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Author Topic: General views on Universal systems ?  (Read 11639 times)
Autocrat
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« on: February 14, 2004, 04:33:54 AM »

Alright, I've been to a couple of forums, I've answered other peoples posts, I've helped, explained, I've started threads, asked questions and questioned answers.......
   Yet I get a very strong impreession that a large percentage of gamers, or atleast those that use forums and design there own games, have a strog dislike for universal systems, mechanics that are seperate to settings, and the ability to alter the mechancis and rules for their own ends.

   So, the question I would like answered is.....

   What are peoples views on Universal systems, General mechanics and alterable rules?????????????????????????????????

   If anyone does respond, I have no problem with heated or heartfelt responses, so long as you explain it to me!  As yet, I get a lot of buzz and no substance as to the faults, so if there is a big problem with it, I'd like to know!
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james_west
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2004, 06:45:49 AM »

Hello, Autocrat!

Your strong impression is essentially correct. However, it's not the sort of thing that can be answered trivially; for a complete answer, start at the beginning of the articles (perhaps 'System Does Matter') and read forward, paying particular attention to the concept of 'incoherence'.

The short answer, though is: different goals in game play are facilitated by different rules. No set of rules can be functional for all goals, and thus an attempt at 'universal' rules is doomed to failure.

If what you mean by universal is that you are going to have the same goals, types of premise, and color, you're just going to put it in different settings, then - sure, that's probably possible. Not all that universal, though.

- James
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Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2004, 06:54:22 AM »

Ok, here's mine.

A game should be about something.  It should have a purpose.  The designer should have a clear idea of what it is the characters are supposed to be doing.  Before you object, let me note for the record that this does not mean the game must be narrowly focused.  It may be narrowly focused but it doesn't have to be.

There are many ways to slice the pie, it is my firm belief that the designers job is to slice it.  It may be a big slice, it may be a sliver, but it should be sliced.  Failure to do this, IMO is a huge cop out on the part of the designer.  

Here are some examples of the wide range of pie slices you can have.
Sorcerer:  limits play to just being about sorcerers and their relationship to their demons.  But setting, time period, types of stats, types of demons, themes...pretty much anything and everything else is in play.

Violence Future:  much more narrowly defined.  The setting is fixed to Nippon-techno future with characters coming from a very narrow range of society.  It then goes a step further and starts game play at the END of those characters lives.

Universalis:  slicese a square piece of the pie if you'll allow the analogy.  It is universal in the sense that a game can be about anything, anyone, anywere.  But it is very specific about the method of how to get there.

Riddle of Steel:  Easily applied to anything that could be considered gritty low fantasy, and relatively easy to modify so that its been and being used for a variety of other settings, includeing sci fi oriented ones.  Character selection is quite broad but the where this game cuts its slice is with a specific type of scenario.  One that focuses in like a laser beam on the drives and passions of those characters and ties them emotionally into the conflict right from the beginning.

Each of these games are dramatically different, each of them slice the pie in a different way.  But each of them make a statement by how they slice it.

Multiverser:  In some ways follows the reasoning of the universal do anything go anywhere game mechanic.  In a sense its slice of the pie is almost the whole pie.  But yet its not the whole pie.  Multiverser is a universal system because the focus of the game is on traveling between worlds.  There for the game is focused on making sure every single possible world in the multiverse is accessible.  Even so, I think the game would benefit tremendously from a good couple prunings with a heavy duty hedge trimmer, but now where getting more down to the level of personal preference than conceptual lines in the sand.


And that to me IS a line in the sand.  If the game doesn't slice the pie somewhere, somehow.  Then the game is pointless.  There is no reason for its existance, no reason for me to bother to look at it, and no reason for me to play it or help with its design.  Take a stand, draw a line.

Suck it up and announce to the world "this is what my game is about"
Have the courage to say "if you don't like what this game is about, go play something else, I won't mind"

To me (with the exception of games like Multiverser and some uses that Marco and others give to GURPs) building a game that attempts to be all things to all people is...well, I'll take you at your word on heated and heartfelt responses and just come right out and say it...the cowards way out.

By that I mean, being so fearful of some gamer rejecting the game that the designer tries to please everyone and give a little something to everyone.  So that even if its not the players favorite design they at least find something they can say "I like this part" about.

To me, the success of a game is not in the number of people who like it kinda sorta.  But the number of people who are absolutely passionate about it...passionate about liking it, or passionate about hating it.  

So, take a stand.  Make a statement about what the game is to be about.  And then focus all of the mechanics, not just the attribute choice, on exploring that better than its ever been done before.  That's how you make a game people will be interested in.  Generic has been done a million times already.
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Autocrat
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Posts: 69


« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2004, 08:33:16 AM »

Now you see, the things that confuse me are like the following.....


... james_west ...The short answer, though is: different goals in game play are facilitated by different rules. No set of rules can be functional for all goals, and thus an attempt at 'universal' rules is doomed to failure.


... Valamir ...
"... To me (with the exception of games like Multiverser and some uses that Marco and others give to GURPs) building a game that attempts to be all things to all people is...well, I'll take you at your word on heated and heartfelt responses and just come right out and say it...the cowards way out. ..."

   emphasis on the latter part..... " the cowards way out "



   I thought that in most areas of design and creation, the ideal was to get as close to perfection as possible.  Of course, that is taking the techological design view, not the creative arts dewsign view!
   Now  that I've said that, could this be the potential blind spot I'm having with grasping certain failing concepts... the fact that I look at it as a mechanic, as a machine, where as others view it as expression and creation?

   I simply fail to see why its the Cowards way out, why it is exceedingly likely to fail etc.  When I first started using forums, seveeral people told me it would be hard, if not impossible, to make multiple levels of skills available without altering the rules.  The same people said that you can't have Stats/Abilities that can be varied, again, it was impossible.
   Yet on these accounts, and others, I have found it simply logical to make things contractable/expandable.... so why do people say these things don't work?


 Still, any others with their views, and if James_West and Valimir could respond to my posting, I'd appreciate it!
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james_west
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2004, 08:44:05 AM »

Quote from: Autocrat
  I thought that in most areas of design and creation, the ideal was to get as close to perfection as possible.  Of course, that is taking the techological design view, not the creative arts design view!


Perhaps it'll make sense if I use your analogy.

Why isn't it possible to design the perfect tool? Why do we have to have saws, hammers, screwdrivers, and pliers? Heck - a lot of folks even have a dozen different types of saw. Why can't they just make a universal saw?

This is clearly a technological design problem, not a creative arts design problem - but the answer is precisely the same.

If you say you want to design a universal tool, perhaps you'll be able to come up with some monstrosity that can hammer and saw and drive screws, but it won't work nearly as well as having a whole set of tools, each designed for a specific purpose.

Thus - in games, in any specific instance of play, you're not playing any possible game, you're playing one specific game. And if the set of rules you have are designed for that specific game, they'll work a whole lot better than rules designed for just any game.

Does that make sense ?

- James
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John Kim
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2004, 08:57:44 AM »

Quote from: Autocrat
  I thought that in most areas of design and creation, the ideal was to get as close to perfection as possible.  Of course, that is taking the techological design view, not the creative arts dewsign view!  

The problem is that the exact same game which you think is perfect, someone else may not like.  Even further than this, the exact same game which you think is perfect for one campaign might be inappropriate for another.  To take a simple example: use the same game system to run a "Red Dwarf" campaign and a "Babylon 5" campaign.  These are both sci-fi space opera TV series, but they have vastly different flavor.  I suspect that using the same rules for both would be unsatisfying.  

Now, where I disagree with Ralph and James is on what a game should specify.

Quote from: Valamir
A game should be about something.  It should have a purpose.  The designer should have a clear idea of what it is the characters are supposed to be doing.  Before you object, let me note for the record that this does not mean the game must be narrowly focused.  It may be narrowly focused but it doesn't have to be.
...
Universalis:  slicese a square piece of the pie if you'll allow the analogy.  It is universal in the sense that a game can be about anything, anyone, anywere.  But it is very specific about the method of how to get there.  

But isn't this feature of Universalis also true of other universal systems?  i.e. They aren't about a particular setting or situation, but instead provide specific methods.  Take "The Pool", for example, or the HERO System.  Neither of these claims to be all things to all people.  They have specific design principles and methods.  However, they also give no idea of what "the characters are supposed to be doing" (as Ralph suggests) -- nor do they give a concrete idea about "types of premise" which they are designed for (as James suggests).  

Games should be designed with a specific game flavor and style of play in mind, but there can be very different things which they are specific to.  

Quote from: Valamir
  To me (with the exception of games like Multiverser and some uses that Marco and others give to GURPs) building a game that attempts to be all things to all people is...well, I'll take you at your word on heated and heartfelt responses and just come right out and say it...the cowards way out.  

I agree with this, but I don't think it is specific to universal systems.  Universal systems can know their audience -- i.e. The Pool or the HERO System aren't trying to be all things to all people.  Conversely, I think that many setting-specific games which suffer from this problem.

There are many different ways that games try to be specific.  Some games are specific to a setting, but try to broadly cover different types of campaigns in that setting -- like maybe "Blue Planet" or "HarnMaster".  Some games have a particular genre feature which they are specific to, like "All Flesh Must Be Eaten" (which is about zombie film plots which can take place in very different settings).  Some games are universal, but try for a specific style of play (i.e. compare GURPS and "Savage Worlds" and "The Pool").  

I think that the latter is actually a better way to specify your system.  You have to accept that a given system won't please all people, and won't be appropriate for all styles of play even for the same people.  Thus, GURPS will not work for Toon -- which even Steve Jackson accepts, I think.
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- John
timfire
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2004, 08:58:22 AM »

This topic come up not that long ago (sorry I don't remember which thread it was), and something you need to define is what is meant by "universal."

If I remember, there were 3 definitions:

1. The "One-True-System." A perfect system that works for all 3 GNS modes.
2. A system that can be used for any setting or genre, like GURPS or FUDGE.
3. A system like Multiverser, which allows you to play in different settings. (I know that sounds alot like #2, but I don't remember exactly what was said in the topic, I just remember that there was a third category which involved Multiverser.)

People here definitely don't believe in the One-True-System, but some people are more into the GURPS or FUDGE idea, if those systems match your style of play.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
Valamir
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2004, 09:53:38 AM »

Quote
There are many different ways that games try to be specific. Some games are specific to a setting, but try to broadly cover different types of campaigns in that setting -- like maybe "Blue Planet" or "HarnMaster". Some games have a particular genre feature which they are specific to, like "All Flesh Must Be Eaten" (which is about zombie film plots which can take place in very different settings). Some games are universal, but try for a specific style of play (i.e. compare GURPS and "Savage Worlds" and "The Pool").


I'll ask for your indulgence a bit as I'm not overly familiar with Blue Planet or All Flesh.

I agree absolutely with the concept of what you've said.  However, IME most games that say they have a focus (the Blue Planet is about the specific circumstances of blue planet, or AFMBE is about zombies) then turn around and marry that to a system which is itself pretty generic and doesn't say much about the specific circumstances the game is laying claim to (again I can't specifically address these two very well)

For instance.  Take the system for Blue Planet.  How easily could you use that system to play a game set on modern day earth.  How easily could you play Spy Craft with AFMBE rules.  

By definition, the more a system is portable to other slices of the pie, the less well it drives home the importance of the slice of pie its laying claim to.

Harn I think suffers from this same thing and is why I never found the game at all appealing despite my appreciation for the effort that's gone into creating the world.  What are the issues, the concepts, the elements that make Harn unique?  Why Harn and not real historical Europe?  Why Harn and not Glorantha?  Why Harn and not Mythic Europe from Ars Magica?  Why Harn?

And then part two of the question.  What in Columbia's game mechanics are specifically targeted at the answers to the first question?  Where's the statement?

Instead, what I've seen of Harn is that the system is entirely secondary.  Columbia didn't so much write a game as they wrote a travelogue to an imaginary realm and pretty much punted when it came to makeing the game.  They gave you a bit of everything, made a nod to gritty realism, but never really took a stand to say what the game is about.  What is playing in Harn all about?  And how do the mechanics promote that?  

Riddle of Steel is a similiar low fantasy world.  Given 20+ years of dedicated writing by people desireing to do so there's no reason why Wyerth couldn't be just as developed a setting as Harn.  But yet there's no doubt what TRoS is about.  In fact, you could take TRoS and play in the world of Harn with it, and suddenly there is a statement being made.  


I see it as both a technological design and a creative design issue.

From the technological standpoint:  Form must follow function.  That's the most fundamental basic truth of technology whether we're talking flint tools and clay pots or computers and space ships.  What is the function of the game?  It is insufficient to be overly broad with this with answers like "to have fun", "to explore the world", just as it's insufficient to define the function of a tool as "to help me build a house" or to "fix stuff".  While technically correct, as design parameters they're useless statements.  For a tool to be perfect, form must follow function.  For form to follow function, there must be a function, a specific one.  Thus the pursuit of design perfection in an RPG must start with defining a specific function.

From a creative design standpoint there is then the artistic quality on top of the dictates of pure design.  I will try to be brief here to avoid putting my foot in my mouth talking art theory which is not my strong suit.  But from my perspective there is a difference between commercial art and personal art.  Art that is created because its ones job to create it (at which point it becomes more of a technical issue like that above) and art that is created because there is some piece of the artist's soul that demands to come out.  

From my perspective art of the latter type, must be making a statement of some kind.  Must have some meaning of its own.  Commercial art you do for a paycheck.  RPGs will never really grant you a paycheck worth much, so designing RPGs from a commercial standpoint seems pretty pointless.  There are far better ways to put talent to work commercially.  RPGs should have soul to them.
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clehrich
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2004, 10:14:29 AM »

Quote from: Autocrat
Now  that I've said that, could this be the potential blind spot I'm having with grasping certain failing concepts... the fact that I look at it as a mechanic, as a machine, where as others view it as expression and creation?
The notion of different tools for different tasks is exactly the point I'd emphasize here.  You say that you want a machine, a mechanic, that fills the bill.  Okay, but if you strive toward efficiency, you'll find that the smoothest and simplest and cheapest machine is one that has a specific task and does it exceedingly well, with no divergence.  This is really Ford's assembly-line, taken to the modern robotic level: if you have a robot that installs car doors and nothing else, and does it fantastically well, you have perfection in a limited sphere.

Now let's suppose you want a game where the point is to have lots of cool kung fu fights, and have a way to rant about different styles and whatnot, but everything else (such as, let's say, guns) really doesn't matter.  Okay, so you design a system that does kung fu fights and nothing else.  You end up with, ideally, a wonderful system to fit a certain objective, but one that doesn't fit other objectives.

If you now decide to generalize, to make this kung fu system great for guns, you're going to have to make changes.  As soon as you do that, you weaken the "perfection" of the first system to make it serve a larger range of purposes.

Going back to the tool analogy, a nail-puller makes a pretty good crowbar.  But if you were to design it to fit both purposes, it'd be decent -- even good -- for both purposes, but not as good as having a nail-puller and a crowbar.  

Again, if you want to build cabinets by hand, and you have a single saw, you want it to cover every possible sawing purpose.  A saw that only does one kind of sawing is not helpful, because it's a pain in the ass to make it work against itself.  For example, a Japanese cabinet-maker's back-saw (which only works on the pull, not on the push, and is very small) will be exceedingly annoying if you have to rip up 2x4's.  So what's the solution?

Well, you could have a saw that does both, of course, but you know, it will rip 2x4's rather slowly, and will do hand cabinetry work rather roughly.  Why not have two different tools?  Sure, you need a bigger basement, but what they hey?

This is the point of System Matters.  If you want a system that does X thing really well, and don't care about anything else, you design or acquire a system that fits this description.  If you now change your mind about what you want, you get a different system.  A totally universal system probably does nothing wonderfully and everything OK; a semi-universal system does many things very well and a number of things pretty badly, then (often) claims that the things done badly don't matter anyway (this is the problem with GURPS, for example).

Does this help at all?  Perfection doesn't exist in RPG's, any more than it does with car-building robots or woodworking tools: it's perfection for something that can exist.  So you have to work out what you want to achieve before you can find or develop a tool to achieve that.

Chris Lehrich
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Chris Lehrich
Autocrat
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2004, 11:39:30 AM »

OK

Well, I'll start by thanking everyone so far... believe it or not, virtually all of that makde sense!
   Most of all, I'll clearly thank Timfire, clehrich and John Kim, not for being more poignant per se, but managing to use certain words that struck a cord within me......

so saying...

When I state "universal" & "general", i mean that the game system I am working on is meant to be able to possess or perform the following;

* Not the be all and end all, nor the perfect Universal system.  Really must find the correct term... how about versatile or flexibly generic?
Its just meant to allow peple the choices they normally lack, permit them to adapt as they play, and adapt the rules as they play also!

* Variable Resolution methods.  -  Different people like different things, yet to be honest, the differences are often not known.  For the majority, it's the packaging and experience, not the system that made the difference.  Even so, I think I have it so that the game will perform using D100 Roll under, Multiple Die or No Die, with the obvious Crit's, DoS stuff as well.

* Levels of Detail.  -  Again, due to different people wanting different things, you can opt to have very general, loose or specific skill types, item types, vehicles etc.

* Variable Stats.  -  Not everyone likes tri-stat, 6 Abilities, 12 Attributes etc.  So the Stats are also alterable, you should be able to use the set you like.

* Be variable.  -  Not every game using these rules/mechanics will be broad scoped... some will be combat orientated, other towards adventure, some towards stealth etc.  So saying, if the game is leaning in certain directions, why not make the related Stats, Skills and Items more important, and just generalise the rest.  Thus a game involving Psionics and stealth would require details about those two groups, yet things like combat, firearms, vehicles, survival skills, cybertechnology, mecha and whatever can all be reduced to general terms instead, highlighting the level of importance, or lack of!



   The reason I have doe this, and am doing it still, is quite simple, yet largely profound...... how many times have you progressed to a point where the rules aren't enough, the players/gm's etc. want to do something else, go a different way, try something unusual, and found that the rules are either missing, or seem hashed out!
   How often have you played several different games, and realised theres little difference between them?
   Have you ever broken several different RPG's, by different houses, and looked at the component parts, and then replaced them, swapping bits between, to see the result?

   To be honest, I found the real difference between the games, the key driving force of setting, genre and flavor, isn't specialised mechanics, its called text!
   The word things emotively, they pay particular detail to the important things and leave the rest as shadows etc.
   Thats the major difference, (of course, IMO! LOL).


Now, I can understand someone wanting a particular style of play, thinking of how the game would look, the characters, the things they will do etc..... then create rules around the concept.  I believe this is what most people do.  This explains why most universal systems are bland or generic.  Instead, why not generate key concepts for mechanics, then offer varying levels of detail, options, skills, items, traits etc. for each type of general group.  Then, as and when settings come along, you have a key area to build from.  you know the stats available will work, the math of the mechanics is there, the skeletal frame work of skill types and equipment lists are laid out, all you have to do is sculpt it to your taste!
   Things like, hey, I want a heroic epic of combat and warfare, then increase the detail on combat, weapons, highlight the importancce of physical attributes, give all characters a moderate bonus to the Vitality pool or what ever!
   things like, hey, deep, dark, shadowy and dangerous, a little mystery, a bit of lurk etc..... great, lower the vitality levels, highlight on senses, observation, mental alertness, amke characters roll for sanity checks agaisnt the correct stat or resistance score.
   Hmmm, you have a super street tough who travels the world throwing fireballs around, no problem... pay attention to the combat chapter, and where it says Manouvres, Advanced, pick your moves buddy.  what, the fireball as well, look there, it says you can spend XXX and use either the Psionic powers or the Arcance spells for those affects, and the stats are the same as the skill level says!

   i8t's not difficult, so long as you have done it without getting distracted, without bias , and without falling into the trap of personal prefence.  (done that repeatedly, luckily I have "FRIENDS" that don't exactly like the same sort of thing, and point out any mistakes!  Wonderful!).


So does that view make any sense?

Oh, I did engineering, and after several years study and then experience, I've learned to do most things with a hammer, screwdriver, adjustable spanner and butane lighter!!!
:)
No, not perfect, yet it does the job more than well enough in most cases.
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John Kim
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2004, 12:40:08 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
  Harn I think suffers from this same thing and is why I never found the game at all appealing despite my appreciation for the effort that's gone into creating the world.  What are the issues, the concepts, the elements that make Harn unique?  Why Harn and not real historical Europe?  Why Harn and not Glorantha?  Why Harn and not Mythic Europe from Ars Magica?  Why Harn?

And then part two of the question.  What in Columbia's game mechanics are specifically targeted at the answers to the first question?  Where's the statement?

Instead, what I've seen of Harn is that the system is entirely secondary.  Columbia didn't so much write a game as they wrote a travelogue to an imaginary realm and pretty much punted when it came to makeing the game.  They gave you a bit of everything, made a nod to gritty realism, but never really took a stand to say what the game is about.  What is playing in Harn all about?  And how do the mechanics promote that?  

Riddle of Steel is a similiar low fantasy world.  Given 20+ years of dedicated writing by people desireing to do so there's no reason why Wyerth couldn't be just as developed a setting as Harn.  But yet there's no doubt what TRoS is about.  In fact, you could take TRoS and play in the world of Harn with it, and suddenly there is a statement being made.  

This seems contradictory to me.  First you suggest that HarnMaster fails because it should be specific to Harn.  However, then you say that TRoS can be successfully used to play in Harn instead of Weyrth.  Surely the same criticism applies to TRoS, then.  What are the issues, the concepts, the elements that make Weyrth unique?  Why Weyrth and not Harn?  Why Weyrth and not Mythic Europe from Ars Magica?  Why Weyrth?

Now, there are certainly parts of each system which are world-specific.  Weyrth sorcery is different than Harnic Shek Pvar.  The races of each are similar but distinct.  But as you note these are more surface features, so you could use modified HarnMaster to play in Weyrth, or vice-versa.  There are also more deep-down differences in tone: dice pool vs percentile, and the use of Spiritual Attributes.  These are not specific to Weyrth at all, but rather are part of the general tone of play.  In http://www.indie-rpgs.com/viewtopic.php?t=9387">[TROS] The Riddle of Harn thread, Sigurth and I discussed differences of our Harn campaigns.  We agreed that TROS was more heroic in tone.  

HarnMaster is more down-to-earth, as reflected in the campaign I played in.  It is more about fitting into society rather than finding a spiritual destiny.  While there are a lot of ticky points I don't like about HM, I think it is a purposeful artistic effort.  HarnMaster was not at all a "punt".  For many years Harn existed only as a campaign setting, with no specific game system devoted to it.  However, my impression is that they were dissatisfied with how other game systems handled role-playing in Harn.  So HarnMaster was developed specifically to address what different was desired for adventures in Harn.  

Quote from: Valamir
  But from my perspective there is a difference between commercial art and personal art.  Art that is created because its ones job to create it (at which point it becomes more of a technical issue like that above) and art that is created because there is some piece of the artist's soul that demands to come out.  

From my perspective art of the latter type, must be making a statement of some kind.  Must have some meaning of its own.  Commercial art you do for a paycheck.  RPGs will never really grant you a paycheck worth much, so designing RPGs from a commercial standpoint seems pretty pointless.  There are far better ways to put talent to work commercially.  RPGs should have soul to them.  

Art and commerce have a difficult history, but I don't think that commercialism inherently lacks soul.  If your art is such that no one outside of a tiny niche (esp. friends of friends) wants to read it, then it's meaning is largely irrelevant.  This is the difference between popular art and niche art.  These overlap because (1) soul sells, or at least can sell -- it is quite possible for heart-felt meaning to be recognized and even by a mass audience.  (2) For a statement to be socially relevant, you may want to communicate it to a mass audience.
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- John
james_west
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2004, 02:14:49 PM »

Autocrat,

You've essentially written the outline of an essay called, "System Doesn't Matter," which I think substantially contradicts the beliefs and experience of a great many folks here.

Quote from: Autocrat
  To be honest, I found the real difference between the games, the key driving force of setting, genre and flavor, isn't specialised mechanics, its called text!


I suspect that most of the systems you've looked at, from the point of view of the Forge folks, would be in the heavy Sim tradition that's been dominant for most of the past twenty years - and to a large extent I agree with you that their rules are interchangeable.

There are two substantial problems with your specific concept for a universal rules system.

(1) Modular though they may be, this still sounds like it'd wind up dwarfing advanced squad leader, in weight of rules. To wit, it sounds like you think, for instance, that the problem with GURPS is that it doesn't have enough rules . That's also a system that's been almost infinitely expanded in terms of different books having different rules for complex areas. Fundamentally, the rules you propose will be difficult to use by anyone who isn't willing to get an advanced degree in them.

(2) We're not talking about different levels of complexity for different areas here, we're talking about the fact that the rules cause the universe to work in a fundamentally different way from one game to another. I suggest you read both Elfs (Ron Edwards) and My Life with Master (Paul Czege) for examples of games that you just couldn't play without using the specific rules published with them.

For you, I think that (2) doesn't really come into it, because it appears to me that what you want is the ultimate sim system. Which is OK. I suspect, though, that the game you propose would sink under the weight of its own rules.

- James
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2004, 02:42:34 PM »

Hello,

I recommend that people take some time to browse through previous discussions of the term "universal" here. Running a search on the term came up with these, among others (from most recent to oldest):

Universal and established systems
Universal vs. specific systems, for challenge in many arenas
Best/most popular universal systems?
Universal RPG
Universal in search of distinctions
D20 as a universal system
Generic RPGs: one system to rule them all ...
The "universal" issue

One of the shared goals at the Forge is to try to move forward with discussions and treat older discussions as an archive, in order to avoid running over and over the same ground. So even if you don't want to read every damn post in all of the above, I do think it serves everyone's benefit at least to do some browsing. Also, if anyone else can remember any important threads about this that I happened to miss, please post links.

Best,
Ron
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2004, 02:47:29 PM »

I'm just going to poke my head in and toss out a small argument against modularity, which seems to be a holy grail of generic game designers. Because it is dumb.

Modular game systems, by definition, are incapable of capturing certain complex interactions that may be essential to particular settings; this makes them fail the universality test.

For instance, I might be playing a game where the characters are faeries whose health is dependent on the intensity of their magic. The intensity of their magic is directly related to their emotional states; a faerie is most powerful mystically and (resultantly) resilient physically when he is experiencing a particular mood.

Now suppose that I have "plugged in" a module for emotional states and a module for magic. By the definition of modularity, they cannot interact; how do I accomplish the interaction that I desired?
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Valamir
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2004, 03:38:34 PM »

Quote from: John Kim

This seems contradictory to me.  First you suggest that HarnMaster fails because it should be specific to Harn.  However, then you say that TRoS can be successfully used to play in Harn instead of Weyrth.  Surely the same criticism applies to TRoS, then.  What are the issues, the concepts, the elements that make Weyrth unique?  Why Weyrth and not Harn?  Why Weyrth and not Mythic Europe from Ars Magica?  Why Weyrth?


Not at all contradictory.  From earlier in the thread.

Quote
Riddle of Steel: Easily applied to anything that could be considered gritty low fantasy, and relatively easy to modify so that its been and being used for a variety of other settings, includeing sci fi oriented ones. Character selection is quite broad but the where this game cuts its slice is with a specific type of scenario. One that focuses in like a laser beam on the drives and passions of those characters and ties them emotionally into the conflict right from the beginning.


Harnmaster is about Harn, and therefor its mechanics should reflect what's important about Harn.  Riddle of Steel is not about Wyerth.  Riddle of Steel is about the type of stories and situations the game is about.  And its mechanics should (and do) reflect what's important about that.



Quote
HarnMaster is more down-to-earth, as reflected in the campaign I played in.  It is more about fitting into society rather than finding a spiritual destiny.


Ok.  So what part of the game mechanics are about fitting into society?  I haven't looked through Harn recently enough to have the answer at my fingertips so I'm unsure whether there is or there isn't.

If I looked at a character sheet from your recent campaign, what would I see that indicates "aha...this campaign was about fitting into society"?  Anything?

Quote
for many years Harn existed only as a campaign setting, with no specific game system devoted to it.  
That matches what I know of it.


Quote
However, my impression is that they were dissatisfied with how other game systems handled role-playing in Harn.  So HarnMaster was developed specifically to address what different was desired for adventures in Harn.  


Excellent.  As it should be.  So what specifically was developed that demonstrates what's different about adventures in Harn.  My perception is the whole thing is nothing more than a different perspective of "modeling reality" as a dozen dozen other games have done.  

What is in Harnmaster that is more unique than simply someone else's different guess about how many points of armor a Hauberk is worth.
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