Design: New wine in old bottles vs. in new, EXPERIMENTAL bottles?

edited January 2008 in Story Games
I was inspired to start this thread by reading the "coming out in 2008" thread. I felt excited to see all the interesting stuff coming out soon, but also a little intimidated. My zest for learning new game systems has faded considerably, and there's more and more demand for the clear-headed reading time that it takes to read and understand new systems.

At the same time, it seems to be that there are more good open license gaming systems out there than ever before. But, aside from systems with "20" in the name, I don't really see a flood of new interesting stuff that takes those engines and does cool new things with them.

Instead, I see a lot of different designers tinkering with innovative mechanics to create all-new games with new systems. And that's a good thing too, but I wonder at the balance, and I wonder what accounts for it? Do the game designers want to do things that can't be done with the available tools? Are a lot of the new games with old systems I mentioned remaining "game hacks" and houserules, and never being put forward as games in their own right?

And at what point does a set of rules go from being a "house campaign" to being an actual thing? The only example that comes to mind right now is Dictionary of Mu -- it evolved from Judd's cool one-sheet and Sorcerer campaign to become a book.

Comments

  • Posted By: DannyK Are a lot of the new games with old systems I mentioned remaining "game hacks" and houserules, and never being put forward as games in their own right?
    The work necessary to make that jump, from fun document that I reference with friends, to product that I will publish, put money into and sell for ca$h is pretty intense.

    I'm not saying people can't do it; I'm just saying part of the reason you might not be seeing lots of home campaigns making that leap is because of that chasm of work to be done.
  • For a lot of people designing mechanics is fun, so much fun that they are willing to think up a game to go with their mechanic (and sometimes then claim they thought up the mechanic to go with the game I suspect) just to get to use it. Using someone else's mechanic, even if it works well, is boring compared to making your own.

    And of course some of us don't know the open systems well enough to use them. I designed a mechanic for Solipsist partly because I thought of something that seemed cool, and partly because I didn't know any other similar systems which I might have used instead. Since then I have encountered a number of them (non of them open in the D20 sense though), but I still don't own them or know them well enough to consider using them instead of my own.
  • OK, that makes sense. But -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- there are a whole passel of systems out there that one might use, right? Spirit of the Century, The Shadow of Yesterday, Wushu, True20... those are some good systems. Just to grab the first two, SotC and TSoY/Solar System are well-respected, clever systems that reliably deliver the awesome, and which seem to have great potential in other settings and genre than the default.

    I'd certainly be willing to pay money for a well-executed game that used one of these systems to doing something new and exciting -- say, use the Solar System to emulate wuxia. But I'm not seeing that sort of product out there.
  • clever systems that reliably deliver the awesome
    That's totally subjective.There is nothing in RPGs that delivers fun reliably. Not fine setting, not fine rules nor nice fellow players. (Good night's sleep before gaming is useful, though.)

    I'm working on a game, but in fact using any of those systems never even occured to me.

    - WuShu is a the Illusionist's best friend. It also commits the WuShu Crime. (Uses the Trait Pattern with numbers attached and NOT as a ressource. Clever Players will be inclined to take a very broad stept at 5 and use it all the time.)

    - True20? I'm among the few who like Blue Rose. But I surely didn't want to make a D20 game.

    - SotC is a FATE hack. Fate is fine. It told me about the pyramid - the only viable solution to prevent one trick ponies except for a cap on skill levels. I borrowed that for my game. (FATE also uses Traits, not commiting the WuShu Crime.)

    - From TSoY I borrowed Pool and Pool Refreshment. I didn't care about the BdtP. I wanted a more traditional apprach to conflicts. I also wanted a game without crunch and without keys. Why use TSoY?


    I did use a preexisting system, though. Donjon. Only by now it's not recognizeable at all. Other dice, totally different types of stats etc. You can roll for narration and bonus dice, but that's it.
  • Posted By: DannyKOK, that makes sense. But -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- there are a whole passel of systems out there that one might use, right? Spirit of the Century, The Shadow of Yesterday, Wushu, True20... those are some good systems. Just to grab the first two, SotC and TSoY/Solar System are well-respected, clever systems that reliably deliver the awesome, and which seem to have great potential in other settings and genre than the default.

    I'd certainly be willing to pay money for a well-executed game that used one of these systems to doing something new and exciting -- say, use the Solar System to emulate wuxia. But I'm not seeing that sort of product out there.
    I sell three games based on tried and true mechanics, actually: Budo, Quick20 and Opening the Dark. They do pretty well. I'm don't concentrate on setting material for them, but on particular modifications I enjoy (though Budo does have a default setting).

    As far as settings and stories go I figure there are plenty of them around. I don't really want to produce them until I have something definite to say *with* them. Purposeless settings don't hold much value for me.
  • Posted By: 1of3WuShu is a the Illusionist's best friend
    [Lost Cause]It's called "Wushu". Not "WuShu", not "Wu Shu" and not "Hyperblaster Extreme". Just "Wushu".[/Lost Cause]
  • In that thread I saw games based on True20, Spirit of the Century, and Don't Rest Your Head, and supplemental stuff for The Dying Earth. We know Vincent has been tooling around with Afraid, which is based on Dogs in the Vineyard Mechanics. Numerous people are working on games based on The Shadow of Yesterday. Sorcerer already has a ton of material out there, but people can do more if they want (Judd is just the most recent in a long line). There's still D20 stuff coming out.

    There are plenty of people working on expanding what's come before, just as there are plenty of people working on expanding boundaries and attempting things that have not been tried previously. Projects of both kinds are beneficial and help keep things vital.
  • What everyone else said. Also, indie games have their heartbreakers just like everything else. Sometimes, new indie games are simply a rules-lite system with a few interesting mechanics that are aimed specifically at the game's goals. In the best cases, every rule is carefully thought out and integrated into the core concept, but that's not always the case. So, yeah, sometimes it might be true that the couple of interesting mechanics could just as easily (or more easily, even) be written up as a supplement for some other game, but, oh well, indie publishing is about doing what you want to do with your ideas.

    I've got projects on the burner based on Blue Rose/True20/OGL material, Shock:, In a Wicked Age, and Cold City. Honestly, I hope this kind of thing becomes more common, since creating supplements provides a great entry into indie game publishing, but I don't think it's all that surprising that people growing up with dreams of releasing their own RPG go straight for creating a new, independent game. That's not only the dream, that's the model that's been demonstrated by the Forge Booth (with a couple notable exceptions like Mu) and IPR. If it's changing at all, it's going to be a gradual process, perhaps a response to the flood of new games, such that it's easier to get attention with a supplement to a game people already like, own, and play semi-regularly.
  • I'm making Van Dread on a hacked Fate version. But I'm using d10s instead of fudge dice. I think we make new systems because we want to make something that is truly unique and awesome. I'm not making a system ground up because I would fail, but I can easily base my ideas on an existing system.
  • Naturally, I love Fate and I use it for a lot of stuff. But at the end of the day, you can't get the purity of purpose -- the true unity of system and setting and theme -- out of a "one size fits all" system that you can with a custom-build. You wouldn't take the car in your driveway to go compete in a NASCAR event, after all. Fate might make it fairly easy to come up with new components of your own and graft them on in a way that makes them function as an extension of Fate's idiom (much as you could refit the car in your driveway to make it at least a bit more of a dragster), but there's some stuff you simply can't do without doing something entirely new: Don't Rest Your Head couldn't be done with Fate, period, full stop. (And, sure, you might be inspired by something that already exists -- see Houses of the Blooded's use of aspects and phases -- but just because your race-car has four wheels doesn't mean it'll behave like my Prius)

    I do think that the "indie scene" has provided a number of very interesting systems that folks could do derivative works of; and I think that effort's already happening. There are a number of Fate games out there under development. There's Dictionary of Mu. There's The Princes' Kingdom. And more. And for my money it's nice to see this develop organically, instead of a sort of metastatic panicked rush to market ala the d20 glut. Does this mean that the derivative stuff is coming out a bit slow? Sure. But in this race, I'm happy to put money on slow and steady for the win.
  • Posted By: iagoNaturally, I love Fate and I use it for a lot of stuff. But at the end of the day, you can't get the purity of purpose -- the true unity of system and setting and theme -- out of a "one size fits all" system that you can with a custom-build.
    I totally agree. One of the things that really grab me about certain indie games is the way that the mechanics evoke the themes or setting of the game-- when everything feels thematically coherent, the game experience is amazing. It's difficult to achieve that kind of coherency when you're not designing from the ground up, UNLESS your concept is specifically "Hey, I'd love to make a supplement for game X."

    That said, hacking games is big fun! I just don't immediately think of hacks as viable commercial products, because I personally wouldn't be comfortable selling a product derived from someone else's work.
  • It turns out that, obviously to me, In a Wicked Age has a big, awesome avenue of hackery (the Oracle) that means that there will be plenty of games that use that system and address similar themes (that is, coercion in the absence of coherent ethical system). Beowulf uses the Anthology Engine because, as much as I love the Bronze Age Mesopotamia color (and Situation), I also love Beowulf and I want to address similar stuff with it.

    But I'm also working on stuff that uses my own systems. The Anthology Engine doesn't answer it all for me. It won't work for Live and Direct and it really won't work for Absinthe. Those require their own stuff. Vincent just happened to have answered the same question I'd been asking for a long time.

  • [plug name="GLASS" humility="low"]Well, I am making a (mostly) open system for boffer/Airsoft/paintball/(martial arts) LARPs, which I sincerely hope will be blessed with supplements. I am doing so because I haven't see a LARP system yet that's truly generic and modular/flexible: a market void, I believe (though I also really doubt the LARP community is ready for such a thing--LOTS of Not Invented Here issues with many LARP groups).[/plug]
  • Thanks for all the responses. I'm jazzed to see so many projects are, in fact, working on existing systems. I feel there's a pretty huge field of potential games out there which is only hinted at by the currently existing games using those systems.

    It would be interesting to talk about what makes up that "chasm of hard work" that Judd referred to, but that's another (potential) thread.
  • Another SOTC based game coming out is Starblazer Adventures.
  • Posted By: iagoBut at the end of the day, you can't get the purity of purpose -- the true unity of system and setting and theme -- out of a "one size fits all" system that you can with a custom-build.
    I somewhat agree -- but given systems like RISUS, FATE, WaRP, and my own PDQ, I'm unsure these more "generic" (perhaps "general" is a beter term) systems necessarily add much to the purity of purpose you're talking about.

    In my head, PDQ=MSG.


    CU
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