Monthly Archives: May 2013

Setting and System, What is One Without the Other?

I’m a guy who likes to play a setting in the system it’s made in, even if i don’t particularly like the system. But how tied to a system is a setting? Obviously it is possible for you play in any particular universe without using whatever system the writers/publishers/licence holders choose, but is there a real advantage to using a setting specific system? and what, is any, is the advantage of using a generic system?

The existence of generic systems like GURPS and Savage Worlds make is possible to play in any setting that exists, or that you can imagine. and there are easily modifiable system like Hero, that, while they are not made to be as generic as others, are extremely flexible.

I’ve been neck deep in the Legend of the Five Rings (4th edition) books for the last few weeks, learning the system and the setting in preparation for running some games. I really like the system, its simple where it can be, gets more complex where it has to be, but not in a bad way. and i think it’s perfectly made for the setting it supports.

That’s the crux of the arguument right there. it’s made for the setting. this system was created to fit this particular setting and had subtle elements and nuances that suit it. they started with the setting and built a system to support it, and facilitate your game actually feeling like you are living and playing in your chosen setting.

That’s if you’re lucky.

The other side of the coin is learning a new system every time you want to play in a different setting. a system that, while made for a setting, may not actually be any good. it might not be a good fit for that particular system, it might be clunky and slow, it might be overly complex, it might just have one thing that it get’s wrong that effects the experiance as a whole. but sometimes, it just not right.

So, the question is, do you perservere with a system that you don’t like/doesn’t work, or do you begin the process of converting a setting into a different system.

If your chosen setting doesn’t have an RPG to convert from then this is even more work, but work you would have had to do anyway. so it’s s moot point.

But, if you have a setting, for example Eclipse Phase, a very well fleshed out setting, with some very unique aspects, is it worth the work to try and replicate the aspects of that setting into a generic system when you already have a custom built system for it, albeit a slightly clunky one.

The generic systems themselves are exactly that. system without setting. and you need setting. you don’t have a game without a setting. even if ti’s just “present day” or “Sydney in the 80’s” or something equally simple. and chances are you will have to bend some rules to make it work in your generic system, either in the setting or in the system. even with all the extra books for GURPS, you still have to bend the system rules to re-create a Mutant City Blues game.

I do like generic systems for somethings, but generally I will choose a setting specific RPG’s over generic if it’s available. especially if there is a current or at least fairly current system.

Never stop gaming.