About a month ago, I posited a question to my friend, Jeff, about an upcoming game he was putting together. The exchange was good, and Jeff explained his reasons well. If you want to look at the whole story, go here.
The discussion with Jeff prompted me to think about my own games and some of why I do what I do. Pondering such led me to think about a question which has been asked of me more than a few times before; “Why do I feel the need to create my own rules for most of the RPGs I run when there are hundreds of rules out there already?”
Yeah… why reinvent the wheel? Why make a new set of rules when Dungeons and Dragons is already out there? Or Champions/HERO? Or GURPS? Or (insert RPG here)?
I guess it’s for a number of reasons. Chief among them, I love to tinker with game mechanics. Always have and always will. Trouble is that I rarely finish anything in written form. For most of my games, the rules pretty much remain in my head. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse in that my players have almost no material to refer to when they have what should be an easy question to answer. It’s a blessing because some of my more rules-lawyer oriented players can’t bend words they don’t have access to, and are sort of forced into the wonder of the game.
That leads to another reason why I enjoy using rules of my own design; they fit the game I am trying to run better than anything else out there. See, I tend to run some pretty esoteric games. They may resemble the main genre on the surface, but somewhere along the line, I have really screwed with some genre convention or another that throws things out of whack.
For example, my current game (Tai’eres) looks to be pretty much a stock fantasy thing on the surface, just minus all the non-human races. So why not use D&D/D20? Simple, I have seriously screwed with the way magic is “supposed” to work in a straight genre high-fantasy game. That plus I think that D&D’s magic system sucks. I’m not going to go into why right now. It’s just my personal opinion. Does it work? Yes. Does it do what I need it do? Not in the slightest. See, Tai’eres was pretty much a magic-less world until the “Rain of Shards” occurred. These shards, dropped from the heavens, each contain some form of enchantment that is either mana-oriented, divinely-tuned, or spiritually-receptive. These crystals are rare and the enchantments they hold are pretty much self-contained.
What’s this mean in the game? Simple, since shards are rare, they are more valuable than gold. This scarcity and value makes them incredible adventure hooks and gives a spellcaster a reason to adventure. From a game balance standpoint, it means that my players do not have access to any spell that I don’t wish them to. I control the flow of magic. When my players come up with an idea for a new shard, I consider it. If I like the idea well enough, then I write it up and usually make them work for it by sticking it with some powerful shaman or in the treasure pile of some nasty critter. No, “I go buy a Fireball scroll” or other such non-sense. Maybe this makes me a control freak, but it also helps me keep my sanity in regards to the game.
Just some thoughts… RHM