Best universal rpg system?


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Its really heavily about what you're looking for, among other things the amount of crunch you want and/or will tolerate, how much tools you want to have to set things up, what tone you want and so on. My go-tos have generally been Fuzion or Hero, but there are things to say for things Cortex, WOIN, EABA or GURPS too.
I've never played EABA, but I've been reading recently (along with the EABA version of TimeLords). It's a neat little system (although dice pool system aren't usually my thing).
 


Lord Mhoram

Adventurer
For some reason that made an old jingle pop into my head.

HERO System's got crunch, Cypher don't, because...
Some times you feel like crunch, some times you don't.

(Sorry to Almond Joy and Mounds.)
That may well have been in subconscious when I posted that. If it had been conscious I would have been much more clear about. :D
 

practicalm

Explorer
I am a big fan of GURPS for anything in the human scale. Superhuman high point value characters get odd.
The best thing is that you can turn on or off the detail for you game fairly easily. When people talk about taking a long time for combat, I don't see that unless you turned on all the optional rules yet are not familiar enough with them to make them work.
When you start with the basic rules and only add the more detailed rules as you gain experience with the system, combat isn't any longer than most other systems. Less because with 1 second turns, a lot of firearm combat is (I aim, next)
You are not moving and attacking (you can but there are penalties)
Often the problem with GURPS is people letting anything into the game instead of keeping a tight campaign/game idea and not letting people bring in exceptions.

I've also played HERO which is a good generic system as well.
 

TheHand

Adventurer
I think the answer largely boils down to what kind of playstyle you're expecting.

For very narrative-focused games, I would look into PbtA or FATE, with the former if you and your players like more of a "shared narrative" approach.

I don't have enough experience with Cortex to speak with any authority.

I used to play a ton of HERO, and it's a solid game engine, but as I've gotten older I consider it to be too crunchy now. However, if you and your players like a high degree of control with character creation and a very granular blow-by-blow combat system this would be a good go-to. GURPs also has very detail-oriented character creation and crunch.

So this brings me to Savage Worlds, which is actually my current go-to for generic games. To me, Savage Worlds is a nice balance between narrative focus and crunch. It supports traditional GM/player style play and a pretty easy-to-learn core game engine. It kind of takes the "bolt-on" approach to additional rules and setting rules, where you as the GM can decide how many extra features you want to incorporate (eg, vehicle combat, miniatures, sanity rules, critical injury rules, spell-casting, cybernetics, super-powers, etc). The central mechanic of "Bennies" (hero points, plot coupons) gives players a currency to shape the narrative and gain advantages.

In my experience, I'd say Savage Worlds' biggest turn-off seems to be the exploding dice mechanic, which can create very swingy skill checks and combat situations. If you don't like exploding dice or "hero-point/plot coupon" mechanics then I would say look elsewhere.

Good hunting!
 

I've never played EABA, but I've been reading recently (along with the EABA version of TimeLords). It's a neat little system (although dice pool system aren't usually my thing).

Well, that's another issue of course; you can have a pretty functional universal system, but if the basic mechanical approach doesn't suit you, none of that matters.
 

In my experience, I'd say Savage Worlds' biggest turn-off seems to be the exploding dice mechanic, which can create very swingy skill checks and combat situations. If you don't like exploding dice or "hero-point/plot coupon" mechanics then I would say look elsewhere.

Good hunting!

As a GM, I also find a lot of traits about the powers system (core, not SPC) to be overly constraining; its determined to work in a certain way and on a certain scale, and there's limited tools to do anything about that.
 

dbm

Adventurer
As a GM, I also find a lot of traits about the powers system (core, not SPC) to be overly constraining; its determined to work in a certain way and on a certain scale, and there's limited tools to do anything about that.
The way I handled that in my Last Parsec game was to use Powers as narrative permission to try things that wouldn’t otherwise be an option. For example, at one point the party were trying to bust a ship out of a space station dock.

One of the characters had psionic powers, including the one that grants super long range vision (a relatively low impact power in most campaigns, twice as poor in a futuristic campaign where you can buy optics, but it fitted the character concept). I was running the Escape as a dramatic conflict, and allowed the psyker to use their super-vision to watch the weapons crew on the station through their view ports, feeding info on where they were planning to train their guns and so help the pilot evade while escaping.

It was cool, non-game breaking and the players all loved the feel this approach generated.
 

The way I handled that in my Last Parsec game was to use Powers as narrative permission to try things that wouldn’t otherwise be an option. For example, at one point the party were trying to bust a ship out of a space station dock.

One of the characters had psionic powers, including the one that grants super long range vision (a relatively low impact power in most campaigns, twice as poor in a futuristic campaign where you can buy optics, but it fitted the character concept). I was running the Escape as a dramatic conflict, and allowed the psyker to use their super-vision to watch the weapons crew on the station through their view ports, feeding info on where they were planning to train their guns and so help the pilot evade while escaping.

It was cool, non-game breaking and the players all loved the feel this approach generated.

A little too loose for my tastes.
 

dbm

Adventurer
A little too loose for my tastes.
It used the same rules for dramatic tasks as everyone else: Say how you are contributing to the dramatic task, GM approves that as something that can help, players test appropriate traits to generate successes.

My point is that there are tools, though they are not spelled out specifically in the rules that this is something players could attempt.
 

Yeah, but its dependent on allowing powers to do things in a dramatic task they wouldn't be permitted to do outside of it. That seems like just slapping a band-aid on the problem.
 


MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I really like the look of Cortex Prime, but I have not been able to totally grok it yet.

I don't understand how combat works. Is it possible to run the combat like a more traditional system like DnD or Savage Worlds?
I have to disagree with @aramis erak somewhat. Cortex feels very different from D&D to me. It is more theatrical. That isn't to say that it its tactical, but combat is more about putting together a dice pool based on attributes, skills, etc. So if a goblin (DM) attacks a fighter (PC), the DM would say select the die for fight + the die for physical + the die for cutlass, etc. Roll the dice and add them together. The player would similarly select a combination of attributes, skills, weapons, etc., roll the dice and add them together. If the players roll is higher he successfully avoids the hit. If he rolls lower, he could take a complication. Complications are stepped up until you are taken out. In Cortex the strategic fun in putting together your dice pool to increase the odd of rolling higher than your opponent.

Of course it is all just different ways of abstracting prowess, armor effectiveness, weapon deadliness, etc. The the feel is different. I find Cortex Prime naturally encourages more narration of the results because you are not just chipping away at hitpoints.

Cortex Prime is, however, a modular, build-your-own system. So while, for example, initiative is not a core rule, it is an available mod for building your system.

You don't have to build your own. There are a number of prebuilt systems using Cortex and if you are familiar with one you can quickly pick up another because the core engine is the same. Hammerheads is free sci-fi game built on the new Cortex Prime engine that you can look at for an example. If you buy the Cortex Prime book, it also includes TRACE 2.0 which tries to emulate a police procedural and Eidolon Alpha which is a "neo-classic" fantasy. These three games (Hammerheads, Eidolon Alpha, and TRACE 2.0) do a nice job highlighting the versatility of the Cortex Prime system.

One campaign idea I've been tinkering away on is a Cortex Prime built campaign where players are caught in a massive virtual reality system and they have to find the truth of reality and their way out of the system by exploring through various settings, fantasy, old west, sci fi, etc. Different mods would apply in different systems so that while the core of their characters remain the same, the rules of the world may change as they move from one environment to another. Certain aspects of their characters will also change while a other aspects stay part of their core being. This is a much easier to emulate and run using Cortex Prime than in any other system I've looked at.
 




Cortex Prime is, however, a modular, build-your-own system. So while, for example, initiative is not a core rule, it is an available mod for building your system.

Supposedly by using the right components, you can get something pretty close to Cortex Classic, and barring the use of Plot Points as metacurrency, CC was a pretty traditional system.
 

AK81

Villager
Supposedly by using the right components, you can get something pretty close to Cortex Classic, and barring the use of Plot Points as metacurrency, CC was a pretty traditional system.
I think I understand how dice pools and damage work. At least how it works in Tales of Xadia. But what I am a bit unsure about is how a fight looks. I understand how it works if two characters are fighting each other, but how does it work if you gang up on one target?
 

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