Uniformity versus Genre: A Question of Rules

Well met, everyone!

A discussion with a couple of friends of mine (Hi DM Jim and J. Spahn!) has got me to thinking about RPG rules, especially rules that cover a genre specific game like Victorious. There’s a long-running debate as to what is best practice in making a RPG that will be enjoyed by a majority of people.

First, there’s the “Uniformity” argument. This was highlighted during the D&D 3rd edition era of the 2000s, but hasn’t gone away. This argument states that a uniform set of rules like D20, GURPS, Savage Worlds, etc. are good because if you know one set of rules you can go to different games that use most of those rules and start playing with a minimum of a learning curve.

The other argument is that of Genre. Put simply this means that if you’re wanting to play a specific genre of game like pulp, steampunk, superheroes, horror, fantasy, etc; the rules should be made in a way that emphasizes the tropes of the genre. This is more of a “ground up” method of rules writing. Find rules that create the feel and effects of the genre, and don’t use rules that obscure the impact of the setting at hand.

Victorious is a RPG game that is based on a steampunk and superhero genre setting. It is also based on Troll Lord Game’s Siege Engine™ game system to run much of the RPG’s actions. There are rules that aren’t part of the original TLG system such as Victory Points, Supernatural Power purchase, and Shortcomings. However, 90% of the rules are part of the Siege Engine and thus a Castles & Crusades character can play in a Victorious game with little or no change needed to the character or his/her equipment/spells/etc. I’ll admit I don’t know if the reverse is true as I’ve never tried it, but I can’t see that it would be much different.

Yet there are rules in the Siege Engine that (IMO) don’t entirely fit the steampunk superhero mashup genre. In my home chronicle, I’ve been experimenting with changing the rules to make them more likely to emulate the genres, but how far does one go before one’s not playing the game as published? Of course, people are free to change the game as much as they like, but it is undeniable that one can reach a point to where the rules as written are being mostly ignored.

I’d like to know your thoughts on this, either here or on the FB group (where most talk happens on the game). Should genre be the prevailing goal? Is there more to be said for uniformity of play? Let us know!

Genteel Magistrate




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