Things I Like in RPG's

edited May 2008 in Story Games
Inspiring Character Sheets

As a GM, I like to look at the sheets and know where the campaign is headed and what excites the players and as a player, if I get flustered or stalled, I can look there for my original ideas about the character and think about where I want to drive with it.


Beliefs, Instincts and Traits (and sometimes skills) in Burning Wheel
Aspects in SotC
Descriptors and Humanity rating in Sorcerer
Issues in PTA
Um, everything on the sheet in Dogs in the Vineyard
The whole Polaris sheet might be the best example

Evolution Chargen

I like chargen that can change the way I think about the character and alter the concept through the process of making it up.


Lifepaths in Burning Wheel
Novel-sharing in SotC
That first conflict of Dogs

Fiddly Bits

I love tinkering with the numbers stuff, bonus points if the fiddly bits and the fluff line right up.


Stunts in SotC
Skills in BW
Secrets in TSoY
Feats in 3.X


Ain't it nice when you can pick up and play.


Dogs, have town, will play...
BW's The Sword scenario
PTA...pitch and GO.
I'm sure that I am forgetting others...

I'll think of some more...

And you?

It would be great if discussion of anything from this thread would branch off into its own thread, keeping this thread firmly what people like and examples of it in this format. Links to outbranching discussions welcome.


  • edited May 2008
    Kewl P0werz
    Stuff that makes the munchkin in me drool and think "Damn, I want a character that can THAT!"
    Schools of Magick in UA
    Charms, etc. in Exalted

    Interesting Mechanics
    Rules systems that make me think, "Whoa... I didn't know you could do THAT in a game!"
    Polaris's system of key phrases
    Panty Explosion and Classroom Deathmatch's system of having one player describe a character's sucesses and another player describe the character's failures
    And many others, which for some reason I can't think of right now. I blame hunger. I'm going to go get some lunch.
  • Hmmm, yeah I love the ideas above and think that they need some thread love. I'll probably open the "Inspiring Character Sheets" one.

    I'm trying to think of categories that are made up of more than one single game. But for the life of me, I can not at this time, so what I'm left with is like "Micro-Categories", where I simply talk about "Ideas that I Like" (or "Interesting Mechanics", to pick up fnord's element above). And I'm kinda adverse to doing it, but in the end I'd like to see more games that do so:

    Ohhh, first, I just thought of one:

    Assemble a Complex, Customizable Character in effectively under a minute
    This is currently the purview of many Japanese RPGs: Choose a few "classes", and literally right there you're done: All your stats, skills, items, powers, weapons, special powers, etc are now defined and locked in, all you have to do is copy that info to your sheet to start. Makes character generation about as simple and effortless as deciding what you'd like to drink.

    Alshard/Alshard ff/Alshard Gaia
    Sword World 2.0
    (all Japanese games, sorry)
    CAPES (apparently has this too)

    Others of worthy mention (could otherwise be dropped under "Interesting Mechanics"

    Players are expressly requested, almost required, to pick up and play "NPCs" as well
    I love to create a character as GM, then hand it off to another player to see how they "play this instrument".

    With Great Power
    The Shab al-Hiri Roach (depending on how you squint; but it's a GMless game, so *somebody*'s gonna play them)

    The player determines their own target number/difficulty for rolls. All the time, any time. They set their own difficulty.

    Jeff Schecter games like Exemplar and Legends of Middle Earth (target number set, they decide how many dice to roll)

    MalcolmFortune in the Middle
    I like it because of the fact that it's kind of like rolling on a random event table that you create on the fly, or using the dice like oracular knuckle-bones to tell the story of what happens next.

    Psi-Run (apparently)

    Games that feature true action-packed ass-kicking without tons of fiddling and quick, sharp payoff
    Because I don't like having to trick out my character to differentiate the "skills" of "knife hand strike" vs "elbow attack" (GURPS MA), and like actiony combat with a fast feel, like that of an action movie (if not THE greatest action movie of all time, Blade II).

    Feng Shui
    Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium

    Generic games that nonetheless have flavor, and run fast
    I'm thinking "less than 5 minutes for character generation; and while generic, the system sports bits that give it a flavor unlike other generics

    Savage Worlds (and SW-variant supplemental games)

    Games with a background so rich and interesting, you might be tempted not to run it in order to Not Fuck It Up
    You could buy and read the books, never play, and still have a good experience. More setting than rule.
    Blue Planet
  • Judd, you hit all my loves.

    I'd add to Inspiring Character Sheets:

    Everything on your HeroQuest character sheet.

    Unified Mechanics
    I love it when systems have a unified mechanic for resolution.
    Spirit of the Century - Although only limited to social and physical conflicts, that's broad enough, especially for pulp, and the principles are the same.
    HeroQuest - the contest can be about anything, from combat to cookoffs and the resolution and "damage" system functions the same.
    Dogs in the Vineyard - Ditto, but it gets bonus points in that it gives a enticement and consequences for changing the scope of the conflict.
    True20 and Mutants and Masterminds - Although it's not in the book so this is something of a cheat on my part, the clear cut combat resolution and the unified way in that a d20 solves everything makes these systems easy to adapt to either the SotC or HeroQuest method of having a unified system to resolve multiple types of conflicts.
  • edited May 2008
    Games That Focus On A Single Subject And Do It Well

    My Life with Master - Functional vs. Dysfunctional Love
    Dogs in the Vineyard - Community & Faith vs. Individual Needs
    It Was A Mutual Decision - Break Ups
    Spione - Spy vs. Guy
    Shooting The Moon - Romantic Rivalries
    Dirty Secrets - The Skeletons In Our Closets
    One Can Have Her - Escaping The Past in Pursuit of the Future
    The Shab-al-Hiri Roach - Academic Satire
    Grey Ranks - Love & War

    Games About Ordinary People In Ordinary Struggles
    Spione - Just Spies, not even Spy Handlers or Spy Masters. Office clerks with a grudge.
    Grey Ranks - Members of a real world organization, engaged in a real world historical context.
    One Can Have Her - Expressionistic Noir Male Archetypes, but still just people with real world problems.
    Dirty Secrets - Ordinary people, with ordinary secrets.

    Games That Have Give-n-Take Struggles In Their Mechanics
    Sorcerer - Once you've mastered Complex Conflict it's hard to use anything else.
    Dogs in the Vineyard - The Raise/See/Raise flow.
    Spione - The Flashpoint card mechanic is deceptively effective and versatile.

    Games That Hurt To Play
    My Life with Master - So much pity, so much anger.
    Sorcerer - The "intense" claim on the book is no lie.
    It Was A Mutual Decision - How much you learn about yourself when you play this escapes words.
    Dogs in the Vineyard - You either find or lose hope in humanity over time.
    Dirty Secrets - So much crime, so little justice.
  • Besides what Juddski says, I also like the visual/tactile combo of dice, tokens, points and changing numbers on the sheet. I like getting stuff during play, not waiting until the end. I like when I can write new stuff on the sheet, or grab an extra die, etc.
  • To add to what Matt said:

    Handing someone a gift die in TSOY or helping die in Burning Wheel.
    Sliding a stack of coins across the table in Universalis.
    Flipping cards one at a time in PTA.
    Moving another hero's position marker in Agon.
    Holding out the Fate token of compel temptation in SotC.
    Drawing a big fat hand of cards in Nine Worlds.
  • Helping players engineer interesting, situation-rich characters -- talking through BITs in BW, Aspects in SotC, Devils in DD, etc.

    Having players eagerly engage the system. Rare, unfortunately. Pretty much ALL my players would rather not engage the system at all, regardless of the game.

    Presenting players with tough choices: Offering the compel chip(s) in SotC, putting two Beliefs in conflict in BW, etc.

    Collaborating on setting and premise before a game starts. Formally (BE, SotC) and informally (let's sketch out our relationship map for Dust Devils!)

    Having players respond to pacing. A well-written Lacuna mission has so far been my most rewarding: They know cool shit's just past the next Static, but they're also running out of rolls -- what to do?

    Watching big, dramatic shifts in the game fiction take place. Especially if I (the GM) had no hand in it.

  • Posted By: JesseGames That Hurt To Play
    amen to that
  • Games where the number of dice you have is a metaphor for how powerful you are
    In my eyes, something that I love about heroic games is how sometimes you're rolling 2-4 dice, and sometimes you're rolling a handfull to do something Awesome.

    All WoD games
    Exalted (albeit this game is laced with problems in relation to dice pools)
    Sorcerer (in the "non coin-flipping" rolls where you are competing with your own score)
    Star Wars d6/d6 system
  • Games that make it mechanically easy and useful for players/characters to work together to accomplish something

    Anima Prime - Sharing action dice, Group maneuvers and achievements
    Burning Wheel - Helping dice
    The Magical Land of Yeld - Action chains
  • Situation Building Tools that are hardwired into the game like and part of the first session or segment of the session:

    Blossoms Are Falling - the Clan Burner that ties your Beliefs and Instincts right to the situation
    In A Wicked Age... - Oracles, I love watching the story take form from the elements.
    Dogs In The Vineyard - the Town Creation Rules
    Mortal Coil - the Magic Document
    Don't Rest Your Head - The 5 Question Character Creation
  • Games about helping people
    Yuuyake Koyake is one of my favorite Japanese RPGs so far, partly because the game is based around helping out ordinary people. This both lets you tell nonviolent heartwarming stories, and gives the game a baseline for what a typical story is going to be about.

    Games that use novel randomizers in interesting ways
    I want to see more games finding interesting ways to use cards (The Shab-al-Hiri Roach is probably the best example I can think of). DitV's dice mechanics are likewise really neat.

    Games that use randomness to make things more interesting
    Maid RPG is IMO the pinnacle of this approach, but it's also part of Toon's brilliance.

    Games that draw on anime/manga for inspiration without being self-conscious about it
    Bliss Stage
    Panty Explosion
    Not BESM, OVA, or RandomAnime (which is not to say that those are bad games)

    Games that you can play with minimal preparation
    Maid RPG, The Shab-al-Hiri Roach, etc.
  • Games in which Power Comes With A Price
    must be a COOL price! i.e. NOT "magic" points. That's just boring.
    my favorite/easiest example is again, UA and all (or at least most) of its schools of magick. "You can make someone's spleen explode, but first you have to burn your face with this iron!" "It can turn out that you actually DID just happen to pack your trunk with all the necessary chemicals to assemble a makeshift bomb powerful enough to blow open this safe, but first you need to play a quick game of Russian roulette!"
    DRYH is also a great example of this kind of thing, taking on more Madness and Exhaustion to be more powerful.
    The Roach kind of fits, as the Roach itself is both power AND a price.
    Really, any game where you can (or MUST) hurt yourself to be more awesome is pretty sweet.
  • Games With Cool Color
    Over the Edge

    (not an exhaustive list by any means, just the first three that come to mind)
  • edited May 2008
    Self-Destructive Behavior at a level where the character, as well as the player, is conscious of it.

    The magic in Unknown Armies does this very well.
    Reading books and using spells in Call of Cthulhu is good, too.
    Otherwise, not enough of this in games, IMO.

    edit: oh, Burning Wheel does this well in Under a Serpent Sun.
  • Games that can draw you in emotionally when you're not looking

    Breaking the Ice
    My Life with Master

    Really smart and simple mechanics that fit the game like a glove

    Best Friends
    My Life with Master
    Dogs in the Vineyard

    "Coffee table book" games that are nice to look at and entertaining to read, but that maybe don't work all that well in play

    Most of White Wolf's stuff.
    SLA Industries
    Shadowrun 4th Ed

    Games that Acknowledge "metagaming" and allow for, and even encourage it.

    The Shadow of Yesterday (Depending on how you use keys)
    Sorcerer (Sex and Sorcery specifically)
  • I like games with "clear the decks" moments. I'm thinking of The Shadow of Yesterday, where "fuck that! I'm bringing down the pain!" is met with a rush of excitement as the focus of the game suddenly zeroes in and everyone gets ready for the character-changing fireworks.
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