The arguement for standardized systems & worlds

Tuesday, 31. August 2010

Greg has a few good points as to why having linked systems and settings are a bad idea. I agree with his assertions in general as for the game being terrible for world building, but not everyone are at this stage to where it’s useful. I’ll argue in the case of devils advocate for standardization here at least for the beginning. The majority of them are for marketability in terms of the developer.

In fact it might be simply terrible for any sort of beginner to have to come up with everything without any form of guideance. That is an absolutely a huge turnoff for new players, not only are you required to learn the rules and come up with character, but come up with a world as well? Very harsh.

I believe that having a temperated world for each system is an excellent idea… provided that each system has added rules for expansion in the longer term. Even as an experienced player, I want something to give a general “feel” of the game play and system. Inevitably rules will be tweaked and the setting may be changed, but at least I have a baseline experience to work from. This also makes a game very relatable.. other players and storytellers instantly have a connection when a game is talked about, simply because there is a baseline of how it works.

There is of course, the simplification argument for is that having all classes and clans is that the play is focused. This focusing simplifies game play, it simplifies rules and times at the table and allows everything to move quickly and hopefully smoothly. Assuming the game has been streamlining rather than adding useless rules, the standardization allows for quick quashing of arguments.

From a marketing perspective it allows a designer to cover the largest variety of their players at once. This efficiency hopefully lowers cost for them and prospective buyers in the future. Nobody from a production perspective wants to create a product that has very limited appeal… its inefficient to produce unless you can sell it for high cost or are just into it for the art. If you’re selling cars then for instance; you want to be able to sell tires which everyone needs, not huge spoilers.

In addition, there are branding issues. It’s difficult to brand pure flexibility in a game system as it’s primary attribute. It’s not something that sticks in ones head as a usable attribute. So setting is used to differentiate one system from another.. one does dragons, one does vampires, one does sci-fi, etc.

–Note that I do think modern systems are too limiting both in terms of choice, but also in terms of typing them strictly to the producers product. (Edition, expansion, etc.) But there is a good reason for it other than just being purely greedy.

6 Responses to “The arguement for standardized systems & worlds”

  1. Synapse Design Blog » Blog Archive » Teeball Says:

    [...] why we should constrict choice. Because making your own world is really hard. Grey even put up a counter-post arguing the same point. I’m even inclined to agree, citing Barry [...]

  2. JoshDM Says:

    In my opinion there are 4 prime concepts to any role-playing game.

    1 – Rules
    : These define the “laws/constraints” for in-game conflict resolution.

    2 – Setting
    : This defines where the game scenarios take place.

    3 – Genre
    : This defines how the game is played (horror, humorous, adventurous).

    Each of the above should be able to stand alone.
    Each of the above can also be placed inside the fourth concept.

    4 – Design
    : This explains how Rules, Setting, and Genre interact with each other, defining any setting/genre-specific rules.

  3. Grey Says:

    Good breakdown, although I really like to think of 1 and 4 as being completely interelated and difficult to seperate as such. If you’re doing something freeform, 1 might not even exist persay. What sort of interaction are you considering to place a rule in the design category?

    You could probably break rules down into a triangular style graph, with speed, precision and freedom to players all being in mutual opposition to each other.

  4. JoshDM Says:

    Design (4) is inter-related with Rules (1) depending on the Setting (2).

    Rather, let’s rename Rules to Core Rules. Anything any character/interaction can equally perform is covered under Core Rules. Design encompasses Specialist Rules, those rules that fall outside of Core Rules and are exclusive to specific scenarios or character make-ups.

    Take, for example, the now-classic game of Deadlands. IIRC, characters of the Huckster class had their very own rules for handling mystical interactions, the rules of which fell completely outside of the general rules. They were a special condition inherent of the setting; in my opinion, their rules fall under Design as they are outside of Core Rules. Done correctly, you could take the Core Rules of Deadlands and apply them to any setting, but the Huckster Rules sub-set is not necessarily applicable. Design applies to rules that are only handled under a special setting-based case.

    In, for example, old DC Heroes RPG, the game came with the option of applying Genre Rules. Genre Rules would alter core comparison values (e.g. attack roles in a Gritty genre were harder to pull off than in a Heroic genre; certain high-impact combat maneuvers were removed in more realistic genres than others).

    Another more recent game which put the Genre concept to good use is Paranoia XP (or rather, Mongoose Paranoia), which allowed for Straight (THX-1138 / Logan’s Run), Classic (Brazil), and Zap! (Three Stooges) modes of play within the same setting.

    If Rules do not exist (freeform guidelines), then Design is simply a transparent cellophane wrap around the Rules/Setting/Genre trinity, adding nothing.

    I really like the breakdown of Core Rules into the competing Speed/Precision/Freedom sub-groups.

  5. Grey Says:

    Ok, I see where you’re going now. So they’re essentially minor version changes such as in the case of Paranoia, or entirely sub rulesets. (Basically all the characters in 4e.) I think that minor tweaks work well, but I hate having entirely different rulesets for various characters just because of the effect it has on gameplay. Good thoughts

  6. JoshDM Says:

    Design rules could be reverse-engineered to allow characters to transfer between different design applications.

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