What are You Looking For in a System?

So sorry for the lack of posting recently, but as I have mentioned I am slowing down on my RPGing slightly due to some GMing Burnout.

During this time I have contemplated what I’m looking for in a system to aid in my GMing and gaming experience. Some of the systems/settings I’ve been looking at are:

FATE (Dresden Files RPG)
Dragons Age
Pathfinder (Using E6)
Savage Worlds (Deadlands, Generic, Realms of Cthulhu)
Call of Cthulhu
Mouse Guard

Each one of these systems/settings has something I long for and enjoy in my style of GMing and play. However I am growing tired of overly powerful styles of play, uber-high fantasy, and complex systems with rules for everything. I will state that 3.5/Pathfinder is my favorite system. I’ve been playing it the longest (including 3.0) and I enjoy it despite its many pitfalls. I’ve decided my upcoming campaign will be Pathfinder using Golarion as the world with Freeport inserted into it. I’ve decided I want to keep things simple thus I will be using the E6 rules, since I don’t enjoy higher level campaigns (10 seems to be my limit).

In the end I think that the three systems I’m going to really play around with right now is Pathfinder (with E6), Savage Worlds, and Dragon Age (I plan on having a post about this awesome system soon). While I love these systems I still feel hungry for something.. Like something is lacking.. which is why I will be cannibalizing from some of them and adding mechanics I like to my house rules (Complications, Twists, and Conditions as well as Circles from Mouseguard, and Aspects from FATE- but using more of the mechanic from Dresden Files RPG).

So I’ve Rambled Enough

What about you? What systems do you prefer? Why? Even with the systems you like, do you feel that there is something lacking that you wish for in the system? Do you incorporate other rules into it?

Looking forward to a good discussion?

Author: Mike Evans

I am the dude behind DIY RPG Productions. I have a fuck all punk rock attitude, love meeting new people, doing nature shit, and gaming (tabletop and console) and having a good time. I love craft beer (maybe too much), punk, grunge, and industrial music. I write books. Good for me.

12 thoughts

  1. Depends on the campaign I am running and the feel I want. Sometimes I want a lot of crunch and sometimes I want something to run fast and light. For me, I prefer a light system for pulp or one-shots. If I am planning a long running game I tend to go for more crunch.

  2. Youy’re back. Good!

    The choice of system is for me dependent on, what I want with the campaign – where as oneshots or brief campaigns (2-5 sessions) can simply be to explore a system.

    I often tailor the chosen system to fit the themes or elements, that I want to enhance in the game. For my D&D teenage-wizard campaign the rules emphasize studying for XP, describing spell casting for extra effects etc., whereas my adventurers in a rural backwater nation emphasize the difference of having grown up in a city or in the countryside. The Skyship traveling adventurers were thrown together suddenly and their origins are revealed in flashbacks, so the house rules supports the use of flashbacks to explore their individual origins, and my Delta Green (CoC)-campaign is all about the alienation that comes from battling the Cthulhu Mythos, thus the rules emphasize this element.

    In order to tailor a game I loan, borrow and steal rules from all kinds of games. I have often found that the indie-games contain a lot, that can be borrowed into the more traditional games.

    At present my preferred systems are Basic Roleplaying, The Shadow of Yesterday and some version of D&D (can’t really make my mind up here for 3.0, 3.5, 4 or basic) and Mouse Guard for running campaigns, and several indie games for briefer play (Don’t Rest Your Head, Polaris, Shock, It’s Complicated, In a Wicked Age to name a few), besides a few Danish, Norwegian and Swedish games.

      1. For my group it worked really, really great. As the system has been published it is a fantasy roleplaying system (the basic setting The World of Near is easily replaced), but as others before me has discovered it is actually a universal system (published as such under the title Solar System – which is a supplement I really like). In my group we used it to play Transhuman Space (instead of using the GURPS rules) and a friend of mine played Fading Suns with it.

        The system is composed of three main elements – skills, keys and secrets. The system shifts between simple conflict resolution using skills and extended conflicts (also using skills) in much the same manner as Mouse Guard.
        As with Mouse Guard a large part of the game is driven by the characters’ interests (goals, beliefs etc. in MG). The central element here are the Keys, which are tools that reward the players XP for getting into trouble relating the things, that the players are interested in (and once in issue is resolved, the player can simply sell the key and pick a new one). Keys can be things as Greed, Friendship, Love, Discipel, Drug abuse etc. Whenever these elements are introduced by the player, that player earns XP and the more the player gets intro trouble, the more he earns. In this way the players drive much of the game, once you have prepared the basics (just as in MG).
        Finally there are secrets, which are special abilities in the game.
        Skills, Keys and Secrets are all very easy to reskin and to create new versions of, so your game is always tied to your chosen theme. My players found it very easy to develop new special abilities and keys even during play – and min/maxing is okay, if you get too powerful, your character enters his individual end game and transcends to become a legend.
        The game has as few other curiosities. There are three stats, but they are actually dice pools spend to gain extra dice.
        Dice rolling handled using fudge dice and adding bonus or penalty dice. You do a skill check by rolling three fudge dice and adding the result to your skill value (from 0 – 4).
        Hit points come in the shape of healt levels, and they are healed by spending your stat pools, and the pools are regenerated by playing Refreshment scenes (which are really, really cool. My players created great moments with these, as they are reflective scenes playing chess, doing drugs, lying in a hospital bed, carousing or working out in the fitness center all dependent on what constitutes refreshment in the campaign and for the character).

        The rules are Open Source, so you can get them free somewhere on the net.

        In other words we had great gaming. Consider the system an alternative to Mouse Guard in its play style, but one that is way easier to apply to different settings and campaigns.

  3. I love Pathfinder too. Started GMing a campaign in October 2009 and ended it last June.
    A month ago I started GMing a Hellfrost campaign for the guys and now I seriously think to become a Savage Worlds fanboy. The freshness and love that this little game has in it is astounding. 🙂

    1. Savage Worlds is an amazing system. I’ve really enjoyed that game. It is perfect for quick game or long campaigns. One or my favorite things about it is that it avoids OP characters and also avoids HP bloat like Pathfinder/3.5.

      Pathfinder is mine and my gaming groups favorite game, and I think my house rules have helped add more flair to it. I tend to ignore many of the complex rules in favor of quick decisions and rulings on my part. I won’t pause to look something up. The only part where it becomes a problem is at higher level with spells. Which now won’t be a problem that I’ll be doing E6 variant 🙂

  4. My current to-run list consists of Warrior, Rogue, & Mage, 3:16 Carnage Among the Stars, Spellchrome, Where No Man Has Gone Before, Pathfinder, Monsters and Other Childish Things, ICONS, Dresden Files, and Savage Worlds. (That ought to keep my group busy for awhile…)

    One thing I’ve noticed is that my group keeps saying they want Pathfinder, but the games with simple mechanics like WR&M and 3:16 keep winning out due to lack of time and energy. My criteria thus far is that players should be able to create a character as fast as possible, and not have to take 10-15 minutes per turn in combat just to do the math. I just switched the current game from Pathfinder to WR&M; we’ll see how it works out.

      1. It is a fun game for one shots, but there is also something interesting in running a small campaign in the game. I ran a series of sessions, where we played two missions a night and allowed the players to ascend the ranks a bit fast.
        No two players had the same rank (it was a small group), and there was an interesting synergy in the game, as the different ranks gave the characters different responsibilities. It changed the play (in a good manner), as the missions as such were more or less the same (go kill monsters), but the aspects of the mission played out varied quite a lot as the different ranks entered the game.
        (This still required the least prep if any at all – after the first two sessions with minimum prep, I skipped prepping at all and just rolled on the tables as the players were preparing dice and brewing coffee).
        My point is if you only play it as oneshots, you might miss some more or less hidden aspects of the game, so I would recommend that you try playing it perhaps just two or three sessions.

        Otherwise, as Adam says, 3:16 is fast and delightful game. Hope you’ll have fun with it.

  5. Of the players I play with, about 25% are really hard-core into rules mechanics. This quarter of my gaming associates is currently all riled up about 4e, and how much it frustrates them. The remainder of the people I play with are either neutral, or content with the status quo (I run two groups in the same campaign world using 4e rules.)

    One of my groups started using a homebrew lite system I developed, but I found supporting it was taking too much time, so I switched them to 4e. They made the transition quite gracefully, and are happily plugging along.

    I’m considering modding 4e for 2011. Revamping the healing mechanic, dumping powers for a more free-form point-buy of stunts, damage and effects, and limiting the character classes. Don’t know yet whether or not it’ll be worth the time.

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