Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Game Variants

I would like to have a civil discussion about local variants. I am not interested in moderating the discussion but I would like to ask that it stay civil up front, feel free to get heated but stay away from personal attacks if possible.

My thoughts: This may be a bit less structured than normal because I am doing this from the top of my head.

I enjoy playing NERO. I like hitting stuff with foam swords. I have been playing for quite awhile, and for a few years I played a lot. I have played in chapters where only the base rules were used, I have played in chapters where they use a couple of variants and I have played in chapters where they use a lot of variants. I have actually had fun at all three. The primary issue that I have with variants is that they make the game less friendly to traveling players. I am an internet guy, I am online every day all day as part of my job and i have time while things are happening to keep track of other things on the internet. I pretty much always know what chapters are running what at any given time. Other people do not have that luxury, they may show up at an event and expect to play NERO but instead end up playing local variant NERO which may result in them either A. Having less fun or B. Dying horribly.

Now for the other side. NERO International has been entirely irresponsible about updating the rules. Everyone likes new rules, new things to do, new stuff to try out. Look at every table top roleplaying game that has had major success over the past 40 years, they all release supplements that update, tweak and add to the ruleset. There has been a lot of conversation recently about the on and off nature of NERO Internationals involvement and up until recently we have definitely been in a season of "off".

With all of that being laid out, my personal opinion right now is that we need to go back to core NERO. Core NERO is a starting point, national needs to get its playtest system up and running and RESPONSIVE in very short order. They need to actively consider all playtests from everyone who is allowed to submit them and they need to give reasons for changes or denial. This system then needs to be left open so that the rules can continue to evolve naturally until the next major rules release which should be targeted for no more than 3 years out.

How does everyone feel about this?


  1. I think I have 2 points in my head. But I think I will only post the one least likely to cause a flame war.

    Variants. The trouble with it is the scope of Variants is a tad underestimated. They do not have to be huge game changers, like Nature Magic or Weapon Strikes. They can be tiny yet widely excepted for years.

    To out right ban all variants in the Ohio Area, for example, you'd have to take a look at EVERYTHING under the microscope.

    For example:

    Cold Iron. Is that in the rule book? No? Variant.

    "Healing Arts are you Bleeding?" Is that in the book. Says here it's "Healing Arts are you dying?" Variant.

    And there are some Variant's under the guys of "Non Standard Effects."

    Packet Delivered Formal? Variant.

    Arcane Permanent Death? Variant.

    Voice Radius.
    I remember at one point, there was a Voice Radius Arcane Imprison, and someone Displaced it. And you, Mr Holt, very angrily said that can't be done. To which I had to respond... where are the rules for Voice Radius so we can check. Oh... not written down. Well huh. Variant.

    People back after Permanent Death. Variant.

    All I'm saying is this. One could ban all the variant playtests, and IMO we probably should, BUT... what to do about all these tiny tweeks as well that AREN'T written down yet widely accepted in this area.

  2. Those are excellent points. I suppose variant is a rather loose term. Perhaps we should specify what we are talking about? I was primarily thinking of things that go on a character sheet but I could just as easily have been talking about things that are larger than a bread box. I generally do not have an issue with plot effects, if you want to give your big bad a 4000 point slay that exiles my soul to the outer dimension, I should be able to parry it, it is only when I cannot parry it that I get upset. I think I vaguely recall the voice radius thing, sometimes I lose my cool, sorry.

  3. No prob.

    Anyway, fair enough. I for one have one firm believe that there should be no such thing as an "LCO PC", and thus, by proxy, no "LCO Build." As Micky stated on the podcast, that kind of defeats the purpose of the game.

    Though Mr. Conley brought up an excellent idea of making LCO build equal real build.

    For example, if I was going to be a nature caster my sheet would look like this:

    Read /Write 3 Build
    Read Magic 4 Build (LCO WAR note: Lore of Nature)

    So it would be easy the PC to travel. If I'm in a chapter that has nature magic, I have this skill. If not, I have the other. Over all, it doesn't matter, because the build is the same.

    That's if you simply must have variants that cost build.

  4. I concur, though with that alternate build idea you may end up with a very useful local character and a totally different traveling character.

  5. True enough.

    Though that can be said about anything.

    Healing magic is always useful in every chapter. But Celestial is hit or miss, what with the super number of resist battle magics in some chapters.

  6. I don't have a problem with the idea of variants. The only reason I would like to see Ohio ditch the variants is that it would be what might be considered in the counciling business as a "repair."

    We don't really want to be isolated from the rest of NERO. That's bad for everyone. So by saying "We're going to try your NERO, 9th ed without variants," we are giving a compromise to National, saying we want things to work between us. Ultimately, two things can come from this:

    1) National Staff sees this and starts to take us a bit more serious. More positive communication with this region, and we might even be able to make some of our variants into national playtests.

    2) National sluffs us off, and we go back to running our game. All we lose is 7 months of running variants.

    The interactions between the region and national is extremely similar to that between a husband and wife that get a divorce. People are unwilling to even show compassion for the other side, no one compromises, and it's almost unrecoverable at this point.

    We need to make the first step, because someone has to and it's not going to be National. Temporarily dropping variants can be that first step.

    As to variants themselves, anything that adds new effects pisses me off. New delivery of existing effects is awesome and I approve. I don't care as much about build spending, as long as you make it easy enough for traveling players to play with the variants.

  7. I agree with what youout Tim, but think the opposite of Bill. I think that national needs to put those things you mention into practice first not the chapters need to drop theirs first.
    It is not the chapters that have lost the faith of the players or been negligent in recent years.
    It is actually the chapters that opt NERO viable while national took a 6+ year hiatus. In that time with the lack of a national presence chapters filled the void with whatever they could. It was just mentioned that new material is needed in all games, if it was not provided and local chapters provided it in effort to grow the game and keep it fresh and did so successfully they should not be punished they should be consulted
    For national to now come in and say undo all you did to keep our game going as show of good faith and then we'll prove we are back is wrong.
    Prove you are back, then work with those chapters to find away to smooth the bumps and incorporate those things that popped up in your absence instead of demanding tribute.

  8. I'm not saying do that stuff because National said to. I'm saying that cooler heads prevail, and someone has to make the first move.

    Unwillingness to budge will most definitely lead to divorce with National. Stay together for the kids (who travel).

  9. I can see that reasoning, unless you have the knowledge of past experience in dealing with these things and you know that you will make the first move, and if we use history as a judge, it will be for naught.

    It is basically the question, are we, am I, willing to swallow the bitter pill and remove the things we feel we did to fill a void I think most agree was present for the promise of better fruits to come? Or am I convinced that it will end the way it has many times in the past and willing to let it come to divorce. Most marriages that stay together for the kids do more harm to the kids than if they had just divorced.

  10. It's a variant from the original topic, (I see what I did there), but yes... that is where we now stand.

    Do we suck it up and be the better people, as chapters...

    or do we walk?

    Someone pick quick. I got Star Wars and Exiles games I could be playing.

  11. I completely agree with Stephen.

    @Bill until Nationals can give a viable playtest acceptance policy it's hard to drop them.

    I'd be more than happy to drop our local tradeskill enhancement playtest while it was submitted to nationals for review, and after the review they felt it wouldn't make a good playtest (with reasoning not just "it sucks") I'd remove it. From I've said in the beginning. It's a playtest it should be tested then removed or added to the game as an option.

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  13. Honestly, I don't have much of an opinion on variants. It's usually a case-by-case basis for me. I don't mind added effects that everyone can use (for example additional spells in the current schools or anything that doesn't require LCO build spending). What I don't like are variants that alter standing core rules (like changing base weapon damage). ADD to my game, don't CHANGE my game. Yeah I know that by their very nature a variant is a change to the game, but it's an add-change, not a core-change, if that makes any sense.

    However, with a new rule set, I think that each chapter should at the very least temporarily suspend their local variants. Test out the new edition, see if the variants are even still needed or wanted. If after a few games, the players want them back, let them have them. If they find that the new edition is fine as is, drop them.

    Adding variants to a ruleset that hasn't even been played yet is rather like seasoning your food before you taste it. You don't know how the new edition is going to play yet. Why change it before you even try?

  14. Not having faith in Joe is, I think, totally understandable. Wise, even. I stopped playing NERO in large part due to that.

    However, having no faith in him or his organization, being open antagonistic to them, ignoring large parts of the setting/culture/rules of the game, and refusing to do the very easy thing of "suck it up and be better people"... why bother being part of NERO at all? I see only negatives in such a case.

  15. Honestly, I don't have a problem with variants at all. Go forth and do as ye will! I've been to a lot of chapters and every single one of them does something a bit different, every single one of them has some different playtests.

    Has it EVER negatively affected me? No, I've found nothing but willing and helpful staff people and owners who have been willing to work with me. I think the same goes for when OOC players come to our events. Some of the playtests I don't personally feel are necessary, but I've never really had one super-negatively effect my game....if there was a problem, it was discussed and fixed. Have the time the variants are logistically-based, not in-game based, so they don't really effect your game in an in-your-face way.

    When I went ooc and they had cool things I wanted, I simply re-spent my build. Took about five minutes.

    I am okay with playing with variants b/c of a lot of reasons stated above, but also because I think a lot of the variants make sense for that particular chapter's game-world.