Rant: RPGs are like...

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Rant: RPGs are like...

PostPosted by verdilak » Thu Oct 14, 2010 2:43 am


I'm currently in the process of buying a new home and I am going through what I will need to do to fix it up, build a deck, and so on to get it to how I want it. Thats where the basis of this rant comes from.

Roleplaying game systems are like the home market.

For example, you can buy a house brand new, to your specifications. You go in, sit down, pick out everything from the counter tops to what materiel the drapes will be. Hell, you can even get special electrical outlet covers to match the decor and shit. In my mind, this is how setting-specific systems are. You believe that it will have everything that you want because that is what it is advertising to you. You want to do the exact things that you see being done in the books or movies or comics, so you get the rpg that was built specifically for that setting.

Invariably, that perfect house that was built and furnished to your specifications, is shown to be less than perfect much like setting-specific systems. You send messages to the developer and a good one will fix the problems quickly while the bad ones take years, if ever, to do what needs to be done. And then there comes the time when something that you liked is changed due to the number of people who disliked it. In the end, the setting-specific setting, much like the perfect home, is shown to be less than perfect.

So you move to the secondary market and buy a home that was previously owned. This is like those game companies that have a single house system and they cobble it together with the setting to make it work, possibly making a few changes here and there like most home owners are wont to do with a new home over the years. This one is a bit more tricky because there are often enough changes dome to the system to make it seem like it is setting-specific (like how previously owned homes will often have the flooring and wall's re-done in order to impress the potential buyers) and if you are not careful, you can fall for the trap quite easily. The issues come into play when the setting is far removed from what the house system was first designed to emulate. Kinda like how you might find an older home that has two different types of tile in the same room, these types of systems often have additions that are just hacked on. Also, you will have something that is dated from the '70's next to something that is newer. It'll work, often very well for some time, but it will invariably fall into the same trap as the setting-specific systems do. Something will be out of touch, something will be wrong, and you will start house ruling.

Let me stop for a minute and address something important that I am sure some people are wondering: What is so wrong about House Rules? There is nothing wrong with them, per se, but it becomes irritating to spend money on a product that promises you something and is unable to deliver.

Whats next in your options? Building your own home, or using a generic system. A big problem with generic systems is that it takes a creative GM and players to give the flavor that the system often lacks. And there are different types of generic systems. Some are like a Lowes, where there is a portion of the store set up with lumber to build things yourself, but the majority is dedicated to a number of different subsystems that often don't fit together very well in the grand scheme of things. Others are like a lumberyard, where you have all the tools, albeit simple ones, at your disposal to make just about anything you want. The problem with these is that unless you have something in mind before you show up, you will be paralyzed with the option of choice.

Lastly, we have homes that just plumb don't make sense to anyone not living in them. These are the homes that you see driving by that look like they stuck two manufactured homes together without changing the siding to match one another. Homebrews take inspiration from a number or sources and could even be just a heavily house-ruled setting-specific system. While they often work very well for their cobbled together appearance, especially for the group using them, they will often make most others scratch their heads and go "Bwuah?"

And this of course isn't even getting into the crunchy-ness, or lack thereof, of the rules. This was just a simple observation that I can see right now due to the way my life is going right now.

As for myself, I prefer the lumberyard type of generic systems. It fits very well with my DIY outlook on life. My grandfather and father, as well as myself, have a saying for fixing or building something without the correct materials (which I am not going to say here because they are racial in nature). Now, this is not to say that there is any less quality put into the work at hand, it just means that the materials used are less than preferred. They also might look out of place and not fit the general flow of the aesthetics, but rigging it together in this fashion if often a superior quality than what one could consider piss-poor craftsmanship (of course, its not professional either, but sometimes, professional work is soddy as well).

One of the reasons I like Tri-Stat dX/SW/Wushu/ect. so much, when you go to make a character, its like you are handed $50k at a lumberyard and are told to spend it however you want. Its basic, yes, but there isn't anything you can't build. Other games have you pick from a selection or pre-built homes. Other generic games give you money as well, but instead of the lumberyard, you can spend it anywhere, which means the subsystems often don't mesh very well together or it is mind-bleeding difficult to get things to come out right (like Hero and GURPS).

Tri-Stat dX (and games like it) are like those Home Improvement shows where designers are given a grand and told to turn a drab room into something awesome. They can look at how the room is set up and make that grand stretch perfectly, as well as quickly. Thats how I am with that particular type of generic system. You could say it is because I know it so well, but I don't really know it all that well, in regards to experience with the system. I just grok it. Give me something that you can't see how it can be done and I'll prove you wrong. While others seem to make it out to be the hardest thing in the world, ending up with characters like how some of those designers try to makes rooms that have hay on the walls instead of paint. Of course, I make crappy characters in other systems (or at least, I would, if i didn't take advantage of guides and builds and whatnot, which is not a good thing). But, you know, crappy characters here is not optimized, but then I don't try to look at the word "optimized" as a bad thing. It's like... if you wanted to play a warrior, but gave the character no strength, thats not very "optimized" towards what you are mentally picturing. Thats what I mean, since any character can be excellent depending on how that character is roleplayed. Some of the best characters I have seen had very little combat or skill ability, but they were roleplayed to the point that they were a necessary and integral part of the group.

I think i'm just rambling now, so I'll stop here lol
"I'm imagining Kiera Knightly, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina and Meg Fox sitting around your map wearing bandanas vigorously shaking fists full of d20s." - Aval Penworth, in regards to a map I made
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