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You know you've spent too much time at the Forge when...

... you start thinking about all those mini-RPGs they put out, and the thought occurs to you, "Maybe I can do this..."

And then you start thinking about what sort of game it would be, from characters to activities to pre-supplied worlds to resolution mechanics, and you wonder, "When the hell am I going to have time to nut all of this out?"

Okay, let me try and make some sense of all of this for you:

The Forge is one of the big roleplaying game discussion forums on the Web. It's pretty damned cool in that not only are its members polite - they have very few griefers, flamers or trolls - but they're also seriously interested in what makes the activity of a roleplaying game "fun", and how to design games that enable a specific kind of fun with a minimum of interference or confusion. Its forums mightn't have as many posts as, say, RPGnet (the big gorilla on the RPG forum front), but the signal-to-noise ratio tends to favour signal more often.

I stumbled across the Forge at the same time as I discovered InSpectres, mainly because the Forge's online store, the Bookshelf, was the only place InSpectres was available at the time. I've been lurking there - well, pretty much ever since. As I wasn't involved in game design, I usually had little interest in the forums outside of "Actual Play" (which was where I discovered how much fun Primetime Adventures could be). Eventually, though, I got interested enough to find out what this "GNS" idea they kept harping on about was, and read some of the articles written on the subject of identifying fun in gaming and encouraging it through system design.

Most recently, I noticed some "Actual Play" threads regarding a few new games that some of the Forge regulars had playtested whilst at GenCon, probably the biggest roleplaying game convention in the US. The thread that got my attention was about the playing of a game called The Shab-al-Hiri Roach. This game had been created as part of this year's Game Chef event, where contestants, in homage to the Japanese cooking game show Iron Chef, must design a complete roleplaying game within nine days, based on a given theme and incorporating three of five one-word "ingredients"and at least one rules limitation.

This took me to the Game Chef pages, and then on to the page for the 24 Hour RPG event, the roleplaying equivalent of Scott McCloud's 24 Hour Comic contest (an event that Pirotess, EvilHayama's lady, and friends participated in recently). And that's when I started wondering whether I could do something like The Shab-al-Hiri Roach and the other entries.

Of course, I had no real idea what sort of RPG I'd want to do... until, over on the website which hosts the files and forums for both events, I saw an ad for the massively multiplayer computer game EVE Online. This game is in the same general genre as games like Elite, Space Rogue, Wing Commnander: Privateer and Freelancer, where you wander the spacelanes buying and selling goods, using the money to upgrade/repair your spaceship and take on more missions. In case you don't already know, Privateer is one of my Favourite Computer Games Of All Time.

And I started thinking, "Could I make a small roleplaying game about being a starship trader?"

Of course, there have been several RPGs that have, directly or optionally, addressed the idea of a one-ship, interplanetary mercantile enterprise (Traveller and Star Wars both come to mind). Heck, it looks as though someone's already tried something like it for this year's 24 Hour RPG. So if I did something like this, I'd like to make it less about the mechanics of the enterprise - trading goods, managing money, upgrading/trading-in ships - and more about the pilots themselves, who they are, why they're prospecting the Big Black, how much they could take before giving up the trader's life. In a nod to The Shab-al-Hiri Roach, i'd like it to be GM-less if possible, which would mean the game would probably centre around and encourage interesting interaction between player characters.

The best title I've been able to come up with so far is Trader: The Art of the Deal, as I can see the main "group" parts of the game would be at some sort of market event, where the trader PCs come to buy and sell their commodities, whether unrefined minerals, space-junk, foodstuffs, weapons, whatever. That's when they're all trying to outdo each other, not in fights, but with the best sales. I'd also like the rules to be as simple and minimal as necessary.

Anyway, it's all just ideas now, but sometime soon I might just wikify them so that I can toy with - and maybe develop - them.

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