Your thoughts on Generic versus Bespoke systems.

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Interesting. I haven't played (or even read) BitD, but I have played in a full campaign of Scum & Villainy. And we didn't find it difficult to switch out the setting for one of our own making.

Now, granted, our setting did need to share some particular things with the book's setting - Precursor artifacts, mystics of the Way, and so on. And part of our worldbuilding was to come up with a similar array of factions up to a variety of goals.

Is that what you're talking about, or is S&V genuinely different from BitD in this respect?
I've only given S&V a skim, haven't had a chance to play, so please correct me if I have anything incorrect.

I think one big difference is that S&V setting-wise is more a common amalgamation of several settings such as Star Wars, Cowboy Bebop, Firefly, etc. It's not a common setting, with needing things like The Way, but it's not particularly unique. As you mention, you can fit in the particulars to a variety of settings.

On the other hand the parts of the BitD setting that need to fit in, while individually things you would see elsewhere, are very rarely put together, especially with the twists they put on them. Just like in S&V these are reflected in the playbooks, so you need to have all of them.

If i was going to use a cooking analogy, S&V might require flour, eggs, and milk - something that you can make may recipes out of, while BitD requires pickled cabbage, chocolate, and jalapeno peppers. Individually ingredients that you can use, but when you require them all it really locks down what you can make.

I believe that both the playbooks and the crew sheets are more tightly tied to those particulars as well, but that may be my liited familiarity with S&V saying so. Some like the Mystic have stronger ties, but more of the playbooks felt like they would work in a wide variety of settings.

EDIT: This isn't saying S&V isn't bespoke. This started as disagreement with @Neonchameleon that BitV was easily swappable to other settings, and then just answering a question about how S&V was more swappable. Just being able to change settings isn't a sign that something isn't bespoke.
 
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Reynard

Legend
I've only given S&V a skim, haven't had a chance to play, so please correct me if I have anything incorrect.

I think one big difference is that S&V setting-wise is more a common amalgamation of several settings such as Star Wars, Cowboy Bebop, Firefly, etc. It's not a common setting, with needing things like The Way, but it's not particularly unique. As you mention, you can fit in the particulars to a variety of settings.

On the other hand the parts of the BitD setting that need to fit in, while individually things you would see elsewhere, are very rarely put together, especially with the twists they put on them. Just like in S&V these are reflected in the playbooks, so you need to have all of them.

If i was going to use a cooking analogy, S&V might require flour, eggs, and milk - something that you can make may recipes out of, while BitD requires pickled cabbage, chocolate, and jalapeno peppers. Individually ingredients that you can use, but when you require them all it really locks down what you can make.

I believe that both the playbooks and the crew sheets are more tightly tied to those particulars as well, but that may be my liited familiarity with S&V saying so. Some like the Mystic have stronger ties, but more of the playbooks felt like they would work in a wide variety of settings.
Band of Blades is even more bespoke. It's not only a highly specific setting, it is a highly specific story. It is really only designed to do the one thing it does. I only own the main FitD games (BitD, S&V, BoB), so maybe some of the others that have appeared are more general use?
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
One of the issues we're always going to have is the way some trad gamers frame playstyle: as just different sorts of fictional experiences rather than how play is structured and organized. As the what instead of the how. This will always lead to a failure to understand the value presented by a huge class of games. For instance, Tales of Xadia, D&D 5e and Dungeon World all operate within the same basic conceptual niche (when it comes to the sorts of scenarios they support) but they all fundamentally play in extremely different ways. The approach both players and (especially) GMs are expected to take to play are viscerally different.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Using your terms, I prefer either universal systems or bespoke systems and tend to greatly dislike generic systems.

A well-made purpose built system can absolutely sing when being used for its purpose, but I find a lot of them are too specific so they’re limited to that one style, which is great if there’s a lot of replay there, otherwise not so much. Like Masks. If you like teenage-drama superheroes, it’s the best. But once you want something slightly different, it’s best to use a different system.

Generic systems strike me as pointlessly bland. They sacrifice flavor, style, and focus for little to no gain. They effectively put all the work of flavor, style, and focus on the referee. The best I can explain it is by comparison. 5E is a generic fantasy game. Dungeon Crawl Classics is a purpose built sword & sorcery game.

But I love universal systems. The lighter the better. To me, the simplicity of the rules and the intentionally “generic” nature serve a purpose. To allow you to use the system for anything. While bespoke mechanics can sing, they are just as often overwrought nightmares to learn. Gimme Fate or Risus or FKR.
 
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Reynard

Legend
So what makes folks consider Dark Sun and Forgotten Realms the same game, but Blades in the Dark and Scum & Villainy different games?

Is it just a matter of branding? What makes the first two somehow more the same?
FR and DS are not games -- they are settings served by the same game, despite significant difference in theme, mood and assumptions.

But that's not really why I consider BitD and S&V to be "bespoke." Those games are bespoke because their play loops are defined and focused and the system exists only to support that play loop. The play loop of D&D is not only less well defined, the system doesn't really do anything to support the play loop. Note: there is certainly an argument to be made that OD&D was a bespoke system (such that it was) but every successive generation of D&D has eroded its focus.
 

Aldarc

Legend
So what makes folks consider Dark Sun and Forgotten Realms the same game, but Blades in the Dark and Scum & Villainy different games?

Is it just a matter of branding? What makes the first two somehow more the same?
It's peculiar to be sure. Numenera should be considered a "bespoke game" by some people's criteria. It is a game tied to a particular, specialized setting. However, Monte Cook Games expanded the core rules of Numenera to include other settings (e.g., The Strange, etc.) and created the more generic Cypher System, so people rarely talk of Numenera as a "bespoke game." And yet a number of PbtA and FitD games are talked about as "bespoke games" despite the robustness of the core rules and play loops to play other settings, genres, and games? Curious.
 

Reynard

Legend
It's peculiar to be sure. Numenera should be considered a "bespoke game" by some people's criteria. It is a game tied to a particular, specialized setting. However, Monte Cook Games expanded the core rules of Numenera to include other settings (e.g., The Strange, etc.) and created the more generic Cypher System, so people rarely talk of Numenera as a "bespoke game." And yet a number of PbtA and FitD games are talked about as "bespoke games" despite the robustness of the core rules and play loops to play other settings, genres, and games? Curious.
Yes, but most of the PbtA and FitD games rebuild their core systems, play books, etc to fit very narrow play loops. That is what those core systems are good at.

As to Cypher -- I am not a huge fan of it and don't think it fits Numenera particularly well, and certainly doesn't fit other genres well. I played The Strange a bit, too, and just did not jive with Cypher.
 

Aldarc

Legend
FR and DS are not games -- they are settings served by the same game, despite significant difference in theme, mood and assumptions.
Didn't Dark Sun have a modified different set of rules to support its setting?

But that's not really why I consider BitD and S&V to be "bespoke." Those games are bespoke because their play loops are defined and focused and the system exists only to support that play loop. The play loop of D&D is not only less well defined, the system doesn't really do anything to support the play loop. Note: there is certainly an argument to be made that OD&D was a bespoke system (such that it was) but every successive generation of D&D has eroded its focus.
Would you consider B/X a bespoke game? One thing that fascinated both the Forge and OSR about B/X was how it had core play loops that reinforced its dungeon-delving themes.

Yes, but most of the PbtA and FitD games rebuild their core systems, play books, etc to fit very narrow play loops. That is what those core systems are good at.
"Very narrow play loops"? 🤨

Also, isn't this kinda what TSR did with Dark Sun? They rebuilt and removed classes/races, changed the core rules, etc. to accomodate a different setting?

As to Cypher -- I am not a huge fan of it and don't think it fits Numenera particularly well, and certainly doesn't fit other genres well. I played The Strange a bit, too, and just did not jive with Cypher.
Please don't take this the wrong way, but I honestly don't care if you love it or hate it. I don't think that a bespoke system is defined by either "do I like the system?" or "do I think that the system fits the setting well?" The bottom line is that the Cypher System was originally created by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain for the Numenera setting.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
FR and DS are not games -- they are settings served by the same game, despite significant difference in theme, mood and assumptions.

But that's not really why I consider BitD and S&V to be "bespoke." Those games are bespoke because their play loops are defined and focused and the system exists only to support that play loop. The play loop of D&D is not only less well defined, the system doesn't really do anything to support the play loop. Note: there is certainly an argument to be made that OD&D was a bespoke system (such that it was) but every successive generation of D&D has eroded its focus.

What do you mean by playloop? What is the 5e playloop? I think I’m missing something and that may help me follow what you’re saying.
 

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