The Secret Ingredient in Every Successful Game

If you've followed me at all, you know full well that I am ADD when it comes to games. GURPS for five minutes here, then a ten minute diversion down to Pathfinder, three minutes on Hero System, several thirty-second snippets of Runequest or BRP, a discourse on the interesting mechanics in the latest Shadowrun, being courted to play Hackmaster, asking old gamer friends if they'll give D&D Next a try, and back around to Traveller for an afternoon.


What I'm finding, and it was a bit of an epiphany in an random, off the cuff comment over on G+, is that what holds my interest in a system has less to do with the system than with the people playing it, talking about it, telling each other how great it is, showing with great examples not just how the mechanics serve the emerging narrative but how the players come away feeling so good about it.

I'm really enjoying Champions right now - more than anything because I coaxed +Chris Mata into letting me GM him in a play by post game. I get jazzed for the biweekly GURPS sessions with +Jason Woollard as well, and every time I play I come away wanting to find an excuse to start my own campaign. Every time percentile dice come up, I wander over to the Design Mechanism website and read up on what stories are being told using the RuneQuest rules set, and leave just chomping at the bit to get back into a game that uses them. Hell, I even wax nostalgic about Basic D&D when +Jeffro Johnson holds forth at length about the how perfect it is.

Every one of these systems has something in common - they're not perfect.

Even the most stalwart partisan will harbor in his mind things that they are less than pleased with about the system, house rules they'd like to suggest to their group, or heretical ideas borrowed from other games that they think are better than the specific rule in their usual game of choice.

Yet, every one of these system has something else in common - they have passionate players.

More than the mechanics, it has to do with other people not just playing but being excited about the systems that draws me to them. Oh, in the absence of that I immediately gravitate to GURPS, sure - but when you talk to the right person about a different system entirely, be it something utterly foreign like Fate or achingly familiar like Star Frontiers, you'll catch the bug right along with them.


  1. Passion fuels everything from marriages to getting to Mars.


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