Friday, December 25, 2015

Single-book systems

As much as I enjoy leafing through my AD&D 2nd Edition core books, I can't help but acknowledge that a huge part of the appeal of B/X is its compactness. I put the character sheets, scratch paper, and my notes (typed or hand-written) into my large zippered binder, slot the Moldvay Basic Rulebook right next to them (thank goodness they drilled holes in it!), and I'm ready to go. This is a lot harder to do when there are one to three hardcover books involved, although I could manage if I were a player in a 2nd Edition game.

(Speaking of which, I really want to get a hold of one of those "Player Packs" they came out with for 2e. These were a plastic clamshell case with a handle - much like my old Lego boxes - that included a set of dice, pencils, character sheets, and miniatures, and were designed to hold a copy of the Player's Handbook in the lid. Anyone else want one?)

Anyone? Come on!
Back on topic, I'm beginning to see the value in having all of the rules in a single volume. The best example I can find of this is the almighty Rules Cyclopedia, which I still hold hopes of obtaining in like-new condition. Nowadays, though, I'm thinking of making my own, as Timothy S. Brannan has explained how he did so on his blog. Seriously, standard classes, supplementary classes, an entirely optional skill system, a list of classic monsters not included in B/X, rules for high-level play (i.e., what your character does when they get tired of flipping dungeons and crawling around hexes)... the only thing missing from this is the level titles. And if I decide that the game gets too unbalanced after passing out of the B/X level range, I can always just use my DM powers and set a level cap of 14.

Should I ever decide to escape the gravitational pull of the D&D brand, I have one of two major options that I would seriously consider (aside from Basic Fantasy, which is a fantastic modernization of B/X in my opinion - to the point that I'm considering shelling out the $15 for the hardcover in case my $5 perfect-bound copy gives up the ghost). The first is Prince Valiant: The Storytelling Game, which I have finally managed to obtain in PDF form, in English. The upsides: simple system, can easily replace the coins with dice, suitable for play with all ages (in case I ever have young ones of my own interested in gaming). The downsides: limitations on player agency written into the rules, limited magic (which might not be a bad thing in all cases, but it'd take some getting used to), inherent limitations on female players. The latter is a characteristic of the time period in which it's set, not entirely the game's fault, but it's still annoying.

The other option I'm thinking of is Halberd, a free RPG by Scott Malthouse that I got a few years ago, but didn't seriously read through until recently. The upsides: brilliantly simple rules system (even more so than PV), ultra-short length, flexibility in creating character classes and races, one of the coolest rules-light magic systems I've ever seen. (Also, the illustration of a druid PC looks a lot like my friend who always plays druids; on that note, happy Yule!) The downsides: no pre-made monsters, it's not D&D. I strongly urge anyone reading this to check it out.

Sorry I don't have a satisfying conclusion to this post; like most of mine, it's written off-the-cuff, just to get my ideas out into the blogosphere.

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