On Dissatisfaction

So have you published your fantasy heartbreaker yet?

My first reaction at seeing a new set of core rules? Annoyance, disgust, eye rolling derision.

Most people are much worse writers then they think they are, and that goes to a hyperbolic degree more severe for game designers.

There are some that are excellent game designers but most are terrible. Also, we already have games that we play! As far as I'm concerned *Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition by Gary Gygax* is the best game ever! (Insert your own version between the stars). Other games are a waste of time - pointless!

And yet. . .

You see, I love AD&D, but my players - some just won't traffic with ThAC0 - even if the equation is hidden from them, races restrictions and level limits may bother them just too much even if they never actually end up happening in play, and truthfully as I run with more girls and fewer guys the intense subsystems can be a little overwhelming and more then they like to deal with.

So when you start trying to fix things and houserule, you find yourself having a difficulty with making this an environment that is conducive to reference (Yes, those are on the internet, we're using this from this book, and here's a new weapon price list) and one that is extremely intimidating for new players.

So you might set out to find something simpler. And then you start looking and nothing seems quite right. So you make a few changes, and since you're doing all this work anyway. . .

So, that's how it happens. Me? What am I looking for? Something simple for new players. A easier division of classes of warrior, mage, and specialist hybrid.Within those categories an infinite number of "classes", limited only by your imagination. Or my idealized five class system Fighter, Thief/Expert, Magic-User, Psionicist, and Alchemist. Though I'm set against creating or publishing a heart breaker I do have some things I'd like to see. Most of them hearken back to an earlier day in gaming history. . .

Any interest in a write up of some of these ideas?


  1. Sounds like T&T is the solution to your problem, bro. ;)

  2. It's taken years, but I've come to the conclusion that Thief/Expert/Specialist is simply shorthand for "not so great in a fight".

    There are really only two classes when it comes to combat: Fighter and magician. Plenty of variants of each of course (melee vs. ranged, clericish vs. wizard-ish).

    And, yes, there's more to D&D, or even dungeon delving in particular, than combat. The ability to find traps, etc. isn't chopped liver. But fighting is a significant and often highly anticipated part of the experience. And if a fight goes on for more than a couple rounds, who wants to be the guy who gets one good shot at the beginning and has a worse chance to hit later on.

    So one of the intents of my FHB is to split the combat utility and non-combat utility: Only two fighting classes (magic vs. fighting), and some other options to flesh out a character's non-combat side.

  3. So like me and publish a supplement for your preferred game. This also helps the game you like, since it will have more support for players.

    1. I do. I make them for 1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

  4. What's the difference between another set of core rules and offering up your house rules for us to be inspired by and steal from?

    Seems to me the parts of the rule book we don't need, like the inevitable 'what is roleplaying' can be avoided at the dear cost of the author's ego.

    On the other hand, you can take the attitude of a Quaker at one of their meetings and ask yourself if everyone needs to hear what you have to share. Is this set of rules really different from what else is out there?

    Apropos verification word: miness

  5. I just wrote a post wondering why we don't see more old-school classes around. I know class glut is undesirable, but I would like to see more experimentation with the basics. I'd love to see your Alchemist, and I dare your Psion not to suck ;) .

    1. I've already written him, there's a link over on the right. You can take a look here, Psionics.

      I'm pretty sure it doesn't suck.

  6. Yes of course we would like to see this.

    As someone who is working on my own players guide for exactly the reasons you mention, I completely understand why you would want to do so.

  7. I think the big divide concerns the AUDIENCE for a new core rules product. Newbies or grognards? Sure, for the latter, slogging through yet another "What is Roleplaying" section can be worse than a root canal. But for the former, it's nice to have it all in a nice, singular package.

    For example, the retro-game that I'm working on will indeed have a soup-to-nuts guide for players, with much of the introductory hoo-hah. I'm virtually certain that if I'm going to actually sit down at a table and GM again, it will be with coworkers and colleagues who have never played an RPG before. I hope they would appreciate having it all in one place. The fact that I'm also planning to distribute it on my blog to other old-school insiders is secondary. Take whatever fiddly bits you like, grognards. :-)

    FYI, last year I tried to make the case that the term "fantasy heartbreaker" is outmoded and is ripe for retiring. Short version: It's only "heartbreaking" if the author's goal was to hit it big and sell millions of copies. We're in the age of the long tail now!

  8. I like (and take myself) the modular approach. Publish a set of rules pages that can be taken separately as well as in entirety.

  9. Would love to see the stuff, yes!

  10. Sure I'm interested - there are good ideas to be stolen everywhere! I've also been looking for a set of rules that's simple enough that you can pick them up during play with minimal teaching, and that will just get out of the way thereafter. I fear the mystical point where this happens is unreachable, though: on the one hand you could just play "let's pretend" (which I've done quite a lot of and it works... up to a point), on the other it's nice, when you want to lend weight and meaning to your tactical decisions, to have some definite structure that you try to hack your way out of.

    On the "most people are terrible writers and worse game designers" front, it's funny how we're all such brilliant mash-up artists and such bad designers, isn't it?

  11. Richard: have you checked out Dungeon World? It does a good job of hitting that mystical sweet spot.

  12. Very interested, looking forward to it

  13. For the Fighter/Mage/Specialist trio, I'd recommend taking a peek at True20. It's a heavy re-work of the d20 rules by Green Ronin, and specifically only has those three classes (well, called Warrior/Adept/Expert). Distinction is still done through the skill/feat mechanics.

    There are a lot of parts of the system that aren't for me (like the magic system), and a few I need to actually play to grok (like the damage system), but it's very intriguing.

  14. I've been reading your blog from the beginning the past few days, to get my mindset straight for introducing my children and others to OSR; while I'd meant to wait until I caught up to throw out a thanks, I'll do that here:

    Thanks very much for *all* of this! The resources, thoughts, everything.

    because I was tickled at the picture accompanying the post - the original Hero's Quest (later renamed Quest For Glory) from Sierra, which I spent many an hour beating through with all 3 classes, plus a Fighter-Mage mix.

    As I recall, stats and skills in that game were improved by using them, practice making perfect, which would be interesting, if entirely too cumbersome, to see in a tabletop RPG.


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