Monday, January 16, 2012

The Simplest D&D I Could Make

I made a one-page fantasy role-playing game.

Today I tried to do the impossible and got it mostly okay. I wanted to boil down Dungeons & Dragons to its most absolute basic. I wanted to design a version of the game that could be printed on a single page in a standard-sized novel, or 250 words. I think I did an okay job of it. I haven’t play-tested it, I haven’t even bothered to edit it, really. I just wanted to answer, for myself, what the essence of Dungeons & Dragons is. This is obviously super-simplified, and it would take at least a half-dozen pages of equal size to really sum up what Dungeons & Dragons should be, but this has helped me find my focus for what I think the game really is somewhat.

For instance, the game below doesn’t have any races in it. No elves, dwarves, halfings. Just the four core classes from the Basic Boxed Set. It also doesn’t have any feats, skills, backgrounds, themes, or other extraneous bits of crunch that make the game take up more space than it absolutely needs to. Are these things important to playing Dungeons & Dragons? I don’t think so, not really.

Still, I’ll let the game speak for itself some.

D&D in One Page (250 Words):


Roll 3d6 for each of: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Constitution. These are your attributes, or attribute scores.


Beside each write: (3-5) -2; (6-8) -1; (9-12) 0; (13-15) +1; (16-18) +2. These are your attribute modifier numbers. They are important.


Choose a Class: Fighter, Mage, Rogue, or Cleric.


Fighters have 1d10 plus their Constitution score hit points. They get to add half their level (and at least 1) to their rolls to hit enemies and their armor class.


Mages have 1d4 plus their constitution score hit points. Choose a number of spells (you or your DM decide their names and effects) equal to your intelligence modifier plus half your level.


Rogues have 1d6 plus their constitution score hit points. They get to roll a die to find traps or secret doors, or disarm traps. They add half their level to this roll.


Clerics have 1d8 plus their Constitution score hit points. They can heal an ally for 1d6 + half their level a number of times per day equal to their Wisdom modifier.


You have 100 gold with which to buy gear. The DM determines prices for gear, and what that gear does.


Rolling Dice: Determine which attribute makes most sense (DM chooses) and roll a d20 and add that attribute modifier. If the result is equal to or greater than ten (or in the case of combat, their AC), you succeed. If lower, you fail.


At 0 hit points, you die.

I don't own Dungeons & Dragons, and I’m making no claim to their rights, here. Obviously the game written above is only my interpretation of the simplest, most incredibly basic version of the game that can be distilled from thousands of pages of work by people far smarter and cooler than I am.

But if I were to build a modular game, it would be from a skeleton like this. It’s basically compatible with First Edition D&D, it has no mechanics that conflict with Third or Fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons (with some tweaking for difficulty class and hit point total  stuff), and it’s about as elegant as a system can get. Give me a few days and I’ll pound out a 6-page version of the same game, as modular and simple as I can.

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