In my previous blog post, I discussed those aspects of D&D 5e that I felt were lackluster. And in another earlier post, I sung the praises of the Ubiquity system. So it only seems fitting that I attempt to meld the two together by creating a set of Ubiquity rules for a fantasy setting, akin to that in Dungeons & Dragons and its various clones.
“But why?” might be your first question. Why Ubiquity and not one of the other myriad D&D-esque clones that already exist? One, I am a tinkerer gnome and can’t leave well enough alone. Two, as I have stated before, Ubiquity is my favorite set of RPG rules. Three, I believe Ubiquity can fix the aspects of Dungeons & Dragons that I wish were handled differently. With that in mind, let’s take a look at my issues with D&D and why I think Ubiquity can fix them. Of course, these are my opinions and it is very possible that the things I dislike about D&D you may love.
Issues and Solutions
D&D Issue: You have to select a Class that limits what you can do.
Ubiquity Solution: There are no classes. Create the character with the Skills and Talents you want.
D&D Issue: Increasing Hit Points and Attributes, at worst, makes characters nigh invulnerable at higher levels, or lengthens combat, at best. As the characters become more powerful, their adversaries do the same in an attempt to maintain a challenge. All that really happens is that the combats take longer to resolve and all the math involves bigger and ever increasingly unwieldy numbers.
Ubiquity Solution: Characters are very mortal. Their Health and other physical attributes remain relatively constant as they become more skilled and talented. No battles where hit points are slowly whittled away are necessary; Death is a very real possibility.
D&D Issue: The magic system can be confusing and is a bit contrived. Character levels and magic spells levels do not match. Spellcasters have to memorize spells each day because when cast, that knowledge utterly leaves their heads. It seems more a contrivance to keep magic users from unlimited casting rather than an in-story reason.
Ubiquity Solution: Those with magical aptitude may attempt to cast any spell they know, as often as they like. However, channeling magical energy from the weave through the body is dangerous, and it is likely the caster will take some damage using their body as a conduit for it. This is an in-game, in-story, natural way to limit casters that doesn’t feel tacked on.
D&D Issue: The Skill list leaves much to be desired as some were dropped or combined in 5e as compared to previous editions. The end result is characters of the same class having a very similar feel.
Ubiquity Solution: Players spend experience points to raise the Skills and buy the Talents they choose. And with no classes, every character will be different.
D&D Issue: Players often have the Monster stats memorized. This isn’t a fault of D&D mechanics but rather due to the long pedigree and popularity of the game.
Ubiquity Solution: The classic D&D monsters will have to be recreated in Ubiquity. While they will likely be reminiscent of their D&D counterparts, the players will not know exactly how those characteristics will be implemented. And they won’t have a Monster Manual to pore over between games. Player knowledge and character knowledge about monsters will be roughly the same, at least for awhile.
I have already pieced together what I would call an “alpha version” of Fantasy Ubiquity rules. I pulled concepts and mechanics from a variety of already existing Ubiquity material–Hollow Earth Expedition, Desolation, and All for One–and added in some components of typical fantasy games like D&D.
In a series of blog posts I will title “Project Fantasy Ubiquity: xxxx.” where the X’s will be the specific part of the game I am writing about, I will outline the rules as I envision them now. As it is an Alpha version, it is likely things will change as I find out what works and what doesn’t. Up to this point, I have only created sample characters and ran them through some combat scenarios to see how the system holds up. So far, so good. I do have an entire adventure ready to go that I hope to playtest soon.
It is important to note that since I am pulling material from already existing Ubiquity books, I will not be posting the entire rules online. Rather, I will discuss what mechanics I am changing or adding. I am making the assumption that if you are reading these posts that you already have at least some Ubiquity material (and if you don’t, go get them!) But once I have the basics laid out, I will post monster stat blocks, spells, and other Ubiquity goodies that you may use as you see fit.
Have a friend who absolutely loves Ubiquity engine for RPG. Sadly, I only got to play one game with him before moving. He has a very strong D&D/Pathfinder background and like you, likes the freedom from class-driven mechanics. Me, I come from a MERP/Rolemaster background but also played GURPS, so dropped classes for a points buy system quite quickly. I think the RPG has moved on from the early days that were influenced by pulp fantasy where each party had some very defined roles. We now want to create our own character and pick and mix elements from different archetypes (or power game the system) to create our story, perhaps something GURPS foresaw. RM is a great gritty system but you do need to consult tables, thankfully fixed these days with computers, and only needs one set of dice. Ubiquity gives you a more simplified version of reality and is great for lovers of a fistful of dice.
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Nice project! I’m looking forward to reading more – I own Space 1889, Desolation and All for One, but with the exception of one session of Desolation, I never got around to playing them. While I’m not really sure how directly you can compare D&D and Ubiquity – they simply come from pretty different design traditions, so one player’s bug is the other’s feature -, I’d be very happy about a more generic, well done fantasy implementation of Ubiquity. I’m still looking for that system that hits the sweet spots for fantasy one-shots with new players (I do them a lot, because I run a bookshop where we hold open gaming nights), and Ubiquity might very well work. Actually, I’m just starting to re-read Desolation to give it a spin on our next gaming night.
My goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel. It’s more about pulling together all the Ubiquity material together and leveraging all of it for the fantasy genre. I go off the range most on magic, so I look forward to conversations on that. Next week I’ll go through the steps of character generation.
Makes sense – and really sounds like something that I could use! Desolation is fine (I like it’s take on some fantasy races), but it is pretty tied up with its setting.