Open systems

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about open rule sets recently. By open rule sets, I’m not refereeing to the OGL, but rather about generic game systems that allow the GM to create his own world. I own three of these systems – GURPS, Savage Worlds, True20 (and used to own a fourth: MasterBook from WEG).

I used to run a fair number of games using the GURPS system. I was particularly fond of using it for Sci-Fi, modern, and near future games. We also toyed with running a few Supers games using GURPS, but never liked it as much as the old Champions system.

As it turns out, my recent review of True20 probably demonstrates that I have the same sort of leanings regarding True20. For whatever reason, it seems to be balanced fairly well for running modern and futuristic games, while leaving me feeling as if a fantasy game would be a bit more difficult to pull off.

As I dive into Savage Worlds, I’m finding myself pigeonholing all of these games in a rather unusual way. At the moment, I have this impression that Savage Worlds would be perfect for a blended game (mixture of tech and fantasy); True20 seems to be a perfect match for modern day and supernatural games; while GURPS is still lingering around my brain as the hard Sci-Fi system de jour.

For the most part, I realize this is just a surface feeling. I think any of the three systems would work equally well for modern, Sci-Fi, or even mixed campaigns. Yet, there’s something about each of the systems that seem to subconsciously lend themselves to certain styles of gaming.

In the near future, I’m going to attempt to put together a few “micro-settings” for both True20 and Savage Worlds to see how they work. I’ll be sure to share when I’m done.

3 thoughts on “Open systems

  1. I do think you’ve got a point here, and the feeling may just come from what I call “stat block shock.”

    Let me explain.

    Take GURPS. You’ve got ST, IQ, DX, Advantages, Disadvantages, PD, DR, and so on followed by a slew of numbers. While not overly intimidating, there is a lot of stuff there, and to me, more stuff=more complicated=modern/sci-fi.

    To me, fantasy is STR, DEX, Bend Bars/Lift Gates, AC, weapon dmg, and how much stuff you have in your pack at the time. Iron rations anyone?

    But, there does seem to be just plain less going on the character sheet (and note, I’m not even touching 3rd ed, so bugger off), and that will probably be forever my idea of fantasy gaming; nice and simple.

    When it comes to multi-genre games/universal games, I want the ability to go “wahoo!” with things and a huge stat block just mentally doesn’t let me go there. Sorry, but I’m not the brain [snicker] I used to be [thank you Uncle Sam and Sam Adams respectively], and I don’t want to trudge through too much to get to where I want to be.

    Savage Worlds does a good job of keeping me old noggin’ from getting all overheated and such when it comes to deciphering things out, but honestly, my favorite multi-genre system has to be the Dream Park RPG put out by R. Talsorian back in the 90’s. It had the easiest means available to go as crazy as you wanted to and still have some sort of unified mechanics to it. And, you could put your character on something like a 3″x5″ card and that would be it.

    Was it perfect? No. But damn if it wasn’t fun. My “Ninja Truckers” game still hangs out there unfinished somewhere on I-85 with snarling, black Sentras dogging our heroes’ Peterbilt while getting blasted in return from one of the boy’s .600 Nitro in the middle of evening traffic while chasing after the girl (and her scientist father, of course). All at a high rate of speed.

    I’d easily run such a thing with Savage Worlds and throw in some magic slinging Necromancer to boot, but use other generic systems? Probably not. There is simply, to me, just too much paperwork you’d have to do to go “wahoo!” and that is sort of self-defeating in the end.

    Bottom line: The more complicated (ie. Big Stat Block) seeming games seem to lend themselves to modern/future settings because you’ve got to be deliberate in these genres. Guns kill quickly and you just spent an hour making your character. Less complicated games (ie. Small Stat Block) appear to give you more lattitude in where you go genre-wise.

  2. You know, even though I loved the Dream Park novel, I never bothered to pick up a copy of Talsorian’s RPG. I remember a lot of people talking about it back in the day but I never got a chance to see it in use.

    I agree with you about Savage Worlds. At the moment, I think it’s the better of the three generic systems (GURPS, Savage Worlds, True20). I do enjoy the other two, and I think it would be equally easy to design a Sci-Fi game in True20 as it would be for Savage Worlds, however, True20 doesn’t have the volume of material yet which may make it a bit harder to work with.

    I think these newer systems — True20 and SW — which allow you a great deal of latitude with a modest amount of paperwork are going to be the better games to run. They’re going to be more fun, easier to manage, and ultimately let the GM open up their imagination to a greater range of possible worlds.

  3. I have GURPS, True 20, HERO 5th and the latest Savage Worlds. Out of all of them, I feel Savage is the best at doing everything I need it to do for me as a toolkit to create my own universes or one shot game adventures. I have played GURPS since its inception with the original box and booklets, it worked out for many things over time though, it became a mess and bogged down (ala. 3rd edition D&D). The 4th edition GURPS is a pretty game but alas it is starting to be another D&D 3E, bogged down and Supers are still unplayable. Now Supers in Savage is playable with the lovely book Necessary Evil.

    Dont get me started on Hero, OMG this monstrosity is mechanically sound but just too dang nutts when trying to create a world or even characters, yeah you can make the Ice Cream cone of death but who the hell cares? Besides I can make the same dang thing in AD&D 1st edition (ewww save vs. Death or die!), the HERO crowd is looney.

    Stats do’nt make a game, they’re just a tool for players, but I find that at least 6 primary stats keeps players interrested in making characters, I could’nt get anyone interrested in doing a Tri-Stat system game “What only 3 stats, thats dumb”, is all I ever heard from the players.

    As far as Supers go, Just play M&M or something, your better off but you can do it in Savage. Fantasy havent tried yet in Savage, I just use AD&D 1st for that and the rest well, I have been using SAVAGE for the Modern or Sci-Fi, Pulp genres, its replaced my GURPS for that, cant wait to try KANE out with it though.

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