So, one of those threads where folks argue about D&D ad nauseum has me thinking this evening. I took some of the day off today because i just wasn’t in the right headspace to do work on systems, and I realized a bit ago that one of my things is “what’s the difference between what I have created and 5e?”
So, here’s an attempt at figuring that out, lol.
The first thing — the key thing — is the design stipulation that no work from between 1920 and 1980 be used in the development of it. Everything else flowed from that central decision.
The I get to dive into the rules.
The first thing that strikes me is Ability Scores. I added some new Ability Skills (mostly based on old ones), moved some stuff around a little, and I used the Options from the DMG. THen I took Perception and made it its own score — covering both active and passive perception. Then I added Mana as a base score for magic, which is perhaps the most drastic thing — but in the end, that gies me nine scores.
Then I created derived scores that replace one existing ruleset around encumbrance, and that allow me to create situations and damage types that don’t kill a character, but still have a major impact (Heart, Vitality, and Psyche, which is the Psionics ability to match the magical one).
That’s really it. Net play impact on Ability scores? You have to be more careful and dump scores are way harder to justify. Oh, and I changed Intelligence to Knowledge.
Next up is Races. If I can’t have anything from between 1920 and 1980, that means I don’t have any Tolkien, so no long lived Elves or Dwarves. No hobbits/ halflings. Indeed, it pretty much erases the default existence of all the races in their current incarnations that are core races. So I created all of the from scratch, even the five kinds of human.
Then we have classes, and you can pretty much scratch everything about classes out. Easily the single largest change after Magic. No sub-classes. The creation of Aspects as a whole mechanism that takes advantage of the subclass/Feat system is part of that change, and is enormous.
yes, I re-skinned the coins, added one for an improved economics model more fitting to the world, and I adjusted the outfitting equipment tables to reflect that, and sure, I messed with weapons and weapon properties and Armor class of armor and made some changes there — but in all of those cases, it is more an add on to the system, instead of a take away from the system. Net play impact? Characters who choose to really do martial stuff can go deep with, those who don’t can play in it or can just use the weapon without the fancy features — but they can still use them. THis reflects the “Knowledge is power basis of the world as a whole.
Next is magic. Spell Points, an option in the book that is executed so poorly my players revolted and demanded I create new system. The biggest change, in my opinion, but really, it is in the foundations of magic, and it has to be because the overall design principle still applies, and that means Vancian magic is gone. It came out between 1920 and 1980.
So, aside from spell descriptions, I basically had to change the entire magic system and rebuild it to meet those spell descriptions to at least some level. Material components are only found in Rituals, All spells require energy. All spells have verbal and somatic components, so gag your magic user and jostle them. Damage is unified with spell level detering die size and caster level determining number of dice. I broke magic up into five kinds, and I reset the spell lists and I added a tone of elemental spells.
Net play change? Players may need two or three turns to cast a high level spell. Concentration is pretty much out. Resource management is more important. Casters can’t do a spell on the sly. Everyone has wild magic. Spell casting is more narrative, magic is more special.
Non-Weapon Proficiencies would be next, and there I took the existing system and gave it more oomph.
Creature Ratings are more transparent, more broad, and more precise.
Combat is not something I screwed with. But I did add additional action types, tie it to a 6 second interval, and basically it is all a little more crunch in the name of player options.
I did add a bunch of damage types, and a bunch of conditions, and I used those things in environmental stuff, where I expanded on exiting rules that still have mostly the same basic penalties or benefits. Very minor changes, and almost all of it gives more narrative weight or smooths over some challenges that might happen.
Monsters got 25 different types and I moved some of them around into new categories — and then added a bunch of monsters. THis is mostly to mess with the ways players think of things, but also because, again, the world is different, and that 1920 to 1980 thing. I mean, that nixes the Mummy movie, the original Dracula film, stuff like that. Oh, and a lot of monsters.
Magic items are basically the same, though the arrangement might be different, and I added a bunch there.
Mastery is a Wyrlde based mechanic that allows me to use Tiers of Play more effectively as drivers of role play and narrative while still empowering characters and players and driving immersion. Also a really handy way of assessing relative power without having to work hard, lol. But that was a happy accident, not a goal of design.
And that’s it. Yeah, I can add the experience point set up and the way I use milestones and hero points, or the fatigue system which is just a rescaled version of existing made simpler and used more.
Everything else is an add on to the existing system, or minor changes using existing mechanics. Crafting is an add on. Vehicle and mount and swimming, flying, and burrowing are all adaptations of existing mechanics with some minor add ons to improve play through narrative, build drama, or provide options to characters.
So, really, aside from Class and Magic, the game is still the same. Classes are localized, Aspects are part of that. Magic is, well, pretty much treated as the power to change the world that it is.
Yes, I use a dice chain as a secondary mechanic that enables players to tailor their spells and features to what they are doing. The new CR system allows me to scale a creature to make it stronger or weaker. The DM backside stuff is there to provide options, narrative, drama, and role play without making it a whole table nightmare fight.
I have over 2500 sessions of D&D’s worth of experience across over 40 years to draw on, and game mechanics from probably a hundred games — although I didn’t use any other game’s mechanics here in what I did, just D&D. If I got stuck, I referenced 1e and 2e things — mostly 1e.
So that’s first go round. I will need to bullet point it all out and all that stuff, but the essential stuff is all there, and that’s what I have done. My earlier post from today listed a bunch of things that folks have said are pet peeves, and lookie what I did before I even knew they were concerns of other people: I had solved most of them in some way.
Maybe not better than others, but still a solution.
Crafting is about the only thing that is a challenge, and that’s only because it interfaces with trade goods and economic engagement as well as coinage, skills, kits, tools, and some of the Aspects. But also because it was something I hadn’t looked at, hadn’t tackled.
A fifth of the Big Book is dedicated to each of the major elements: World, Character Creation, Aspects, Magic, Game Rules. And of them, the World is the smallest, lol.Probably why I keep thinking of little things to add to it.