What are we looking at here? A good question. You know I was talking about having another crack at revising the Dragon Warriors system? More like completely rewriting it, in fact. It's a project I've returned to many times over the years, usually abandoned in short order as the need to actually crack on and run a fortnightly campaign gets in the way.
This time of going back to the well, I have a rules mechanic that I'm finding pretty neat. Those could be famous last words. I did remark to one of my gaming group that "designing a new set of rules is like doing a jigsaw. After early frustrating dead ends, everything seems to come together, gathers momentum, gets exciting – and then you see the gaps that the remaining pieces just won’t fit into. Rinse and repeat."
But I think I can punch through the doldrums of design to arrive at a workable set of streamlined rules that will fit any contingency. God knows we need it. The obscure rules lurking in the thousands of pages of GURPS books is starting to try the patience of most of my players. We only get a few hours' gaming every couple of weeks. We need something simpler.
So, that book in the picture. In order not to repeat the false starts I've made in the past, I took all the notes I've made on different versions of DW2 rules and collected them into one volume, which I then printed up on Lulu. I find having a physical book like that is easier than wading through multiple files on the computer. Just behind the rules book there you can see the homemade booklet I used to prep for writing a chapter in The Design Mechanism's upcoming Lyonesse RPG.
Just to give you a taste of all these notes, one of the briefest sections in the booklet is this overview I sent to Grenadier Models UK when we got to talking about collaborating on a new roleplaying game in the early '90s.
Everything is based on a skill system, so a character might be a Rank 3 Wizard and a Rank 8 Fighter, or whatever. Ranks are purchased with Improvement Points, which are acquired by training or experience. There are no "character classes". The cost to acquire ranks of different skills depends on the character's culture. So elves need fewer IPs to advance a rank of Wizardry, more to advance as Fighters.
Combat is handled by comparing Attack and Defence values. In some ways it is similar to the Dragon Warriors system, but characters can exercise a degree of choice in how much they concentrate on attacking as opposed to defending. The range of choice reflects different styles of combat. When a hit is scored, damage is determined by a single dice roll which is modified by the weapon used and the attacker's rank as a Fighter. Armour works by absorbing some of the damage.The idea is to capture all the rules notes from over the years so I can sort the wheat from the chaff. So I'm not sure which of the ideas here will make it into Dragon Warriors 2 (if any) but we'll see. I certainly want magic to be more mysterious, less "artillery".
I am in two minds about whether to include hit location or not. It adds a certain colour to any combat system, but it does tend to slow things up - and you get into problems where non-humanoid creatures are involved. The alternative system uses "wound values" - any wound causes Attack and Defence penalties, depending on how much damage is inflicted in a single blow. Characters are more likely to pass out from cumulative wounds than to fight on until cut to ribbons. This means that combat is fairly ferocious and damaging, but as long as the players' side wins in the end they will generally be able to heal up their fallen companions.
Magic is divided into three types. The first is Wizardry. This uses up no spellpoints, but requires a skill roll to work properly. It is also quite difficult to learn. It is the way a magic-user would contrive most of his "special effects" - weird events that are not directly related to combat. About a hundred Wizardry cantrips allow the magic-user to pass through locked doors, go unnoticed, conceal a trail through woods, and so on. I dislike the idea that wizards in many systems have to use up their spellpoints for quite minor effects. I cannot imagine Merlin or Gandalf crossing off a couple of spellpoints for an illumination spell, for instance. The Wizardry rules are intended to represent the popular fictional concept of the magic user more accurately.
The second branch of magic is Thaumaturgy. This is combat related magic. Wizardry illusions do not do real damage, for instance, but Thaumaturgy illusions can. Thaumaturges expend psychic points to cast their spells. The number of points available increases only slightly with rank, but what does increase significantly is the number of spell-matrices the Thaumaturge can hold in his mind. When a spell is cast, the mental matrix for that spell "fatigues". It will defatigue with sleep, but a further casting of the spell when the matrix is still fatigued will cost double points. Higher ranking Thaumaturges therefore never get to the kind of artillery-level capability of a D&D magic-user, as their power really lies in the greater versatility they get from having more spell-matrices available.
The last magical skill is Theurgy. This involves the manipulation of campaign magic. Such things might include gathering information about a foe's army or creating an enchanted artifact. Theurgy is often done in conjunction with other magic-users, as it involves a permanent loss of psychic strength and it is better if this loss can be shared between several characters. It takes long periods of time to work (and must often be performed on specific astrologically-favourable days) so it is useless within the limited time-frame of one adventure.
Oh, and while you're here -- did I mention my Kickstarter for the final Blood Sword book? It's going strong and there's still one day left to jump aboard.