Wednesday, 8 June 2011

In Praise of Modular

I think there's some kind of message in the selection of Mike Curtis' Dungeon Alphabet to win the first Three Castles Award, the closest thing old-style roleplayers have to an Oscar. Or at least I choose to interpret it thus.

The award went, not to a fully implemented roleplaying game or setting, but to a creative aid with supreme versatility across many different games and settings. It beat out a field including two "system" products (LotFP and B/X Companion) and two "setting" products (Stonehell and Majestic Wilderlands).

If there's a message here, it's a congenial one for me, because I'm getting less and less excited about writing out a whole role-playing game as a vanity project for my houserules. As more and more of these retro-inspired labors of love keep coming out, I keep hearing - and feeling, myself - the same reaction:

"It's got some neat stuff I'll pilfer for my own game, but I wouldn't play using the whole thing."

So, why not just pack the neat stuff up, and set it out on the front doorstep for pickup? That way you don't have to worry which of seventeen and a half retro-clones your stuff is going to compete or be compatible with.

I've been on a break from creating new gaming material, between my usual computer being in the shop, and my game going on a long hiatus that hopefully will be broken this week. I've used this break to reflect on what's gotten the best reaction out of my creations. Without a doubt it's the material that people can plug into their own game - the one-page rules supplements in particular. I also have some encounter tables waiting in the wings, and like my NPC and trick tables they're also modular like modular furniture.

Or clothes that help you learn that light blue goes with dark blue.
Yep, modular is the way to go. Who needs yet another explanation of what a roleplaying game is or how fast you can move down an unlitten corridor? All I'm saying is, smart money's on Vornheim next year.


  1. Even though I'm involved in the imminent release of two games, I agree with everything you've said here Roger. And yes, my money is on Vornheim too.

  2. One problem is that one person's neat stuff isn't another.