This is how I Role: Game Start!
Doom. I don’t put that in italics just to adhere with the End Gamers’ style guide; this game is amazing. In the first level you learn everything you need to know to play the game without annoying pop up messages, tutorial sequences, or NPCs breaking character by explaining the controls. There are little items on the ground you can pick up: check. All of the doors look like doors and all the switches look like switches, and they do something when you press space: check. You shoot the enemies until they die: check. It has a strong focus on level design, and its level design is strong. All of the monsters are unique, and all of the weapons have their use. Ammo placement is very careful, and sometimes you’re forced to prefer certain weapons or conserve ammo. Picking up certain items will open up rooms full of monsters waiting to kill you. Everything is very fast, very exciting, and very well planned out.
And the map for each level… When you look at it, doesn’t it look kind of like a dungeon map for a pen and paper RPG? No, this isn’t going to be a videogame review. It looks like End Gamers is trying to bring in some pen and paper RPG columnists, and that’s what I’m here for. I’ve been playing pen and paper RPGs for about ten years now, mostly Dungeons and Dragons. My first campaign was The Sunless Citadel, and my family, who played D&D enough to spend a fair deal of money on it, decided to teach me to play D&D by letting me play the NPC Meepo. We went through the campaign and by the end of it I took my first character level as a Rogue.
Through lots of different campaigns I was the party lockpick, sleuth, ninja assassin, ogre slayer… Wait. That last part seems really out of place for a Rogue. Isn’t a Rogue supposed to be disabling traps and picking locks, in the sidelines sniping during combat, behind the scenes and in the shadows? If I’m able to turn that into a full on combat class, what is the point of a class system in Dungeons and Dragons? It seems to me that the class system is either limiting or unnecessary, and could be replaced by a generic leveling system and some slightly heavier DM discretion. A good plus of the restrictions of a class system is that parties can be organized into effective groups with more ease than a generic leveling system, and it helps to guide players along a path they might enjoy. Besides, players or the DM can construct their own classes when necessary. But class prototyping would be faster with a generic class system, and players can discuss class choices with the DM and the other players to determine party formation.
This sort of discussion is going to be a little bit of what I’ll write about. The real point is to sort out my thoughts about a game system I’m writing alongside a campaign setting for my players. I want to do this partly to say I did, partly to fill a gap I feel exists in game systems out today, and partly to fill that gap with a system that fits very tightly with a campaign setting of my own design. I’m going to write about the rules and my thoughts before and about them; ideas for the campaign setting, characters, monsters; and level design and session recounts for when I start running the system and campaign setting in some months. I also hope for feedback, because I’m not good at knowing what people who aren’t me might think, and it’d probably be a bad thing for players to hear everything about any of the stages of development.
My goals for this game are to create an immersive campaign powered by a simple, easy to learn and play rule set that feels like a game. The rules should be predictable and have no special cases when possible, and everything should be perfectly balanced in a way that’s mathematically provable. The setting should be original and contribute something to the fantasy setting genre, and should be detailed enough to give players a character they enjoy playing in a world they enjoy interacting with.
Next week I’ll write about magic in role playing game campaign settings. What is your favorite magic system in tabletop role playing games, and what is your favorite treatment of magic in fiction? Speak some magic words in the forums!