Thursday, June 23, 2016

D&D Mine

One curious artifact of the current DIY OSR and OGL inspired era of gaming is the fact that rather than printing up traditional "Fantasy Heartbreakers" folks are simply making D&D their own.  In some cases, these guys will attempt to sell their product; usually as PDF, sometimes via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe or somesuch, but many times, it's just put out there as a free PDF for anyone to use, peruse and pilfer as desired.  There may never have been—even in the dawn of the hobby—such a wide proliferation of "what do you want your own personal D&D game to look like?" being answered with substance, with detail, and with customization and personalization.  Given that I've been blogging quite a bit lately about various versions of D&D, it's fair to ask what I've actually got going on here.  And keep in mind that by "D&D" I mean "any game system that's meant to emulate a D&D-like 'generic' fantasy setting" so Pathfinder is a D&D; Microlite74 is a D&D, Delving Deeper is a D&D, etc.  It should also be apparent given my patterns, that my D&D is going to be some derivation of m20.  However, most of the m20 games that I've actually tinkered with myself have not been developed to emulate a D&D-like generic fantasy setting.  There is, however, one exception: the Cult of Undeath.

I went back and re-read that, made a few minor adjustments to the system, and thought of a few "holes" that probably should be filled.  I've decided to create this as an actual system; an actual game; not just a "mostly complete" game that is available as a wiki of sorts specifically designed to work with a small setting.  No, it's going to be a "Real Thing™."

What Needs to be Done?
The good news is: not much.  My system as an emulator of sorts of D&D is well over 90% complete.  I need to copy and paste the stuff I already have into a document that I can PDF up, including with a public domain illustration or two to pretty it up (maybe I'll use the image here; I like it a lot already), add a little bit of introductory text and very slightly more robust descriptions of the races, classes, spells, monsters, etc., and I'm good to go.  What I should also do, however, is bulk up the monster (and maybe the spell list) a little bit, and then add a couple of appendices.

The first appendix would be designed specifically to discuss a few GMing skills.  I would create some wandering monster tables, random tavern and NPC name tables, etc.—useful stuff that isn't really part of the game per se but which is useful to have.  Some magical items would be nice too, as my rule-set currently doesn't include any at all, other than various blasphemous tomes.  The second appendix would be optional rules.  I'd have the race and class builder rules, as articulated in my DARK•HERITAGE m20 rules as well as a few sample completed ones, mostly.  And then maybe I'd include a third appendix that's a sample hex map and hex key.  For this, I will use my Cult of Undeath material, which will also be nice, because I never really finished putting that together for Cult of Undeath.  I can kill two birds with one stone!

And that's it.  My roughly 20 pages of game as it stands right now would balloon all the way up to... 35-40 or so pages, I estimate?  Most of it based on material that I already have.  It will more be a task of organizing rather than actually creating much.  Oh, and I guess I need a name.  I called it before Cult of Undeath, because that was the campaign that I was proposing to use that system for.  Something more generic.  I dunno; FANTASY HACK m20, or something.

What makes your "D&D Mine" different from "D&D Someone Else"?
  • It's based on m20, so it's extremely rules-lite, including a drastic reduction of the stats, the skills, and elimination of saving throws.  It starts with only four basic classes and 5-6 races.  Tons of spells and monsters don't appear.  It's a very slim, stripped down version of d20, but it's so slim and stripped down that it doesn't really run anything like d20; it feels more like a smooth, consistent, rational version of OD&D in terms of how it plays.  This is, however, common to all m20 games, and is not specific to my m20 game.
  • Magic is not Vancian, it's Lovecraftian.  There's no magic-user (or wizard, or sorcerer, or cleric, etc.) class; anyone can learn any spell, providing he finds access to it.  There's no fire and forget.  Spells damage you to cast, representative of the physically taxing nature of casting magic.  They also threaten your sanity, and if you really botch something up, extradimensional predators might come for you (hounds of Tindalos.)  That said, it's not meant to be overly punishing to cast magic, although it certainly is a bit more risky.  It's just got a very different kind of pulp root than D&D does, and it has a very different feel.
  • The monster list is also skewed towards the Lovecraftian.  Although I'll probably go back in and add a few more classic, mythological type monsters and whatnot, I don't have tons of them right now; but I do have things like byakhees, gugs, shoggoths, etc.
  • When you add in the extra, optional rules of what will become Appendix 2, it essentially jettisons completely the notion that you need pre-fab classes or races, because you can build anything you want with them.  This may seem anathema to some old school D&Ders who think the archetype protection of the character class is an ironclad requirement, but classes in this game (and races too, for that matter) really only offer a modest benefit; some flavor for role-playing, rather than something that's constrictive and prescriptive.
  • While the game as it stands now doesn't make much in the way of assumptions about what kind of game you'll be running, once the appendices are out, it will better support wilderness exploration and urban gaming much more than dungeoneering.  Literally nothing about the rules for the classes, the races, or anything specific about task resolution, or anything else, will assume a dungeon.  While the system is certainly flexible enough to be used that way, if you so desire, what it's meant to be good at is fast and loose swashbuckling action story, like a fantasy version of Sabatini or Dumas, or something out of Burroughs, Howard or Leiber.
Anyway, this is a terrible distraction from the AD ASTRA stuff that I was supposed to be working on, but what can I say?  Sometimes my muse is fickle and has ADD, and because this is just a fun hobby, I don't intend to apply strict discipline to her.  I'm an overly indulgent parent to my muse, I suppose.

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