Why not Open D6? (Guest post by Kalzazz)

This is a follow-up post to my own on why Brandon Blackmoor, in his search for a fantasy system to run a game, should use GURPS. GURPS Forum poster and Discordian Kalzazz made a suggestion, and I asked him to write it up, and I’d post it. Here it is!

An option to consider is Open D6, potentially specifically D6 Fantasy.   Open D6 is the descendant of the West End Games Star Wars Roleplaying game of days long forgotten, and while that august game is out of print, this descendant is readily available for free due to Eric Gibson kindly releasing it as OGL.

D6 Fantasy is however professionally done and if you look at the credits you will see famed names such as Nikola Vrtis and Steven Marsh among others.

So, does it meet the criteria?

There are some criteria it does well at.

Not Fate or Savage Worlds – Yes. It is definitely not Fate or Savage Worlds.

Classes and levels?  – There are Templates provided, but they are far from mandatory, and levels are not at all mentioned.   You can either do it as straight up point buy, or a ‘buckets of points’ type approach ‘X many stats, Y skills, so on’.

Reasonably simple character attributes (3 to 6 basic attributes, perhaps as many as a dozen skills) There are 6 basic attributes in D6 Fantasy, with the somewhat bizarre lineup of Agility, Coordination, Physique, Intellect, Acumen, and Charisma.   It works well enough.   There is also a ‘Extranormal’ attribute, catch all for your clerics or mages, but only they get it.   Derived attributes are few, and mostly what you see is what you get.   There are about 40 or so skills, and conveniently they just add to the base attributes.   No fuss about defaults, trained vs untrained or the like for the most part, you roll the skill (whether you have it beyond the attribute or not) and be done with it.   

Reasonably straightforward task resolution (combat, skills, etc.) – Very straightforward!  DM picks a difficulty, roll dice, see what you get.   There is the interesting randomizing element of the wild die, which can explode or add complications, but all in all, very simple, and the elements are pretty uniform from fighting to flirting.   There are a few choices the DM must make, such as two different types of damage system (one based off the old Star Wars wounds system, where you roll damage vs a resistance roll) and one a more classic Hit Point system) and a few other bits, so just like GURPS some DM involvement in setup is a thing.  One thing I like is gives options for ‘estimating ranges’ instead of only giving strict range numbers.

Advancement Mechanic does not use levels – Get the CP, spend the CP!  Its pretty simple, and are some guidelines on where the DM might require training.   

Some criteria it does not do so well at.

People from our World, any time, summoned like demons?  –  There . . . is not any particular support for this, but no particular lack of support either.   The game really does not make any assumptions one way or another.  

Lots of existing support (monsters, maybe a few adventure paths, that sort of thing). – Monsters?  

There is a Monster book, D6 Fantasy creatures, also, slightly different subset of rules but still very close D6 Adventure creatures and D6 Space Aliens.   All three are Open D6.   Since it is based off the old D6 Star Wars, you can use those creatures if you happen to have those books (not free, but a lot of gamers do seem to already have them).   Further, Wicked North Games published their own fantasy blend of D6 called Azamar I recommend taking a look at, it is available as either pay what you want for at least one book, and free for another.   It has lots of critters that are close enough to use straight with D6 Fantasy.

D6 Fantasy Locations – this is a very cool book full of locations!  And it is Open D6 to.   So great support for any fantasy game and need stuff to put in it.   It has D6 stats, but is mostly writeups and maps and such.

Adventure paths?  – Unfortunately not that I know.   Though if you follow the idea that Star Wars is space fantasy you could cannibalize old D6 Star Wars stuff.  

Some criteria it does horribly at. (And possible solutions).

Magic and extraordinary combat abilities are “pick X powers from this list”, rather than “create each power individually by assembling these 100 modifiers in any combination” – Magic is Build a Bear that bears a strong resemblance to Ritual Path Magic in GURPS.   Now, to me, I loved the magic system, and I love Ritual Path Magic from GURPS too. Extraordinary Combat Abilities . . . there are some advantages and stuff, and yes, you pick them from a list.   But pretty much you are dealing with ‘my combat abilities are my skills and my stats’.

Now, if you want ‘pick from a list’ magic, there is at least two solutions.   One, you can buy the old and out of print D6 Star Wars by West End Games.   Star Wars 2nd Edition Revised and Expanded is to my mind the best written, easiest to use, most friendly RPG known to man, and the Force powers (expanded in the Tales of the Jedi book and other places I believe) are easy to use and do not require build a bear.   Unfortunately these are not Open D6, so be ready to pay the moolah.   Also, Keck Publishing has a book called Magic and Miracles, which is a cheap little pdf and gives you some spell list driven magic to play with, I’ve used it myself and it works and the author is a cool dude, so it is an option.

If you want more cool powers and combat abilities?   Khepera Publishing makes D6 Powers 2nd Edition, and it is full of spiffy powers and again, Jerry Grayson is a cool dude, I’ve used it and it works.

There is a D6 Magic book, which unlike D6 Fantasy Creatures and D6 Fantasy Locations was released later on when the company was floundering, so it lacks the same level of polish, but does have lots of example spells and things and discusses options if you want to give the stock system a whirl.

Some criteria not mentioned but I want to bring up

Price – NADA!  It meets this criteria slam dunk, you get a professional system for the bandwidth to check it out.   This to my mind makes it at least worth looking at, as it means not only can you get the rules, you can make sure each of your players gets them to.

(Note, I recommended Azamar above, its pay what you want, not free.  But you can look first, decide what you want later!)

Battle Tested – The D6 system has been used in games from Ghostbusters, MIB, Hercules and Xena and other things including Star Wars since 1986 and people still use it, so, it has withstood the test of time.

Simplicity – The simplicity of the system is in some ways to my mind straying to far towards ‘not a virtue’, I actually house ruled a fair bit of extra stuff into it (stealing from Shadowrun and such), and I wound up eventually migrating toward GURPS.

In conclusion

The D6 System, in the form of Open D6, is I feel a potential candidate for this campaign and worthy of taking a look.   I played it for many years, and it influenced the name of my current gaming group.   The system is definitely solid and would be worth mentioning even if it was pricy, but in its current state of non pricyness, I feel I would be doing a definite disservice by not bringing it up for consideration.

I personally would run it with GURPS, because I feel that D6 does better in Space Opera where it can more readily draw on its rich Star Wars heritage, and GURPS being a 3-18 base system like DnD draws better on the rich DnD pool . . . but I have run fantasy campaigns in D6, and will probably do so again.

Gaming Ballistic Comments

The d6 Star Wars game by West End Games was, is, and remains one of my favorite game systems ever. It captured the spirit of Star Wars better than any other game I’ve played. It had a novel rules engine, and just enough mechanics to adjudicate being spectacularly awesome without any mechanical cruft to slow you down. Sure, there were quirks caused by a bit of sloppy editing and writing (as written, it was harder to hit someone with a lightsaber swing than to parry a blaster bolt back at the firer from point blank range; we decided that was a feature). But by and large, it stepped aside and let the PCs be awesome.

A fantasy game under these rules would probably run like Star Wars. Given how over-the-top DnD can be, this is not a complaint. If Brandon is looking for wild pulp action, he need look no further. If he’s looking for a gritty heroic feel, as Kalzazz notes, this is probably not the right call.

One thought on “Why not Open D6? (Guest post by Kalzazz)

  1. One thing i wanted to know about D6 is how characters scale? how powerfull can they get, i am trying to make a D6 dungeon crawl, characters having low power, and i want to see what thing i should change in the system to achieve that

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