I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rewriting D&D

If you play D&D long enough, you may feel the urge to rewrite it. It is almost inevitable: each edition brings different options, systems, subsystems, interpretations, an so on. Supplements and even erratas will often change whole sections, and after reading so many different versions you will realize that you can combine your favorite bits to make your own ideal game.

Maybe choosing isn't enough for you, and you start to come up with your own house rules. Why not? The earlier the edition you play, the easier it is to find gaps, and the easier it is to fill them up with your own ideas (and I say that on a very general level - 5th edition seems more hackable than 4th, for example). The newer the edition you play, the more history it carries.

There is nothing wrong with choosing one edition and sticking with it, of course. Maybe you play OD&D and think the Thief class has ruined everything,  maybe you play a newer version and don't think that knowing what has come before is that important, or maybe you found your perfect edition somewhere in between. But homebrews and house rules are so common that I would bet a huge part of D&D players have tried it at least once.

I know I have. And I do feel an urge to rewrite D&D to my own tastes.

But why D&D? Why not play a different game if I can't find a perfect edition? Well, I really like D&D. I like having that huge repertoire of options in D&D history (rules, monsters, adventures and so on). I like it not only as a lingua franca but as a great game in itself. I like the OGL. And I like the amazing D&D stuff people have been coming up with in their blogs.

Not enough stuff... Must write my own!
So, what do I want change? And how can I change D&D without turning it into something completely different?

Reflecting upon this question, I had a little epiphany. You see, there are parts of D&D that never change, or change very little: the six abilities, the main classes, roll a d20 to hit a foe (and wish for a high number on the d20), and so on. But there are other things that change constantly from edition to edition: skills, saving throws, weapons and its details, ability mods, feats, numbers, and so on.

And I have realized that what I really like is this “core” D&D, even if the changing parts sometimes annoy me - not because they change frequently, but because if feel they could still be vastly improved (although sometimes I just like old solutions better than the new ones and dislike the changes).

When I write my own house rules for D&D, I like to search for precedent in history, at least as inspiration. I avoid changing things that haven't been changed for a long time - I believe this happens for more reasons than simple tradition - but if something has been changed a lot and I can't find a version I like, I am not too shy about creating my own stuff. After all, if so many people tried to improve it, why can't I? Besides, if I don't come up with my own eccentric ideas, there will be nothing in my blog for other people to criticize!

I am not saying that this is the perfect method for coming up with your own version of D&D, of course. It's just a common one, and one that suits me well.

So, this is what I'll be doing for now. When I create my house rules for D&D, I will try to:

- Respect what hasn't been changed, when possible.
- Question the hows, whens and whys on what has been changed.
- Look for precedent, but come up with new stuff whenever I feel the need.
- … and, ultimately, just adopt the best solution for my own tastes because, after all, it's my own house rules. But even if you don't agree with my conclusions, I hope you have a good time reading (and discussing!) my reasonings.

Image from http://dreamingaboutotherworlds.blogspot.com.br

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