Every system and edition has its strength and weaknesses. In particular, D&D 3.x was good at individual optimization, and 4e is good at group optimization. But, it still seems that there is room to better simulate what is possible in real life, without getting bogged down in details, tables, and dice rolls.
So, Wolfgod and I came up with a few things we would eventually like to see in a game system. These may be eventually made into a system; we’d have to hash out some statistics first. For now, it is just a pipe dream. Here’s a smattering of our ideas:
Levels? Classes? - Why are we still dealing with the Level/Class construct? We have neither in real life, so why do we need it in our games? We advocate a XP spending system something like what GW’s Dark Heresy uses.. It would look something like this:
50 XP buys one of the following:
- 2 skill points
- D6 HP
100 XP buys one of the following:
- One Feat
- D8 HP
- 1 Ranger/Bard/Paladin spell/day
200 XP buys one of the following:
- D10 HP
- 1 Special Ability (Rage, etc)
- 1 Cleric/Druid spell/day
- 1 Point of Base Save
300 XP buys one of the following:
- D12 HP
- 1 Wizard Spell/day
- 1 point of Base Attack
This would allow you to build whatever you need to. It seems that it may be a good idea to require a feat (or a few feats) before you could buy either wizard spells or cleric/druid spells, just to keep players from picking whatever spells are the most powerful and completely robbing themselves of any “flavor”. It’s hard to cast spells, it would take a lot of preparation.
This system better emulates real life, where you might either dabble a little in this and that, or you may concentrate on one thing to do it well. There’s no reason why a wizard or cleric needs to be unskilled in thieving skills, for example.
I think this would require some 4e culling of skills, so you’re not spending the same amount on useful skills like ‘Spot’ or ‘Hide’ as you are for ‘Knowledge: Geography’ or ‘Rope Use’.
This also prevents the sudden increase in power that a ‘level’ system uses. Every time your character adventures, they gain XP which they spend at the end of a session or during downtime in the session to get better. Moreover, it removes all the restrictions of a ‘Class’ - if you want a spellcaster who is extremely perceptive or a thief who has no social skills, you only have to buy what your character gets good at.
Magic should be malleable - So far, in D&D, we’ve really only seen magic as a fully-formed entity. Spells do what they do, and not much else. In reality (or, rather, ‘in fantasy’), magic should be scale-able. What would this look like? Well, for starters, there is no fireball.
For example, A caster might learn a basic Fire spell. When first learned, it can light candles or kindling or make a small light. Learning this would take a Feat or something (probably a Feat which depends on several others, in order to make casting arcane magic challenging). Once learned, more Feats would allow expanded range and damage - for example, the basic Force magic line would allow you to project the fire away from you, and a third area of magic (Air for example) would allow you to cause the Fire spell to ‘bloom’. Now you can throw a ‘fireball’ - but it took a series of feats/spell areas in order to project that kind of power. Want to thow lightning? Different area of specialization.
Some example fields of study might be elemental (fire, air, water, ice, electricity), and some may be physical (force, teleport). These can be combined for many effects.
Magic Systems - Magic comes from many different sources. These include the divine systems, which draw from a deity or nature itself, and the arcane systems, which draw from mystical forces of the world around us. It may also be useful to include a power source of the casters’ energy itself, for inexperienced or ‘wild’ casters who haven’t mastered the arcane power sources.
Years ago, we played a homebrew Cyberpunk game using the wounds/vitality system. The catch with being a caster in this game was that it took vitality points to cast (magic wears you out physically). When you were out of vitality points, you could keep casting, but it cost wounds. It was a particularly interesting visual; casters would get exhausted from casting, and eventually wounds would open up on them from the extreme amount of force channeled through their bodies.
Right now these ideas are more theory than system - but it would allow maximum customization of characters and flexibility to the players.