Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What Wizards of the Coast could learn from all those Worlds of Darkness.

My recent experience with Amethyst Foundations (read about it here and here), apart from being awesome, has also got my mind wandering thinking about why we don't have more great settings like Amethyst for 4th Edition. Don't get me wrong, there are several decent-looking fantasy settings for 4th Ed, but Wizards already has offered some really great material to cover that base of gaming.

I began thinking about how White Wolf successfully executed a number of base lines all sharing the same rule system. The new World of Darkness games all share a basic framework. Whether vampire, werewolf, mage, changeling, promethean, hunter, or sin-eater, all characters start out as a human with the basic rule system. The human then undergoes a change depending on the "fatsplat" used to run the game.

It's really a perfect system from where I'm sitting. You've got a universal rule system that you then build up your special character on top of that.

I realize this is one of the oldest ways to develop games on top of games. That being said, it was really perfected by the new World of Darkness. It's created a universal language that people playing across game lines can understand. A werewolf knows how to dodge a gun shot coming from a hunter (some might say all too well!). This keeps things simple, but a casual read-through of any two fatsplats will quickly show that the simplicity does not sacrifice a unique gaming experience.

So I've been thinking, and I really feel like Wizards is missing a great opportunity with how they're handling 4th Edition. Now that they have a rock solid foundation of a system with their powers, healing surges, etc., why not expand the market? Release a new core book late next year (I don't know what you'd call it, but not "Dungeons & Dragons") explaining how the system works. Then, instead of releasing new campaign settings each year for D&D, release a series of unique genre toolkits, each with their own setting. Make a pure sci-fi game with its unique world and special rules. Release a swash-buckling historic game with muskets and big funny hats. I haven't bought a Wizards 4e book outside of Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms since I don't know when, and that was just to see how the Essentials format worked. Instead, I've looked to other systems or other companies like Goodman Games and Dias Ex Machina to scratch my non-fantasy itch. I would love the opportunity to buy other games based on the 4th Ed engine with the high production values Wizards has to offer!

Get to it!


  1. I really like that suggestion. In fact, this is almost what I think they could've done with power sources. I think part of what makes NWoD really work is their classless system. Your character's archetypal identity doesn't come from a class, it comes from a supernatural schtick.

    In D&D, you'd almost have to have a separate fat-splat for each class...which gets kinda ridiculous. It almost feels like it would entail a total redesign of the system.

    Which could be cool.

    I wonder, maybe the GSL could allow for something like this. And by "something like this" I'm talking about, for instance, taking the core ruleset (skills, defenses, attacks, attributes, healing surges, etc.) and then adding in a Martial fatsplat, a Divine fatsplat, an Arcane fatsplat, a Primal fatsplat, a Psionic fatsplat. (I really like that term, by the way) It almost reminds me of what I hear about Gamma World, in a way.

    Anyway, that would also fix the problem I've seen of their power sources: they're all the same. Or, rather, they're loose categories for different classes, and nothing more. You could focus on differentiating Martial from Divine from Arcane, etc., and give a distinct feel to all of them. Because there should be a distinct feel.

  2. I like fatsplat as well, it's a great description of a big chunky piece of book!

    You bring up a really good point with the power sources. I think they're only just recently with Essentials try to give different classes a different feel in how they actually play. I can relate to those who thought that, while it evened the classes out in number of options for actions, giving everyone the equivalent of spells and making weapons and implements work very similiarly (just against different defenses) really made the classes all feel very similiar.

    With Essentials and the liberal use of stances, I really like how they opened the system up. Now fighters and rogues can depend on their basic attacks but have a very simple way to add some flourish to their actions. It's really quite elegant.

    I love the idea of power source fat splats. It'd be an easy way to introduce great new classes. Imagine a power source:high tech fatsplat! That would be rad.


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