Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hodge Podge Systems Are Good

1. The complexity of a game system should depend on how often you interact with that system.

2. How often you interact with that system depends on the genre of the game.

(For example: if you get ambushed by gunmen in a John Woo movie, you might end up fighting for half hour and live and then get in three more fights later, if you get ambushed in The Godfather you are going to die in the next minute, period, and it will probably be the only time you fight. If you get ambushed in a Lovecraft story you will probably not only die immediately but it's the only violence in the whole story.)

3. Therefore different genres need systems of differing complexity.

4. Games which typically spawn the longest-running campaigns embrace the largest variety of genres and subgenres (to keep the game interesting over time).

5. Therefore different systems of different levels of complexity are desirable for campaign-style games.

6. So shut up about how great it is that your game uses the same engine for everything.


In other news: Red & Pleasant Land is a finalist for the Three Castles award along with some other good-looking game stuff. It looks like a pretty nice crop this year so I'll be happy no matter who wins.

And, coming soon from me and False Patrick by Satyr Press...


  1. You could also have the same engine for everything but said engine is scalable, e.g., combat is waaaay more complex in RuneQuest than in CoC yet both games use the same engine.

    1. brp can go from
      d20 light pedragon rules
      old coc lightish
      old Stormbringer a bit more complex
      Superworld has added complexity of champions style point system on top
      RQ2 - versions get more complex
      Ringworld has extra complexity of tech

      And there is extra light Prince Valiant for story gaming

      I still prefer marvel for heroes and DnD for heroic murder hobo fantasy

    2. brp doesn't have the same engine for everything though. it's got dnd stats bolted onto a % system.

      which works

      except the resistance table, but that's easily hacked

    3. The resistance table in BRP was odd. It was really another unified mechanic in a game that already had one. Kind of like a genius younger brother with self esteem issues. It's better as a separated game system in a separate game IMHO

  2. I like the idea of actually changing mechanics as needed or by whim simply to keep things interesting and fluid and to prevent loopholes.

    1. I think players should always know what mechanics they're interacting with if they ask (unless it's a puzzle and a mystery mechanic is the point)--and I think they should know when mechanics change and know that they have a say in whether they change. GM is an elected office.

      Without that you can't have a game involving rational tactics.

    2. I tried to do something like this with the favor of deities once. The favor of the god of gamblers let you "double down" on rolls, while the favor of the god of thunder gave you a fearsome reputation (if you were a cleric being in disfavor made using magic harder). It's an idea I'd like to revisit, but in practice there was too much bookkeeping and people kept forgetting which bonuses and penalties they had.

    3. sometimes a graphic design solution on the character sheet is a good answer to book-keeping problems

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  4. For what I imagine the rules changes would be entirely transparent. It could be something as simple as changing the critical hit chart or adopting a dice trick for the length of one combat or one session.

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  6. I am disagreeing with Zak about this a little on G+ so I have been made to think long and hard about reasons *why* hodge podge systems can be good and indeed maybe better than a single unified mechanic.
    1: Creative Dissonance. Both as a GM and as a player, a system which is markedly different from the others can create a tension that can spark the imagination and trigger non linear responses, and that can be creative, non predictable and fun.
    2: Genre simulation. Let's be clear we ain't simulating reality, but we are having a go at genre (sometimes). It could be argued that some systems 'feel' more like a genre than others. Deadlands used playing cards and poker chips to 'feel' more like the Wild West. People have argued that the probability of a certain resolution system 'feels' more like a style or genre they are reaching for.
    3: It's FUN! Sometimes it is just fun to make the game a bit more, well game like. Switching systems and spinning discs and flopping cards and collecting tokens and managing resources is FUN, and hey, that's valid too.
    There you go +Zak Sabbath, I though of some stuff.. thanks..