Cobbling together an RPG

I want to put together an RPG system.
At the moment, it’s purely an academic exercise. Gainful employment and such petty life commitments mean that I only have one evening a week for regular RPGing, and that’s dedicated to a D&D 5e campaign at the moment. However, Christmas approaches – and so do a few days with the in-laws, among which are two D&D players and a few others who appeared to enjoy the one taster session I ran with them one family holiday. 
Particularly thinking of this latter group, I remember how much time we spent talking through various rules, and how long it took beforehand to come up with characters (having foolishly forgotten to bring any premade characters), and want to try and provide a game which will be a lot simpler for the non-gamers to pick up. Heck, if it’s simple enough, I might even be able to run through it with my own family.
Now, my first instinct is to go with The Black Hack – and may well do so, if I run out of time – because I enjoy so many of its mechanics. For one thing, it requires players to roll under the attributes for skill rolls so that the attribute values actually matter, which will save some time on rolling attributes with players and then telling them to forget all that and focus on the bonus. 
That said, I wonder it might be a bit too big a shock to the system for the more experience D&D players to treats natural 1s as critical successes and natural 20s as failures – it flies in the face of quite ingrained instincts, and even my wife with her four D&D sessions found the idea a bit odd. It makes sense, but just doesn’t feel right.
I’m also not quite sold on the idea of explaining that rolling low is good in some cases – skill checks and combat – but rolling high is good in others – usage dice, fixing armour and HD. Again, it makes sense, but is it intuitive? One thing I do appreciate in 5e is how everything is worked around the concept of highest is best.
Knave, on the other hand, does both keep rolling high as the default throughout its system, and in fact on the whole is simple enough to run as is with newcomers to RPGs. I do wonder, though, if its classlessness might prove to be too big a psychological obstacle for the D&Ders. Someone on Discord the other day opined that a system’s character creation system is perhaps its most defining feature, which seems a very fair comment and I would probably extend that to include character development.
I like the idea of a classless game, particularly since the new players don’t have a gaming background and therefore no attachment to the ubiquitous four classes (‘Cleric? What’s a vicar doing here?’), nor do they have any guidance with how certain classes are supposed to play. But perhaps a little bit of customisation and a more substantive character development system could work as a compromise.
So I need to work through what I’m looking for in a beginner-and-pro-friendly ruleset, and hopefully the next few blog posts will help me clarify ideas and set a direction.
Based on the above, here are things I reckon I want to include at the time of writing:
– Few different mechanics
– Attribute-relevant rolls
– Rolling high as a consistent aim
– Classless characters, but with customisation and development available to those who might appreciate it
And some things to consider for the future:
– Purely semantic, but call all monsters and humanoids ‘NPCs’ or some other all-encompassing label to avoid – for myself if nothing else – mentally pre-judging encounters to be ‘peaceful’ or ‘violent’ occasions.
– Which Attributes to go with – standard six, or pared down?
– Specified skills or bonuses from backgrounds or vocations?
– A fun but simple magic system.
– Avoiding too great a leap from level to level to avoid level 2 NPCs from becoming completely unthreatening to level 4 players and above.
– Another point raised on Discord – how to give a thoughtful newcomer an equal footing to a player who knows the system?
– Lethality – high if players are careless, so a quick character generation system might be best, too.

2 thoughts on “Cobbling together an RPG

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