Rampant Games - The Challenge of an Episodic RPG
The Rampant Coyote talks about episodic gaming for RPG's in his newest post.
I’ve had an idea for an episodic RPG for a long time. A very long time, actually – since before Frayed Knights. I actually put a great deal of time and research into the design. One day, I plan to revisit it – with a vengeance. After Frayed Knights 2 and 3 are out the door.
The kicker is that it would be episodic. This is something that has never been properly solved, though we do have a several examples of larger RPGs broken into serial parts (ahem – Frayed Knights), and games called episodic that were really serial and sequential (like Siege of Avalon).
What I’m talking about here is an honest-to-goodness episodic RPG, loosely connected in perhaps a seasonal story arc. But, except for perhaps the final game of the ‘season,’ the episodes would be relatively stand-alone and playable in any order.
That’s the real trick of it. This is the part that flies in the face of traditional RPG mechanics, which are fundamentally based on character progression.
To really pull it off and to make the episodes really work in any order, a game would have to incorporate the oft-dreaded technique of scaling to the player’s level. This would be (in my old-school, dice-and-paper perspective) the equivalent of a gamemaster customizing an adventure for his existing party. The problem is that level scaling can really rob a game of a lot of any feeling of progression. It enforces the ‘treadmill’ feeling.