Your thoughts on Generic versus Bespoke systems.

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
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.

What purpose does bespoke serve other than to essentialize all roleplaying games, to treat some games as more specialized forms of other games?

Right now, my Saturday group has just finished the first season (3 month run) of our L5R game. We're going to do a sort of 7th Sea. After that it will be my turn in the GM's chair. One of the games I'm considering is the Dishonored 2d20 game which shares a fair deal of conceptual space with Blades in the Dark (players play a group of criminals in a pseudo-Victorian industrial wasteland with all sorts of occult stuff going on). I expect the experience to be wholly unlike playing / running Blades in the Dark. Play is going to be a lot more zoomed in, a lot more focused given to individual social interactions and day in the life type stuff. The setting is also a lot more locked in and specific. While there will be factions the individual character relationships with individual NPCs will likely be primary. These two games who share a remarkable amount of conceptual space are not even close to being substitutes for one another.
 

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gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
I've indirectly answered this on another thread. Unlike many tabletop gamers, I most enjoy world building and creating an entire custom settings of my own using a generic system, having no connection to any published or movie made IP. If I didn't create the IP, I have no interest in playing a game based on that IP. Most bespoke systems are bespoke to a specific IP (Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, etc.). I'll always pick a 'generic' system over a bespoke one.
 

SaltheartRPG

Villager
Interesting discussion. As folks have explored here, it is a preference thing. I do like how Modiphius tweaks its 2d20 system for different bespoke settings, like Dune or John Carter of Mars. Now that they have an SRD, it can used for a generic application. I took a lot of inspiration from both Modiphius and the FitD games in developing my own BURN 2d6 system. In it we take core rules and then mod them slightly for genre specific play.
 


When it comes to RPGs, how do you feel about "generic" rulesets that intend to allow for broad application, versus bespoke systems that focus on narrow ranges of themes, style and/or genre?

Anyway, what do you prefer? Does that change based on the genre or style of game you are looking for? If you prefer more generic systems broadly, do you want bespoke subsystems on top (a hesit mechanics in a generic game, for example)? What are your favorite games of either type, or anywhere on the continuum?
Interesting question. My answer might be a little divergent.

I think I prefer generic rulesets, because I am willing to create whatever bespoke subsystems I might want. I certainly look at other rule sets for inspiration and insight. But, in the end, I can make AD&D into anything since I have used it for so long and am willing to re-write half the rulebook for a specific need.

That said, if I'm not interested in a class / archetype based game, then I'm not looking at D&D. If I want skills modified by the character's identity and need there's Fate or Traveller. D6 gives me adjustable dice pools for resolution. If the theme of the character and game are the most important and chance is truly secondary then there is Everyway or Amber. I'm not really interested in "it's [game system] with this significant change!" I'll want to study what the significant change is, mind you. But I'm more likely to assimilate the concept into the game engine I'm familliar with.
 

I don't really have a preference for generic or specific - in a general sense. It boils down to what I'm wanting to run. Sometimes I have very specific ideas in my head about the type of game I want to run, and there isn't, or I am unaware of, or I don't like any of, a specific set of rules built around that type of game - so I use my preferred universal ruleset.

If there is a specific game that is designed around the type of game I want to run, and I like it, I'll use it. This usually means a lighter lift on my part as the specific game will have all of the fiddly-bits that I need already included in the rules.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I think the extent to which most 'generic' system aren't actually all that generic makes this an interesting topic. Plus, the systems that do manage something like actual genricicity (obviously a real word) are crunchy enough that they completely escape my interest. The exchange for full generic seems to be overwhelming mechanics, which is not a trade I'm willing to make.
 

I think the extent to which most 'generic' system aren't actually all that generic makes this an interesting topic. Plus, the systems that do manage something like actual genricicity (obviously a real word) are crunchy enough that they completely escape my interest. The exchange for full generic seems to be overwhelming mechanics, which is not a trade I'm willing to make.
I don't think a genuinely generic system is even possible or desirable. Even the crunch-fests you mention have their own particular flavor - they're crunch-fests. The medium is (part of) the message.

That said, some systems are a lot closer to being generic than others! The sweet spot seems to be "toolkit" systems that let you build your game to your own desire. But even they won't do everything well.

Much as I love Fate, I think it could do a lot more to help groups tweak the base game to their desire. The Extras chapter of the Fate Core book is notoriously vague. (Fate Condensed actually has a little bit of guidance on the consequences of making certain changes.)

I was recently introduced to Cortex Prime, and I must say I'm impressed with its flexibility in this regard.
 

I was recently introduced to Cortex Prime, and I must say I'm impressed with its flexibility in this regard.
Yup.

Cortex Prime is one of the few toolkits I've seen which genuinely doesn't get in the way of itself and which is highly flexible. It does require a little bit of brain-expanding to make some of the design decisions correctly, but it's very impressive as game-design toolkits go. I used it to make a Mass Effect RPG, and I felt like what I got was a lot closer to what I wanted than any of the countless Mass Effect hacks for other systems I'd seen.
Even the crunch-fests you mention have their own particular flavor - they're crunch-fests. The medium is (part of) the message.
This was always my main group's issue with GURPS, particularly.

GURPS claims to be Generic and Universal, but the actual way the rules work gives it a very specific vibe, that's slightly brutal, decisive and about characters who you feel would be in an action movie or a thriller TV series, rather than in say, an anime, or really stylized superhero movie. Like, I could absolutely see The Boys (the TV show) working out in GURPS rules, but could I see Ms. Marvel (esp. the finale)? Absolutely not.

And I don't even think the tone they picked one was a bad one. When GURPS was created, in the 1980s, like the really the vast majority of American media fit within the "envelope" of GURPS, though it is interesting that superheroes (particularly outside of a sort of '80s comics Batman vibe) and a lot of fantasy did not (though, say, Conan the Barbarian did). As time has gone on, though, I think that envelope has been pushed more and more, and whilst GURPS has come up with various hacks/optional rules to attempt to increase it, it feels, fundamentally, like an artifact of its time.
 

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