D6-ing Battlestar Galactica: Why Do We Make Games?

(After last week, I'm taking a break from talking about D&D. I appear to have attracted undesirable riffraff to ruleofthedice.com.)

I want to play a Battlestar Galactica RPG. I've been on a BSG kick as of late, and I'm going to try to convince my PBEM group to play a one-shot (or two) once our current D&D game runs its course. I want to use the D6 rule set from the old Star Wars RPG, and I've already started playing around statting out Vipers and Cylon Raiders and such. It helps using the X-Wing and TIE Fighter stats as a base, actually. It's appropriate since BSG was originally ripped off Star Wars, anyway.

I love making up games, though most of them never actually see the light of day. I've made video games through RPG Maker, whole sets and expansions for Magic: The Gathering through Magic Set Editor, and more pen-and-paper RPGs than I count. I didn't think anything of it at first when I opened up a file and started hammering out rules and stats for a BSG game. Then I had to stop and think about it for a second: Why am I making this game?

Just because you can make an RPG from scratch (or clone/copy as the case may be), I wonder if you really need to. It's like when McDonald's has a sale, where if you buy a Big Mac you can get a second one free. Just because you CAN get two Big Macs for the price of one, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

The pitfalls of sales at McDonald's.

For instance, I can easily think of a number of reasons against creating a D6 version of Battlestar Galactica.

1. There's a perfectly good version of the game already published by Margaret Weis Productions. I haven't even played it, so I can't claim I don't like the rules.

2. It will never go anywhere besides my small group of friends. It's not like I could ever sell it or market it. The D6 rules might be open content, but the BSG licence certainly isn't.

Say hello to Richard Hatch's lawyer.

3. My group may never even play it. There's no guarantee that everyone won't want to just keep playing D&D. Even if I (the DM) get bored or burnt out and refuse to play anymore, I can't force them to play something else if they're not interested.

4. It's potentially a big wasted investment of time and energy if nothing ever comes out of it (see points 2 and 3).

So why, then, would I just start making stuff up for no good reason? I've got a few ideas about that, to:

1. Compulsion? Why do smokers smoke? Writers write? Pedophiles... yeah, I'm not going there. You get my point. Sometimes you just can't help it. You get an idea and you just have to put it down, even if you know it will never go anywhere.

2. For fun? I like making games. Most of them never come to fruition (though I made a really spiffy RISK variant for my in-laws a few years ago, with a full-size glossy game board and all), but most of the fun is in the process.

No, seriously, it was pretty cool.

3. I know the D6 system. I love the D6 system. Nothing against the Cortex system the Margaret Weis version of the game uses (again, I've never actually played it), but D6 reminds me of my misspent youth, and makes me nostalgic.

So: Do the pros outweigh the cons? Do most folks agonize like this before making up some half-assed rules that will probably only be used a couple of times, if at all? I've seen a lot of crap in this world that if its creator only stopped and asked themselves, "Does the world really need this?" then it probably wouldn't exist. (How many RIFTS source books are there???) Do I want to add to that pile of uselessness?

Fuck. Who gave the separatists giant robots?

I suspect there's a much longer post and discussion involved here; I'm hardly scratching the surface. The Internet Gaming Community, especially the OSR folks, love creating games. But why? What drives them? Why am I making up my own game, basically stealing two ideas mostly intact from two other intellectual properties? Is it the same reason people write pornographic Harry Potter fan fiction?

God, I hope not.
It's too many questions. And before people start bitching at me, I am not mocking anyone or telling them that shouldn't make games (except maybe Kevin Siembieda). If people want to ride the DIY revolution, more power to them. I'm just curious why. I'm doing it myself and I have no fucking clue what my motivations are.

No, seriously. Any insight would be appreciated.

If you know anyone else who may be of help, click below...


  1. Great post. Speaking only for myself, I think to a large extent you're right about two main points. On the one hand, there is simply a creative impulse, and at the same time, there's just a lot of fun to be had in the process itself. I don't know how many dungeons, towns and settings I've designed (or at least started) that never got played, skirmish rules I made up that got played maybe once (if at all), random tables for various purposes, figures I've painted but never used in a game. For me, I just like doing it. I enjoy engaging in an activity that involves thinking and creativity and which isn't my job. It could've been any such activity really, but I like games and I like fantasy, so there's where my spare time and energy go.

  2. I think dissatisfaction is the primary motivator in most game design. You look at a bunch of games and go - holy shit these suck, I want to make something I want to play.

    The hardest thing for me was figuring out what mechanic(s) I wanted to use. There are so many variables and so many systems out there - and frankly there is nothing new under the RPG sun. I use a variant of the core mechanic found in the Cortex system. Although I had no idea the Cortex system even existed, and thought I cleverly thought up a slight variant of the FATE system, it turned out Margaret Weis had already stolen that idea, and most likely from the very same source that I was inspired from.

    I've come to the conclusion that game creation is mainly innovative theft, but what makes a great game over a shitty game is stealing form the best sources. This is why the retro-clones are popular they're swiped from OD&D and AD&D, and you can steal your game from Star Wars. And thus the cycle of game design life continues unabated in the Sahara of nerdland.

    ps. I fucking hate Battlestar Galactica.

  3. CDGallant_KingApril 19, 2011

    I think that's it. It's just fun to do. I just feel bad sometimes when I'm not doing something "productive" with my time. Time seems to be at such a premium in my grown-up adult life, it feels like I should always be doing something that I can have something to show for at the end of the day. Maybe I need to re-examine my priorities. :-)

  4. CDGallant_KingApril 19, 2011

    I don't think there are any new ideas out there. Everything is a copied/stolen/influenced, or at the very least, inspired by something else. I think we just need to accept it and just try to make things better, rather than trying to create something completely new that possibly exist.

    And I know you hate Battlestar Galactica. Why do you think I keep mentioning it? ;-)

  5. Joe NelsonApril 28, 2011

    I meant to respond to this a while ago now. But honestly, I've been having trouble arranging my thoughts into any manageable sense of order. Finally, I decided to say, screw it and let's just see if I can't type it out without the use of my brain. :-P

    The thing is, I ask myself that same question all the time. I've a pile of half-finished rules modifications lying around, one semi-complete spaceship combat system, and a metric ton of other related junk. I like to create, but when there seems to be so little point in it, why bother? I mean, I must have written 100+ original novellas and short stories by now, none of which has seen print because they are, quite frankly, nothing special (I just checked, it's actually 196 files and growing...). So why do it? Why create something that doesn't add measurably to the world of gaming or fiction?

    You know why? Because it is fun. Simple as that. I mean, why the hell would we just sit around and play these pen-and-paper roleplaying games, much to the derision of other less thoughtful folk? Because it is fun. Because, as creative people, we have to allow ourselves an outlet. Something we honestly enjoy doing. Otherwise, we end up half-crazy.

    I understand the need to be "productive". I often find myself setting down a good book, stepping away from the computer, and even holding back from gaming just because I feel my time ought to be spent elsewhere, perhaps curing cancer. And yet, I always come back to these things, solely for the reason that I like doing them. It clears the mind, and perhaps, though it might sound pretentious, frees it for doing other things.

    Heh. Maybe it's just a mental disorder. It seems that creative personalities just want to create, consequences be damned! :-)

  6. JsalvatoriApril 28, 2011

    Reading a good book, using the computer, and gaming ARE productive - just not to the standards of our western society. Do they entertain you? Do they expand your creativity and vocabulary? Do they hone your hand-eye coordination? (Thank you Wii...) Do they... you get the idea. Don't let someone else tell you what is productive or not. Do what you want to do with your "free" time and relish it. Even if it is sitting in a dark corner making up d20 tables for how well your RPG rock band plays their gig.

  7. CDGallant_KingApril 28, 2011

    You have tables for that??? I have to see this!

  8. CDGallant_KingApril 28, 2011

    Maybe it is some sort of disorder. I think the clinical name should be "Creative guilt." You feel compelled to create, despite the feelings that you're wasting your time doing so. :-)

    You're right about the not giving into creativity making you crazy - there have been periods of my life when I've been busy at work and had no time for writing, and it just made me even more stressed out.

    Creative people of the world unite! And go write a comic book or screenplay! (Or gaming supplement, whatever).

    Thank you for the support.

  9. Scott HadallerMay 24, 2011

    RPGs are not like other types of games, they are hobbies, and that implies using existing materials to make something customized for your own personal use and possibly share that creation with others (in the past it was done with zines now its done with blogs). Its no different than building a ship in a bottle. Who care that its not going in the Royal Naval Museum, the satisfaction is not about giving tours about the history of the replica vessel in the glass vessel, its about the process of construction. True creatives don't create things because they want attention, they do it because they want to see their ideas take shape in the material world.

  10. TedankhamenJuly 21, 2011

    As a Newfie I WANT a copy of your variant risk! Just the cover sent a shiver down me spine!

  11. Yes Yes I would love a copy of your variant for Risk although I would prefer it not use the terms "newfie". Otherwise it sounds awesome!!

  12. CDGallant_KingJuly 21, 2011

    Yes, well, it was hand-made and took many, many hours to put together, so I'm not going to be handing any of them out anytime soon (though maybe I should put some pictures of it up here sometime).

    Glad I could give you some willies, though.  Right on, me cocky.

  13. CDGallant_KingJuly 21, 2011

    I can say "Newfie" because I am one, and it was given to Newfies. It's hardly a derogatory term anyway.  It's like "Canucks," or "Yankees," or "Dirty Irish."  They're all terms of endearment. :-)

    As for getting a copy, see the comment to  @9d12356b3b2f3ea8b6ff282cdc21ece4:disqus , above.

  14. I'm curious to find out if you ever went ahead with your BSG D6 Campaign as I'm considering something similar myself, although I'm thinking of using X-Wing as the space combat system for it.


Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting at Rule of the Dice.

Greatest Hits

Love, Sex & Dice

Top 4 Bands That Write Songs Based on Their D&D Campaign

Sodor Stories: Thomas the Tank Engine RPG (Powered by FATE Accelerated)

Why Clerics (Still) Suck

10 More Zombie Survival Intro Scenarios

Why My Favourite D&D Class Sucks

You Can Have Fun Without Dice