Ten days ago, I announced my plans to release my homebrew ruleset under the OGL. I’ve spent much of the time since then organizing files and doing prep work. I’m happy to say that this project looks to be much more straightforward than I expected.
There are a few issues that need to be resolved, but for the most part they are very minor. For one, I don’t have a name for the game. Atm, the working title is Alternate Reality but that doesn’t really grab me. I’m sure I’ll go through many many candidates before finding a name that I really love. Fortunately, a name isn’t crucial till the very end, so I have plenty of time.
I would really like to name the three books after the original DMG, PHB, and MM but those names are expressly forbidden in the OGL. I could always name them something that would have the same abbreviation, but nothing suitable, using those letters, comes to mind. It would be interesting to actually use the abbreviations themselves as the names (Just “PHB” written across the cover). But any reference to it (within the book itself) as “Player’s Handbook” would certainly cause problems. Currently, the working titles are “Game Master’s Guide”, “Adventurer’s Handbook”, and “Field Guide to the Monstrous and Mundane”. The first two will probably stick, but I’m not so excited about the third. I like “The Big Book of Monsters” but unfortunately that is already in use.
Preparing the PHB should be the easiest by far. I reformatted the files in the SRD to create a base PHB and have been going through each section carefully. Nearly every section will be completely replaced by my own content with the remainder being largely replaced as well. What I have is entirely original, so it won’t take too much work to ensure that it is fully compliant with the OGL.
Dungeon Master’s Guide
The DMG will take a great deal more work. Much of what will be included will be straight from the SRD. For instance, I won’t include any magical items from other sources (aside from my own creations), so all that material is allowed as is. However, there is a lot of material that I plan to include (entirely of my own) that isn’t written yet. I actually intend the DMG to be a guide for DMs, with suggestions on how to handle various situations, reasons behind why rules are written a certain way, and aspects of the game that need to be taken into consideration when adopting alternate rules. Naturally, this isn’t the type of stuff I ever actually wrote down as I wasn’t intending to share it with anyone else (at least not until recently). Committing all that to paper, and presenting it in a logical manner, will certainly take some time.
The MM, surprisingly, appears to be what will take the most time. Currently, I have a database containing every creature, from every monster manual, from every edition of the game (including the edition that shall not be named), plus a great many from other sources, and quite a few that I’ve created myself. It’s easy enough to restrict myself (for this project) to those creatures listed in the SRD (plus my own creations). The problem is, beyond the stat blocks, the SRD includes very little additional information. Other editions have included some very detailed information on various aspects of each creature. Unfortunately, none of it is included in the SRD and therefore is not covered by the OGL. If I want to include such information (and I do!) then I have to write it all myself from scratch.
In addition, I plan to reformat the stat blocks. 4e did some interesting things there that I think made them more readable and easier to use. My usage won’t be quite the same, but they did inspire me to do some re-design.
Sadly, I am not an artist. I can probably create a few images worth including, but I just don’t have the skill to quickly pop out any significant number of useful images. One way or another, I will come up with professional-looking covers for the three books. Beyond that, I want to include a liberal sprinkling throughout the PHB and DMG. However, I have to ask myself, what use would the MM be without an image of every creature displayed alongside the statblock? And if it is necessary, where will I get 500+ images (that don’t have legal restrictions on their use). If the MM is released as a free download (as I intend it to be), then it probably will not contain any artwork other than the cover. I would very much like to include artwork though, so I will be looking into whatever options I can think of.
In any event, I know what kind of artwork I am looking for: black and white images reminiscent of the 1e D&D books. Trampier’s basilisk jumps to mind as an example of what I want. If anyone is in New York, check the names of all the cabbies you see. If you run across Dave Trampier, beg him to do some artwork for me!!!
Later editions seem dry and clinical to me, compared to 1e (and before). I think the voice used in those early editions of the game helped capture the magic that I felt when I first started playing the game. As I am working on this project, I will be giving special attention to finding that voice. I hope I can capture what Gary used when he created his books.
Cutting Out the Problem Areas
Although these issues never arose in our circle, recent editions seem to have much more trouble with certain types of undesirable player behavior than where present in earlier editions: rules-lawyer, min-maxing, optimization, meta-gaming, and the like. I think much of this behavior stemmed from the way in which the rules were presented in later editions.
My goal is to remove the focus from the rules and shift it back to the game. For instance, I try to identify aspects of character creation that allow min-maxing and optimization to make significant differences, and alter the rules so that players can ignore these techniques and instead create characters based solely on what they will find interesting, while still creating characters that are just as viable as any other character.
I am torn as to whether or not I should leave the rules completely setting-neutral. By this I mean excluding rules that may be appropriate in some settings but not in others. An example would be banks. If you choose to include banks, there are all sorts of implementations: completely safe or very vulnerable, free to use or riddled with fees, simple coin storage or full-fledged vaults. Some may not wish to include banks at all. Including rules for this sort of thing imposes my view whereas any implementation would work equally well, depending on the setting. I will probably include these sorts of rules (in the DMG) as optional rules, with various implementations listed, and suggestions for using each method.
I questioned for a while whether my pantheon should be grouped in with that same issue. I have a detailed pantheon of 27 deities, each with specialized clerics and religious champions. I concluded that including some sort of pantheon was more important than any reason I can see for leaving it out.
Never having done anything like this before, I really have no idea as to how long it will take. Once I am 100% satisfied with the rules and the presentation, I will need to playtest every aspect of those rules. I’m sure that playtesting will lead to numerous changes and more playtesting. One year is probably a good estimate but I have no way of knowing how realistic that is. Two may be better but a lot can happen in two years. I want to make sure this gets done before anything sidelines it.