Okay, yes, I didn’t post anything on the Great Day of Our Lord’s (the D20) Coming, 02/20/20. I’m going to say it was spent in silent reverie. Let’s all be glad Its Greatness didn’t roll a 1 yesterday and do us all in. Instead, I’d like to look back at the beginning, when the first 20 was ever rolled in the name of role-playing – the RPG Big Bang.
You might think that it was Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, or another RPG legend, who created RPGs. But it was, in fact, the D20 itself, willing RPGs into being. On this first day of a new era, I’d like to speculate on what D20 (capital D, not lower-case) had in mind for us, and how well we’re meeting Its desires.
D20 has a goal for us, and this goal takes a vague shape in the mind of every game designer. No one can see it perfectly, but each tries. By looking at the genre of role-playing, instead of an individual game, we can begin to see the Great One’s will:
1) Escape reality, into a new one (even if it’s similar to the real one).
2) Become a character (even if it’s similar to the real you).
3) Influence the new reality.
4) Share and build the experience with others.
5) The new reality has independence (it is, itself, a player).
These are very vague, yes, and that’s because I can’t read the will of D20. If I could, I’d design the perfect RPG. Modos RPG, as a toolkit for bigger and better RPGs, attempts to meet and/or interpret these goals:
1) With a Guide designing the campaign concept, following rule zero, and inviting players to not just interact, but to create, the game helps the players escape reality.
2) Pretty standard practice, with a separate module for character creation. Some games allow players to guide story outcomes without using specific characters, but it’s not an RPG without the “role-playing.”
3) The GM influences the new reality with guidance, but not control, from the PCs. The PCs, by agreeing to meet and play, give the Guide the power to influence. There’s a balance, but an awkward one. Is this what D20 wishes for us?
4) As noted above, RPGing doesn’t happen without an assembling of players. Modos RPG seems to require at least one GM and one PC. The game demonstration on this site is for just one player, but it doesn’t actually use the rules (it uses hyperlinks). A video game, likewise, isn’t role-playing in the sense that the Great One intended, because what role does one play, if there is no one else to see it?
5) A Modos RPG reality asserts itself through the rules catalog and dice. Players work within this framework to experience the reality. Other games use cards, programs… without independence, the game becomes a novel, or shared fiction. Not only does this become something other than an RPG, but without independence, the game begins to falter meeting the other four goals. For example, just as the real world is based on rules (social, physical, etc.) so are the new realities of the #1 goal. Without independence, the players create something based on whim(sy), which can be a story, but not a new reality.
If you see another potential desire of D20 for us and our role-playing games, do let me know!