Author Topic: Simple/Fun RPG Systems  (Read 6053 times)

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Offline Melchior

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Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« on: October 04, 2011, 10:23:46 AM »
I had prepared a campaign for my very first run as a Game Master ever with five inexperienced players. The system I had chosen was D&D 3.5 because it is the only one I am familiar with. By the end of the first session, the players said the system is too time-consuming to maintain and keep track of, and battles are slow. There are a lot of options, but strangely enough they complained it was both too complex and too limiting. Thinking that over, I must say I agree. Especially battles can be very tiresome in D&D, all the more so if you are a non-magic user.

So now I am looking for other systems. Systems that are easier and, well, more fun. Does anyone have any ideas?

I have found Wushu Open (link). It's less than ten pages long and seems like it could be very fun as it focuses entirely on action where you are encouraged to go all-out in battle. Yes, it's VERY limited and I don't think you can run a long-during campaign with it, but it could definitely be a whole lot of fun for a shorter scenario. Perhaps if you add some more Traits for NPC-interaction (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate... and that sort of thing), it could be useful for longer campaigns. Of course, this is perhaps the other extreme of 'too complex'. I don't know.

I am also looking into RuneQuest, Savage Worlds, BattleAxe and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

Any thoughts, anyone?
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Offline David Roomes

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2011, 09:31:51 PM »
If your five players find D&D too rules heavy, then that Wushu thing might be more their speed. I just got done reading the link. I've heard of very loose and open gaming styles and Wushu seems to be the most open one I've seen yet. Sounds like it might be a great system for some people.

I personally don't think I would like it. As a game system, it's too open for me. I'm one of those gamers who likes character creation. I like shopping for equipment with limited funds. I like exploring a world that a game master has put a lot of work into. I like balancing the pros and cons of this weapon vs that weapon or this spell vs that spell. It can be both tactically advantageous and also a great fit for my character or the situation at hand. I like acquiring a specific, unique weapon or item that has a history and a purpose and a function. I guess it comes down to the fact that I like gritty realism.

Wushu seems too much like an improvisational acting class. But that's just me. :)

By the way, don't forget Pathfinder. I haven't played it myself, but I hear great things about it. Next time I play, I may try to talk the group into switching over to Pathfinder. Then again, that's probably just as rules heavy as D&D.
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Offline Melchior

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2011, 09:27:39 AM »
Wushu is definitely not suited for a campaign, or deep role-playing. It does seem like brain-dead fun with a couple of beers for a short scenario - especially a scenario that's a lot like the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon movie. Nothing more than that, though. It's wuxia-style fighting and nothing more.

I want a system with some meat on its bones. D&D is just too much, and despite all of its choices and feats and prestige classes and spells and everything else, it still feels somehow too limited. It's weird.

As you say, Mr Roomes, I too prefer a detailed world (although that is independent of the system, because you can adapt the abstract things of any world into any gaming system). If there is a system where weapons have pros and cons when facing each other, and spells too, that would be great. It would require so much tactical thinking. I love that. I - and my players, I think - wouldn't care if a battle system is on the complex site, as long as it doesn't restrict you too much, like D&D does. In D&D, you can't really be a pure Fighter and still be important in later levels, and your build tends to be very feat-intensive so you're even more limited in your actions.

Of course, I love finding magic items with a story to them, and using them. Not 'this is a +1 flaming sword,' but an actual item with a thought-out history. It makes it all that more fun. I don't really like high-magic campaigns. It cheapens the wonders of magic a little. Sometimes that can be a lot of fun, but if you're flushing your toilet with a magic spell (to pull it into an extreme level of exaggeration)... And I don't want magic items to become more important than the characters. Any schmuck can pick up a magic sword and fight with it. I want the characters to have a personality, and not just act but also fight in a way that suits their characters. That is what I miss in D&D.

I have not heard of Pathfinder, but I will look it up. Thank you very much for the suggestion, Mr Roomes!

I have found alternative D&D 3.5 rules called Iron Heroes. Magic is limited there and all the classes are fighting-based: archer, heavy-armoured melee combatant, assassin, barbarian... I think my players would like that a little more if it is truly a much more open combat system than regular 3.5.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2011, 10:25:21 AM by Melchior »
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Offline Melchior

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2011, 12:16:59 PM »
I'm looking at two wholly different systems right now: Iron Heroes and Ars Magica.

Iron Heroes is compatible with D&D 3.5, but is more focused on low-magic and high-combat campaigns. Magic is incredibly dangerous, and using magic always has drawbacks -- using magic items like weapons and armour included. The classes are, of course, all fighting classes: the Archer, the armour-clad Armiger, the focused Weapon Master, the quickly and deadly Executioner... The fun thing is that every class has its own 'token pool': during a fight, a character gathers tokens (for instance, the Armiger gets tokens mainly when he takes damage), and can then spend these tokens in the same fight on special moves. It's a very simple concept, but very broad at the same time. Skills can be easily used in combat, and Feats are much broader and easier to use as well. All in all, Iron Heroes seems like the perfect system for 'hack & slash' games.

The other system is Ars Magica, which basically deals with every player being a specialised wizard of sorts (although it is not only encouraged, but indeed necessary, to play non-mage characters and cannon fodder-type characters as secondary and tertiary characters in some sessions as well. This allows your main mage characters to research and study). The fun thing is that there are different houses of wizards, and that your group of wizards will need to have a homebase, a covenant, from where to work. This could be very entertaining and rewarding if you stay in the same place for years and see how the world around you evolves, partly based on your actions. And the high-magic content may mesh a lot better than the low-magic alternative of Iron Heroes. Even the houses can be easily changed (Houses in the Aukarian Republic, or guilds in the Coalition or the Alliance, anyone?).

I just thought I'd share that with everyone. Any thoughts of people who have used either system?
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Offline Kristian

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2011, 11:08:13 PM »
Thought I'd awaken from my slumber to pitch in a bit here. :) I agree with your friends that DnD is too complex compared to what you get out of it. What it does really well, I think, is the dungeon-crawling, and the tactical, tactical combat. But that's about it.

A few things I can recommend, that are much more "light" in terms of system and material, but still give you action and roleplaying and drama, are the following.

- Apocalypse World. This is a post-apocalyptic game, where you play tough, self-sufficient characters that are trying to survive. You have gang leaders, psykers, medics, town leaders and others as characters. Action and play is based around the choices the players make and the consequences of their actions. That might sound like what every game is about, but AW is really well done, and designed so that even failure gives you interesting outcomes.

http://apocalypse-world.com

Also, there's a great, fan-made DnD hack available for AW, called Dungeon World. There is both the basic version, availbe for free, but requiring knowledge of AW's rules before you can really use it, and a full version, which hasn't been published yet.

http://www.dungeon-world.com/

- Spirit of the Century. This is a pulp game, and the default setting has a sort of super-heroish WWII feel, but it's very, very easy to do something else with it, as none of the rules are stricktly tied to the setting. The core of the mechanics are centered around traits and maneuvers. Everything has traits (characters, NPC's, places) and for a character they can be things like 'Strong,' 'Expert marksman' or 'Trained by the cult of Yahhnu' or what ever. Basically, when they (and your skills) apply to what you're trying to do, you get more dice to roll. Places can have traits like 'dark,' 'slippery' or 'full of dangerous and fragile technology' and you can take advantage of these as well to gain more dice.  A lot of the maneuvering consists of trying to put traits on your opponents (like 'off-balance' or 'hurt' for example) and then setting things up for you or your allies to take advantage of these. I haven't tried playing fantasy with this game, but I guarantee you you can make this fit whatever you want without breaking a sweat.

http://www.evilhat.com/home/sotc/

In the rules-heavy end of games I can recommend there's Burning Wheel. This game is just awesome. The default setting is a sort of Tolkien-esque fantasy (with a lot of room to do what you want), and the character creation makes it so your characters have interesting back stories that actually tie into their abilities and stats. There's a thread about the game someowhere here on the forum. Basically, if you give this one a go, I recommend (strongly!) to go slow with the separate sub-systems of the rules. The book suggest not using the full combat or duel of wits mechanics for the first setting and that is good advice.

Basically, this game has all the tactical stuff you could ever wish for, plus a set of rules and character elements that give you a game tzotally focused on what drives the characters, and what they believe in. Also, XP in this game is totally based on roleplaying your character according to (or against) their beliefs, while things like skills grow and get better with use automatically.

http://www.burningwheel.com/

That's about it. There?s tons more, especially in the weirder, hippier end of the spectrum, but these three are the ones that seem most fitting to what you're looking for. Personally, I'd go for Apocalypse World. Though it might take a bit of getting used to - especially if, like me, you're used to more DnD-inspired games and mechanics.

EDIT: With Iron Heroes, Arcana Unearthed and Pathfinder, you'll more or less end up with the same stuff and the same amount of rules as in DnD 3.5. The first two are more or less just alternative versions of the game (although Iron Heroes does have some pretty cool combat), and Pathfinder was made to keep the D20 system alive after Wizards launched DnD 4th. It started out as close to 3.5 as it could come without breaking copyrights, but has since become more its own thing. But it's still pretty close, as far as I can tell.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 11:23:22 PM by Kristian »
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Offline tanis

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2011, 05:33:56 PM »
I'm not particularly familiar with systems, but from what other people on here have mentioned, and some slight research on my part, Burning Wheel is one of the 'cooler' and more fun mechanics I've seen, and I'm pretty sure Kristian was the one to introduce us to it here, so I'd definitely check out those he's just mentioned. Also, HEY KRISTIAN, long time no see! :D Hvordan har du det?
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2011, 11:30:47 PM »
I'll second that. Glad to see you all back here! :)
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Offline Kristian

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2011, 01:40:22 AM »
Hey :D And sorry to reply and then stay away again for two weeks.

I'm in the process of moving back to Copenhagen from Luxembourg after having worked here for two years, and the amount of planning and paper work required to change countries, appartments, job, insurance, phone companies, and so forth, in one go, is just occupying most of my brain power at the moment. I'm just glad it's within the EU, because that at least keeps the administration to a minimum.
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Offline tanis

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2011, 06:48:18 PM »
Yeah. Definitely. Btw, just as long as I can shoehorn this in, XD I'm teaching myself Norwegian and Danish, and I plan on attending K?benhavns Universitet in a few years for doctoral work on philosophy and linguistics. Maybe I'll even see you in like five years, Kristian. XD
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Offline David Roomes

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Re: Simple/Fun RPG Systems
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2011, 11:32:58 PM »
Best of luck to both of you with all of the big life changes!  :)
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