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The Shape of Things to Come

Chimera's Form and function

Now that Chimera Basic has been released in its final form (and I do mean final), it’s time to consider next steps. Traditionally, this meant expanding Basic into a larger set of Core Rules, but I’m no longer sure this is the right direction. So here are some options I’d like to open up for discussion.

Option 1: Core Rules

In this scenario, I write the Core Rules, which is an expansion of Chimera Basic. The Core Rules contains more races, more classes, more Perks and Flaws, more powers, a full range of equipment for all Tech Levels, rules for Vehicles, fleshed out rules for exploring different environments, more combat options, more monsters, and a bigger GM section containing guidelines for creating all kinds of stuff.

The Core picks up where Basic leaves off, though it’s still relatively broad in that it doesn’t focus on any one genre. If you like Basic, but want more multi-genre material to run your games, the Core would be the answer.

On the downside, it’ll rehash a lot of stuff from Basic (verbatim) and it still only touches on setting-specific things like magic items, spaceships, WWII small arms, or post-apocalypse mutations. Unless this is more than just an expanded rewrite of Basic, I question whether this advances the game in a useful direction.

Option 2: Short Supplements

Short supplements are individual “building blocks” that contain Chimera rules for a specific topic (e.g., one supplement for magic items, another for spaceships, another for WWII small arms, etc.). Each is “backward” compatible with the Basic rules, so you’d build your campaign with Basic as the foundation and whatever mix of supplements you want to incorporate.

D&D Supplements

Too many books?

The primary advantage is rapid development time--the granular scope of each volume means it wouldn’t take long to write, test, and release. Costs would be low, too, because each supplement would be small (smaller, in fact, than the Basic rulebook). Finally, you choose only what you want: It’s like an RPG salad bar, so you don’t get stuck with a full rulebook when all you needed was a particular section.

The disadvantage is that it’s fragmented, and the risk is that you’ll end up referencing multiple works to run a single game, which history shows isn’t too cool. Another downside is that you might end up waiting for all the supplements you need before you can run the game you want to play. Even though I’ll be able to produce faster, the number I’ll need to produce is larger, so your Chimera fantasy campaign might have to wait until I can release all the  individual supplements for fantasy races, magic items, monsters, dungeon guidelines, et al.

Option 3: Genre Companions

This is somewhat of a synthesis of the first two options: a single companion book for each genre, setting, or time period. In this scenario, you’d get one volume for fantasy, another for space opera, another for apocalypse, yet another for WWII, etc. Each is backward compatible with Chimera Basic, such that Basic would become your "Core" rulebook. However, each would be more specific than the Core Rules but less granular than Short Supplements.

This gives you a comprehensive volume for each major genre, which is more portable than a collection of short supplements and a bit more useful if all you want to do is run a fantasy game. It also lets me concentrate more on setting-specific stuff in the proper forum--I can confine magic items to the fantasy book while starship combat gets its proper home in the space opera book. Naturally, each is mutually compatible, so you could mix stuff from the fantasy and sci-fi companions as necessary (or desired).

The downside is that each volume will take as much time to create as the Core Rules would (which at this point is longer than short supplements, but probably less than 6 months). Another potential issue is that you loose Chimera’s cross-genre capability, at least until you start picking up multiple genre books (put another way, Chimera Basic becomes the only true “multi-genre, core" rulebook in the product line). However, with that said, I'm fairly confident that little (if any) of the Basic material gets reprinted in each--they'd all be adjuncts to the Basic rules as they currently stand.

Let’s Play Focus Group

Option 3 is most “foreign” to me in terms of my original vision for Chimera and its long-term growth. As a test of its viability (i.e., whether it was even worth considering as an option), I thought about what sorts of products it might spawn.

Spear and Spell

Spear & Spell?

Here’s a short list of possible titles, in no particular order, each compatible with Chimera Basic:

  • Spear & Spell (fantasy)
  • Fortune & Glory (modern pulp)
  • Uploads & Orbits OR Circuits & Moons (near-future sci-fi in our solar system)
  • Ruins & Mutants (post-apocalypse Earth)
  • Cloaks & Daggers (modern espionage)
  • Frogs & Limeys (adventures in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars)
  • Lasers & Sabres (sword and planet adventures)
  • Steam & Ether (Victorian sci-fi)
  • Stars & Darkness (far-future sci-fi horror)
  • Droids & Voids OR World & Wormholes (space opera)

Again, just working titles to give me a feel for whether this is even worth pursuing.

Final Words

Despite any apparent bias above, I’ve not made any hard decisions: Chimera’s future direction is still to be assigned. And, naturally, there may be Option 4+ out there as well.

What I'm really interested in hearing is this: What format is most useful to you?


Spear & Spell image by Greg MacKenzie.

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  1. anarkeith
    May 25th, 2011 at 12:25 | #1

    A group of GM-friends and I have recently been discussing rules and the evolution of RPGs (and in particular, the GM’s role.) So, I’m answering in the context of that discussion, which was overwhelmingly in favor of fewer rules. RPGs with more complex rule sets are more of a cooperative thing. No GM can truly master all the rules available, so players specialize and bring what they know to the table as it relates to their characters and what they’d like to do.

    I’d vote for a genre companion volume (option 3), simply to keep materials to a minimum. The GM can choose campaign flavor, and if the players are motivated, they can pick up the genre book in addition to their core book. GMs who want to mix genres can certainly pick up more, but the total number of books to consult will be smaller. I think this is a potential point-of-advantage for Chimera over some of the “big” games out there. I sense that players and GMs are weary of ever-expanding rule sets and choices.

  2. deimos3428
    May 26th, 2011 at 11:06 | #2

    I don’t know. I see Option 3 as closest to what I’d be after, and if one were to extend the specificity spectrum a bit further, Option 4 would presumably be a particular setting.

    One thing Chimera lacks at this point is a definitive setting (partially by design, as I understand). But these provide an example; a reference point demonstrating what the system is capable of doing. In short, I think it’s finally time for you to hammer out and release Trid supplements/adventures!

    Hopefully these will encourage others to build on their own settings/adventures/etc..(and if you’re amenable, we probably could use a “homebrew” section around here, for sharing this fan-based material). For one, I’ve been guilty of putting off my own RPG material, perhaps seeing something in print will inspire me to get back into it.

  3. kenkins
    May 26th, 2011 at 18:33 | #3

    Option 3 is great for people who want to play in that particular genre, but when pulling things from between books it can be a right mess. (Lessons from AD&D 2e and WoD.) It seems that as often as not, new concepts are added to what are otherwise theme or setting books.

    That said, Option 2 or 3 are my choices, because the information would be at least grouped. “Land of 1800s Mist and Horror” would have the cthulhu-horror-themed sperk I was looking for, or would it be better to find in the “Book Of Magic”? So whichever grouping method you’re better at organizing by, Erin, I’d trust that it would be fully thought-out and followed through.

    I have a slight leaning toward Option 2, but it’s how I organize.

  4. May 26th, 2011 at 21:32 | #4

    @anarkeith : I’m definitely leaning toward the “less-rules” option. I had an ephiphany last week, which reminded me that no one plays games games as written, so there will always be house rules, tweaks, and mods. Given that, it seems that (1) attempting “perfection” with Chimera Basic is futile, and (2) providing a super-comprehensive ruleset is unnecessary. Less, indeed, can be more.

  5. May 26th, 2011 at 21:38 | #5

    @deimos3428 : You’re right–I halted work on settings because I wanted to make sure the ‘core’ rules were stable (and lately, I think Core Rules = Chimera Basic). I’m still excited to get Swords of Telm revised and released, but as a fantasy supplement, I think I need to “codify” more than what’s in Chimera Basic.

    So…do I do a fantasy supplement to serve as a reference, or do I just impose mods on Basic, making Swords of Telm my de facto fantasy add-on? I’m thinking the former.

    BUT, in the meantime, I have a parallel approach that might help address that issue AND speak to your valid concern: I’ve been toying with a Chimera-in-action series. Whether that’s on this site or another of my domains is yet to be seen, but it would basically be a place where people could add their own stuff, using Basic as the common point of departure: rule mods, scenarios, new powers, perks, classes, etc.

    If I go this route (and I think it has great merit, it’d probably be a new site with some collaborative engine underneath. Keep watching this space–it’s embryonic now, but will be a reality before too long.

  6. May 26th, 2011 at 21:41 | #6

    @kenkins : In terms of what I’m better at organising, I’m leaning toward option 3, but I really do hear you on option 2. It’s not something to dismiss lightly. Maybe I work on option 3, and option 2 is the province of the fan site that Deimos mentions above? That way, you get “official” genre companions from me and immediate gratification from the rest of the community. So long as everything is compatible, does that constitute a win-win?

  7. May 27th, 2011 at 00:19 | #7

    I’m going to follow on deimos3428 and suggest option 4: campaign supplements.

    Don’t do “urban fantasy”, do “a world where those who bear the blood of heroes and wizards fight the vestiges of the hell that the world was before men while the rest of humanity believes we’ve fallen from paradise”.

    Don’t do “traditional fantasy” do “a heavy metal world where man pre-empted God in starting Armageddon so Satan won but not chaos is nibbling at creation and you are in the long twilight struggle to preserve creation”.

    You get the idea. 30+ years ago Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldrich Wizardry drew on individual campaigns and today Carcosa, Majestic Wilderlands, and others carry on that tradition. EABA supplements as well aren’t generic genre books but specific expressions of a genre.

    I think you provide a better product and a more usable one with supplements that bring in the rules for a specific campaign and not a generic genre. Leave generic to GURPS and Hero. There is nothing generic about a Chimera.

  8. May 27th, 2011 at 00:22 | #8

    “So…do I do a fantasy supplement to serve as a reference, or do I just impose mods on Basic, making Swords of Telm my de facto fantasy add-on? I’m thinking the former.”

    I’d much rather see the later…let Swords show how to do Chimera as fantasy. I can figure out my own cool variants on that theme.

    Let Demon Haunted World show how to do Chimera as urban fantasy. I can figure out my own cool variants on that theme.

  9. deimos3428
    May 27th, 2011 at 11:04 | #9

    @erin: In my opinion Herb’s points are spot-on…there’s nothing generic about [a] Chimera. When we say it is generic, I think we mean it more in the sense of “genre-flexible”, than “bland”.

    The rules are set in stone, finally completely immutable. (I jest.) So it’s time to get into the details…each “head” of the Chimera, be it dragon, goat, or lion. Show us how to build a setting and we’ll [hopefully] churn ‘em out.

    Or thinking outside the box here a bit…you could even start a community project to build a new one together, working with some of the setting-builder tools you’ve already mentioned in previous blog posts. (And taking notes along the way for an eventually setting-builder tome, perhaps….)

  10. May 27th, 2011 at 22:31 | #10

    You folks are pretty close to convincing me of Option 4: Chimera Settings. Three reasons:

    1. It’s a solid example of “Show, don’t Tell.” Prudent advice in all matters, and it certainly fits here.

    2. It’s the logical end-goal anyway. A Chimera Fantasy Companion would simply become the basis for a Chimera Fantasy Setting (e.g., “Swords of Telm”). Makes perfect sense to cut out the “middleman.”

    3. It’s automatically cross-genre where appropriate. If I want to mix robots and WWI stuff, I can create a “Kaisertech” setting for instant gratification. And there’s nothing stopping you from transplanting bits and pieces from one setting to another, so again, faster, more flexible, and infinitely customisable.

    I still like the idea of community projects, whether that means entire settings or house rules or just a roster of new monsters. Doesn’t really matter–everyone can use it in whatever settings they want to play or create. You all are smart little elves, like Herb said, and can figure out cool variants on your own, given suitable examples.

    Let me think on this for a bit (along with a couple of Newcastle Browns). Realistically, if I can overcome my OCD (daunting, to be sure), I think this is a worthy option. Many thanks for the direction–keep the suggestions coming.

  11. May 27th, 2011 at 22:34 | #11

    @deimos3428 : working with some of the setting-builder tools you’ve already mentioned in previous blog posts

    Once again, your scrying abilities prove useful…I have an outline for just such a project. Another benefit to going with Option 4 is that I’ll develop the setting-building tools even faster. Huzzah!

  12. Greg MacKenzie
    June 1st, 2011 at 07:43 | #12

    My approach is to envision the adventure I want to run, write it using Chimera Basic as the reference, and then add any supplementary rules as required that aren’t covered by CB. I end up with a small companion of rules just for the adventure. The only thing is I have to get the companion rules “right”. What I mean by that is that they have to fit the Chimera Basic mechanic appropriately. The companion rules may not work outside of the adventure in all circumstances, although they should be fairly solid, enough so for potential re-use elsewhere.

  13. Greg MacKenzie
    June 1st, 2011 at 08:16 | #13

    I guess what I’d like to see are some adventures written for Chimera Basic with companion rules for the adventure if required. I don’t really care what the genre is, I’ll play just about anything. :) Kaiserbot’s here I come. ;)

  1. May 27th, 2011 at 09:44 | #1