7/25/2010

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.