What "problem" does your go-to system solve and how does it do this?

Speaking with regard to problems you encountered in the universal common ancestor of modern RPGs.


  • This is well-trod ground for me since I'm a broken record about this but…

    Going from Fate to D&D solved:
    • Being able to interact with environment without spending a resource
    • Smoother econ overall
    • Prep-culture created more agency
  • Fate Accelerated Edition supports fast character generation and starting scenes when used with tools like It's Not My Fault! and It's Not My Future. It's my groups one-shot go-to machine.
  • edited July 2018
    I started roleplaying in the 80ies. My first extensively played system was a german fantasy roleplaying game, that was very crunchy and tried to simulate as much as possible. Over the years I became bored more and more, and some day I realised, that there are more important roleplaying goals than simulation for me. I always was a fan of minimalism in nearly every respect - eventually I detected, that this applies to roleplaying games, too. Maybe five years ago I had a very disclosing session with "Itras By": I suddenly realised, that I don´t need many rules to take part in a good story and a group of characters. Rather, the absence of crunchy rules gives me freedom to empathize with my character(s).

    Today I especially love minimalistic games with few rules. The reason seems to be, that I´m simple minded. I can concentrate only on one thing at once. And when I´m roleplaying I don´t want to think about rules too much. Heavy rules make me consulting the rulebook, thinking about modifiers, trying to avoid rules mistakes... after more than 30 years I´m not interested in these things any more. They turn me out of the game.

    At best, rules don´t want something from me, they inspire me. I love the way, some story games place emphasis on their themes by using simple, elementary rules with consequences. I´m not able to name a "go-to system", but games I love at the moment are "Society of Dreamers", "Polaris", "Archipelago", "The clay that woke" and "Okult" (amongst others).

    Problems solved (or at least reduced): thinking about rules instead of characters, streamlining the actions of characters in terms of the rules, levelling up the characters, calculate, consulting manuals, stay ingame.
  • edited July 2018
    Apocalypse World help structure low preparation games by the way threats and MC moves work. I started freeform GMing at 10 years old and would throw situations and complications at the players but it was not influenced by the established fiction.

    The most basic problem is solves is "what happens when a player rolls poorly". The answer is the MC gets to speak.
  • Hmm, not quite sure how to answer this if I'm still actively playing OD&D...

    But I do currently play other games also:

    RuneQuest - I wouldn't say this solves problems OD&D doesn't have. It's different, and I enjoy it and have had some great games with it in the past.

    Classic Traveller - I guess if OD&D's support (or non-support) of SF themes can be considered a problem, then Traveller solves that...

    Now I have gone through periods of time where I swore off D&D because of it's "problems". I used to claim that my college friend's Cold Iron system was one of the few I could run with almost no changes (RuneQuest also has always had this distinction for me), but now that's not such a claim (I'm enjoying running OD&D with as few changes as possible.

  • I still play & run D&D as well, but my main group's go-to system is PbtA. After some reflection, I think the main problem it solved for me (initially) was how to make bad things happen to the PCs in a way that felt fair, non-arbitrary, and within some kind of rules framework, as well as in many cases avoiding un-fun PC deaths (as opposed to fun ones).


    Basic D&D: "The hobgoblin rushes towards you and [rolls dice] stabs you for 8 points of damage. You die."

    Dungeon World: "The hobgoblin rushes towards you with its spear. What do you do?"

    Soft moves before hard moves.

    OTOH, I love the way that great D&D stories emerge from the interaction of rules and fiction, in a way that is hard to replicate in other game systems. Something "clicks" in my brain when a player casts just the right spell to solve a fictional problem. It feels *legitimate* in a way that I feel can get lost in the improviness of story games. Cf. 2097's mirror story.
  • That's it for me as well kurisu. D&D seems so arbitrary with and so little to guide you on how to play.
  • edited July 2018
    That spell is a perfect example of "mirror story", kurisu. My journey was the other way around, I came from a story game background (like way back, Everway, Over the Edge, SLUG, the ascii version of Sorcerer) and then only a few years ago found D&D and… uh… holy shit
  • My experience is similar to Kurisu.

    Have been playing D&D since the early 90's and pretty much thought that the traditional methodology RPGs was the only way one can make a game function smoothly. Then I got introduced to games like Danger Patrol, Old School Hack, Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, and eventually World of Dungeons and it opened my eyes to other ways of running a game.

    I quickly left behind the "simulate all the things!" mindset and realized that lighter was better for me. I didn't need to concern myself with all the nitty-gritty details; I had much more fun focusing on narrating cool stuff without having to reference the rules so much or parse events through heavily mechanized procedures.

    Ultimately, what allowed me to make this transition was trust gained from being older and more mature. In short, my players trust that I'm not out to get them now, which means we don't have to rely on heavy amounts of mechanics to facilitate trusting play. In my experience, heavily mechanized "realistic" game systems are a result of mistrust between GM's and players, where everything dangerous must be filtered through a series of procedures designed to remove the decision-making process from humans at the table.

    I now use a modified version of the PbtA "three-tiered results" system, along with the asymmetrical GM/player rules framework (moves) of PbtA, to run almost all of my games. Having to stop a smoothly narrated scene to break into "How many squares can I move?" kills the mood for me.

    The flip side of this is: I love the traditional mode of play, with a strong GM authority and players with detailed character sheets who roll dice when they want to do stuff. Dice are important in my games; but I don't necessarily have to be the one rolling them. PbtA keeps all of the stuff I love about traditional games while removing the minutia that we don't need anymore.

    All that being said, when a traditional RPG happens to produce a good story on accident, that's something cool and fun, simply because it happened by chance and not because we tried to make it happen that way. I definitely have stories of games that turned out that way, but they're the exception, not the rule. I just don't have time to wait for the exceptional experiences any more; I want to have a bit more of a hand in making things awesome.
  • I love the fact that the decision process is filtered through procedures. That's what makes them dangerous. When I was doing impro there was no real "risk".

    That's not tied to any particular degree of detail or spatial grammar like specific movement rates. I find that we do more and more details lately, I don't know why. I've had the reverse journey, going from extreme handwaving to like, playing out gathering acorns and stuff.

    But the "mirror story" was a rules-light interaction in a rules-light campaign. Idk
  • Cool! Glad it works well for you :smile:

    I think these things are tough to talk about without bringing our own experiences and opinions up as if they are universal. I can't explain why I love PbtA without sounding like I'm giving trad games a hard time.
  • Two inter-related D&D things that I have a problem with, that are "fixed" in other games:

    1) unintuitive character generation that penalizes people who make choices based on what sounds cool and don't know the mechanics. It is terribly easy in D&D and many old school games to make a character who sounds like they'll be really cool, but in practice will get totally overshadowed by the other guy who's a power gamer. This problem existed in AD&D and it still exists now, judging by my son's high school D&D experience of his monk spending the whole campaign following the war-forged around.

    2) GM challenges designing encounters -- this is related to, and feeds into, #1, because the GM needs to challenge the most effective character, which means that the less optimized character is even more screwed by having to fight tough monsters. And if things go in an unexpected direction and you have to run an unexpected encounter, you need to come up with stats for it in a hurry.

    Both of these issues are greatly minimized in games like Apocalypse World, but also Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, where the character creation options do what they say on the tin and antagonists get minimal or no stats.
  • DannyK - to some extent those issues are "fixed" by OD&D (or should I say "unbroken" or "not yet broken"...). Especially if you primarily stick to the original 3 LBB. Attributes aren't THAT important, mainly giving an experience bonus (which is easy to explain). Also, by not having all the unusual character classes, really every character type has a way to shine. And as far as encounters, the GM isn't responsible for scaling the encounters (except for a rough scaling by dungeon level). The players are responsible for choosing how to engage the encounter. And without unusual character type choices, the power levels of the characters are likely to be less divergent, so no one is going to really wimp out. Since I don't use Greyhawk weapon damage, weapon choice even isn't that important...

    So actually, one of my reasons for returning to OD&D 3 LBB was to "unbreak" things...

  • edited July 2018
    I think you're just trading one kind of "brokenness" for another there. OD&D just shifts "system mastery" to "OSR procedure mastery" as the "right way to play" and still does nothing for anyone who wants to make decisions based on what sounds cool or fun.

    I guess I would say that my "go-to" system, since it's the one I spend the most time thinking about if not playing, is Tenra Bansho Zero, and it solves the problem of having a "right way to play" that is some form of mastery by rewarding people who do things that seem cool or fun. So the "right way to play" becomes the one that seems the most awesome.
  • Yeah you need to keep a lot of things in mind to keep fighters valuable in 3LBB, like magic weapon exclusivity, titles&followers etc
    And the demis are level capped
  • To me, one of the most important functions of a well-designed game is facilitating the "what are we doing, and how?" process. Enough structure and creative constraint to allow people to step into the flow and enjoy their creative impulses, rather than being limited or paralyzed by a blank canvas.

    The game's structure tells you what to do, and in what order, and you can just play.

    I really enjoyed how In a Wicked Age..., for example, was a game you could play just by sitting down - everyone knew what the next step was, and you could just go through them and have a satisfying outcome.

    I really enjoy making such procedures for games which are borderline, as well. For instance:

    My "playset", which I use when I play Monsterhearts:


    My "NPC starter" tool for Apocalypse World (for some groups, it can be handy to just "zoom through" the setup phase of the game and straight into play:


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