Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Food For Thought

Q: What are the four game systems that are most commonly (and accurately, in this writer's opinion) described as obviously "broken" or at least in bad need of rules hacks in order to play smoothly and/or emulate the genre they're supposed to be emulating?

A: D&D (all variants), Rifts (and the rest of Palladium), Vampire (and the rest of White Wolf-old system), and Call of Cthulhu

Q: What are the four most successful RPGs, in terms of bringing people into the hobby?

A: D&D (all variants), Rifts (and the rest of Palladium), Vampire (and the rest of White Wolf-old system), and Call of Cthulhu


  1. White Wolf? Really? Are we talking old World of Darkness? I've never found the new World of Darkness "broken." What are people saying?

  2. I think what he's saying is the most played games will be the most complained about games, since ultimately, more eyes on it means more people finding faults with it, and voicing opinions about it, etc ...

  3. That, and that complaining about a game is the first step to falling in love with the hobby.

  4. You keep your hands of my Call of Cthulhu, you big porno arty GM type person!


  5. Agreeing with Zak here. That you care enough to notice something 'Wrong' about a system shows you care about the system and have thought about ways to 'fix' that system.

    For example, while I have several Kilobytes of files on personal house rules for various game systems, I have not a single byte of commentary on Monopoly, even though I've played and enjoyed it.

    Same with movies, books etc. Whatever folks complain about is what they are thinking about. I'm not sure it's the first step to falling in love with it, (I think that's realizing it's FUN)it's certainly something every gamer I've ever known has indulged in.

  6. And for a counter-point what are the best games you've never played?

    For instance, Jorune. Anyone remember Jorune? Now has anyone ever played an entire adventure let alone a campaign) start to finish of Jorune?

  7. Personally, I've played oWoD and CoC extensively without rules hacks, so I'm a bit at a loss to parse the criticism.

    I know people complain about the other three games (mainly because they have a vocal fan base, so their detractors easily get in a tizzy), but I've never seen nor heard of anyone describe Call of Cthulhu as obviously broken or needing rules hacks in order to play. Then again, people complain that CoC doesn't emulate the genre, but that makes even less sense to me.


  8. I've always disliked the term "broken" when describing an rpg. "I don't like it" is fine. Or even, "I don't like the way it handles skill rolls." But broken? What does that even mean?

    GM: "You walk into a 30' by 30' room with doors in the north and south and a statue of a cloaked dude in the center. What do you do?"

    Player: [has stroke]

  9. Mordecai: The combat rules have been really simplified. The attack, damage and defense rolls are all handled in a single dice pool. It's really nice.

    Tom: To your point, I own Jorune and it looks so nifty. I have no idea what to do with it. :(

    Sorcerer always struck me as a challneging game, but since I am all geeked on the nWoD these days, I really want to give it a go.

  10. Reverend Keith, many of the more vocal supporters of Trail of Cthulhu claim that CoC is "broken", and that their game "fixes" it. That's the only instance I can recall.

  11. Man, Jorune is awesome! We had such a great time making characters that one night in 1988. And maybe we played the first part of an adventure...

    But it was awesome! Our characters were so cool they didn't even need eyes!

    On CoC, the most common complaint is that high character mortality rates mean you can't really build a character up over a campaign - at best he or she crumbles to dust in your hands. Some people (people who aren't me) might see that as broken.

  12. other common CoC complaints are that it requires railroading and that it ends up being more Indiana Jones than HP Lovecraft

    (I don't necessarily agree with either of those)

    But, really, anybody focusing on these specific systems is missing the point of the post.

  13. In Poland Rifts are practically unknown (I've never read, heard or in any other way know of anyone who is Polish and plays it).

    The Place of D&D is taken by Warhammer (but surprisingly most of the complaints are very similar).

    Otherwise, WoD (new or old), Cthulhu and Warhammer form the big three of the most complained and most popular games.

    The other two games, that have the biggest markets in Poland are:

    Neuroshima - a polish post apocalyptic game (taking place in the US). It has a well described world and is full of fluff, but the mechanics lack something.

    Deadlands - I've never heard anybody complain about it, apart from people complaining about not liking westerns. Nut that's a completly different thing... Btw. I wonder why nobody ever mentions it on the blogs... Is it passe in US?

  14. Hm, i agree and disagree.
    Both oppinions are fully valid, but discussable.

    IMHO, the point is something different altogether...

    A game, be it an RPG or a board game, is what you and your fellow players make of it and how you use the rules in a creative way to achieve the gaming experience you want, even if the rules don't support or even hinder a certain style of play, like V:tM being called a storyteller system but in actual gameplay fostering powergaming or CoC ending up like "Whoever-kills-the-most-cultists-with-a-shotgun-before-Tsathoggua-shows-up-wins" instead of having characters experiencing(!) the horrors of Lovecraft's stories instead of getting "Indiana Jones goes Mythos".
    And i wouldn't go as far as stating that certains rules systems(!) by themselves get people "into the hobby", because this does not happen IMAO, because it's people playing RPGs that get people into RPG, not systems at all.

    Let aside the fact, that here in Germany Rifts is frowned upon, at best, and that V:tM is rather seen as a variety of a self-fulfilling goth clichee thing and that CoC is rather a railroading bonanza with firm scripts rather than adventures in their own right, and D&D as being D&D is either mostly dead with respect to 4E or it was subsumed into Pathfinder (regarding 3.5's "legacy"), which seems alive and well.

    Anyway, how can/could we judge the point of systems "bringing people into the hobby"?
    Because i doubt there are statistics about the number of people joining the RPG hobby...

    And as long as there are no statistically comparable published sales figures about game lines, the best we can do is guess.

    So i'd guess that Shadowrun and D&D bring more people into the hobby than CoC, Rift and Vampire together.

  15. BRP/CoC and WFRP are considered other than perfect in some circles? Pleased point me in the direction of the blasphemers...

    ...complaining about a game is the first step to falling in love with the hobby.

    Truth and pithy wisdom.

  16. Complaints about WFRP and Call of Cthulu are my "Monty Haul" player detectors.

  17. Zak:

    "But, really, anybody focusing on these specific systems is missing the point of the post."

    Yeah, you're right, Zak

  18. Is the point, in fact, that the most played games are the most complained about? Or that games which are "broken" also tend to invite customization, which makes them ultimately a better fit for the groups that play them? I've seen people suggest that in the past.

  19. It wasn't the first rpg I played, but there was one game which turned a casual interest into a hobby, largely because it was all we played for about a year. We loved it, but then we started playing other stuff, and the GM moved away. I tried to run it in his absence, but found the game to be, I suppose "broken" is an apt description, but rather than customise it to fit, we just moved on.

    I'm not sure if this supports your point or not. :/

  20. I think it's more likely that successful games provide broad toolsets and chunks that may not satisfy an out of the box run for someone committed to a particular focus. CoC has the anchor of SAN but it also has a pile of guns.

  21. Not to undermine the point of the post, but a complicating factor is that obviously, an unsuccessful game doesn't receive the same degree of complaints simply because it's not a target.

    "Ultimate Fantasy Adventure EXXXtreme RPG: with a Vengeance" may be completely unplayable, but I wouldn't know because I've never played it, and there'd be no reason to rain sulfur and brimstone on it since nobody cares.

    But if your point is that games that are perhaps purposely "broken" require the player to fix it in order to play, and thereby creates investment into the game which increases its popularity, I think you're completely correct. That doesn't make it any less broken though.

  22. Everyone who played Rifts or any other Palladium game seriously understands how broken and unworkable the canon Palladium mechanics are. The prevalence to the modified "house rules" are a testament to that. However, it's not just the cumbersome, clumsy mechanics that tends to make Rifts campaigns feel "broken" but the very premise of the Rifts Megaverse as well.

    As a Game Master and adventure writer many years ago, I treasured the richness and variety of the Rifts setting. Because of the "pretty much any fantasy and sci-fi works here" scenario, it allowed for near unlimited creative freedom in crafting adventures.

    However, with all that freedom comes the responsibility of limiting what is and is not available, appropriate and useful to a certain campaign. In a Rifts campaign, the GM really has to keep a close reign on the scale and scope of the campaign. When anything imaginable can be Rifted into the campaign, the GM has the responsibility of defining and maintaining a context for the campaign to feel right.

    That said, a well-run Rifts campaign with more efficient house rules and mechanics is great fun.

  23. (Old) White Wolf's Adventure! game is awesome. It's an amazing system that can be easily adapted to other settings. We've played a handful of games with complete newbies and they understood the mechanics easily.

  24. "Zak:

    "But, really, anybody focusing on these specific systems is missing the point of the post."

    Yeah, you're right, Zak"

    Totally, Zak.

  25. On a broader view, this reminds me of that saying about patriotism:

    "The people who truly and surely love their nation are the ones who utterly hate their nation"

    It's along the same line of thought. You only love something if you can see fault in it.

    That is: the way to tell if you truly love something is if you aim to make it better.


    That's a bit of a shocker actually. It means I actually love my country from the depths of my being. A frightful thought...