I’m designing my own RPG.
I checked and there are eleventy billion homebrew systems out there. Why make another one no one will pay attention to? Well, I just had to, really, because I got a bee in my bonnet.
It started years ago in brief snippets of time, usually half an hour or two here and there once every few months. I’ve stepped up my efforts lately though (in that I spend a few minutes every month instead of every year) because of the Pathfinder 2 playtest. I read some of the things in that and some of the mechanics were so antithetical to what, on paper, that I perceive as my particular style of fun that I just had to create something of my own to put out into the universe to balance things out.
For an antithetical example, the last time I read the playtest rules, there was a mechanic to govern whether or not your own shield was raised.
That is a particularly granular focus in a system presumably designed to abstract out combat.
Even if this doesn’t survive to the final game, why does this concept even exist in the first place? My supposition is that it exists so people can min/max around it. That is to say, there are people who want to be able to manipulate their allocation of benefits so that they get a bonus or eliminate a penalty for their character using a shield. They’ll have some advantage over other characters that have not taken such measures, thus they’ll be doubly rewarded for their character concept (once mechanically for the shield at all then again for min/maxing around it).
One of Pathfinder 2’s designers once wrote in an offhand way that part of the point of rule sets like Pathfinder is so that people can get deep into the rules and then be rewarded for dong so. That’s a particular style of play and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The problem I see with that style is that once a rule set caters to min/maxing, it forces the entire group to min/max whether they want to or not.
The best example of that point that I know if is my own experience with min/maxing. I was in a group that did enjoy it while I did not. While they made mechanic-based decisions for their character I made roleplaying ones. As a result, my character became effectively inconsequential to the campaign.
Min/maxing is about combat—what about when the group wasn’t in combat? The question is moot. In a group that min/maxes, the game becomes all about combat. And in a system like Pathfinder, where mid- to high-level combats in particular can take an enormous amount of time to adjudicate, combat becomes the overriding focus of the experience at the table.
That’s the key phrase—experience at the table. A combat with thugs that takes an hour to do is real-life more important than negotiating an agreement with a king that takes 30 minutes.
The ideal ruleset would enable both types of player, min/max and not, to be at the table and have each of them be as effective in contribution—both in time spent at the table and impact on the campaign.
But how can you have such disparate ideas not compete with each other at the table? If you want to reward someone down to such a granular level of whether or not someone has their shield raised, how do you protect someone for whom that’s irrelevant—but make both types of players equally happy during every play session?
That’s a difficult task—but I have an idea for how to accomplish it.
I’ll discuss that in my next post!