Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Return to Uresia and Some Related Thoughts

Some of you may recall that, back when I started this blog up, I was in the midst of writing up notes on how to use S. John Ross's Uresia setting with the D&D Rules Compendium. Well, that project sort of shifted into "back burner" territory, as such projects often do. Perhaps the primary cause in this particular case was a lack of satisfaction on my part with capturing a true "classic" console RPG atmosphere.

Don't get me wrong--I don't think the setting should be run as a tabletop CRPG, nor was it designed to. Nevertheless, I want my hack to exhibit a certain tongue-in-cheek flavor that is reminiscent of some of the hoarier elements of those classic games (can I get a shout out for Phantasy Star, Miracle Warriors, and Lord of the Sword on the Sega Master System?).

After reading Alexis's post on using cards for gear, I suddenly found myself with a fresh route of inspiration on how to approach my D&D Uresia hack. If the last two editions of D&D, particularly the latest, have essentially turned the tabletop experience back into a board game, then why not re-introduce some other classic gaming props as well? Why not, I say. I think there's been a long-standing prejudice or at least mistrust, certainly in my own experience, towards RPGs that feature "props"--that Buck Rogers game that TSR put out, or the later, post-Mentzer "kiddie" editions of Basic D&D, for example. Somehow only requiring a sheet of paper, a pencil, and some dice to play made RPGs more "grown up" and/or sophisticated. But faugh! Sometimes it's just fun to have a hand of cards, some tokens, and a nifty reference card or two in front of you.

Further details will be forthcoming once I have a prototype to share, but for now I can say that I'm ditching the Rules Cyclopedia in favor of Labyrinth Lord as my system of choice. Makes things nice and "share-able" that way, and LL has all the system features (simplicity, mod-ability, classes as races, etc.) that I'm looking for anyway. I'm also actually swiping a couple ideas from 4e, and so I naturally considered simply making my hack a 4e-compatible work. I decided against it because, well, 4e is not terribly mod-able. At least not, as in my case, if you're planning on using home-brewed classes. Just like in 3e, everything is so carefully balanced against everything else, it makes it really hard to fiddle around with the system. (Plus I haven't really looked at the GSL, so I'm not entirely sure a mod would be entirely kosher.) It's a shame, because I really think 4e is pretty close to what I want to do in a lot of ways. But both the RC and LL are beautiful in their simplicity, and a house-ruler's dream, as it were. So that's where I landed, eventually.

(Another strike against 4e is that I don't see any need for a battle map or miniatures. In fact, classic console games had rather static combat sequences, where movement and positioning meant little to nothing.)

I'm hoping to have things worked out in more concrete detail soon, so stay tuned!

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