Monday, January 28, 2013

Do RPGs share the same fate as stars?

The more I read into this month's Legend and Lore the more I ask myself if D&D Next will implode itself into a black hole. Is WotC "nuclear fuel" running out and will all the piling of extra features be too much for a suffering core system to handle?

As I read more and more of Mike Mearls' Legend and Lore series this month I can't see another way out. The opening article of his D&D Next design goals series sounded pretty much like last year's D&D Next launch article. His latest article posted today doesn't bring anything refreshingly new to the table and does add a great deal of extra baggage.

It's easy to do more with more, and that's what D&D Next promises. More rules, more additions, more this and more that. What I want is a game that allows me to do more with less. Less rules, less tables, less reading necessary for play. I said this a few months ago: I have the money, but I don't have the time. Give me something I'll pay for to get playing now, not in three months when I finish reading the books.

Now some may say that's what the basic version of D&D is for, and I'd agree, except for one thing: it's still d20. There are many who will say D&D is d20, myself included. I can't imagine D&D without d20, but I also can't imagine more complex rules based on the linear probability curve of the d20. It is my strong belief that the more stuff you pile on top of d20 to go from basic to standard and later on to advanced, the more prone to having the whole thing collapse. The d20 system is good, but it doesn't have that punch, that "nuclear fuel" that can power a bigger star. Without the outward pressure of a hotter more intense core a bigger star just collapses into a black whole. Will this be Next's fate?

It is my opinion that WotC should break away from d20, as much as that may hurt, and step away from that reductionist design methodology they love to use. The one that justifies all those rule books they love to print. Instead they should use simpler rules which interact with each other in a way that produces emergence in the game. That means simple rules that lead to complex patterns emerging instead of endless rule books that try to describe those complex patterns.

Finally I'd like to add, please, do not make two distinct rule sets. Sadly he's hinting at it when he says:

"Options in the final category—ones that alter the core in a fundamental way—are best used one at a time or with careful consideration for their interaction. Since they alter the core, they might not work well together. When we design them, we'll always assume that they are the lone, engine-altering option you're using. That path allows us to keep our sanity and also makes it more practical to implement such rules. A hit location table is one thing, but making one that also accounts for armor as damage reduction requires far more work."

I read it the following way : "We're aware all the other stuff (basic and standard) might not be enough and actually slow down play as more and more 'modules' are added, so we'll include some grass root changes to the game we really don't care to playtest too much, so use at your own risk since we evaluated them as 'stand alone' only, good luck."

They should make Next be "Next", something really new that moves away from classic D&D. For those of us who like d20, they should have reprints and be done with it. To do otherwise they risk ending up with a system "contaminated" with the past and without sufficiently new stuff to compel current players to buy the new edition.

Is this a D&D Next only issue or do you think other games suffer the same fate as their "novelty" runs out? What's the fix?

Post a Comment