Breaking the d20 Paradigm

“Dear d20 System, we’ve had a good run you and me… No, no relax, this is NOT that conversation. I am not breaking up with you! I just think we should see other people. You have your legions of adoring fans, and that shiny new 4th edition, you can see whoever you want, I have met some new systems, Indies mostly, and I want to explore my options. You can understand right? And we’ll always have Pathfinder…”

All kidding aside, I am not giving up on the d20 system, heck at least 70% of my gaming collection is d20 or earlier iterations. My currently on hiatus fantasy game uses the Pathfinder RPG rules and the current supers game is Mutants & Masterminds. I am happy with both systems, and probably will continue using them for these specific genres. Looking back over the last 6 years, all my long lasting campaigns have used a variation of the rule set: D&D 3rd ed., then Star Wars Saga System, D&D 4th ed., Pathfinder and now M&M. There have been intermittent one shot games using other system, Savage Worlds, Don’t Rest Your Head, Lady Blackbird and others, but my gaming group is firmly entrenched on their ways.

I recently began mentioning possible rules for a future sci-fi game. I threw around Alternity, Savage Worlds and Stars Without Number and got a less than enthusiastic reaction. They in turn suggested d20 Future, Star Wars Saga system or even adapting Pathfinder.  Mind you, I did not speak with all my players and I know one player will be up to trying new systems and another is more interested in the story than the rules, but do you see what their suggestions have in common? If you said they are all d20 you are correct.

I was in the d20 bandwagon when it began. The idea of having one system for all games seemed like a great idea at the time, but in implementation, the rules that work for a fantasy game are not always a good fit for other genres. I think Mutants & Masterminds is a stellar example of adapting the basic mechanics into another genre effectively. I can’t say I am impressed with the sci-fi adaptations out there!

Now that I have expanded my gaming horizons and tried out so many new games I want to play with another rule set. I can’t put all the blame on my players, I have been a big influence on the games we play, after all I am the Game Master full time for the group and I have preeminently chosen d20 over all systems. Also we are a pretty crunch intensive group. My players like complex rule systems that allow creating detailed character, so rule light or too far out there indie games are not their cup of tea.

And I’m not proposing a great departure, Alternity was almost a preview of what was to come for D&D 3rd edition with a really unique dice mechanic and Stars Without Number is definitely inspired by old games and there is a lot of the old school gaming goodness in it. Savage Worlds is perhaps the greatest departure, but it retains things like tactical combat and detailed characters, both things they like.

So I find myself in the conundrum, should I go the d20 route and try to adapt what I have to the campaign I want to develop, like filling off the numbers of Star Wars Saga system to make it a generic sci-fi game, or using the Infinite Futures (sci-fi rules based off the Pathfinder System) I recently purchased?

Again, I don’t want to stop playing with the d20 system, I just want to expand my horizons. I know many of you have gone through similar situations. What did you do? Do you play any d20 sci-fi game you think I should explore? I don’t want to simply say “this is my game and you’ll play what I want”, but I also want to run a game that challenges me as a GM. What was your experience, any advice?

PS – To my players, if you read this, this is not a slam on you. I want to hear your opinion and ultimately this is a decision we’ll make together as a group. I just want to hear what others have gone through. Thanks for playing the game week after week, you are the best!