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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13299 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 51 - most online ever: 843 (October 22, 2020, 11:18:00 PM)
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Author Topic: Generic Game Design Challenges  (Read 4332 times)
Jason Pitre

Posts: 101

« on: March 04, 2011, 04:15:42 AM »

Most generic games have tended to fall flat for me for a variety of reasons I won’t list right now so as to not bias responses.   I have been working on producing a story game that would function in the same niche as those generic games with the intent to fix the major structural problems I see with the existing designs.  I would love to see a solid game that would be intentionally designed to allow for groups to incorporate other IP's such as movies/novels/video games.  The problem I am faced with is limited play experience in that I am only aware of the criticisms of generics from my personal experience and a little online chatter. 

This is where you come in.  What are the problems with the existing task-resolution generic game systems in your actual play experience?  What systems manage generic design particularly well?  I want to find the challenges to ensure I address them now in early design as opposed to post-release.

Note: I plan on providing my actual play experience and explain challenges I have encountered, as soon as I receive a handful of unbiased responses.

Genesis of Legend Publishing
Telling New Stories around the Digital Fire
Cliff H

Posts: 49

« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2011, 06:00:41 AM »

What are the problems with the existing task-resolution generic game systems in your actual play experience?

The major problem I've had with generic systems isn't so much their task resolution mechanics, but the fact that in an attempt to be generic, they're never about anything. The best games I've played are about something, and their mechanics reinforce the play experience they seek to create. This about-ness need not be genre, by the way. So while I think it unlikely you can get a fully generic game that can play any genre and any theme, you can most certainly wind up with a game that can successfully handle many different genres, though they will all have similarities in tone.

Take Ron Edwards's Sorcerer. If you do a little searching, you'll find this game has been mapped to inumerable different settings, but in the end they all come down to an experience in which the characters are confronted with answering the question: "What are you willing to pay to get what you want?" This is true if you're playing a modern ay occult thriller, a far flung future game with intelligent power armor, or a mythical past fantasy campaign. It can do this because what the game is about is a deeply personal question for the character and player; setting is irrelevant in answering that question, so you can mvoe it anywhere. But it's not a truly generic system, because it's not designed to provide an old school dungeon hack, for example. And because it's not designed to do everything, it does what it is designed to do very well.

What systems manage generic design particularly well? 

Unfortunately, I've not had much opportunity to fiddle with a large number of games; my own gaming group meets infrequently and prefers campaigning to one shots, which meanswe don't span the bredth of my library. My actual play experience is much smaller than the number of games I own. So keep in mind any of the suggestions here aren't reinforced with personal experience beyond reading the game.

One more caveat: I'm using the "can be moved to other settings easily" defnition of generic. None of the titles here are fully generic in the classic sense of the word, because I've not encountered any truly generic system that really grabbed me.

So, with all that said, Sorcerer is about as wide open in terms of setting as you could like. Any game you run with it has got to be about people with the power to summon demons, but you're free to define demons, including making them metaphorical, so the sky's the limit here.

I also picked up Dust Devils: Revenged recently, and while it is solidly a game of the wild west, it contained appendices for modifying the game to run as a game of ronin samurai, secret agents, and Sin City-like criminals occassionaly trying to do the right thing. I also found notes on line for translating it to a decadent swashbuckling setting. In this game, your characters all wrestle constantly against a base impulse.

Heroes Banner is a game that sets everything in a fantasy world, but when you get to understand the mechanics of it, there's nothing that requires it to be in a pre-industrial world. It's a game about pursuing goals at the expense of others, meaning that you could translate it to other settings without too much problem, as long as the setting can handle a lineage-style play of some sort. There's nothing I've found keeping you from transplating the mechanics into a far flung future where houses war with one another across the gulf of space, however.
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 17707

« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2011, 06:39:40 AM »

This thread is closed. Everyone, please do not post a reply.

The Forge is not a place for surveys. Jason, you are certainly welcome to talk about your experiences with generic games and to invite discussion about them, but you cannot ask "what do you think," or "what do you think the problems are," and sit back and wait for a flood of input. Also, there are at least three other major RPG discussion sites where you can do it; you don't need this one.

Cliff, keep an eye out for this sort of thing. When someone posts like this, don't get pulled in.

Best, Ron
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