Sunday, June 29, 2008

My choice of gaming system

*Sigh* The gaming system conversation in my head has been resolved. Thank goodness. Now I'm just trying to figure out how to introduce the game engine to my group. Here is the email that I send to my GM yahoogroup which led me to my choice of gaming system:

Subject: What I'm looking for in a gaming system...

...just in case someone on here knows where I can find it.

A build point, classless, system for character creation which includes aspects of personality (like GURPS)

A simulationist system that is intuitive, light on crunch, but still uses a map (less like GURPS).

A magic setting where:

  • Spells or magical powers advance in power with the character (e.g., you don't take summon monster I and then II, rather I becomes II when you increase in strength). Or maybe more like the magic system in the WoD Mage books that is always flexible.

  • Magic users don't overshadow mundanes but still do things unique and exciting. (Unlike D&D 3.5)

A system that allows, even encourages, a variety of roleplaying styles including powergaming, buttkicking, story telling, & method acting (as defined by Robin's Laws of Good GMing). I've got a group of friends with mixed RPGing interests and I'd rather replace my RPG system than my friends.

A good/non-tragic setting. World of Darkness turns most in my group off because. . . . its so. . . well. . . . dark. We like to be heroes and heroines.

A resilient system where if I don't like a mechanic I can change it in minor ways without fear of setting all the power balance of the imaginary universe off kilter (as can happen with D&D, GURPS, & Shadowrun).

As few books as possible.

Any and all suggestions, even those that counter my original preferences, are welcome. Mostly I'm hoping for some discussion that can help me out. Is there a "find the right gaming system for you" questionnaire on the web?

Some background for the question. I've run GURPS 3rd edition, and there's a little too much crunch in it for me. The finer details of multiple contingent actions, point refinements, are too much for me to track and use intelligently as a GM, and I've got powergamers who glom onto crunch like mad. We've run D&D and Shadowrun but the storyteller and method actor's goals get shunted to the side for choosing "non-optimal" feats and PrCs. I've got a good group of folks, we communicate, we get along, but it can be hard for the GM (and we have 3 people who GM in our group of 5) to meet all the needs of the group. If we were rating all the sessions, at most you'd get 2 people who love a session and 2 who thought it was okay. The next session, you try to meet the other people's needs and they rate it high but the other 2 were bored.

Thanks in advance for any help. I have always appreciated the group's input in the past.


The suggestions that followed were interesting but led me finally to one of two choices Savage Worlds and FUDGE. I liked Savage Worlds for several days but the mechanics seemed to encourage a cartoony style that didn't suit my interests. FUDGE was everything that I had been looking for in a game. To the guy who suggested it to me I wrote, "As I was reading I starting creating the system I've always wanted. It has been like Christmas with a new toy."

I bought the book as quickly as possible even though I probably didn't need to. I've been tinkering with my manifestation of FUDGE for awhile now and I think I've got it pared down enough (its under 20 pages long). The biggest thing that I'm wondering about yet is the magic system which I want to stay very low powered. I want people to think more about how to get out of the scrapes they are in instead of just hacking their way through them. I want to give them a flexible magical tool set that doesn't include a fireball. I'm also not interested in the magical member of the party overshadowing the rest of the party members. I'm not sure if the low power accomplishes that or not but I'm thinking about an all magically active PC campaign anyway so it might not matter. The other major option is a sci-fi space explorer's campaign which would cut magic right out anyway.

The basics of a FUDGE game look like the way to go for me as a GM. The beautiful thing about the system is that you never have to rules-lawyer anything again. You just assign one of the seven attribute levels to the challenge, "this guy's defense is mediocre", "the lock is of good quality", or "it will take at least a great jump to get to the other side of the chasm". Now in GURPS, that same chasm posed more challenges for the GM, if I wanted to make the chasm interesting, I had to start by figuring out whether my players would be attempting it using ST, DX, or the jump skill, then figure out how hard I wanted to make it relative to their skill and then set the distance just right and then describe it in feet and inches, way too much work. Also, FUDGE is tinkerable, I can add or delete things as I see fit, increase or decrease the granularity of the skill levels.

Now, I just need to convince my players to try it out. . . .