Your thoughts on Generic versus Bespoke systems.

Interesting re: character types, I wasn't thinking of it that way.
Yeah, it's something that Apocalypse World really does in a way few other games do.
I will say flashbacks work bizarrely well for D&D too.
I wouldn't call it bizarre. They were lifted wholesale from Leverage, the Cortex Plus game that's Blades' other parent (and previous best heist game).
As for "can't do", the only thing that comes to mind immediately is the tactical combat of 4E, which very few games can do anything like (and most of those that can are both post-4E and inspired by 4E - Lancer, ICON (get a real name!!!), Gubat Banwa, etc.), and I think a lot wouldn't want to.
Agreed. But that's a very specific implementation of D&D :)
 

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I wouldn't call it bizarre. They were lifted wholesale from Leverage, the Cortex Plus game that's Blades' other parent (and previous best heist game).
Ah, I didn't know that - I actually encountered them first in D&D in a specific Dungeon adventure (Blood Money, Dungeon #200). I guess what I mean is I was surprised at how well they worked - I figured they be a bit of mismatch when I first tried them.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
The difference that makes BitD bespoke and D&D not is that BitD ONLY does what you are talking about. That you CAN play D&D like BitD or not is evidence that it isn't bespoke.

So, you can play a D&D game where you play a group of criminals doing criminal things, but that is profoundly different than playing a Blades in the Dark game in innumerable ways. The way situations are framed, the way things are resolved, the faction game, et al are remarkably different because the play process is different.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'll be honest: people more interested in fighting about specific game categorization than talking about the subject in general is really tiresome. So I will leave the thread to you folks so you can quibble without interruption.
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski
For what it's worth, and even though it's already probably been said, Blades in the Dark is not merely a heist game. The game engine can do lots more than heists, and heists are only one of many kinds of scores. The whole enchilada of engine, specific character/crew playbooks, factions, and specific setting may be bespoke in a sense (or more charitably, a complete game playable "out of the box"), but the engine on its own is pretty darn generic and capable of just about any genre of play. And it's pretty dirt simple to create new character & crew playbooks.

Past a certain power level, the dice mechanics slide to making things maybe too easy, but I think it was a deliberate decision not to design a forever game engine.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I'll be honest: people more interested in fighting about specific game categorization than talking about the subject in general is really tiresome. So I will leave the thread to you folks so you can quibble without interruption.
It seems like the former informs people's thinking about the latter. Deciding whether I prefer bespoke or generic systems requires, to some extent or another, drawing on my experiences and understandings of games out there and how I categorize them.

There is also a certain degree of "othering" when it comes to how some non-mainstream games are relegated to "bespoke game" status while being similarly broad in scope as more mainstream games.

That said, I would look at video games for a definition of a "bespoke game."
Any video game that is developed especially for a particular person or sub-group of people that is not commercially available for the general public to buy in shops and commercial retail outlets.
I think that this is a more functional definition that provides some parameters, however vague in some places (i.e., particular person or sub-group of people). But it's worth noting here that this means that "bespoke" is not the polar opposite of "generic." "Bespoke" exists on a spectrum of commercial availability and target demographics.

If we apply this to TTRPGs, then I do think that we have a much better way to distinguish between bespoke and non-bespoke games. Blades in the Dark, by such a definition, is not a bespoke game. It is a commercially available product in stores. BitD is a pretty common sight in a lot of tabletop hobby stores, though it is less common to find in larger retailers, which usually only carry D&D, if they even have a tabletop roleplaying game. I even bought my copy of BitD from a small tabletop hobby shop here in Vienna.

However, there are a lot of bespoke games out there on itch.io, Kickstarter, BackerKit, DriveThruRPG, or elsewhere. You cannot find them in shops or commercial retail outlets. These games are clearly designed for particular sub-groups of people.
 
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niklinna

učim hrvatski
If you want to consider the actual meaning of "bespoke"—made specifically for and to the specifications of a particular client (singular)—I'd say there are almost no such roleplaying games at all. A game designed for a narrow or niche audience is just that, and is not bespoke. A game with very particular, idiomatic subsystems (such as Vancian magic and pass/fail task resolution extrapolated from hit/miss combat mechanics) or setting features/elements (such as high fantasy centered around violence, or young super heroes struggling with adolescence) is just that, and is not bespoke. (There are other aspects and connotations of "bespoke" that simply do not apply to activities as opposed to physical objects or that point to socioeconomic factors that generally don't apply to roleplaying games—but see below!)

You could say that the Wendy's Hamburger roleplaying game, Feast of Legends, is bespoke, since a Hamburger chain is not in the business of designing roleplaying games, and so hired a designer to develop a game to their very particular and tongue-in-cheek specifications. The execs who drove that project may have even played it, although personally using the product one has spent lavishly on is not a requirement for something to be bespoke. So, that's one bespoke roleplaying game.

You might think of the Beadle and Grimm's products as bespoke, but no, they are simply luxury versions, carrying some of the socioieconomic connotations of bespoke products but not fitting the core definition of the word. If they customized each such product to include fancy character sheets of the purchaser's group of player characters, with portraits drawn according to the wishes of the players of those characters, that would technically be bespoke (though marginally, since character sheets are pretty easy to customize compared to the contents of multipage bound books or elaborate props).

The in-game story of the creation of Castle Falkenstein, being designed by someone transported to a world of high magic and adventure for a small group of social elites—actual nobility—and tailored to their quaint ideas of propriety and etiquette, also marginally fits the idea of "bespoke". But of course it is a fiction and the game was in reality simply designed to the creator's own particular (and highly highly entertaining, if I may say so) desires.

So really, with regard to roleplaying games, "bespoke" is just a terribly poor choice of jargon on just about every count.

I leave consideration of the term "generic" in this context as an exercise for the reader.

(Seriously, give Castle Falkenstein a read sometime. I would love to give that game a spin some day. You can play an actual dragon! Not some simpy humanoid with scales and a breath weapon, but an actual flying dragon. Well it's an evolved pterodactyl, but effectively a dragon: flying, reptilian, magic.)
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
If you want to consider the actual meaning of "bespoke"—made specifically for and to the specifications of a particular client (singular)—I'd say there are almost no such roleplaying games at all. A game designed for a narrow or niche audience is just that, and is not bespoke.
All you have to do is consider the tight theme or niche as the “client” and you can dispense with this degree of semantic nitpickery.
I’m not convinced bespoke is necessarily the best term, but it withstands your complaint just fine and will do until some better term evolves.
 


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