a critical reading of BOLT, part 1
when a. pandey came back on twitter for five minutes to ask the timeline whether we missed him, he also said something to the effect that he's offering himself up to be criticized in the manner that he criticized other games. since i've had thoughts on BOLT for a while, i figured i would shoot my shot.
let's look at the prologue to BOLT (kachow) to learn about pandey's motivation in writing this game. i've only got access to the pre-kickstarter version, "0.8".
> This is BOLT, a built-for-hacking action-adventure role-playing game engine designed to port across multiple settings. Yes, there are already a lot of "generic" RPG systems, but the availability of better-funded alternatives tends not to discourage nerds.
right off the bat we learn that BOLT is a system meant to be hacked. this reminds me of what D&D fans say about 5E (though i think WOTC is less prone to agree), that you're meant to hack it and play it the way you want.
the reason this irks me is because i feel like any game text should be read this way, i.e. do what you want with it. any game that declares this explicitly, alongside calling itself a generic system, feels like it is trying to sell the reader's ideal game back to the reader themselves. not a fan of this approach; i feel like you should present your own work as-is, and let the invitation to hack be implicit or at least not stated upfront.
> What I—Ajey Pandey, the writer of this game—think sets BOLT apart is that it draws influence both from the mechanically-dense, “crunchy” combat of games like Cyberpunk 2020 or Dungeons & Dragons and the collaborative “story-game” narrative-building that underpins Powered by the Apocalypse games like Masks: A New Generation.
"crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should ever again the crunchy and story games unite!" this is a recurrent trope on indie ttrpg twitter, trying to combine the best of crunchy games and story games to make one that satisfies everyone's tastes. i think to an extent, it stems from the desire to codify the common experience playing D&D 5E, which is basically as a loose narrative game with a super complicated (and satisfying?) character creator.
> Action in BOLT is designed to build tension through its core mechanics as opposed to narrative description, with the intent of making the player feel the same emotions as their character. But from there, every aspect of the game was tuned by the question, "What's the fastest way this can work?"
this is BOLT's mission statement; we'll see how this plays out in practice.
> This game is also meant to be hacked, and kit-bashed, and re-skinned. It’s your game as much as it is mine. So in the below rule descriptions, I will be honest about how things are built and why I built them that way. I don’t expect you to agree with me on everything. Instead, I hope that my writing is clear enough that you can identify where you disagree with me and re-wire the game to fit your goals.
same comments as above, with another stated goal of BOLT listed below. again, we will see how this plays out.
it's nice that pandey published BOLT on a CC-BY-SA license.
will post more? i didn't wanna say too much without making sure i wasn't pushing any buttons, but needless to say i have more to say besides reading over the prologue (which itself, i think, speaks volumes).
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