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Nailed to the Church Door: A Game Design Mandate

Updated: Jun 6

The original preface to the first Alpha test.

Dear Gamer,

Role-playing games have been around for many years, and the market is flooded with various systems and products. Therefore, it seems strange that someone with any sense would launch into creating another set of rules. It is not strange; it is necessary. The proliferation of gaming systems indicates a need – a deficiency with what is there. Although there are many games on the market, none of them truly satisfy. There is something magical and wonderful in the ideas of all these games, but in execution they begin to disappoint.

I do not intend of inventing a new game, but refining what is already out there. The compiled works of thousands of creative, imaginative people show both promise and problem. What you find within these pages is an elegant solution to these problems, and a method of cleanly, seamlessly incorporating the myriad of wonderful ideas into the core system.

Fantasy game designers seem to choose between vital elements of the game: playability, expandability, balance, and realism. They sacrifice storytelling elements in the name of simplicity, create artificial statistics that measure nonsensical notions, and use complicated charts to measure minute advantages while allowing the most egregious abuses both of fantasy and reality. Role-Playing games can play like a book – but, please, let’s make it a good book.

The systems that have been published fail to achieve for a number of reasons, but mostly because they try to do too much. I am publishing sourcebooks with my ideas of wonderful creatures and fantastic realms, and I hope they add to the already vast and marvelous array of work out there. However, my predecessors have written their wonderful ideas into their games at the beginning, warping and bending the framework of their systems beyond usable adaptation. Before you think I missed the eighties and the “Universal” games that were popular on the market at that time, let describe my game designers mandate and my attempt to respond to it.

The function of a fantasy role-playing game is to provide a medium of controlled interaction between players, characters, and an imaginary game world. This game should make it easy for players to act as they desire, and facilitate the imaginations of everyone without becoming false. It necessarily follows that a game of this description must be easy to use, so as not to interfere with the play or break the player’s willing suspension of disbelief. From this mandate it is clear that the ideal game system provides a framework for adventure and imagination, but never becomes the game. The best system can hope to disappear. Players should never feel confined within the rules. Neither should they feel that they can bend the false reality to their whims. In both scenarios the world becomes artificial. A good fantasy world is imaginary, un-real, often mystical, but never artificial. In order to maintain belief and encourage imagination, a game should provide a method of evaluating and understanding your character. When called upon, the game system should give you a method of plausibly returning random results. That’s it. The gamers do the rest.

In these pages you will find a game of Epic storytelling and monumental battles. You will be able to create a rich character with as much detail as you desire. When you learn how to play, which won’t take long, you will be in complete control of every aspect of the game. The level of detail, the method of resolving actions, and even the flow of time, will be at your command to enhance your gaming experience. The game that follows is my response to my own letter “nailed to the church door.” I encourage others to do the same. Good gaming,


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