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)