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Design Goals / Links to Discussion Topics

For Draz's rebuild of 3.5 D&D.

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Design Goals / Links to Discussion Topics

Postby Draz » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:11 am


So, like everyone else and their dog, there are some things about 3.5e D&D that don't quite satisfy me. When I sat down to create a campaign setting, I found myself making a set of houserules to make the game system more compatible with how I envisioned the game world working. And, well, things got a little out of hand.

To add to the craziness, this was about the same time that 4e was announced. Having been pleased, on the whole, by the 2e --> 3e transition back in the day, I was optimistic ... and then largely disappointed, as 4e, for all its virtues, turned out not to be all that similar to how I would have dreamed the game would evolve. This led me to be more reckless about how big and far-reaching I was willing to make my houserules.

Being something of a perfectionist, I don't know where to stop, and my creation has kept evolving until it hardly looks like 3.5e D&D anymore ...

RPG System Goals

  • Compared to something like The Burning Wheel or Risus, I'm still aiming for something pretty similar to D&D. Relatively rules-heavy, relatively "gamist" rather than "narrativist," relatively combat-focused, and so forth.
  • Still intended for heroic fantasy settings (though I'll be interested to see, eventually, if it can be adapted to e.g. horror fantasy). I still have a particular campaign setting in mind that I want to base on this ruleset, but as long as I'm doing all this work, I hope it can eventually be played in a variety of settings. A medium amount of magic -- not low-magic, but a little bit less than 3.5e -- is assumed.
  • Better balance of power between mechanical options.
  • Streamlined, faster play. Easier for newcomers to learn. Less bookkeeping for experienced players.
  • More able to simulate fantasy literature (other than literature that was specifically intended to be D&D-themed).
  • Better game design principles in general; for example, avoid encouraging "the 15-Minute Workday."
  • I was open to using a different die-rolling system than The Core d20 Mechanic; however, I haven't found an alternative that seems any more intuitive, flexible, or fast-paced, and at this point I don't think it's likely that I'll want to make a switch.
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Re: Design Goals

Postby Draz » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:12 am

Design Initiatives

1. Reduced Die Modifiers
In designing CRE8, I've looked at a number of other RPG systems as reference points. Pretty much every rules-heavy system I've found, from Unisystem/Witchcraft to Fax's ambitious and excellent d20r project, has one big thing in common: a large fraction of the mechanics deal with giving numerical bonuses to die rolls in certain situations.

But in the groups that I've played D&D with, keeping track of such die modifiers is a common source of slowdown that reduces my enjoyment of the game. (This gets my vote as the most true-to-real-D&D Order of the Stick strip of all time.)

So one of my goals in CRE8 -- in fact, I dare say it's become my flagship initiative -- is to get rid of situational or temporary die modifiers whenever possible. Abilities that e.g. add +2 to X save are still fine, as long as they apply all the time and can therefore be factored into the number written on your character sheet (and rarely altered). But +2 modifiers that last "until the end of your next turn" or "until the end of the encounter" or "against Enchantment-school spells" or "against Giants"? Defenestrate 'em.

I don't think I can eliminate situational die modifiers completely ... Circumstance bonuses/penalties should always be something allowed to the DM, and there are a few fundamental cases where I intend to make circumstance modifiers an important part of the system (e.g. flanking). But hopefully it can be kept to a minimum.

Here is a thread about alternative rules that will eliminate the need for many die-modifying abilities.

2. Level 8 Cap
Many of the verisimilitude problems of D&D come about due to the large amount that basic character statistics scale in the course of 20 levels. This sort of thing would be a minimal problem if the most powerful characters were Level 8, however. So in CRE8, normal character progression is capped at that point. After that, characters can gradually become more versatile and even get some really crazy "epic" abilities, but the numerical progression of their basic abilities ceases.

3. Customizable "Class" Features
Is the Ranger class supposed to represent a warrior, who happens to have some useful skills on the side? Or is he a skillful character who happens to be OK at fighting, who should probably have Medium Attack Bonus and more powerful class features to compensate? Should he always have spellcasting built in, or should it be optional? These kinds of questions are grounds of eternal debate.

So I plan on letting individual "ranger" characters make these decisions for themselves. Your character's overall aptitudes are determined by her Kits, Feats, Talents, and to an extent, Skills.

4. Kill the "Christmas Tree Effect"
How many magic items does the hero of a non-D&D fantasy story own and carry? How many does a D&D character carry? Big difference, huh? I want to eliminate that, using an item attunement system.

5. Vitality/Injury Health System
Do Hit Points represent bodily damage, or just getting worn out in general? Is every "hit" in combat a real hit, and if so, why can the barbarian survive (and fight at full capacity!) with so many arrows sticking through his chest? I want to fix this system, make it clear what the DM should describe when a combat attack happens, and make the game marginally more lethal.

Or maybe less "lethal," technically ... because, as a side note, I'm revising the dying rules so that it's more common for creatures to be "out" but not dead. The realm where a good healer can still save them.

6. Abolish the 15-Minute Workday
Characters' only "daily" resource that recharges when they rest for a night is their Reserve Points. The ability to "go nova" and burn Reserve Points in combat will be limited. Hopefully this will encourage parties to keep going for quite a while continuously.

7. Momentum System
Abilities (other than spellcasting) that should be available to character often, but not at-will, are governed by the Momentum system. Think of it as a hybrid between an Action Points system and the Psionic Focus system from 3.5e.

8. The ever-controversial issue: Alignment
Instead of "Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos" ever appearing in the rules, I plan to include a Taint system. Things that are "extra-Evil," in some supernatural sense, will be represented by being Tainted. By making some simple adjustments to what is and isn't a source of Taint, it should be easy to adapt this system to either a very black-and-white objective campaign setting, or a more morally-gray campaign setting (which will be the default assumption).

(more to be added)
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Re: Design Goals

Postby Draz » Sun Jan 30, 2011 11:12 am

Discussion Topics

The remainder of this thread can be used for Q&A about the CRE8 system and its goals/direction as a whole.
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