Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Fantasy Game

You might have heard this question once or twice (or countless times): do we have too many sets of old school rules being produced? My own head swings indecisively back in forth between “yes, please by all that's unholy stop the madness” and “let a hundred flowers bloom” positions.

Sifting through the massed ranks of posts from the cutting room floor (discussed yesterday), it surprised me--given that ambivalence--to remember that six months back I was thinking of synthesizing a number of the subsystems I had been jacking around with on this blog into an unholy beast of my own.

Like the Domain Game, the Fantasy Game (yes, as Jim the Wampus noticed yesterday the tongue-in-cheek working title was based on the likely apocryphal story about D&D's own working title) was supposed to be less about being a complete system—that likely no one would ever play—but a collection of variant sections that could be plopped piece by piece into someone's campaign.

After yesterday's round of input, I had thought I would clean it up and post as something fully digestable. Memory, though, is a funny thing. Not only do I not remember where some of the ideas were going, truth be told, I didn't even remember typing this out when I rediscovered yesterday.

So instead of a bang-you-over-the-head complete vision, here's a gamble and experiment on my part that can be taken in two ways by a reader: 1. a window into how game design ideas can develop in different tracks over time on a blog (you'll see my bracketed comments from this morning interspersed); or 2. an “open source” outline of a project which you can feel free to add, subtract, modify, riff, comment, or (more likely) ignore completely.

Alternative character generation system
    1. Quasi-Traveller, background and event-oriented though, not adult career. Childhood and young adulthood events determine dice pool for attributes. [This system was realized here]
    2. Players have choice of background (urban, rural, barbarian, demi-human, exotic) [Brad of Skull Crushing for Justice has been developing something along these lines.]
    3. Random equipment table option [modified from my LotFP one]
    4. All characters with INT 15 or over start with one cantrip (0-level Magic-User spell)
    5. All characters with WIS 15 or over start with one orison (0-level Cleric spell) [I had helped develop some old school-feeling 0-level spells for Basic Fantasy RPG around this time.]
Alternative class advancement
      1. Characters start at 0-level. Neutral alignment, chain armor max, only weapons that do d6 max, d6 hit points.
      2. First level obtained at 200 experience points. In consultation with GM (based on performance), player picks class and alignment.
      3. First level characters can only be picked from the standard Basic or OD&D classes.
      4. At 4th level player can choose to continue in standard class or pick a new sub-class that the PC qualifies for [Thinking on split classes progressed here.]
      5. At 5th level the PC can choose to start a career in a “leader set” class.
Each sub-class would add a certain amount of exp to level advancement. Maybe same for all classes or each parent class. Each subclass would have new abilities and some restrictions.

Champion/Noble Warrior
Beast Master

Rune Caster
Witch Hunter

Magic User
Elemental College (Fire, Earth, Water, or Air)
Black mage


Leader Set Class
War Lord
Spy Master
High Priest
Merchant Prince
Guild Master
Court Mage

Optional game play mode in which campaign can be played between two different sets of PCs in alternating sessions.

Typical adventurer set. Played as normal D&D. Footloose characters who will occasionally work for the second set

Leader set. PCs start as leader level class: military, noble, religious, wizard, guildmaster, gang leader, merchant prince, barbarian leader etc. PCs create missions and design/build locales that the other set can play in. Gameplay more similar to Birthright, but with less abstraction [Domain Game grew up out of this germinal].

  1. Adventures limited to one season per year.
  2. Charts or mini-games for: Matters of the Heart, Wee Ones and Family Relations, Business Investments, Research and Training, Religious and Arcane Affairs.


  1. Hey, hey I called it for once!!

    One thing I enjoy about this blog is that there always feels like a trajectory with your ideas. I feel like you have been poking around the edges of the power arc for player characters for a while. Neat to see you extend it downwards to the lower and middle levels from the heights of your kingdom-ruling rules. I was eager to hear about the split class business. Maybe I will take your bait and type up my own screwball rules on here later.

  2. Yes please do. I should note to you and others that this doesn't mean I am wandering off the reservation in regards to the Domain Game, that remains my main priority as a project.

  3. Approaching these things as optional pieces that could be dropped into an existing game would be fantastic. We have plenty of chassis, but people can always fiddle-about with the body, chrome, etc.