Flatland Games' Beyond The Wall appears to be a streamlined version of basic D&D but with some interesting twists, particularly during character creation.
Character creation is a communal affair with the players not only creating their own in-game personas at the table, but also the village they come from.
Through the use of 'playbooks' (a different one for each character based upon the archetype he or she is emulating), the players shape their home environment and weave background stories that tie the characters to each other - and help explain why this rag-tag assemblage wants to go adventuring together.
The 'playbooks' are mainly collections of random tables so a lot of the heavy lifting is done for the players and all they have to do is connect the dots.
This is already sounding like something I've been kicking around for years, but the more I learn about the game the more boxes it ticks:
- No clerics - mages have healing magic
- Non-human character races are optional (I'm really hooked on the idea of a human-centric campaign; I also think this will help differentiate my game from Meredith's Warcraft campaign)
- Low magic - which can sometimes run awry
- Ascending Armour Class
Straight off, I'll say my only real quibble with the rules is their version of "ability checks", which while simple fail to take a character's level into account as far as I can see. As these are the core of the minimal skill system that seems a bit of an oversight . There's also the oddity of the fact that these tests require a d20 roll UNDER a target number, whereas combat rolls and saving rolls require a roll OVER.
In this case I think I'll simply port over Castle & Crusades' method of making attribute checks, which will work fine with Beyond The Walls' nice little touches, but create a unified "roll over" mechanic (that also factors in a character's experience level).
I'm also not totally sold on the games' method of adventure creation (it's almost a step too far towards 'indie' gaming). While I may use it for the initial adventure which is included in the game I expect future scenarios - although tailored for the characters to a degree - will more closely resemble traditional D&D-style adventures.
In the meantime I've created a blogroll (in the left-hand column of this blog) of all the blogs taking part in Rob's online character/village creation exercise for those seeking more flavour. Although the best place to start is Rob's introductory post here.
I'm thinking that when it comes close to me resuming my seat behind the screen for The Tuesday Knights I'll email them a list of the available playbooks, get them to pick what archetype they want to create and then print out those so they are ready at the table when the group sits down to 'roll up' new characters.