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 Post subject: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 6:17 pm 
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Hey guys, after reading yet another post about how much hate the Companion got on release I decided I wanted to get to the bottom of why everyone hates it so much.

One thing mentioned in one of the latest posts about how people didn't receive the Companion well talks about how the Companion was taking steps away from waht TRoS was and tried to make it something else. I can see truth in this, for instance the Random Character Gen and Random Damage etc. However I still find that there is ALOT of good stuff in there. Just to clarify I'vwe decided to list what my group does use from the Companion, then others can tell me why this is good or bad in their opinion.

We use the Character Creation (Point Allocation) on pages 8 through 10.
All the Gifts/Flaws from pages 17 through 28.
Pretty much everything in the Skill Section, pages 29 through 43
Everything in the SA section, pages 44 through 52.
Although there isn't heaps of useful stuff there are good tidbits (especially for beginners) in the Combat Strategy section, pages 56 through 66.
Encumbrance and Fatigue, Pg 70 and 71.
Although we havent yet we will defintly use the Voices system in the future, found on pages 73 through 79.
We haven't really looked into Animal Companions yet, or followers so Im not sure if we'll include these.
Fine Weapons, pages 92 - 99.
There is good advice found in the Concept world Building section, pgs 102 - 114.
Norse Trolls (no idea why they are in the Companion, but they still rock) Pages 115 - 118.

That's the good part of 84 pages out of a book that contains 118 (plus 10 for an adventure and those used for the Afterword and index etc.), and ofcourse if we find the Animal Companion and Follower part to be useful then that'll be another 10 pages we use (more or less).

That's 70 to 80% that we use, more or less, not to mention it is layed out much clearer than the Core making the Game as a whole much more easy to learn. Infact if it wasn't for the Companion and TFoB my group would probably have thrown in the towel on TRoS because the Core was simply too hard to grasp (info scattered over several pages through 3 Chapters with less than comprehensive Index).

Anyways I really don't understand why the Companion copped sooo much flak, and honestly I think that one of the major reasons that TRoS died was because of Posts like the "Flame the Companion and Watch it Burn", its no wonder SatF ground to a holt in production, they could ill-afford another Companion disaster which would have made them question and argue every little deciscion, though Im sure there are others on these boards who would know more about that than I.

Anyways, for what it's worth I find the Companion to be a fairly Solid book, I can see places where they tried to make TRoS more "Commercial" but ignoring those areas, there is plenty for a Core-minded TRoS player IMO.

*Shrugs*

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 7:00 pm 
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I don’t think that the dying of SatF can be related to the negative reception of the Companion, as the development of SatF was well and alive long afte the ruckus about the Companion had died down.

That said, I consider the Companion basically a rather decent book, and the new skill packages and Drama, among other things are just great. If I remember the discusion back then correctly, the two main points against it were that it was suspected – and rightly so, in my opinion – to be a first step to draft TRoS away from a Nar/Sim hybrid to almost exclusively Sim, and that it came across as rather hypocritical and downright lying.

The latter is due to the Companion making rules overhauls both major (skills, attribute checks) and minor (encumbrance, damage) and calling all of this optional. These mechanics were clearly the new owner’s preference and it was soon intimated that further publications would exclusively use the new “optional” rules. George Thompson had been lying in the customers’ face by talking about "optional" mechanics.

The former was, I guess, merely a clear customers’ reaction. Customers’ realized from where the wind was blowing (the point-buy char gen, the treatment of SAs, the rules-heavy encumbrance mechanic, etc.) and they did what customers should do much more often – they told the supplier that they were unhappy and warned him that he would lose their custom if he really headed down that particular street he had indicated.

And that was, I think, why the Companion was received more coolly than it actualy deserved as a basically decent gaming product. It was to warn George Thompson off and to tell him that this wasn't what was wanted.

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Last edited by Grettir on Sat Feb 21, 2009 9:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 9:02 pm 
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Ah, The Companion.

What the player base thought of The Companion immediately after its release...

Possibly my favourite thread on the ol' forum.

There are two reason why The Companion was dumped on when it was released:

Firstly, if you read through each chapter of The Companion and then categorize it as supporting Simulationist play or supporting Narrativist play you'll see that virtually everything in there is geared towards encouraging Simulationist play. Let me say that there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The mechanics as written are fine. The problem though was that back in June 2005 most players of the game were Narrativist to the core. From the point of view of the bulk of the player base there was very little in The Companion that supported the way the game was played in their group.

Add on to this the fact that it was the death-knell for most of the long-term TRoSers, those that came over from The Forge. If you found TRoS on The Forge then you played it because it was a cool Narrativist game. The move off The Forge to a commercial forum "owned" by the publisher lost most of those gamers within the first few months. Some stuck with it, warily watching what the new owners of the game were going to do with it. The Companion showed them where the new owners were going to try and take the game. Into the mainstream, encouraging Simulationist play. After a decent old rant at the design philosophy behind The Companion most of those gamers left.

Secondly, as Grettir points out, the new owners lied to the gamer-base. Everything was supposed to be optional. So you did have some people saying on the forum the argument "Well, if you don't like The Companion just shelve it and don't look at it again." But then George made it clear that all future publications would be based on the assumption that all TRoS groups used these "optional" rules. The future supplements wouldn't even include a section on how to use the product with TRoS Core mechanics.

That was the last straw for many old players. The new owners were drifting the game towards Simulationist play and any future publications would be written with the assumption that that was how everyone played the game.

You can actually see the change in the player base on the old forum. A year after its publication you can see that most people playing the game aren't even aware of what Narrativist play is like -- this from a game that was originally designed with Narrativist play in mind. On trosfans, set up after the game had died as far as the publisher was concerned, myself and Grettir spend a lot of our time trying to explain Narrativist play for the benefit of gamers who come from a strong Simulationist grounding. Times have changed! :)

SatF died for a number of reasons. Firstly, according to the publisher, there were only about 50 pre-orders. That's not a strong incentive to take a product through to publication. Secondly, when Brian left the development team, the whole product was re-written from scratch (to avoid copyright issues I assume). So a product that was thoroughly playtested, liked by the playtest group, and ready for adding in the Colour chapters (like Weyrth setting material, alternate mechanics, and detailed examples of play) went back to Initial Draft status. There was no explanation as to why this was being done and the new mechanics were, for me, far less versatile. Like The Companion, they supported one way of playing strongly. They even supported one particular interpretation of the Core mechanics (there were a number of times when the playtesters had to explain to George that his own gaming group didn't have a firm grasp of how TRoS was played). "That's how we play it" isn't a great answer at that point.

SatF may have been well received. After all, from a Simulationist point of view Core magic is completely unworkable. In a sense, anything would be better than that particularly from a designer who clearly has a Simulationist point of view. I suspect we'll never know though.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2009 9:42 pm 
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I was actually too discouraged from buying The Companion in my first TROSforums thread where I was trying to figure out if I wanted to buy the books or not. I ended up buying anyway and I don't regret it.

Do I think that the variant damage system/new encumbrance rules were a waste of space? I do. Did the alternate character creation methods even tick a mild interest in me? Nope. I think the Drama mechanic and Combat Strategy Guides were good enough to justify the book purchase for me.

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 12:29 am 
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As noted on another thread, the companion was different from something that I would have done, but I don't think it was a bad product. Do I think that it was the wrong move for the customer base as I envision it? Yeah...but that's fully within the rights of a game's owners.

OTOH, it's important to note that about half of the Companion was essentially fan-produced: it contained what a certain percentage of fans clearly wanted...because they wrote it.

I wouldn't use most of the rules in playing Weyrth-TROS, but if I was going to put together a Sim-heavy Star Wars game or some other very non-TROS game into TROS rules (for the combat, etc.), then the companion would be someplace that I would look for rules workarounds, etc.

And Crow Caller...what do you mean the Core's got a shabby index? Bad layout, poor organization...guilty! But the index? That thing's huge!

Jake

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 7:13 am 
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Jake Norwood wrote:
(....) I don't think it was a bad product. Do I think that it was the wrong move for the customer base as I envision it? Yeah...but that's fully within the rights of a game's owners.


As it is the customer base’s right to tell the owners in no unclear terms that they are unhappy with that move of theirs. :twisted:

Jake Norwood wrote:
OTOH, it's important to note that about half of the Companion was essentially fan-produced: it contained what a certain percentage of fans clearly wanted...because they wrote it.


On that note it bears also remarking that Narrativistic games don’t lend themselves well to producing an endless string of supplements. Probably already after OBaM and its excellent rules for animal combat (the best I know), but at the very latest after TFoB with its broadening of tactical choices, the original, Nar-oriented gamer base was well satisfied and couldn’t think of another thing they’d want, save maybe an alternative magic system for other settings than those with rare and high-powered magic. It is therefore only natural that it was not the well-satisfied Nar-oriented fans who wrote new material, as the latter didn’t think any necessary; they were happy with the game as it was.

Apart from Drama, every single new or alternative rule in he Companion detracts from Nar play, even though they are very solid from a Sim viewpoint.

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 7:57 am 
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Jake Norwood wrote:
And Crow Caller...what do you mean the Core's got a shabby index? Bad layout, poor organization...guilty! But the index? That thing's huge!

Jake


Yeah, alright, so the index isn't as bad as I remembered. I don't use the Core Index because we only have scanned copy of the Core (hey we tried to buy it but Driftwood isn't selling any!) and the Index is unreadable, so my memory on it was fuzzy, that mixed with the fact the White Wolf products (which we also use heavily) often don't even have an index, I guess I remembered, incorrectly, that Core had a crap index. Looking over it now, although fuzzy and hard to read, it does seem pretty extensive, though I'm sure there were times early on when I couldn't find things in it. But again, it is fuzzy.

Sorry!

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 8:02 am 
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Hell, I'm just gonna come out and say it, honestly my greatest hope for TRoS is that people like Ian and Michael (Grettir) and ofcourse Jake buy back TRoS and start it over again from scratch. A New CORE book, properly layed out, with the better aspects of TFoB and the Companion included into it.

TRoS deserves better than to die in the gutter, covered in its own filth, and basically that's what George has decided to let happen. Probably the best Indie RPG I've ever seen, definetly the best combat system, and the best Character progression system, TRoS has soo much to offer, its a crime to let it die like this!

Cheers!

PS: If anyone does ever buy TRoS and redo it, please, Big, and Better Beasteries!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:43 am 
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Grettir wrote:
On that note it bears also remarking that Narrativistic games don’t lend themselves well to producing an endless string of supplements. Probably already after OBaM and its excellent rules for animal combat (the best I know), but at the very latest after TFoB with its broadening of tactical choices, the original, Nar-oriented gamer base was well satisfied and couldn’t think of another thing they’d want...


I agree with this very strongly. More rules get in the way of Narrativist gaming. More rules is almost the definition of Simulationist gaming, ;)

Grettir wrote:
Apart from Drama, every single new or alternative rule in he Companion detracts from Nar play, even though they are very solid from a Sim viewpoint.


Yes, I also agree with this. Maybe the Prophecy section, though I personally didn't like the approach.

Something I did work on for a while was a naval expansion for TRoS. It wasn't all Simmy, with definitions of everything that moves on water, their relative speeds, their armaments, etc. Rather, it was heavily based around the Venetian shipyards of the early Renaissance. In those days the big naval ships weren't that big and they were deemed to be unique. There was fierce rivalry between the designers of ships. When a ship reached the end of its days it was decommissioned and disassembled at the shipyards -- so that the design could be copied precisely, 1:1 scale.

In this sort of environment it makes sense to treat ships as unique. There really aren't classes of ships, and the crew of a ship is very loyal to their specific ship. My intent then was to have the ship as a character, with its own attributes, and ships combat would also be manoeuvre based, with the Captain of a ship learning that Proficiency as part of becoming a Captain.

I'd still like to do that one day.

Regards,

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 12:27 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
Something I did work on for a while was a naval expansion for TRoS.
Um... Where can I place my pre-order? :)

I mean, sea is the most dreadfully unexplored area in gaming, I think, while it offers totally unique gaming environment. I've seen no naval game that would have had enough detailed information that I'd be confident to run it. So, this personalised ships approach would be a perfect contrast to all those vague guidelines RPGs usually give. Okay, 7th Sea had a good start, but still... I'm really looking forward to hearing more of this. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:17 pm 
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higgins wrote:
Um... Where can I place my pre-order? :)


Same here, wether off-topic or not.

The Pilot's Alamanac for Harnmaster is the best naval ruleset I know, and one that I admire, but it's hardly conducive to Narrativistic play, Harnmaster being after all one of the most realistic low-fantasy Simulationist rulesets.

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:55 pm 
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Good comments about Nar play and supplements. In fact, as a nar player with some sim addictions, I found producing supplements for TROS to be almost unbearable (it showed in our production schedule).

I had no idea that was the case when I started out, of course. I was only 22, in college, and doing this on borrowed money. Hahahahahahahha.

Not one of my best ideas.

Jake

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:36 am 
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Which forum was that discussion on Nar/Sim/Game again? Also, would rules lite supplements with lots of fluff be good for Nar? Like the World of Darkness books which are 90% Fluff and only 10% Crunch (if that).

Cheers!

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:16 am 
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www.indie-rpgs.com is the forge. It's the haven of Gam/Sim/Nar theory, including the essay that began it all ("System Does Matter"). I found it after publishing TROS (or, more accurately, was found by Ron Edwards and brought to the Forge), and discovered that it was full of kindred spirits. I'm still a big fan of the Forge and everything they do. Or try to do. Whatever.

Books with fluff are just that...books with fluff. Generally (and this is really, really loose) it goes like this:

If the game supports a step-on-up mentality, where min-maxing is rewarded through play, then you're looking at a game that supports gamism.

If the game is full of details and "realism," allowing players to feel "like they're there," or to otherwise prentend that they really are part of the setting (regardless of story considerations), then you're looking at a game that supports Simulationist play.

If the game's rules drive story creation as a conscious effort, not something which happens on accident while engaging in the other two kinds of play, you're looking at narrativist play.

Few games are 100% any one type. DnD is pretty openly gamist, but it has some simmy elements. WoD is Simulationist with a Gamist reward system, but which uses fluff to convince you that it's Narrativist. But it isn't.

TROS is, depending on how you play it, a Simulationist game with a Narrativist reward system (or vice versa). One could argue that the combat system is, in fact, gamist (because the focus on a player facing a challenge). There's some validity to that.

So it really isn't very cut-and dried, but it's not too hard to get a hang of, either.

Jake

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 Post subject: Re: Why all the Hate?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:30 am 
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Thanks heaps for the clear and easy to understand defintions. Man was Gamism fun when I ws 12 and didn't know the rules, once rules were learnt then entered min/max munchkinism etc, and the story element (what little there was) really suffered for it.

There's no denying that I was lured to TRoS for its Sim elements (the Combat and Skills), and like so many others was plesantly suprised by the Spiritual Attribute Section.

I understand now what others mean when they say that TRoS is one of the true Sim/Nar hybrids.

Cheers!

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