Formative Years: the games that influence me still

It is truly amazing just what an effect Champions had on me as a youth. I think I was 12 or 13 when I first encountered the game, and it warped me for life. No longer would I feel content with a system whose rules didn't go down to the level of giving you the tools you needed to tinker in an official way. It led me to GURPS, and I've remained enamored of Hero System ever since.

D&D has always had this strange characteristic: the rules explicitly tell you that they are guidelines, and that the designers expect that you will tinker with them in your own play. They tell you that imagination is more important than the rules in some cases. But interestingly, they stop short of ever giving you any indications of just how you might effectively tweak the rules yourself but remain true to the balance inherent in the system. Thus, so many house rules in D&D (any version) are reviled because they are explicitly not approved by the designers, and they're unlikely to be well play tested.

Looking at the final D&D Next playtest packet (why yes, I did pick that up before it went away - I'm always curious to see where things are going), the races are very interesting. They read, mechanically, very much like the races presented in Savage Worlds. There's changes to primary characteristics, and there are special powers and drawbacks. Where Savage Worlds takes things to the next level is that, after they've presented many of the traditional choices (elves and dwarves, but also androids), they give finish up with "oh, and here's the rules we used to make them - you know, in case you want to change them or create some of your own." That's the spark for me - that's gone from being a major plus in my book to being all but essential.

But, to be fair, Savage Worlds loses points for not going to the next level and providing rules for creating your own Edges (advantageous traits) and Powers (supernatural gifts) - though I'm told that may be included in the two most recent supplements for Super Heroes and Sci Fi.

For a game to truly turn my crank anymore, it almost has to have low-level build tools like that cooked into it. It just doesn't feel right if you're not playing with things at a very meta level when it comes to the rules, if not when it comes to play. And I blame Champions for this. It literally ruined me for other, less flexible systems.


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