Here’s an observation, neither novel nor groundbreaking. d20 in it’s current incarnation will never be a good system for non-dungeon crawling (i.e., search for traps, get treasure, kill bad guys).
It boils down to search time. Your To Hit and Armor Class bonuses are prefigured, as are your Damage dice and Skills.
Search Time to hit a bad guy? If I haven’t memorized it, it’s a glance at the character sheet.
One PC decides to subdue and bind a bad guy, rather than kill ’em.
What happens?
Several people flipping through books, GM jokes about being taken by surprise and unready for non-lethal action from the players. Search Time is quin-trebles.
D20 suffers from selling itself as a universal system — when you try to do anything other than killing or skill checks, you’ve just doubled or tripled (or worse) the search time.
The game encourages XP rewards for finding alternate and creative solutions, but doing these things is such a pain in the ass it’s not worth it.


  1. Certainly (from its wargaming roots) D20 is combat-oriented. Indeed, even spell-casting is grafted on. It’s all about To Hit and Defense, or THAC0s, or whatever it’s reincarnated as.
    Margie and I were chatting about Spycraft the other evening. It’s a schizophrenic system, between the hyper-realist gun-lover types and the cinematic epic types; D20 enables both of them, but tends (as in all D20 settings) to grow in complexity. It’s entropy — disorder (or, in a sense, hyperorder) increases. One need only look at the raft of feats and PrCs for that.
    If I weren’t a lazy bastard, I’d look for a different system to run in. Hell, I still might. Hell, now that I have my feet on the ground with this stuff, I might still go back to FUDGE or something like that. 🙂
    That being said, D20 has one unutterable strength behind it: like Windows, it’s ubiquitous and pretty functional. There’s plenty to bitch about, but, like GURPS, it obviously works to some degree.

  2. It’s worse than that. It’s like telling all the artists in the world they can only work in watercolor. Or crayons.
    It kills innovation, creativity, etc.
    Publishers become afraid to take risks on anything non-d20, and the writers and designers suddenly find themselves completely limited.
    Non-d20 Deadlands in cool.
    7th Sea is cool — well, with a few alterations and revisions.
    The list goes on.

Comments are closed.