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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 46 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Universal Systems vs Setting Specific?  (Read 1670 times)
SAW
Member

Posts: 35


« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2010, 07:36:21 AM »

D&D 4e can handle modern age / far future / sci-fi / superhero genres just as easily as it handles fantasy.  Remove the classes, remove the feats, and make new classes, new powers, new feats that fit the genre along with a new equipment list and boom, you have a system that can handle that genre.  Actually, Monsters & Mayhem, my 4e derivative is Universal & Setting Specific.  It is universal in that the game mechanics are adaptable enough to any setting and any genre with very limited effort and more importantly, will not include classes, powers, and feats in the main set of rules.  Those are setting specific gameplay elements that will be portioned off into different "books" you can use for creating a campaign for that style of game, be it fantasy, sci-fi, or superhero.

With your suggestion to 4e, that is absolutely not a Universal System. If you have to rip out everything and rebuild/balance it all from scratch, that is not user-friendly. A Universal System would provide a means for substitution that would allow the average group to play it in whatever setting they wanted--having to fully re-engineer 90% of the system pretty much disqualifies it from being "Universal".
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horomancer
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2010, 08:39:23 AM »

Isn't that how GURPS works? A core rule book that is Universal with a library of other books detailing setting specific powers skills and equipment? I only played GURPS once a decade or so ago so I don't remember to well. If that is the case, then by your logic there can be no Universal system unless the system includes rules that you don't even bother to use since they handle aspects that aren't in a particular setting.
I think it's best to agree that certain mechanics can be universal (like the dice used and how they are rolled) but other aspects can't be anything but setting specific (how magic works).
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Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2010, 12:15:51 PM »

Methinks y'all would benefit from reading some of the articles on this site.

First check out System Does Matter, written by Ron Edwards. It's extremely relevant to the topic at hand.
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Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
Luminous
Member

Posts: 43

Master of mayhem...


« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2010, 12:34:01 PM »

D&D 4e can handle modern age / far future / sci-fi / superhero genres just as easily as it handles fantasy.  Remove the classes, remove the feats, and make new classes, new powers, new feats that fit the genre along with a new equipment list and boom, you have a system that can handle that genre.  Actually, Monsters & Mayhem, my 4e derivative is Universal & Setting Specific.  It is universal in that the game mechanics are adaptable enough to any setting and any genre with very limited effort and more importantly, will not include classes, powers, and feats in the main set of rules.  Those are setting specific gameplay elements that will be portioned off into different "books" you can use for creating a campaign for that style of game, be it fantasy, sci-fi, or superhero.

With your suggestion to 4e, that is absolutely not a Universal System. If you have to rip out everything and rebuild/balance it all from scratch, that is not user-friendly. A Universal System would provide a means for substitution that would allow the average group to play it in whatever setting they wanted--having to fully re-engineer 90% of the system pretty much disqualifies it from being "Universal".
You're not ripping out everything.  The core rules are intact and they provide you with the means to create your own classes, feats, powers and equipment.  You cannot have a universal system if you add in elements of one genre and not the rest.  D&D 4e bare bones is universal.  You can remove all the classes, powers, feats, and equipment and create a character which has a basic melee attack and a basic ranged attack that they can use their fists to attack with.  That is the only universal system you'll get and it'll be pretty boring, because there's nothing there that makes a genre unique.

The classes, feats, powers, and equipments are part of the genre, not the core universal rules.
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horomancer
Member

Posts: 54


« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2010, 09:22:51 AM »

:: reads article::

I think this article is poorly thought out. While a system does matter, it matters for reasons different than what he has listed. Either his point was not made clear or his logic is faulty. He starts by listing the player types from the GNS model, and games they would most likely enjoy based on the system they use. He then states that a system cannot make everyone happy do to it being to slow (for a narrative), to inaccurate (for a simulation), or to unfair (for a gamist).
The author then goes into the three main types of mechanics; Fortune, Karma, and Drama. He states quiet clearly that these mechanics can be used freely in combination with little bearing on the nature of the game. While it is true that certain mechanics would be more suited for one of the GNS groups, the majority of a mechanics influence comes from it's execution. He ends with stating that a system design should pick one of the GNS outlooks and not bother trying to do the rest since the dominate mechanic won't make the other two outlooks enjoy the system.
I call bullshit
The GNS model covers different aspects of a game but they are not exclusive. You can have a good story, with realistic results to various challenging situations that may arise in any game. The author states that the mechanics execution is the real rub of any system and he is right about this point. How a mechanic is constructed will largely dictate how fast, how accurate, and fair it is, with a good design on this level being a powerful tool that can be implemented into any playing style. The system only matters in how well it is built to handle the resolution of conflict which occurs in a game. The System Does Matter, but not for the reasons presented in this article.

How this applies to our conversation on Universal and Setting systems.
I contend that a conflict resolution mechanic is Universal when it is well built and can be broken free from the exact nature of a conflict. A badly built conflict resolution mechanic while not be able to cleanly break from Setting specific rules, but having setting specific rules does not lock a system into being a Setting system. How the conflict resolution mechanic's design and executed will largely dictate the feel (how it applies to a GNS group) but this differs from it being Universal or Setting specific.
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SageThe13th
Member

Posts: 15


« Reply #20 on: April 08, 2010, 12:00:15 PM »

One thing to keep in mind is that like video games, table top games are often built on an engine, a set of core mechanics that can be used to create multiple more specific implementations.  So no D&D isn't universal because it's rules are based around the world of D&D.  D20, D&D's core system, is universal.  You can reverse engineer a game and strip it down to it's core mechanics, but the doesn't make that implementation a universal game.  The big difference is what the majority of a book's content and rules focuses on.  Gurps is universal because it's multi-genre.  Fudge is even most universal because it's designed to help you build your own game from scratch.

Now on to the topic at hand.  I like setting specifics games.  I find having the game world as focus to be very helpful.  I also like having in depth mechanics, which universal systems tend to shy away from because they make the game more complicated.  Even if you have in depth mechanics in a universal system, it's either because you invented some, or because game already had a bunch, which usually means a lot of content you have to looks through just to play the game.  Either option makes in depth universal systems hard to use.
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Daniel B
Member

Posts: 171

Co-inventor of the Normal Engine


« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2010, 08:48:40 PM »

@horomancer

To summarize your response, you say that the article suggests a system must either be too slow, inaccurate, or unfair. You then suggest that these three qualities are not exclusive and therefore a mechanic can be built that is all of fast, accurate, and fair, so that everyone is happy and therefore the article is plum wrong. To some degree, you are correct: sometimes mechanics can be made faster, more accurate, and fairer all at the same time. However, when you start reaching the limits, these properties are *necessarily* exclusive, and compete with each other.

Let's take fast versus accurate: how quickly can I calculate the damage of a simple wooden club against a monster's face? D&D does it pretty quickly: roll 1d4. A faster method would be to just assign a simple number, say, 3. Is this accurate? Hell no. The ultimately accurate simulation of the damage caused by a club would be represented in a Holodeck, with fake cells rupturing, fake bones possibly breaking, fake blood spattering. This type of simulation is NOT FAST. Imagine the processing power that would be required to do this.

You can think of other examples for how G, N, and S are mutually exclusive at the limits. Therefore: for any given system, it's going to have it's GNS strengths and weaknesses. A "universal" system, too, will have such strengths and weaknesses and can really only be universal in terms of setting. I'm not arguing that universal systems shouldn't exist, just that they can't be "play-stylistically" universal.


@SAW (i.e. the original poster)

If you're referring to a "Setting Universal" system, I think you would be necessarily sucking some of the flavour out of the mechanics. This is both good and bad. It's good because, of course, the system gets to be universal so people using your game could make up their own settings, but it's bad because it would be difficult to make it capture peoples' attentions in the first place. This is the biggest reason I avoided playing "FUDGE" and "GURPS". Who the hell wants to play a game with a name like "Insert Generic Name Here, With Exclamation Point"

For the game I'm working on personally? The core system is universal but, for the reasons mentioned, I'm hiding it under a dressing of sweet, delicious setting.
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Arthur: "It's times like these that make me wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was little."
Ford: "Why? What did she tell you?"
Arthur: "I don't know. I didn't listen."
StevenS
Member

Posts: 5


« Reply #22 on: April 14, 2010, 09:00:03 PM »

I have a very strong bias towards setting-specific systems, and against generic ones, for two reasons:

1) They're not generic. More specifically, what they often are is "setting-independent", like, say, GURPS; you can run a GURPS game in any setting, and what you'll get is a game that has certain specific variances depending on the setting, but behaves like GURPS -- a point-based, overly-complicated-combat-weighted game. If that's what you like, go for it.  But it very clearly privileges (by weight of its rules and its systems) certain sorts of play over others. And usually not the sorts I want. Wink

DiTV, to use the other example batted around here, privileges "how much will you pay/risk" as the central question; which is often a more interesting question to me, and if I had to "run a game" in a world with no time to design specific rules, I'd probably pick DiTV; well, that, or Ars <insert latinate version of name here>, an Ars Magica variant. Wink But that's because I played so much AM that I *can* adapt it, much like "Herbie" in the essay's example.

2) A really big part of what I like about gaming in different environments is being presented with, in as similar a fashion as possible, the sorts of decisions/problems/etc that a person in that environment would face.  And any generic system, by its nature, is going to have to abstract those decisions to fit its system -- unless it is so modified that one might as well have started from scratch.  In "The Files", my most recent finished project, I don't have much of a combat system at all -- because in the Le Carre-influenced milieu, combat is often trivial -- while interrogation and confrontation on a psychological level is critical.  Deciding when you have enough information for the burn? That's a decision that's reinforced by having a game mechanic for it, rather than, say, GURPS.



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Designer, "The Files" -- espionage a la le Carre, and "Free Your Head" -- psychedelic conspiracy.
Baenlynn
Member

Posts: 8


« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2010, 07:13:44 AM »

I prefer universal systems as there are a lot of different settings I'd like to play in and explore and I'd rather not have to learn too many different RPG systems to do that. What if I want a game that straddles multiple settings or genres? That said, I'm not a fan of GURPS at all, I'll play it but that's about it. I'll play D20 and Pathfinder too, but they are far from my favourite system.

You do sacrifice certain things with a universal system but I've never really placed accuracy at the head of my list of reasons for playing a game. That said, I don't think most setting-specific systems are entirely specific either. It all has to do with how they are dressed and what people want. Some people would be happy with opposed skill checks and descriptive actions preceding each roll in a fencing scenario (to pull an example off the front page of the board) while others would prefer dice and modifiers to play a greater role in describing the action. In both cases the same basic mechanics could be used for grappling, or hand to hand combat. I count myself more in the first group as I don't like the rules telling me how my character can act, they just need to tell me whether or not they succeeded. It's a fine distinction but one I've run up against many times over the years while playing D20 games.
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