On the Repeat of History

I think history is repeating itself.

If you'll bear with me here, I'm going to ramble a bit. Most of this is personal opinion and conjecture with, oh, absolutely nothing to back it up!

So the Old School Renaissance happened. People were like "Yay! Basic and Original style play!" and they all got together and anything went and we all played around with megadungeons and hexcrawls and FLAILSNAILS online.

And things were good.

But lately, I've noticed that a lot more Dungeon Masters are running closed campaigns, with rules about what you can bring, what can show up. Campaigns started as not FLAILSNAILS. Groups have split off, with regulars that play week after week.

Dungeon masters are concerned about the integrity of their game (YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT. . .). Systems in use are becoming more baroque and complicated.

What's next?

You see, this is what I think AD&D second edition got right. And I think it's where we are headed.

The cohesive setting.

You see, what rules and races and systems work for the HMS Apollyon don't work for +Numenhalla. The ones that work for Numenhalla don't work for Pahvelorn. The ones for Pahvelorn don't work for Cobalt Reach.

You see? The clones, they are all generic fantasy so played straight they all produce generic fantasy. What we really need are clones like Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea which gives us specific rules for a specific setting (Human variations only, sorcery leads to darkness and evil. . .). James Raggi must have ran into the same issue when he was struggling to add halflings, elves and dwarves to Lamentations of the Flame Princess ruleset that he uses to stage play on historical earth!

We don't need fewer clones, we need more! We need to be sick and tired of the conventional traditional-style clone. We need to be eager to write clones more freely as we wish. We need to produce works that become new genre in themselves.

The parallel that runs to second edition?

I see it. But this time, we'll be smarter about it. No fifteen pages of background information before a quest. No fake fiction. No assuming that everyone might be running some other optional rule-set. Just release a cohesive setting, with the world design in the class selection, equipment selection, mechanics, spells, and monster lists.

Every single one of us knows exactly how the hell to play Dungeons & Dragons. Let's share something more interesting than another generic set of rules with some houserules.

You might as well consider this an announcement of Perdition, coming soon.


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14 comments:

  1. You know, I came to a similar conclusion about a month ago. I was working on documenting all of my house-rules and I noticed a pattern: I had different house rules for different systems and different systems for different campaign settings. Once I realized that I focused on tailoring my house rules to fit the campaign and ended up moving a bunch of things around and getting rid of some. House rules that I really liked and worked really well in one place didn't work so well in other campaign worlds (or were just unused).

    The result is two sets of house rules nicely tied to my two different campaign worlds with a third set of miscellaneous rules that upon looking at them, might have the groundwork for an interesting campaign setting.

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    1. Interesting. When I started my blog, I was going to dissect some house rule documents and summaries circulating in the blogosphere and categorise the changes according to their intention (as I inferred it): some of them are there for personal taste ("2H sword does 2d6 damage instead of 1d10"), some for variety (new classes!), and some are very campaign specific.

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  2. Rules and setting are seperate things. I agree with well defined settings, a list of classes and creatures that dont work on that setting, but the rules should cover all settings if possible so the players can easily go from one to another (probably without their character).

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  3. id given up doing beginners or basic version of my dnd clone and have gone for two books with setting specific everything so i gues you must be right

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  4. I have no need and no interest in innumerable "Rule Sets." I don't need or want more Monster Manuals. I wish to the gods that people would stop creating/inventing new Prestige Classes and Feats.

    What about story advancement? No! NOT the introduction of "science." For most games, it's still "the year of our Lord 987," etc. In short, do your Super Villains EVER die? When are your Super Heroes EVER going to grow old?

    And by "story advancement" I do not mean leaving behind swords and inventing Colt .45's.

    There's never any story advancement, just new Rules -- there are already too many -- and new ways to Buff your character. Sad.

    That's just my opinion, but it's why I never bother myself with joining in on these conversations . . . as a (house) "rule."

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    1. Mystic Scholar, I think there may be some useful divisions to consider. I think that the set of rules and information on the setting provide a game group with a starting point, and the game group does the story advancement. I would not expect a product sold by a game company to do the continuity for me; that's up to my group and I to manage. If you let the game company advance the history, and the events don't match up with what you've been doing at home (how could they?) that's more valuable to a group that wants back story from previous versions, and to people who would rather read games than play them.

      I also think it is useful to draw a distinction between expanding a set of rules (with monsters, feats, classes, etc.) and a new rule set that is its own game. If someone makes a new game and puts it next to the one you are playing, they do not affect the game you are playing. Your protest seems to suggest that new rules for the game you are playing are easily confused with new RPGs.

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    2. Yeah, I think the point of the above, is that a setting is defined by what you leave out.

      Creating a concise rule-set that creates a specific setting, where everything is geared to the same thematic thrust of the game doesn't seem to be even tangentially related to whatever Mystic Scholar is on about.

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  5. I couldn't agree more. I would love to see more od&d style rules in setting boxes. ie. od&d rules tweaked to match and support the setting in the box.

    I want versions for an old world/Aztec game, for an Arabic game (like your picture), one for a god heavy Indian version and the list goes on.

    I am currently looking at ways to mix lotfp with new fire (http://www.newfirerpg.com/), but feel like I am going to lose the feel of new fire by using the classes the way they are just with name changes. So that leaves me with trying to write my own version of the lotfp rulebook .

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  6. I'm not entirely sure what you're specifically suggesting.

    Are you suggesting that game developers should focus on making games designed for a particular setting? Or that they should make setting supplements for existing games? Or make clones of existing games but refocused with a particular setting in mind? Or that they should do all of the above as opposed to striving to create the ultimate generic system?

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    1. I would say that the ultimate generic setting is generic which is sort of how D&D played straight is.

      Systems that claim to be generic and universal, aren't, because they specifically take the advice given in the article. You don't use every rule in GURPS, you select the ones that are appropriate for the setting you are running.

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    2. Oh! I see! So you're saying designers should strive to make their games/supplements with respect to setting rather than try to make a generic system with a generic setting, like the usual D&D affair. Developers should do this, even if it means making a clone of D&D with some changed mechanics unique to the campaign setting. A game like GURPs follows your advice because they're specifically designed to allow a GM to customize the game mechanics with respect to their campaign.

      Yeah, I totally agree! I tried making a 3.5E OGL clone when developing my campaign setting, but after gutting out all the spells, feats, skills, classes, and realizing I did not particularly like many of the more complicated rules, I decided to make my own system instead. I'm not sure of the wisdom in my decision.

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  7. Totally on board with this. Renaming my blog for this.

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  8. I think you have put your finger on my general discontent with several games that have been released lately. It is that strong sense of "what new are they bringing to the table that takes it someplace even slightly off where many other games are currently sitting."

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