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Author Topic: Extending a System vs Making a New System?  (Read 893 times)
Mobius
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Posts: 51


« on: July 29, 2011, 03:26:52 PM »

I have been working on a game world/concept for a very long time and one of the biggest issues I have faced is finding or making a system that really fits.

My latest attempt started based on the Savage Worlds by Pinnacle Entertainment group.  The more I develop the idea though the further it drifts from the core rules.

This has lead me to a couple of related questions.

1) Is it easier for other people to understand a system that both adds to and replaces core aspects of an existing system or is it easier to learn a new system that is in some ways very similar to an existing system?

2) If I ever get this idea to the point where I'd like to try and publish it (which is my ultimate goal) what are the advantages and drawbacks?  Also is there an ethical issue here, I know you cannot copyright ideas but at what is the point where it becomes unique enough to be "mine" and not just a rip off of another's work?

Here are the things that are the same.
1) Core mechanics: Attributes/skills being rated as a single die (d4, d6, d8, d10, or d12).
 
2) The basic math behind task resolution:  I've gone back and forth on changing the way it is presented but the basic concept (role vs target number, every 4-5 over the target number is an additional success) remains the same.  Also I'm keeping the Wild Die.

3) The way damage is handled: Again the presentation may change but the fundamental mechanic of No damage/Shaken/Wounded would remain.

Here are the parts of the system that I know I would be changing or replacing.
1) Changing the initiative/action system: The existing system uses cards and allows for one action per turn.  Mine still uses cards but allows for multiple actions and reactions per turn.

2) Adding several secondary characteristics: Including mental and ranged versions of Parry, and a mental version of Toughness. 

3) Entirely new ways to handle supernatural powers: I have three different types of supernatural powers in my world.  All very different from each other and none of them work the way I want in the Savage Worlds framework.

4) A cybernetics system: Inspired by but not the same as a couple of different Savage Worlds house rules I found.

5) Replacing Bennies: With a different fate system.

6) Skills: Several skills would have to be added and probably a few removed.

7) Advantages/Flaws: I have a lot of new setting specific advantages and flaws.  But I'd also be keeping most of the existing ones.

Here are some of the things that could go either way (Changes I'd like to make but do not feel I have to).
1) Attributes: I could make the existing Savage Worlds attributes (Agility, Smarts, Strength, Spirit, Vigor) work but I prefer a different set (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower, Perception, Presence)

2) Damage:  Modification of the damage formulas.  Specifically how raises/extra successes work and making ranged damage based off Perception (if I use it) like melee damage is based of of Strength.

3) General "Feel" of the System: I have always felt the terminology used in Savage Worlds heavily reflects its origins in Deadlands and the Great Rail Wars.  And while that works great for games with a pulp/old west feel it does not really reflect the feel I'm going for in my world.  I find myself wanting to keep mechanics but change the names, for example replacing Aces with Cascades, Raises with Successes, and Shaken with Stunned.

Finally there are some things like the fear system that I'm not sure if I want to keep as is or modify.
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Mobius a.k.a Charles
John Michael Crovis
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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2011, 03:49:49 PM »

I think you have to ask yourself three important questions...
  • How well does the Savage World system fit your game world without any major changes?
  • How much effort are you willing to put into writing your own system?
  • Would your changes truly make for a unique system - or would it just look like a Savage Worlds knock-off?

Writing a new system takes a lot of time and energy... even if it uses another system as its basis. That's time and energy you could be using on your setting. If your changes to the system are not truly unique and the system as it is written will work for your setting, I would avoid writing a new system. However, if you are interested in writing the system for the system's sake, and it would be unique, and it would be better for the setting, go for it... just be warned that it's a lot of work.

Personally, the only reason why I am writing a new system to go with my setting is because I'm excited about the system... The setting is really just something I'm using to showcase the system.  I'm in this for the mechanics of the game...
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Callan S.
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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2011, 09:59:36 PM »

I often think that without a notion of where the campaign ends, it's hard to evaluate what, if any, mechanics to employ. I mean, without an ending, what are any potentially employed mechanics in reference to? Certainly not an ending? Simply whether they feel right or realistic? I'm not sure savage worlds is supposed to revolve around realism as the fun thing of play?
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2011, 02:54:57 AM »

Unless your house rules are pretty much isolated drop-in elements, you will sooner or later have to write a document that explains it a reader who must be presumed not to know anything about them.  In my experience there is not much difference between writing that and writing a system from whole cloth.  Your question about which is easier to learn assumes that the reader has prior knoweldge of that pre-existing system, but you can't assume that for anything that you intend to make public - well, not unless it is specifically attached to the original game as an alternative.

At any rate, it seems to me what you're describing is likely to be, to my eyes at any rate, a new thing.  I think the initiative/action subsystem is so critical that it forms a huge chunk of the how a game plays and feels; if you're changing that, you're almost certainly changing the balance of most everything else in the system
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Mobius
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Posts: 51


« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2011, 08:30:04 AM »

Thank you all for the feedback so far.

John Michael Crovis
I think the basic mechanics of Savage Worlds is promising but the rules as written do not work for what I want without some fairly substantial changes.  The end result is something that clearly has its origin in Savage Worlds but is not fully compatible either.  Someone who knows Savage Worlds could not just pick up and run this system but they would be very familiar with a lot of it.  Characters and NPC could not move between Savage Worlds and my setting without substantial changes but they would feel similar.

Callan S.
I'm not sure I understand what you are saying.  I'm going for a "traditional" open ended RPG like Shadowrun or Exalted so the system does not have set ending conditions.  I'm more concerned with the system being fast and flexible then it being realistic.

contracycle
They are not isolated drop in elements so if I make it an extension of Savage Worlds someone with have to "unlearn" aspects of the existing system.  The initiative/action system is probably the single biggest change and you are right that it changes combat and combat balance to the point that none of the old assumptions are valid.  The updated Fate System is similar, it's going to require a lot of re-balancing.

I agree that there are enough changes that it's not going to save me any work making it an extension of Savage Worlds.  At the same time the core ideas are clearly derived from it.  What I am trying to decide is if it is best to keep as much of Savage Worlds as I can (making sort of a Savage Worlds +) or if I should make it as different as possible while accepting that there will always be mechanics that the two share.


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Mobius a.k.a Charles
Callan S.
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« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2011, 06:18:57 PM »

What I mean is if you were instead making a sculpture out of lots of components, you would have some idea of what a completed sculpture looks like. And with that you'd know what components to draw on (even if you don't use them all in the end).

But with the endless model, you don't know what the sculpture will look like, even roughly. So how have you been choosing components in making it?
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John Michael Crovis
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2011, 05:57:00 PM »

Thank you all for the feedback so far.

John Michael Crovis
I think the basic mechanics of Savage Worlds is promising but the rules as written do not work for what I want without some fairly substantial changes.  The end result is something that clearly has its origin in Savage Worlds but is not fully compatible either.  Someone who knows Savage Worlds could not just pick up and run this system but they would be very familiar with a lot of it.  Characters and NPC could not move between Savage Worlds and my setting without substantial changes but they would feel similar.

I'll be honest, then... you are looking at something that isn't unique enough to be sold as something other than Savage Worlds, but isn't Savage Worlds enough to be sold as Savage Worlds. While this is fine for your gaming group and your setting, I highly suspect that it will not be marketable to fans at large, as they will compare your system to Savage Worlds and (fairly or not) ask themselves why you didn't just use that game system. To my knowledge, Savage Worlds system is not "open content" in any way, so even if you do find an audience for your game, you may find yourself staring at a cease-and-desist letter. My impression is that marketability is a factor - so you don't want to go for the mushy middle option.

I would advise you to instead look at writing your own system whole-cloth. Take the basic frame of the system, but make sure all the smaller pieces are original. This means you cannot use any of the flaws, merits, or FXs as written in Savage Worlds books. Also, you would have to avoid their terminology... While you may get away with using the basic mechanic used by Savage Worlds, you may want to consider overhauling all the other major mechanics, to ensure that your game is distinct. I would consider looking at their leveling system, how attributes interact with skills, and the combat system. Its a lot of work, but in the end, your system and setting will conform to one another, making the match a lot tighter than it would be otherwise.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011, 06:59:15 PM »

You have to avoid using their intellectual property (as nebulous a concept as that is. And only have to for threat reasons).

Clearly the number of products that use 'hit points' without suing each other into oblivion shows that some terms are shared. If the terminology sounds like they invented it, it'd probably come under IP. Otherwise, avoid casually granting other people intellectual territory as if they own terminology used in their books. It's simply giving ground out of fear.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2011, 07:37:06 AM »

Hi,

Everyone - this website has some distinct requirements for posting which have to be honored, described in the sticky threads at the top of each forum. For Game Development, please include a link to an external document of any kind which we can use for reference. And when someone posts without one, please do not reply until that link appears.

Best, Ron
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