Ever wanted to watch someone make a game?Well that’s what I’m going to do here. I’ve made a few homebrews and I’ve learned a little each time. I thought it might be a fun exercise to show my process here and let my readers follow along. The theme of 2020 for this blog is: “Fail Faster”. That means more updates, pushing out unfinished prototypes, and engaging in public feedback.
What follows are some notes on how I would run a homebrew dungeon crawl if called upon the do so again (and I will be). I like D&D but there are many aspects that are not quite to my taste. This homebrew is going to have a lot of similarities with Basic Roleplaying/Runequest but with some fixes that cater it to some narrative sensibilities I picked up from Fate and Cypher system.
The choice of BRP as a base is because I enjoy it as a system. If this grows beyond a personal homebrew, one of two things might happen. One is that by the time I’m done with it, it might look so different from BRP that it’s legitimately a new game not just a derivative work. Two is it might look a lot like BRP (at least as much as Unknown Armies does) and I attempt to license it with Chaosium (they don’t have an OGL to my knowledge). I expect the finished product to look a lot like d100 Fate So if that sounds like your mug of ale, have a seat and let’s get started.
Let’s start out with some general principles I’m going to follow as I create this homebrew. This is what is known in the biz as a game design bible.
D&D Problems to Fix
- HP inflation. Characters should get better at avoiding damage not at taking it.
- General power creep
- Extensive book lookups. Everyone at the table needs a copy of the PHB.
- Obsession over character builds
- Similar race/class combinations feeling samey.
- Armor makes characters harder to hit whereas it should absorb damage instead.
- Zero HP should mean dead, not “I’m not dead yet!”
- Defenses (AC) are mostly passive and don’t hinge on the PCs actions.
BRP/RQ Problems to Fix
- Because of the limited character options, characters can end up not feeling special enough for high fantasy, although this is also a feature of the system permitting few book lookups and quicker chargen.
- Higher math can mean it takes longer to distribute points at chargen.
- Some versions of BRP don’t have enough differentiation between degrees of success. The version I’ll cleave closest to is Call of Cthulhu 7th edition which by and large solves these problems.
- The Big Gold Book isn’t a complete system. It’s a toolkit. This homebrew should be a complete system that can be tweaked.
- Combat can be a slog because a successful hit can be canceled by a successful dodge.
General Design Goals
- Allow GM latitude in determining how to adjudicate any given conflict
- Give the GM the option to roll, but also the option to go player facing without too much conceptual whiplash.
- Make characters distinct and special feeling while not requiring too many book lookups and not taking a tremendous amount of time for chargen. I’m looking for chargen to take from 15 to 30 minutes at the outside for someone familiar with the system.
- Allow players to define their own abilities without as much squishiness as something like Fate or HeroQuest. I’m thinking of something like Unknown Armies skills or maybe closer to Barbarians of Lemuria careers.
- This post is a living document. It might change as I refine my thoughts.
- I’m not going to slow down much to explain various systems. Some familiarity with the games mentioned is required to fully understand what I’m going for.
- I’m not going to achieve all my design goals. Compromises will be made. Design goals will be abandoned. I will fail to achieve everything but I will achieve something.
- You (yes you!) are encouraged to follow along and to say what you think. This isn’t a “crowdsourced” game design, but feedback is always appreciated. And I will respond to as many comments as I can.
Till we meet again (spoiler: it’s next week’s post) tell good stories together.