Game System

The liche lord raises the vile looking Vorpal Deathbringer Blade over his head, he has got the drop on Lord Farketor! With a terrible scream he slashed downward at Farketor’s head……wait, didn’t he had the Blademaster feat? Or was it the Bladedancer? And his Longsword skill was a 65%, so add 5%, double it, subract 25% for the low vision and subtract another 10% for Farketor’s DarkFighting feat….what do we have? Someone got a calculator on their phone???

We have all been there right? Maybe not, some people enjoy that moment of calculation, I have a brother-in-law who is an account, he might like that. I on the other hand, really hate it. Now, before we all go jumping around angry and writing lovely flames (which I enjoy reading btw), let me preface this with I have played many games over my 30 or so year or playing, most of those were spent behind the screen. Just so it is said, I am approaching this discussion from the viewpoint of a GM.

A few friends and I have recently been talking of starting up another campaign. We all agree we want a long term solution here, a campaign that could run for months, if not years. I guess we are all yearning for those games of yesteryear. Thus has begun the search for THE GAME. The one we can all agree on and the one that will serve us well over time. Many have been suggested: Risus, PDQ, Savage Worlds, Swords & Wizardry:Whitebox, DungeonSlayers, and most recently Chronica Feudalis (I am reading this now, and blaming YOU). All of the games, minus the last one, I have ran and loved, ((don’t get me started on my love/hate relationship I have with Risus)), and that brings me to my point here.

As a GM, and regardless of how much the players love a system, I need to love the system. Maybe I am being selfish here, but if the system is a pain my rump, I will not have a good time running the game. Period. Being that I am older now, and have a fairly important and demanding job, time resources are limited for me, spending six hours planning to play a two hour game is something I have not only a hard time doing, but justifying. It is just something I do not want to do on a regular basis. So limiting prep time is a must for me.

Now, many will say that once you get in good with a system, you can run it easily… Ok, great, I don’t have time for that either. I want to jump in and start playing in my comfort zone…not three months or more down the road. One of the games I fell in love with a few years ago, and now cannot stand is a perfect example of one area or segment of games that I just do not like anymore: Savage Worlds. Taking a cue from, or perhaps they started it, I don’t know or care, the whole Edges/Hinderances thing that is like the 3e feats. Gah! I hate those. For me as a GM, taking these things into account when designing an adventure is just a pain. Give me a 5 level fighter and i know what he can do, now add in some feat that allows him a +2 against creatures with the middle initial of D or a +1 against bad guys who failed to file their taxes the last three years….it just hurts my head. Then you have the whole issue of creating NPCs, and while it can be said that you just flesh out as you see fit, well, I still should add feats to these guys…if nothing else but to toughen them up to handle our pumped up heroes, right? To make interesting and cool bad guys they need those!

It just seems to me that it used to be heroes were pretty straight forward, and all those cool little quirks were things the players did via role-playing or in sidebar discussions with the GM and all those neatO powers were things only the bad guys or monsters could do.

I should say that part of my pain comes from the fact that I want to create some gaming supplements (a la Lapsus Calumni) and having an overly complicated system, will mean it is that much harder creating stuff for it. This is one of the key things I love about a game like Risus, creating a town is monumentally easy: Fort Minor- A gritty and gloomy dump only outlaws can call home, A stopping point on the crossroads of all major trade routes, A city ran by a crime lord with a thirst for power. Done, town completed. Easy as pie…now do that in another game system, well, you get the idea. Creation I want to be easy, to encourage the creation process, not hinder it.

All this just gives me a headache…..


8 thoughts on “Game System

  1. I certainly know where you are coming from, because I have similar reactions to game systems… however Savage Worlds’ edges are MUCH better than 3e feats, for a couple of reasons. Number one, there’s just not that many of them (those in the core book are summarized on just 2 pages, and most settings books only add a handful more which are usually pretty specific), and number two, they are much simpler than 3e feats, for the most part. (Combat reflexes: +2 to spirit rolls to recover from shaken; Alertness: +2 to notice checks involving spotting things, etc.)

    In Savage Worlds, characters are really defined mechanically by their Edges more so than anything else. In fact, when I’m running SW, I frequently only bother to pick edges for a character… the skills and attributes I pick as they come up, in a just-in-time fashion (this guy is a good fighter, so he has a d8… but he’s not that alert, so his notice is a d4, etc.) Because of that, it didn’t take me long to get to the point where I knew most of the edges by heart.

    But I do understand where you are coming from. Savage Worlds gets close to being too crunchy for me, but doesn’t quite cross that line personally.

  2. I think I’m in a similar headspace, though perhaps less anxious about the whole thing. My system preferences resemble your greatly (obviously). Alas, I’m currently running for two systems with which I have thoroughly fallen out of love (Gurps and Buffy). That used to bother me and it made it hard to summon energy to prepare for sessions (even though we always had great sessions). Now… well, I’ve learned to let go a bit. I find that I prepare for these two systems as I would if I prepare for Risus and everything is cool. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I’d still like to run Risus and other games that I’m swooning over… but I have finally feel like I have the patience to wait for it to happen (and it occasionally does – for one shot, at least).

  3. What I like about Chronica Feudalis is that it’s almost exactly like the heavily Risus/Fate-influenced Gothikus! system I was working on a few years ago, but with someone else having done all the hard work.

    It seems very hackable.

    A lot of the comments you get about Savage Worlds are from people who’ve never played games like The Pool or Primetime Adventures or Fiasco. They’ve never experienced playing through an entire story arc in three hours without ever having to reference a rulebook.

  4. @Brennen: FWIW, I have played Fiasco, Risus, and various flavors of PDQ. (Never played PTA but want to.) SW is definitely a heavier game than those. However, I have a weekly SW game and I think in the past month I’ve touched the book once, possibly twice, and both times it was to spend an advance to level up my character, before the session began. Sure, I’m super familiar with SW, but it is a light enough system that it’s very possible for many to play entire sessions without touching the rule book. (And I’m far from the obsessive compulsive rules guy who can memorize the entire d20 SRD…)

    Everyone’s tolerance for rules weight is different, and I’m not really trying to defend SW too much. I’m just putting in my two cents as a heavy-rules-averse guy who HATES 3e and 3e’s implementation of feats, but loves SW’s edges.

  5. I would definitely agree that SW is much better than 3e, but i have to say that if you are only picking the edges for opponents of your PCs…are you using the game system? In the 3 minutes you picked edges, I can have a complete character in Risus or The Pool, not a half formed character idea. Not knocking you, and believe me, I have done this exact thing in the past, but at this point in my gaming life, I would rather simply make full characters in Risus…in the same amount of time.
    Now, one can argue that if you know the system well you can easily throw together a full character in a game system in minutes, I won’t question that, just saying that my personal preference would be to have a fully thought out, and mechanically represented, NPC. And yes, three minutes in Risus not only gives me a full blown NPC, but also creates one that leaves a GM on the fly to maneuver within those correct mechanical representations WITHOUT fudging on the fly.
    Then again, I return to my argument that in mere minutes I could correctly in the system represent and detail out a city or castle. Heck, half the time the description of a location, person, or thing provides all the cliches you need for a Risus game.

    Speaking of Savage Worlds, where it is’s number one fan????

  6. Well, yes, I think I am using the game system. It’s not that the skills and the attributes don’t get defined, they do, it’s only in a just-in-time fashion, and only if they’re needed. Because each skill and attribute is merely a die, that’s easy to do, and I certainly do not consider it “fudging” because it makes no difference to me when I decide that Joe NPC has a shooting of d10… before the game or during, it’s still a number I came up with based on my concept of how well the guy can shoot. If he didn’t have to pull a gun, great, I didn’t waste any effort bothering to write it down.

    I’d argue that SW makes this possible because, well, there are only 5 dice to pick from (7 if you count d12+1 and d12+2, which are rare for me because I’m not typically running Legendary games) and they easily map to my narrative concepts of “poor, average, above average, expert, master”, AND the honest truth is that mechanically speaking, the edges skew things much more than the difference between a d6 and a d10 (in short, the dice levels don’t matter nearly as much as one might think).

    But we are in agreement that Savage Worlds cannot compete with Risus in terms of being able to efficiently describe a character/location/thing in game terms.

  7. Have you considered Fate? Generating towns and other areas can be done in pretty much the same way you do now for Risus.

    The town in your example would have the Aspects:

    A gritty and gloomy dump only outlaws can call home.
    A stopping point on the crossroads of all major trade routes.
    A city ran by a crime lord with a thirst for power.

    As the players explore the town, more aspects might be revealed…

    There is a lot of interplay between Risus’ Cliches and Fate’s Aspects.

    1. Yes, it is another system I often find myself looking at, just never gotten around to trying it out. I have often heard it comapred to Risus and being the old, more mature brother of Risus.

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