Role-playing and games
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 March 2014, 8:44 am
I was reading Ravious' declaration of love for the 13th Age pen & paper role-playing game system. And I couldn't help but notice that the first half of the cited strong points of the system, covering character creation and narration, are in fact not system specific at all. That is if you play any other role-playing system, be it Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, or even non-fantasy systems, asking your players what the "one unique thing" about their character is on creation would work just as well.

Basically a pen & paper role-playing game has two parts: The role-playing and the game. The role-playing is either not bound by rules at all, or can use rules from many different sources. The 13th Age "rules" book has a long description of the world and the icons, the major players in that world. It has "rules" about how to create a great background story for your character, or how to handle story-telling. And all these things aren't so much "rules" as rather suggestions on how to encourage good role-playing. Most of these suggestions work just as well in any other pen & paper role-playing system.

The good news about this is that you can use the 13th Age book as an accessory for whatever other system you want to play, in the case that you don't want to switch systems. The bad news is that the other half of the book then isn't of much use to you. Game mechanics are far more difficult to transplant from one system to another, although I thought that I might give the "escalation dice" from 13th Age a try in my 4E campaign to make combat shorter. But to give a counter-example, you wouldn't want to copy a spell from one system to another, as they might use very different numbers for health and damage.

Similar considerations apply if you want to invent house rules for a pen & paper role-playing game: As long as those rules cover the role-playing part, it is relatively easy. But you fiddle with the rules of the underlying game part at your own peril, as that might affect the balance of the game. So adding a new race to D&D is relatively easy, as long as you keep the racial bonuses and powers roughly in line with the existing ones. Adding a new class or making major changes to how a class works tends to be far more dangerous.
Tobold's Blog

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