Your "Perfect RPG" Wishlist...

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I'm reminded of Harry Dresden. Sure, he's got a spell that can blow open doors, but fine manipulation isn't his strong suit, so he relies on the skill of picking locks he learned from his stage magician father.

Or think about Gandalf: phenomenal power, loathe to use it. Would rather rely on soft skills.

log in or register to remove this ad


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I explicitly don't have a single perfect RPG. Because I've been fiddling with RPG ideas for several decades and I realized that many ideas that I am excited about don't go together. They wouldn't play well together. Just like you can be in the mood for different drinks.

For about two decades I had it broken up into two systems. A crunchy, simulationist system with good flexible rules for everything from creating spells to whatever, with strong advice for the DM to handle any corner cases the rules don't. And doesn't use the same character creation/advancement currency for combat, alternate types of combat (say mechs or spaceships), social, and discovery pillars of play. Something to scratch the Champions/BattleTech/Star Fleet Battles itch.

And a lightweight narrative system that breaks a lot of the expectations of normal play, has plentiful opportunities for player authorship, normalizes failure as natural downbeats in a story as opposed to something to be avoided at all costs, and because of that cares less about combat-balanced characters and more about unique and interesting characters that all have equal chances at spotlight. Now, they both have some points in common, such as a strong setting that the mechanics actively support.

But the past few years I've added in rules-like bespoke systems around a particular campaign, somewhat in the style of PbtA. Which has the idea of a mechancially supported setting and turns it up to 11, with the idea that the type of gameplay we want to see here is both supported mechanically, the character archetypes and tropes are not just possible but optimized and correct for this type of game, and it doesn't focus on gameplay that is against that feel. Sort of the opposite of a Big Tent game.

Among all three, common elements are mechanics that support the setting and style of play, and having friends willing to play and run it.


Guide of Modos
4. Classless, and Skill-based: One of the things I have grown to hate in D&D is classes. In part this is because it then requires new classes for every new genre, and in part because it tends to make it hard to think "How would I build a character like [X fictional character]?"
Oh, I'd go the opposite. My ideal game is full of class. Skill-based is fun, and you can say a lot about your game's setting either by curating the skill list or by creating thematic classes. Given the choice between an extensive, complex skill system and a short list of very unique classes - I'm leaning towards classes right now.

The ability to apply extra effort to a roll/action. A pool, extra dice, story points, etc all work for me. I like the story telling aspect to it as well as having a way to free yourself from always rolling the same dX+Y.

A split between things that everyone can do and things that require specialized training. The D&D version of Ability Score + Prof Bonus + d20 to all skills doesn't really do it for me. Different size dice, roll gating, or ceilings are more interesting to me.

Magic/psionics/biotics/supernatural abilities should always come with cost. The Harry Potter style of magic is cool in media, but my perfect game has limits to how often you can do these things. Not a fan of cantrips in particular.

While not completely universal, the system should not be so strict that if I add something to it it all falls apart. The game should come with instructions on how you could add things to it. Want sanity and honor rolls? Here's how to do it. Want guns, lasers, and spears? Here's what that would look like.


Game mechanics that support and enhance the intended genre and play style, common (not universal) resolution system, realistic combat and injuries, NO: classes, levels, AC, hit points.

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
full completed Millennium's End, as intended.



So, I know that this is going to produce wildly divergent answers, but I'm sure everyone has thought about what their perfect RPG looks like. And I'm sure that everyone's answers are a little bit different. But with all the new games arising from the OGL kerfuffle, I thought I'd throw up a thread. Who knows? Maybe if a large percentage likes something, it'll be helpful to the CoolNameHere, Black Flag, ORC, or some other group of designers. So, to get the ball rolling, I'm going to throw up my wishlist.

1. Fun and easy to play: Some of that is below, but it should also have mechanics designed in ways that facilitate the ability to narrate the action. If an attack hits, it should HIT, and if it does damage, that should be real damage, unless the PC somehow absorbs/soaks or shrugs it off. Similarly, choices should matter, so that weapon choice is relevant, armor is relevant, etc.
2. Some ability of the player to control the narrative, via the mechanism of fate tokens, luck points, or whatever should exist. I want a degree of unpredictability, but I don't enjoy having to restart a character from novice all the time.
3. A (mostly) unified mechanic: In my idea world, this mechanic lets us make regular use of all the standard polyhedral dice. Why? Because it sounds fun to be able to use all the dice I own.
4. Classless, and Skill-based: One of the things I have grown to hate in D&D is classes. In part this is because it then requires new classes for every new genre, and in part because it tends to make it hard to think "How would I build a character like [X fictional character]?"
5. A flexible system for pulling off stunts/skill tricks/magic: I'm thinking something here like "Mighty Deeds of Arms" from DCC, Tests from Savage Worlds, or Stunts from the various AGE games. By baking it into the skill system, non-combat encounters could potentially be just as engaging as combat ones.
6. A flexible, but comprehensive, magic/power system: See above. Give me the basics of a robust system of powers, so that I have the building blocks of spells. I'm thinking here of something like Savage Worlds, where the various spells are primarily differentiated by their actual effect, not their special effects. The trappings system is amazing, but might need more guidelines.
7. "Sweet spot" durability: I want to see the "5-minute adventuring day" die. I want characters that can get into fights, get beat up, recover, and keep going. I wouldn't personally mind long-term wounds, but overall, I'd like it to default a bit like a pulp action movie, although in an idea world, this would be a dial one could tune.
8. Experience progression: Characters should get better or more competent. I'm not sure how to marry this with Point 7, but while I want PCs to get "better," I don't want combat turning into a grind.

I could go on, but those are some of my preferences. In a lot of ways, Savage Worlds ticks most of my boxes, which is why it's my go-to system right now. But I would have to stop using my beloved d20s, and I'm not sure how I'll feel about exploding dice until I get to play the system. And since I'm having trouble getting a gaming group together, I'm left with a lot of thought-time.

So those are my wishlist items. What are yours? The floor is open.
I feel that granularity can be taken too far. Pf2e is granular beyond the point that it would have added value to the game.

If it's a superhero game, then make a superhero game and embrace that. If its a game of mortals, make characters mortal. Do not try to hedge bets by pretentiously riding the line.

It's okay for characters to be unique and do unique things that no other character can do, as long as you're not crossing the line and encouraging certain character types to hog the spotlight. Sterilizing and homogenizing TTRPGs in the name of game balance is making everything stagnate. Everything mainstream anyway.

It's okay for magic to be powerful. It's magic.

Forget about realistic. Embrace verisimilitude.

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases