Why I am running a d20 fantasy game

I am about to start a new campaign as a GM. I stepped away from the GMs chair over a year ago because I did not have the time to run a game. Since then we have had two GMs. The first was a first time GM that we tortured into submission the second a veteran that put together a great campaign. Unfortunately, this game has ground to a halt due to real life schedule conflicts. Each time we plan to play something comes up that keeps to many people away from the game. The end result has been no games for four months. In that time we have played board and card games like poker, BANG!, Killer Bunnies, and The Werewolves of Millers Creek.

Although I have enjoyed playing these games a great deal I have realized that I want to roleplay. I have a marginally simpler life now than when I stepped out from behind the screen so I am going to take another shot at running a game.

The first struggle was genre. We almost always play Fantasy. We have played a few short games of Superhero or Future based games but all the long running campaigns have been fantasy. I would love to try a SteamPunk, CyberPunk, Future, or Supers genre. However, I have a limited amount of time to prep for each session so going with something familiar is far easier than trying something daring. So I flirted with a modern or near future campaign but settled on fantasy for the genre. (I did start a story telling "game" in a near future or dark future world to try out the modern genre. The chapters of that game will be published here as well.)

Then I struggled a great deal trying to pick which game system to play. To be honest the real struggle was trying to find a game other than d20 to play. I try not to be biased about game systems but when it came down to selecting a system I found myself looking for any system I could play rather than d20. I sometimes find the game material for d20 to restrictive, or too combat based. So after several days of research I finally made a decision. I will start a d20 campaign and here is why...

I looked at Fudge. I really like the Fudge system, or at least I claim to, but I have yet to run a long term campaign in Fudge. I seriously considered Fudge because regardless of genre or setting I can use Fudge. I could actually mix and match genres and setting in one game with the Fudge system. In the end there just isn't enough stuff there for me to run a campaign easily. I love the Fudge but it is a lot of work for the GM. There are very very few off the shelf modules to use and there is no campaign books for the games I would like to play. I have played a few sessions of Fudge and I liked the system (or I should say I like the mechanic) but I don't want to get into the level of GM preparation overhead that Fudge requires. So Fudge was eliminated form the list of possible games.

I considered Rolemaster but only for a moment. If Fudge requires too much GM investment then Rolemaster is off the scale. I have been a Rolemaster fan for a long time but I just can't get excited about that level of detail anymore.

I also took a long hard look at Harp. About a year ago I tried to start a Harp campaign but the preparation work for the game just sapped all my creative juices. Not that Harp is a difficult game but when I was starting up only the base book was released so I would have to come up with the settings and adventures all on my own. I looked at Harp again and I really like some of the concepts introduced in Harp (Blood talents are a fantastic idea for example) but I don't want to have to buy a bunch of new books for the game and I don't want to invest the time to create my own stuff for Harp so Harp was also dropped from my consideration.

World of Warcraft the RPG was considered for about thirty minutes. I love Warcraft 3. The world is interesting but I don't know the system, the world, the way things work, etc. The game books also cost the earth so WoW was only a flash in the pan on my list of games to consider.

I took a look through my RPGNow pdfs and picked out Rune Stryders. Rune Stryders is a fantasy game that includes mecha - but fantasy based mecha. Giant organic constructs. I read through parts of the rules again and thought about using Rune Stryders for my upcoming game. I really like the concept but I rejected Rune Stryders for the same reasons I dropped fudge and Rolemaster and Harp. No support products.

So that left me with d20.

I looked again at my RPGNow pdfs and found a ton of things to just pick up and play. In less than an hour I have a campaign planned that would span first to thirdteenth level. And the whole thing would use just three products that had cost me a total of $18.87 USD.

The last thing I considered was d20 modern. I looked really really closely at d20 modern simply because I love the way money and damage works in d20 modern. I was very close to trying to take the damage rule from d20 modern and put them into my new campaign. So finally d20 modern was the last thing that dropped from my list and I had a final list that looked like this:

  • d20 Modern - not the right setting/genre
  • Fantasy Fudge - too much prep work
  • Future Fudge - too much prep work and not the right setting/genre
  • Harp - need to buy the books or too much prep work
  • Rolemaster - too detailed
  • RuneStryders - too much prep work
  • World of Warcraft - far too expensive and too much prep work
  • d20 Fantasy (D&D)

So I am going to run a d20 game, even though I am at times extremely dissatisfied with the game system. My hope is to produce a game that is a great deal for all the players (including me) and I think that after going through all the steps and reviews and reading I have selected the right game system.

So I went though this process because I did NOT want to play d20 and came to the conclusion that I actually do want to play d20. The system is not bad and the support products make it extremely easy to set up and play.

Note: Simply because life has a way of doing things to you ("Busy, busy, busy" in the words of Billy Pilgrim) I immediately cancelled the first game session because I was going out of town for the weekend.

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