August 5th, 2020


#RPGaDAY 5: Tribute

Day 5 of #RPGaDAY 2020. Today’s prompt is ‘Tribute’.

There is a wide variety of systems out there, that emphasize different things. Some are fast and easy, others really elaborate and intricate. It’s really cool to see how a system can support and enhance the themes of a game (it’s ‘vision’) — and sadly there are also games where there is a mis-match.
More and more systems are published with an ‘open’ license. This all took off in the D&D 3rd edition era with the Open Gaming License, but there are now more systems that have a ‘Systems Reference Document’ that you can use in your own games, with very permissible licenses. And that allows others to use and adapt those systems in their own games.

And some of those games could be considered a tribute to a much older game, which seeks to replicate the kinds of experiences people had in that game, but with a more streamlined system that cuts all the cruft.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, there was a real push to introduce lots of rules in RPGs to increase their ‘realism’. This gave rise to the so-called “Fantasy Heartbreaker”: attempts to basically make a “better D&D” by patching in your house rules. Most of these were unplayable messes if you were not at the table where these rules were invented and with the DM who invented them to explain them to you… Every once in a while, a new heartbreaker turns up on Kickstarter, but largely the market has moved on from that — and open rules systems make that possible and easy.
For instance, I had a lot of fun playing Rolemaster, even though it has a (not undeserved) reputation for being very complex. But the system supported things that D&D does not do very well. And now a group of designers and writers has banded together to create a more streamlined system that has its roots in the Rolemaster system. That’s really cool: it’ll make it possible to share those earlier modes of play with newer players without burdening them with all the superfluous intricacies of the old system. Rather than adding to the system that’s already there in an attempt to ‘improve’ on it, they take the essence of the experience of playing it, and re-imagine that in a more streamlined ruleset.
So instead of the experience of play being an emergent property of the rules, it is the other way around: the rules are designed to evoke a certain experience of play. I think that is the ultimate tribute.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.