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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Anderlith's Avatar

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    Default Best Game Mechanics

    So I thought I'd ask around,

    In your opinion, what game/games have the best cohesive & comprehensive & all around best mechanics you have seen/played?

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    The Riddle of Steel has hands down the best combat rules for realistic, fun, tactical, reasonably quick, fast-paced, immersive combat between small numbers of fighters in basically any setting up to ~18th or 19th century technological equivalent: Medieval knights, Renaissance duellists, chanbara, pirates, Three Musketeers, Hyborian Age, whatever. Also shooting bows and early firearms, especially as part of a general melee.

    Twilight 2013 has hands down the best modern small unit firearms combat rules, including artillery and everything. The psychological damage rules are great. Pretty much all of it is great (although I can understand taking exception at the setting, I guess, if you're into politics and warfare and history and whatever - I couldn't care less), except that keeping inventory of your stuff pretty much requires a spreadsheet.

    Aces & Eights has the best rules for Wild West gunfights (shot clock heck yeah!), and fun and atmospheric rules for fistfights and chases. Too bad character creation is a HackMaster 4th Edition -level nightmare.

    Artesia: Adventures in the Known World has the best lifepath character creation system and the coolest character advancement, and one of the best magic systems (even if you have to be really careful about giving out the hugely powerful true forms of spells, especially Enchantment Ritual). Also great rules for divine intervention and worship. And cool rules for death and what comes after. And actually a pretty nifty and good combat system.

    HârnMaster is just all-around solid and playable, with really good combat rules that don't get too detailed but produce sufficiently realistic results to satisfy most realism buffs. (Just ignore the fantasy and out-of-period weapons on the weapon lists.) Also, HarnManor is the best fief-management system.

    ACKS is my favorite D&D retroclone and has awesome little details all over the rules, and has really great domain/realm management rules that produce good results at various scales (except for some hiccups with cities and thieves' guilds that most people probably won't even come across).

    Trail of Cthulhu (and all other GUMSHOE system games I guess) has the best rules for investigation, and the best rules for Cthulhu Mythos (Drives, Pillars of Sanity, Stability vs. Sanity).


    Out of all those, ACKS, Artesia, and HârnMaster are pretty much all equally the most comprehensive, cohesive, and all-around awesome, for me.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is AD&D that actually makes sense. It's a relatively simple system without much frills, that does what it needs to do and does not distract from social interactions and exploration by slapping on any minigames that reduce these elements to dice rolling. The spellcasting system is nonsense, but that's the case with every D&D game.
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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Is this thread about MECHANICS or SYSTEMS? They're not the same - they're like trees and forests.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Some individual mechanics I really, really enjoy (moving past the general idea of best systems):

    I love Feng Shui's shot timers. Well, in concept. In Feng Shui 2, it looks like they will be locked down a bit better. I love how it makes combat feel, and how it keeps everyone on their toes. 1-shot defensive moves are great.

    I love 4e D&D's Defender Marks, specifically the sort of fake-aggro Catch 22 situation it generates. It's simple enough in play, and makes good tactical fun.

    Fate Core's Aspects are pretty revolutionary as far as game "technology" goes, particularly how it allows any descriptor to carry mechanical weight, and how it ensures character flaws will see use in play. (Heck; players will welcome use of their flaws.)

    I think Call of Cthulhu's Sanity mechanic just feels right for the genre, with a built-in death spiral of sorts. Some of the cruft around it - like the 20% rule and so on - gets iffy, but the basic mechanic is great.

    Rules Cyclopedia D&D has Weapon Mastery, which is a really fun way to give weapon-users a lot of extra fun, and differentiates different weapons better than any other edition of D&D (or most other games, for that matter).

    I think Apocalypse/Dungeon World's basic task resolution system is incredibly fun, especially letting the players roll pretty much all the dice. The basic concept (2-6 = don't get what you want; 7-9 = get part of what you want, or get it at a cost; 10+ get what you want) is spectacular and simple.
    Last edited by obryn; 2014-06-02 at 10:28 AM.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Of late I've really been liking mechanics that allow the PCs to perform retroactive definition of the world to emulate foresight or brilliant planning.

    I've also found that I like social mechanics that work by giving the players the ability to obtain information or modify conversation state, without abstracting away the actual conversation. So for example 'I didn't actually just say that, now I will try again' or 'how would he respond if I said X'.

    In general I like things that help the players make smarter or more effective choices in a very detailed state space, but still put all the details of the decision-making in their hands - systems that help the players themselves be supernaturally competent, rather than systems which abstract away tasks in order to model that sort of competency. IMO, the stories that result are cooler if everyone can see after the fact exactly how and why what someone did was so clever, as opposed to the system just saying 'you did something clever but we won't get into what it was'.

    I also really like the idea of mechanics where a significant part of PC power comes from temporary situational resources, like Numenera's cyphers. That said I haven't had much of a chance to actually play or run things using that idea, and it has to be really central to the system to work - if you just tack it on it tends to not work very well.

    Another thing I've liked of late is mechanics where there are resource pools and players can use those resource pools to moderate uncertainty. E.g. being able to succeed on any roll if they spend enough of a resource, but not having enough resource to succeed on every roll. Generally the important thing here is 'no uncertainty after spending, only before' - you always know if what you spend is enough to make you succeed or not, but you don't necessarily know what the cost is going to be before you commit to the action.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhynn View Post
    [I] -level nightmare.
    ACKS is my favorite D&D retroclone and has awesome little details all over the rules, and has really great domain/realm management rules that produce good results at various scales (except for some hiccups with cities and thieves' guilds that most people probably won't even come across).

    I think my personal favorite mechanic right now is the ACKS Mortal Wounds/Tampering with Mortality charts.

    For those who don't ACKS, the way it works is, every time a PC gets knocked below 0 HP, they enter a mystery state. Then, after the fight, when their wounds are examined, you roll on a chart to find out what happened, with bonuses and penalties for things like CON score, how far below 0 they went relative to their maximum HP, whether healing magic is being applied, etc.

    I love this because it creates a much more nebulous danger zone around being KO'd and attaches long-term effects to HP damage. Instead of a binary "Dead/Not Dead" there's this wonderful world of broken spines and severed limbs, where characters walk (or crawl) away from near-TPKs, but are really unhappy about it.
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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Best of course is very subjective but the ones I think are the best and most comprehensive
    Fate Core for most genres except for medium/high crunch fantasy
    Strands of Fate for medium crunchy fantasy
    Burning Wheel/Burning Empire except that the high crunch can get in the way of some gaming
    Apocalypse World for capturing everything you need in a game so simply
    Mutants and Masterminds for the best d20 implementation and a nice balance between crunch and comprehensive

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Mutants & Masterminds 3E. Except for a few notable rough spots (Move Object, how does it work?), the whole system is a well-oiled, finely-tuned machine. If your campaign idea calls for fast-paced action and any sort of superhuman abilities, there's at least an 80% chance that M&M 3E is what you want to run it in.
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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    So I've been running 13th Age alot lately, and I really like alot of the mechanics.

    Backgrounds:
    Rather than selecting skills, you get backgrounds, and the number of points you put into them (max of 5) is what gets added to your ability check to accomplish a task. So I could use "Imperial Legion Cavalry Scout" for horse handling, knowledge about the military, social interactions with people friendly to the military, moving silently, being alert, or any number of things. Its simple, but allows players alot of creativity and incentive for good character creation.

    One Unique Thing:
    Essentially the player gets to pick one thing that stands out about their character, ranging from the simple: "I was an orphan" to the extreme "I am the only dwarf with a clockwork heart" or "I am an immortal ronin seeking an honorable death". Really cool as a player, and as a DM it gives me so many hooks for plot and world creation stuff. Every system I ever game in from now on I will use this in it.

    Icon Relationships:
    Icons represent powerful figure in the world (not deities) so like the King of XXX, the High Priest of XXX, the Oldest Gold Dragon XXX, etc. The player gets three points to spend into relationships with these Icons in either positive, negative, or conflicted. And for each point they spend the get to roll a d6 at the start of a session. A 5 means that their relationship will have a mixed effect (positive with a cost) and a 6 mean s good benefit (the paladins relationship with King XXX got them better treatment from the Duke) and its best to think of the icons as heads of Factions.
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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    "The best mechanics" for what, exactly? Lots of games have awesome systems for specific niches. Take the horror game Dread, for instance. It models random events using a (modified) game of Jenga: quite possibly the best system ever devised for modeling the building suspense and tension in a horror story, but not a game I could recommend to people who need to play remotely.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    For people asking about specifics

    I would like to know about the best SYSTEMS that you feel cover the best wide range & deep ways of playing a game

    as well as

    the best MECHANICS for things that you have found. i.e. Perhaps you like nWoDs dot systems but you also like Mongoose Travellers character creation, & Top Secrets damage mechanics

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    I like GURPS, it does what it says on the tin.
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    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anderlith View Post
    For people asking about specifics

    I would like to know about the best SYSTEMS that you feel cover the best wide range & deep ways of playing a game

    as well as

    the best MECHANICS for things that you have found. i.e. Perhaps you like nWoDs dot systems but you also like Mongoose Travellers character creation, & Top Secrets damage mechanics
    Best overall systems:

    Apocalypse World - a post apocalyptic RPG that is in many ways a clinic in good game design with wildly differentiated classes (and a lot of variance within the class), incredibly easy set up and mechanics, and the rhythm of freeform play meaning that the mechanics don't get in the way much at all. Histories meaning that setting creation works with character creation.

    Fate Core/Accelerated - simple, powerful, and very evocative and focussed on who the characters are. Plays larger than life pulp and does it well.

    Cortex Plus - a family of games that really leverage the flexibility of the dice pool to keep the players' eyes on what is important. Four games in the family although only two in print; Leverage (which redefined Heist Roleplaying), Firefly, Smallville (OOP - action dramas), and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (for my money the best comic book supers RPG going although OOP).

    Fiasco. How to create a Cohen Brothers movie in the time it takes to watch one. Not vastly deep but so effective that no one cares.

    (Honorable mentions: GURPS, Burning Wheel, Rules Cyclopaedia D&D, Unisystem, Fudge)

    Best individual mechanics.

    Monsterhearts - it's amongst other things a Coming of Age drama and the kids are messed up enough that all the moves they can make at first are mechanically self-defeating - but they need to keep making them to gain XP. It uses the engine from Apocalypse World and may even be better than the base game.

    The WFRP 3E dice pool (with the slightly weaker Edge of Empire one in second).

    Dread's Jenga tower for evoking tension.

    4E's marking/punishment and healing surges.
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    PaladinGuy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    I like GURPS, it does what it says on the tin.
    In that it does a good job of producing a generic game? :P C'mon man, you can do a better job than that of explaining what's good about it.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Anderlith View Post
    For people asking about specifics

    I would like to know about the best SYSTEMS that you feel cover the best wide range & deep ways of playing a game

    as well as

    the best MECHANICS for things that you have found. i.e. Perhaps you like nWoDs dot systems but you also like Mongoose Travellers character creation, & Top Secrets damage mechanics
    My favorite mechanic for being wide ranged and flexible is Fate Core's Bronze Rule. This allows many things in a game to be treated as a character which then fits in with the overall mechanics without special rules. I've used this for simulating the dangers of spelunking and cave-ins, the business of a traveling peddler, a economically destitute town and currently using it to put together a dungeon crawl.

    For Social Conflicts Burning Wheel's Duel of Wits captures the feel of a real debate or argument very nicely. It is very crunchy but once you get the basics down it really flies and gets the point across well.

    EDIT to add: Diaspora's Cluster generation rules work very well in creating a group specific setting for a series of systems and planets.
    Last edited by Delwugor; 2014-06-04 at 11:32 AM.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    In that it does a good job of producing a generic game? :P C'mon man, you can do a better job than that of explaining what's good about it.
    It has solid crunch that works in most settings with very little effort required (and probably any setting with some effort) and has innumerable sources to help GMs get any particular game up and running. The bonus is that you can take the same characters and move them around different genres (e.g. fantasy, sci-fi, post apocalypse, wild west etc.) extremely easily, since the rules are consistent.

    EDIT

    I recently ran Expedition to Barrier Peaks using GURPS instead of D&D as the rule system. It was nice to chuck the high tech weaponry in there straight out of the books without feeling like you were shoehorning it into rule systems it was never designed for.
    Last edited by Mr Beer; 2014-06-04 at 06:31 PM.
    Re: 100 Things to Beware of that Every DM Should Know

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Airk View Post
    In that it does a good job of producing a generic game? :P C'mon man, you can do a better job than that of explaining what's good about it.
    Honestly the best thing about GURPS is that it's got Grade A sourcebooks for almost any setting (up to and including GURPS Authentic Thaumaturgy). The system itself is a very good consistent 80s simulationist game, but the sourcebooks are high enough quality that I'd recommend them for anyone playing a game where they are relevant, no matter what the system they actually use is. (The exception is GURPS Vehicles 3E which is meticulously researched, mathematically accurate, and more complex to use for vehicle design than a CAD package - it wants you to work out the volume of the vehicle you're trying to make in cubic feet and then use the square of the cube root of the volume for the base frame weight).
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    Quote Originally Posted by neonchameleon View Post
    Honestly the best thing about GURPS is that it's got Grade A sourcebooks for almost any setting (up to and including GURPS Authentic Thaumaturgy). The system itself is a very good consistent 80s simulationist game, but the sourcebooks are high enough quality that I'd recommend them for anyone playing a game where they are relevant, no matter what the system they actually use is.
    So true. The mechanics are solid and useful (within certain limits, IMO, but others disagree on those anyway), but the sourcebooks are just awesome. If I want to run (especially with a system that isn't purpose-built for it) a cyberpunk game, or a swashbuckling game, or a mystery game, or a crime game, or a cop game, or just about any game set in real history, I reach for a GURPS sourcebook. Coinage and exchange rates for a late 17th-century Caribbean pirate game? Forget research, get the GURPS sourcebook!

    Also, GURPS Vehicles, GURPS Robots, GURPS Space, and a calculator gave me endless hours of fun activity as a kid. The actual rules for playing them would now be far too complicated for me to want to use, but heck it was fun at that stage.

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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    I've been using GURPS supplements for almost 20 years, and I'm currently working on actually getting to play my first GURPS game.

    But for best mechanics, the one that has most changed how I play is the Stunt mechanic from Exalted. Someone might be able to name a system that has taken it and done it better. But I've used this concept in most games that I've ran since I played Exalted.
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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    And -none- of that is actually "what it says on the tin" (In fact, what it says on the tin is probably a pretty good DETERRANT). So it's a good thing I prompted. ;) Though actually, it sounds like there's not actually that much support for the GURPS -mechanics- here, so much as their content.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    So what is everyone's favorite system for modern day urban fantasy? I like things with a bit of crunch but nothing that pins things down too much that you don't have freedom
    Last edited by Anderlith; 2014-06-05 at 05:46 PM.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Anderlith View Post
    So what is everyone's favorite system for modern day urban fantasy? I like things with a bit of crunch but nothing that pins things down too much that you don't have freedom
    I wouldn't know, the only urban fantasy I've played was a Changeling chronicle that imploded after two sessions.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Quote Originally Posted by Anderlith View Post
    So what is everyone's favorite system for modern day urban fantasy? I like things with a bit of crunch but nothing that pins things down too much that you don't have freedom
    Feng Shui (new in-playtest 2nd edition), obvs.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anderlith View Post
    So what is everyone's favorite system for modern day urban fantasy? I like things with a bit of crunch but nothing that pins things down too much that you don't have freedom
    Does Monsterhearts count? If not Feng Shui II
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    Quote Originally Posted by neonchameleon View Post
    Does Monsterhearts count? If not Feng Shui II
    Monsterhearts is a bit too niche-y, but it is modern fantasy...some might say too modern.

    My favorite overall system is Fate because I'm a tinkering fanatic; I've gotten bizarre yet manageable systems for Yu-Gi-Oh, A:tLA and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon out of it, as well as all kinds of other weird bits and pieces for worlds I've made up.

    Individual mechanics, though, are all over the place - Prysm's skill tree supplement made it playable and was REALLY cool, 4e DND's at-will/encounter/daily system and skill encounters worked well, a 3.5 DND overhaul called Eclipse: the Codex Persona made 3.5 playable and was bonkers fun to mess with, Monsterhearts/High School Harem Comedy are fun for screwing up my current fiction work's world and a break from tradition, PTU because POKEMON, man!...I can't think of a system I've read I didn't find something worth trying in it, but that's just me.

    So, yeah...derail accomplished, see you at the awards ceremony .
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    Why is there so much popularity of rules light/indie systems? I can see why people who don't have the time to run complicated games who just want little adventures would like them but they seem to be becoming a bigger & bigger thing. Even D&D Next is becoming REALLY rules like & reflecting a lot of the things 13th Age did. Anyone have a good guess?

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    Kobold

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anderlith View Post
    Why is there so much popularity of rules light/indie systems? I can see why people who don't have the time to run complicated games who just want little adventures would like them but they seem to be becoming a bigger & bigger thing. Even D&D Next is becoming REALLY rules like & reflecting a lot of the things 13th Age did. Anyone have a good guess?
    Well, I have no reason to believe the things I'm saying, but if I had to guess, I'd say:

    The market for ridiculously over-complicated systems is already well met. Shadowrun's core rulebook is like, nine hundred pages and includes rules for explosions ricocheting in enclosed spaces. D&D 3.5 is familiar and old to most people, and the people who like it are the "True Nerds" who probably work with spreadsheets and ridiculous math in their spare time anyway.

    Thus, the prevalence of rules-light systems can be attributed to a combination of factors; First, they feel novel to many of us who grew up with 3.5. Second, those of us who didn't grow up with 3.5 may see it as pointlessly labyrinthine; nerdy things are increasingly becoming mainstream, and people play RPGs today who would never have done so a few decades ago.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    Somewhat cynically, the reason there's a preponderance of rules-light systems is that its easy to promise the world in a rules-light system and not be held too closely to delivering it. You just need one or two really new ideas and ways to look at things, and then make a very loose framework around them, and you've got a rules-light system that appears revolutionary in some way.

    On the other hand, building a rules-heavy system that doesn't self-destruct under its own weight is both time-consuming and extremely difficult. You might have some revolutionary ideas in constructing a rules-heavy system, but unless you're very careful and very good and playtest extensively, all of those ideas will be buried under the laundry list of stuff that just doesn't work.

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    Default Re: Best Game Mechanics

    I would put Star Wars Sage and Legends as my favorite RPGs conceptionally; playing mostly within the D20 format but fixing the more egregious rules abuses.

    For actual game play I would probably use either a heavily modified 4E at the Heroic Tier or E6 D&D 3.5 (steered towards end of line classes like the Totemist) because they fulfill the "character always has something interesting to do" combat meter I run. I hate basic attacks and Attacks of Opportunity, too boring and slow.

    I don't really like rules lite systems; I like to optimize as a player and all of my landscapes are based on hard cast rules as a DM.

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