BLAHBLAH: why I’m not really OSR
James asked “how many character classes do you use in your games” and the variety of responses is amazingly wide, from “I have no character classes or level advancement, players can try what they want” to “I only use the OD&D 3 (or AD&D 8 or 16 from supplements such-and-such)” to “20 or more, including setting-specific ones” to “I encourage my players to make up new ones.”
That shouldn’t surprise me, I guess: I became a game designer as a response to what I saw as the inadequacies of existing games (they didn’t address the worlds I wanted to play in) and because the early rule books explicitly encouraged me to make up my own game. Although perhaps Lego was as responsible as the “guidelines, not ironclad rules” text in most rulebooks of the 80s. Of course, it would be just as easy to do all that while nominally under the D&D banner, and you could bait-and-switch D&D-only players that way, too. But. It’s one thing to hear that people make D&D their own game, quite another to see it laid out like this – it makes D&D look like an identity category; people are playing D&D because they say they are.
I haven’t played D&D in years, and I don’t think I’ll be using it as an armature for anything I do next: I don’t want its baggage. I’d much rather start with a cleaner – maybe single/universal mechanic – chassis. And I’m impatient with learning complex systems these days – I want something with the pick-up-ability of Othello or liar dice. So can anyone suggest such a thing? GURPS is too crunchy for my current tastes, too simulationist, too many options built right in, but I like the ads and disads, the skills and design attitude. I’ve heard BESM is quite elegant, but I’ve never played it and I’d be fighting against the manga associations. I liked the approach of Space 1889 but the system strikes me as untested and unstable in play. What’s just right?
Another thought occurs to me: computer games have been teaching their players for years, by introducing modules of rules that complicate the core mechanic in a series of introductory levels. Is anyone making RPGs like this, starting everyone out as a basic (fighting man?) character and then adding world details and options slowly? Because really, with a level system in place, the decision to split fighter and magic user at root seems like a strange one, since the magic system is so obviously a bolt-on module added to a fighting game. And of course the separation is resisted in many gaming groups.