Note: This post originally appeared on my blog Stargazer’s World.
A while back Malcolm Coull got in touch with me asking me about the source files for the WR&M character sheets. He had created his own homebrew version of “my little game” and wanted to make some changes to the sheets. Luckily I still found the Indesign sources and made them available to him.
A while later, he let me know about the game he ran using his homebrew game and provided me with his work documents. I immediately thought that this might make a very interesting post, so I asked him to write a guest post for Stargazer’s World where he shares his experiences. He agreed and without further ado, I present to you Martin Coull’s guest post:
“I’m one of those annoying people who can’t pick up a game system or an adventure without thinking ‘hmmm, I don’t like that. Why didn’t they do…?’. Doubly so because, other than a few scenarios in an old D&D campaign, I never *actually* follow through with it. And so the search for the perfect game system goes on, my own Questing Beast of sorts.
I don’t know what made me start leafing through Michael Wolf’s Warrior, Rogue and Mage again either. I’ve long since kicked the D&D habit, and there are very few crunchy games that I can stomach any more, but I’m a Savage Worlds convert, and that can handle most anything I can think of. But here was a compact little game, no classes and levels as such, and most importantly, no D20 mechanic. God how I’ve come to despise that particular polyhedron. But of course, great as it is, I just couldn’t leave it alone. ‘What if it was just a little more like D&D?’ I thought. ‘Going to need a Cleric stat for a start…’. But this time, after checking with the man himself that, yes, messing about with his baby was perfectly fine, I actually did something about it. And so WRM became WRMP; which messes up the WyRM system name, but you can’t win ’em all.
Having made some changes – most superficial like carving up the spell list into two, one for Mage and one for Priest, but some a bit more substantial like adding in an alignment/behaviour system – off I went to my local games club where I’d offered an 8 week stint in their rolling GM program. To be fair, I don’t think the organiser sold it very well as someone referred to it rather dismissively as ‘D&D-lite’, but come the first night I only had 2 sign-ups and just about every other game was full. Nevertheless, the 2 quickly became 3, and over the course of the 2 months, random walk-ups tended to find their way to my table, so by the end we were up 6 – and more importantly, the ones that played once kept coming back. Apart from 1 guy, so I sacrificed his character as a plot device…
Our little homebrew setup of randomly generating a hex island using a dice drop method, and populating some encounters with some random combinations of Story Cubes set the scene, so even with that taking a few hours, as WRM character generation is so quick we were up and playing while most of the other games were still passing round rulebooks. That also was a huge boon when new players appeared as they could be off and running virtually as soon as I’d thought on an in-game entry point for them. I tried to give the characters a mix of things to do, with combat actually being the least common occurrence (like many of my games), but they investigated, snuck around, were diplomatic, picked up herbs and generally did about everything that the skill system offered them. When combat did eventually happen, I’d decided to use the ‘armour soaking damage’ variant, which worked well for plot purposes as otherwise the halfling woodsman might have decapitated a dwarven soldier, and then things might have got messy.
It all worked out in the end, so I took the chance as we wrapped up to solicit some feedback. ‘Great!’ from one player, ‘really like the system’ from another. And ‘any chance we could come back and play a bit more next time?’ sent me home with a warm glow of satisfaction.
From my side of the screen, it was so easy to run. Doing stuff on the fly was a piece of cake, minimal need to even stat things out, with a simple target number system that the players grasped straight away. Some of my changes worked, others didn’t, and I did have a momentary worry about how easy it would be actually damage heavily armoured characters with small weapons (other than via an exploding six on damage), but I can honestly say I was as happy as the players with the end result.
Do I want to tweak it more? Of course! I’m already thinking about a revised spell list, and have added in some religions and a few combat moves for the fighters, but the game ran perfectly well without them, and there is much to be said for NOT adding too many bells and whistles as it’s supposed to be a rules light game. But for something with as low a page count, it packs an awful lot in. And perhaps more than any other game in a similar niche, there appears to be plenty of scope for advancement and character growth – I gave the PC several small ‘bumps’ during the game, but having been a bit miserly with starting attribute points, they were still very manageable by the end, and it was easy to tailor the advances to cut down on anyone just ploughing all their ‘XP’ into the same thing. I also like that the default set up means that characters are decent at their ‘specialty’ from the start, but can still be challenged by more difficult tasks, and yet it is perfectly possible to play a generalist and not feel quickly overwhelmed by rising target numbers, which was another issue I found with later iterations of D20 based games.
It might not be quite perfect, but for a D&D type fantasy game I can’t see me running anything else in future, and includes Savage Worlds.”
Thanks again to Malcolm for sharing his thoughts and experiences. If you have any questions regarding his hack, or any ideas of your own to share, feel free to post in the comments below. As always every comment is highly appreciated.