It's not that the modifications I'm making are particularly complex or difficult to put together but rather that I just haven't had the time to sit down and do more than a little at a time. Hopefully I'll have something to show you guys before too long.
Today I want to talk about something a little different...
The ever-thoughtful JB over at the always intriguing B/X BLACKRAZOR has made some recent posts and comments that definitely have the gray matter working over time.
In one of his latest posts (as of this writing), JB discusses returning to West End Games' 1st Edition Star Wars D6, which as some of you may know is one of my all time favorite RPGs and perhaps my favorite game system-wise. However, and you may want to be seated for this Barking Alien fans, he wants to redo the mechanics to use multiple, polyhedral dice.
After getting over my initial shock and disgust, I experienced further shock and disgust. Why not paint over the Mona Lisa? Make an anchovy cream pie why dotcha? Replace those classic blue jeans with polka-dots on plaid while you're at it!
At the same time, aren't I doing the exact same thing with The Dungeon Experiment?
I am putting together a 2D6 based, level-less, Medieval Fantasy RPG with Species and Classes, very different Magic, very different combat, and basically being just as sacrilegious to Dungeon and Dragons as JB is being to Star Wars D6.
Well...no. At least not to me. In my view there is a big difference.
I am not trying to make a 2D6 Dungeons and Dragons. I am not taking the game of D&D and changing things so it only runs on D6s. What I am trying to do is put together a Medieval Fantasy game reminiscent of D&D that is heavily influenced by Western Fantasy Anime and Manga from Japan. Also, I found F.A.R.M. Champions, a game whose creators seem to have had a very similar goal in mind, so really I am making modifications to that game to get it even closer to my vision.
Trying to deconstruct Dungeons and Dragons and then rebuild it as a D6 based game sounds like a lot of work and it's work that I don't think would guarantee the results I want at the end. It might use my preferred die type but if it's still just D&D when the dust clears then I will have failed in my mission.
Altering the simple and super functional D6 System used for Star Wars to (What is in my opinion) the much more cumbersome use of everything from the limited D4 to the very swingy D20 seems extraordinarily strange to me. Counter-intuitive even. I just don't see the point in it but to each their own.
When I brought this up, one of the things JB noted was - and this is the bit that prompted this post - and I quote, 'there's no particular dice type that is inherent to Star Wars or space opera.'
Right...huh? Oh course there isn't. There isn't any die type or rule system that is inherent to any genre and vice versa. Genre itself has nothing to do with mechanics at all. Why even bring this up?
Then I noticed it wasn't the first time JB had mentioned this or something like it. In a response to a comment I made regarding how my buddy used to run our old Champions campaign JD stated, 'Sounds like the players had a lot of narrative authority in play. Is that standard in a HERO system game?'
Again, the question strikes me as very peculiar. What does the system have to do with Player Agency? Sure, some rule sets encourage or discourage Player Agency and creativity to some degree but whether or not a GM gives players narrative authority in their game is dependent on the GM and their style of play. Barring modern Indie RPGs where a particular style of play and the way you interact with it is intrinsic to the game's design, most RPGs are systems of mechanics, a genre and/or setting, but how you use it is on you. No?
This connection between Rules and How the Game is Played is something that has always fascinated me. I am a firm believer in the fact that the uses and abuses of D&D that put me off to the game aren't necessarily the fault of bad Gamemasters but rather components built into the very fabric of the game. Things that plague D&D games such as Min-maxing, Munchinkin-ism, Rules Lawyers, Railroading, and the quintessential Murderhobo pop up much less often in other RPGs in my experience.
Likewise, the reason I play so many different systems is that each - if done right IMHO - gives a different feel and it is that feel you want for that game. Case in point, my favorite of all gaming subjects, Star Trek. Each incarnation of the game feels slightly different, though all cover an aspect of the atmosphere of Star Trek the franchise.
FASA Star Trek was, like many of its fans, very interested in the fine details and minutiae of the Star Trek universe. The game was designed to let you create and run a crew and ship of Starfleet, Klingon, or other peoples who explored space and encountered new life forms and ancient mysteries. This wasn't a game about a TV show. This was an RPG about a living, breathing universe that made it's own internal sense. One the various television shows and movies allowed us to view.
Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek game was similar, though often a bit more tongue-in-cheek. A little mind you; not overly so. It was definitely a universe and your character was definitely a being living in it but *Wink* - Shhh (beckons you over while checking to see if anyone else is listening) - it's all based on a TV franchise. *Wink. Wink* Pretend you don't know that.
Star Trek Adventures by Modiphius Entertainment has a very different feel and vibe from the other two. Here, you are creating characters for a Star Trek TV series. In my head canon each group's campaign has its own Facebook, Twitter, and webpage put out by Paramount/CBS. Things work the way that would on a show far more than how they would work in a Science Fiction universe, let alone in reality.
However, this all reflects setting or type of game and game mechanics. Not genre. Nothing about this is connected to genre per se.
Going back to the questions and ideas that started me thinking about this, does a Fantasy RPG NEED Races and Classes? No, Ars Magica doesn't really have that. Do Superhero games require a certain type of mechanic? No. They need to have rules for things you'd see in the Superhero genre, though Champions does this and so does Kapow! and they couldn't be more different mechanically.
Is any genre or setting directly tied to any sort of mechanic? I would generally say no. Certain specific settings obviously benefit from certain mechanics designed to reinforce the way the reality of that setting works.
If you want a game that resembles a TV Soap Opera, I would imagine that rules for creating or determining your connection to the other PCs would be important. In Fantasy games the rules you have regarding Magic will greatly influence how Magic is used and perceived. ALIEN has a wonderful Stress and Panic system, perfect for a game set in space, where no one can hear you scream and you and your companions freak out over the unknown. As I've mentioned, a close look at this led me to use the ALIEN system for the Sci-Fi Comedy Red Dwarf, which oddly works in a very similar way.
Anyway, this ended up somewhere between a thought exercise and a tangent and I'm not sure I came to any great epiphanies or conclusions. I suppose my final word on the subject for now is let the fluff match the crunch and vice versa and achieve that by any means you see fit. The only rules that are wrong for a given genre are the ones you can't make work.
I hope that both JB and the view public out there understand I am not picking on him. Quite the contrary! He made me think about this and for that I am thankful. I am very eager to see where he goes with his Star Wars DEverything system. I want to know not only how it will work but why it works better for him (and perhaps others) than the classic version. Go check out his blog and wish him luck!
Now back to slaying goblins and eating meals made from monsters...