Somebody new barged into my IRC channel today, and set about spreading propaganda for a variation of d20 called Microlite 20 and homebrewing it. Looks interesting, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. Instead, it got me thinking to how I would modify standard d20.

As a longtime advocate of Pathfinder and Paizo Publishing, I’ve been sad to see the SRD slowly bloat and fragment, as every class does its own thing with layers and layers of extra rules and subsystems. The result is a game even less cohesive then D&D 3.5!

This isn’t a comprehensive reworking, just some thoughts on what I would change.

  • Modifiers Only: This is the most radical change to the system, and at first sounds like madness. Virtually everything in Pathfinder uses your ability score modifiers, but the actual ability scores themselves remain unused if you are not qualifying for a feat, calculating spells, or trying to lift/drag/carry something. The answer is simple: Only use the modifiers! Saying “I have Intelligence 2, which gives me +2 to all thinking-based skills” makes a lot more sense than “I have Intelligence 15, which gives me +2 to all thinking-based skills”.
  • Simplify Passives: Why are things broken up into feats, racial traits, class features, and specials? In fact, why are some of the above actions you can perform (usually Supernatural or Spell-Like), while the rest are passive? Take everything that is static, and lump them together under the name Traits. You can have racial traits, class traits, equipment traits, enchantment traits, a pool of common traits based on feats, etc.
  • Simply Actions: But what about all of those things that arn’t passive? Supernatural Abilities, Spell-Like Abilities, Exalted Abilites, Spells etc should all be combined into a simple Powers category. Just like Traits you can separate them into racial, class-based, those from using equipment and magic items, etc. Even if you leave it so each class has their own resource pool and way of using Powers, you’ve still simplified the game.
  • Defences, Not Saving Throws: Another drastic change, and the one that would require the most reworking of current abilities. Instead of having your three saving throws, add +10 to each and make them static defences that have to be rolled over to affect you. Just like in the dreaded 4th Edition. But what if the floor collapses? Make an Acrobatics skill check to get to safe ground, simple. But what if you’re already on fire/mind controlled/poisoned? You make a saving throw at the end of each round, simply d20 + the most appropriate ability score modifier, and try to get over 10. Penalties permitting, of course.

So there you have it, some broad ideas about how to simply 3.5/Pathfinder without sacrificing any of the depth or width of the system. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain!

Today’s Lesson: Never be satisfied with anything you haven’t made yourself.