An Epiphany- Where I’m Going With Game Mechanics and Systems

I’ve stated previously that Pathfinder (while I love it) just isn’t doing it for me lately. I find the large amount of crunch to be distracting and I’m tired of having TOO many options.

My friend Anarkeith recently posted the question to a email discussion group a few of us participate in:

Do players want their characters to have a mechanic that is unique, or nearly so, within the party? (Feel free to explain if there are other elements that are more important to you than character mechanics.)

It got me thinking about how I am currently feeling about mechanics and different systems. So here is my response:

All players want to feel like beautiful unique snowflakes, not just in their character personalities, but in the mechanics of it. Look at Pathfinder/3.5. How many different classes, variants, prestige classes, etc all came out to facilitate player uniqueness.

The truth though, is that mechanically (in my opinion), players really aren’t a beautiful and unique snowflake. There must be some semblance of balance and uniformity to the abilities to keep them in line with others.

I’ve also found that the ones that really try to have unique mechanics end up being really cumbersome because they have to create a new mechanic to make it work.

Some would point at the new Gunslinger coming out in Paizo’s Ultimate Combat and say, “see! This is unique! The grit mechanic is awesome!”

Well yes it is, but honestly it is just like the rage points mechanic for barbarian and for Rogue (during Beta).

Where I find the uniqueness really shines and comes through (and again this is all just my opinion) is in narration. That is something that Savage Worlds does with flying colors. 4 characters all have the “Bolt” spell, but each one can say it does something different through description. SW also allows for quick tweaking of the spells.

Want to do bolt that is ice natures and freeze opponents? Ok- you only do half damage. You want to do fire bolt and ignite people? Ok. It costs slightly more Power Points.

I prefer players to tell me how it is unique (which is one of the reason I’m not a fan of 4e since it is really done for you and most players just regurgitate what is on their power card).

This has been an issue that has been brewing in my brain for some time now and, ironically, ChattyDM voiced (eloquently) some of the issues that have been bubbling in my mind.

Where the Hell am I Going With This?!

I am tired of some of the gaming mechanics. I’m tired of constant rolls to determine the outcome of a scene or encounter (which is why I’ve Mouseguarded my Pathfinder games for some time now (here, here, here, here, and here).

If you’ve been following my blog at all, it’s pretty common knowledge that I’m in love with the AGE system. I think that it offers much of what I’m looking for in a system (I just wish the other two box sets were out already!).

I’m taking my love of 2 other simple and wonderful mechanics, Aspects (FATE) and Complications/Twists/Conditions (Mouse Guard), and merging them into Dragon Age. The system still remains what it is; uncomplicated, simple, and elegant.

I will blend the things I love that drive a story forward with player and GM narrative, and rewards the players for taking risks and actually doing more than just relying on skills and “what’s on the character sheet.”

I’ve mentioned, in passing, to my players, and I will have more of a talk with them on Sunday, that I am thinking of converting our Pirate game over to AGE from Pathfinder.

I love Pathfinder and 3.5. I just need a break. I don’t want a rule for every action and reaction. I don’t want spells that take a half a page to describe and possibly 3 or 4 rolls to just to see if it actually works.

I don’t need a million choices for classes, special abilities, spells, and skills right now with mechanics to back them all up strung over several tomes.

I want simple and compelling. That’s where I’m going. I will still play and run my beloved Pathfinder, but not for a bit (unless my players don’t want to convert).

Welcome to my Dragon Age.

Author: Mike Evans

I am a History major attending a community college until I can get more financial aid and attend a four year school. I am living in NJ with my girlfriend who is currently wrapping up on obtaining her PhD in Toxicology. I love Star Wars, Role-playing, video games, working out, reading, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend, dog (Perfect), and two kittens (Birch and Brambles). My main focus on this site will be my discussion of Role-playing games and ideas and hopefully contribute something worth a damn.

4 thoughts

  1. Right there with ya, mate. Though I’ve still not fully abandoned 4e. Based on the question you quoted, I’ve learned that some of my players have very different views towards mechanics than I do. So, in response, I’m blending rules like you are. Just in a different direction. I’m using 4e as the base, but replacing the powers with something very much like Dragon Age stunts. And I’m in the process of generating campaign-specific backgrounds (also Dragon Age-inspired), and will probably enlist my players to help write those using DA backgrounds as templates.

    Why not just play DA? I may yet reach that point. It’s possible this is a step towards that. For now I need a simpler system that is easy to prep for. 4e is easy to prep for, and the computer-based tools for it are evolving rapidly.

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