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Your thoughts on Generic versus Bespoke systems.


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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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?
In general, give me generic: I'd far rather only have to learn one system and then adapt it for different situations and-or playstyles than have to learn a bunch of systems each only good for a very narrow range of things.

That said, small-scale bespoke subsystems within the generic system can be very useful.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I was thinking more about the Cortex Prime system versus a specific game that uses it.
My take on Cortex Prime (disclaimer: I kickstarted it) is that it's more a tool for generating your bespoke RPG than a generic system. Sure, you can pick very generic points, but since you even get to the point of defining what types of characteristics are important for play, it really aims more for you delivering the right rules for the type of game you want to run. The example games they put out also support this. Now, it's the same depth of mechanics (not too much lighter or heavier) and mechanics for player authorial control don't really change, so it's not a deeply bespoke system. But it is more focused then a big tent.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I don't have a clear preference either way. I like both. But I am not a big fan of running games based on a widely popular IP with a hefty amount of canon. I don't want to disappoint fans of the IP when I'm not being true to the canon or even just the theme. I prefer games I can use to build my own worlds and where players can't make too many assumptions.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Anyway, what do you prefer?

I don't prefer one over the other, in general.

A bespoke system can be great... if it is doing what you want to do. If its design forces you to do stuff that isn't what you want, though, they kind of flop. The converse holds for generic systems - their malleability is great, until you really need integral support for something specific.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Savage Worlds is my favorite generic system. While D&D sort of locks in a genre but is still broad enough to be generic, Savage Worlds does different genres easily enough but locks in a style -- pulp action -- that can take some tweaking to overcome. One of the reasons I think SWADE is the best iteration of the game is that it comes with a bunch of built in tools to help massage that pulp action into other, related styles.

One game I was thinking about and not sure where it fits on the continuum between "generic" and "bespoke" is Shadowrun. Despite being a straight up 90s trad RPG, I think it leans bespoke.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
Both have their uses imo. The important thing is that the rules support the type of games you want to run and what the setting says it is. I mean if I want to play some generic braindead action-fantasy, well then D&D 5e is definitively a good fit. For other games, the same rulesystem is a disaster. Like if I want to run a serious game of courtly intrigues and romances, well let's just say I would look elsewhere for a suitable system. If a specific mood is sought, then a bespoke system is usually the proper answer.

We have all seen games where the rules didn't work as intended, or not even supporting the intention. cough Vampire: the Masquerade cough
 


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?
Note that by "generic" here I don't necessarily mean "universal." In this context, D&D is "generic" because it (ostensibly) allows for a broad range of high fantasy games. Blades in the Dark, on the other hand, falls into the category I am referring to as "bespoke" because it focuses on a very specific style of play with setting assumptions built into the game mechanics. Of course, it is a continuum as well. Is Mutants and Masterminds generic or bespoke? You can use it for a lot of different styles of play, but most of its inherent systems are geared toward the retro-silver age comics of the late 90s and early 00s.

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?
First I absolutely do not consider D&D, with its very specific decisions on combat, magic, and how power levels are measured, and what it lacks to be remotely generic. I consider Blades in the Dark far more generic both in what it covers and in what it can be drifted to cover; Blades is more playstyle than setting.

And unless you just want the system to break ties I always prefer good bespoke as far more interesting. Following that "here and now bespoke" like Fate where you bespeak it as part of the game.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
First I absolutely do not consider D&D, with its very specific decisions on combat, magic, and how power levels are measured, and what it lacks to be remotely generic. I consider Blades in the Dark far more generic both in what it covers and in what it can be drifted to cover; Blades is more playstyle than setting.

And unless you just want the system to break ties I always prefer good bespoke as far more interesting. Following that "here and now bespoke" like Fate where you bespeak it as part of the game.
I defined my terms in context of the thread.
 

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