Microlite20 – Beauty in Terseness

There’s a snazzy little super-simplified version of d20 fantasy rules called Microlite20.  It’s pretty sweet – in a couple pages, it captures 80% of what you ever really want to use from D&D.  This is done largely by taking all the extraneous crap out that has been shoved into D&D to make a DM’s discretion useless.  As a result, the core rules are 2 pages long.  How does this work?  Check after the jump…

Here’s the 3.5e Knock spell.

Level: Sor/Wiz 2
Components: V
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target: One door, box, or chest with an area of up to 10 sq. ft./level
Duration: Instantaneous; see text
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No
The knock spell opens stuck, barred, locked, held, or arcane locked  doors. It opens secret doors, as well as locked or trickopening boxes or chests. It also loosens welds, shackles, or chains (provided they serve to hold closures shut). If used to open a  arcane locked  door, the spell does not remove the  arcane lock  but simply suspends its functioning for 10 minutes. In all other cases, the door does not relock itself or become stuck again on its own. Knock  does not raise barred gates or similar impediments (such as a portcullis), nor does it affect ropes, vines, and the like. The effect is limited by the area. A 3rd-level caster can cast a knock spell on a door of 30 square feet or less (for example, a standard 4-foot-by-7-foot door). Each spell can undo as many as two means of preventing egress. Thus if a door is locked, barred, and held, or quadruple locked, opening it requires two knock spells.

Here’s the Microlite20 Knock spell.

Knock: Opens locked or magically sealed door.

3.5e Knock spell: 206 words.
Microlite Knock spell: 7 words.
Ratio: 1:30.
3.5e PHB: 330 pages.
Same content without the crap according to that ratio: 11 pages.
Microlite20: 2 pages core rules, 2 pages spells, 2 pages equipment.  Add in expert rules for 3 more pages.  9 pages total. 

The important thing here is – what value do you really lose from the 3.5e Knock to the Microlite Knock?   “Oh, not fair, the DM said that door was too big for me to Knock, I want wording in the spell to the effect that I can open 10 square feet per level!  That’ll show him!”  And to clarify that it affects chains, but not ropes, holding something shut.  “What about cables?  Huh, huh?”  It’s like it tries to cover more bases, without the understanding that a RPG is not a computer game – there’ll always be copious discretion required.  Even the D&D Basic Set Knock spell, at 122 words, was overly wordy.  And I don’t remember having a problem with it back in the day – where’s the doubling of the word count coming from?  Basic set Knock:

Range: 60’
Duration: See below
Effect: One lock or bar
This spell will open any type of lock.  Any normal or magically locked door (by a Hold Portal or Wizard Lock spell), and any secret door, may be opened when found (but a secret door must be found before it can be Knocked open).  Any locking magic will remain, however, and will take affect once again when the door is closed. This spell will also cause a gate to open, even if stuck, and will cause any treasure chest to open easily. It will also cause a barred door to open, magically forcing the bar to fall to the floor. If a door is locked and barred, both will be opened.

And back then players had fun, DMs made judgement calls, and all was right with the world.  Seems to me that with Microlite you’re not losing much – except for 90% of the complexity.  In the long term 2e D&D campaign I ran, the party fighter needed to throw his bastard sword in desperation at an opponent up on the ceiling tentacle-strangling a comrade.   I said “OK, you’re a weapon master, roll with -4 to hit, and don’t make it a habit.”  In 3e/3.5e the rules controlling this span several sourcebooks.   Is that better?

Today in our 3.5e campaign, we took 10 minutes in the middle of a combat trying to figure out if my Glitterdust spell would affect a stone golem.  Even after reading the creature writeup, the spell writeup, the definitions of golem and construct, spell resistance, and more we weren’t sure and the DM made the call “no” since we didn’t want to read through 100 pages of FAQ or search Sage frickin’ Advice to find out more.  Following the Microlite model – that’s 30 seconds of the DM mulling it over and 9 minutes 30 seconds of getting on with the god-damned combat.  Tempting, isn’t it? 

5 responses to “Microlite20 – Beauty in Terseness

  1. Ah, similarly someone’s done a Microlite Storyteller version… http://www.coturnix.co.uk/Microlite/Microlite%20Storyteller.pdf

  2. The original c. 1974 D&D description:

    Knock: A spell which opens secret doors, held portals, doors locked by magic, barred or otherwise secured gates, etc. Range: 6″.

  3. Heh, it even started out wordier than it needed to be. Legacy of Gygax I guess.

  4. Pingback: magic vines

  5. Pingback: 6 Reasons Microlite20 is Better than Dungeons and Dragons | Technobabble

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