Game Design: Bucking the Trend

This is part of the Echelon RPG Development series. Here are links to other articles of the series:

I’ve posted before about Echelon, the roleplaying game rules I’m developing. It began as a point buy conversion of the venerable 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons rules set, but then I decided that I didn’t want all the baggage that came with an existing system (expectations, flaws, & licensing). Besides, instead of trying to make an existing system fit my needs, it would be best to just start from scratch and build a new system.

I plan on publishing the system once it’s finished, but I’m really only creating the system for me and a select group of friends. I don’t expect a lot of people to be able to invest the time necessary to learn and play the game. Mechanically light rules seem to be the trend in game design today. This is attributed to the fact the target audience (gamers with families and/or busy careers) have less time to learn or moderate complicated rules. Or maybe that is just what the designers (and some vocal fans) want to see.

Design Goals

I don’t really care about the trends. All I really know is what I want. I like complex, but playable rules. I like mechanics. I like games that are easy to learn, but difficult to master. Is Echelon going to be some awesome break-out game? No. That isn’t my goal. What are my goals?

  • Rules that feel familiar while still being fresh & original
  • Cohesive rules that fit together and make sense
  • Rules that are easy to learn, yet difficult to master
  • Freedom of character development
  • Create a game I want to play

Development Choices

I have already made a few development choices that I feel are necessary to help me meet my design goals.

  • Employs a resolution mechanic with a normal distribution[1]
  • Supports gridless, skirmish style miniature combat[2]
  • Point-buy, nearly classless character progression[3]

Over the next few days I plan on developing much of the core system, or at least enough where readers can see where I want to go with the rules.

Listening to: Fields of the Nephilim – Dawnrazer – Preacher Man


[1] In probability theory and statistics, the normal distribution or Gaussian distribution is an absolutely continuous probability distribution with zero cumulants of all orders higher than two. Wikipedia

[2] This means movement and areas of effect will be determined by measured lengths instead of squares. See Warmachine or Malifaux for examples.

[3] For more information on level and class in game design see my other articles:

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