Friday, March 2, 2012

Coming clean...

I don't care for D&D and its derivative game systems. I don't like abstract stats like Hit Points, old-school Saving Throws, and Level. These stats cannot be well defined, and never are, not even in their core rulebooks. I don't like using flat probability dice as a core mechanic in a game (d20 or d%). And, I prefer my players to have a lot of choice when making a character, and Class-based systems don't cut the mustard there.

AD&D 3.5 looked like it was getting dangerously close to fixing a lot of these problems by adding an array of new skills and the feats system, but once my group started making characters we noticed that there remains in place a relatively obvious progression for each class. If you spend your skill points on anything other than those which are completely necessary for your class you will be a failure at your class, and very likely laughed out of your group. Every time your character levels up and gets a bonus feat you have a pretty good idea which feats you are 'supposed' to take, and if you take a different one to give your character a bit of diversity you will regret it later. Don't get me started on multi-classing, which only serves a player when creating an uber-character with a prestige class, min-maxing your character into exactly the same mold as everyone else taking that class.

All that said, I still love fantasy. Lord of the Rings (from the one-on-one fights to the party vs. party melees, and even the epic wars) gets me excited to play a high-fantasy RPG. So many other books and movies give me that same feeling.

When I get that urge I always go back to AD&D because it's the most robust high-fantasy game out there (and, let's face it, I still have all the books [at least from 2nd Ed. to 3.5]).

That is, until I found Warrior, Rogue & Mage by +Michael Wolf of Stargazer Games. The system is robust, easy to learn, highly customizable, and boasts nearly infinite character variations. It fixes just about everything I dislike about d20 systems in a free 41 page, beautifully illustrated pdf download.

Wow, that sounded like a commercial. I promise that it wasn't. It was a way to show role-players that it can be done. AD&D isn't your only option for fantasy.


I'll leave you with the story of how I realized AD&D wasn't the system for me:

I was watching Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. The mini-series was nearly complete, and one of the heroes took a villain hostage putting a crossbow up to her throat. This villain was known across the world as one of the greatest warriors and treasure hunters to have ever lived, and the hero was in no state to fight her. She verbally resisted him and said, "You struck me as a hard man to kill." He inclined his head, and bowed slightly, but his eyes did not move, and his hand remained steady. "And you strike me that way too, dear lady. But a crossbow bolt to the throat, and a fall of several thousand feet may prove me wrong, eh?"

I audibly gasped.

I know that, like me, when many people (especially Game Masters) start getting into role-playing they begin to look at the real world through the lens of the fantasy game system that they know so well. I was subconsciously doing that with Neverwhere. I translated the crossbow bolt into a likely damage score, assuming a critical hit, then translated the fall damage into AD&D terms, 20d6 (terminal velocity).

I was aghast at the idea that she would survive that. Heck, if she's over level 16 she's just about guaranteed to survive it no matter how badly that damage is rolled. Oh, System Shock, the old stand-by rule to kill characters that obviously should have died from massive damage. I think she'd still have a 75% chance to pass that roll at her relatively high level.

So, that was it, I put away my 2nd edition books and luckily, very soon after, picked up the World of Darkness games.

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