Pen and Paper RPG Wishlist

As I get more involved with tabletop RPGs, specifically Dungeons and Dragons, I find there are some related attributes that I wish these game systems had. While I'm sure there are systems do have some of these, I wish whatever I happen to be using had all of them.

Print friendly. The source material tends to be very colorful and graphical. While this can be a good thing, especially when illustrating monsters (Show, not tell!), it's bad if you want to print out your own materials. I want the crucial information available in a crisp, clean monochrome form of some sort. Not only could I reproduce material for use in notes and handouts, but I could create my own condensed sets of information by composing these crisp forms.

For example, in the D&D monster manual each monster has a nice concise block containing all the information — defenses, health, abilities, etc. — needed to use that monster. This is great, but it's on a brownish background, in a red-ish box. So close to being what I want. But even then, do I have legal permission to reproduce this information? And so ...

Licensing. The closest thing tabletop gaming has to a Free Software license would be the Open Game License (OGL), which is still pretty restrictive. I would love for the source materials to be licensed at least loosely enough that I could print out my own copies for cheap (assuming they are print friendly, per above). Have some new players sitting down at the table? To get them started, give them that stapled-together player handbook you printed out. There's RPG evangelism for you.

The Fudge role-playing game system has both these attributes down pretty well. The Fudge manual is very print friendly PDF with explicit permission to share it with your friends. However, just as yacc is a compiler compiler, Fudge is really a game system system, a system for creating game systems, so it's only part of what is needed to play a game.

Useful software tools. One specific example is character creation software. Creating a new character can be burdensome, especially for a new player. Software that allows a player to select some basic options from a menu and produce a printable, error-free character sheet can save a lot of time.

Fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons has a character builder, but it is a humongous piece of junk. It's proprietary, Windows-only, bulky, and slow. For a program that merely generates printouts based on a few user selections from some simple menus, it has some extremely excessive system requirements (much higher than the ones they claim). And it requires a reboot to install too. A human can produce the same results by hand inside of a half hour, so for a computer there is virtually no computation involved. So what is it doing? Worse of all, the fourth edition license expressly forbids competing character creation software, so no one can legally produce a reasonable one. All this thing should be is a database of available character abilities, some character sheet logic, and a postscript printer.

Fortunately there are some decent, generic world generation tools for GMs out there, such as random inn generators, random dungeon generators, and so on. And another one. I've mentioned this before.

If you know any systems that fit the above descriptions well, go ahead and link them in the comments!

Have a comment on this article? Start a discussion in my public inbox by sending an email to ~skeeto/ [mailing list etiquette] , or see existing discussions.

This post has archived comments.

null program

Chris Wellons (PGP)
~skeeto/ (view)