Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Systems and Skills

So lately I've been jotting down notes for a new setting and discussing dice rollers for a Wave game with potential players and generally doing the things one does when one has a mind to run a game. I won't be able to really get it rolling for a few weeks at least -- no time until after finals -- but I've been thinking about it regularly and it's starting to sound like a viable idea.

The thing that I'm currently hung up on, besides matters of time, is system. I did something unusual, for me, and started sketching out a setting system-less, (Took a page out of Trollmyth's notes and started with themes, in fact.) and while I'm pleased with the results so far it means I still need to figure out the mechanical side.

While I haven't gotten quite down to the level of what the player characters look like and do, I know I'm going to need at least some kind of jedi-knight analogue, a mutation system, and some way to handle magical tattoos. I'm also considering a cyberpunk-ish or otherwise somewhat post-modern tech level. So Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord, which otherwise are my go-to systems right now, aren't a completely natural fit. I can crib Mutant Future's mutation system, but I'd also kind of like something that's more forgiving of acquiring them in play, in addition to your existing class/race. And I might be able to make clerics work as the jedi-guys, but depending on where I go with those I might need to make a full new class (which is something I've wanted to do for a while, so that wouldn't be too bad) and then I'd need to figure out what else to do with clerics, and healing in general.

But LL and S&W are my go-to systems for a reason. Right now, they do everything I want out of a system and nothing I don't: fast, deadly combat, magic with for interpretation and additions, a save system, and a couple of other odds and ends. None of the other systems I've used before or have the books for quite fit that bill; I was considering new World of Darkness for a while, but discarded it before I really got serious about the setting. I don't have any use for most of its skill system as implemented (in particular the social stuff; while I can understand the arguments for mechanical supports for certain kinds of characters, with the way I've been playing lately those skills would just get in the way) and I'm similarly suspicious about how the morality system would interface with the kinds of gaming I've recently gotten used to. While I still want to try Vampire, Mage, and all their ilk at some point, that game will have to wait.

One system that has caught my eye, however, has been BRP. I've been looking for an excuse to pick up that book and take it for a spin ever since sirlarkins started posting about BRP, and it has a reputed flexibility that appeals to me: I suspect it would be fairly easy to tweak its character power subsystems to support the character types I have in mind. It does have a lot of dependence on skills, but I'd feel more comfortable ignoring or downplaying certain parts of that system if it didn't mean tampering with some platonic grid of ability scores, and it might do me some good to have a skill system to mess with again. I've gotten perhaps too suspicious of them lately.