black box movement
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Hippogryph System and the Black Box Movement

The Black Box Manifesto is about eliminating barriers to entry. It challenges conventional wisdom, the way things supposedly have to be done. Those things often keep potential players from entering the hobby. This is either due to the financial cost of big books, or the complexity of the mechanics. It can be overwhelming for creators for the same reasons. Where the Hippogryph System and the Black Box Movement intersect is at that point of accessibility.

The first iteration of the Hippogryph System was in Issue Zero of Hippogryph magazine. It was intended to be a simple “house system” that could be used as an example in discussions about game design. The mechanics were clearly inspired by Fate, and leaned heavily into familiar Dungeons & Dragons tropes. My goal was to straddle both traditional crunchy fantasy roleplaying and lighter, more freeform story gaming. Two dissimilar things, brought together to create something new. Hence, Hippogryph.

It quickly became clear that people were more interested in the mechanics than in the magazine. Developing it into a complete, fully-featured system began in earnest. Rather than dancing around the system’s roots, I decided to simply name them. Both Fate and the D20 system are available under the Open Game License, so I leveraged that.

Redefining Barriers to Entry

As a creator, it meant not having to reinvent the wheel. I can focus on the things that are unique about the system and take a lot of other things for granted. While it’s not Fate, players of that system will find a lot of Hippogryph to be comfortable and familiar. Even though it’s not Dungeons & Dragons, those who know the basic mechanics and terminology will already understand a lot about this system. The vast amounts of information for those two systems can also serve as support for Hippogryph.

All of which reduces barriers to entry for new players. This goes beyond controlling production costs and setting an affordable price point. It capitalizes on two popular systems and remixes them into something new. It helps me in designing and publishing the system, and it aids players acquiring it, learning it, and enjoying it. The Hippogryph System and the Black Box Movement both want to be accessible to all players by providing an experience that’s easy to get into and simple to work with.

About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop

About the Black Box Movement

The Black Box Movement embraces a minimalist presentation. Books are capped at 96 pages, requiring the writing to be concise. Art is included only when it is the necessary to communicate concepts and ideas, and to make more space for essential text. Production costs are kept low in order to keep the price low, with a current ceiling of $10. We succeed or fail on the strength of our ideas.

About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.