Confessions

I played my first game of D&D in the early 80s, at a birthday party, and I was hooked. I wasn’t just hooked on the idea of roleplaying games. I was hooked on the kind of roleplaying games have to offer.

I was already primed on this type of fantasy. My early joys were The Hobbit, Narnia, Dracula, as well as Creepy Magazine and Star Wars. I was ready for a game influenced by these, Lovecraft, Leiber, Burroughs, Moorcock, and Howard and when I was younger read them through the lens of Gygax and the others who produced the first game I truly loved…that through all these years I still love.

duotomb

This was the first roleplaying product I’ve ever owned. It may have scarred me.

I’m an older dude. And I’m going to use my old man voice, with a tinge of old New York, to tell all you younger fuckers that you don’t know how good you have it. We live in the wake of Dungeons & Dragons. Nearly every game on the market uses some semblance of the mechanic, the scope, or even the setting of D&D. No D&D, no Warhammer, and by extension no World of Warcraft. No D&D, no Knights of the Old Republic, and by extension, no Dragon Age. No D&D no Doom, Gauntlet, Diablo…you get the drift. Some may argue that the idea of another tabletop roleplaying game when there have been so many over the years is a foolish one. Isn’t that well dry? Isn’t it more profitable to provide a slicker, more whiz-bang approach? Bah! I like tabletop games. I like the communitas of it; the coming together like real human beings to share in make-believe. I like the process of creating a sharing imagination through good old fashion rules and game procedures. I told you. I’m old.

I’ll freely admit that early D&D had more promise than gumption. Even the old school gamers find ways to fine-tune the older engines. Their designers disregard or update the clunkiest of the traditional rules, just like they did when acne was a problem. The various games released between 1974 and the OGL attempted to

improve on the form, but often this was achieved by either specializing or simulationist cravings of slow play and the wow factor of tables. The best (or, arguably the most commercially successful) roleplaying games seek the delicate balance between robust rules paired with elegant design. While I joined Wizards of the Coast after the design of 3rd Edition D&D, the development of that game, the 3.5 revision, and 4th Edition and Star Wars Saga Edition always attempted to achieve that. So is Pathfinder, 5th Edition, and the upcoming Starfinder game.

Currently, the pinnacle of that elusive design mix is Shadow of the Demon Lord, by Robert Schwalb, but that doesn’t surprise me. Rob is a masterful designer fueled of metal and hate. He’s also a big burning hunk of vegetarian love. He’s an inspiring human being, and his incredible work on that game, as well as our long conversations about games, the industry, life, politics, and philosophy, has truly inspired me over the years. The inspiration for Delve came out of those long talks. Bits and pieces have appeared in plain sight. I’ve laid some groundwork, teased here and there. I used other projects to concrete some of my thoughts on subjects. The action economy in Pathfinder Unchained is a direct antecedent to the action economy in Delve, though by no means the last word. For years, I’ve worked to make better mouse traps in systems I had only partial control over. Maybe I’m getting greedy. Or maybe I’ve just found my voice.

I’m going to warn you now that I’m relatively fearless in my design. I’m sure as hell not afraid of tearing out an engine and put it back together. While the game I’m creating is going to seem familiar in a lot of ways, it is neither sentimental and shirks momentum when such things are not doing work, or working in the wrong direction. Some of you are going to be intrigued what you see in the coming span. Others are going to wonder why I did such and such, or why I changed some other bit. Well, that’s what this site is for. My posts are not only going to preview the story and the assumptions of the Delve multiverse, but they’ll also serve to put those bits in context and explain their purpose.

That and to tell you other shit. Stay tuned.

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About neogrognard

Stephen began working on RPGs in 2000, when he became the RPGA editoral assistant at Wizards of the Coast, working on both Polyhedron magazine and Living Greyhawk Journal. Over the years he’s administered the Living Greyhawk campaign, aided in the development of the D&D 3.5 Edition rules, was a developer for D&D 4th Edition and Star Wars Saga Edition, taught numerous game design classes in the Seattle area, and contributed to the Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide and Ultimate Magic as a freelance designer. He has worked at Paizo for the past six years and is now the senior designer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. He’s also the guy who designs the Pathfinder Flip-Mats and Map Packs. His current credits include Southlands for Kobold Press, as well as Hell’s Vengeance: For Queen & Empire, Horror Adventure, and Villain Codex, all for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
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2 Responses to Confessions

  1. Bill S says:

    A word from the loyal opposition…?

    First of all I really liked the article. It hit many of the touchstones that drew me to D&D in the first place (and let’s be honest, D&D is and will always be my “true love” of RPGs). I got hooked when we moved to Florida and I met a group of guys who were playing AD&D back in 1980/’81, and it started this now 36-year love affair. Where we part ways is one of mere nuance. Some people prefer going on the lot and buying a factory performance-tuned model, while others of us like to open the hood and tinker. My ’71 Firebird with a tweaked 350 is vastly different from someone elses entirely stock Camaro because the two of us have “house ruled” the machines to hell and gone.

    Doesn’t make your experience any less valid than mine: I can hand the keys over to someone used to driving their 4-cyl. GTI around and watch them have just as much fun as I do, and get the same amount, but a different type, of satisfaction doing so. That’s where I am with D&D. The grease-monkey. The roll-up-my-sleeves-and-tinker guy, out in the garage, fiddling with things.

  2. neogrognard says:

    I can understand that. Hell, I’ve made a living for over the past 16 years doing that with roleplaying games of the ilk, and have enjoyed the hell out of it. Looking at play and buying patterns, as well as listening to a number of gamers, while working at both Wizards of the Coast and Paizo I do understand that there are many gamers like you–happy with your favorite system and enjoying the tinkering. Much of the work I’ve done on Delve–and in systems overall–is to streamline those systems: making them easier for new players to understand the workings, and fixing problems that are inherent in those systems that the casual player either misses, glosses over, or just ignores. I enjoy doing this in a way that gives GMs more tools to tell the stories that they want to tell.

    At the very least, you might find that you respect the Camero I’m building, but you may want to steal parts to for your ’71 Firebird. Or at least borrow my hanging dice.

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