Monday, January 6, 2020

I've been convinced.

I've been convinced, partly by argument and partly by recent experience, that the best way to make a D&D setting human-centric is to use only race-as-class for non-human PCs, assuming they should happen to be allowed in the first place.

It's oft-quoted from an old The Dragon article that Gygax put Vancian magic in D&D to prevent it from becoming a "weird wizard show," to give fighting men their proper chance to shine. I'm now more certain than ever that the strict limitations on demi-humans in the LBBs (the tight class restrictions and the extremely low level limits) were in fact a good idea and quite necessary to prevent the game from becoming an "eerie elf show."

It was also an abject failure of an effort, since, by the time AD&D 2nd edition came along, the elf's highest level limit had jumped from 8th to 15th level in the mage class, level limits were typically ignored by most groups anyhow, and by the 2010s the hobby itself was snidely being called "playing elfgames" on the internet.

And certainly, in the campaign I've just begun, the fact that only two players out of six even considered playing humans (despite all the restrictions I heaped on demi-human characters) is more than disappointing. It's enough to make me regret allowing demi-human PCs at all.

So color me convinced. In the revised iteration of Engines & Empires, not only will demi-human characters be optional and tucked away in the referee chapter, they'll only appear as race-classes. No separate race-and-class option at all. And this got me to thinking, why did I even include it in the first place? After all, back in the original E&E Campaign Compendium, the little digest-sized paperback, I used race-as-class straight out of BECMI.

And then I remembered, oh, yeah, I changed it for the E&E Core Rules because of the Gaia setting. It seemed to make more sense for Gaia to have race-and-class, because of the modern/steampunk milieu and the fact that non-human races in that setting are thriving rather than waning—that it's a world where demi-humans are in fact more prevalent than humans.

And that winds up making it not a very game-able setting when you get right down to it. So I'm starting to realize that I'm going to have to re-think the Gaia setting too, before I revise and republish that one. In the meanwhile, a better flagship setting might be in order, like the Älyewinn setting I described on this blog long ago, which is in fact the source of demi-humans as I now run them (with its hobbity dwarfs and dwarfy goblins and orcky ogres and kenderiffic elves).

So my game publishing agenda just got one book thicker:

1. Engines & Empires Core Rules, revised.
2. Shining Armour, the spiritual successor to Retro Phaze.
3. Shade Isle, a mega-dungeon (that will need some serious revision itself as I transcribe my notes and maps). I want to get this done before I delve into settings.
4. Finally, the Älyewinn and Gaia setting books, each of which I think I'll also pair with a dungeon to keep them relevant. Gaia as a setting is going to get a major overhaul, too, to make it more human-centric and playable.

So there's my agenda. No idea how many years it'll take to work through this, but at least I can foresee finishing E&E's revision this year. I do promise to get to work on Shining Armour after that, because I've found that I miss having a tactical skirmish game in my life.


  1. Looking forward to all of these. I'm especially interested in Shining Armour and Shade Isle.

  2. Shining Armour... I see what you did there.
    I really need to go back and replay those games one of these summers.