So, it is my plan to adapt AD&D for use in the world of Compromise and Conceit, perhaps using my colleagues at the London role-playing club as a test group, or using my current skype players (which is harder – explaining rules over skype is difficult). But one might ask (if  one were reading this blog, which one is not): why?

I think that AD&D used to be a really bad system (back before 3rd edition) and I avoided it like the plague, playing Rolemaster for years, and then my own system. Rolemaster had a complex system of graded success using skills, which I thought was spiffy, but now I have given up on that idea. Long experience has shown me that graded success just doesn’t work practically. In essence I think that the AD&D skill system is effective but simple, and I like it (and I will have more to say on this). But AD&D and Rolemaster shared the flaw of not being universal, and I see a way to fix it…

By “not being universal”, I mean that the system does not define all the essential elements of the world in a single model  of random chance. Rolemaster had a separate system for saving throws (and by extension magic), hit points, wound effects and skills. AD&D has the same problem. The system I developed myself made a large step towards eliminating this problem, but had the problem (introduced by me) of being completely crap. But I have recently seen a way to modify AD&D so that the entire world can essentially be described through the skill system. So one’s wounds, one’s magic abilities, one’s saving throws and all one’s skill checks are handled under the same model. 

I have a vision for a magical cosmology which is infinitely flexible, and allows the difficulty of the magic system, all forms of damage and damage resistance, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of different supernatural creatures, to be incorporated into a single model described by 4 skills and a simple diagram. I think my system will be extensible, in that instead of having to develop a new set of spells and a new magic system for every campaign setting – or having to try and adapt the Forgotten Realms spells of AD&D to a new world – one simply changes the diagram, and everything else will follow.

I think I have also found a natural way to incorporate penalties due to damage into all skill checks. If you develop a character which ignores physical toughness, you will die quickly but suffer relatively few penalties on your way out; on the other hand, a character entirely focussed around physical toughness will take forever to die, but will spend most of that time incapable of successfully doing anything. Further, I think the skill system as modified will enable players to develop any character they want without choosing character classes.

The big drawback of particular systems is that they are only functional in their particular worlds. I tried using Shadowrun outside of Shadowrun once, and it was a disaster. AD&D works very well in a particular type of elfy-orcy-high-fantasy setting, but it doesn’t move well to other settings. But a system based entirely around a skill resolution method, and with a cosmology defined by a single flexible diagram, can be shifted to a new worldview very easily.

Of course, when I design it the actual system will be crap. But it’s an interesting exercise, no?