A creative outlet. Taking the reality of why people buy tabletop roleplaying systems a step further, let’s acknowledge that a lot of us just like to tinker. We create characters and build worlds even when we know, with near-absolute certainty, that we’re never going to use them. We do this because it’s fun. It is an act of creative expression on par with constructing Lego sets, building model kits, or taking crayons to coloring books. It’s not too far removed from keeping a bullet journal not just to organize information and increase productivity, but for the satisfaction derived from writing things down, crossing things off lists, and doodling. These activities are relaxing, they’re therapeutic, and the serve no greater purpose than generating the enjoyment we derive from doing them.
My frustration with Dungeons & Dragons has always been that, aside from characters, the rules for creating other elements are missing, scattered, or difficult to work with. I understand the business model of selling me books full of monsters, spells, or magic items rather than showing me up front a straightforward methodology for creating my own. Yes, there’s also the need for a common baseline because of tournament play, but let’s be serious, what percentage of roleplayers do much gaming beyond the home game and an occasional convention? To some degree “making stuff” has gotten a bit easier over the years, but it still feels like they want to obfuscate the process in order to sell me more manuals, guides, and handbooks.
If you think I’m going to transition immediately into praising Fate, well, you’re only partially right. I love the concept of aspects, and the ability to make up whatever you want out of whole cloth. What I don’t like is the near-complete lack of rigor around it. You can pick through various books to find examples, and there’s a bottomless supply of advice available on creating good aspects, yes, acknowledged, don’t come for me. I have yet to run any iteration of Fate with a group of casuals or newbees where someone didn’t ask me for a pre-approved pick list of abilities. There’s a middle ground in there, waiting to be discovered.
Tons of things have been written over the decades for players, for gamemasters, for aspiring game designers. Hippogryph is an attempt to look at things from the perspective of people who use tabletop roleplaying as an outlet for their creativity. I want to explore the drive to make things and the love and joy that springs forth from that. My top design goal for Hippogryph has been to establish a framework that allows you to quickly and easily create anything you can imagine.