A new setting, new system, and new style...
The next campaign I'm building will have 4 points of focus.
- Player Focus: player skill is more important than die rolls
- Gamist: players are playing a GAME and can lose
- Streamlined: simplified rules to allow for faster play
- Episodic: adventures are rarely tied directly together
I'm going to call the campaign HackMaster: Adventurous Exploits Edition or HMAEE.
While in some games a player may roll the dice to determine if they have succeeded, HMAEE requires the player to describe the character actions. A skill roll may influence the outcome, but the GM will judge the outcome of a described action more often than the dice.
In addition, players are encouraged to use their knowledge to make decisions. While some player knowledge is very different than character knowledge, many games discourage what is often called "meta-gaming". If the players all know the GM likes to set up pit traps in a particular manner, they can use this knowledge. It is up to the GM to adapt and change as well.
Aspects such as the story and plot are important to making the whole HMAEE experience more fufilling, but the players and GM should remember that this is a game - and games have winners and losers. If the characters can't fail, then the players can't lose; with no real risk comes no real reward.
It is up to the Game Master to provide a reasonable challenge for the players based on their characters. This doesn't mean that every single encounter or challenge is able to be overcome - some things are just too difficult to handle in the normal manner. Players need to understand when these situations arise and react accordingly.
This is also going to further the GM vs The Party mentality a bit. While fair and impartial, I'm not above adding a completely devious deathtrap to a dungeon or having the players find utterly false information that will send them down a rabbit hole of total destruction. The players should know this and need to act accordingly. Some might say that this is unfair and unbalanced and I would agree ... but that doesn't automatically make it less fun.
HM5e is plenty crunchy. The streamlining of the rules is designed to remove rules that don't enhance the HMAEE style of game play. Some accounting is necessary, but tracking every single item an adventurer carries and the weight can get a bit tedious. Critical Hits should be exciting and descriptive more than a simple list of effects.
The idea is to retain the feel and effects of the rules while making things much easier to manage. By reducing the rules and making the focus of the game more on player choices within the game (do we investigate the visceral bubbling sound from the other side of the door?) rather than player choices outside of the game (which weapon does the most damage per second).
A single adventure may span several sessions, the adventurers generally don't have more than one adventure per season (spring, summer, autumn) and almost never adventure in the winter (it is seriously dangerous). The one adventure per season is from Torchbearer, but is a style choice I think is fantastic. This allows for both GM and player narative to take place between adventures. Training, research, and other time-consuming activities can be hand-waved and described as happening in between adventures.