Dungeons and Dragons has shaped the way that roleplaying has developed. We can’t ignore that. It’s part of the reason that games are inherently simulationist in some fashion; we simulate a character’s abilities in a real-like world (skills, damage, ability scores, etc) rather than their effect on a story or their role in a party. That is, itself, left over from earlier war games that shaped D&D, but it’s something we can’t ignore. While this version of the game is much more about storytelling and engendering a roleplaying environment, it is still a Dungeons and Dragons game and will have a lot more to do with combat than most other things.

Which brings us to skills; how do we make a system that is both more complete than “NonWeapon Proficiencies with Difficulty Number” but isn’t needlessly complex or require tons of bookkeeping?

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Occupational Theory

March 11, 2017

So I’ve got a few ideas for what Occupations should do for their half of Origin. Part of it is inspired by D&D5’s kind of ideal of how a class starts, and part of it borrows the Backgrounds from the same. It’s definitely more than that, though, I think and I’d like to call it “Background” but I’m afraid of calling it something that’d conflict with another system that’s copyrighted. Maybe History? I’m not sure. Anyway, let’s get into this.

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Race Relations

March 8, 2017

So lets dig in deep in our races. We’ve got 8, a full compliment of “pretty” and “monster” races, just like World of Warcraft!

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On the Origin of Races

February 23, 2017

This is a…big question. Namely, what role do races play in D&D and how do we do them right? This is especially complicated by the fact that “race” doesn’t mean just heritage in D&D, it’s historically also meant cultural history. As an example, an Orc might have Darkvision in D&D thanks to being born an Orc, but an Elf isn’t genetically or magically gifted with proficiency with Longswords and Long Bows. That’s training. With the Dwarf and Halfling benefits to fighting giants, that was explicitly spelled out – children of those communities gain training in fighting giants.

Since you can’t call a product of training “racial traits”, since there’s no factor of birth there, I think we’ve got to split race in half – Heritage, the people you are born to, and Past, the culture you were raised in. Combined, these are, to borrow from Dragon Age, a character’s Origin. They tell us what kind of Hero the character can become, or at least where they’re coming from.

This also makes it easier to expand races dramatically since we’ve got two small things that combine into a huge number of potential “races”. Now, how do we balance them?

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We’ve examined those who use their Strength to Fight. We’ve looked at those who use their Dexterity for Rogueish ends. We’ve seen what the Brawlers can deal with because of their powerful Constitutions. We’ve glanced into the magical worlds driven by the Arcanist’s Intelligence and harnessed by the Acolyte’s Wisdom.

But who tells the stories that we know these by? Who rallies the armies of the world and who keeps the team together? When you read about heroes who don’t fit into neat containers, heroes who seem to draw many skills from many different places, they all started out somewhere. They were, at first, simple apprentices to someone. A budding Fighter, Rogue, Arcanist, Brawler, or Acolyte. When they reached the point where they could dedicate themselves fully to their skills, though, their talents pulled them elsewhere. They formed their abilities based on the mystical pull they have with their persona, the strength and flexibility they have threaded through their being.

They’re now Journeymen, walking the world and learning what they can to do what they can.

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A samurai plucks arrows from her quiver and looses them toward an enemy before her, peppering the vicious ogre before dropping from her horse, drawing her sword, and moving in for the kill.

Fighting for his life, the gladiator bashes the first swarming goblin with his shield then throws the shield at the next. His sword cleaves a third goblin as he picks up one of their crude spears and uses it to old the mass back as he figures out his next move.

Plumes of smoke erupt from the guns of the small band of musketeers, picking off the flanks of the advancing force of armored knights. They keep in formation, shooting and falling back, until finally the knights number less than they and their swords leap into their hands for the final struggle.

All of these are fighters. Each and every one of them. They all stem from a single, pure ideal. A fantasy of the warrior who is an expert in all forms of warfare and combat. In Dungeons and Dragons, we call that warrior The Fighter.

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To continue discussing the importance of the fantasy in D&D’s design, I’m going to focus on the classes and their impact both in the game and the world the game exists in. Part of the joy and draw of roleplaying games, especially pen and paper roleplaying games, is the theoretical depth of the world they exist in. There’s a living, breathing world behind the heroes’ actions. Since there is a living, breathing world, though, there has to be a place for the heroes’ skills, abilities, and histories in that world. They cannot be entirely divorced from the capabilities of the people around them, and they must represent their power in the story in the mechanics of the game (as the mechanics represent the “physics” of a world, in a way).

Unfortunately, Dungeons and Dragons has always failed on this measure in one way or another. Fifth Edition represents the biggest failure in this fashion.

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