Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mulligans, Bennies, and Do-Overs.

I'm about to get hardcore golfer lingo all up in here, so try and follow if you can.  Mulligan... means "do-over".

Re-rolling was the most audacious of moves when I was a teenager.  You don't even ask for that, you might get laughed out of the room or hit with a mountain dew can(actually we had high powered Ginseng pills from GMC).  Even back then though, I was a "relax, go with the flow and trust your GM" kind of GM.  Random failures were not going to be a death sentence(unless it was dramatic, but I tried to convey those situations to build drama), and most of the time failures ended in awesomely funny stories.  Many failures are still part of our "remember the good old days" conversations among my long time friends.

Then I found Savage Worlds.  I first read about Bennies and though "nevermind, screw this", but then I kept reading.  Savage Worlds flies off the handle very easy.  Their dice "explode" or "Ace", which means if you roll the highest number on a dice, you can re-roll that dice and add the result.  Randomly you could get 3 aces in a row and do insane amounts of damage.  Bennies figure into that, if things just swing wildly out of proportion, you have some "do overs" you can play.

The do over was built INTO the system, not tacked on.  That is an IMPORTANT aspect.

Tagging on do-overs in a game makes the game heavily favored on the players.  I would never do that to Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder because it would stack things in favor of the players an obscenely strong amount... and besides, D&D with do-overs just "feels" all icky.

I know D&D Next is still in testing, but the head guy there has revealed they are completely aping every popular thing in modern gaming to try and save their sinking ship.  This includes "Inspiration" which is really just another name for Bennies.  I'm hoping they do not make this into the game itself, because frankly with "Wild Dice" already figured in from the start, adding Bennies just makes it feel like a Savage Worlds home brew.

Bennies are not the sole providence of Savage Worlds though.  I do not believe the D&D Next designers said "Savage World's bennies are huge, let's do that".  The "new new Hotness" is FATE.  It is blowing up the kickstarters.  FATE's mulligans are slightly different and must be tied to role play aspects of your character.  While FATE and Savage Worlds was first published the same year, the precursor to Savage Worlds, the game known as Deadlands, had Bennies way back in 1996.

A lot of the games based on FATE have them and have gotten tons of awards.  The Dresden Files game is based on FATE directly.  BULLDOGs is another.  FATE kickstarters are blowing up all over the place with FATECORE being the sort of "everything" FATE book getting lots of funding.

The big winner of the awards this year was Marvel Super Heroic Role Playing Game.  It had bennies built into it too, and were much more like FATE than anything else, but it had its own quirks and intricacies.

All this, and so why am I feeling kind of icky about D&D Next getting it?  Well... its the old man trying to be young when we love the old man thing all over again.  Examples.  Hulk Hogan decided to become an anti-hero because Stone Cold Steve Austin was tearing it up in ratings.  Final Fantasy goes for action combo combat, open world free form questing, and MMORPG like crafting... when the best Final Fantasy games sell and are praised for being innovative, not being a follower, being... Final Fantasy.  Lost Odyssey was made to be a Final Fantasy and stuck with traditional gameplay, and its widely regarded as the best JRPG of its generation, while FF13 is lambasted(despite the fact I loved it).

D&D needs to be D&D again.  A game that feels like an evolution of 1st-3rd.  Maybe take a couple of good parts of 4, and bring some new stuff for 5, but make it feel like D&D again.  1st-3rd got a lot of things right, you do not need to reinvent the wheel.

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