Building the Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom RPG pt.3 – Systems & Implementation
The System for the Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom RPG
The release of the D20 license when Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition was created (or spawned depending on your point of view) caused something on renaissance in the gaming world. It allowed companies like Paizo to create their Pathfinder RPG, and other small press publishers to release supplements using an existing system- D&D; at the time, a brand leader.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve mixed feelings about the whole D20 event: on the one hand it revitalised the industry somewhat; on the other, much of the material released was substandard (poor artwork, no editing, and a lot of individuals flooding the market with product). Not to mention the outcry when 3.5 was released. Nonetheless, it encouraged a lot of RPG designers to make their systems “open-source” to use.
I’ve weighed up the pros and cons of creating my own system – experience has taught me that this isn’t the easiest thing to do. For what is essentially a “vanity” project on my part, I don’t think a new system is required. With that in mind I’m considering using an existing system, and one that I don’t have to pay for: and there’s also the fact that these systems have been largely playtested and are more likely to have had some of their rougher edges smoothed down. The downside being that these rules may become out of date when a new version is released, or possible litigation should the OGL be dropped from the system by the creator.
For Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom RPG, I’m thinking that the FATE system (Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment) would be ideal to use. FATE is based on the Fudge RPG, a simple, yet effective system, that is free-to-use under terms of an Open Gaming License (OGL). FATE has been used to create rulesets for The Dresden Files RPG and Spirit of the Century among others, and means that I’ve ready-made rules/mechanics that I can plug and bolt together. All I need to do is provide a page dedicated to OGL (see http://www.faterpg.com/ogl/ for more details).
I like the way that Fate works, reducing much of the mechanics to a simple roll and description. It also lends itself well to the design criteria I had in mind: quick and easy rules that allow a fast pickup for new players, without generic (and stereotypical!) characters – each will have their own abilities.
There’s a few other things I need to consider as I begin work on the Mandragora: Ashes of Freedom RPG (M:AoF it’s much easier to type!)
Things to consider: Page count
This can be a bit tricky. The average published novel has 250 words a page, and runs about 100,000 words (i.e. 400 pages). RPGs are different – they are a different size, and the number of pages do matter! 300 -400 pages is average for a big meaty rulebook (with lots of illustrations and background), such as the Dresden Files RPG or Deathwatch, although others may have more or less. The number of pages can also have some bearing on what you can use to print the book as hard copy, from either a commercial printer or via a print-on-demand service like Lulu. If you intend to write an adventure, 64 pages is generally good to go with.
Also, you need to figure out how big your page size if going to be and how you intend to lay it out: the words per page for A5 page size and single column text is very different from, say, US Letter. The standard for RPGs is apparently US Letter (8.5″ x 11″) with a paper weight is 80gsm (US: 60 lb) – A4 doesn’t size well for the US market (it’s too tall). If you’re planning to use a fancy format, do your homework with the Printing house.
It’s generally accepted (according to the Game Publishers Association and elsewhere) that the minimum (note that I said minimum!) amount of artwork is 1/4 page art for every 4 pages of text – and that’ll still give you a fairly text heavy book.
There comes a point when you or your editor will need to edit it anyway and possibly cut out some sections. I’ve going to set myself a provisional limit of 300 pages for M:AoF, and stick with the US letter size, with two columns of text on each page.
So that’s me off to a bare bones start anyway. I suspect the next blog on this subject is a long way off