Daily Archives: October 5, 2006

Pen and Paper to MMO Ideas

Firing Squad put an interesting article up last week about pen and paper RPGs and which would make good transitions to the world of consol or PC games.  The article was triggered by their being invited to see a playable build of the game Shadowrun, based off of the RPG of the same name, at FASA Studios.

This idea always appeals to me because one of the drudgeries of pen and paper games is just the accounting and housekeeping, something a computer is perfect to take over.  My initial thought on reading the list was which of these games might make good starting points for MMOs.  I want to comment on the three games I am familiar with in their list.


I am not sure this is a good idea for a computer game, MMO or not.  GURPS is a rule system framework for RPGs from Steve Jackson Games.  As has been seen with Dungeon and Dragons Online, following the rule system of a table top game is not necessarily a great idea in and of itself.  There ends up being changes required to a rule set to make a decent computer game.  Things that make sense to make a game playable in person, like combat going in turns or phases, end up being thrown out because on the computer the game can calculate simultaneous, continuous combat without much effort at all.

Still, perhaps as a model for a “create your own content” package for the PC it might find a place, ala NeverWinter Nights, if some of the GURPS content could be delivered along with it, although there is so much content I am not sure where to start.  As a skills (as opposed to class) based system, it might find its place.  I would probably buy it without a second thought if GURPS Discworld were available as content.


Initially I thought this was a great idea.  Mongoose Publishing’s Paranoia is a blast. I had a lot of fun playing this back in the day.  I still have books and modules for it on my bookshelf at home.

The problem is, this is a game where successfully finishing a mission can be completely beside the point.  The fun is in trying and failing in the most audacious, grandiose, and original way possible.  This is something that really requires a human running the game. 

Not only is a computer probably not flexible enough to run a good game of Paranoia, I am not sure a big enough audience would “get” the game.  I could just image an official game forum filled with complaints about how hard the missions are to complete and about the arbitrary, even capricious, nature of death in the game.

It would be a game with a legitimate claim on a death system with little or no penalty and everybody who played it would come away knowing the colors of the optical spectrum in the correct order. (Roy G. Biv)

Space 1889

I am only tangentially familiar with this game through a friend who played it, but it actually sounds like and interesting and unique setting that might work quite well as an MMO.  Now published by Heliograph, Space 1889 is set in an alternate Victorian Era where the then-current theories about physics, space, and the planets are all actually true.  Spaceflight is possible, the other planets are inhabited, and conflict abounds.

I think this would be a tremendous opportunity to create an MMO with its own unique style.  Also it might bring the word “Steampunk” into general usage.


The world of pen and paper RPGs is huge and there is a lot of content out there that could be successfully adapted to an MMO environment.  The key is content.  Rule systems, except as they influence content, are less important when you have a computer doing the detail work for you.

I will probably revisit this subject from time to time.  If you know of a pen and paper RPG that would make a good MMO, let me know.