The Start

A doorway opening into a mountain

Like many creative folks, I have great energy once I get going but often have no idea where to start. So in trying to figure out how to start talking about #CORE20RPG, I’ve wisely decided to start at the start. Which should have been obvious, I guess…

Chapter 1 Excerpt — Building Your Character Intro

That 8-page download is roughly the first half of the first chapter of the game — “Building Your Character.” It sets out the broad strokes of how CORE20 works, but without too deep an initial dive into mechanics (which I think is a good thing for character building).

I think it makes a good preview because it uses the process of character building to set up the feel of the game, to sketch out what the book looks like chapter by chapter, and to focus on how those chapters feed the process of creating the character you want to play.

Because building unique characters and story is what CORE20 is all about, talking about character building sets up the scope of the game’s ambition. And in doing so, it hopefully gives players the strongest sense of what they can accomplish as they make the game their own.

More such quick teases will be forthcoming as we work toward getting a full playtest package together for early in the New Year. And if you have any specific suggestions for parts of the game you’d like an advance look at, just let me know.

(Art by Dungeon Influence Art)

I’ll Explain

A magical tome

So I’ve written a d20-based fantasy RPG, as one does, whose underlying system is called CORE20. (The game proper has a different name, but I’ll tease that later.) This is a thing I’ve been working on/playing for about twelve years now, because I’m pretty lazy.

I’ll explain.

First thing you need to know: Given the opportunity to do something, I will almost always sit back and wait for someone else to do it instead. (I’m relatively quiet on social media because I know that if I wait long enough, someone else will say what I wanted to say.)

Second thing you need to know: D&D was my first RPG, which I started playing in high school. It saved my life, in a very literal sense.

(I know that’s not a unique story. If it’s your story too, I’m glad we’re both here.)

Third thing to know: Traveller was my second RPG. And though it didn’t carry the same emotional/life-saving weight, it was equally important in shaping my sense of what roleplaying games were, and of the kinds of stories an RPG could tell. One of the things I liked about Traveller was that unlike D&D, its advancement mechanics featured no classes and no levels. I know lots of other games have done the same thing, but Traveller and D&D were my games. They were the framework and foundation for me.

So forty-odd years ago, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to play D&D, but to have no classes and no levels like Traveller?” And because I’m pretty lazy, I assumed that because that was clearly such an awesome idea, someone would eventually get around to writing that game. So I waited.

I kept gaming. I waited some more.

I got out of gaming for a while. When I got back in, I looked around. Still no version of D&D with no classes and no levels.

Then I started working in RPGs. I started working on actual D&D! And I waited.

And then in the spring of 2010, I thought, “Screw it. I guess I’ll just have do it myself.”

So here we are.

I’ve got a game called CORE20, whose foundation is D&D — the game that saved my life, and that I’ve loved for forty years, and that I’ve worked on for eighteen years and three editions. It’s heroic fantasy in the style that D&D has long driven, with no classes and no levels. It’s freeform character building, built around the idea that even before the DM asks the in-game question, “What do you want to do?”, you get to ask the question:

“Who do I want to be?”

And then you get to answer that question in a new way.

(There’s a whole ton of other new stuff in the game as well, including pushing the rules toward maximizing the potential of a high-magic, high-fantasy world, and building real heroic story within that world. I’m lazy, but I’m also hyper-ambitious when I finally do get going.)

I’m looking at having a public playtest launch in 2023, and I hope folks will check the system out. I’ll be talking about it more before then, so keep an eye on this space or the #CORE20RPG hashtag on Twitter or Facebook for more info. And for any industry mutuals and other folks I’ve worked with: If you’d like more info to figure out if the game might be something you’re interested in working on, I’d be very pleased to hear from you.

(Art by Dean Spencer)