Monday, January 5, 2009

Compromise Systems

I've noticed here and there on various message boards the idea of "compromise systems". You often see this in the vein of "Well, the group wanted to try Rolemaster, I wanted to try Savage Worlds, and we settled on d6" (ok, maybe not that particular group of games, but you get the idea).

I've had this in gaming groups, too. We talk about a number of different systems, but then end up playing something familiar. For a lot of groups, this means some version of Dungeons & Dragons, since it is the lingua franca of the hobby. This isn't necessarily a bad thing--at worst, it does possibly deny folks the opportunity to play a new system they might like, but if there's a middle ground everyone is comfortable with , that's not a bad option. Plus, time constraints and good old-fashined bullheadedness might make learning a new system a chore, if not an outright pain.

If you've got the time, of course, a demo or one-shot might be the best way to see if the group is going to dig a system. Financial outlay (if a system doesn't have a "lite" or quick-start version) can be a consideration against this.

There's also setting compromises. George has a hankering for Eberron, Edgar digs Dragonlance. Maybe we play in a mishmash of the two--enough to offend any setting purist, but perhaps enough to give those two a fix of what they like about those settings. Then again, maybe we all play in Forgotten Realms as we have the last 3 campaigns.

I think the thing to remember is that if you've been running a game and the players talk about wanting something else--it isn't an insult--we all want to try something new. For many groups, a moderate approach of seeing if you can add some of what's wanted into your game without making radical changes may be the best way to avoid alienation. Then again, listening and responding appropriately to your group is always the best way to avoid alienation, but that's a given (or should be).

Do you or your group have a "compromise system"?


thanuir said...

We don't.

A question, if you don't mind. "If you've got the time, of course, a demo or one-shot might be the best way to see if the group is going to dig a system. Financial outlay (if a system doesn't have a "lite" or quick-start version) can be a consideration against this."
This implies that there is the assumption that everyone owns the game to be played. I have never in my gaming life been in this situation. Never. There's usually one, rarely two, people around the table who own the game being played.

So, is it a common practice thereabout for everyone to have the game book?

Zachary The First said...

Ah, no, I apologize for not being clearer. I was primarily referring to the the financial outlay from a GM buying a book rather than the whole group. I'm sure there are groups that do that, but unless it's a game we've previously played, first the GM gets, then everyone else down the road. Usually I'd say about 80% of our group gets the main book for a system--but that's for a campaign that's designed to be long-term...I wouldn't say it's common practice--there are some systems where that would be a pretty nasty $ hit!

Badelaire said...

For me, typically, I find it difficult to interest my players in new systems / worlds because most of them aren't really "gamers". They play RPGs because we're all friends and it's something to do to have fun - pretty much an alternative to watching movies or playing board games. Rule sets need to be simple and the game needs to be about 75% "fun" - no one wants deep, philosophical gaming. It's cool for me, but it does mean that a lot of stuff I'd want to try just isn't going to happen - no one reads the rules, no one really reads the handouts or remembers what I put out there.

Eventually the pendulum will swing back the other way and I'll get some more "serious" gamers in my group and we can try out some more interesting stuff. But for now, it's more a matter of "Compromise Gaming" rather than System.

greywulf said...

We consider 3rd Edition D&D as a baseline system now, and will play that if we can't decide what else to run. That's especially the case if we're short on players and/or game time for whatever reason. It's a set of rules we're comfortable with.

Prior to that our compromise system has been Rules Cyclopedia-era Classic D&D (that's seeing a resurgence in our group), Rolemaster, HERO, Mutants & Masterminds (still a favourite for gaming anything other than D&D style fantasy) and GURPS. Of those, only M&M still gets extensive play time.

clash bowley said...

My guys are fine with new systems. We play a bunch of different games, and they're used to a bit of variety. The only trouble I had was with Serenity - they really hated the system, though I thought it was OK, if not stellar. After one session they revolted and made me chancge the system - to Cold Space, as we could do that on the fly.