Thursday, July 9, 2009

Why do I home-brew a game when there are other "Open" systems...

I have joined the RPG Bloggers Network.  There are some great blogs as part of this network, any time I had recently to collect my thoughts on my game has been devoted to mindless surfing these RPG Blogs.

My fascination with these other blogs is part of the same issue I have with using another game system, I am old.  In 1982 my father got a photocopied edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  I was able to look at it for one whole day before my parents discovered that it would turn me into a suicidal devil-worshiper so the "pirated" book was thrown out while I was at school.  But the damage was done, what little I had seen in that book was enough.  I wanted to play D&D but my parents would not have it, so I eventually acquired the contents of the Star Frontiers game box.

Always the oddball, I was forced to shun D&D (my parents opinion mattered, I was 8 to 10) and try to play Star Frontiers.  Most of my friends would rather play Atari, but I had a Commodore Vic 20.  Typical visits from friends went like this:
"Hey Chris, let's play D&D."
"I am not allowed, let's play Star Frontiers."
"What? Nevermind, let's play Atari."
"I don't have an Atari, we can play Vic 20.  I have a new math game I typed in from the back of a magazine."
"Nevermind, lets go ride our bikes."

It was not until 1986 that I actually played Star Frontiers with a neighbor.  I made up the rules because I still didn't understand the book but I loved the art in the book and the game world.  We had fun and played my made up rules a few times.  In 1989 a new kid moved to my school who had a ton of brothers.  Their house was like a toy store with the biggest collection of Legos outside of LegoLand.  They were playing the second edition version of D&D.  Ever the goofball I still shunned it for the sake of my mortal soul, but at this point there was no denying that I knew the rules and the classes and was able to play it.  I knew enough to understand that the rules for D&D had changed with the second edition, it seemed complicated then.

I eventually broke down and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons (second edition because no one had the first edition any more).  I liked it compared to the other Role Playing Games I was into (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG, Robotech RPG and eventually Rifts RPG - so, all the Palladium games).  D&D was so well organized it was beautiful.  You played a character for the long haul instead of just one time.  It was so well crafted and complex it was an art form, compared to the other games I was playing.

But there were problems.  Like most of the game systems of its time, what the character did outside of combat didn't matter at all.  When you added house rules, optional rules and supplements the people who wanted to "munchkin" their characters could do so in the most heinous ways (custom character classes where levels were 1xp each, I am looking right at you).  Most of all, I didn't always want to play sword, magic and get the treasure.  So I stopped playing D&D (I played GURPS instead but that is another story for another time).

In the years since, D&D has changed a lot.  During the resurgence of Role Playing Games in my life thanks to free efforts like FUDGE and the others, the Open Source mentality got into the Wizards of the Coast and they put the d20 system out under the Open Gaming License.  Now, back in 1992 I began this system I blog about and once the OGL/d20 was released quite a few people felt I should use that system.  Most of the homebrew web sites (before blogs there were forums and bulletin boards) had member populations moving to d20 in droves.  I resented Wizards of the Coast for that migration.  Overnight discussions of die rolling systems were replaced with what feats Neo would have in the Matrix and other stuff.  I moved on because in a wold of forum trolls and d20 fan boys there was no room to discuss my ideas.

To this day I have a mental block when it comes to the OGL, d20 or the new editions of D&D.  I have tried several times to "get it" but can't.  Now, I don't need another "but I'll teach you" session from a zealot who only wants to convert another person to the system.  I don't need a thinly veiled explanation of why d20 is superior to the system I am working on.  Maybe I do need young eyes to look at d20 and get excited, maybe even recapture the feeling I had when I looked at that photocopied book all those years ago.

But maybe I am too old and set in my ways to put my ideas in another framework.  My framework has developed over time and it fits the concepts I use when I run or play a game.  I am not sure what d20's roots are but they are not appealing to me.


  1. Hey Chris,

    The system you are working on, what kind of system is it? Is it crunchy, rules-lite, emphasis on role-playing, combat, magic/divinity, etc? Does your system come with a world or is it generic for the GM/Players to create by themsleves or together?

    Be interested in hear your ideas.


  2. Congrats on being part of the network. I look forward to hearing more about the game you're working on.

  3. It is a generic point-based rules-medium system. I use classic style dice rolls, but thanks to bad math you can use whatever dice are at hand (or even cards).

    The initial game world has me perplexed, in a future post I will discuss my options but there are three game worlds I'd like to present. The problem is picking one and spending an adequate time developing and documenting it.

    Thank you all for posting!

  4. I know exactly where you were coming from. I too started building a different system back in the 2e days, and never got into the d20, OGL, 3e ways. And, like you, I ended up here blogging about it.

    Best of luck! I look forward to reading your posts.


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