Series Introduction: TTRPGs Decomposed

A few years ago, I was introduced to Tabletop RPGs with Pathfinder. Since then, TTRPGs have quickly taken over as my primary hobby, supplanting Magic: the Gathering (which I still play, but much more rarely) with ease.

Over time I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition (5E). While, at its core, it was the same game as Pathfinder, it obviously had different design philosophies and focusses. This got me seriously considering how what I really had come to love wasn’t Pathfinder exactly, it was the core concept of a TTRPG. 5E was just as good as Pathfinder, better in some ways, and worse in others. What about other TTRPG systems? Was there one out there that was even better? Was I playing the system that I actually found the best, or was I just playing the most popular two because they are the most popular?

At some point I stumbled across a box of a Firefly RPG. I am a moderately big fan of Firefly (I haven’t consumed all the extended media, but have watched the series and movie multiple times and force my friends to watch them as well) and got excited by that possibility. I played the game and absolutely loved certain aspects. It was, by a huge margin, the most different system I had ever played.

Playing something very different and very good got me even more interested in other systems and made me want to bring elements of the Firefly RPG into my Pathfinder game that I run. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest thing to do, and the more I thought about how I might accomplish that, the more I started realizing that I was essentially creating a whole new system.

This series of articles is me embracing that. I am creating my own TTRPG system. But before I can do that I need to analyze what I like about Pathfinder, what I like about 5E, what I like about the Firefly system, and what I still need to design.

I plan on creating a series of articles. First I will go over the core tenants of Pathfinder/5E and of Firefly. Then I will go over what I consider to be some of the core design pieces of a TTRPG (determining success/failure, life and death, etc.) and how each system handles it, and how I feel about those.

Eventually I will run out of things to talk about with these three systems and I will start picking up other systems and talking about those. Eventually I will start actually putting mechanics together for my system, and possibly even inventing entirely new mechanics.

For the time being, this article will also serve as an index into the series. I will be writing these articles in whatever order interests me, not necessarily the optimal order.

Basic Overviews
d20 (Pathfinder / 5E)
Cortex Plus (Firefly)
SAGA System

Core Mechanics
Ability Scores and Skills
Life and Death