RPGaDay asks for day 23, what is my perfect game?
The perfect game for me doesn’t exist and I hope never will.
Ever since my earliest gaming days, I have been designing my own games and can’t help tinkering with game systems when I run them. I don’t think I’m unique in that and believe that game masters should adjust games to best reflect their own and their players’ styles of play.
There are however a few favourite mechanics that I keep trying to incorporate into my games. Here are some of my current favourites:
Apocalypse World Engine’s Task Resolution: My current favourite mechanic in games is the “Powered by the Apocalypse” engine, which is so simple, yet so effective. Roll 2d6 and on a 6 or less, the GM says what happens (generally not good for you); on a 7-9 you get a partial success and on a 10+, you succeed fully. Many game systems have tried the range of success (including Pacesetter’s house game system from 1984!), but none are so simple as this and so fast. As a result, it’s one mechanic that I keep going back to and add into every game system that I can.
Part of what makes it so effective is not just the variable possible results, but the 2d6 aspect. Two dice are faster to add together than three or more, but they’re more fun to roll than two. Somehow, it just seems to work. Right now I’m experimenting with using different dice added together, a la Savage Worlds.
Gumshoe’s Investigation Point Spend: In Gumshoe, the idea that you need randomness in a game to decide whether the PCs find information or know something is thrown out of the window and instead you have a pool of points assigned to different areas of knowledge or abilities and you as the player can choose to spend these points to find the clue or know something. It’s simple and works spectacularly well in games, so much so that now whenever I hear in a game, “roll your notice” to find a clue or “roll your knowledge/intelligence” to see if you know something, I cringe inside. It’s another mechanic that I’m bringing to other games now regularly.
D&D 5e’s Advantage/Disadvantage: The fifth edition of D&D has recaptured the imagination and interest of the gaming community. Part of the appeal is the simplification of the game and in particular, the streamlining of modifiers. If you are in a good position or have something positive affecting your roll, you have “advantage” and roll 2d20 and take the higher of the two rolls. Similarly, if you have negative effects, you have “disadvantage” and roll 2d20 and take the lower of the two rolls. So simple again it’s a wonder I hadn’t seen this before. It speeds things up tremendously and is very effective. When you have advantage or disadvantage, you feel it when you see the rolls.
Savage Worlds Combat & Character Creation: It’s no accident that my game design experiments invariably circle back to Savage Worlds. It’s an elegantly simple system that has a fast and furious combat system that nevertheless allows some tactical options to make the fight more interesting. I also like the different dice for different levels of ability, allowing you to use almost all your polyhedrals (we all love rolling dice after all) and the character generation involving edges and hindrances. It’s a core that I often build off of, like in my current game design.
My current game design, Warhammer World, incorporates all of the above game systems into one, using the Warhammer Fantasy setting, to make what is closest to my current perfect game, but no doubt it will be supplanted in the future when a new innovation in games comes along or I discover a game that I haven’t tried before.