Jul 31, 2016

BCG Retrospective XIV: Themes, Once Again.

Ten Retrospectives ago, in  Retrospective IV, I explained why Genre Themes were as setting-agnostic as possible.What I didn't explain was why there's three of them or why I specifically chose those three themes, which is what is on the table for today.

Three Genre Themes is a good number, it gives you enough plot hooks to juggle and pursue without bogging things down with too much baggage. With one you run the risk of being too singleminded. With two you instead stick to a favourite and go after the other one as a bonus or if the one you like more isn't available. With three you have options, but not too many options. Even if you almost always choose the same one for your first Genre Point, you can still choose a different second. Furthermore, three is just enough variety that you might inadvertently end up gaining a Point from a Theme that you didn't originally plan to use that day. With four and beyond there's so many of them that one or more will probably remain unexplored or only ever provide Points by coincidence. In rules terms, three Themes means a maximum of three GPs earned while roleplaying. It mirrors the three GPs you can earn in battle, making for a nice bit of symmetry.

As for the Themes themselves, I decided on them very early on and never looked back. Reasons get you thinking of a cool story and something to work towards. Typecasts get you thinking of how you want to interact with other PCs and fun interactions are the lifeblood of a party. Lastly, Banes give the GM buttons to push and give you an excuse to make mistakes and not accidentally roleplay a Mary Sue.

But before we end today, let's make a new poll! I find the results of the point-buy vs class & level poll bizarrely fascinating. See, I'm aware that class & level systems are generally more popular than point-buy ones, but I expected the people browsing this blog to vastly prefer point-buy. This tells me that one of my base assumptions about what people would like to play was wrong. Perhaps BCG/Z should have been a class & level system as well? It is something interesting to think about.

With that in mind, let's go one step further and ask an even more fundamental question: Do you prefer RPGs with deep combat mechanics or RPGs with streamlined narrative mechanics? Combat-centric rules or narrative-centric rules? Would you rather play BCG and D&D 4E or FATE and Apocalypse World? In an ideal world, a game would have both, but things are hardly ever ideal and all the games mentioned prioritize one over the other. I'm very interested in hearing what you think.

Next: Genre Powers

Gimmick Out.


  1. Regarding the RPG "style split", this is along the lines of something that my players and I were discussing at our recent final session for our BCG campaign. It had been seven months since the previous session, and muliple players remarked that they had forgotten just how much they enjoyed this system. It's really summed up in the "What this game is good at/not so good at" box in the book: free-flowing narrative and tactical combat, not minutia driven simulationism. Most mech games we know are the latter, and d20 leans that way more than BCG does, I'd argue.
    What we found attractive here is the aptitude for narrative-driven combat that is still tactical. That's a really great intersection, and it allows for the type of epic, story-driving battles that mecha franchises are known for. So I'd call that a success, with the mechanics enabling story. Thanks to Tension, Maiming, Genre Powers, and Boss Upgrades our climax felt like a true Gundam epic finale.

    As for point-buy vs. class/level, the latter seems rather restrictive for this type of modular work. But I'm a sucker for point buy, so I'm probably bias.

    1. Good to hear :), I focus so much on what could have been done better (or, at least, done differently) that I tend to forget the things BCG is GOOD but not excellent at. Thanks for the kind words.

      I've also always been a fan of point-buy (big surprise, I know), and in general BCG is about things I always wanted to see done in an RPG. Now I'm trying to see how well that matches with what everyone else likes. It is like market research, but more fun.