What lessons have you learned from other RPG settings?



I’ve been knocking around the gaming world for years (honestly decades–man I’m old). Every system teaches a lesson (if some are nothing more than AHHH DON’T DO THAT!)

Recently I’ve been trying some games that are from different schools from mine–GURPS, RIFTS, Pathfinder, Numenera, FATE, Mouse Guard, most recently Fantasy AGE. Many have been an assault on my DM sensibilities in one way or another. A lot of them I’ve kitbashed to get them to work in ways that bugged me less. But it’s always been interesting.

I’d be interested to hear your takeaways from different systems you’ve encountered. That’s what this post is about mainly.

But here’s my takeaways:

FATE: I’ve never seen a game with such noble, beautiful intentions go so fully, wrap the front end of your car around a tree, wrong as this game. The idea that the priority should stop being numbers and rather that the power should come from prose descriptions of your character–that they are what you describe them as. That right there is gold. The plus and minus dice, where each die can add to your effort, hinder your effort or do nothing is an enticing idea. Lots of good ideas. I just wish the whole game didn’t feel like playing Guitar Hero as a RPG resolution mechanic. So many little minigames when all you desparately want to do is push them aside and just play the game!

GURPS: The customization options are like a shopping spree, but the core mechanics are so bad that as much fun as it is to detail out a completely custom character, actually playing the game is frustratingly stuffy and mathy. It doesn’t need a lot of changes to make it really fun, but those changes would need more playtesting than I’ve had a chance to do.

Mouse Guard: I love the idea of a battle as a whole having a pool of hit points rather than each individual badguy, so when you deplete the enemy’s resources in a fight that can look like whatever makes sense–putting out a fire, rallying townsfolk to defend the city, killing five badguys in a single swordstroke. The entire battle has a disposition of 12 and you have a disposition of 7 (or whatever the totals end up being, every conflict gives each side hp equal to a roll plus a stat and whatever advantages they start with) – so what does bringing a fight 4 closer to over look like to you? Or raising your own disposition by 3? It’s a great system once you get a handle on it. Plus character creation is delightful.

I figure that’s enough from me for now. I’m interested to hear from you guys.


RISUS:“The Anything RPG”: Always add “Hairdresser” as a character cliche’, even when you’re a badass barbarian, and ALWAYS attempt to use it as an inappropriate cliche’. You don’t have to die if the GM says you don’t. Systems and rules don’t really matter as much as you think, so long as you add pie :pie: eating contests to all your sessions never taking role-playing games too seriously. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

TWERPS: You can do anything with one stat and just a d10! :wink:


Fate Accelerated: “The Mook” I can go farther with a handful of pithy, flavorful descriptions and a couple “Good At/Bad At” Stats than an entire Monster Manual full of wall of text details. Also, I can treat EVERYTHING—rooms, traps, entire Journeys—as a Mook and get by just fine. I need far less prepping of mechanics to feel comfortably “ready” to GM than I ever thought I would.

The rest are alas all “Read, not played” but they still left me with some good stuff in my toolbox…

Dungeon World and Monster of the Week and a slew of other PBTA games: I have never gotten to play these, but read GM sections more than a couple times. Learned a ton about open ended game play “to find out” and how it’s so much better than my railroady old school roots. But even more than all the great GM philosophy in those is the concept of Fronts and clocks. Fronts I actually leave even more open ended than they recommend, but the concept together with advancing clocks has really served me well.

Maze Rats: Unpredictable Magic Spells is a BOSS mechanic. I’ve been stealth using a custom mod of it for enemy spell casters etc. all along. Next time I do Fantasy, it’ll be with PC spellcasters having to deal with such Wild Magic in a more formalized and ICRPG flavored style!

All Kevin Crawford’s games: dude’s tables are amazing… sometimes to the point of too much of a good thing. What I’ve learned from his style of game is the value of broadening my palate as a GM/Storyteller. The sheer range of options on his tables shines a light on ways I still need to do a certain amount of prep to keep things fresh… to pull new situations, character types, plot turns, etc. into my repertoire on purpose, with prep because otherwise in the heat of the moment I end up falling into repeating versions of the same GM “tics.”