Dungeons & Dragons initially popularized role-playing games (RPGs) in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Even today, after a decline in the popularity of RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons remains the best-selling and most well-known RPG. RPGs have traditionally been played with dice on a tabletop like a board game. However, modern RPGs are often played over the internet as multi-player computer games.
Behind every RPG is a game system, which are the rules for how to play the game. The game system determines mechanics such as the probability of events happening, striking an opponent, how much damage is dealt when an attack is successful, and so on.
Dark Saga is an RPG game system that I developed to be simple, modular, and able to integrate as little or as much complexity as needed. For example, two of the most popular tabletop RPGs today are Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS. Using Dark Saga rules, a game designer might combine the mechanics of both RPGs. A designer can also integrate all of the monsters, magic spells, items, and mythology into the same world.
Given the decline in popularity of tabletop RPGs, it is a good idea to explore different directions for developing Dark Saga. Some possible directions include:
- Storytelling: A screenplay writer or fantasy novel writer might employ a game system to run the story. To do this, a screenplay writer would have to study movies to determine the rules, such as how often the protagonist gets injured, how much damage the weapons do, and the effects of different spells in the target movies. A novel writer would have to study other fantasy novels to determine the rules. Once the rules are established, the writer can essentially play the game and write about what happens.
- Computer RPG “Game Maker”: Most people these days play RPGs on the computer or video game consoles. Dark Saga can be adapted to provide a “game maker” platform where the target audience is game developers.
- Classic Computer RPG: Dark Saga can be adapted into a regular computer game series. To keep up with the current trends, this would probably best be done as an iPhone game app. Running an RPG as a computer game has the advantage of allowing more complex calculations and algorithms such as automatically determining character class and skill upgrades based on how the character behaves in the game.
- Virtual World RPG: Dark Saga can be a virtual world much like Second Life. Each player creates a character to play in the virtual world. There is a massive map database that stores information about each location. Players navigate through the world, interact with other characters or computer generated denizens, and explore interesting places like dungeons or castles. When a character dies, he or she cannot be resurrected under normal circumstances. Before a player leaves the game each day, he or she can set up auto-responses, tell the system what the character will be doing, and how to defend him/herself while the player is not controlling the character. World events can also be set up to run a macro storyline.
- Wiki: Dark Saga can also stay as a tabletop RPG. In this case, the best incarnation for the game would be through an online wiki, where the rules and modules can be expanded upon easily by a community of developers.
An RPG setting is a world in which the game takes place. The setting goes hand in hand with the game system. The Dark Saga game system should be released with a generic setting so that designers can get started immediately without having to write hundreds of pages of game world content.
A proper RPG setting should have a few features such as listings of monsters and characters who live in that world. The setting should also have maps, a history, and descriptions of things unique to that world. The best way to accomplish this is probably an online wiki.
Many years ago, I wrote two PDF e-books: Dark Saga Rules and the Machines & Magic Setting. I still have those, but they are not fit for consumption in their current state. If I have some time in the future, I’ll clean them up and put them up for download here for free as proper e-books.
So what do you think? Leave a comment if you would like to see any of these ideas developed further.