3 Favorite Things About Your Favorite System

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
Just to throw some positive vibes back into the forum. Tell us the 3 favorite things about your favorite system, just what you like. I'll start:

I just finished an M-Space game recently, a great system for Mythras/d100 based sci-fi. Nevertheless, I have returned to Classic Traveller, inspired by the free set of rules on DTRPG, and there are some things I really love about it:

#1 No levels, which mean no grinding, character actions are fairly organic to their natural motivations, such as enacting daring schemes for the acquisition of wealth and power.

#2 No initiative in combat, which sorts it into "Tell me what you are doing, and roll the dice" where it is crazy and confusing (I feel that is a proper simulation of battle), war gamey in that it is "move and fire", where GDW's forte was war games; as well as not more than a little deadly, on purpose? Marc W Miller is a Vietnam vet, so I kind of think he meant it that way.

#3 is a tie between the UWP (Universal World Profile) string, where when in other systems, that data took up 2-3 pages writing it all out for an average star system.

or

The spacecraft with the easy design (dungeons in spaaace!) and pseudo Newtonian movement, just enough crunch, but combat always goes fast, everyone loves a boarding party too.

#-1 for the anti-bonus, the biggest negative is the 2d6 system, very limited granularity, +1 is a huge bonus, it just doesn't look that way. Plus, what am I supposed to do with all these lovely polyhedral dice I own?
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
The One Ring

1) Very flat power curve. There are no levels, but veteran characters aren’t significantly (by RPG standards) more powerful than newly created characters. And yet there are lots of incremental rewards along the way.

2) The core dice mechanic is simple but powerful and flexible, with interesting math.

3) The rules were written from the ground up to evoke Middle-earth, and it works. This game changed my understanding of how rules can support a setting, and how re-fluffed general purpose rule systems fail to do so.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
HERO

1) Flexibility

2) Flexibility

3) Flexibility

Been playing in that system since it was released as Champions in 1981, and have yet to have a PC concept I couldn’t model in it.

OK...a little more clarity, #1 is unchanged, but:

2) almost all of the hard work is in character generation. Once you have your PC on paper in front of you, you almost never need to reference the books themselves. Instead of leading through 200+ page books for a power description or some such- assuming you’re looking in th correct book- most of what you need will be on the character sheet in front of you. It actually is kind of liberating.

3) because it’s a toolkit system, you only NEED the core rulebook. Nearly every other book is just a way to illustrate one way to do things, saving you the time of figuring it out for yourself. And if you want to do things differently, that’s 100% OK.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
Blades in the Dark

1) The Crew Sheet- having group based abilities and upgrades is great, and really helps hook the Crew into the world.

2) Flashbacks- the system doesn’t really differentiate between actions taken in the present or in the past. This allows you to jump right into the action and then plan as you go. Same for your gear....you decide what you have as you need it.

3) Stress, Trauma, and Harm- each character can take Stress to activate abilities or increase the number of dice they roll for an action, or (most importantly) to resist negative consequences of die rolls. It’s a finite resource and has to be managed well during play. Take too much Stress, and you’re out of the Score and you gain a permanent Trauma. This doesn’t just have negative implications, though, it also becomes another way you can gain XP through roleplay. I like that this is all separate from Harm, which is when your character is hurt by an enemy. Harm is serious, and can be fatal in one hit, but the player always has the ability to take Stress to reduce the Harm. This helps combat and other actions have stakes, but provides the player with a lot of control over the fiction, and keeps the game moving quickly.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
Also HERO system.

1. Flexibility. Make what ever you want. I'll admit it takes time to develop the necessary system mastery and not having templates (such as DnD classes) can make it seem challenging to a newcomer. But there are genre books that can help new players by providing guidelines and templates. And of course you can always get help from other players. The forums are very helpful to new players. (Sometimes too helpful - you can get a dozen different suggestions on how to make a given power. ;))

2. Consistency of Rules. Once you know the rules there's very little need to open the rule book. This makes play a lot faster.

3. A good range of genre supplements and settings are available. Fantasy, Sci-fi and, most famously, Supers. The Champions Universe is very well developed after all these years.

-1. The main negative for new players is the very user unfriendly way in which many of the books are presented.

To do my bit for alleviating this tendency toward user unfriendly materials I've just written an introduction to HERO for fantasy games called Fantasy Hero Basic. It's a free PDF download available on the HERO Games site. It covers the basic HERO rules and is consistent with 6th edition HERO. It includes templates that can be used to help build characters and a simple spell system. I've written it with new players in mind and have done my best to give it a good, consistent, and above all clear presentation. If you're at all curious drop by the HERO site and download it; it is free. :)

Here's a link to the HERO site.

https://www.herogames.com/files/
 
DREAD

1. The Tower
This is such a brilliant resolution mechanic. For those who aren't familiar, this is an RPG that is played with a questionnaire instead of a character sheet, and a JengaTM tower of blocks. You describe your action, and the referee will have you pull one or more blocks out of the tower depending on how difficult the task you are attempting might be. Then the story continues. Eventually someone will make the tower fall, which means they failed at their described action and probably died from the consequences.

It's brilliant because the tension visibly, tangibly builds as the story progresses. Everyone watches that tower get taller and less stable, and everyone starts weighing their actions carefully knowing that if the referee calls on them, it could be their last action of the story.

2. The Questionnaire
Instead of "rolling up" a character, the referee gives everyone a different list of 12-20 questions that you answer and share with the group. Good questions really help you spin a backstory for your character, stuff like "Why did you drop out of med school?" "How old were you when you summoned your first demon?" "Do your parents know you are a vampire?" "When you got lost in the woods as a small child, how did you survive for those six weeks?"

Depending on your answers to these questions, the referee might let you do certain actions without pulling from the Tower...or they might make you pull two or three instead of just one. If you dropped out of med school because you changed majors to engineering, then the referee might let you successfully barricade a door against zombies without needing to pull--but if you ever try to treat an injury, you might have to pull twice!

3. The Pace
This game is awesome. It's so easy to learn, it can be picked up and played by anyone with minimal preparation. One of the most memorable games I ever played was an impromptu Halloween party...someone picked the book up off of my game shelf and asked about it, and then 20 minutes later we were starting a story. It is suitable for all genres and all ages, and each game can last as long as the players and referee want them to last.

If you are a fan of storytelling, nail-biting tension, and storytelling, go pick it up.
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
Kingdom by Lame Mage

1) GMless/Prepless - Other than getting character sheets, and a few index cards and pens to hand you don't have to prep anything, so you can turn up at a convention and get going, you can fill in a slot if they are short of GM's at a moments notice. Since the whole game world, characters, and plot is developed through play you can join in the fun with no pressure.

2) Speedy - You can fit a story that might take a whole months long campaign to resolve in the space of four hours. The crossroads mechanic means you deal with the key issues that concern the players and what they want from the Kingdom.

3) Filled with a series of dilemmas that have dramatic impacts - The system sets up impossible decisions (the crossroads) that the Power player must make, and those decisions drive the story forward.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I will spend a Hero Point and do a scene edit...

I am very much in a mindset of choosing system to match setting and so I dont really have a favorite system but a lot of systems played.

So I will give one item from each of three systems I played a lot of.

1 Traveller - Jump Drives - This one week jump setup was one of the best cases of fusing setting and system together. Its impact on the setting, the playstyle etc was phenomenal and far reaching. It really defined the game and the verse at once. There is a lot to love about Traveller but to me this is my first warm fuzzy each time I remember its system.

2 Mutants and Masterminds - The damage save. Versatile and marvelous. Used it in multiple genres and it's so customizable.

3 Tied between VtM (character story chargen), HERO system (buy for effect thrn choose FX) and Amber Diceless/Gossamer ("Say yes, unless you are compelled to say no" and, yeah, diceless scenery focus) because at their time for me they made me as GM "see GMing differently" and learn new tools. I was a better GM in every game after that because of what they showed me.
 

Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
Star Wars Roleplaying Game by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)
(No surprises, and no apologies.)

I have always felt that the idea of Star Wars was often better than what is sometimes actually produced. Between all the movies, TV shows, novels, comic books, and assortment of toys and games, there is much more to the Saga than most of us can truly comprehend. That is, if we base our assumptions only on the original movies, which told only one story--maybe the most important story, but not the only one.

This particular system by FFG is not the first RPG system to attempt to bring Star Wars to the game table, but it is certainly the most unique. I could easily list more than three things that make this my favorite roleplaying game of all time, but I will do my best to limit it to just the three most important ones. But I make no promises.


1. The Narrative Dice
At first glance, it looks really complicated with a lot of different colors, shapes, and unique symbols. But I can assure you that it is not! It is very intuitive, elegant, and easy to learn. Once you figure out how the Core Mechanic works, which will take less time than you think, you will understand how to do nearly everything in the game. And while it is simple and easy enough to learn, it will take time and practice to master the nuances of a truly narrative-telling system.

There are 'good' dice and 'bad' dice working against each other rather than static target values to hit or get over. But the objective isn't about making all your skill checks; its about moving the story forward, which should be like the movies where we see a mixture of failed attempts, heroic achievements, and moments of growing tension mixed with humorous developments. Its difficult to try "gaming the game" by optimizing for every possible success like this, or you just look ridiculous either thinking you could or wasting a lot of energy and thought figuring out how.

Because the system uses symbols rather than just numbers or pips, there is greater efficiency in the producing several kinds of results from one throw. A greater number of Successes could indicate accomplishing a task with greater speed or better results. Advantage and Threat add an extra layer to the story regardless of success or failure, while Triumph and Despair represent the ultimate achievement or the worst case scenario.

2. Focus on Telling a Story
Everything in this game is focused on one thing: helping your group to tell a story. That may sound true for most roleplaying games that, by their very nature, are intended to do just that. But rarely have I seen game mechanics emphasize this more clearly and effectively than this. More importantly, you are doing it together as a group. The details of an entire galaxy do not fall solely on the shoulders of the GM; players have a lot more agency and input to help develop the narrative as the game progresses. Collaboration and improvisation are the key elements here, and the mechanics both support and encourage that.

The Destiny Pool, for example, can be used as a narrative device for both GMs and the players. Imagine the players find themselves on a planet but find out the air isn't breathable for their characters. Rather than stopping to check notes to see if the group had prepared for this, one of the players suggests someone in the group was smart/lucky/prepared enough to acquire rebreathers for everyone before the trip, and flips a destiny point (with the GM's approval).

Success and failure are not important to winning the game as it is to see what happens next. A failed or botched attempt can be just as interesting (or sometimes even more) than just succeeding every time because someone built their characters to beat the game itself. But even with success, complications may arise. We see it all the time in the movies and shows, and it is often the most memorable and laughable moments.

3. The Unconventional Approach
Up until this game, I felt every RPG was pretty much the same as any other (with only some notable exceptions). And in many ways, this one still does on some level. The mechanics may be different, but the preconceived notions of what an RPG is supposed to be were deeply ingrained into the DNA. Players built characters to challenge the system and climb the power scale. GMs controlled the stories bringing the players' characters along for the ride. Characters earn new rewards which make them better equipped to handle more challenges. And inevitably, there is a capstone or endgame achievement, which signals the end of a campaign and time start the process again.

I have said this many times before. If you approach this system like any other RPG you might be more familiar with (like D&D), you will likely be disappointed, frustrated, or even upset. I can speak from experience on this when my own group of D&D veterans tried it. We quickly came to realize that we had not changed our expectations, and though it was fun, it felt less than satisfying. But as soon as we began to focus just on the story-telling and worried less about everything else, it really started to click.

You can look at the rules, mechanics, etc., and believe there is a rigid structure underlying how the game is meant to be played. Or you can see it for what it really is--a toolbox, a guidebook, an example of how the game could be used for your own interpretation. Interpretation is part of the game. The dice results show you nothing except the potential outcomes. It is up to you and your group to decide what those symbols add up to. And each and every time it is going to be something different because your game is always different than someone else's. Expecting the same thing to happen every time is boring for anyone. Here's an example of what went wrong the first time we (the D&D veteran group) played:

Player 1 shoots a stormtrooper and gets success plus 2 Advantage. He decides to use the Advantage to give the next character a Boost die on his turn.

Player 2 shoots another stormtrooper (with a Boost die) and gets success plus 2 Advantage. She decides to give the next character a Boost die on his turn... zzzZZZzzz

Its in the rules. Its a common thing. But we failed to incorporate it into the narrative and give it presence. Player 1 could have caused the target to stumble into some crates nearby, leaving him open for Player 2's shot. Mechanically the same, but now it makes the fight about the story and not the mechanics. (You can technically do the same with any game. But few of them have intuitive rules/dice/mechanics to support that kind of thing. This one actually does, and its one of my favorite things about it.)
 

Arilyn

Adventurer
Fate
The aspects are extremely elegant. This is a truly flexible system that can be adapted to any genre.

13th Age
I love the flexibility and creativity in the backgrounds.
The escalation die is brilliant.
One Unique Thing is a lot of fun and hooks characters into the setting
Weapon damage and armour class tied to class. I didn't like this when I read it, but when we tried it, I thought it worked really well.
The monsters are very interesting with imaginative and cool abilities. Love the " nastier specials" if the GM wants to bump up the challenge.

Everway
The atmosphere, the cards. Huge soft spot for this game.

Gumshoe
The investigative system. Fits how narrative works and removes the problem of games coming to a screeching standstill.

The One Ring
What Elfcrusher said.

And I will stop because I'm not following the guidelines of this thread.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
And I will stop because I'm not following the guidelines of this thread.
No worries, it is interesting to read what everyone likes about their various games. Often I think it comes down to player preference and play styles, that is ok too.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I can't really think of what my favorite system is, so I'll take this opportunity to shill for Gishes & Goblins. These are the three things where I really think I hit it out of the park:

1) Efficiency of class differentiation. The primary difference between a druid and a warlock is that a druid has some nature spells on their spell list, while a warlock has dark/evil spells instead. (All spellcasters can cast any spell that they know, and their spells scale automatically with level, so you don't need to justify how your cleric/wizard/whatever uses warlock mechanics just because those are more convenient for you.) The difference between a warlord and a monk is that a warlord has some leadership abilities on top of their fighter abilities, while a monk has some kung fu stuff on top of their fighter abilities; but they both swing swords the same way, and they both have the same number of attacks (including Action Surge), because changing those things isn't necessary to differentiate those character concepts.

2) Enemies that can hold their own. Taking a page from 4E, elite monsters have the HP of two standard monsters put together, and boss monsters have three times as many HP. Taking it one step further, elite monsters typically have two actions per turn, and boss monsters typically have three actions per turn. Fighting a lich is like fighting a wizard, fighter, and rogue at the same time; except they share a health pool, so you can't focus fire one down in order to spoil their action economy. A boss monster is actually more powerful than its component parts.

3) Ease of Homebrew.If you want to add new classes/races/monsters/whatever, there are guidelines to keep it balanced. There's an index full of generic monster stats, listed by role and level, so you can generate a level 15 sniper or a level 3 tank if you need one. Creating a sub-class is the easiest thing in the world, since it's literally just a progression of seven class features that you can add on top of any other class.

Some honorable mentions, while I'm here and on the topic:

4) Fewer Trap Options. The only real choice that you have when levelling is in selecting a feat - er, merit - every three levels. Every merit gives you a cool effect in addition to a stat boost. While it's impossible to balance cool things against each other, the real power comes from the stat boost, so you don't lose out on power if the cool thing is less useful than you'd hoped.

5) Slower Progression. The sweet spot of adventuring in D&D has traditionally been between level 3 and level 9 (or so), but players also really like gaining levels, and expect to hit end-game after a year of play. G&G solves that by flattening out the power curve, so low-level wizards aren't starved for spell slots, and high-level fighters can't just keep fighting forever. A level 20 G&G character is more like a level 13 D&D character.

6) Class Resource Balance. I almost forgot, since it's getting late into the day, but this is actually my favorite thing. Short rests are only 5 minutes long, with the assumption that you'll definitely take one after every fight. Class balance doesn't get skewed by pacing.

I'll stop there. In retrospect, after compiling this list, maybe I do know what my favorite system is.
 

Arilyn

Adventurer
I can't really think of what my favorite system is, so I'll take this opportunity to shill for Gishes & Goblins.


I purchased your game a few months back. Haven't played it yet, but there are some things I really like.

Two weapon fighting: it makes sense. I've always disliked two weapon fighting in D&D, especially 5e. I really like your version.

Armour Points: I think this is overdue.

Classes: They have an old school simplicity, with enough abilities to add interest and distinctiveness.

Question: The spellcasters lack utility spells. What is your reasoning behind this? Is it a balance issue? 13th Age lumps utility spells together, treating them as a feature wizards can choose. Your thoughts?
 

aramis erak

Explorer
L5R 5th

  • Very flexible character advancement.
  • Powerful but subtle behavior shaping via the honor system... at least when the player cares about the benefits honor has (or the drawbacks a lack of it has).
  • Excellent custom dice driven mechanics.
  • A wonderful new take on an excellent setting.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Question: The spellcasters lack utility spells. What is your reasoning behind this? Is it a balance issue? 13th Age lumps utility spells together, treating them as a feature wizards can choose. Your thoughts?
The main reason is because spellcasters have so few spells known. I wanted to make sure that any spell was useful enough to cast seven times per day, and most utility spells in D&D are the sort of thing you only cast once every few levels. Water Breathing, for example; even if you learn it as a ritual, and it comes up once or twice in the campaign, it mostly just takes up space on your character sheet.

I did try to make sure that the most important utility spells were there - Knock/Lock, Locate Object, and Teleport. I intentionally avoided Goodberry and Create Water, because of how controversial they are. I also added a couple of utility effects into the Merits section, so you can have at-will Mage Hand or Light if you really want that to be a defining part of your character. A lot of it's down to personal preference, of course, but there's a limit to how much content I could realistically include in a book that I was writing in my free time.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
1) Very flat power curve. There are no levels, but veteran characters aren’t significantly (by RPG standards) more powerful than newly created characters. And yet there are lots of incremental rewards along the way.
2. Consistency of Rules. Once you know the rules there's very little need to open the rule book. This makes play a lot faster.
3) Ease of Homebrew.If you want to add new classes/races/monsters/whatever, there are guidelines to keep it balanced. There's an index full of generic monster stats, listed by role and level
I'll take any and all games conforming to these ideas.

And for good measure, from Modos RPG:
4. Goals and Flaws. A character concept/background contains at least one goal and flaw of the character. The goal helps to motivate the PC when things get murky, and the flaw is a reminder that a PC isn't just a bag of bonuses. Players aren't required to act on their goals and flaws, but can earn story and/or rules benefits for doing so.
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
L5R 5th

  • Very flexible character advancement.
  • Powerful but subtle behavior shaping via the honor system... at least when the player cares about the benefits honor has (or the drawbacks a lack of it has).
  • Excellent custom dice driven mechanics.
  • A wonderful new take on an excellent setting.
I like L5R. I really do. I love the way the rules support the style of the game.

BUT I have the 3rd edition rules. They are not coherent. That is they are poorly laid out in the book and the rules themselves have many bugs/holes/inconsistencies. I had to do a lot of sifting and re-writing of rules to make the game actually playable.

Has 5th edition fixed this and made it more playable as written?
 

practicalm

Explorer
I'll do GURPS.

1. Character Vision from the start. Almost any character can be modeled and it allows people to create their vision from he start and make tweaks and improvements as you play. I like the balance between skills, talents, powers, and stats.
You can have a powerful old wizard and the young talented fighter without both having to be be level 1.

2. Your actions matter. The actions you take affect how you can defend or be hit. All out Attacks are dangerous to both the attacker and the defenders.
Tick off a guy with a crossbow and your day might be painful.

3. Cross worlds mostly easily. Want to mix up tech and magic and psionics? Knock yourself out. Plus there's the fun of grabbing 2+ random GURPS splat books and building a campaign.
 

Zhaleskra

Explorer
I'm going to do two systems here, because there's always the question of "Favorite system for what?". Anyway, let's start with generic fantasy/sci-fi.

HARP

1. Mixed-races are not presented as full races, they're made either with exactly one or two blood talents or exactly one or two genetic adaptation racial/species talent swaps.

2. Sure, it's class/level based (Professions), but that's more of a starting point than "You can do X because you're a Y".

3. Spell scaling. Want to cast a spell while wearing plate? Go ahead, just remember you need more PP (therefore a higher rank) and you take penalties for every PP over initial cost.

Anthropomorphic Fantasy

World Tree

1. I can remember all the commonly used rules in my head.

2. Sure, your character is human-like, but still has some animal instinctual trait that screams "you're still an animal".

3. An explanation of "laundry list" style spells. Yeah, it's basic, but it explains why the pattern spells are made that way.
 
Last edited:
Hero System (Champions! c1981 through HSR/BBB c1989-99 & FRED was OK, too)

1) Effects-based universal point-buy system. You can build any character, monster, gizmo, power, cool move, hazard, or, heck, plot point, from any medium or genre, based simply on what it actually /does/, not it's press releases, not what it "is" or how it does it, just the actual 'effect' it accomplishes in the story. Then you just describe all that other fun stuff how you like. You can even create the system artifacts that make other systems 'unique.' Want your plate mail to deflect hits but offer no actual protection, even though that's not what "armor" does in Hero? No problem: +8 DCV, OIF:platemail.

2) Geometric scaling, including the Time, and (a stretch, perhaps) Speed charts. The Speed chart is a way of letting some characters be a lot faster than others, while still letting them all participate reasonably in the same fight. The Time chart was a roughly geometric progression that you could walk a 'power' or modifier up or down to get a value for things like a casting or warm-up time or a fixed duration or a rate of travel for your interstellar drive or what-have you. And, the in-story magnitude of any weapon/ability/superpower/whatever scaled geometrically as the mechanical points invested in it progressed linearly (typically by steps of 5pts, but not always) - which, surprisingly, is not that 'unrealistic'(a .44 is deadlier than a .22, but it's not strictly 8x as deadly, even though it has 8x the kinetic energy) - which enabled playing a team with wildly different power-levels, without making most of them useless compared to the one heavy-hitter.

3) Cost Breaks: The build system would not have held together without secondary characteristics and power frameworks that allowed a character to be somewhat rounded and still viable. Without them, the point-buy system could have incentivized extremes - glass cannons and teeny hammers and the like - too much. And without Disadvantages and limitations to give characters and their abilities weaknesses, drawbacks, and genre caveats.
 

Advertisement

Top