One Game to Rule Them All


A very long time ago back in the mid 1980s I discovered role-playing. Not surprisingly the game that introduced me was Dungeons and Dragons. I was in my first few years of grade school, and although some of the concepts in the red boxed basic D&D set were difficult for my friends and I to puzzle out, there was still a giddy sense of fascination.

A very long time ago back in the mid 1980s I discovered role-playing. Not surprisingly the game that introduced me was Dungeons and Dragons. I was in my first few years of grade school, and although some of the concepts in the red boxed basic D&D set were difficult for my friends and I to puzzle out, there was still a giddy sense of fascination.

We loved the idea of role-playing. As the years passed, we mastered D&D and graduated to AD&D. By sixth grade I started to game master for my friends, and eagerly devoured every RPG book I could beg, borrow or steal. We branched out into Top Secret, Gamma World, TMNT and Palladium. Every time a new game came out we would stand in the bookstore sifting through it until politely asked to leave.

Eventually I moved on to high school and got myself a job. By the time games like Shadowrun, Rifts, and Vampire came out I had the money to buy them. My RPG library swelled, and my friends and I played a host of different games. The sense of awe and wonder whenever we played a good one for the first time was priceless, and I wouldn't trade those memories for anything. It was very much the golden age of gaming, and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it.

Today, nearly two decades later, I am still a gamer. I role-play one night a week, and run my own campaign about twice a month. I still love the hobby, but some of the changes it has undergone make me more than a little disappointed. Chief amongst those is the D20 system.

Before you label this article as some sort of bitter rant against 3rd edition, hear me out. 3E has a very solid system, and has a lot of good points. It is much more balanced than 2nd edition, and has breathed new life into the hobby. Without it the possibility of tabletop RPGs fading away almost entirely is very real.

I have been playing in a 3rd edition game for nearly a year now, and the GM has finally decided to wrap things up. When the group decided to discuss the possibility of starting another game I volunteered to run it. The other players eagerly agreed (since no one else wanted the responsibility). I gave them a host of choices. We could play Shadowrun, Exalted, Rifts, Earthdawn or Faelands.

As I rattled off the list a distrustful look grew on the faces of two players. They looked at each other, and one of them told me point blank that any genre was ok: but it had to be the d20 system. I asked them why. Each responded with a list of reasons 'because the system is better' and 'because it's the best game out there'.

I have to admit that I was shocked. I asked them if they had ever played any of the games I had mentioned, and both were forced to admit they hadn't. How then, I asked, could they say the system was not only better, but was the best? Not knowing the other systems I just couldn't understand how they could dismiss them so quickly.

Their reaction was not an isolated one. Many people I have talked to feel the same way. They love the d20 system, and are unwilling to branch out into anything else. That's fine by me. People can play what they want, and as long as they are having fun, that's all that matters.
But I still don't understand it. I guess I am used to people playing a game before they judge it. People in all my past groups didn't care about the system; they were more interested in the setting and the style of the game. 1st edition Shadowrun was klunky and erratic, but we loved it anyway because of the setting. Some people recommend converting it to d20, but I think that they fail to understand how a system can really help define a game.

Combat is very lethal in Shadowrun. Converting it to d20 will lose that core element. Oh sure, D&D can be lethal too, but not in the same way. The combat system is simplistic and as a result D&D promotes a sort of meta-gaming that Shadowrun does not. Let me give you an example.

Most players cannot help but see a situation in the following way: The assassin standing across from me is holding a crossbow pointed directly at my chest. Even if he criticals and rolls maximum damage I can't die, and I can attack him before he gets away. Therefore the fighter charges even though such a thing would be totally unrealistic (and yes, I know it is a fantasy game, but it should still be at least believable).

Every player knows his character's strengths, and will compare them to their foe in combat. This means they will make decisions their characters probably wouldn't. You know how many hit points your character has, and you suffer no penalties for taking damage until death. That's just not realistic. Hell, if I get a black eye or a cracked rib you can bet that will affect my concentration. Yet in D&D a Firbolg with a two handed sword can deliver a critical hit, and if you are a high level fighter you won't bat an eye.

The d20 system is filled with similar problems. Armor doesn't make you harder to hit. In fact, heavy armor makes you easier to hit. It benefits you because it prevents damage. Most other RPGs have rules to reflect this, but after 20 years D&D still doesn't. It's not just combat that suffers from system flaws.

The DC of climbing most trees is 15. I don't know about you, but I am no Jackie Chan. I probably have an average dexterity, but even as a five year old I could climb a tree easily. So how does a system give an untrained person a 75% chance of failing a mundane task? Even if you had the skill at 5 (something you have to be 2nd level to do) you still have a 50% chance of failing when climbing a frigging tree.

Then there is the experience system. Pretty much the only thing you get experience for is combat. What if you decide to take a character who uses more diplomacy, or stealth or tries to avoid combat all together? Well, simply put, you suck in D&D.

Despite all of the points I listed, many people still love the game. Why? Because a simple system is easy to learn. Looking up rules detracts from the flow of a good story, and even novice players quickly get to the point where they understand the game mechanics.

I don't hate D&D. I don't think it is the world's biggest evil, or stand on street corners preaching about how it is destroying RPGs as we know them. All things evolve, or they die. Right now D&D is helping to keep gaming alive, and that is commendable. Tens of thousands of people gather every day to play D&D or one of its d20 cousins.

I just wish a few more of them could look beyond it to see great games like Champions, or Faelands or Earthdawn. I know such a wish isn't realistic, but hey, by nature those of us who love RPGs are dreamers.

Chris, I stumbled onto your post quite by accident -- trying Amphetadesk. But it struck a chord. I grew up similarly to you and see that the RPG as we knew it has been overtaken by simplistic systems and/or videogames. I think it's a shame, but one that I can't rectify given work and family commitments. It's nice to know that I wasn't alone in enjoying the imagination-stirring Renaissance that was early RPG'ing!


I run into the same problems these days. New players just ain't willing to try anything that doesn't have the d20 stamp on it. I think its a great system for D&D, and it works great with some other games, but it isn't the only thing worth playing out there.

Good article. I personally don't play D&D because of the mentioned flaws. But I am willing to try new games, but why don't try them is serious lack of local gamers and because then I must buy them, or for example I have Paranoia roleplaying game (my brother gave it to me), but I know only two other local gamers who would be willing to play it (and if you know Paranoia then you understand why it isn't enough).

First off, good article. I myself am a fan of the d20 system, but I like to try new systems too.

However, your complaints show some of the common misconceptions about d20. First off, the armour issue. Armour does NOT make you easier to hit, I agree. However, it does stop a blow from dealing any serious damage. That's what represented by the armour bonus. If I'm standing here in full plate, you could hit me with a sword just fine, but you'd be hard pressed to cause me serious injury. Hitting against armour represents finding a chink in the armour or hitting with enough force.

And it's also true that the average rogue couldn't kill the average fighter of the same level by shooting him in the chest with a crossbow. Would the system be balanced if it did? However, a properly trained and prepared assassin could. First off, most assassins won't just walk up and shoot you in the chest. So, if the assassin is a rogue and sneaking about, they get a big sneak attack bonus to their damage. They could also have a bunch of feats to enhance their shots, extra attacks, a magical weapon, and/or a poisoned bolt. Not to mention if they're an assassin they have the death attack ability.

On the tree-climbing issue, I believe the DC is to climb the tree in one round. Six seconds. The average person could only climb a tree in six seconds 25% or less of the time. When you were a kid, you probably "took 20" most of the time, as most people did.

And on experience, it really depends on the GM. Myself, if you use stealth or diplomacy to get by or negate a threat, you get as much experience as if you had defeated an enemy in combat. And don't forget, you also get experience for traps. And some GMs give out experience points for good roleplaying.

Sorry if I sound a little fanatical. It's just that I've heard these complaints too often (although the tree one is new.) I think the main problem is that d20 is designed for balance, while partially eschewing realism. If you want realism, play another game system. I'll stick with d20, but never be afraid to try something new.

Well, I don't have a rp group in all honesty, but I'm willing to try any system for the record and go from there!

Ha! A newb that is indiscrimnate about his systems! Guess you didn't see that one coming. ^^


Lets take your armor example first. You are wearing full plate. I am holding a two handed mace. Its going to be pretty close to impossible for me to miss you if I have any skill at all. Because a mace delivers blunt force trauma not only is it going to knock you down, but you are going to have broken bones despite your armor.

So again, the armor system is flawed. How do you fix it? Make armor give you an AR value. This value is then subtracted from the amount of damage that you take when you are hit. Plate makes you easy to hit but hard to hurt. Sounds a lot more realistic, right?

A simple system used by a lot of games, and a lot more realistic than what D20 uses. So explain to me how that's a 'misconception' on my part.

As to the crossbow example. Would it be balanced? Well that depends on the rest of the system. In Shadowrun if your opponent is training a gun on you, then you are either going to die or at least be seriously injured no matter who you are.

Its balanced in Shadowrun because the entire game doesn't center around combat like D&D. It focuses more on avoiding combat, or at least only fighting on your terms.

Is that lack of realism a flaw in D20? In my opinion yes, but I am willing to condede that its just my opinion. I like a little more realism in my games.

Correct me I'm wrong here but takin 10 takes twice as long as a normal action, right? And a climb check moves you 10 feet vertically right? So as a kid could I move ten feet up a tree in 12 seconds? Hell yes. I could do that now. If a big dog was chasing me could I do it in 6 seconds? Almost certainly.

But taking 10 in D20 would still mean that I failed. So I would need to take 20 which takes twenty times as long.
So two minutes to climb a tree? That's just bogus. And the climbing example is just one skill. I could point out many others.

And yes, you do sound fanatical. I have had these arguments many times and your post only serves to bear out my article. D20 has a lot of flaws, quirks and a total lack of realism. BUT THAT'S OK.

Play the game and enjoy it. Overlook the flaws and have fun. Just don't try to convince me that those flaws don't exist because you feel that it is an attack on the game you love.

And if you want to see me put my money where my mouth is check out If you'd like I'll send you a beta copy and you can see what I consider to be a better system. And it won't cost you a dime...

I'm a long time D&D player and GM, and, though I liked the article, I simply havn't ever come up aginst a player who wasn't willing to try a new system. I was wondering what your players are like in comparison to mine: perhaps we can find some common traits to look out for as early warnings of this kind of single mindedness.

That being said, I enjoy D20. It's true that realism isn't it's strong point (normally this would be a HUGE drawback from my prespective). It's saving grace is the fact that it is built around creating PC heros, and having them do well... heroic things. It focuses less on what would be realistic, and more on what would make the gamplay smoother. of course a normal person isn't going to charge hefad first into a crossbow bolt, but the premise of D&D is that the PC's arn't normal people. The fact that jhonny boy knows his paladin can take three or four of those bolts, encourages hip to play the hero, and that's what D&D is about.

This is not to say that other systems are no good by comparison. Your example of shadowrun (which I have run on more than one occasion) is conveniant: there are certain aspects of it that are more realistic, but those same things also make the idea of a PC being heroic well... quaint. Shadowrunn is built in an entirely different way, and it encourages an entierly different style of play.
key word: DIFFERENT, not better or worse. Comparisons of quality between Sadowrun and D20 would only be apt if the developers had the same goals in mind, they didn't.


I just started roleplaying about 7 months ago and, yes, my first game was 3E D&D. However, on the very same night, I was introduced to Vampire: the Masquerade. Having read this article and the comments following it, I see how this has influenced my view of other games.

Last month, I was part of a 72-hour Game-a-thon. Around the 40th hour we decided to play Shadowrun. It was I, the D&D player, who rushed into a room full of security guards of a maximum security magical prison. Though I wasn't shot that time (oddly enough), I was suprised that I took a lot of damage from the robot in the room right after. I thought that all my armor (natural, mundane, and magical) would be enough to stop most bullets. Maybe if I had had more time to study the rules I would have known to be more careful. Oh well, it was a one-shot game and I didn't die, so who cares?

mormagli makes a very good point about certain systems being designed for certain types of gameplay. D&D is a very good gateway rpg. It is useful in getting newbies hooked, but as a player grows it becomes useful to seek out game systems that reflect our developing complexity as people.

In the end, a good GM makes all the difference. The simplest of game systems becomes a masterpiece in the hands of an adept. From D&D 2nd Ed. I have stepped sideways into GURPS, a system that I have found equally simplistic and easy to learn. The extremely open ended plot/adventure style that my current GM has concocted is the freshest of air.

They type of players that have gathered to play makes a huge difference as well. My fellow players and I have spent session upon session caught up interacting with each other and the GM. To my surprise, I once realized that my group had spent almost a week or two of real world time roleplaying our way out of fights. Coming from, D&D I found the change of pace very uplifting.

This is a good arguement.

Myself? I've played so many different games that I have a singular viewpoint.

Systems are fun. All systems are not necessarily good, but in many cases, they add to the game.

But it comes down to one thing and one thing only: how you play the game.

If anyone is depending on SYSTEM to make the game for them, then they may as well play Hackmaster. Any system can be tweaked without effort to make it more or less realistic. And the use of story can also do this.

If you can't storytell the abilities of the players to explain the rules, then you had best give up the game, because that's what makes the game exciting. And if players choose to be to bold because of their stats, it's time to add a little surprise to the action. If a fighter in our campaign had an assassin walk up and aim a crossbow at him, he'd duck. Because that bolt may just turn out to be one of "slaying".

On the other hand if you enjoy playing the numbers, go right ahead. I just won't join said game :)

On June 29, 2003 01:10 AM, d3yn said:
D&D is a very good gateway rpg. It is useful in getting newbies hooked, but as a player grows it becomes useful to seek out game systems that reflect our developing complexity as people.

D&D is often the first RPG that new players play, simply because it is the most well known. This does not mean that it offers a less complex or less mature game experience, or that it requires its players to make a less mature story.

On June 29, 2003 01:10 AM, d3yn said:
In the end, a good GM makes all the difference.

True – as far as the story goes, but a good story and characters can be ruined by bad or counter-intuitive game mechanics that don’t offer players choices or control, and this is a problem with many game systems.

On June 29, 2003 12:25 PM, kommisar said:
But it comes down to one thing and one thing only: how you play the game.
If anyone is depending on SYSTEM to make the game for them, then they may as well play Hackmaster. Any system can be tweaked without effort to make it more or less realistic. And the use of story can also do this.

This is not true. A great story can be ruined by a bad game. I’ve seen it happen many times. It’s frustrating for player and storyteller alike and in some ways, an even more tragic waste.

On June 29, 2003 12:25 PM, kommisar said: If anyone is depending on SYSTEM to make the game for them, then they may as well play Hackmaster. Any system can be tweaked without effort to make it more or less realistic. And the use of story can also do this.

Shure, you can tweak systems to make them work like you want them to. In theory, you can tweak D&D to give it a gritty, underbelly of society feel. You can tweak Vampire the masqurade to give it a cheery, uplifting feel. You can tweak shadowrun to make it inspire acts of heroism from the PC's.

But it's a hell of a lot of work.

The point I was trying to make was simple: each system fit's best with a certain kind of gameplay.

so when you are putting togather a campaign, pick the system that is the closest to what you are trying to do, and then yeah, shure, tweak it a bit, but don't pick a system that isn't anything like what you are trying to and then spend hours on end trying to shape it to fit your game.

remember: the more you change the game, the more likely you are to F*** something up

On a completely different note: what's wrong with Hackmaster?

Your examples. mormagli, are not about systems - they are about settings. "A gritty underbelly of society feel" or a "cheery uplifting feel" do not at all rely on numbers and mechanics to make them so, and so these do not need to be "tweaked" to change the flavor.

It's like saying that a video game engine can only be used for a certain kind of story or graphic design, and that just isn't so. If someone chose to do so, they could mod Quake 3 code to depict Smurfingland.

Ahem, in defence of 3E

"Lets take your armor example first. You are wearing full plate. I am holding a two handed mace. Its going to be pretty close to impossible for me to miss you if I have any skill at all."

Well yeah, if he's just standing there. What if he's swinging at you with his own weapon, while trying to get out of the way of your mace? And what if you only clip him with a glancing blow?

"Yet in D&D a Firbolg with a two handed sword can deliver a critical hit, and if you are a high level fighter you won't bat an eye."

On average that hit will deliver 36 - 40 hit points, pretty much guarenteed to kill most fighters below 6th level, most rogues below 8th level, and most wizards below 10th level! In one hit! And you claim this isn't lethal? Sure, a higher level warrior will survive, but they've spent their entire career fighting in deadly combat, they're probably not just standing there waiting to be hit. And if they are, the Firbolg can just perform a coup-de-grace and kill them in one hit anyway, no matter what level they are.


Have you ever seen a person try to move in full plate? Go to a Reinassance Faire sometime and check it out. It seriously hampers your ability to move.

Yes, things get a bit more complex when you add in your foe having a weapon. But let me ask you this, if we are both trained to fight is it going to be easier for me to hit you if you are wearing plate or wearing leather? In leather you can move around more and are better able to dodge blows. So why does leather have a lower AC?

Also, when you mention 'glancing blow' that's what I'm talking about. If armor reduces damage then most blows that hit will be glancing blows. Historically people wore plate not because it made them harder to hit, but because it softened blows. So armor reducing damage is a better, while still simple, way of representing combat.

You are missing my point about the firbolg example. I am Joe Fighter and I have 49hp. I take 48 hit points of damage. I have been repeatedly stabbed, bludgeoned and shot full or arrows. Yet my combat abilities are not impacted at all. How realistic is that?

D20 is simply NOT a realistic system. It is a simple system with a lot of flaws. Like I said THAT'S OK. But you are never going to convince me that the flaws that I see are not there. I have played too many other systems that are more realistic.

This is part of the reason that I wrote the article. People defend the D20 system like its the friggin Bible. Feel free to have a great time with it. But at least be willing to admit that it has a lot of flaws and unrealistic bits. Crossbows anyone?


Others have made this point but I figured that I would chime in. You claim that a system shouldn't play a huge role in the setting and feel of a game.

Have you ever played Exalted? Or Earthdawn? Or Deadlands? Each of these games has a system that is built to support and reinforce the setting and feel of the game.

Could you convert these games to D20 and still retain the feel? Maybe with a tremendous amount of work, but I still doubt it.

Lets take Earthdawn for example. Your roll dice on a step ssytem, and at lower levels you roll smaller dice. So at 1st circle you may have 2d6 on a skill whereas at fifth circle you could have d20 + d8 +d6. If you roll maximum on any of these dice then you roll that die again and add it to the total.

So if you have 2d6 you can still get a result of 30 or more. Its rare, but it means that low level characters can do things like kill a horror at first circle. It adds an element of chance that cannot be duplicated with a single d20.

Now lets take an example of a couple systems that really hurt a game setting. Rifts (especially back in the early days) was one of my favorite game worlds. But the system sucks. Skills are klunky, and combat is just rediculous. The bad mechanics really hinder the game.

Now don't get me wrong. I have ran several long Rifts campaigns. When people were just playing their characters things went smoothly and we had a great time. But whenever the dice came out things went a little sour.

The same holds true for Trinity- a game by whitewolf. The Psion powers were either way overpowered or just sucked. There was no middle ground. So while we loved the storylines and plot of the game two of the players were just overshadowed by one of the others. None of us had ever played before, and no one was powergaming. It was just the way the game worked.

Now before you tell me 'a good GM could just fix the problems' or 'a good GM doesn't rely on the system'. A good GM can patch holes in a bad system. But a smart GM picks a good system with less things that need to be tweaked.

Most of the old school GMs (myself included) went through the same pattern. We spent years tweaking D&D. We made house rules, fixed bugs and solved problems that bothered us.

Then we realized that fixing an inherently flawed game (especially one with new rules coming out all the time) was just too much work. So we started experimenting with other systems until we found one that we liked. Some GMs (like me) even took it a step futher and made our own system.

Regardless, each of us found the system and game that worked for us. We found that one special game or system that fit our style and we made it our own. We did it because we learned that a system very much impacts the feel and tone of a game world.

In my opinion d20 is too limited to run the kind of games that I want to run. I have played way too many systems to count. Some were better than others. D20 is far from the worst. But it is also far from the best.

Getting back to the original point of "people not willing to try a new system", I am a person who avoids new systems.

For me, the system is just infrastructure. I put in a big one-time time investment of learning the system and then a little bit of that investment is paid back each time that I play in that system. Learning the system is a onerous chore, a boring but necessary step to be able to play the game.

To use an analogy, the system (e.g. d20, Shadowrun) is like the engine of a car. When I buy a car, I simply want to drive places with it. I don't care about its engine very much. Others may care more and want to make little tweaks to the engine. Still others may like replacing their engines every week with some bigger or better engine. For those people, that is the fun part, not driving it. But, hey, I'm not a grease-monkey. Other people may care about that stuff but I couldn't care less. I just want to drive.

Similarly, once I learn something like d20, I stick with it. For me, the fun part is playing, not learning about how to play.

Well said Dan. If that's what you enjoy more power to you.

All gaming combat systems are going to have an element of unreality to them, IMO. Trying to recreate reality in an RPG is going to render the combat boring and dull.

What the d20 system has tried to do is give up some of the reality for speed, IMO.

Regarding armor: Even an AR system is going to be unrealistic by Arkelias own standards. So you have plate armor and it gives you an AR of say, 5. Now you get hit with a mace for 5 points of damage. Ooops, you are unhurt. How is this different from using AC and calling it a "miss"? It isn't, really, IMO.

Also "misses" in 3e aren't necessarily misses, they are hits or misses that don't do damage. At least that is how I view it.

Moreover, while armor makes you slower it doesn't mean you are immobile, so you can move and I bet the more experienced are better at avoiding serious damage from a blow. Hence the ability to take "damage" that would kill a lower level PC.

As for the crossbow, if you are flat-footed and the assassin gets sneak attack bonuses, you might hesitate. But I understand the problem with this scenario. One thing is to try and house-rule it. Say that if you are flat footed and within 30 feet, and the to hit roll is 5 over the minimum necessary to hit have the target make a fort. save or die (kind of like the coup de gracie). This sure would make PCs think twice before charging an opponent who has the drop on them.

As for the tree thing, I think on average for getting up a tree in 6 seconds a 15 isn't too bad. The two trees in front of my house I couldn't climb in 6 minutes (the branches are too high). There is nothing that says you cannot adjust the DC lower. If the trees have branches near to the ground, then the DC might be 10 or even 5.

As for taking 20 when climbing, I don't think you can. If there are consequences to failure such as falling then you cannot take 20.

The problem you are having with d20 are going to get worse, IMO. WotC have noticed the network externality issue, and by making the system open source, they are hoping to make that the dominant system in the market. Given that other systems will have a learning curve you can expect to encounter resistance in learning a new system.

Your game soely relies on the GM, not merely your actions. Maybe your play a combat oriented samurai (Excuse the shadowrun refrences, I dont play much D&D) thats always looking for a fight. Sure, you'll get experince for your fight, in or out of character. If your GM likes how you play in refrence of his or he own personal stye, then you're likely to get more points than a sneaking elven Face with a knack for getting information of people.

The few GM's I play with use both systems, depending on the game. Though I only tend to play shadowrun games, I've sat in on a number of D&D games, as well as Star Wars and some other things. A good deal of them wont even roll for somethig like climbing a tree. Its a judgement call. Actually, I cant possibly fathom rollig for climbig a tree unless maybe it was alive and trying to beat you off while climbing it.

Hm. Theres an interesting idea. *Writes it down.* And yes, I think the drawn out argument over the 'climb a tree' is the funiest thing I've ever come across.

On another note: A lot of younger players dont want realizm. At all. I spent the last three months with a group of 15 year olds and my excitement over how a specific tank would work on the streets of Seattle was met with totally blank faces. But then gain, this was the group that got mad at me and actually said I was 'too origional' as if it was the worst possible insult to them.

Someone is going to have to explain how thats insulting to me o_o

Ashaqua: ... You thought to stop bullets? *Palms her forehead.*

Inserting minor annoyance here: The effort to stop, avoid or out run bullets have always annoyed me. Ran into a guy the other day that was convinceid I shot him in the head with a desert eagle, his kevlar VEST would take the damage. Oh yes, the vest was high enough to prevent the damage, but that wasnt te point, now was it. It took me half an hour to explain to him why this was bad. In the end, he retracted his statement, chased my character up a firescape, just to recive another headshot when he poked his head over the edge of the building to 'see where she went'.

*Rubs her temples.* I dont belive the phrase 'Girls are smarter than boys' but I'm seriously beginning to wonder.

On some final notes, I ome across thinking about rule-mongerisim. Maybe you like studying the rules to a hilt and making sure you have every detail down. Mabe your GM does too, but the rest of the players don. There aways going to be a comprimising situation you needto deal with unless you've got an extremely tight group and are unwilling to chance a player who doesnt know what their doing.

Wrapping it up, I'd like to say I GM. This is nolonger anything even mildly impressive since anyone with the incentive to do so can be one. Theres no real special skill to it other than having friends who agree to put you into power or not. I stll find there's shocking power in being able to say I am a Female GM. Seems a lot more people come to my games when they find out about this, though as to why I dont know seeing as most my games are carried out via mIRC.

More importantly, I am a Female Shadowrun GM. I've only heard of two others, one of which writes the CLUE files, or so I am lead to belive. However, I've never gotten to read the primary and current rulebook more than half way through - I dont have the time. Ive told people this over and over. I've recently finished running my 12th game (Decker and gang attack Knight Errant for information. They horribly fail and have enough common sense to realize they should run away very fast).

Despite being a new GM that really doesnt have a clue on most the ruling systems (I still need magical combat explained to me), I continually get talked into running games. I preffer some sences of realisim an charactarization. Most frequently, I wont have to turn to the rulebooks at all, as shadowrun is more rolepla oriented han the combat run systems of D&D.

Not to say D&D is a bad system, just not to use it if you want realistic situations. D&D is clearly marked Fantasy. Shadowrun is not. Not everyoe can be a great writer or play exactly how you want them to. Either learn to make comprimises, accept people have opinions weather you like them or not. Or, simply, Get out.

Quote of the day: "You know your in trouble when you start talking about D&D and your player is convinced your talking about Dumb and Dumber."

I have a person solution to the unrealistic D20 system, you incorprate other systems into your game. I have expiremented with a few that make combat more realistic, taking into account previous damage, exhaustion, and hit location. My players seem into embrace this idea knowing that their characters don't stay full strength and then drop when they die.
And while combat is fun, it doesn't have to be the basis of your game. Not all missions have fights, maybe even make a mission where they can't fight. The more PC interaction, the more characters are developed. Good roleplaying deserves rewards too.

On June 30, 2003 12:56 PM, dwhoward said: To use an analogy, the system (e.g. d20, Shadowrun) is like the engine of a car. When I buy a car, I simply want to drive places with it. I don't care about its engine very much.

the only problem I have with your analogy (and the rest of your post's so far) is the assumption that all systems are functionally the same. there are differences besides those of quality (which arkelias has given some good exampels of). There is a very real and tangible connection between the game mechanics and the feel of the game.
you'r quake 3 example works very well towords my point: shure you COULD convert it into a smurfs game, but the weaponry, action, blood, and guts that the engine is built around wouldn't easily lend themselves to a very ...smurfy atmosphere. And though I wouldn't mind gibbing that one guy with the mirror, I don't think that's the kind of thing that should happen in a smurfs game. You can make it LOOK smurfy by tweaking the system a bit, but you can't make it feel smurfy withought making a smurfy system. and furthermore: smurfetty Mc.smurfy smurf-smurf. so there!

On June 30, 2003 03:01 PM, The Bebop Cow said: "Ashaqua: ... You thought to stop bullets? *Palms her forehead.*"

That's exactly my point. It WAS stupid of me to think that bullets wouldn't hurt me as much as they did. In my IGNORANCE I was thinking at the time that the Shadowrun system was more like the d20 system than it really is. If it's any consolation, I was much more cautious during the next firefight.

Question for the Bebop Cow: what were you being too "original" about that got your players mad?

Game mechanics probably influence the feel of the game. But, like all ignorant consumers, I don't really care. Betamax may be better than VHS; Mac may be better than PC; etc. etc. But I still buy VHS and PC. It is like buying an unpopular game console just to play one game that is only available for that platform. Others may make that investment but, for lots of people like me, forget it. I've already made my choice and I'll just suffer with poor video quality, computer crashes and Pong.

If somebody cannot shoehorn their game into the d20 system, then their game will be held to a far higher standard since they are asking me to "invest", not just asking me to attend.

Arekelias said
You claim that a system shouldn't play a huge role in the setting and feel of a game.

Nephandus said:
To be specific, I said that a bad game system can ruin a good story, and that the story was a separate thing from the system. A good RPG experience will combine a good game and a good story. For a good game, I do not require a system to “be realistic” as in simulating reality. I do require it to at least have good internal logic, consistency, balanced and streamlined architecture, and good pacing. I also require the game mechanics to support the story elements they are attempting to reflect.

Arekelias said
Have you ever played Exalted? Or Earthdawn? Or Deadlands? Each of these games has a system that is built to support and reinforce the setting and feel of the game.

Nephandus says:
I’ve played Earthdawn, and I quite enjoyed it. I happen to think it has a fairly decent system and a good setting. There’s nothing in D20 or even in D&D that would prevent me from portraying the same kind of themes, magic, and premise with the same effect if I chose to do so, but I don’t have the patience.

Arekelias said:
Could you convert these games to D20 and still retain the feel? Maybe with a tremendous amount of work, but I still doubt it.

All Earthdawn is, is a slightly different fantasy setting, with different math behind it. Circles and steps aren’t so different from Levels and Feats.

Arekelias said:
Now lets take an example of a couple systems that really hurt a game setting. Rifts (especially back in the early days) was one of my favorite game worlds. But the system sucks. Skills are klunky, and combat is just rediculous. The bad mechanics really hinder the game.

My point exactly, though I also think that Rifts was a bad story, in addition to being a bad game. Agreed on most Whitewolf games in fact.

Arekelias said:
Now before you tell me 'a good GM could just fix the problems' or 'a good GM doesn't rely on the system'. A good GM can patch holes in a bad system. But a smart GM picks a good system with less things that need to be tweaked.

This was my point, so I’m not sure why you are trying to argue with me to prove it. I’ll snip the rest of your argument, until you can go back and read my post. We are saying the same thing, except that in my 20 years or so of RPGs, d20 D&D is my fave, followed closely by Earthdawn.

Don't you be dissin' Pong. For some stupid reason it's still fun after all these years.

All I've played is D&D. I'd like to branch out, but I have no job, which means no books (Though I was able to convince my mom to let me spend probably about $40 or more D&D books last weekend.). Plus I'm an introvert, so while someone might feel comfortable going into the nearest gaming store and asking if there's any games looking for players, I feel nervous just stepping into the store. One of my friends was going to start a Werewolf game, but it took ages to get a single character done (that is, if any character ever did get done). (I'm going to try to encourage him to start it again, I'd love to try it.)

D20 does have its flaws, I admit, such as the 1hp and still going strong flaw. (Hmm. . . Energizer bunny. . .) I'm hoping to incorperate a hit system like Mahdi has into my game. (Psst, any suggestions would be appreciated. *winkwink*)

The biggest flaw I think the d20 system has, however, is the experience system. So, my fighter gains combat skills by talking his way out of a fight? Or, my bard can become a better diplomat by slicing up the monsters on the way to the neighboring kingdom? So not right.

Thoughts on how to balance it? Would lowering the XP needed to level be approprate, then allowing the normal increases, except for skills? And skills must be improved by pratice, using a seperate XP requirement? Like the following:
2st lvl @ 750xp | ------ | 2nd lvl skills @ 250xp*
*Skills that have not been used may not be increased.

Imerak: "And don't forget, you also get experience for traps."

If I recall properly, you get the same amount of experience if you're skilled enough to disarm it, as you do if you're a big, dumb klutz who just happens to be tough enough to survive the trap. Not totally sure, the trap section in the DMG sorta confused me out of using traps.


While reading your article, I thought "he actually isn't biased against d20." Then I read some of your latest posts and you killed it for me. It's obvious that you have a bias towards d20 as you seek no compromise when people find a solution that could address your concerns.

For instance, you replied negatively when someone talked about taking 20 on a tree. You mentioned that you could easily climb a tree as if anyone could easily climb a tree. You climbed trees in your youth, I did not. You have experience climbing, I do not. In d20 terms, it would take my tail 2 minutes to climb a tree whereas it may take you 6 seconds. In REAL life, you must have some skill points in climb that I do not possess.

You just cannot ignore the argument that d20 saves people both time and money. As a GM, I frown upon asking my players to go buy new books because I want a change of system. At 30-40 dollars per book, it is unrealistic to ask of them. Add that to the fact that my players all work and work/attend school, then they have limited time to work with the system they do know! I'd feel horrible asking my fiancee to stop writing her Thesis in order to learn the Exalted system.

The trouble with hardcore gamers, of which you are one, is that they consider that everyone is as into the RPG atmosphere as they are. Just because someone reads all the boards, buys on the cool books, and can get snooty regarding roleplay versus roll-play, does not mean that others have the same view. I am the hardcore type myself, although I have chosen not to play other systems.

First off, with d20 I can design the game to fit my needs. I can play any genre I like without having a thousand different rules in my head. I can develop my own worlds and craft them to my liking. If I wanted to created a d20 world similar to White Wolf, then it would be easy! My WW-type world would just not be hyper-gritty/ realistic.

As for realism in the game, sorry, but we completely disagree on that score. I get realism and grit every day of my life. When I play an RPG, I want to be better, faster, and stronger than normal people. I do not want to be wearing plate armor and get hit and have to simulate having a broken ribcage, nor do I want to have a gun pointed at me and just know that I can do nothing but die.

I want to charge the guy and have the combat skill that I have worked to gain over time to mean that he can shoot, yet my off-scenes ability allows me to dodge slightly taking 44 hitpoints of damage (out of 120) mean that he did not hit me at a critical point.

As for the assassin, he CAN kills a high level fighter in one hit. Ever read the death attack rules? If the fighter is unaware and unable to defend, and the assassin hits, then the fighter must make a Fort. save DC 10+ damage dealt. I fondly remember my 20th level paladin with a fort save of 26 dying because of a death attack (damage was 59). The only way I could have saved was on a roll of 20.

Sorry, dude, but your argument just does not seem to hold up.



Please reread my article and my posts. I may be a hardcore gamer, but I am not arguing whether or not D&D is a solid system. It is. Nor am i suggesting that people not play it. Like I said, I play it from time to time. Its a good, cheap universal system and obviously the most popular out there.

I also admitted several times that this is just my opinion and my specific style of play. I like more internal logic and realism than you, but that's ok. We both play the way that we like, and that's fine.

What really gets to me, and the reason that I sound so vehement in my posts, is people that are unwilling to listen to anything negative about d20.

In the end it comes down to play style. I play the games that I like the way that I like to. You do the same, and I am so ok with that. As long as we all have fun.

Just PLEASE stop trying to convince me that my opinion about the d20 system is wrong. That I am 'biased'. I came to the conclusions that I did through years of playing the game. I don't just dislike it because everyone else likes it.

And what's the point of your assassin example? My point was this. I am a first level thief holding a crossbow pointed at your chest. You are a fourth level fighter. There is no way that I can kill you even with a critical. In fact there is a really good chance that I will miss you from three feet away. So as the fighter you don't experience the fear that a situation like that would engender.

In Shadowrun or Rolemaster or a half dozen other games I can think of you could very easily die in that situation, and thus would react accordingly. I like dark gritty games. So do my players. Consequently we play the games that match our style. d20 does not.

BUT its still a good game...


It's cool that you like gritty games. Maybe I am just hyper-sensitive after all the flamewars regarding d20. However, I took your post to imply that you were angry that other people did not want to try a new system. Whereas, I just cannot fault anyone for wanting to stick with what they know.

Personally, I can have a gritty game with d20, although it does take a bit of work. I think it really has a lot to do with vision. In your example of the first level rogue versus 4th level fighter, then in a metagame sense, the statement is true. However, if the fighter has no clue what level the rogue may be, then he would be stupid to charge head on.

My games have a lot of human/ PC race enemies for precisely that reason. People cannot tell how tough an elf is by looks alone, although everyone knows the trolls stats.

Now with a little bit of a different encounter, you can have some grit.

Rogue (bluffing): Now, Sir Cadogan, you'll lay down that sword and back away. Even think about attacking me and you'll have three bolts adorning your ugly hide. One through the eye, and two puncturing your precious kidneys.

Now, a fighter, especially one that can easily be bluffed has to fear death or is an unbelievable idiot.

I'm just saying that d20 can be morphed to fit your needs if you cannot find players to use another system. Not perfectly, maybe, but I think it can work.

A reputation as a disturbed, psychopathic killer GM also helps.


Slightly off topic but I do wonder if a 1st level thief should be able to hold off a 4th level fighter with a crossbow aimed at his chest. From my point of view, this is equivalent to a skilled amateur with a handgun (say, a computer programmer who goes to the shooting range once a month) holding off a Green Beret with a machete. I can't say for sure whether this would work or not.

As I think of it more, a medieval crossbow simply is not a gun. Trying to arrest people or push around hostages using a crossbow simply isn't as effective as using a gun. Firing a single crossbow bolt into somebody's gut isn't the same kind of threat that firing 6 bullets into somebody's gut is. But, with that said, if it were 3 or more 1st level thieves aiming crossbows at various vital organs of the 4th level fighter, well, that seems like the 1st level guys should win.

But, the original point is well taken. The poster was trying to point out that there are situations using D&D rules where a PC should be able to be instantly killed but where, by nature of the rules, it is impossible. And, yes, I'd agree that this is probably so.

have you ever seen a crossbo fired???? a good corssbow can peirce straight through plate mail, low to mid caliber guns can't do that with normall bullets. I'd soil myself if a crossbow was pointed at me!
And what the hell are you talking about "Mac may be better than PC"!!!!

Oh well... I'll shut up now, considering that this post isn't exactly on topic. sorry

While I have enjoyed many hours of AD&D, I have not played 3E, so I cannot really comment on its merits or faults, but I do recall fondly the "golden age of gaming" you refer to. And I totally recall playing new systems all the time, which was part of the fun. Also I have purchased games that I never expect to play, just because the setting, or a single mechanic seemed cool. I imagine you have too.

That was all a long time ago, now of course, I am a boring adult, have not gotten a new game in most of a decade, and can barely manage to run one monthly campaign. But about half the group learned the system I intended to run it in (the TFT system by Metagaming) even though it has been out of print now for about 20 yrs, they just borrowed copies to do so.
Some of the other posters make a good point about the potential expense of buying a new game, but I have played a number of games without owning them, and I cannot imagine not wanting to learn a new system if someone I knew was willing to run a game. I kinda feel sorry for the two players you mention, as they will miss that "new game" thrill.

Anyway, enjoy your game, be it D20, Champions, Earthdawn or whatever.


Thanks John: I was thinking of posting a similar notion: I have run, and still do run, systems which I don't own. Originally from borrowing them, or having a group pool togather sourcebooks (i'll buy this, you buy that and then we'll share [you only really need one PH or equivilent]), and now, through the miracle of file sharing, I have used material from books I have never actually seen (mainly bcs I couldn't find a copy to buy, but nonetheless...).

Assuming that the player is willing, an alternative to having the player learn the rules to a new system upfront is to boil the game down into the bare minimum to play.

In D&D, rolling a d20 to hit with a set modifier and rolling a d8 for damage with a set modifier is sufficient for combat for a rules ignoramus. Rolling hit points and simply assigning a decent AC is all that is needed for a character sheet. If worse comes to worst, you simply assume that everything else about the PC is average.

If the player is experienced in other systems but unwilling to learn a new system, you can hopefully get him into the game in this way. Once he gets the taste of the system, he might be willing to learn more. If not, he can easily drop out before you or he has wasted significant time on teaching him the new system.

Anybody out there care to boil Shadowrun or Earthdawn or some other systems down to the bare minimum?

As an aside, I often use the bare minimum approach to create PCs for games where the GM is untried, even if I am an expert at the system. Who wants to go to the trouble to create an entire PC only to find out that the GM is a flake or the players are unpleasant or have the game blow up after one session?

How do you boil ANY system down without depriving the players of options?
And if you'r cool with depriving the players of options, how can you keep each charachter original/ different? If everyone is average at most things, what distinguishes charachter A from charachter B???

There are quite a few variants and the like that you can use to modify 3e to make it more realistic if you choose.. things like "Clobbered", where taking more than half current HP remaining in damage causes you to become stunned, lowering the Massive Damage Threshold, etc etc.. I think the system is reasonably flexible and it works for my friends and I, but i understand that it's not exactly the apex of gaming.

(beginning non sequitur...)
The biggest problem i have in my group of friends with regards to this is that people dont want to bother to learn a new system. A few weeks ago i was beginning to plan a Call of Cthulu (Chaosium) campaign, only to find that two out of the five of us didnt want to play because they would have to learn a new set of rules. Any ideas how to sell the game to them?

If its d20 based its crap designed to draw you in while numbing your brain with mechanics made for a 12 year old. Its like watching tv sitcoms, with less commercials.

Take it away and bury someone, please!

Logically, when a player does not want to learn a new system, there are 4 options:

1. Change systems.
2. Find somebody else. That is, live without that player.
3. Simplify the system (for that player only) to the point where there is nothing to learn.
4. Convince the player to learn the new system.

1: that's what Maximum is trying to do

2: the question he asked was "any ideas how to sell the game?" that kind of percludes kicking the players out (unless you have some silly idea about using the threat ofexpulsion to get them to play)

3: see my last post

4: the question was HOW?

Now, my feeble attempt at answering the question:
Call of cthulu, like the literature it is based on, is unique, and has many points on which you can sell it. For example, you can point at the large body of literature you, as a GM, have at your disposal to incorperate into the game. You can point out how often this literature includes the greusome death of the main charachter, or the revelation thatthings arn't what they seem. You can point out the easily addapted descriptive style that focuses on describing the most horrifying details, as often as not, as completely indescribable. Most importantly, don't forget to remind them that the point of the game isn't to succseed at whatever you are supposed to be doing, it's to run away with as much of your sanity intact as possible.
in all seriousness, Cthulu can be a great roeplay experiance, but ultimately, the only way to convince someone to join in is to first convince the to read a Lovecraft story or two.

I've blogged a response to the crossbow thing here

I think using the coup-de-grace rules for whenever the target is flat footed will solve the problem. It also means ambushes will be far more deadly.

But hey if you want realism...that's what you get!

Thanks for the response, mormagli. I've already started getting people to read the books (which i personally love) and at least a couple are interested, even the people who dont want to play like them, they just dont find the idea of learning any new system appealing, it's not really a Cthulu problem. Maybe i'll just run a smaller group...
(BTW- re: the kicking player out suggestion, this is a group of friends, the point would be hanging out as much as it would be to play, and since i'm not really one for the gaming shop scene, my pool of roleplayers is somewhat limited :) )

Thanks all.

yeah, I tend to play with freinds too, but they havn't been reluctant to try new systems (guess i'm lucky). kicking people out really isn't a good option.

One thing you might want to try (unless they have specifically voiced their opinions against ANY other system) is to simply say "I'm running this, anyone that want's to play I'll help with charachter creation."

If that dosn't work (or fit) try looking into the variations on the d20 system that there are out there, some of which are different enough to wean them in the proper direction of diversity. As a long term example, you might run Oriental Adventures which is essentially just an asian setting for d&d, but has enough variations to feel different with the same rules set (practically). After a while of that, you can change things to the Rokugan campaign setting (still D20, but with more variations). After that, they might be inclined to deal with switching the rokugan game to the legend of the 5 rings (L5R), a compeltely different system, buth the exact same setting.
you get the idea.

To Arkelias- Just out of curiousity, does the offer for a beta copy of your Faelands apply to anyone?
I was born into RPGs via D&D and I loved it, but the whole 3.5 thing has me salty enough that I am seriously considering finding another fantasy game to play in.
I found myself looking over Exalted yesterday at the bookstore, and then I remembered reading your post. So I thought I'd check it out.


You can download the latest PDF file from

Oh, and I highly recommend Exalted as well. Great game with a great feel. If you like Anime all the better, but if not its still worth playing.

On July 3, 2003 12:21 AM, Maximum_Taco said:

"A few weeks ago i was beginning to plan a Call of Cthulu (Chaosium) campaign, only to find that two out of the five of us didnt want to play because they would have to learn a new set of rules. Any ideas how to sell the game to them?"

That is a tough one. My friends and I are always willing to try any game someone is willing to GM. Many times we use the "Distilled Rules" approach that dwhoward suggests. Fill them in on the setting and some core mechanics, and the GM runs all the rules. If everybody likes it, they can learn the rest of the game as well, if not, they have not had to learn much. In fact that is the only way I have played CoC (sometime in the mid 80's), it was fun, and I was entertainingly driven mad and killed, without ever mastering or owning the game.

I'm afraid that's really all I can suggest, except to point out that learning new systems can really be fun (as this very article points out). You could also see if they are interested in running a game of their favorite system as a GM. Once you've done all the work it takes to GM, you really appreciate the simple joys of playerhood more.


Convincing a player to try a new system is either an easy or a hopeless task. If your first few arguments fail to convince him to try a new system, more arguments probably won't work, either.

When a person says, "I don't want to learn a new system", there are four and only four ways to logically attack that statement and change it. #1 attacks the "new system" part. #2 attacks the "I" part. #3 attacks the "learn" part. #4 attacks the "don't want" part.

As the GM, you can easily affect the #1 and #2 parts. With effort, you can affect the #3 part.

#4 is the hardest to change; it simply becomes a contest of wills and arguments. In terms of wills, maybe you can hound and bludgeon him with arguments until he finds that arguing with you is less effort than learning the new system. In terms of arguments, maybe you can come up with such an amazingly compelling argument that he will have no choice but to admit defeat and learn the new system. Your chances of success at either are tiny, after the first few minutes of discussion.

On June 30, 2003 07:42 PM, Ashagua said:
Question for the Bebop Cow: what were you being too "original" about that got your players mad?

Eh. I like taking on extremely bizzare projects. Most of them pan out into very strange and entertaining games that stretch out for years. (Case in point; Pokehut was borrowed and improved upon from an old friend. I stll havnt seen any other system balence actual roleplay and gore while being a diceless system since then. Everything has fualts though, wont get into that right now.)

Most recently, I came across a group of fans who were trying to create a pheasible battlesystem for Sonic the Hedgehog. Sounded like a great chalenge and I joined in, forking over my knowledge and experince in game creation and roleplay for the last ten years.

Long story short, six or seven of the origional Sonic the Hedgehog races were included. From there on out, everything went to hell. A Dragon Ball Z combat system was generated and added (much to my complaint, not to mention it through the existant system to hell), weapon systems that were impossible for characters to pheasibly handle yet 'they just can' was implimented. And so on and so forth. In the end, I was slapped down for wanting to put in a spin of realisim (went and researched some real firearms, tanks, mecha therum, armor capability, etc), Gravity and general common sense into it.

I could also go into detail about how even now they're stealing work and characters I had just used to give examples and indeed formally requested them not to use when I left. Apparrently also including anythig from the games outside the characters and the rings was another cause for the 'too origional' statement.

People confuse the hell out of me sometimes. -_-

Question to everyone else:

Firm arguments between the D6 and the D20. I've been seeing them for years. Arent there any other systems? D8 based maybe? Or mabe some great diceless system? Do they even exist?

And so the Eternal Newbie sits here, torch alight and robes lightly singed from being held too close while writing, wondering why she cant make shorter posts.

There's WhiteWolf's d10 system. You've probably heard of Vampire and Werewolf around here, but there are lots of other games that they made and are based on the same system.

Basically, nearly every possible thing that you could assign a point value has 0 to 5 points in it (5 being max of *normal* human possibility). This runs from things like strength and dex to your skill at computers and whatever supernatural powers you have.

Explanation is probably best described in an example. Let's say you want to hit someone with sword. You count up the points in Dexterity plus those in Melee and roll that many dice. Each die that rolls up more than or equal to the difficulty is considered a success. Zeroes are counted as tens. Each 1 that is rolled subtracts from the total number of successes, highest number first (I'll explain that in a sec.) Of course, the more successes, the better. Zero successes are failures, but negative successes (more 1's than successes) are critical failures. Tens are re-rolled for the chance at more successes if the character is specialized at that particular action. A character can only specialize if they have 4 or more points in an ability.

There are many, many abilities that can be learned, and can tie in with different attributes for different things that happen in game. For instance, you use Intelligence+Computers to hack a server, Wits+Streetwise to lose someone following you, but Charisma (or Manipulation)+Streetwise to get someone to give you information about a gang.

Of course, I'm not going to quote an entire rulebook at you, but I hope this gives you an idea of what the system is like.

Funny, Ashaqua, other than the side number of the die, it really sounds exactly the same as Shadowrun. Rule of Six, Rule of One, Target Numers and Specilizations.. *Blinks and rubs chin* I suppos people will continue following lines of what words and what doesnt.

Being a pretty avid gamer, I have a few opinions to share. To begin;

Yes, everyone accepts that fact the D&D is " Realistically inaccurate. " I fail to see how this is a bad thing. Yes sometimes it is stressful that when fighting a NPC, it takes you out with 1hp left;; but that is the game. If D&D were " Realistically accurate " I don`t know if i would play it. It is not as much :: oh that is cheap he should be dead blah blah blah :: It should be ::Wow that was awsome, if I knew I only had 1hp left I would have never tried that :: Gameing is just that. Gaming.

As for the comment on Trinity a ways up. I believe that the large game in the specific effectiveness of the powers gained by charcters are there to challange the GM. If you have 2 charcters running the entire game; well take on of them hostage, or have them trapped or caged forcing the remaining charcters to fight to save them, henceforth them leveling up and making it even. Each game system has ups and down.

And my final order or business is ShadowRun. I was a skeptical " d20 system ONLY " gamer when my friends intorduced me to ShadowRun. The only reason I finally played is becasue I could be a Decker. I began to adjust to the ShadowRun rules. And in the end I liked them more than some of those in D&D. I introduced budding gamers to both systems at the same time and some took a liking to ShadowRun, other D&D. It may be the rule systems, it may be the themes. It is all for fun. If someone refuses to learn a new system, ask them why. Usually you can boil it down to a reason. If they don`t want to try something new and possibly have fun, loss is theirs, not yours.

Rucin (who was just surfing the web from Japan, and felt like voicing his opinion)

I can't see anything too wrong with realistically inaccurate as a concept. If d20 - or any game system wasn't inaccurate, most skill and most monsters wouldn't be allowed.
Since these are RPG's, that seems a bit limiting.

I think what bothers most people falls into one of two categories:
1. That a particular subset of rules or application of them fails the test of internal game logic. i.e. the rules say "in this case we start from the premise of 2 +2 = 6", but when applied to game the users consistently end up with total of 3

2. That part of the rule set is so poor that users can't 'suspend disbelief'.

Presumably, that's what 3.5 Ed is supposed to fix. Although from pre-advertising, it appears that rather than ditch attacks of opportunity - which they admit most gaming groups have done - they decided that the problem isn' t the rules, it's the fact they hadn't explained the rules well enough.

For those of you who are Brits, this sounds awfully like the current government telling the public it isn't their policies which are at fault, it's just the public hasn't understood them well enough. Maybe Alistair Campbell is running Wizards too....

Oh well, let's all give it a good chance first...
- Greyshirakwa

what's wrong with attacks of oppertunity?

Nope. Can't be bothered to go into that one again. If you want to find out, go thru a few other threads like'Demise of Dungeons and Dragons ' et al.

The real point is this: Wizards admit most groups don't bother playing them, or else have greatly changed them to make game sessions better. But rather than go 'Ok, tried it, no one liked it' and adapt, they have decided it's presentational.
Hence my point - let's wait to 3.5 Ed and see if representation makes them more palatable/enjoyable to the bulk of gaming groups.

But if it doesn't, they should listen to the gamers and drop them in the next revision.

- Grey

I'm relativly new here, and havn't really prowled the past threads, so I wasn't aware that this subject had been beaten to death. Furthermore, I should admit that my question was a bit of a popsicle, I know there are problems with attacks of oppertunity. In my experience, the big problem is that it can be difficult to judge when it should be applied. I can see where Wotc is coming from: it dosn't work with everyone, and yet it is an important balancing factor in the system...

I'll stop, both bcs this topic has been dealt with before (thanks for telling me the name of the thread), and bcs it is a bit off-topic. I would agree with you that we should revisit the problem when 3.5 becomes available, I would gladly participate in such a thread.

more pertinant to this discussion, I agree with most of Greyshirakwa's July 12'th post. We have to remember that we are (usually) dealing with a fantasy (or sci-fi) setting, before we open a rule book, we already arn't (usually) expecting things to be perfectly realistic. Like Greyshirakwa suggested in his first point, what matters is that the whole set of rules must maintain the same degree of realism.

I would like to add a third common category for what portions of a gaming system usually bother ppl:
that the rules do not promote power balance: either because they cannot restrain certain types of charachters (races, classes, users of certain skills...), or bcs they restrain certain types of charachters too much. It's not much fun to play joe-schmoe when the rest of the group is composed of legendary heroes and gods.

I have to say that I agree with you. I like D&D, but sometimes you need a little more realism. Exalted is great for this because it is still fantasy, and the characters are still (or perhaps more) godly, but they can die pretty easily if you're not careful.

As for armor in D&D, this is the way I've always explained it. Anything under a '10' is a flat out miss. Anything that is above 10 but still not a 'hit' does hit the target, but fails to do damage. It makes the idea of AC work a little better, even if it still makes no sense.

actually, it's supposed to be a bit more complicated: any attack that dosn't beat 10+dex bonus+ any dodge bonuses, haste bonuses etc. is a flat out miss, if you hit that but don't hit that number+ sheild or other deflection type bonuses is blocked or parried or whatever, and if you hit that but don't hit that number+ armor bonus then the blow either glsnces off the armor, or simply dosn't carry enough force to cause any noticable harm.

this is not me defending the system, I'm just explaining how it's supposed to work (this can actually be usefull when you're trying to judge things like a rust monsters attack: exactly WHAT did it hit.

Hi everyone,
The URL below is worth following:

It doesn't totally blow off 3.5, but it does confirm for me the main driving force behind WOTC/Hasbor isn't giving the players what they want, or improving the game or any of that. It is and always will be greed.
And it does raise the question : What price d20 now?
- Grey

I disagree with Steve's idea of applying the coup de grace rules when a potential victim is being held at crossbow point. Too big of a change from the standard rules. Now if the victim was UNAWARE, it might work. (Usually when I DM and have city guards challenge heavily-armed violent strangers (i.e., PCs), there will be at least two hidden snipers. I think a good compromise version of Steve's idea is instead of instant-kill, instant-disable.

Someone mentioned that the crossbow bolt might be 'of slaying'. I hate using expensive magic -- if they have that kind of cash, why didn't they hire more guards? I prefer stuff like sleep poison for good guys and dung for evil guys. (When I last DM'd several games in a row, I loved having a chance to throw humans or intelligent critters at PCs. As soon as my attackers realize they are facing really tough guys with magical support, they switch to guerilla tactics. Summoning random monsters into the PCs camp at odd hours of the night does wonders for cutting down on available curing spells. It got to the point that my players almost didn't pick fights anymore. Even better, they started to use the same sort of tactics against NPCs.)

Did you know that when JFK had part of his brain shot away, it took him about 15 minutes to die? Most 'instant kill' wounds are actually 'merely' instantly disabling. With magical healing available, they should be survivable.

I've had a paint ball gun pointed at me from very close range. He waited for me to notice him, grinned, fired, and MISSED. Several times. Why? Because he allowed me to notice him. I dodged and shot him. I agree that D&D is generally not realistically lethal with surprise attacks, but 'holding a gun on you and letting you know it' isn't a surprise attack.

For D&D critical hits, I just borrow the GURPS hit location table and adapt the caltrops rules for leg hits, or -2 to hit for arm hits, -2 AC for torso hits, stunned for head hits, etc. This adds a little realism back to D&D combat, but not enough to bog the game down.

It has been mentioned that the game system heavily influences what's practical in the game world. Did you notice that 3e d20 STILL doesn't have lasso rules. I drive my DM nuts by insisting on using one anyway (my character hates unnecesary killing), I'm using net stats with a range increment of 10 feet. Because I'm playing with a group that has been playing various forms of D&D since 1981, they hate any sort of non-lethal weapon, or any tactics other than 'run up and whack each other until someone falls'. It's useless to get them to try to envision realistic tactics because the game system PENALIZES realistic tactics. Avoid combat like a sane person? You just missed out on the XP you need to improve your non-combat skills. Try to combat train via sparring? Try to improve skills via training and practice? Who cares, the rules don't say you get XP. Have the three sneaky characters move around to start combat with a flanking movement, with nearly no chance of being noticed because of a ridgeline? The big bad monster starts blindly and accurately throwing ranged attacks because we're taking too long. THAT is the type of game play that D&D's system encourages.

I play more often than I DM, and I'm having a fit because the DM only gives out XP for combat. He constantly uses poisons much more powerful than listed in the books against us without upping the CR (and therefore XP award) for opponents, and turns a deaf ear to my pleas of assigning standard CR (and therefore XP) for traps (instead of none), and always agrees to assign Challenge Ratings (and therefore XP) to roleplaying challenges, but he never follows through.

Maybe I need to try to find a gaming group on the Internet. Last few times I've tried I found (mostly) groups that were heavily munchinized hack-and-slash or (rarely) totally allergic to combat, without any compromise.

I've just about given up on finding players interested in GURPS, ShadowRun, Vampire the Masquerade (the White Wolf game mechanics are nicely simple for non-vampire games too), etc. I guess I'll just have to sneak in changes to d20 games, such as using GURPS hit location chart for d20 critical hits.

I suspect that one of the big problems with 3e d20 D&D is that D&D is intimately entwined with a very specific game world -- a game world that is not explicitly set forth in the core rulebooks, but one which you must reverse-engineer from its effect on world-specific rules (such as prices and frequency of appearance for various levels and classes) if you want to extrapolate smoothly. It is a LOT of work separating D&D from its 'generic' fantasy world so you can use your own game world.

Check AMBER.. diceless roleplay... no luck involved, storytelling supreme. The assassin with the crossbow pointed at your chest maybe an utter wimp, or he may be an elder who has 5 times your abilities. Make em second guess everything...

Maximum Taco said:

"The biggest problem i have in my group of friends with regards to this is that people dont want to bother to learn a new system. A few weeks ago i was beginning to plan a Call of Cthulu (Chaosium) campaign, only to find that two out of the five of us didnt want to play because they would have to learn a new set of rules. Any ideas how to sell the game to them?"

Sorry I'm so late, but as an avid fan of Call of Cthulhu, I just have to respond.

Your players don't want to play Coc because they have to LEARN A NEW SYSTEM? For criminy's sake, it's the simplest system I've ever seen! The actual rules part of the book takes up like 30 pages! Compare this to d20, I dare you...Cthulhu is elegant and simple. It's not terribly realistic, but it's not supposed to be. Half-seriously: take your players out and shoot them. They're missing out on one of the greatest genres--and systems--of the role-playing world.

Poor J.W. Harris. All I can say is: amen. I'm a GURPS enthusiast, but I'm having a time luring the d20 crowd away from 3d ed (or, heaven help us, 3.5).

Obstacles I encounter:

* Much of what I've read here. "I don't want realism, I get enough of it in real life." Hey, great. But stay away from my table.

* What do you mean, I can't swing my axe every round?

* "Bell curve mechanics don't work with linear modifiers." Hey, don't ask me: ask the @$ that told me this.

D&D is fun. I ran a 3d ed campaign for over a year just now, and I enjoyed it. But it left me hungry for something...not just more realism, but more thoughtfulness. When you find yourself having to fine-tune the rules too often, perhaps it's time to change the system. Or, to borrow dwhoward's analogy: if your car breaks down too often, perhaps you've bought a lemon.

Re: COC - Why not just use the D20 COC book?


1) Because the original CoC rules are simpler and more elegant than the d20 version. If ever there were a ruleset that didn't need to get converted to d20, this is it.
2) Because classes and levels don't make any sense in a modern setting. Check it out: my 8th level professor of semiotics is much harder to kill than your 1st level firefighter, because he's been fighting the Mythos longer?!? Not only is this situation totally absurd, it runs counter to the spirit of the genre. In D&D, characters get more powerful with time. In CoC, they get weaker. Using d20 screws up that mechanic.

JW Harris

There are no lasso rules, but those for Bolas and Whip would work just fine (Sword and Fist)

Just a note that curiosity has prompted. Everyone posting here has made several points for their favorite systems, both in regards to realism, or the lack thereof. The major theme running through this thread seems to be the quick death, or the inability to cause it. Whether you support realism or not, in a game that is to make any sense, there must be a foundation of realism, or why are you playing? Fantasy is not the absence of reality, it's an expansion of it. When you fire a bow in the fantasy world, gravity does still dictate that it falls to the earth eventually, no? You need a flight spell to leave the ground, don't you? You need healing spells because a sharp sword causes damage.

With that said, and established, you must acknowledge that a reasonable foundation of reality must exist, or the game has no root meaning. SO, yes, the thief, with his crossbow, SHOULD be able to kill a fighter, if he catches him off guard. In no system I have played has this been accurately portrayed, with one exception, which is Rolemaster, which I first discovered in 1982, and am still playing today. Yeah, I'm old, but my 12 and 15 year old nephews love that system more than any others they have tried. You know why? Because they can die. They know if they screw up, get sloppy, or just plain careless and cocky, they will die. And in a world that is an expansion of reality, they dangers are also expanded, and so must your caution. And I just hate any system where the character has more damn hp's than his warhorse. Just kidding. No, I'm not.

You could try the Grimm-n-Gritty sytem. It goes along wth the D20 system and is very realistic. The rogue in your example can fire at vital organs(eye, kidney,etc) without as big a penalty as most other classes. It's very scary when you see 2 goblins with javelins becuase even at 5th level you have a chance to lose a party member with one hit.
I like it a lot.

Hi excellent article.

I reckon D&D is brilliant because its a simple, integrated system with well balanced and play-tested elements. Added to which its hugely popular so I am guaranteed continuous development, excellent supporting documentation and a large community of players.

I've played a lot of RPGs, with various levels of complication and and realism, and I reckon D&D gives a good overall balance.

Sure, the realism is full of holes, but theres nothing stopping you putting in a dozen or so house rules to tailor it to your taste. For example, the quick kill requirement my gaming group sorted out years ago by allowing something like a thief backstab from cover in a surprise segment. This let you wipe out low hit point critters while not being as lethal to characters as the old Assassinate percentage.

Last thing. I've always been against location of hits. Man. this is taking realism to excess. Who gives a damn, its only a simulation anyway. Heh.. I remember we used to play location hits and scarring maiming etc. After 7 or 8 melees, our party looked like a freak show, heavily scarred, missing eyes, digits , fingers, lips, limping. Very realistic no doubt, but hardly the stuff of fantasy !

Game on Dudes !

"I've played a lot of RPGs, with various levels of complication and and realism, and I reckon D&D gives a good overall balance."

I am curious about this comment. I will admit that I have not played D&D since I discovered Rolemaster, so maybe my knowledge is a bit dated (stop laughing at me!!). But unless something has radically changed, isn't it still possible that a fighter will have more HP's than his warhorse? By, like, level 5 to 8? Considering the fact that the horse outmasses the fighter by at least 4 to 1 (I would hope!) this seems a bit silly. Now, sure, that can be explained away as luck, skill at avoiding blows, and all that, but if you are reckoning HP's as damage sustained, that must be healed, then it wasn't avoided, was it? You weren't lucky that time, you got HIT, that's the points came off. That's why you're bleeding. The main reason I stopped playing D&D, along with my friends, was that as far as combat goes, it was one of the most unrealistic systems out there. No such thing as a critical hit (that double damage thing is kinda lame, to me), no idea of even WHERE your blow landed, no ability to go for a called shot. All of these rubbed us the wrong way, since we all were either in SCA groups or kendo classes, where you KNOW you can aim for certain body shots, crippling hits, etc. etc. THEN we found Rolemaster, with all that built right in. Sure, you can have house rules, but what if you change the group you're with? And they have different rules? You have to change the whole way you think about a profession's capabilities, which could interfere with how you play. I'm not trying to get into game-bashing here, and I think I might have gone too far to say that, but I just never really thought D&D was even close to real, and was wondering what other systems you have tried to make you think that it "gives a good overall balance." Honest, no flame, here, just curiousity. I will concede that D&D has come up with some AWESOME spells, though. Personal favorite was those damn Black Tentacles...hated the whole memorize, then you forgot thing, though.

Try GURPS. Cost $20 for the Basic Book (but that's all you need), takes 3D6 to play. Combat incorporates hit location, fatigue, continuing blood loss from wounds, armour's passive defense (making you harder to hit) and damage resistance.

And in GURPS, if some fool tried to charge a guy who had the drop on him with a crossbow, then he better have some hellishly good armour.

"Wizard's First Rule is that people are stupid."

so like can i play