June 8, 2009

Around 1998 or so, I was going to school in Vancouver BC. I alternated my gaming between an AD&D 2nd Edition group (about 1/2 POC) and playing with a homebrew game with a couple of classmates.

I don’t remember if I had a name for this homebrew at the time, but it was a fantasy heartbreaker reaction to D&D. It used a D10 roll equal or under kind of thing, and improving stats was all about using the skill/ability more often.

The “big” departures* from D&D at the time were:

a) stats leveled based on usage
b) injuries could be fatal easily, w/death spiral
c) magic was built on stacked effects
d) tactical options in combat were varied- there was a mechanical difference between fighting w/accuracy, blocking, parrying, or going for more damage.

Actually, that latter part became sort of the catchphrase of the game, I think mostly because people loved yelling “DAMAGE!”.

I remember the interesting thing was the way in which different players either picked up or got lost at the concept of being able to shape magic outside of a set spell list. One friend was constantly developing new ideas and the other players would ask, “How come you have all these spells?” and he’d reply, “Just think it up!” – sort of a similar problem I’ve seen in other abstracted magic games.

It’s interesting because I never really thought about even before I understood a lot of game theory that I knew instinctively that the answer was you needed different rules, not to simply ignore the ones you had.

(*I had a little knowledge of BRP by way of Elfquest and a tinge of Rolemaster, but another part of my design at the time was I wanted un-crunchy and elegant rules. The resolutions were quick and easy to work, but convoluted and counterintuitive to learn. In the end, the players understood the different actions had different effects, they just weren’t totally clear on how the procedures and math of it worked. Le sigh.)


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