Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gestalt RPGs

The HackMaster GameMaster's Guide, Rolemaster Arms Law, and two Castles & Crusades books--what do all these have in common? I'll be using all of them in some capacity in my next campaign.

When I next sit down to a full RPG campaign, my system of choice will be Castles & Crusades. But that doesn't mean I can't and won't enjoy the tables and magic items of HackMaster, or the critical hit tables of Rolemaster (actually, Arms Law was designed to be usable with various RPG systems). What follows is Gestalt Gaming: taking aspects of various games, and merging them into a single RPG experience.

While some folks already do this, it seems to me this used to be more common; I remember Basic D&D being used with the cool stuff out of the AD&D DM's Guide with regular frequency in those first forays into gaming. We ran Palladium Fantasy in Greyhawk, and incorporated Traveller elements into d6. Perhaps its more of the whole "kitbashing", freewheeling style of play--I have no doubt it was messy, but I also remember it being a whole lot of fun.

Somewhere, along the way, I think folks (including myself) got less comfortable doing this. Dom't ask me to mark where or when the break occured, but it seems a lot less prevalent nowadays, almost as if there's a reluctance in some quarters to engage in anything so "messy".

In any case, here's a few example of Gestalt Gaming I've seen or participated in:

System + Setting:
-Savage Worlds + Rifts
-True 20 + Forgotten Realms 3e

System + System:
-Basic D&D + Advanced D&D
(perhaps one of the most common cocktails)
-HARP + Rolemaster

System + System + Setting:
-Basic D&D + Arduin + Arduin
(Not a typo)
-Palladium Fantasy + the Arduin Grimoire + Mystara
(Not as horrible as you'd think)

Some of these sound like monstrosities, and likely some are. But the fact remains that some folks seem to craft unnecessary barriers to enjoy the best parts of multiple systems. I'm not suggesting everything works well together, but that there's more of a chance that it will than some people think.

In the end, gestalt gaming can almost be like throwing combinations together in your kitchen--you might get some weird tastes, but you might also find a great dish most people wouldn't have thought of.

So, what are your thoughts/experiences on gestalt gaming aka a "RPG cocktail"?


DNAphil said...

I have over the years attempted to merge any game system to the Shadowrun setting. My current favorite idea is:

True 20 + Shadowrun

bonemaster said...

I think the system + setting category is most common. People will love the setting but think the system is horrible. This is really common I think with systems that claim to be generic. Things like GURP, Hero System, and from what I'm told True20 (DNAPhil or Zachary , you are going to have to enlighten me on that).

I'm guessing your DnD + Arduin + Arduin, is combination of the early editions of Arduin with "New" edition of Arduin. I don't think anyone who gamed DnD in the 80s didn't borrow something from the Arduin. I think it still has the most complex list monetary types I've every seen.

In general, I think people got less comfortable with doing this mostly doing to the time and effort involved. It is one of the reasons, I started using Paizo's Pathfinder Adventure Paths, is that I just don't have the time to come up with adventures all the time. (Not to mention, that I also find them well written and I like having a start and stop point for the characters.)

DNAphil said...

True 20 is very generic and flexible. Its d20 based, but much more like Mutants and Masterminds or Blue Rose. There have been a number of supplements for the game, and I believe there is a 3rd party Cyberpunk setting for the game. Add that to the fact that Green Ronin has made a fantasy supplement for the game, and you have all the mechanics you could want for a Shadowrun game, minus the killer dice pools.

Zachary The First said...

Phil's got it. True 20 originally appeared in Blue Rose, but later was released independently with some tweaks, I believe.

Rich said...

I told my GM we should play Traveller with the d6 system, and he looked at me like I was a madman. :)

Badelaire said...

Ah, Arms Law. Great stuff. "Hot winds dance around foe" was our favorite heat-based critical, and I was once taken out with a "Blow turns hip to dust. Target drops immediately and dies in five rounds" when my Knight was killed in a simple roadside ambush.

Fellow Blogger Darkwing's Rolemaster campaigns were a lot of fun, and he was one of the few GMs I could see pulling off RM, but it was the crit tables that always kept us entertained. Merging them with C&C (my current system of choice) sounds like an awesome time. Hope it goes great!

Zachary The First said...

As a bit of history, before this upcoming campaign, we ran a heavily-houseruled RM campaign, where we gutted much of the rules--but we love Arms Law for Crits. Should be a lot of fun!

Tacoma said...

Shadowrun system + Dark Sun / Gamma World setting. It's a western! Sort of.