Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

Systems

Howard Tayler tweeted about Hasbro's plans for a 5th edition for D&D. It's only been four years since the 4th edition.

 

It got me thinking about gaming systems in general. Lut and I quit playing Warhammer 40,000 in part because Games Workshop replaced the rules with new incompatible one every 7 years. (They also eliminated rules for one of Lut's armies, which greatly reduced our interest in investing in more miniatures.) The 'frequent new editions' phenomenon feels like a ploy to sell old gamers new books.  When was the last time Monopoly or Scrabble changed their rules?

 

And yet.

 

In the 90s, I played a heavily house-modified version of Champions Hero System 4th edition, and loved the rules.  Hero System was one of the 'generic' systems, like GURPS, and it was many years before I finally admitted that it was only a really great system for superheroes.  And it required a deep understanding of the system on the part of the GM: John Boulton told me about an utter disaster he had playing Champions, where his character had Speed boost/drain powers. The second he said that, I knew why the game was a disaster, but it's not something the rules will stop you from doing.

 

I've played so many RPG systems: D&D, AD&D, Cyberpunk, Champions, Shadowrun, Nightfall, Vampire: the Masquerade, GURPS, World Tree, various simple homebrew systems or non-systems, +Terrible Butterflies+, some d20 games, Savage Worlds, and more that I don't even remember.

 

I used to have strong opinions about what the Best System was: for several years, it was Champions.  Then I decided that the best system was no system, or a very minimal one: the Mirari and Just Trust Me games didn't really have a system so much as list of what the characters were good at.

 

Then +Terrible Butterflies+ made me fall in love with RPG systems all over again, or at least with the idea of having one. I tried to make one of my own, and failed.  I've been running a World Tree game for over two years on FurryMUCK: I love the setting so much, but the rules mechanics are clunky for an online game.

 

And I still don't know what I want out of an RPG system, really.  I want it to be simple, but with enough decisions to make it interesting for the players. I want player choices to matter, and players to feel like they're well-informed about their choices.  I want the system to have a feel and a flavor that matches the setting.  If there's magic, I want it to be flexible and thematic, or quirky and specialized, but at least intelligible: I want players to understand what is and isn't doable by magic. Same of technology in an sf game. I want the system to settle questions, not raise them. I want it to be fun.

 

And you'd think, in the 34 years I've been playing RPGs, I'd know how to do all that, but I still don't. I'm sure there's not a Platonic ideal of an RPG, an RPG that would fit everyone's needs perfectly, but it feels like there ought to be one that fits one particular game and group perfectly.  But even my favorites fall short, sometimes badly so.  Apparently, this is really, really hard.  Maybe that's why they want a 5th edition for D&D: they're still trying to get it right. 

 

What about you? What are your favorite RPGs, and why?  What do they do best?

Tags: gaming, gaming methodology
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