Frankengame!

Every now and again I'll paw through my collection of RPGs and wonder whether or not I would be happier playing around with any of them than I am with my current obsession over GURPS.

Traveller has these wonderful systems for creating characters (random) and ships (deliberate) that are mini-games in themselves. As a stymied writer myself, I love having a system to tell me what happened in a character's history so that I can weave a tale around it. And I love a ship design system that plays less to the "more money means better equipment" paradigm than "tradeoffs are required, and you can't have it all." There's GURPS Traveller rules, but they're mostly for an older version of the game, and the newest version sacrifices a good deal of detail that I find myself missing.

Runequest - an early love of mine - has had several new versions in the last few years. Runequest 6th Edition is a brilliant piece of work, and has more than one element that I want to emulate using GURPS if I get 'round to running a fantasy game any time soon. The old split between divine magic, hedge magic and sorcery is there, with additional resources for shamanic magic and mystic adept types that really provides a great deal of flavor. Passions are interesting, but I'm only just beginning to grok how they differ from social disadvantages in GURPS terms. And the combat rules, with the special effects, draw me like a lodestone. I want to absorb them so fully into myself that I am able to reproduce the same results using any system I encounter.

There are pieces of Hero System that are so elegant I want to cry that they're not included in every game ever. The nuances of how combat skill (especially in realistic games) is handled are hard to beat, with the option to improve, offensively or defensively, at the root level (impacting everything you do) all the way down to the individual weapon type level, plus weapon proficiencies and special maneuvers, really speaks to me, and my fondness for granularity on the molecular level.

If one of you out there could just mash all of these things up into a single game, a Frankenstein's Monster of a game, that'd be great. I'll be over by the machine with the Jacob's Ladder on it, ready to throw the switch whenever you're ready.

So, gentle readers, what games out there fire up your imagination from time to time? What mechanics do you covet for the day when you start cranking out your own game system? Where are you stealing your ideas from?

Comments

  1. Right now: First Edition Mechwarrior. It's chock full of old school random tables, it has a BattleTech style system for personal combat, and the setting is very focused and unadulterated. I want to find out how that setting really ticks... and I want to enjoy how the mechanics were specifically tuned in order to give it to you.

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    1. I want to say we had that in our collection, when I was a boy, but we never really got to play it. Never got past the visceral joy of jumping your mech into hip-deep water and firing off all of your PPCs and lasers at once, confident (often overconfident) that the water would help your heat sinks keep you in business.

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    2. I loved 1st Ed Mechwarrior. Building Mechs was my favorite part, blowing them up was incidental...

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  2. GURPS is the closest thing to my dream Frankengame. How many times do I sit and listen to my son trying to come up with ingenious mechanics for his old school system, and that his ideas are either ripped from a page in the Basics Set, or would be better of if they did.

    My favorite mini-game is the character generation in Twillight 2000. But that's OK, this is how I end-up generating characters for GURPS...

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    1. I'm leaning towards a more gentle variant on the notion of life path systems in my face to face GURPS games. Basically, the character sheet is just one piece of the puzzle, be prepared to explain your skillset.

      Where did you learn First Aid? Who first taught you to tie off a bandage or apply a tourniquet? Ever saved a life? Ever had someone die under your hands as you tried to save them?

      You've got 16 points in Broadsword - when did you first learn how to swing a sword and why? Who was your mentor? How much time do you invest in keeping your skills honed now? Tell me about your first fight. Tell me about your first sword. Tell me about your first kill.

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  3. I love random tables so much. I can mess with them for hours. And then build them in GURPS.

    Sometimes i see a D&D 3e prestige class i think is an amazing idea. Like the Cancer Mage or the Oozemaster but those are not hard to adapt.

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    1. My Pathfinder and D&D4E friends are so tired of hearing about how easy it is to model everything they do in their games, better, in GURPS. :)

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  4. In my very early gaming days, I grafted AD&D magic onto RuneQuest II melee combat... since then I've tended to favour games which already give me coverage for more or less everything, like Rolemaster/Space Master and now GURPS (for which spaceship and planetary system design can be remarkably satisfying minigames).

    The main thing I want to steal, though it's very setting-specific, is some sort of piecewise character generation system like most versions of Traveller, the GDW house system, or the Cyberpunk 2020 lifepath - not so much for the minigame itself, but so that the PC ends up with a bunch of statements about what he was doing when, as it might be "yeah, I learned to drive big trucks when I was in the Army - went in out of high school, didn't really like it, didn't re-up". Obviously one can come up with these things oneself, but I find that having a detailed view of a PC's life history is inspirational for characterisation as well as a great way to start picking up the sort of thing that happens in a setting (for example, the way most Traveller characters are military veterans of some sort, it's clear that the armed services take in a lot of people and then turn many of them loose).

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    1. Have you looked at the latest Rolemaster public beta? I want to love it as much as I did as a boy, but I'm afraid I'm not quite there yet.

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    2. I have not. I'm not opposed to it, but GURPS scratches the itches I have at the moment. Now that I've got away from class-and-level, it would take a lot to push me back.

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    3. Exactly my issues. Even with the optional "generic" class they provide, it still relies on a level-based system that's hard to justify.

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