Let’s make an RPG: Part 1

May as well use that Tabletop Gaming category, right?

A noble band of four stalwart heroes

A noble band of four stalwart heroes

This is actually a project I’ve been on for several years.  And yes, like anybody else who has ever tried to make their own Dungeons and Dragons clone, the first draft was as unplayable as it was uninspired.

The second wasn’t much better.

But it’s been a couple of decades since then, I’ve played a few different systems, studied even more, and had a lot of fun in the meantime.  I think I may actually have a solid concept, for a change.

Step 1: Find a Focus

This should be the first stage of pretty much any creative project that gets past the initial stages of inspiration.  It’s all fine and good to just up and scribble out whatever comes to mind.  In fact, it’s beneficial during many stages, because the important part isn’t finding good ideas, it’s finding enough ideas.  Then figuring out which ones are good and distilling, focusing, and honing them together into a cohesive goal.

Not satanic, still a gateway drug.

Not satanic, still a gateway drug.

Like most Tabletop RP Gamers, I have played a LOT of Dungeons and Dragons.  In my case, almost exclusively 3.5, with just a touch of Pathfinder.  Like most of the DnD 3 generation, I looked at the 4.0 manuals and wasn’t thrilled with what I saw(Seriously, how do you take out the most interesting character alignments for both Villains AND Heroes!?), have a couple of favorite builds, and am prone to a bit more Munchkinism than is probably healthy.  I’ve also played some Palladium and World of Darkness and read manuals for about a dozen different settings and systems.

When putting together your own system, the temptation is often to make it MORE COMPLEX!  Dungeons and Dragons has 6 character stats.  Palladium has 7.  World of Darkness has 9!  Palladium has 2 types of health and armor, 3 if you include Megadamage.  World of Darkness has 3 different types of health point that all get combined in one unified system.  GURPS…

I confess, I’ve never actually played GURPS, though I almost got a chance recently.  What my current DM says is that it’s basically the Tabletop equivalent of Dwarf Fortress.

The thing is, I have a finite amount of time.  Paradoxically, when 40 hours of my week opened up, I actually had a net loss of free time, and what I do have rarely matches up with the people I like to hang out with in blocks of more than an hour or two, and we all know that the fun part of playing an RPG isn’t character creation.



All those stats and complexities?  They make Character creation take a LONG time.  There’s a reason so many modules and starter packs come with a pre-built party.  If you’re meeting for 2-4 hours a week, you either get really quick at rolling up new characters(I’m down to 2 hours for a DnD3.5 Monk if you don’t include items) or you spend a couple of sessions getting started, which in my experience has been just long enough for half the groups’ work and school schedules to change and now the whole group falls apart again.

BESM 3rd Edition

BESM 3rd Edition

There’s a system I’m fond of called Big Eyes, Small Mouth, the Anime Roleplaying System, or BESM for short, developed in 1997 by a group called the Guardians of Order based on their Tri-Stat system.  Because really, if you can describe a character using 3 stats, why do you need more?  The system is simple, generic, and versatile.

It’s also incredibly easy to break.  Oh, and Guardians of Order was bought out by White Wolf Publishing in 2006, the last version of their system was published early 2007, and then that entire branch of White Wolf was shut down shortly afterwards.  The $40 out-of-print 3rd Edition can now be had on Amazon for as low as $75, or on Ebay for the incredibly low price of $110.  Plus shipping.

But some of my wackiest hijinx came from BESM-based games, so we’re starting from there.

So our focus: Simple, Fast, Versatile.

Simple means that it’s not overly complicated.  I want one manual, which you can read through in an afternoon.  Not three elaborate tomes, each with 300 pages of tables and diagrams, and DEFINITELY not an entire library.

Who needs art skills when you have Google Image Search?

Who needs art skills when you have Google Image Search?

Fast means it’s not an immense waste of time.  I want to be able to jump straight into the game quickly.  Maybe before the character is even finished.

Versatile means we’re designing a SYSTEM, not a SETTING.  This is a downfall of several homebrew systems I’ve seen.  Any flavor the system brings to the table should be flexible and minimal.  We don’t want the trappings of the setting to get bogged down in the system of the game.(DnD is not a system, DnD is a setting.  D20 is a system.)

Oh, and I want to give it away for free.


4 thoughts on “Let’s make an RPG: Part 1

  1. Very interesting, I think you’ve hit the early hurdles of system tinkering/creating on the nose and for the nod to Tri-Stat. One thing I might add is make sure your idea for building a system is unique and unique for a reason. People, including D&D’s brand owners, have been trying to reinvent the wheel for 40 years with varied success.

  2. I’ll be the first to admit it’s not SUPER unique, more an attempt to revive and spread Tri-Stat with a couple of tweaks I thought it could use. And I thought I could make a little money on it.(If you’re wondering how I make money by giving something away… I’ll get to that.)

    There was a stage in my life where I wanted to learn as many different tabletop systems as I could find, but that was when I was working at a game shop. Nowadays I just want a system to hang the mechanics on, so that you don’t really notice it when you go in for the setting and feel. Tri-Stat was the most invisible system I’ve personally used, though I acknowledge there may be others out there that are better.

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