Here is a post I put up in reply to a Post World Games blog entry. I highly recommend you check out PWG blog.
I remember back in the day when TSR’s motto was “Products of your imagination?” That is something that I took to heart all the way back since first edition.
As I progressed in gaming I really began to look at game systems as a loose bag of parts that allow me to construct the framework necessary for my players to interact with my narrative. Mind you, I didn’t say that they allowed me to construct the framework of my narrative, but allowed me tools by which my players may realistically or sometimes fantastically interact with it. Once those tools were in place and allowed me a “physics” to my game, the rest was really up to me.
Now that is not to say that I didn’t go out and buy source books once I had the base book. If I came across some story elements I found compelling I would get the book and use it as a springboard or inspirational material. But I found my imagination to be fertile enough to not have to purchase everything that came out and discovered I could pick and choose the things I wanted. I was always confused by some of my friends who would give White Wolf their credit card number and just have the newest supplement automatically shipped to their house. (cough, cough, Steve, cough)
With games like D&D, Rifts and some others like L5R who’s supplements added things like advanced schools, heritage tables and ancestors its a little difficult to not have a newer better cooler thing come out and have it eventually be brought in by one of my players and break my game. I find it difficult to say no to players who seem excited about a new game element, but feel the need to cut down on some of the “cheese” and keep some control over the power levels of my characters. I find this to be systematically true for games that have a) a really precise combat mechanic with multiple ability options and b) a game that has several “classes” of characters with their own unique capabilities. Add new abilities and classes to the mix and you get into combo building and things no longer being focused on story but on game mechanic.
I am beginning to like systems like Savage Worlds more and more. I buy the base book that gives me an engine by which to tell a story and I can hop around and either apply that engine to anything I like or most likely find some supplement somewhere that can help me out.
The thing about D&D is that it is no longer strictly an RPG. It’s, in my opinion, returned to its Chainmail roots. It is an evolution and derivation of MMORPG’s, CCG’s, miniature hobby games and the good old RPG. I do not think that D&D will ever become a pure RPG ever again. Nor would I want it to. Games who’s primary feature is not the story nor the story world nor the ability to tell stories in any setting, but who’s focus is the fun ways you can hack, stab, crush, burn, freeze, electrify, smother or otherwise maim an opponent, the game designer is more important than the GM because most of the options are in their hands to develop.