Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm in a 3e State of Mind

Yes, I'm using Billy Joel lyrics. You wanna fight about it?

I have, several times, recently found myself in a particular mindset or frame of mind about things related to gaming, putting together games, and so on. In fact, I've eaten my own words recently in a G+ discussion about FLAILSNAILS because I interpreted it from what I call a "3rd edition point of view" rather than reading it without preconceptions.

Let me 'splain... I began my delve into the realms of D&D and other pen and paper games in the year 2000--I never picked up an AD&D 2e book, as my library had several shiny new copies of the 3rd Edition Player's Handbook. In fact, nearly twelve years later, I've never even played AD&D 1e or 2e, though I've played in games that borrowed some of their concepts.

I have a friend, whom I game with quite often in person, who started playing in the days of 2e, but has spent most of his time, like me, playing and GMing 3e, 3.5e, and Pathfinder. I don't think this is bad at all--in fact, both of us agree that rules systems matter very little at the table, as long as you have a core mechanic to fall back on and agree that the GM has the final say over rules decisions and tries to keep it as simple as possible.

Now, flash forward to today. I was fascinated when I first heard of the "FLAILSNAILS" concept, but since I haven't had much free time on my hands, hadn't dug into very deeply. (I've played a handful of OD&D / Swords & Wizardry games and loved them, and it's at the top of my gaming priority list to get in on a G+ Hangout game using some form of those rules.)

FLAILSNAILS is, apparently, a super simple concept: GMs advertise their games as FLAILSNAILS friendly and as long as the character being imported is compatible (in the GM's view) it can be used. Easy, right?

Not according to my frame of reference, apparently. I read it as "FLAILSNAILS is a set of guidelines by which you can create a character that can then be imported into a game and then on to another later, as long as the GM running each game is using the compatible rules system." This misinterpretation of a simple way to allow players to play more often stems from a tradition in the 3e (and even 4e) era of D&D gaming that says "Here's the master list of all splatbooks I will allow automatically. Anything not on here must be approved by me."

Oddly enough, that's not how I like to run games. I usually say "Whatever's in the core book(s) is fine; anything beyond that...  just show me your concept and we'll find something mechanically that fits." This is readily evident in the Savage Worlds game I'm getting ready to launch in a custom setting. There's no prewritten "splatbook" or "campaign setting guide" that I wanted to use so I told my players to write character concepts based on their understanding of the world and anything not covered in the core Savage Worlds book would be house-ruled in as simple a way as possible.

I love the simplicity of this type of game creation. So why oh why is it so hard for me to let go of 10+ years of the splatbook-heavy mindset?

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