Thursday, March 3, 2016

On why I may NOT be running Fragged Empire

Fragged Empire has been getting a lot of talk around my FLGS and my gaming group, and may become the new Hot Sexy of Sci-Fi RPG's, and for good reason.  It's got an interesting, rich backstory that is pretty easily conveyed to new people without sounding too derivative of existing sci-fi franchises.  Basically the PC's are one of four genetically modified servitor races trying to crawl out of the rubble of an interstellar war that wiped out the masters of both sides.  It touts itself as having strong themes of exploration, resource management, and cultural conflict.

It also looks a lot like D&D in Space.  Or more accurately Murderhobo D&D in Space.  First, there are four races: the Corp, who are basically human despite the fact that there are no more humans in the galaxy; the Kaldor who are Space Elves but with four pointed ears instead of two and even have dark, evil counterparts; the Legion who look like orcs but act like dwarves; and the Nephilim, which are the mutable "didn't find what you like?  Just make something up" race.  Maybe I am being less-than-generous here.  It's probably impossible to create a militaristic sci-fi race that doesn't evoke notions of Klingons or Romulans either.  These are just cultural touchstones for Americans in particular, and using familiarity as a way to short-cut having to explain complicated things like a whole galaxy to an audience.

But my biggest reason is essentially the in-game economy.  Now I don't mean the financial economics specifically, although they are related.  Most games have sort of "do this thing and you'll get this benefit" element.  Fight things and get XP, which are used to become a better combatant.  Solve this mystery and you'll become more skilled at solving mysteries.  Roleplay your character a certain way and plot progression will be easier.  It is the incentive/reward component element of a game mechanic, and it often reflects the core ethos of the game, at least in terms of the what the designers intended.

Fragged Empire's core ethos is acquisition through exploration and combat, with the benefit being an increase in your ability to explore and fight.  It's not quite the "roll the kobold for loose change" economy, it is more of a "roll the dead genetically modified creature for xenotech" thing.  It's reflected everywhere in the mechanics, up to and including having an outfit and weapon slot for your PC, because of course you will need armor and a gun in this game.  It touts itself as a sandbox-oriented game, but actually internally reinforces the idea of quests which will garner you rewards.

This isn't a badwrongfun thing per se.  This economy works on many levels, not the least of which is breeding familiarity with established gaming groups.  Fragged Empire actually looks like a very good RPG, and it goes into the "I'll likely run it one day," which is a sparsely-occupied column in my gaming repertoire.  It is just that I've been running games featuring that economy a lot the last few years, and I'm ready for something different.  I'm tired of picaresque "protagonists" and maybe just want, you know, heroes.

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