View Full Version : Good "System-Builder"/Toolkit Systems?

2016-12-05, 02:26 AM
I'm looking for those RPG books that you might describe as toolkits, or systems for creating your own systems. Basically, something that provides structure and guidelines for you to weave your own design into. Sort of "rules for creating your own sub-RPG" if you will.

I've heard people directing this sort of thing to Rolemaster, and I've given it a cursory glance, so maybe I'm missing the bigger picture, but it seems remarkably rigid for a toolkit. It seems to go the "has a lot of stuff, then you can cut things out until it's the game you want" route, which is... Unappetizing. It doesn't really feel like I've taken any creative control, and it doesn't really make the process for adding my own ideas any more streamlined/supportive than homebrewing in any old system. If I'm wrong about it, please let me know how so.

I've also heard a lot of good things about Fudge for this sort of deal, but that's going far too rules-lite for me. I'm much more willing to wade through a crap ton of crunch on my end to produce a healthy medium-crunch experience for my players than I am to shunt off all effort and let my players try to sink their teeth into water.

GURPS seems extremely interesting, but falls somewhat into the Rolemaster issue from what I've seen online so far, especially in regards to things like, say, making magic work a certain way based on my world's rules. It looks like it's more about dumping gallons of density at you and letting you just cut until all the stuff that doesn't work is gone, rather than giving you a toolset with which to craft the parts you want. I'm not unwilling to take it for a test drive if you guys think it'd fit my needs, but it's just about the densest thing I could pick so I don't want to get into it unless I have some assurance.

My biggest thing is that I want a tweakable supernatural system to represent my settings' metaphysics. I'm not asking for miracles - if I expected to do just whatever the heck I wanted without restrictions, I'd make the system myself or kludge homebrew into another system rather than looking for a toolkit - but if there's no facilitation for me to exert my creative influence, because magic always has these predefined spells in these unchangeable schools which you can only access at this level or in this order, or spirits, creatures, and supernatural phenomena can only have these traits and features with no variation, then I may as well just play a game with its own setting rather than bothering with some flat junk just pretending to be customizable.

Are there any other books I should consider looking into? Or do you have anything to say about why I should or shouldn't give the listed games a(nother) chance?

2016-12-05, 06:34 AM
I have extensive experience with GURPS and yes you can adapt a lot to it. There are a lot of rules for magic in GURPS that allows you to pick and choose.

You are right that GURPS is extremely crunchy but it almost all tasks boil down to a simple roll, 3d6 against a target number for skills or stats +/- modifiers

I have adapted the Ars Magica magic rules to the system a friend of mine adapted winds of magic from Warhammer to the system. Witcher sign magic system was easy to adapt as well. Of course it may seem easy to me as I've been playing GURPS for almost 25 years and know the system inside out. So for a GM it may have a steep lurning curve but the amount of content you can draw from is bar none.

Multiple magic systems
You can decide upon cinematic or realistic combat rules...or even wuxia fighting.
Custimizable advantages and powers.
Character points dictate the starting power level and the GM controls the flow of XP so advancement pace is set by the GM
Robust Skill system
Lots of optional rules that you can decide if you want to use or not.
The rules are always compatible with each other so even though you mix genres it only has ONE SET TO RULE THEM ALL....ehm...just got carried away.

Steep learning curve, more so for a GM that wants to keep the game flowing without digging up obscure rules.
A lot of content spread over lot of books...and the pyramid ezine.
Attracts engineers, IT crowd, physisicst and mathematicians....for better or worse. At least worse when they try to stat everything and argue about crunch.

Martin Greywolf
2016-12-05, 06:35 AM
FATE. If you know how to game design a little, it can do just about anything, though it's basic structure is geared towards creating a movie/book-like pacing, it doesn't even pretend to be simulationist the way GURPS tries to be.

At its core, FATE is 4 types of rolls, skills, perks (called stunts) and a system for determining what weapons are more dangerous than others (think pistol vs machinegun). FATE points gained mostly via good RP (and some at start of adventure) power your abilities, and you have two types of damage tracks, stress (refreshes in every fight) and consequences (needs to be healed, usually takes quite a bit of time to do it).

I used it to beat a playable ruleset out of Naruto, and was pleased to discover that with a bit of thought, everything from sharingans to fireballs fell nicely into place.

That said, for your custom magic system, prepare to do a fair bit of work - FATE has no magic system built into its core set (it does have some examples of how to go about it, but they're a bit lackluster), so you'll have to write down everything.

2016-12-05, 09:34 AM
I'd say to look at Apocalypse World and/or Dungeon World (the big two PbtA games) since they are easymode to hack. (There's about a million hacks for them out there already.)

Apocalypse World is a good intro to how the system works.
Dungeon World has a magic system, and a lot more trappings from D&D that make it easier to play in a similar style. So those two are good ones to work with.

2016-12-05, 09:52 AM
Chaosium's Basic Role-playing system (BRP).
Different "magics" for Call of Cthullu, Magic World, Elric/Stormbringer, Pendragon (4th edition only), and Runequest.

Check it out.

2016-12-05, 09:52 AM
HERO 5th.

(6th went goofy.)

2016-12-05, 10:18 AM
In the same vein as Hero, Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition. Its a generic superhero system (but really its more a "comic book" system), but for a fantasy styled games you just lower the power level a bit and it works out nicely. Magic is just powers; a wizard's fireball is built using the same was process Cyclops' optic blasts, or Green Lantern's power ring. On that note, Doctor Strange is pretty easy to build, using either Hero or M&M. The major difference is M&M is at least tangentially related to the d20 games like D&D, while Hero is its own thing and uses very different rules than what you might be used to. Both use build points to buy everything from powers, skills, perks, attributes, whatever you want really.

As an example a fireball is just the Damage effect with an Area modifier. M&M uses the fact that its fire for colour and it doesn't cost anything to make it a fireball vs a cryoball, but creatures that buy immunity to fire are immune. Hero generally expects you buy things like something being fire vs generic damage but I haven't checked in so long I don't remember how that works.

The way metaphysics works with magic is as a simple as finding a solution you like, and just declaring all spells work a certain way depending on your preference. As an example in M&M a magic spell granted by the gods might require a skill check in Expertise: Divine Might to use, while all wizard spells might have a Side Effect (lets say damaging the caster to keep it simple) that must be resisted either if the spell fails to affect the target, or all of the time.

As an aside, Hero is the much older of the two games, having first been developed in the mid-80s as Champions, a superhero RPG. M&M is much newer, the most recent edition having come out of in 2012, if I'm remembering correctly. M&M has a ton of source books for the second edition that equally applicable to third edition, in particular is Warriors and Warlocks which is about running a fantasy style game in the vein of Conan.