Friday, October 5, 2012

Lingering Innovations: Magic Systems

Looking at this recent Legends & Lore column, it seems like we might get Spells & Magic style magic systems again in D&D Next.

This is a little disappointing to me. Primarily because the article seems to trumpet this as some major innovation: the DM gets to control the magic system. Magic systems are not really something new in D&D. We even see some similar ideas in the third edition Unearthed Arcana and SRD: both recharge magic and spell points.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Where's the writing on the wall?

So, I just got back from a tiny excursion to Rome. My head is bursting with ideas. But one of the big things I'm taking back from visiting those monuments is the use of writing in a D&D game. So often we ignore that list of languages and some skills like history or religion on a character sheet, when they could be constantly used for hints.

First off, if literacy is common in a game, there will be graffiti. Whoever made it to a fancy overlook or a cave mouth or a ruined monument is likely to at least write their name on the walls or door. Its really no different from how things work today. Most of it will be useless stuff (think: Thomas was here) but some of it could be warnings etched in stone or scribbled on scraps of parchment or broken pottery. A lack of graffiti is also a key sign that you're not in terra incognita. But being able to distinguish between graffiti written by the original inhabitants of a dwarven city and the orcish invaders might be a key hint as to what's up ahead, where treasure may or may not lie, etc.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rule of Law: Importing Eastern Ideas

Translating ideas from one culture to another can be difficult. Things don't match exactly, whether you're talking about words or institutions. But I think this can be done, and its one of my goals for the Rule of Law setting. To that end, I've been thinking about how a number of institutions from East Asian (mostly Japanese) culture could be imported into a western setting. I'm not looking to just add Samurai into a western setting, or to say that a game that uses Samurai and Ninja classes is bad. The goal of the Chinese Rome ideal is to translate concepts from a game I'm interested in playing into a language and milieu that some of my friends would be willing to do.

These are a few of the ideas that I think could fit:

Swords are restricted

One interesting and rather iconic era of Japanese history had strict arms control. That is, swords and other weapons were restricted to the higher casts. This would be an interesting import, as only citizens of the Empire or certain races might be allowed to use "real" weapons. Swords are restricted to nobles and warrior-caste types. Or, perhaps put otherwise, some races are banned from using swords: Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, Goblins, Orcs, etc. Dwarves might use axes and picks because they are their tools. Halflings would use sickles and staves because they're practical.  This restriction saw the rise of all types of non-weapon implements used as weapons in Japan. We don't need to import non-western weapons though. Rope weapons, sickles, scythes, flails... there are plenty of options in D&D without needing to borrow heavily from iconic eastern weapons.