Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Importance of Other Systems

I know I promised a post on Complex Mechanics and what that can mean for your game, but I am pushing that back until tomorrow so I can talk about this today. Why am I talking about why you want to read other games today? Because this week is RPG Drivethru's Christmas in July sale, and they have crazy deals of 25% off on numerous PDFs. So, read this post to see why I think you should read other games, but be sure to click that link and see if there is anything you want that you can get for sale this week. Sale ends on the 31st of July, so act now!

Fundamental Problem of GMing
When you GM a game, there is one fundamental problem that you will come across. I don't care if you're running the most in depth system ever designed, you are going to hit up against this issue at some point in time or another. What is the issue? A player wants to do something that is not covered in the rules. Now, some games have ways of handling this, but they can be clunky or leave a bad taste in the mouth. Other games will just leave you hanging. So, what do you do? Common sense is a wonderful guide, but I can say without exaggerating that I've had multiple hours long arguments with people about just what was "common sense" and what was logically derived from education that they had. Seriously, we're all geeks here.

So, How Does This Help?
So, if that is the problem, then how does this help? Well, honestly, it does it in a bunch of ways. One, a different game system will present to you different ideas for how to handle common things, as well as be based on covering other issues. You want to know how long it takes a character to jump out of a car, but your modern game doesn't have anything on that. You know what might? That mech combat game you grabbed last week. Hell, it probably has a few different ways of handling an emergency ejection or ditch.

The other way is in things like GM advice, and just the point of view that the book has. See, my theory is that you can tell how someone GMs (and what their group likes) based on how they make their game. My games are made with my group in mind and the natural bents that we like. Your games are for your group. So, if you read my game, you can get some idea of my GMing, which might just help you with your problem.

GMing is Designing
I've said this before, but all Game Masters do a bit of dabbling in design at some point in their career. Maybe it is because of the fundamental problem, and you need a way to factor int he falling damage for jumping off of a dragon in flight. Maybe it is just making custom monsters. Hell, maybe it is a bit of both. Either way, GMing involves designing, and being exposed to multiple aspects of design can only help. Points of view are valuable things to have, and you can't get them by just sticking with your one default system.

Every Tool In The Box
What all of this boils down to is this: every system you read will put different tools in your tool box. Maybe you don't need them all the time. Hell, I can't tell you the last time that I used my star-head screw driver, but you know what? Sometimes an issue comes up and having the right tool to fix it is an amazing thing.

Change of Pace
Finally, you also want to try playing these games. Sure, maybe your group is die hard L5R fans. That doesn't mean there is no benefit to be found in playing other games. Sometimes a bit of something different is just what you need to refresh those creative batteries. Also, maybe players will get a new perspective on samurai duels after their usual L5R game is broken up with a few nights of Wu Xing or Blood and Honor. If not, well, hey, at least you found something your group doesn't like, right?


  1. In my opinion the most important thing about shifting around and changing up systems is sometimes trying systems on the other end of the mechanical spectrum. If you are playing point buy, do random generation. If you are playing narrative control, play a rules heavy system. It shakes up your RP and your gamesmanship both.

  2. I agree that having a wide range of reading is important in all aspects of knowing. Reading more RPGs, and better, playing more, is important to building your RPG literacy.

    That said, I know some folks who run/play nothing but Rules Compendium D&D, love it, run great games, and I can't really fault them since, having played in a few of their games myself -- they still manage to be excellent after like 30 years with one game... go figure.

  3. Rhetorical: Like with all advice, it isn't for everyone. Some people can do amazing things with one system. Some people can just make it dance, and tell wondrous stories with it. For others, that can lead to stagnation.