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Here's the question I want to post, but I'm concerned it may still get flagged as opinion-based. Is it?


I'm building a brand new tabletop RPG and want to do away with some of the standards you find in an RPG, one of which being that only the "mage" class can use "mage" abilities. I'd like any class to potentially be able to use any ability. Right now, here are some of the factors involved with granting access to spells/abilities:

  • There is a Lux/Umbra (light/dark) alignment chart for each character on a scale of 1-10. This is the primary factor to determine if you can access a spell. Does your alignment meet the requirements? Players can change this alignment during level-up.
  • Each spell/ability falls under various categories (I'm calling them "callings" instead of classes, because I want players to be able to change their calling more easily than one can normally change their class) to help with organization, but this may be included in mechanics later on, I haven't decided yet.
  • Each calling grants a +2 bonus to a stat, and a -2 bust to another stat to help entice people to choose a calling that aligns with their play style and character choices. (Ex. One calling gives a +2 Strength, -2 Dexterity)

Here's my question:

If I'm not limiting ability access by calling, is my boon/bust mechanic enough incentive to encourage players to choose one?

I realize this may sound opinion based, but I'm trying to compare how classes work in more traditional RPGs, and trying to rework it without breaking it all together.

Ex. I'm looking for a rule that will allow a Ranger (who can either have a lot of great abilities, or get completely overlooked) to think outside the traditional box and learn spells/archery/fighting abilities to make them a more interesting and compelling character to play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This sounds like something you need to figure out by playtesting it. If you need to find out whether you're incentivising people enough to do something... give them the materials and see if they do it. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Sep 10 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for asking it here first \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Sep 11 at 7:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ You probably want to take a look at Pathfinder 2. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Sep 19 at 18:17
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Yes, it's both too broad and opinion-based. In short:

  • We don't know the mechanics of this homebrew game system. Terms like "class" and "dexterity" and "character" could mean different things in the contexts of different games. Numbers like +2 and -2 don't mean much either, because you haven't explained their relevance in the game. So there's not enough information for site users to make a reasoned response. Hence, too broad.

  • The question asks to speculate about player incentives. Every player has their own playstyle and priorities and incentives. Hence, opinion-based.

As a side note, there are plenty of TTRPG systems where a player's character progression is not limited to a single pre-packaged track. I would recommend further research into these other systems.

I would also advise against the "it's like D&D except..." approach, since it tends toward reinventing-the-wheel sort of design failings, often due to a mismatch between one system's mechanics and the other's design principles. You'll have more success building your game from the bottom up, instead of trying to deconstruct an existing game system. (credit SevenSidedDie)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point. I've played a couple other systems (World of Darkness, Deadlands, 13th Age) and was just using DnD as a jumping-off point. \$\endgroup\$ – DWShore Sep 10 at 15:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DWShore Jumping off from D&D is a classic approach, but is also so common that it results in predictable failings of design, of the “reinventing the wheel” sort. For example, everyone being able to use magic was done in a wide-played fantasy RPG as early as 1977 (Runequest), so it’s not by itself an innovation; it’s a worthwhile feature, but there’s lots of prior art that has already mapped that design space that is worth studying, to avoid the common “it’s like D&D, but fixed!” design pattern that tends to underwhelm readers. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 10 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Well said! I was going to edit something in along the lines of "build your own system instead of fixing someone else's", but could not articulate the words. Can I add your comment to the answer? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Sep 10 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ Go ahead! Feel free to take it straight or adapted. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 10 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Good call out on the Runequest approach. :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 15 at 12:23
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Yes this would be too opinion-based.

You are basically polling us to weigh-in on balance/player incentive for a system that we have no idea what its rules-set is and cannot make a decided good subjective/bad subjective answer to. I have no idea if +2 is a meaningful bonus in your system or inconsequential. This type of post is probably better suited to an RPG forum where you can elicit an ongoing conversation about the mechanics of the system.

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I'm not sure if it's Opinion-Based or simply unclear without knowing the system in entirety.

My hunch is that we're not the place for developing a RPG from scratch. There are way too many moving parts that all need to fit together and without the big picture, we can't answer the minutiae.

But either way, I don't think this question or this stage of your development is a good fit for the stack. You do have enough rep to chat, where you may get some feedback throughout your process.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I second the RPG.SE chatroom is a great place to discuss these sorts of things. Lots of very experienced players and plenty of homebrew designer experience in our userbase. \$\endgroup\$ – Joshua Aslan Smith Sep 10 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for this. I looked at the chats, but am not sure where to start. I think I see that someone created their own chat for their home-brew system, should I do the same? Or do I need to start by asking questions in a larger forum? \$\endgroup\$ – DWShore Sep 10 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DWShore I'd probably start in the main chat. It can always move to The Back Room or you can create a new room specifically for it. But starting it in main will at least get some interest for folks to go somewhere else to get into details. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 10 at 15:07
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It's not too broad, but it might not get good answers.

You're essentially asking "can point-buy RPGs work?" in combination with "how strong is this incentive?" The first answer is trivially 'yes', and the second is going to garner all kinds of ignorant opinions (because the answer depends heavily on how you structure the rest of your system).

I would refrain from asking, at least in that form.

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