The Seven-Sided Die

My D&D Next

Posted Monday February 06, 2012 at 09:50 PM

Wizards is working on the next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons, but I'm not really waiting for them. I climbed on the 4e bandwagon only to be violently thrown off when it hit a bump in the road called dissociated mechanics, and Pathfinder didn't appeal to me with its tightening of the rules since I didn't like the tightness of the 3rd edition rules to begin with. D&D Next, or 5e, or "D&D-with-no-edition-number", is sounding much more like my cup of tea than 4e or even 3e, but these things take time to develop. In the meantime, I'm helping myself and not waiting around until 2013 or 2014 or whenever it's going to come out.

I picked up the Dresden Files RPG a while ago and I really like it. The Diaspora game I'm running now will be coming to a pause in a few weeks and I've been wanting to run an game in an alternate Forgotten Realms for a while. Between Fate as done in Diaspora, the elegance of the magic rules in the Dresden Files RPG, and a hankering to turn away from sci-fi back toward the worn, comfortable embrace of fantasy, it's perfect timing to work up a conversion of DFRPG's version of Fate for the Forgotten Realms.

In many ways Diaspora is to DFRPG as D&D 0e is to D&D 3e. DFRPG has a lot more structure than Diaspora, offering mechanics that, while still narrative in effect, are much more concretely grounded in the details of events in the game. Diaspora is much looser, giving you tools to play with a high level of story abstraction or to zoom in and do things blow-by-blow, but it doesn't give tools that are specific to that nitty-gritty level. DFRPG does, without sliding into a simulationist model like Strands of Fate does [1].

Dresden Files RPG's realisation of Fate is therefore perfect for a game of D&D that focuses on the grit and grime and heroics of a dungeon crawl while also directly rewarding character development. One of my goals for a game that does fantasy well but isn't D&D is to "feel like" a D&D game. DFRPG is the closest I've felt a game has come to fulfilling that nebulous criterion.

The Dungeoneer's Handbook

To that end, I'm working on something tentatively called the Dungeoneer's Handbook, "a guide for Fate players and GMs who love dragons and dungeons". My first goal is a slim handbook [3] that we can use at the table as a quick reference and character-conversion guide to make using DFRPG for a D&D-style game as easy as possible. Things like skill changes, sample stunts, a combat manœuver guide to help map D&D-combat thinking into Fate mechanics, templates for the class archetypes, and a monster-conversion guide for me are the sorts of things that will go into this.

Ideally, I would like to have a second milestone for fleshing it out into a minimalist but complete Dungeon Delving with Fate book under the OGL, but the OGL notice in DFRPG is one of those super-restrictive ones that claims everything:

Any material found in this book which is not directly taken from the above named works [Fudge 1995, FATE, Spirit of the Century] is deemed to be product identity.

I'm not a lawyer [2], but I find this a concerning OGL notice. As far as the OGL is concerned, not just anything can be claimed as Product Identity. In particular, mechanics can't be claimed as PI. But since DFRPG does introduce game mechanics (as defined under "Open Game Content") that are new since Spirit of the Century, that puts the licensing status of DFRPG and anything based on it in considerable doubt. Regardless, PI does legitimately cover the names and descriptions of "special abilities [and] magical or supernatural abilities", so reusing DFRPG stunts in a derivative work is verboten and making a "clean" derivative is prohibitive.

At some point I may take it up with Fred Hicks at Evil Hat to get some clarification, but the first, personal-use milestone is going to be plenty of work. Time enough to worry about the OGL later. And with that said, I really should get back to it!

[1]Strands of Fate is another good realisation of Fate, but it's bent more toward Hero System and GURPS sensibilities than I want to deal with.
[2]… Though I've been a keen amateur student of the issues and laws around copyright since the late 90s, so my grasp is more than trivial but short of "useful enough to save my neck in in a civil copyright dispute."
[3]Oh, I have to remember to enthuse about Scrivener as a pure word processor (which is not the same as a text layout engine – I'm looking at you MS Word) at some point. It's going to make this project so much easier to manage.

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