Even after all these years, Dragon Warriors is the role-playing game to which I tend to compare new systems and games that I play. And if I notice something in another game that I like, my first thought is always how I can introduce this to Dragon Warriors.
There are many reasons for Dragon Warriors' enduring appeal, including the unique atmosphere of the setting, the simple and elegant mechanics, and a charm that comes from its old-school roots.
So if Dragon Warriors is perfect, why this site? As much as I love Dragon Warriors, it is a product of its time and outside influences and, just as I imagine most other long-term players of Dragon Warriors have had a go at 'fixing' the system, I am no different! It can be all too easy to start by tweaking a little bit here and a little bit there and, before you know it, you're playing yet another fantasy RPG clone of Warhammer or D&D. What I have always kept in the back of my mind as I have put my own version of Dragon Warriors together is preserving what I love about Dragon Warriors.
Dragon Warriors is a simple system to learn, with unintrusive mechanics that complement the dangerous low-fantasy play that makes DW stand out from other fantasy RPGs.
Simplify the mechanics futher - reduce the number of dice to roll and make the tests consistent between attributes. Why, for example, should Attack vs. Defence be resolved differently from Magical Attack vs. Magical Defence?
Dragon Warriors combat is simple to run and fast to resolve - no complex mecahnics for hit locations or different weapons vs. armour types, for example, just action resolution that keeps the focus on the narrative.
Without more strategic choices for the characters, long combats can be monotonous. So I've introduced simple combat manoeuvres that work within the same quick action-resolution mechanic with no extra dice rolls with the intent to enrich combats without slowing them down.
Dragon Warriors does not pretend that all character professions need to have equal "value" in combat encounters. Dragon Warriors characters are interesting to play, built as they are around strong themes and not their ability to survive an armed skirmish.
Skills, abilities, and spells can be further balanced, distributed more evenly as the character advances, and focused on the profession's identity. And whilst the danger of death should continue to linger heavy over the gaming table, it should only be as the consequence of a deserving action, not an unlucky roll of the dice.
As much as simplicity is great, equally important are fair action-resolution mechanics that provide structure to an evening's adventuring that involves more than fighting and casting spells. Dragon Warriors is a rules-light system that has a simple solution to resolving almost any action.
As Dragon Warriors grew, with more professions, creatures, and supplements, the skills system did not extend elegantly in to these new areas, which created incongruous mechanisms for resolving some skills-based actions. I've replaced this with a single d6-based skills system that covers all skills-based actions and folded many of the professions' abilities into this system.
This is where the Dragon Warriors system starts to fall short - it may be simple and elegant, but not all of the rules catered for extreme circumstances, especially those introduced in the newer books of the original series.
I've reviewed Dragon Warriors' mechanics to consider whether they work intuitively across a range of extreme situations - combats between a 1st-rank knight vs. a 15th-rank knight, for example, for which the original combat mechanics fell a little short.
A few simple mechanics cater to a broad spectrum of actions and circumstances, meaning the GM can quickly resolve an activity and return to the narrative.
Dragon Warriors also has some clumsy mechanics buried in various supplements - the mechanic for making called shots, for example, differs whether you're fighting a Winged Snake (-4 to Attack), Golem (test Reflexes on 7d6), or a Grey Hood (test Reflexes on 1d20)!
Dragon Warriors is dangerous, even to seasoned adventurers - healing is slow, magic is scarce, and the horrors of Legend are many and relentless. The heroes of Legend are those who face this fear in pursuit of adventure, risking everything on their journey.
The challenge has been to increase the game-play options to the PCs without taking them beyond the ability of ordinary mortals to hold them to account. No knight or sorcerer, however powerful, should be able to challenge an army!
Gone, in Dragon Warriors, are the tired magicker tropes of wizard and cleric, etc. Evocative and distinct magickers in Dragon Warriors inspire a different kind of narrative - of whispered secrets, shameful pasts, and dangerous bargains.
The spellbooks needed rewriting and balancing - keeping the heart and spirit of each profession whilst accenting their unique paths along theories of magical lore and spell design that help GMs introduce new spells, interpret spell effects, adjudicate creative applications of magic.
Dave Morris published a three-part articles on how he thought Dragon Warriors should evolve. It all started with a blog post recounting an conversation with Tim Harford about how they might go about it, and went on from there:
The long-awaited second edition ended up being little more than a polish of the original edition, but we can live in hope that such a marvelous re-imagining of Dragon Warriors might one day make its way out of Dave and Tim's imaginations!