Quick Introduction: 'names Tom, 32 years old, fairly grognard on the continuum, though I often follow the Rule of Cool as made famous by Chatty DM. I have played D&D since basic, but I must admit its not my favorite system, though it is rather easy to pick up and play. I have been encouraged to blog-ize some thoughts and musings on RPG's and RPG mechanics by a good friend, so well here goes. What I am interested in and what I will be sharing are feelings/ideas/improvements on the building blocks of a good RPG. The ultimate goal would be a mechanic that was easy to use while keeping the players sense of 'reality" (i.e. suspension of disbelief) towards the end of having more engaging, interactive, and thrilling adventures.Lets face it, D&D and RPGs in general are basically the ultimate choose-your-own adventure. Each player plays a character they could imagine in a Lord of the Rings movie (or Blade Runner etc.) and acts out both the personality and actions of that character. It goes without saying that the reward is to see what your character would accomplish and what friendships would be made if you were "there" in that campaign setting. Can you find your sister? Save the princess? Stop the raising of a long-dead Cthulu god? Make it from rags-to riches in post-apocalyptic earth?
OK, we go: Yeah, you search and then you find her. Then you save the princess from a dragon. Then you stop the cult from raising Cthulu just in the nick of time. And yeah... you get rich and become ruler of the world. OK campaign done.
Happy? No? Which brings me to my first point.
The story is no fun without struggle and problem solving. No matter how cool the story is, its just a cool novel unless it is driven by player decisions. If the mechanic is good enough, the outcome of the dice/rules will fit with the players mental image of the scene being played out. If the mechanic is good enough, even the most humble goal is still exciting to achieve. A lousy mechanic just breaks the feeling that you are "there" and then it is just your buddy telling you arbitrarily whether you succeeded or not.
I have played a decent number of RPG systems, I’m sure some of you have played more. D&D since basic, Marvel Super Heroes, Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Judge Dredd, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, whatever.. theres no need to belabor the list. And I think we can all agree there are things we like about each and every system. The merit/flaw system from GURPS. The success chart of Marvel super heroes. The wounding mechanic of Judge Dredd. Destiny points first done in Warhammer Roleplay over a decade ago. The skill web from Shadowrun. Vehicle combat from the latest WotC Star Wars RPG.
So why do we like these elements? Is there something in common? Is there a way to combine or adapt them?
Can we come up with a better core mechanic? (An can we come up with one that uses d20 at its underpinnings?)
This is what I have been musing on with old college geek friends for over a decade. Please be sure there is no vanity here. I'm sure my musings are just as flawed as anything else. There not even really mine, sort of an amalgam of discussions and thoughts from many friends and an entire childhood of gaming. I am really curious of other peoples thoughts and solutions. On the other hand, D&D 4E has a solid system right now, that is easy to get into, so if you are satisfied with it, just stop reading and go have fun!
But if you are like me, you feel hindered by the current rule set. All too often the results of the dice feel random and arbitrary, and more like I am playing WoW than actually _being_ Lothar, Barbarian of the Hill People. The 'official-ness' of the rules brooks very little deviation from them. Just take the 60 year old Regent, level 12 hero, who no matter how the dice lay, can survive any fall short of a few hundred feet. Hell why even build stairs?
Similarly, many times in my current campaign (as a player) I say something I want to do, and there’s no mechanic or even a guideline on how to handle it. At least 50% of my actions and decisions never end up having any meaningful game effect. Unless I fit exactly into a 5' by 5' square, have the appropriate feat, and never move diagonally, the game doesnt know what to do with me.
OK moving along.....
What I hope to discuss in future posts are the following, in no particular order
- statistical distribution (flat vs. bell vs. Poisson vs. logarithmic)
- target hitting vs. damage (i.e. the blow dart vs. the sledgehammer)
- Overbear rules
- Fate / Force / Destiny
- Feat design and merits/flaws at character generation
- Luck based skills vs. experience based skills (i.e. firing a crossbow vs. speaking French)
- Magic mechanics
- Vehicles / large monsters
- Wounding, healing, and dying
- Shock/blood loss
- High level characters and skills
More to Come. -- Tom W.
The above image was taken from Rory's Story Cubes. They looked so cool I just had to order a set for myself - we'll see how they turn out. -- jonathan.