Tuesday, April 6, 2021

That Time I Got Reincarnated As a D&D Fan

Over the past few days I have been watching quite a lot of Western Fantasy themed Anime and reading the humorous and thoroughly Dungeons and Dragons inspired Manga 'Delicious in Dungeon', all in preparation for one of the craziest ideas I've had in a very long time...

Me running a 'D&D Style' Fantasy campaign. 

I know, I know...this might not seem like the wildest concept you've heard from me, the guy who advocates Pokemon campaigns and who created an RPG focused on Television Puppets.

At the same time, if you've been stopping by here with any regularity or gone over pass entries, you'll notice I am not fan of Dungeons and Dragons (and that's a bit of an understatement). In addition, while I don't hate the Medieval Fantasy genre, my interest in it falls far behind my love of Science Fiction, Superheroes, and a number of other subjects. 

What I've come to realize though is that sometimes I absolutely adore it. As evidenced by my enjoyment of numerous Japanese Anime and Manga series featuring D&D Style Fantasy, there must be something I like about it and moreover, something that turns me off to it in other venues. 

In the latter case, there is a sameness and a slowness to it in the West that I don't find interesting, a rehashing and retreading of the same concepts over and over without much twist or innovation, often moving at the pace of a group of people walking from the Shire to Mordor. That means Fantasy fiction novels rarely hold my attention for long. In addition, the single most popular and accessible RPG for gaming in such a setting is probably my least favorite game - Dungeons and Dragons. 

So what can be done? Well, what if there was a Fantasy game like...

"Imagination is a weapon.
Those who don't use it die first."
-Goblin Slayer

The Barking Alien Medieval Fantasy Dream Game

The System/Dice:

First, all I want to use are D6s. The results of a D20 are too swingy and having all kinds of different dice for different things is just cumbersome. Streamline for efficiency.

In Japan, most Tabletop RPGs use only D6s, a hold over from the earliest days when D6s were readily available throughout Japan but the various other polyhedral dice had to be imported, were expensive, and weren't available everywhere. 

I would like a system with a unified mechanic, where basically everything works in the same general fashion. My preference would be Degrees of Success versus D&D's Pass/Fail rules. 

Furthermore, there should be simple, interesting Resource Management mechanics for things like Food, Equipment, Wealth, and Expenses. Maybe a pool of Resource Dice or a periodic Resource Roll based on some sort of rating to determine how much water, rations, rope, torches, etc. your character or party possesses.

Character Creation:

Choices in character design, not random rolls. A key element would be the way Race and Class are handled. 

The more I played other games, the less I liked how D&D handled Race and Class, especially 'Class'. I was often told that Class was an easy way to represent that kind of Character Types most often encountered in Fantasy fiction. OK, but the most memorable characters don't fit or aren't well represented by D&D's Classes. Two of the most famous 'Magic Users', Merlin and Gandalf, use Swords. Grey Mouser and Elric of Melnibone' are both Multi-Class Humans? Maybe Elric isn't Human, still...

The Class is neither a quick reference for Character Creation nor easily customizable. What are the Class Creation rules? Are there even any? I imagine there are now but mostly Classes feel like long laundry lists of rules instead of quick, evocative ways of getting into a game quickly. 

I much prefer the Templates of Star Wars D6 or the Template + Overlay Character Creation of Last Unicorn Games' ICON System. Pick a Class, get a set of Stats and Skills, a package of Standard Equipment, a unique Item and/or Ability, and start playing. Maybe 'Race' is part of the Template as it is in Star Wars or else it is the Template and the Class is the Overlay that modifies it. An alternative tern for Race is needed and could be Kind, People, Species, or maybe Tribe. 


This would need to be very different.

Dungeons and Dragons combat, which often seems to be the primary focus of the game, is so boring and tedious for me that I have often 'checked out' as soon as combat has started. Immersion in D&D is really difficult for me to start with if there isn't really good world-building and characterization and then combat comes up and my tenuous grip on the game just gives way. 

First, everyone should be able to fight effectively unless they make the active character choice not to be able to do so and in that case be given something else they can do during combat. Basically, if you can't take a hit and/or cause a lot of damage you should be able to heal and generate protective shields, dodge with agility and speed while distracting opponents, firing multiple arrow shots, or some similar cinematic action that doesn't just look and sound cool but actually does something that contributes to a win in battle. 

Maybe some of these are tied to Class abilities but there should also be moves anyone can do. That is a big part of it for me. Scrap feats and all the combat abilities only going to Fighter types. Players should be able to have their PCs take a multitude of actions on the fly based on their own creativity, reference what a move like that might do and entail, then execute it without needing to have that particular move on their sheet. 

The Hero System/Champions has thing. You don't have Haymaker or Move Through listing as moves on your Character Sheet, you just decide to deliver a Haymaker punch and reference what it does. Extra Damage but a slightly lower to hit and my Defense drops because I'm leaving myself open. OK, I am going to do it since I have decently good armor. 

Also let grid and range based. Can you hit the opponent you can see from here with your Arrow or Spell? Yes, because no is boring and if the monster is in the same scene as you it makes sense that you can hit it. 

Skill and movement combinations with attacks. Can you leap off a one or two-story roof, flip in the air while throwing a spear, and land safely in a hay wagon. Of course! It shouldn't just be a cool descriptor though. It should DO SOMETHING! Maybe a decrease to Accuracy but and increase to Defense. It's hard to hit someone flipping through the air and chucking a javelin at you. 

Also, no Hit Points. I really don't like Hit Points. Maybe you have a Traveller type situation where you take Damage to your Stats and X amount of Damage causes one Hit. Each PC only has 3-5 Hits but again, that's not what most Damage is going toward. 


Spells need to be more flexible. I am always amazed by how D&D creates so many specifics for spells as to rule out as much creative use as possible. Sure, there are ways to be inventive with them but it always feels like it's in spite of them game not because of it. 

While watching Goblin Slayer, one of the most thoroughly-Dungeons and Dragons oriented Anime I've seen since Record of the Lodoss War, the Priestess uses a force field-like Protection 'Miracle' to shield herself and others on a number of occasions. Later, thanks to clever tactics by the titular Goblin Slayer, three castings of the same spell are used to hold and crush an opponent. Yes, a defense spell - in this case three force fields correctly positioned and placed - were used as a weapon. THAT is how D&D magic should work. 

Also, more kinds of Magic. Why do I see so many more kinds of Spellcasters and Specialized Mages in Japanese Anime and Video Games than I do in American Fantasy? Instead of Spell Lists, how about a list of basic effects and the Player defines the Spell. Something like - Shield: Stops X Damage - Takes No Damage from Y. Mine is a Fire Shield - Fire based attacks cause it no harm but everything is stopped up to X Damage. 

Overall, I am thinking about this more and more and really liking what it potentially could be...but not what we have now. Is there a system like the one I describe above? Could there be? I might have to make one but jeez, I am homebrewing and designing too many games right now. I would honestly love it if one existed and I could just buy it. 

Barking Alien


  1. Have you looked at any of the fantasy D6 systems?

    1. Yes, in a general sense. Are you referring to a specific D6 system?

  2. I feel your pain. I was looking for a similar system. Couldn't find one so created my own. Using a wildly customizable point system, you can create most any character from any genre. The Powers (magic, superpowers, whatever) are broad categories that can be defined by the player. And it uses a single D6 for all rolls.

    1. I am not sure I want an 'any character from any genre' type of game. I like when the rules and the genre match, designed specifically to go together. That said, if the mechanics allow one to customize the feel for a specific type of campaign I am sure it work.

  3. I can't think of any existing system that covers 100% your requirements. However, given that you like the Free League system, Forbidden Lands should come pretty close. And it is simple enough to modify by importing rules from other games of the family or making up your own.

    Dungeon World and Torchbearer also come to mind, for what I know of them, but I think both fall in the "too abstract" category.

    Disclaimer: I haven't played any of these games myself.

    1. I am looking into Forbidden Lands, as it has some of what I am looking for. I may have to modify it a little. We'll see.

  4. This post has made me revisit some western fantasy inspired anime myself. Miyazaki (whom I adore) aside, I've always struggled with anime and, to some extent, manga, because whilst they often have terrific settings and premises and gorgeous visuals, I really find the voice acting grating (both Japanese and English) and the endless, childish breast gags (I get that it's cultural but it's still grating). However, driven by the positives, I've had a look both on Netflix and Comixology. I like the look of Goblin Slayer and Grimgar (both added to my Comixology wishlist). I started watching Fairy Tail on Netflix UK a while back but struggled with it. Sinbad, too. But I might give them another go. I tried one of the Sword Art Onlines and watched quite a few episodes of it (all of it, I think), but found it really hard work. I really struggle with the emo angsty aspect of it all and the fact that the tech makes no sense. What I did find, and am largely enjoying is Granblue Fantasy the Animation (on Netflix UK). Nice visuals, flying islands and airships and an evil empire. Definitely inspired by both Laputa and Skies of Arcadia, both of which are huge influences on my own fantasy preferences.
    I'm very interested to see how you emulate the anime style in D&D. I know that there's a new Anime 5E being kickstarted but I'm not sure how well that'd work because whilst modern D&D must be influenced considerably by anime and manga, It doesn't, I think really reflect the cultural and stylistic elements of the medium. Just throwing magical girls and mecha into 5E really isn't quite enough.

  5. Following on from my last post. I appear to have misunderstood your intent. I see that it's not that you want to run Anime D&D but a D&D western fantasy style game informed by anime. What you describe in your post sounds like Star Wars D6 to me, if I'm honest. Maybe look at just modding (or hacking, I think the kids say these days) that.

  6. I agree that Star Wars D6 (or Fantasy D6) should cover most of you requirements. With the same system you also have Vikingr (a Fantasy D6 set in viking era) that dealt loot as a ressource that can be used to boost your wealth (when building a ship for exemple). You can use the same mechanics for other ressources or influence.

  7. I like what I am seeing here. OK, I will look into Fantasy D6 and Vikingr. I am thinking what I may have to do is create an original game and adapt components from all these many suggestions.

    Last month I meant to create my Mecha game but it looks like this month I might accidently generate a Fantasy game. lol

  8. I'll third Fantasy D6, you also might want to look at some stuff from Ninja High School.

    1. By Ninja High School I assume you mean the D6 version that came out a little while back. Might be worth looking at again. Thanks Tom.

  9. It uses polyhedral dice, but Savage Worlds ticks a lot of your boxes.

    1. People say that but I've played Savage Worlds and I don't get that feeling at all. Sadly I am really not a fan of that game.