I've decided to start posting my thoughts on game design here within this blog. So for those of you that knew me from my tables.. Hi again. For those that knew me from Grimm Studios Podcast... hey. And for those of you that are new here, welcome.
Alright, that stuff out of the way, lets talk about where to start when designing a campaign. Many people jump right into setting, but in reality, the choice of rules system should be your first pick. There are a lot to choose from, many are not so good, and of course there is always the option of just writing your own.
The rules are the 'physics' of your universe. Writing stories before you've decided how the physics works, leads to plot holes, where characters can't do the things you're describing the NPC's as having done. Not always, but usually. It's better to start with the bones of the world and build out, then try to break them to fit your story later.
Additionally, when you do need to break the rules, you can then break the rules for everyone. You'll know that you don't want priest spells to work a certain way, and can warn the players ahead of time, rather than surprise them when they go to cast their first healing spell, turn undead, etc. All variations on the rules, and the physics, should be made clear to the players before they sit down. I can't stress this enough. They may grumble about unlucky dice rolls, or over powered monsters, but they won't accuse you as a GM of cheating if everyone is using the same rules.
Originally, my intent was to start a new RPG system. Since I already had a good set of them done from another attempt at a system using 2d10 and skills, it wasn't hard to start piecing it all together. Where this fell apart is, I'm looking for a new table of people to play with. Meeting new people is stressful enough without one of them holding all the cards about 'their' rules system. It's really difficult to get strangers to sit down with you, and rarely goes well when you do. You're better off modifying an existing rules system than trying to work in a new one.
Well, I'll be honest, like most, I have no love of 4e. Sorry folks, I don't. It's too... something. Call it mazes and magic, and it's a passable RPG. Call it D&D, and you're really doing a disservice to the legacy. D&D is a cultural icon, and while there is no law against the owners adding things to it that they think are 'improvements' you can 'improve' the soul right out of something. (For other examples of this see: Midi-chlorians).
So, looking through the prebuilt games, I narrowed it down a bit and eventually came down to my three finalists.
D&D Original Edition
I decided against Hero-System, because I just didn't know enough people up here who played it, and would run into the same issues I ran into with building my own.
I decided against D&D Zero because most people just couldn't get their hands on a copy of the rules, and the advantages of the system I feel I can bring into play through my DMing. So, I chose 3.5, and started building my campaign.
I didn't end there though, and we'll find out more in my next post: Breaking the Rules