As I spend more time working on making AD&D into the body horror nightmare Bangsian fiction game that I want to play, I keep finding myself struggling against the fact that, well, Dungeons & Dragons is not a good chassis for body horror nightmare Bangsian fiction gameplay mechanics. Oh sure, there is no reason you couldn't run a game using elements of those genres. In fact, I have, and I've seen D&D used as a chassis for all sorts of weird games; everything from sci-fi to political thrillers. The problem is, the farther you get from D&D's core gameplay assumptions, the harder it is to make any new rules streamlined. Anything tacked onto the chassis is exactly that: tacked on.
Now, this isn't some brilliant insight into game design. As much as I enjoy playing D&D, I fully recognize that it doesn't havens good, streamlined mechanics. It suffers from multiple systems (Roll under your stat for skill checks, roll over your to-hit to attack, but both use d20s?), class disparity (which itself changes based on gameplay level [except Thieves, which are crappy at all levels]), wonky subsystems that no one can remember (grappling!) and a thousand over weird quirks that just make modifying the core system frustrating.
When I set out to make a Nechonica style ruleset for D&D, I did so not because I believe that OSR gaming is the be all and end all of RPGs. Rather, I wanted to make a game that my friends, OSR gamers, could jump in without a great deal of reading and memorizing new rules. I wanted a low barrier of entry, because I like running Bleaklands, and I want people to play it. Regrettably, this isn't going to happen the way I had hoped.
It isn't just the Parts system. I also want to make the game involve fewer monsters, but the ones in the game are much larger. Sort of like Shadow of Colossus, or Monster Hunter, or Kingdom Death (without the unnecessary cheesecake). D&D doesn't really do that well either. Large monsters in D&D are simple regular monsters with more HP and higher damage. Hell, in 3.X, large monsters at least had a reach attack and damage reduction, but that's hardly an interesting mechanic to represent a house sized monster. Add in 3.X's idiotic Touch AC, and large monsters are defined by being the creatures that are super easy for Wizards to kill with touch spells like Disintegrate.
The politicking between thousand year old Cenobite style petty lords I want to put into Bleakland similarly falls flat in D&D. As a game designed for dungeon crawls and combat, the actual social combat rules are minuscule. Now don't get me wrong, I've played plenty of retroclones with fun social interactions, scheming and politicking. Regrettably, having a good time with a game does not mean the game is good. It just means the players were invested and the GM was sharp and A lot of little coincidences fell into place. I've enjoyed eating at McDonalds, but not because of the food! "Roll CHA" is not good enough, I want something robust and interesting.
As such, I think I'm going to have to throw my ring into the sad, sad, Fantasy Heartbreaker race. God knows merely uttering those words have propelled me from a lazy run-of-the-mill OSR blogger into the nerd stratosphere. Amateur game designer is a term laden with such a connotation of failure, missed deadlines, and adherence to sacred cows that I'm practically embarrassed to even say it out loud. I think, as all amateur game designers do, that I'm different. I'm smarter and more dedicated than those other game designers. Am I really? Probably not, but at the very worst, it is an opportunity to hire Jonathan Wojcik of Bogleech.com to draw some sweet art.
Look, this isn't goodbye to retroclones. I still really enjoy playing on G+ with my OSR friends. However, I never did intend for this blog to be an OSR blog. I want to talk about other games, do product reviews, game system neutral maps, or better, game system neutral campaign settings, image dumps, and game design theory. I have dozens of books on mythology and comparative theology, and you know, I don't think I'm really using my expertise here. So there you go, there is my New Year's resolution for 2013 - utilize this little corner of the Internet that way I always wanted to, instead of lazily posting personal project info.