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The Douchey DM » General Gaming, RPG Industry BS » Why I Designed My Own RPG

Why I Designed My Own RPG

dtc logoNearly two years ago, I began designing my own RPG. I’ve thrown out much of the early work I did. I’ve changed the dice mechanic at least three times. Character generation, which started as point-buy, moved on to random generation and then back to point-buy.

It has been a lot of work and a lot of chasing my tail, and the process has only just begun. In a few days I’ll run the first real play test. After that, I’ll fix whatever broke and release it into the wild for play tests by people who’ve signed up to look at it.

Some one asked me why I went to all this trouble when there are several RPG systems that I like enough to run campaigns in. Why make my own? There are three reasons. Two have to do with my own gaming preferences and the final has to do with projects I’m planning on producing.

During the last four years of my podcast, I’ve had the opportunity to really examine my own gaming preferences in great detail. I realized what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve also seen things done in a certain way, a way that sometimes doesn’t work out well, and wondered if there’s a better way. So I came up with some design goals that guided the design process.

Combat Should Be Fast and Decisive

In some games combat is the centerpiece of the system, the raison d’être for the game itself. Many flavors of DnD fit into this category. You can often tell this by how much of the rule book is devoted to combat, how many character options affect only combat. The centerpiece of my game is (if I did it right) the characters and the story.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some “RPGs shouldn’t contain so much violence” sort of people. It is during combat that the stakes are the highest. It’s mano a mano. It’s a moment of truth. It’s also the culmination of dramatic tension, often the climax of the story.

But it doesn’t have to take all night, with round after round of wearing down the bad guys’ hit points.

I’ve designed the combat system to give a relatively quick resolution so the players and GM can deal with the aftermath of the violence, which is the interesting part.

Players Control Their Role-playing, not Numbers or Dice

This manifests itself in a couple different ways.

Firstly, there is no intelligence statistic. It has been replaced by two statistics: perception and education. With perception, you can notice things, recognize patterns, see the unobvious. Education represents your knowledge base — what you know about the world you live in. When paired with skills it represents what you know about various subjects.

Secondly, is the social mechanic. There are no social skills like fast-talk, persuade, or convince other. Rather there are skills like read mood, read crowd, conversation. These skill rolls are made BEFORE interaction with an NPC happens. With a successful roll, the player will be provided information by the GM that will help him in the conversation with the NPC. The dice roll does NOT determine the outcome of that conversation.

I Have Ideas That Need a Home

I have stacks of game world and adventure ideas. Some of these things I want to publish, but I don’t want to be beholden to someone else and their third-party license, bit it very open or restrictive. With my own system, I can publish what I want and I only have to answer to myself and those who buy it.

A glimpse of one of these game worlds will be previewed in the play test document, which is a couple weeks away from release.

Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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3 Responses to "Why I Designed My Own RPG"

  1. HoundinNo Gravatar says:

    Those sound like changes that was been sorely missing in other games. I especially like the way you’ve change social conflicts to be more about perception and less about wit.

  2. […] read this post today from the Douchey DM about why he created his own RPG. And I really enjoyed what he had to […]

  3. R. A. Whipple (@RA_Whipple)No Gravatar says:

    I am very much in agreement with your social skills order of play, where GM gives information to allow the players to interact with the game/story world and each other. This is reminiscent of the Reaction Tables I am so familiar with, a roll (by the GM or an other player – perhaps the player playing the PC with the most Charisma) that happens prior to interaction to direct _the_GM_ how to present the other(s) in social interaction, though your system appears to break down Wisdom and Intelligence into Perception and Education. If you haven’t already, I suspect you’re going to hear the role-playing dirge about how this is unfair to socially inept players being incapable of interacting as their characters would, of course. Some Min-maxers inevitably feel everything happens at character generation and rather not at the table during play. Their characters having a higher ability to talk reason, be clever or be outright imaginative are imperiled by the inept player and therefore the issue of trust the GM comes to light because there is no way a munchkin can maximize not having a social life I presume. The player cannot fudge his or her brilliance or hide behind a dice roll when the role-play is social and live.

    That is what I like most about what you’ve stated about your game, Stu.

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