldn't
The not so fun stage was when a few of my players could repeatedly make overly powerful characters even after I reworked the system again and again. Eventually that was fixed and I'm glad now that we did it.
Q: You are a very experienced gamer, but can Those Who Play appeal to a new player?
Those Who Play approaches character generation from a very logical way with Skills and Traits defining your character much the way they would a normal person. As humans we can quite easily describe what skills someone has and what traits define them. I think this is much easier for new players to get to grips with than a traditional stat system with numbers and modifiers.
Q: Is there anything that readers should know about that isn’t on the Kickstarter page? Is there anything that a gamer may be surprised by if they tried to play Those Who Play for the first time?
I think the absence of traditional stats may throw a few experienced players the first time they play but after showing at around at Conpulsion earlier this year, I don't think that's much of a problem.
The only real issue anyone has had is getting used to describing their action, then rolling initiative as some people believe other's will use this knowledge to "meta-game" though with how combat works, this can often lead to the "meta-gamer" putting themselves into compromising situations.
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