Selecting a game system

Started by clehrich, December 11, 2010, 03:18:53 AM

Previous topic - Next topic


Been a LOOONG time since I posted here, and I haven't been reading either. Mostly I haven't been playing.

I now have a group to work with, and I'm looking for a game system. In essence, my group is about 4-6 players, wildly over-educated, all roughly 40-ish, none with any significant gaming experience outside D&D in one form or another (mostly 3.5/d20, it seems). They are very interested in "alternative" gaming, but clearly have a strong comfort zone, and they are looking to me to find something that might help them break new ground in their play.

On the whole, I think they would like to stick to classic high fantasy, and would like to drift toward what used to be called Narrativist play.

Since I haven't been keeping up, I have no idea what the current experience and wisdom is on systems that might fit the description. Suggestions?

Chris Lehrich
Chris Lehrich


Hey Chris,
Do you have any previous gaming experience with them?
Have they tried "alternative" games before? Do you know what they've heard of, or imagine "alternative" to be?
Mask of the Emperor rules, admittedly a work in progress -


Hi Chris, welcome back, etc.

I'm not current on all the very latest games bumping around the Forge Cloud, but I'm in a roughly analogous gaming situation (playing a ton of self-consciously traditional D&D).

When we want to branch out, we've had fun with Mouse Guard (there is a version of Mouse Guard featuring Tolkien's Rangers floating around somewhere on the internet), Burning Wheel, and Apocalypse World.  I suspect my gang would also enjoy Shadow of Yesterday and several of them are interested in Sorcerer & Sword.  I'm not a huge Dogs in the Vineyard fan myself, but I think they could dig that too.  One player is a big Spirit of the Century fan, but I don't know much about that game. 

One thing I've discovered is that, at least for this group, games with features similar to Primetime Adventures don't always go over well - the group is polite enough to play them, and have some fun, but ultimately certain features of those types of games don't work for them to want to play the game again.  Some of the objectionable features (no one player objects to all of these) ret-conning the fiction to make sense of certain outcomes in resolution, include player-defined traits, explicit stakes-setting, round-robin scene progression, and one-and-done resolution.


Ron Edwards

Hi Chris!

With the usual proviso about getting some actual play discussed in the thread ... (and in this case, I suggest some D&D talk) ...

Legendary Lives (available free) - excellent heartbreaker, ignore all negative connotations of that term - see also [Legendary Lives] Three games to talk about and ignore my totally retarded probability discussion later in the thread in which I was very wrong).

Tunnels & Trolls is always a surprise to people who forget about the design explosion of the mid-1970s. My fave is 5th edition but I understand 7th is quite fun too. A hell of a lot of design innovation of the past decade is not much more than figuring out what St. Andre, Stackpole, and Danforth got right 35 years ago. Run a search here in both the current forum and the Archives to find some good discussions about it.

Best, Ron


I'd like to second Tunnels & Trolls, although I'm not sure if that counts as "alternative" other than the fact that it isn't D&D. There is a thriving community of posters at if you have interest in asking more about the game. Like Ron, I prefer 5th edition but I know that lots of folks like 7th.

If you want to stick to fantasy but are looking for something more unusual philosophy-wise, you might try Ron's Sorcerer and Sword, which is a pulp-fantasy supplement to Sorcerer. Rather than break down doors and beat up monsters, S&S offers more character-based role playing. It's one of the best RPG books I've ever encountered, even if Ron is too modest to reccommend his own work.

Selecting a game system is often difficult. I'm a huge fan of Amber Diceless and my current group loves it, but my previous group probably would have hated it. Ask your players how dice-driven and/or numbers-driven they want to be. That question will help guide you in the right direction.
Marv (Finarvyn)
Sorcerer * Dresden Files RPG * Amber Diceless
Forge Member since 2004
OD&D Player since 1975

Frank Tarcikowski

Hi Chris, good to see you post here again!

I would like to second The Shadow of Yesterday. I think it was already arroung when last you posted here, though maybe not the final version with the Fudge dice. If you're looking for something that's fantasy, with a play-style that feels pretty "normal" (no fancy mechanics for scene framing or narration rights), and a pretty grabby narrativist design, it might be worth checking out.

- Frank
BARBAREN! - The Ultimate Macho Role Playing Game - finally available in English


The Shadow of Yesterday is a fantastic game, and most anybody can pick it up right away.  I've used it to introduce new gamers, and with experienced players, and it's always fun. It also has a lot of good ideas that will help you run other games.

Sorcerer I've found harder to introduce with players who are more accustomed to traditional D&D. But the entire series is a good read to make you think about structuring your story and your game world better. Even if you never play the game, you'll be a better game master for having read the books and fooled around with the ideas.

If you want to keep your players inside of their comfort zone, but not playing D&D, you might take a look at the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy line. While it's definitely not an Indie game, I've had a lot of fun playing it. And while it looks like there are a lot of books, you only need the first two (although #3 is nice as well).  Downside here is that you need to buy the Basic Set and probably GURPS Magic. This last one is less necessary though, because there is a small but workable magic section in the main book.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management

Ron Edwards

Annnnndd ... this thread is now ready to be closed, as it's not grounded in actual play, and since its originator has not posted again and so we've moved into free-associating, non-discussion territory.

Best, Ron