Saturday, May 30, 2009

RAB 5: "Dungeons and Christwagons"

In honor of getting back to D&D roots, here is my favorite characterization of D&D ever: Retarded Animal Babies 5: Dungeons and Christwagons.

RAB a little coarse, but insightful and eminently quotable. It also amazes me that the series (including all the voices) is constructed by one man. This is hosted on Newgrounds, which used to be described as "The problems of the future, today!" (which I still think is way better than their current "Everything by Everyone."), so you may feel like you need to shower afterward.

The End of Drudge

Today I decided to end my work on Drudge.

Drudge was my attempt to simplify D&D. Frequently, while playing D&D, I despair at the slow rate of combat and tedium of tracking countless modifiers. In those campaigns that I DM, my players (all 2 of them) are not very familiar with the rules, and so I end up tracking every modifier currently in play. In the one campaign where I was only a player, a single battle would take a full 3-hour gaming session. Even though the group was large--about 8 players--this still seemed excessive.

So, thinking about how to streamline D&D, I turned to Zludge. Zludge is my own custom RPG system based primarily on Fudge, but also pulling ideas from a great number of other systems. I've been working on the Drudge rules for over 15 months now.

But last night, I started looking through Green Ronin's Mutants and Masterminds again. Today, I read through the True20 Quickstart again. This is really d20 simplified, complete with a d20-to-True20 conversion document.

I realized that Drudge had really gone too far from d20 to be useful. While everything still converted from d20 in an easy mapping, everything had to be touched. Essentially, conversion became as much work as just re-imagining the same content from scratch in a completely different system. It was a weird, hybrid bastard that no one was ever going to use (possibly not even me).

But still, the exercise was not without its value. It's like learning how to write an operating system: no one's ever really going to use what you produce instead of Windows or even Linux, but it's essential to learning what goes into an OS. I still believe that, in a generic RPG system of my own design, feat and spell lists are something to avoid. They are too constraining while also require too much effort to construct and record. Instead, I think general rules and a purely skill-based system are the way to go. But stripping these out of d20, along with hit points and various die shapes (including the d20 itself!), leaves something largely unrecognizable behind.

Instead, I've realized I need something that cleanly translates. That means, all the 3.0/3.5 feats, spells, monsters, etc, need to translate over with very little effort. It's just the gameplay that needs to be tweaked. So I'm taking a lot of my Drudge work and trying something called z20: a hybridization of d20, Pathfinder, and True20--possibly with a few other odds and ends thrown in (such as from Castles and Crusades). I'm also giving up any notion that this would ever be widely (or even narrowly!) adopted by others. It'll just be my own construction of excessive house rules. Maybe then I can easily convert my many d20 campaigns, and recapture the joy of just playing again!