Sunday, October 16, 2011

Some Rambling About System

Today, James Raggi made this post.  I usually warn you about comments, but Jeff Rients writes thusly in the comments:
As far as I can tell the fundamental disconnect between the Forge and what I do is that they seem to expect the rules to do the heavy lifting. I could run the same basic thing in any of several rulesets and get basically the same results. That seems to be the opposite of what they want. I speak tentatively here because I'm not sure I ever understood what was going on at the Forge.
I've been contemplating saying a bit about system for a while and this seems like a good time.

I've heard some arguments for both sides, but I'm one of the guys who thinks that system doesn't matter.  You can run any game in any system.  You might have to make some tweaks, but ultimately, every halfway decent system is viable for whatever you want to do.

The counter-argument is that the Game Master should not have to spend extra time tweaking the rules to make it work for him.  A game should be a toolkit that's ready to use.

(I might counter-counter-argue that with two words: House Rules.)

Anyway, you can run a high-adventure game with World of Darkness, or run gritty horror in D&D (both even have some optional rules to help emphasize these genres, if you're into that sort of thing).  If you take the sanity system out of Call of Cthulhu, then you have the Basic Roleplaying System and you can run whatever you want.  Really, you can break all game engines down and then just use a rules-heavy or rules-lite engine, depending on what you're doing (use Deadlands for that Oregon Trail game you always wanted to run; use Risus for that fast-and-furious Star Wars game you always wanted to run).

Strangely, even though I feel this way, I tend not to do this.  I like the psychology behind different systems — among gaming groups, a system can be a shorthand for the sort of game you want to play.  But I still think that system is hardly a constraint for the sort of game one might like to run.

I would like to play with it, though.  I was contemplating a Star Wars game a while back — I'm rarely intrigued by established settings like Star Wars or Forgotten Realms, but there was a throwaway line somewhere that stuck with me, and I got the idea for a somewhat tragic Star Wars game — and I was going to run it in Saga Edition, but I was toying with (new) World of Darkness or Big Eyes, Small Mouth.  If I ever revisit it, I might still do that.  We'll see.

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