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Domriso
2011-12-29, 10:03 PM
Drawing on a conversation in this thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=227202), I thought it might be an interesting time to see how different homebrewers on these forums approach their respective homebrews. I know there are quite a few prolific designers here, and I've been in the game nearly 8 years now, but I'm not really sure I've ever sat down with someone else and asked how they go about creating new stuff.

Since I'm introducing the subject, I figure I should start with myself.

I tend to approach homebrew design from a stylistic approach first, finding what I think would be cool in a story or at least in my head, and then trying to make interesting mechanics for it. Now, I'm very used to DMing, meaning I'm very used to using my own homebrew all over the place, and I've found I prefer complexity to fluidity. I don't want the mechanics so complex as to cause everyone to be completely out of their mind frustrated, but making the complexity have a slight learning curve makes the game (at least as I've seen it) carry a bit of mystery, since my players aren't completely sure of what they could put together, let alone what I could throw at them.

In terms of mechanics, I love all sorts. I always tend to come back to the d20 system when I'm homebrewing, but I've played a lot of system. Storyteller, Risus, Badass, Microscope... okay, some of those are a tad obscure, but yeah, I've played a few. In the end, though, I fall back to d20. It was my first love and I can never stray too far. Though, I do love introducing the aspects of other systems that I like into different parts of the d20 system, usually as some kind of supernatural system so that players don't necessarily have to learn a new subsystem to play in my games.

Madara
2011-12-29, 10:08 PM
I like to take an archtype and rework it. Find some sort of minute aspect to bring out and focus on. Most of my 'brew is written on paper in my stack of DMing stuff, but I recently started putting things on the playground.

erikun
2011-12-29, 10:58 PM
Ask yourself what you want it to do. Not what dice you want to roll or what mechanics you want to use, but what you want your design to do, how you want it to play and how you imagine it being played when it is at the table. Then, work on the mechanics and (if necessary) steal from others or come up with your own that you think will work out.

This works for system design as much as class design, I've found.

Siosilvar
2011-12-31, 01:11 PM
Djinn still hasn't finished this (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=10471219#post10471219), but what's there is an absolutely excellent resource for design.

bloodtide
2011-12-31, 02:40 PM
The thing I hate about most Design Philosophies is that when they make a system and a set of rules, they force you into things. I like having options and being able to do anything, not just only doing what it says on page 15 of the rulebook. 4E is the perfect example of the loss of freedom. In 4E each character class is forced into a role. Period. You are not given any options at all. That type of thing turns me off quickly.

The next thing that comes up too much is the whole balance problem. People want to so perfectly balance the game that they just make it perfectly bland. When everyone and everything in the game is fair and balanced and equal, it just makes for a boring game play. Not that most people do balance right, as they will always throw in 'fun' and 'coolness'. Balance is a hard thing to put in the rules, as role playing games are not so set in static rules. Balance is one of the things a gamesmaster must simply do, without page 25 telling them what exactly to do.

I like d20. The mechanics are simple enough and can cover any actions. But most of all there is a ton of support for it. What I hate about most other games is you get like six books and nothing else.

Djinn_in_Tonic
2011-12-31, 03:31 PM
The thing I hate about most Design Philosophies is that when they make a system and a set of rules, they force you into things. I like having options and being able to do anything, not just only doing what it says on page 15 of the rulebook. 4E is the perfect example of the loss of freedom. In 4E each character class is forced into a role. Period. You are not given any options at all. That type of thing turns me off quickly.


Neither this, nor (in fact) most of the things on this thread qualify for what I'd call design philosophy, but rather either personal design methodology (how I go about homebrewing, for example, is a design methodology), or, in the quoted case, the results of a specific design implementation.

You'll notice that the article of mine that was linked places heavy emphasis on why you do things a certain way. That, in my mind, is the philosophy of design. Take 4e mentioned above: 4e is designed as a RPG focused primarily on the gaming side, with character modularity and narrative flow coming secondary. Thus, to someone seeking options and being able to do anything, 4e feels immensely restrictive.

That's not a flaw: that's a specific design choice. By the same token, someone seeking to do a hack-n-slash dungeon crawl would find the Storyteller system very off-putting, because the design philosophy that went into the creation of the Storyteller system is almost directly opposed to the hack-n-slash mentality. You can play any game in any system, but that doesn't mean it will work. It's not the philosophy that's restricting you, but rather the implementation of the decision reached by the theorizing stage of the design process. You can't build a single game that will universally appeal to all forms of play, so every existing RPG is targeted at a subset of the RPG-playing audience.

So, for me, the first step is always figuring out how the thing I am trying to build is supposed to function in ambiguous conceptual space. Is it designed to maximize freedom, reward narrative ingenuity, perform a certain role within a preexisting system, create a new subsystem within an existing system, interface with a certain ruleset, and so on. The poster who earlier suggested that the most important thing is "what you want your creation to do" is correct. That's the first step of every design process. Again, that's not a mechanical "do," but a conceptual one. Then, and only then, can I actually approach possible design implementation, which I usually do starting from the big picture and working downwards: as I primarily to either system design or Prestige Classes for 3.5, we'll take a look at the PrC design (usually easier).

A PrC has to redefine a character, in my mind. If it doesn't, it's not worthy of taking up half a character's advancement track, and should either be a shorter class, some feats, alternate class features, or something that has less impact on a character's growth. That's the concept of design space at work: a number of RPG systems have subsystems within them that are supposed to have a certain sort of effect on a character. If your concept fits better within a different subsystem, you should probably either expand the idea or change the subsystem you're working with: many bad PrCs I've seen on these boards would make exceptional feat chains, for example.

That's not restrictive, by the way: that's just working within a system. Whether you're homebrewing within a system or designing your own system, you have to carefully consider every new addition you make: unnecessary design decisions bog down gameplay and system simplicity, both of which are very important. As such, it's best to work within a given framework unless you A: have a very good idea of what you're doing, B: have a very good idea of why you're doing it, and C: have a very good understanding of what the effects will be, so you can ensure that the positive ramifications outweigh the negative ones.

I'll stop here for now, as that's a lot to digest, and I'm curious to see people's thoughts and opinions. I may be AFK for a few days (parties, New Year's, all that jazz), but I'll definitely be revisiting this thread often.

The Troubadour
2011-12-31, 06:19 PM
Most of my homebrews were for "Legend of the Five Rings", not D&D - mostly, an extensive list of revisions and rebalances to that game's "character classes". My homebrews for D&D were, for the most part, simple:

- A "mana" system for AD&D 2nd Edition (and later, D&D 3.0/3.5), where the caster's spell slots were converted into a pool of Spell Points (for example, four 1st-level spell slots were equivalent to 4 Spell Points, while two 3rd-level spell slots were equivalent to 6 Spell Points. Each casting cost a number of Spell Points equal to the spell's modified spell level.)

- Change the Inspire Courage ability in AD&D 2nd Edition/D&D 3.0 so that the bonuses it provided increased with level (+1 at every 5 levels, if I recall it correctly).

- A few Prestige Classes for D&D 3.5. Maybe I'll dig them up someday.

Usually, I only homebrew when I think something is unbalanced. :-)

Yitzi
2011-12-31, 06:44 PM
My homebrews come in three "flavors" (not all of which have been posted yet):

1. Fixes. These are meant to solve a particular mechanical or gameplay problem (e.g. an unbalanced tier system) with a relatively low amount of change. My approach to that is to try to identify the essential underlying problem (e.g. is it a scaling issue, an overall over/underpowered feature or class, abilities that work against each other when they should work with each other, etc.)
2. Homebrews. These are meant to give a particular flavor to the campaigns in which they are used (unlike fixes, they are not meant to be used in all campaigns). My approach to that is a very stylistic-based one; I start with the concept, and try to make mechanics to fit the intended fluff.
3. Remixes. These are similar to fixes, but are meant to "fix" a poor (or not-as-good-as-it-could-be) match between the fluff (or occasionally a new, IMO better, fluff for the same class) and the mechanics, and involve far larger changes (frequently up to the point of being practically a different system). My approach to that is largely stylistic-based as homebrews are, but is meant to replace the existing rules rather than create another option as homebrews do, and is meant to be far less campaign-specific (although it's still not meant to be used for all games like fixes are.)

NeoSeraphi
2011-12-31, 06:52 PM
I get an idea, I sit down and I type until it somewhat resembles a class. Generally speaking, it's either something anime or game-related, or I decided to fix a problem I found with a certain fighting style or game mechanic.

Or, you know. Bears.

I very rarely come up with original work, that is, an idea that is simply my own, something that didn't come from anyone else either media or WotC. But those that I have come up with, I'm very happy with (Hell Rager/Abyss Striker, Charlatan, Rogue Djinn, etc)

Domriso
2011-12-31, 10:25 PM
Neither this, nor (in fact) most of the things on this thread qualify for what I'd call design philosophy, but rather either personal design methodology (how I go about homebrewing, for example, is a design methodology), or, in the quoted case, the results of a specific design implementation.

This is very true. I perhaps approached this a little bit poorly, but at least it's gathered some interest anyway.

In terms of the actual philosophy, I find a lot of what you say, Djinn, interesting. In the months leading up to 4e, I was really excited, because what little I saw was interesting. When it actually came out, however, I was not very happy with it (but, I was still happy I had preordered the core). After I let the disappointment die down I came to accept, and even realize that it is a good system in its own right, just not one I would want to play my D&D games in, mostly because my D&D games tend to be rather less combat-oriented, and much more story based (I've played with the idea of running one of my sessions using Storyteller, just to see how it plays).

That, to me, seems to really make the distinction between the philosophies behind games pretty clear to me. Like you said, what the game was intended for is usually the biggest aspect playing into the process. I guess I would have to say that I tend to approach my own homebrewing in a generally open-ended way. Since I tend to play hard and fast with the rules, only generally outlining my NPCs capabilities and letting them die or live as the story dictates, a looser interpretation of the rules tends to work best for me. That definitely plays into my design process, where I want the mechanics to match the fluff, not the fluff to match the mechanics (though there have been times where it was the other way around).

vasharanpaladin
2011-12-31, 11:02 PM
The thing I hate about most Design Philosophies is that when they make a system and a set of rules, they force you into things. I like having options and being able to do anything, not just only doing what it says on page 15 of the rulebook. 4E is the perfect example of the loss of freedom. In 4E each character class is forced into a role. Period. You are not given any options at all. That type of thing turns me off quickly.


Having actually played 4e (and, I'll admit, gone into it with this same mindset), I'd like to point out that this is completely untrue. Role only points out what the class was expected to do when it was designed; case in point, warlocks (indicated as "strikers," meaning they were expected to deal lots of damage) are actually closer to "controllers" (meaning a smart player can utterly ruin a DM's day with one). :smalltongue:

That said, I'll also be the first to admit that 4e's gone into a completely different design philosophy from when it started, that does fit with the quoted statements, and I don't like it one bit. :smallfrown:

Rattslinger
2012-01-01, 06:52 AM
What is my design philosophy? That's a hard question to answer, but I usually start with the feeling of the game world. I want to be able to immerse my player's in a world that has understandable themes that allow players to create a character that fits into that specific world.

I'm currently working on a campaign setting that has the feeling of the Earth during the span of the Cold War. Once I create the feeling of the campaign setting I go about filling the various details, races, deities, kingdoms, etc.

After a few weeks of brainstorming I have a massive outline that I really only have to fill in with flavor text and I get the basic campaign setting that can be evolved by having the players create plot and narrative.

So when I next run the campaign setting there is a wealth of extra material that I created for the players for the various adventures that players have in the world. This way I can populate fictional locations with NPCs that I created either beforehand or on the fly for the PCs to interact with, new towns, new political factions, etc.

The players are a great resource in helping you create a more and more complex and detailed campaign setting as time goes on.

Yitzi
2012-01-01, 03:20 PM
The thing I hate about most Design Philosophies is that when they make a system and a set of rules, they force you into things.

Not necessarily. "Allow freeform builds" is a valid goal for a system, and a good design philosophy applied to that goal will result in a system that does not force you into things.

On a smaller scale, a particular class can be built (using a design philosophy) around versatility.

ChumpLump
2012-01-02, 07:08 AM
My approach has changed a lot since I started home-brewing.

But it now boils down to something like this.
I figure out what I want a thing to be able to do, see if there is something that either already does that, or does something similar to it, then use as similar language as possible to the original thing. Editing for personal preferences (I loath using the word "you" in my text.)
Balance is tricky, but I figure so long as everything that exists has an equally difficult (or equally easy) to access counter at the same level, it ought to be kosher.
And then compare to precedent.
Oh, and I like to add in a metric pants load (roughly 1,000 kg) of options.

Derjuin
2012-01-02, 08:57 AM
Most of my homebrew (sans full spellcaster creations, usually) is made with a specific goal in mind (a single specialized "role" with extra options for classes, for example). Basically, each class I make I try to ensure, through class abilities and such, that it is able to contribute to at least one or two separate roles a party of adventurers would probably see in a normal game like damage, buffer, controller, "healer", face, or trapfinder (some of these are usually rolled into one, like face/trapfinder or buffer/controller). It's probably archaic to design from that kind of view, but I try to spread the "love" and not let one class overdo it.

Unfortunately, this ends up causing a lot of my classes to play like builds instead of classes (Zodiac (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=223407) is a pseudoexception, it lets you play as one of 12 builds :smalltongue:), and it seems worse in nonmagical classes than in magical classes. The Marshal (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=213891) is pretty much built around tanking/melee combat/intimidation/skill boosts, and there's not much else it gains class abilities to do - it plays like a build. However, the Witch (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=210989) has options for the player to have some flexibility in what they can do (by selecting different hexes, similar to invocations). I don't know if this is means the Marshal is a flawed creation while the Witch is on the way to greatness, but for me, class/build phenomenon simultaneously plagues me and helps me come up with more ideas. Hopefully of those "build" classes I've made, they are sufficiently broad to allow them some room to do what they want.

One perspective I am tempted to try is similar to a "choose your path" thing, like (I think) 4th edition and Warcraft, where you get a set of base abilities, but every so often (probably every 3rd level) you can pick one of three or four different options to customize your class. I get the feeling that if the base abilities were broad enough, you could make a class that could theoretically do anything in play, but only one predetermined section of anything per day/per session etc.

My ultimate goal is to make something fun and balanced. Melee combat not fun? Give it options (sometimes different from slapping ToB on it). Ranged combat terrible? Make a better archer. There is no PrC for combining the 3.5 core Bard and CAdv Scout? Make one (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=193432)! Balance is often a sticker for me, since most of the time I'm winging values like DCs and bonuses to what feels "right" at the time, versus the average and standard deviation of Will Saves among CR 14 creatures. I simultaneously have fun and am super serious/sloppy about most of my 'brew, as I want them to be usable, fun, but not overpowering, and don't often go to lengths to find evidence of the minimums for usable/overpowering.

ChumpLump
2012-01-02, 09:43 AM
Homebrews. These are meant to give a particular flavor to the campaigns in which they are used (unlike fixes, they are not meant to be used in all campaigns).

This I find interesting, because I attempt to focus my homebrew so that it may be used in any campaign setting. What are the implications of setting specific Homebrew? How do you balance that? I've never really toyed with it.

Yitzi
2012-01-02, 02:21 PM
Balance is tricky, but I figure so long as everything that exists has an equally difficult (or equally easy) to access counter at the same level, it ought to be kosher.

It gets a bit more complicated, as if it's strictly weaker than another ability with the same counters at the same effectiveness it'll still be unbalanced-weak, but overall a system of counters makes for an incredibly robust balancing system (since in a sense the balance happens naturally, as the counters to overly powerful abilities become popular and thereby drive the effectiveness of the ability down.)


This I find interesting, because I attempt to focus my homebrew so that it may be used in any campaign setting. What are the implications of setting specific Homebrew? How do you balance that? I've never really toyed with it.

Even setting specific homebrew can almost always be used in any given campaign setting. (The exceptions are things like plot-central artifacts, characters, and monsters). But unlike fixes, it is not meant to be used in every setting, but rather to give a particular flavor or feature to a given setting.

Debihuman
2012-01-02, 04:01 PM
My view towards design philosophy is to write about things I feel passionately about. For starters, I thoroughly enjoy 3.5. My primary inspiration stems from a long love of mythology, fantasy movies, and young adult books (children's books and poetry too). Secondly, I firmly believe that following the rules is just as important as the creative process. I'm rather a stickler for following the rules. Last of all, I always try to find something good and to focus on how to make things better rather than to dismiss anything. It works for me whether I am critiquing someone else's stuff or creating my own.

Debby