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Generic vs. Specific


Posted on July 10th, by firstoni in Blog. 3 comments

Upon the release of Camp Myth: The RPG (which was just yesterday), it brings about certain questions. One of them I’ve seen is “does it do a good job emulating Percy Jackson?” I can answer this one easily: yes. At the same time, though, it is based on a separate literary work and focuses on that setting in particular. Changing things around with the PIP system is super easy to do, though, so a quick-fix or hack will get you there pretty quickly.

The harder question hits home to a lot of game designers out there right now. “Is the system better than just using a generic system, like Fate?” This one can’t be answered quite so easily, but here’s my personal take on it…

I’m a system hopper. I like to dabble in several systems, instead of attaching myself to one and never moving away from it. Whenever a new system comes out, I make an effort to try it out, see how it’s different, and find out whether I like it or not. It’s not a matter of finding that ONE SYSTEM that I’ll never have a reason to leave. I’m definitely not one to hack every setting into a single system, because I believe every system is its own creature. Each one is attempting to create a certain feel to the game. Fate, while still quite crunchy, attempts to make gaming more narrative, whereas Savage Worlds focuses on making their settings have a pulpy feel. If we were to take a game like Eclipse Phase, strip its custom system that it’s so intrinsically attuned to, and replaced it with another… it’d be a different game.

In short: system matters.

When designing my own games, I work hard to create a feel, a mood and mechanics that enhance my idea. There are systems that are similar enough or strike the same nerve which make it easy to convert from system to system, but I’ve been to conventions where I run into people who say “No, I only play X game”. And fill in that X with just about any game or system out there.

Generic systems are cool, but if you dig down deep, you’ll find they are not as generic as you might think. If you’re looking to hack every setting to your favorite system, that’s awesome! There are other flavors or game out there though, so don’t be afraid to try out a new system/game!

Until next time.





3 responses to “Generic vs. Specific”

  1. TheEduhater says:

    I love many different systems and feel that I learn as a GM from running each and have certain systems that I want to experience only after I have gotten better as a GM.

    I don’t want to run Wolsung (for example) until I felt comfortable in FATE and felt I could have my players have a ton of on the fly control or what exists in the scene they are in.

    To me system must match setting. OWoD took a mundane world and made it sinister and powered it with base 10, something we take for granted every day and used it to power the darkness. Shadowrun has to be gritty and overly complex, running it in Savage Worlds would lose so much flavor.

    In my GMing curriculum I’ve made for myself, DGS is my go to system to teach myself how to narrate combat and fast paced action. It fits the Wu Xing setting and creates a flurry of tension where needed. I don’t think the DGS system would be my choice for an old school politics heavy Vampire game, but then, I wouldn’t turn to Storyteller for high-option fast paced combat either.

    • firstoni says:

      My point exactly! So, in terms of Camp Myth: The RPG, the system we made for it is for running the best game of Camp Myth: The RPG you can, capturing the flavor and themes and moods of that particular setting. Every tool has it’s job. You can’t use a screwdriver for every job, just like Fate/Storyteller/DGS doesn’t fit every setting.

  2. Jacob Wood says:

    I completely agree. I enjoy Fate, but honestly I don’t think it would do as good a job at telling a Mermaid Adventures or Camp Myth style game as the Pip System does. Also, Fate’s a bit complex even for kids, which the Pip System is designed for.

    Could you tell just about any story using a generic system such as Fate or Fudge? Sure, but I don’t think you’d get the same feel from it as you would if you were playing a custom system. That’s why even generic systems need to be heavily modified to fit a specific game style.

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