Monday, March 15, 2010

Thinking About What Makes a Good Game

With the campaign that started this blog on hiatus, and my final year of school before taking on my new role as teacher making more and more demands on my time, I've decided to repurpose this blog for the time being into what it was already becoming anyway; a forum for my thoughts and ideas about game design (specifically, my game's design) and a place to post some idea that are being considered for my campaign world (the PHB of which I hope to finally finish this week).

So, to begin:

I LOVE the d20 system. I never wanted to like It, never wanted to have it replace my beloved AD&D, but it did, and I love it. I do not feel the same way about 4e, but that's because 4e is a steaming pile of offal, not a game.

The only problem I have with d20 is that it doesn't feel much like AD&D - it lacks the teamwork that comes from the earlier editions. There isn't much mechanical advantage to teamwork in 3.5, nor does the same appear to have been balanced around teamwork as the style of play. I'd like the game to have more options, to better support teamwork, and to allow the weird fantasy feel that I've come to associate with classic RPG fantasy, while keeping the incredible outrageousness that has come to typify the "Dungeonpunk" style that 3e introduced.

I mean, look at this:

That is legitimately cool - the classic party of adventurers in a group shot. That will probably become the cover for my Player's Guide, because it is exactly what I want the players to be - a group, a party. Not six lone wolf individuals that just happen to be travelling in the same direction for no appreciable reason.

At the same time, look at this:

THAT'S what a combat should feel like. This will probably be the cover to my Monstrous Manual, for the same reason. Adventuring is dangerous, and most of those that undertake it should have abbreviated lifespans. That's why adventurers don't run the world economy, and why there still are dungeons to explore and get treasure from - this isn't a career choice, it's an all-or-nothing gamble for wealth. Its a desperate attempt at the good life for the 99% of the world that will never see it any other way. It's also a gamble heavily weighted against the player. That's why most people stay at home and farm turnips.

Combat should have a definite Sword & Sorcery feel to it - cinematic, but not in the anime style. It should be gritty and intense, but I don't want to drag it down with too many complications. This game should be about options, not compulsory rules that make everything more difficult for no reason. "Realism," for lack of a better term, but not at the expense of playability. To that end, I want to make as many option available as I can, but I want to give each player a choice in whether or not to use them. There should be mechanical advantages to these options, but not using them shouldn't penalize the players either.

In short, I want a game that allows the players to have the maximum choices I can give them, without forcing them to accept the changes to the system all at once. The additional options should be common sense, or should FEEL optional.

Lastly, look at this:

In my mind, this is proof of concept for the Dungeonpunk style - Eberron may suck as a sandbox world (and it does), but it got the feel of the game right. Menace, activity, and the right combination of dark weirdness and exotic fantasticness that every D&D game should strive for.

It CAN be done. It just hasn't been done PROPERLY yet, not as I see it.

That's what AD20 is going to be - AD&D with 3e mechanics, heavily modified to bring it in line with the philosophy I've outlined here. If I stay true to the concept, it should produce a great game.

That's why I'm doing this, after all. To do it right by my vision. And that's what makes D20 so much better than the 2e or 4e systems. It's my vision that counts, not the vision of the designers. That's what should be true.

Time will tell. I'll keep everyone informed.