Happy Holidays everyone! Watch out for zombie Santa.
There are going to be some changes here in the new year. I won't go into too much detail, but I will say it has something to do with a hostile takeover by the Dark Lord Sauron and the finding of the one ring. If only there was a way to destroy this ring without having to walk all the way to Mordor....
Here's a link to a podcast interview with George R.R. Martin. He talks about HBO's new series and about several things of general geek interest. Also Mr. Martin and I share the same birthday, which makes him extra cool in my book.
Several weeks ago I posted that I needed some help making a game system that didn't suck. Thanks to everyone for the comments, they were much appreciated. Since that time I have been working out exactly how I want the game system to work, and prepping it for some play testing.
Not wanting to give away too much info, here are a few of the details so far:
- It is going to be a single mechanic d20 based game. After much consideration this is just the easiest and most familiar route to go down.
- It will be easily adaptable and rules lite.
- It looks like there will be only two classes: Fighter and Magic User.
- The Classes will serve as simple templates with which to build a character. There will be plenty of room for player customization and specialization.
- The combat system is still being worked on. I am leaning towards more abstract combat but that may change.
While working on my current project titled - "campaign world that will eventually be released to the public in the hopes that they will like it and not ridicule me, and my hard work will pay off and people will use it, and have fun with it." (That's the working title) - I realized I needed some sort of system that would fit the world. At first I just figured I would be system neutral, but after some thought I realized that developing an actual game system was the way to go.
Of course after the realization that I wanted to create a game system, came the immediate realization that I had absolutely no idea what kind of system I wanted to create - which of course led to a lack of confidence, self-loathing and eventually beer. After a few beers my confidence miraculously returned, and I was ready to go.
I have always been of the opinion that what most people want in an RPG is not tacked on originality, but comfortable familiarity. And if you can somehow take that familiarity as a template and innovate it, you can create a very appealing game. This is easily seen in the design of 3e/4e and in the various retro-clones of earlier DnD editions. I would attribute their success to the fact that they are based on familiar systems, and while innovative they don't step too far away from what people expect of them.
I just don't dig the forge styled Indie games with "unique mechanics" that go something like: throw a bunched up t-shirt into the air, and if it lands with the ironic slogan facing the ceiling you get 1 narrative point that can be used towards control of the storytelling experience. That's just such a drag compared to a simple dice roll to hit a monster. And ultimately I am not interested in creating a shared narrative work of art, I am interested in creating a game. A game implies chance, not talking about stuff without any risk - and chance is what makes a game fun. I'm not saying Indie games are all bad, far from it, it's just that if you crave narrative control write a play, not a game.
I have worked out most of what I'm looking for in a game:
- I would like it to use one system mechanic
I have absolutely no problems with a one mechanic to rule them all approach in game design, in fact I prefer it. As much as I love ADnD and ODnD, I find the use of multiple mechanics somewhat irritating. There are some old school bloggers out there who might want to have a fight at recess over this issue, but to me it's just a matter of taste – and my taste in recent days is leaning towards one mechanic.
- There has to be classes
I have always preferred classes over “the make your own adventurer” style of character design. The main reason being, that left to their own devices most players will generally create the same guy each time. You know him, he's either pretty good at everything or REALLY good at one or two things - he can't read, has no real skills of any kind, but he can throw daggers through walls, and kill people by stamping his feet.
- It can't turn a simple mechanic into a bloated and hideous monster
That's right DnD 3e I'm lookin' at you, with all yer' feats and fancy pants character building, and soul crushing mathematical corpulence. It's like adding a beer belly, a giant mustache, and some type of huge ridiculous anime sword to Michelangelo's David. 4e may have lost a bit of the weight, but it's still out of shape and gets winded going up the stairs.
After considering the above criteria I've narrowed it down to three possible ideas for the overall system.
- A super slim and trim D20 or Retro Clone Based System
The Pros – It's a simple system, roll a d20 beat a number, I like that. There is a tremendous amount of support for d20 and retro clones. It's an easy to adapt system. And the truth is the vast majority of people play or have played this type of game, so it already has a much wider audience than every other game system out there.
The Cons – We need another d20/Retro clone like we need a kick in the junk, and all the cool names have already been taken.
- Some type of “Old School” style system that isn't DnD, but is still "Old School"
To avoid the possibility of starting an OSR fight I won't define what "old school" means, or explain what mechanics I might use - or in any way refer to old school as a feeling. I will only say that it has something to do with the Freemasons and the Illuminati... and possibly James Raggi, and pretty much everyone on his blogroll.
- A d100 based system
The Pros – I've always liked the you are x% good at something, and away you roll. This system is also easily adapted, and most people are familiar with percentage based systems.
The Cons – The primary problem I've always had with the d100 system is levelling classes and doling out the points. There must be a streamlined way to do this, but I have yet to find it - although I haven't really been looking or trying that hard.
These ideas are definitely subject to change, but it's what I have for now.
I would really appreciate any suggestions and ideas you might have.
Over the next while I am going to be developing a campaign world with a close friend (and player) of mine James Schmitz, an extremely talented illustrator and visual artist. We have been talking on and off for some time about projects we can work on together, also projects that we feel we can complete and might have an audience. We think that creating a campaign world that can be expanded and developed over time is the best option for our initial foray into the wilderness of rpg publishing.
This isn't a great leap for myself or James, we both already work in graphic design, desktop publishing and media in general, so that part is taken care of. The prime difference for me will be embarking on a publishing project that I actually enjoy, with someone I actually enjoy working with. That will be a change, regardless of the outcome.
Here are the ideas so far:
1) We will be creating a pulp fantasy sword and sorcery world, with liberal sprinklings of eldritch horror. Far more Howard and lovecraft and a lot less Tolkien (although we still love Tolkien).
2) There probably won't be standard non-human DnD races, and the world will most likely be very human-centric. This may change with development.
3) In this world, generally speaking, the bad guys have usually won. The small pockets of peace and tranquility are few and far between.
4) I haven't decided whether there will be an actual game system that will go along with it, or whether it will be system neutral. This one will be decided as we develop more ideas and start work.
Not too much detail, but more will be coming soon.
The initial release will be a free .pdf, and we'll see what happens from there. It will most likely be modeled after the 1983 Greyhawk box set, a favorite of mine.
If there is anyone out there who would like to help with the thankless task of editing, it would be greatly appreciated. Let me know in the comments or email me at john(at)ruleofthedice(dot)com.
I had it all planned. Three giant Trolls ambush the party using a tied up human as bait. Here was the set up:
The PC's and the merchant caravan they were travelling with came to a small area of road in the forest that went in a circle around four large trees. To one of these trees was tied a gagged man in a state of great distress attempting to scream something to them. They couldn't make out what he was saying, but like most curious PC's they decided to go check him out. Preparing for danger they readied their weapons and moved toward him. The Cleric approached the man, he had a look of complete terror in his eyes. She removed his gag... Then he yelled "They're using me as bait", as a great black shadow killed a horse and the two expendable npc's at the merchants caravan.
Combat was joined and dice were rolled. It was at this point I got out my trusty whiteboard and drew a simple map of the area for everyone to reference.
This is what I saw as I was drawing it, ever so innocently:
When it was ready I turned it so the players could see.
This is what they saw:
Yeah, you get the picture...
Lets just say there were quite a few "I'm going to jump into the bush jokes", and at least one "retreat to the anus" joke. Even with the joking we had a great game session. I would even venture to say that the joking actually made everything more fun, even though it was mainly aimed at yours truly.
I have been re-reading the 1e ADnD Dungeon Masters guide for the umpteenth time. To me this book represents all that is good and fun about our hobby. There is hardly a page that doesn't have something interesting, fun or just plain weird on it, and even now the sheer bulk of information found in this tome staggers my imagination.
I feel sorry for anyone who hasn't read this book, but I feel especially sorry for those who disregard it as some primitive relic of gaming past not worth the read. You are missing out on some of the best work ever written in RPG history, and even if you play 3e or 4e the advice and ideas from the DMG can still enlighten and inspire.
Although the ADnD DMG may not fully represent the golden age of the hobby, to me it represents the hobby at its best and loftiest. It still astounds me that I can open this book to any random page and find something that I can use in my campaigns, or find something that is just plain awesome.