Thursday, 23 April 2009

Step One...

Tarot for the day: 10 of Adeptio (Laurels) - the Agent - Responsibility, duty and the obligation to a higher power or great number of people.

I'm preparing the materials for the Ten4Ten event, New Secrets/Old Lies, which include a full pack of the Imperial Tarot.  So I thought I'd start prefacing my posts with a random draw.  Today's seemed appropriate for the task in question.

When I first sat down, almost two years ago now, with the idea of revamping Inquisitor, my expectation was that it would be a fairly quick, simple job: a few tweaks here, a clarification or two there.  In retrospect, it was a little bit like taking on the captaincy of a deep-space battleship (I would imagine!) on which one has served for a long time as a junior rating or officer.  As I walked the familiar corridors and inspected the drives that had carried me so far, I expected to find them more-or-less in decent nick.  The ship had, after all, carried me through a thousand engagements mostly unscathed.

Yet looking at it with the captain's eyes, I began, gradually, to see a different ship entirely.  This ship did not have the protection I thought my crew really deserved.  It's gunnery was powerful, but inflexible.  Its drives were reliable but lacked manoeuvrability.  Its organization was structured, but confused.  In short, it was not the ship I had imagined it to be.

Like many an inexperienced skipper, I began trying to handle one problem at a time.  But each time I fixed one perceived issue, another appeared or got worse.  As I firmed up the superstructure, the drives began to struggle.  As I overhauled the weaponry, I found that the mountings weren't strong enough.  As I called the Bridge to order, I found essential posts unmanned.

It took a few months, but eventually I made the executive decision that the noble ship Inquisitor had to head into dry dock, not merely for emergency repairs, as I had imagined, but for a full and comprehensive overhaul.

But, having said that, I was quite certain that I did not want a whole new ship.  The spirit of the ship was strong.  Its place in the fleet was unique and inviolable and, in any case, it had a respectable history that deserved to be respected.  I not only felt that she was  not ready for the scrapyard, but moreover that she was still a powerful and important vessel with much to offer, given the time and opportunity.

Abandoning my extended metaphor, then, Inquisitor needs more than just a few tweaks to bring it up to date.  It needs a complete service and a line-by-line, rule-by-rule analysis.  As a result, I can't give you a full breakdown of every rule change I anticipate making or every new idea that you'll find in Inquisitor 2.0, but I can give you a taste of some of the most important changes.

Pace is the speed that play occurs.  At the moment, well-informed players with a confident GM and about six models on the tabletop can bash out a game in 45-60 minutes.  I want this to reduce slightly, to perhaps 40-50 minuts.  But, more importantly, I want to clear some of the bottlenecks in the game that occured whenever someone says the words "full auto" or "charge" so that more of the original game time can be dedicated to more shooting and more combat and more death-defying leaps and heroic interventions.  Whilst making games quicker is something I definitely want, I am much more interested in giving the existing game-time more time for action.

This means focussing on those bottlenecks and slashing the number of dice-rolls.  So shooting and combat rules will be at the heart of the changes.  Other areas will also be affected, including Awareness, Psychology and Movement, but shooting and combat are where experienced players will, I think, see the most radical amendments.

One of the strengths of the original game is its flexibility.  Yet whilst you can perform almost any action (or try to, at any rate), other areas are laughably inflexible.  Those areas can be spotted easily by trying to see to what extent players have added to them over time: character archetypes, weapon profiles and abilities (especially psychic abilities) are the areas that most suffer from a lack of flexibility.  Certainly, a player can make up what he likes (and that's commendable) but I feel that in many cases, players are simply finetuning or adjusting existing rules rather than doing anything radically new.  The Core Rules, I feel, ought to possess the flexibility to give players reliable guidelines for their finetuning, leaving the new ground to be broken by those striking into truly fresh territory.

I've already hinted at the desire to increase the user-friendliness of the game when talking about the Vision.  Games of Inquisitor often look like elaborate board meetings, with paperwork all over the place.  This is less to do with the rules and more to do with how we lay them out and present them to the players.  Whether it's possible, I have no idea.  But I want to see players with at least three characters on one piece of paper, clipped to the front of their rulebook.  With summary sheets and an exhaustive index at the back of the rulebook, this should mean that one plastic folder should be all a player needs to have to hand to play Inquisitor 2.0.

Next time, I'll start to talk about the new rules in detail, starting with the skeleton mechanics, before moving on in subsequent posts to talk about the specifics.

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