What I Did Wrong at D&D: In which the Problem Player is the GM

Been a while that I’ve written one of these. Not that I haven’t made mistakes, but they’ve all been small, piddly, water under the bridge stuff. I could make a list, but I’d be hard pressed to come up with it. That’s not the mistakes these articles are about.

WIDWADs are about sessions where I know I messed up royally but I’m not entirely sure how to run it better in the future. Talking (well, typing) through what I did might help you in future games, and it helps me sort everything out.

This weeks a doozy, because it deals with the hard questions: What is an RPG, what choices are players not allowed, and when is it wrong to not kill a character. Yeah. Strap in.

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Squad Based D&D

My brother Zaac had an idea, and I wanted to theorycraft it with the system I know best. His idea is that combat didn’t feel super real to him because solo heroes doesn’t make sense in a world as deadly as these game should suggest. To counter this, instead of playing as 1 hero, you play as a squad of, oh, let’s say 5. (Also, going to base things on Level 5 as well)

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RPG Design: Bypassing the pun title

Three points to talk about to day. “Should monsters roll for an attack?”, “Are these actually trees?”, and “Do items exist?”

I’ve run maybe two or three games by this point, using V1.4. And I’ve gotten some useful feedback that might involve me skipping publishing 1.5 and jump to 1.6, because the 1.5 rules are set in my head. But those aren’t the questions.

Should monsters roll for attack?

I like simplifying my life as a GM. I tried using 5e’s average damage once and got hooked. For years, the only damage die I would roll would be for a critical or a spell attack. Recently, I stopped having my monsters critical hit, which cuts out the more common die roll.  And Specialty suddenly has me rolling for attack, and then for damage, AND contemplating how to add a palatable version of initiative into the game. This feels like a slide backwards. I should be doing LESS work, not more.

So… I don’t know why I framed this as a question, as I know what I’m going to try.  I’ll try not rolling. My question is what do I do about dodges and fumbles, and well, making sure basic minions can get their licks in. Being able to abandon running monsters as a game and running it as a reaction and a movie might solve that problem.

Combining this with another rule I’m contemplating, my players might be in trouble.  Which is good, since they’ve been basically invulnerable so far.

Are these actually Trees?

Man, its hard to write these points when I’ve already figured out what I’m going to do. The problem is that Tech is SUPER good, as is Combat (previously Weapons). I don’t like the idea of skills that are always worth taking. Currently, Tech is one of those.

The solution is to make these not trees and build them like I have the force. There is a list of specialties, and a more generic for covering places you haven’t specialized. Which I did for the Force, and I’ll do for Tech, Pilot and Combat, looks like.

Now, the downside of this is we’ll probably lose Extension Dice. I don’t think it’s a big loss, but it is kinda sad? Rolling 3 dice as a default was kinda fun. (Not that *I* got to ever do it…) This will simplify the game a step, but not really noticeably, as it wasn’t a complicated step, I don’t think.

I call them “Blanket” Specialties in the doc. I’m not.. sparked by joy by the name, but I think it makes it better. And having it established in the rules will let me have things like Magic work easier, I think.

Truthfully, though, any skill worth expanding could be made into a blanket. I can see Scholar being a good candidate, but since no one’s really used it yet, I’m keeping it singular.

Do items exist?

Okay, this question sounds stupid without context, but it’s an important question. Really. I’ve used the phrase “Gygaxian complete” an article or three ago. While I know I need to define it more, I do know that having a robust system of currency and items to buy would be a big part of that.

However, I don’t WANT to do all that work. It’s a lot of work and if this is going to be a super flex game, where I have modules of different universe at the beck and call, I don’t want to design a currency for all of that.  I need something more abstract.

Hence: Accessories. A stupid name, I grant you, but powerful. It’s a specialty, except it provides no Stat Bonus. (which I’m sure will make stats MORE annoying to teach) And there’s a couple sub-items you can get. Look, it’ll be in the doc linked in the next section. That might be simpler.

Point of the matter is: Do items exist? Kind of? It depends what you mean by “Items.” How different is a Lightsaber to a blaster? Is there a plot difference between the Falcon and an X-Wing? What is a droid?

I still have no idea, but I’m closer.


This helped a lot, actually. These articles always do. Working my way through answering these questions for this solidified them in my head. As such, if you head over to the Forum, I’ve got a shiny new PDF with Version 1.5 up for your perusal.

Thank you for following along with this developer ramble.


RPG Design: The Empire (or whoever) Strikes Back

ah, we don’t even have to change that one!

The Proto-type game went reasonably well. Honestly, the things that were “eh” about it would have been things I could have predicted about that session, if I really had wanted to make some predictions. No-one read the rules, the game avoided combat like the plague, Character Creation took forever, Jedi and Sith in the same party proved to be a bad idea, and focusing on designing a game as opposed to prepping for the adventure wasn’t amazing.

In spite of all that (glossing over some good parts and players who were more prepared than I was) It was a blast, I learned a lot, and it seems my instincts were correct: I have a game with serious potential for a fun and flexibility.

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RPG Design: A New Scope

Hooray for pun titles.

Tomorrow is the prototype game. Today is my last day to get my PDF into my players hands before gameday. (Well, that was true when I wrote this. That was last night at time of print) And I have 2 parts of the doc that still need really figured out. How much can I skip and make this playable?

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RPG Design: Extend into Sith

I don’t know how coherent or helpful this series has been for others. I’m getting things out of it, but I don’t know how much disconnect has drifted in between my thoughts to what I’m doing  to what I’m writing here. I imagine there’s a bit, but I’m trying to build an elegant thought castle of a game, so please excuse the dirt in my DYI progress.

Today, we need to start talking about something I’ve been avoiding: Specialties. “But wait,” I here you ask.” haven’t we been talking about specialties this whole time?”

Well, yes, and also no.

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RPG Design: The Phantom Mechanic

Okay, so. With all of my discussion about D&D and spells and stuff, I was going to talk about converting the Specialties system and folding magic into it, but the presses on that concept need to stop, as we wrench into a different path. Turns out, I need a Star Wars RPG for the 26th of this month and for some reason, it makes the most sense to build one instead of trying to find one that has the bits I want.

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Expanding Specialties: Mysteries of Magic

Phase 1 of the Specialties system was “eh, basically,” accomplished before I knew I was doing things in phases. That was to build a rough framework for replacing skills and proficiencies. I still have a couple to squeeze into place, but that article I wrote last time covered the ground work.

Here in the second phase, my concern is with magic. I’ve discovered that the Specialty system will probably work really really well for my “Naked” D&D concept, a game of D&D without classes. But to really make that work, I have to figure our how magic works in such a world. And magic is hard.

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