Friday, February 26, 2010

Rant: I hate D20

Allright, D20 system can be used in Dungeons & Dragons, I don't mind that, but one thing what really, really aggravates me is that every single game must be converted to D20. I'd like to get BESM for my collection, but quess what, easily available version is D20. I think it isn't the original or it doesn't have the original feel anymore. I am not sure of tri-stat system (doesn't it use that) or is D20 actually better system or not, but I don't buy it (as a "feel" or a copy of it). Many of out of print games are again available, but in damn D20 format. There is many games that I'd like to collect, and they are hard to find nowadays and when browsing rpg shops and I actually find a copy of game I'd like to get, I allways get disappointed when I see that cursed D20 logo on them. Hey, c'mon! If I want to buy an older game, I want it older, not damn D20 incarnation of it.

As I am watching Farscape now and really, really like it and I knew there is Farscape rpg available, I almost wet my pants. When I did search it in rpg store's stock I cannot describe my rage, as it is - ofcourse - in D20. I don't want any level or class based Farscape science fiction. I don't want to roll D20 + modifier against difficulty number or what ever it is. I don't want uni-rules for all frikkin' games (at least when those uni-rules are damn D20), so I stopped lusting for my copy of Farscape rpg. D20 system ruined it for me, even if I didn't buy it.

I like Star Wars, not a big fan, but I like it. It has great value in science fiction genre, and I really enjoyed the movies when I was a kid, and I still do (even if episodes 1-3 are bull's butt). I got myself Star Wars SAGA and thought I can bear the D20 system, but never finished reading it. Most of the book is damn D20 rules and them damn D20 rules are stupid in my opinion. I will never run it. Nor read through. I wish I had Star Wars D6 instead of that stupid D20 book.

What about WoD D20? I don't want to even start about it, as in one forum I got my butt whooped over ranting about it. Okay, I know I haven't read it or even kept it in my grip, but still... D20 WoD with totally different backstory than original World of Darkness. I can take the idea of "dungeon crawl vamps and wuffies fighting with each other" and I can even bear the idea of supernatural beings from other darn dimension, but still... LVL 6 vampire. I don't buy it. It just feels so wrong. If the idea of D20 WoD is to give WoD to those D20 purists, it is a failure. If you cannot bear storytelling system and love your D20, don't play damn WoD. It is not ment for you. I can imagine conversation between D20 WoD-player and Storyteller WoD-player. Is there anything common with them? Might be, but I doubt. We are emo.

The fact is, that WotC is huge, they are one of the few dominating the markets, and they got money. It is good and respected effort that they actually cast resurrection spells to games what have been forgotten, or where setting was nice but rules sucked, but I am starting to get really, really angry about everything turning to D20. I don't like D20. I got my D&D 3rd edition and Blue Rose with True20 (please, don't tell me how D&D 3.5, or 4th, or Pathfinder or anything else with D20 system is better than my "experience" with 3rd edition) which is my actual D20 experience. Well, never played D&D 3rd edition but I have read it a couple of times. If I want basic high fantasy adventures, I wouldn't choose D20 even then. I just don't like it. I like to roleplay in my mind, not with minis and battlemaps. I do want to roleplay, not rollplay. I know, you can roleplay even with tv-guide with enough imagination, and I am not rules heavy gm even in games with lightest rules but still, whole D20 concept relies on rules in my opinion. And all those attacks of opportunities and other feats you basically cannot play without buttons, paperscraps or minis is so frustrating. I want to be able to fully play my rpg without any other items. If I want to use minis, I play a game like Necromunda (been adding rpg aspects on it also in the past actually).
True20 was bearable. Take D20 system, make it a bit more simple. But still, it didn't tickle me. It still is lvl based. It still has some combat manouvers what are used in big part of action. I like my action to be "throw dice and describe" not "read your character sheets dozen feats and decide what you use". I like freedom in action, not list of what my character can do and cannot do.

You can still play D20 without rules, or modificate the rules to suit you, or make it rules light. You can ditch the attack of opportunities and other things you don't like, but it still is the same. You cannot change it.

I don't mean to attack all of you D20 lovers out there. Billion people cannot be wrong, and D20 is doing good. It just isn't for me. I don't mind what you play, more important thing is that you enjoy what you are playing. Most annoying about D20 what actually concerns me is that everything seems to be D20. Many interesting settings and books turn me off because of that D20.

Well, as a WoD fan, I don't like nWoD actually, but that is another story. I think Savage Worlds could be a good competitor to D20. I know, it will never take the crown from D20 and claim itself the "one" who resurrects old games, but it has potential. For Savage Worlds there is also good number of old games re-published.

It's good to get this out of my head. Now, peace, finally.

(Pictures from:


Anonymous said...

Well, the era of d20 is dying out and many different systems are widely played now. If it makes you happy

David The Archmage said...

Star Wars would be a great system for Farscape.

Unknown said...

@ Anon: Well, WotC has made some real big mistakes in it's ogl, or something. I don't know the details though, but I heard after 4th edition it started to suck.
And it doesn't make me happy, as I don't mean harm to WotC (no black magik here) or wish ill to D20 players/fans.

@ David: Yeah, many items are available second hand or at really high prices when new. Ordering from USA might get quite pricey to here though.
I like Fading Suns for my Farscape. 1st edition I own. SW could work too though.

Well, another rant I have is about my favourites, World of Darkness and White Wolf, but that is another story, blogging, and rant.

Anonymous said...

Some systems you won't see D20 versions of--Rolemaster, Warhammer FRP, Dragon Age, Hero System, and GURPS. There are others, but these come to my mind as I have them.

Sami Koponen said...

"it still is the same. You cannot change it." This sounds pretty weird, since I've understood that you run your games "by the cover" anyway. How can d20 system possibly be more difficult to modify than any other system? At the very least you should be able to take the setting, if it's the licensed Farscape you want.

Anonymous said...


I hate character classes. I hate character levels. I hate making single die (rather than rolling two dice) rolls- especially when that die rolls like a ball. I hate how every session is merely a series of combat encounters and how each of those encounters is precariously balanced so the PC's can just barely win. But most of all, I hate "hit points". I hate the arbitrary value of 1d6 damage for a "short" sword and 1d8 damage for a "long" sword. As if how you use a sword has nothing to do with the damage it does. I hate how I can sneak up on an enemy's position and hit the sentry with my short bow and then watch him take 1d6 damage just before he alerts the entire encampment to my presence because the arrow didn't even hurt him- other than to reduce his hit point total. And I hate how D20 fans think that every game has to conform to their "easy" and "popular" rules. Those crusty DnD fossils that have been playing the same campaign since 1979 have an excuse for playing a crappy rule set from the 1970's. If you weren't born before 1980 you don't have that excuse.

Unknown said...

Sami Koponen: Well, that "running by cover" includes the rules. I don't have that much time anymore to put in rpg's, so I am not that keen to mod games.
And well, I can take Farscape setting quite easily. Thanks to wiki-communities, there is a dedicated wiki for almost any fiction you could use as a background in your favourite game.

Oh, and I have question for you Sami (and anyone else). Is there in D20 system anything, what is hard to convert? I have understood, that other systems might be in general more setting-point?

Sami Koponen said...

"Is there in D20 system anything, what is hard to convert?"

I have no idea. As I have mentioned elsewhere, during the last four years I've played over 200 sessions and around 100 different rpgs. d20 was the system only for a couple of times.

Xander said...

IF you've not seen it yet have a look into Shadowrun. If they haven't d20'd it yet it's worth a look just for the mechanics.

Oh and btw, I agree whole heartedly. I arrived here looking for the old west end games version of Star Wars.

I used to like d20 cause most games didn't use anything other than one die size but now it's just getting boring. It doesn't matter if I'm cruising in a star fighter or lounging in the remnants of my fresh dragon kill, I've used the same bloomin feats, skills. stats and mechanics for the last god knows how long to get there.

Unknown said...

I have actually played Shadowrun long time ago. Don't remember how the rules are, but are they similar to Earthdawn? "Step die?" Or what you call it.

I have same impression, that every game that runs with D20 is basically the same game, with different wrapping paper.

Xander said...

I'm not familiar with Earthdawn myself, the name always put me off but Shadowrun is the one with dice pools.

As far as I've found aside from the West End Games variant of Star Wars it's the only system where you can step out with a pea shooter and still take down that pesky guard even if he's Arnie.

It's also the system where a skilled opponent is a huge problem regardless of his equipment and without having to give him special powers that no one else possesses or making it impossible for him to miss etc etc.

Having said what I did about d20 though, we're just embarking on a new campaign with Star Wars Saga edition (kind of 3.75 edition). Based on the rules and the dry material it's just another d20 clone. However add one DM who's prepared to burn the damn thing if it gets in his way and it's working out to be the best roleplay I've had in years.

Just goes to show what a good DM can do I guess and the validity of the two golden rules of 'never say no, just assign a DC' and the DM's prerogative of +2/-2.

Unknown said...

Actually, I like D20... In Fading Suns 1st edition, but that is a different story.

I don't like very complex rules anymore. As an adult, I don't have that much time anymore to prepare in games and read game books, there is these boring adult thingies I have to do and they take time.

So, I like smooth fast system. I know I could strip D20 as much as I like, but is it D20 anymore, and why would I want to use a rules set I need to mod/strip when I could use something I don't have to?

I have some good experiences with True20 though. It was quite simple, but there was stupid thingies still in the rules, what I would like have seen to been taken out. Like measurements (grid-oriented) and AoO and stuff like that. Other games don't need or use them and I am used to manage without them, so they felt quite artificial when in True20 what I got feeling that is supposed to be smoother, lighter and easier to approach. When D20 in case of D&D is more strategy and character/inventory management game.

Okay, you can play Dungeons & Dragons as storytelling game, where story is the main thing, not tactical battles or character optimization, but why bother? Rules aren't ment for that, and frankly, if I'd play Storytelling style D&D there would be like 2,5 books too much to use! As in D&D most of the book are rules of core books (exeption of Monster manual).

And what comes to SW Saga, I have heard that generally people have liked D6 version more. Amirite?

Xander said...

Well yeah the old d6 version was a lot more free flowing and the source material was brilliant. None of this homogeneous equipment, it was a munchkins dream!

However, one of the problems with that system was that it was unstructured. Through the right choices and a similarly minded GM you could amass serious power (not even as a Jedi) so game balance was an issue. I get the feeling that with the Saga edition this is less of an issue but personally I'd still prefer more flexibility over artificial limitations.

In regards to complex rules vs simplicity, personally though I've been roleplaying since I was about ten (I'm 32 now) I still like the games where there's an easy to grasp mechanic like Shadowrun and then an almost endless amount of modifiers which can be added or subtracted. Sure you end up with tables of modifiers but at least it means that you can prepare and try to out think the "baddies".

We played a high powered version of 3.5 Forgotten Realms and because the DM didn't like some of the more expansive rules you just didn't get any depth to anything. No spell components unless they were expensive and then they were freely available, no complicated divination would reveal anything and no prophecy would lead to reliable information. So all that was left was to kick in the door (well knock, but it's similar) and kill the ugly thing and then look for shinys. Not the best environment to try something different.

Personally I find that the best games give you difficult decisions but reward those with clarity of purpose with more power. For example in Dark Heresy, if you try to be too much a jack of all trades then you'll not be particularly powerful unless you roll consistently well, however specialise in say melee and even when you roll badly you can still rely on abilities for rerolls or modifiers or simply more attacks. This is partially covered in more d20 style class based systems but in a much cruder fashion, one that's exclusive and not inclusive which makes for a dictatorial set of rules instead of one which allows characters to develop in a more natural manner.

Anyhow, from experience, the rules aren't usually the crux of the problem. It's using miniatures and boards which takes away the roleplay. As soon as you divide up the world into squares and expect everyone to stand in their own square with movement handled like chess, you lose the very thing which roleplay games are best at. Suspension of disbelief.

To my mind fighting a dragon with nothing but your wits and a dagger is heroic and can be believed. But to believe that people are five foot cubes and have the presence of mind to guard a 15x15x10' cube constantly in battle... that is too far.