Truth time. I have been struggling these past few weeks with my latest writing project. For several reasons that have everything to do with some personal issues, as well as the gaming landscape (both locally and out on the 'net), I have run out of steam trying to get the Sword & Sanity book completed. I was chugging away nicely just before the holidays hit (almost up to 80 pages), and when I returned to the book the first week of January I hit a brick wall. And I have struggled to find direction ever since.
What are the reasons for this? I think it is a combination of a lot of things. The main one is the amount of work I am having to do molding a class-and-level-based system to my needs. I think I have known this for a while now, but put blinders on and tried to plow ahead anyway. In my quest to create an authentic sword & sorcery feel for my game I have reached a point where I feel I can achieve this better, and more efficiently, using a classless system. From the beginning of the project I have wrestled with designing classes that capture the feel I am looking for, and so far I have not been satisfied with my efforts. I have come close to reaching that satisfaction when I all but eliminated classes from the game, but who wants to play a D&D influenced game sans classes? Not many people I would guess.
I am also a big believer that a guy blogging and writing about a certain style of gameplay should actually be playing the games he is blogging and writing about. Back in April I moved to a new city, leaving behind my longtime friends and game group. These past nine months or so I have not had the opportunity to play D&D, Labyrinth Lord, Castles & Crusades or any other type of old-school class-and-level-based games. I have played Call of Cthulhu, Mouse Guard, a few Sword & Sanity games powered by the D6 System, as well as vs. Monsters. Why is this? Well, the one Labyrinth Lord game I found in town was being played on a night during the week that conflicted with my schedule and I just couldn't work it out to join in. I had hoped to drum up some local interest in helping me playtest the system I have been putting together, but I am sorry to report that I failed to find enough players who were interested in the project. Other than that I just have not been able to find a game group interested in any form of D&D other than 4th edition or Pathfinder, and I am sorry folks, those just aren't options for me right now.
So what does all this mean? I am still trying to get my head wrapped around the answer to that question. I have considered turning my attention to another system for the project. In all honesty, it seems there are enough Cthulhoid D&D projects out there to choke a Gug! I stand firm in my assessment that there can never be enough Lovecraftian influence in gaming, but I can't help but feel my efforts might be better served releasing a game that is not tied to a D&D retro-clone or the d20 system.
As mentioned above, I have been doing some gaming of late, but in doing so I have had to adapt to the local gaming scene. This is not a bad thing at all. And in my participation in these games I have rediscovered a few system I thought I had all but long abandoned. The D6 System, BRP/Call of Cthulhu and vs. Monsters are the games I have been thinking about the most lately, simply because these are the games I have been playing. Am I ready to tether my ship to any of these games? Maybe.
If I developed for any D100 system out there it would be for OpenQuest. Its a lite system that is deeply rooted in the Open Gaming License (OGL) and I like a lot of things about the game. It reminds me of RuneQuest 2 and Stormbringer, but with some modern sensibility to the system. I admire Newt Newport and his approach to gaming, and I know I could count on him for all the support I would need from a developer. The D6 System I am not so sure about. The jury is out on this one. If I decided to go this route I would use the Mini Six system, because I like it and it seems to cut the D6 System down to its most essential components. As for vs. Monsters, I like the hell out of this game. It is as rules lite as they come, but the game just exudes flavor, and I have been scheming away at the possibility of developing for the system (it too is OGL) for some time now (actually, even before I launched this blog). The problem is I am not sure how many people play the game, much less have heard of it. But in a strange way I find that appealing, and it would be cool to champion a game that deserves a hell of a lot more attention.
So there it is, laying out there for all to see. Does this mean that Swords Against the Outer Dark: Sword & Sanity Roleplaying is dead? Hell no. Just dreaming, if you will. That is until I decide in which direction I want to take things. I am hoping it will not take long for the winds of change to blow me in the right direction. I am sure I will have additional thoughts to share very soon.