RPG Litmus Tests

Howdy gang. At least I hope some of you are still listening.

During my unintentional hiatus I've been wrestling with my Game System ADD a bit. Picked up copies of the daunting and alien Fate Core and Accelerated rules. Found slots for myself in a handful of play by post games (Hero System Supers; Savage Worlds Fantasy; Mongoose Traveller). Waxed eloquently (for some that translates to "argued belligerently") on Reddit's RPG sub. Thumbed my nose at Dungeon World as yet another system that I just "don't get". Lamented my inability to stop worrying and love the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. Contemplated creating a sort of FrankenGame out of BRP, Legend, RuneQuest and Magic World.

And I began to wonder what sort of criteria you lot use to evaluate a new or updated game offering. Are you egalitarian and ecumenical, welcoming all new mechanics and conceits with open arms? Do you have certain buzz words that turn you on or off? Is it enough that it "might be fun" or is there a checklist of must-have items before you buy in? Or perhaps a similar list of deal breakers?

I have learned that I'm less interested in "realistic" - whatever that means - than I am in detailed. That it is unnecessary abstraction and simplification that turns me off. Not sure what that means just yet, other than that I appear to be the opposite of the current trend. Again. 

So, lay it on me. What's your yardstick ?


  1. Does the game surprise me-- does it accomplish something I didn't think was possible? Does it give me something I didn't know that I wanted?

    Is it something that can conceivably hit the table...?

    Does it deftly leverage nostalgia without obsequiously establishing its "old school cred"?

    Does it give me anything that GURPS Fourth edition can't do better with thirty minutes of prep...?

    1. Oh, that last one... that's what gets me every time. Everything gets compared - often wanting - to GURPS.

  2. I find worrying about systems to be misspent time for me. I rather ask myself: what is the neatest way to do this in GURPS, then create stories, characters and adventures.

    I know, I'm not answering your question. But I'm glad that you are back. My yardstick is: can I consider any detail that matter without having to negate existing mechanics/models?

    I exclude FATE because it doesn't have models, just a way to move a story along which leaves me feeling like I'm spinning a wheel.

  3. Like jeffro and Jason, as a general rule, what a system has to do to appeal to me is to handle something better than GURPS -- by which I mean GURPS in the hands of a GM who knows it pretty well. Because that's what I am -- and my players are reasonably good at the system too -- and we need a reason to change.

    GURPS just brings me so much stuff that I wouldn't want to do without -- like the disadvantage system, which I find an excellent tool for characterisation -- that I'm reluctant to chuck it away unless there's something really compelling about the alternative.

    1. It's interesting - the only systems right now that hold my attention for long are either for nostalgic reasons (RuneQuest, Star Frontiers) or because they're from the same mold as GURPS (Hero, Savage Worlds).

      Right now, I can tell you, the one thing driving me away from most systems - including those that I love - are the other people who play them, and who post to online fora. I just have to remind myself regularly that they're a tiny percentage of the fan base, not the archetypal fan.


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