Before I get into it, I'm going to be brief on the nature of rules in RPGs and other games. Rules are their own sort of flavoring. They help to encourage players' behavior. They can be important. Of course, if you don't the behaviors they encourage in your roleplaying... go ahead and change 'em. Experimentation is one of my favorite principles, so long as fun isn't sacrificed for it.
Although... this has nothing to do with variant rules.
A Treatise on d20 MetaphysicsI've been playing in a Pathfinder game lately, Wrath of the Righteous. Our group, the Silver Blades, have been having a rather Mythic time. But I also have done something I always do... I dreamt up yet another setting/idea/thing to work on. I ended up here. A musing if you will (the Setting is called Crux: the City of Curses. More on that later.)
In White Wolf's World of Darkness or Scion, a lot of game mechanics also are in-flavor in-world concepts for that game, as well as character components. In Werewolf: the Apocalypse, for example, each power (A Gift, as they are wont to call them) is taught to the individual Werewolf. Werewolves know they can learn them from spirits or through training. Gifts alter the nature of a werewolf's spiritual half- they are a metaphysical change, something that is both mechanical and flavorful.
Gifts are something characters can refer to, in-character, like one can refer to any item. They are tangible resources of a sort. And werewolves call them Gifts. They are mini-stories, little tales each character has collected. They are mechanical effects borne of raw flavor, they can be as powerful for Roleplaying as any other purpose they can be put to.
d20 has a mishmash of things, tied together to represent a character. Metaknowledge-wise, players know the feats and class features of their characters. They don't do what Gifts do. They lack story. And characters can use these abilities as part of "who they are", but what is the story explanation for that? The Why? Could we add a bit of metaphysical meat to this stew that doesn't change a thing on the character sheet? Can we make them flavor generators?
Lets set down a basic assumption in-world. Feats, class features, spells- these are all known to exist. They have their own common myths and misconceptions- perhaps one nation refers to Power Attack as "Bear's Strike", while a more intellectual society frowns on it, calling it "Fool's Power." They are fixed, known rules of the universe. They can be learned, discussed, theorized and so forth.
In a way, feats and classes become metaphysical bricks on the foundation of the universe. They come out of fixed rules or laws that can be learned and exploited. No one is sure how, but that is the Why of them. Feats, Spells and Class Features are something everyone acknowledge exist, in-world.
The widely accepted view is that these rules can be created at fated moments. Chosen Moments. Chosen entities create the rules that Feats, Classes and Spells are based on. They alter reality based on the choice they made at a critical moment. This means that feats have histories, classes and their archetypes have founders and discoverers. And it means that sometimes Player Characters can create something New when their character makes a Choice.
It also means that others can create new Feats, or that some worlds might not have discovered or created the rule that some feats are based upon. They can become new Chosen in their setting.
Inworld it means that NPCs, PCs and etc can discuss feats and the like in-character. Each Feat should have their own mystic story to them, explanation for why they Are what they Are. An origin story or history, if you will.
Not Mechanical, I thinkThis isn't really a mechanical variant. Just an idea for a set of metaphysical ideas for use in a d20 setting. Its part of an idea I have for a setting. To help provide some ideas for flavor.
I imagine this would be paired with some other flavorful changes. IDK which or how. Whenever I run into d20, I want to alter or change it. I don't like the base implementation as a player or GM, but I don't have good set of changes I'd force into use. Sometimes other rules like Fate Core are just better for what I want to see, instead of what I think I want to see.
Thanks for reading and let me know what you think about all this.