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Author Topic: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?  (Read 1979 times)

VisionStorm

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #75 on: January 13, 2022, 11:57:34 AM »
What do you mean exactly by "horror show"?
The short version is that the supreme god, Ao, elevates extremely flawed mortals into gods then demands that people worship these ascended mortals on pain of eternal torment. Note: as written this includes every child who dies before the age of reason.

*snipped for brevity*

Yeah, the theology of Forgotten Realms is an idiotic mess that doesn't make sense from any religious or philosophical point of view. It's like someone who doesn't understand religion trying to force a mishmash of pseudo-polytheistic elements that don't work like actual pagan religions and pseudo-Abrahamic elements that don't work like Abrahamic religions either, and don't make philosophical sense. And if you go by the book your character is doomed to participate in that mess no matter what, cuz the setting doesn't give them an out, other than maybe becoming undead creatures or ascending to godhood themselves.

Plus I don't even like the setting that much (outside of video games and such based around it), so I'm not gonna go through the effort of emulating it either, outside of D&D. It's mostly just generic kitchen sink fantasy done bad, with more details than I need or would like to use in most instances, with few exceptions that don't even come to mind right now (maybe the Underdark?).

tenbones

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #76 on: January 13, 2022, 12:01:25 PM »
You will always have the divide between people who primarily want to enact the novels or source material versus people who primarily want to play in the world.  Setting material designed for one is bad for the other.  Mechanics designed for one is bad for the other.  There's a certain amount of the natural divide between those who favor style over substance and those who favor form over function, too.  It will frequently but not always have a strong correlation with the enact source material versus play in the world. 

There's a reason why we have the idea of some players don't really care about playing in the setting with appropriate mechanics as long as their character can wear a trenchcoat, carry a katana, and spout dialogue.

That's right. But at some point, you're putting gold on the table for a game. For example, I LOOOOVE the setting of Warhammer Fantasy, but I honestly am not a fan of the system. I could probably tolerate 2e, but it "feels" like it could be looser and should scale better for the conceits of the setting.

That's what I'm trying to squeeze out of people - what is it between those two poles that *really* tips you over the edge to plunk down the gold?

tenbones

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #77 on: January 13, 2022, 12:05:04 PM »
@Chris

I'm an oldschool Realms GM. For me there is Greybox, and that's 99% of it. You ain't wrong that the Realms is a horroshow. I just ignore it past 2e.

But I look at Golarion the same way. Pathfinder is a shitshow to me (especially now) but the Savage Worlds Pathfinder is nice and clean, and that's how I want it. I want a setting that gives me a palette to paint my own shit on.

Yep, I can definitely do my own - but this is where the whole idea of plunking down money for a system/setting comes in. Would you do it for an established setting on a different chassis? Realms was just an example - but you may be an outlier to the question, outside of Battletech, which I could think of some systems I'd like to run Battletech on (Mekton/Interlock!)

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #78 on: January 13, 2022, 12:41:21 PM »
That's right. But at some point, you're putting gold on the table for a game. For example, I LOOOOVE the setting of Warhammer Fantasy, but I honestly am not a fan of the system. I could probably tolerate 2e, but it "feels" like it could be looser and should scale better for the conceits of the setting.

That's what I'm trying to squeeze out of people - what is it between those two poles that *really* tips you over the edge to plunk down the gold?

Signal to noise ratio.  It's got to be "this tall" before I'm plunking.  That's first priority for me now.  Second is that the material is of interest, of course.  Since my interests are not usually aligned with what others want, then a lot goes out the window on that point.  Those priorities used to be reversed.  If the setting and/or mechanics appealed, I'd put up with the noise.  WotC fan fiction masquerading as game materials have tipped me over the edge so that I've lost all tolerance for noise in any product, not merely the WotC ones. 

Stonehell is an example of where those reversed priorities have come into play.  It's not a ideal fit for the kind of setting material I want, but not completely off the reservation, either.  It's signal is high.  So I got it, and I'm glad I did.  For me, signal is things I can use, in a good layout so that I can find them.  I don't need "inspiration" or background or vignettes.  Give me solid, substantial material, and I'll bring the other stuff myself. 

Chris24601

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #79 on: January 13, 2022, 03:22:24 PM »
Yep, I can definitely do my own - but this is where the whole idea of plunking down money for a system/setting comes in. Would you do it for an established setting on a different chassis? Realms was just an example - but you may be an outlier to the question, outside of Battletech, which I could think of some systems I'd like to run Battletech on (Mekton/Interlock!)
I am almost certainly an outlier. My only RPG purchases in the last decade were the Mage and later Vampire 20th Anniversary edition pdfs (both of which basically cleaned up and compiled the mechanics spread across umpteen splatbooks into a single bookmarked and keyword searchable volumes).

Everything else has been homebrew mechanics and, in the case of my fantasy games, a homebrew setting atop the homebrew mechanics. I didn’t need an rpg setting book for Star Trek and there are some amazing sites out there with the technical specs for all things Robotech/Macross/Genesis Climber Mospeada (much more accurate than the 80’s editions of the Palladium Robotech RPG). I still have my books from the 90’s for running Star Wars.

So, like you said… maybe a proper Battletech RPG I’d be willing to drop money on, but it’s Mechs are so damnably specifically NOT anime-mecha that I’ve found very few mecha-focused rulesets truly able to capture the feel well (ex. Mekton is much more focused on flight-capable mecha with very little differentiation in ground speeds using a couple of main weapons you use one at a time, protected by stsged penetration armor and limited mostly by actions per turn… vs. Battletech where Mech’s have very different ground speeds and might, at best, clumsily jump a few hundred feet, use batteries of weapons you fire together at one or more targets while protected by fully ablative armor and limited primarily by how much heat they can dissipate during a turn).

It’s ultimately why I finally just decided to build my own because everything I’ve looked into either leans too hard into the mecha angle or is otherwise too advanced in terms of setting technology (other than Mechs/Fusion Engines and Jump Drives the setting is remarkably primitive… barely past present day tech in most places).

VisionStorm

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #80 on: January 13, 2022, 03:38:19 PM »
@Chris

I'm an oldschool Realms GM. For me there is Greybox, and that's 99% of it. You ain't wrong that the Realms is a horroshow. I just ignore it past 2e.

Most D&D settings splutter after a few releases and turn to crap with new editions. As far as I'm concerned the metaplot in Dark Sun doesn't exist beyond the death of Kalak (which is my go-to starting point for campaigns), maybe the war with Urik, and I ignore most of the material beyond the OG box and the first few supplements, like Dune Trader, Elves of Athas and such.

I shutter to think what they'll do to Planescape or Spelljammer if/when the get around rebooting them for 5e.

Wrath of God

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #81 on: January 14, 2022, 02:11:41 AM »
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The short version is that the supreme god, Ao, elevates extremely flawed mortals into gods then demands that people worship these ascended mortals on pain of eternal torment. Note: as written this includes every child who dies before the age of reason....

You know, as much as I consider Faerun theology to be unholy bloated mess, and I would simplify shit out of it, just to make it somehow coherent (goodbye 2000 gods, welcome like one pantheon, with multiple racial interpretations and masks), generally I think it fits kitchenk-sinkey pagan-pantheistic vibe (although as I said too messy). You say its not Western. Well yes. Or rather. Notion of Good is kinda Western, but because it's D&D then Good and Evil are equals, and Evil is not mere corruption. It stands in its own right. That's literally Hella difference.

I'm quite sure some aspects I remembered quite differently - Wall of Faithless is not eternal torment, you dissolve into Wall just like you dissolve in your chosen divine sphere. And since Kelemvor took over, while he was forced to keep the Wall by rest of pantheon, he made it AFAIR painless. Though well... boring.

Another thing is - divinities are not generally ascended mortals. They are few ascendants who replaced dead or retired gods, but even they took their power from ancient primordial spirits in proper sense. Shar, Selune, Tempus, Jergal, Mystral, Helm, Talos - they are all well definitely not-mortals. Though of course they are limited and flawed. Like you know pagan gods in mythologies, what I can say.

And while sure each soul of Faithful shall land in domain of their divinity... I'd say even though it's just for 100 years, there is vast difference in quality between landing in Celestia or landing in Abyss. I doubt Talos is nice host even to own worshippers. (And I mean forces of Hell are all over punishing damned they corrupted in first place, so go figure).

And AFAIK it was the same in other D&D settings so I think we can argue that overall D&D nature of soul is such it can contain mortal indiviuality only in limited time and it will return to soulstuff it was taken from in Great Cosmic Cycle of Recycling. Alas you can decide which part of eternal and equal forces you gonna help with this pinch of soulstuff, before ultimate demise (and whether this ultimate demise will happen in nice retirment home, or in hellhole full of angry and hungry daemon-bugs. So overall I think that dunno escaping to Greyhawk or other sphere won't help. Soul gonna do soul-thing. Alas among major religions of world is still Buddhism who believes into generally self-anihilation of self and impermanence of soul. So it seems on practical level human beings can survive with theology without promise of proper even after. From three great setting of D&D: FR, Greyhawk, Eberron - neither consider human soul to be immortal monad. So I'm gonna assume it's cosmic universal truth among Spelljamer spheres, and all worlds Planescape is linked for. (Honestly that's at least one cosmic consistent thing.)

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* Eberron’s while not piecemeal is basically the result of the same type of failures… specifically, in trying to devise an afterlife based pre-Christian understandings they didn’t look beyond the grey mists of Hades and so didn’t bother to include the Elysian Fields or Tartarus in the mix… everyone just ends up a disembodied spirit wandering without memories through an endless grey dimension… so again, zero moral structure to encourage goodness among mortals instead of indulging your every whim while you live (and every horror you commit to extend your life rewarding you with no metaphysical downside for your eternal soul) other than the generally proved false by human history belief that most people are intrinsically good (some surely are, but again… the logical end point of any moral system without just rewards the righteous and punishme for the wicked is going to end up with the majority following an ethos of “might makes right/whatever I can get away with”).

Well yes, but most people in history did not abandon wicked ways because of promise of divine reward. Most did it because society to function need to enforce some morale. Those that did not collapse into anarchy. Even warmongering violent societies had/have social rules to minimize infighting. That's matter of survival. And if we look at many non-Abrahamic religions in history - yeah they worshipped cool gods aside of asshole gods, and so on. Sure real human nature - and therefore most fictional ones - is Fallen, but is not total fall. "Might make right" can take you even on practical level only that far.

And even with greek Afterlife. Elysian Fields were like for 0,1% of famous heroes, and Tartarus was not simply for assholes (at least not eternal Tartarus) but for people who basically broke most holy taboos or insulted deities itself in grevious manner. Basically all examples of condemned to Tartarus are like WOAH. Common murder... come on, who cares. Definitely not Ares.
So yeah for most of faithful of pagan gods, be it Indoeuropean or Semitic religion, and many others, afterlife was slow dissipation in grey mist, unless you were great hero or supervillain.

Then of course my practical experience with Faerun - both by Baldur's Gate trilogy, and by practical roleplaying never gave me feel I play in anything resembling Western society in terms of faith and philosophy. There could be western technological trappings like knights in full armour - but that's technology. Economic necessity. Some sort of feudalism would probably arise in Germanic Europe even without baptism, as matter of necessity, and military evolution could very likely be simmilar. I mean what D&D did to paladin while grevious, it's still less they did with Celtic pagan - druid and bard ;) I mean where are my 400 sacred poems! But on ideological level? Nah. I mean all divine stuff, and religious cults were weird and more from Conan books than medieval Church, and that's probably proper.

So ultimately from human perspective (and bloat aside), I think most of mankind would generally accept reality, and live as they lived, because ultimately nature of most is centred on survival, and not on transcendence unfortunately. I understand your sentiment, I can even share it alas I don't think it would matter to actual human population if they were living in such world. Even most of theologically inclined - would probably accept this model as natural law. I mean many ancient philosophers did. So ultimately... for my Rasheman barbarian I don't think it matters much. What matter is glory to gain, as only glory is immortal.

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But I look at Golarion the same way.

Well at least in Golarion I think there is stronger assumption almost everyone (except NE) evolves into relative outsiders ;) (Who can still be destroyed permanently, but hey.)
And there were equivalent of Wall of Faithless, but they scrapped it because SJW atheists were butthurt. Of course.
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Most D&D settings splutter after a few releases and turn to crap with new editions. As far as I'm concerned the metaplot in Dark Sun doesn't exist beyond the death of Kalak (which is my go-to starting point for campaigns), maybe the war with Urik, and I ignore most of the material beyond the OG box and the first few supplements, like Dune Trader, Elves of Athas and such.

I shutter to think what they'll do to Planescape or Spelljammer if/when the get around rebooting them for 5e.

Though let's be honest, most of them were unholy kitchensinks from very beginning.
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VisionStorm

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #82 on: January 14, 2022, 04:47:56 AM »
Alas among major religions of world is still Buddhism who believes into generally self-anihilation of self and impermanence of soul. So it seems on practical level human beings can survive with theology without promise of proper even after.

In Dharmic religions the goal is to achieve complete unification with the One pantheistic divinity that is everything in reality, resulting in a state of permanent eternal bliss and becoming one with everything. Which isn't quite the same thing as getting stuck in a static wall that's worse than Limbo for all eternity. And it's a long, arduous process that involves achieving enlightenment numerous times across multiple lifetimes, and depending on how you lived your life you may get stuck in heavenly realms or hell dimensions in between reincarnations. So even Hindus and Buddhists believe in some notion of heaven and hell, alongside reincarnation and the ultimate goal of unity with the Ultimate Reality. Though, western Atheists that find Buddhism attractive tend to downplay that part and pretend that its just 100% philosophy with no cooky religious stuff mixed in it, even though it's there.

Reincarnation was also a common belief in Indo-European cultures, particularly the Celts. And even the Norse may have believed in reincarnation originally before Valhalla became equated with Paradise around the Viking Age. I think the Greeks floated the idea as well, though, most Indo-European cultures transitioned into more static religious beliefs the farther away in time and space they got from India. But they all originally had some notion of reincarnation and their gods were originally derived from more animistic forces before they got codified into religious strictures and turned into statues.

Though let's be honest, most of them were unholy kitchensinks from very beginning.

Maybe, but none of them started out as the unwieldy mess that FR has become. And any of the neat quirks that attracted people to them originally tend to get ironed out with every revision till you can barely recognize them anymore.

FingerRod

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #83 on: January 14, 2022, 09:16:49 AM »
Mechanics takes it in the end for me.

SW is not my perfect example, but generally speaking, I see it as a solid set of mechanics supported by a variety of setting options. I picked up the SWADE Adventure System. Now if I liked it *more*, and I am going to run a few games to make sure I give it a fair go, future purchases will go into the different settings.

Free League is my counter-example. I do not like the mechanics of those games. While I picked up Vaesen, so far I have only used it for one-shots with a different system. They are not likely to get a lot of money out of me moving forward.

Mechanics will ultimately earn more purchases via settings. And yes, I primarily GM and have several times used mechanics across settings created for different systems (or even other mediums such as books or computer games).

Persimmon

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #84 on: January 14, 2022, 11:33:56 AM »
Mechanics takes it in the end for me.

SW is not my perfect example, but generally speaking, I see it as a solid set of mechanics supported by a variety of setting options. I picked up the SWADE Adventure System. Now if I liked it *more*, and I am going to run a few games to make sure I give it a fair go, future purchases will go into the different settings.

Free League is my counter-example. I do not like the mechanics of those games. While I picked up Vaesen, so far I have only used it for one-shots with a different system. They are not likely to get a lot of money out of me moving forward.

Mechanics will ultimately earn more purchases via settings. And yes, I primarily GM and have several times used mechanics across settings created for different systems (or even other mediums such as books or computer games).

Yeah, from what I've seen Free League's game mechanics are like Ikea furniture.  You either gronk it and love it, or you don't.

Shrieking Banshee

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #85 on: January 14, 2022, 11:47:12 AM »
This is a personal note, but I find religion's with a focus on reincarnation, or not motive oriented to be more fatalistic and subservient to hierarchy’s. That comes with its own good and bad. Generally more respect to nature, but also more a willingness to just take bad events without fighting back.

Chris24601

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #86 on: January 14, 2022, 12:01:15 PM »
This is a personal note, but I find religion's with a focus on reincarnation, or not motive oriented to be more fatalistic and subservient to hierarchy’s. That comes with its own good and bad. Generally more respect to nature, but also more a willingness to just take bad events without fighting back.
Generally I agree with this assessment, though its worth noting that Buddhism (as one of the better known religions that has reincarnation as part of its doctrines) uses it not as its end state, but more akin to the Catholic concept of Purgatory. You are reincarnating not as a reward, but because you still have something important to learn/improve about yourself on the road to transcendence.

FingerRod

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #87 on: January 14, 2022, 03:36:57 PM »
Mechanics takes it in the end for me.

SW is not my perfect example, but generally speaking, I see it as a solid set of mechanics supported by a variety of setting options. I picked up the SWADE Adventure System. Now if I liked it *more*, and I am going to run a few games to make sure I give it a fair go, future purchases will go into the different settings.

Free League is my counter-example. I do not like the mechanics of those games. While I picked up Vaesen, so far I have only used it for one-shots with a different system. They are not likely to get a lot of money out of me moving forward.

Mechanics will ultimately earn more purchases via settings. And yes, I primarily GM and have several times used mechanics across settings created for different systems (or even other mediums such as books or computer games).

Yeah, from what I've seen Free League's game mechanics are like Ikea furniture.  You either gronk it and love it, or you don't.

Yes, and it is a shame. Their production value on the books are really nice. And I do enjoy some of the setting material.

3catcircus

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #88 on: January 15, 2022, 09:01:57 AM »
@Chris

I'm an oldschool Realms GM. For me there is Greybox, and that's 99% of it. You ain't wrong that the Realms is a horroshow. I just ignore it past 2e.

But I look at Golarion the same way. Pathfinder is a shitshow to me (especially now) but the Savage Worlds Pathfinder is nice and clean, and that's how I want it. I want a setting that gives me a palette to paint my own shit on.

Yep, I can definitely do my own - but this is where the whole idea of plunking down money for a system/setting comes in. Would you do it for an established setting on a different chassis? Realms was just an example - but you may be an outlier to the question, outside of Battletech, which I could think of some systems I'd like to run Battletech on (Mekton/Interlock!)

I've mixed emotions about FR after 2e. The 3e books are a goldmine for maps, and the FRCs has a good mix of just-enough-info. 4e? Fuck that. 5e? Trying to recreate 3e and failing.

I'm more disgusted by how they've not done Greyhawk any justice. The boxed set, Greyhawk Wars, From the Ashes, and 3e products need a reconciliation to ensure consistency.

But, those settings are critical to D&D being D&D - Greyhawk for 1e, FR for 2e/3e.

I think that is the problem I have with a setting being good and then turning me off - the difficulty of understanding the geopolitical terrain changes.  Having products that concisely show before and after is the holy grail. Either that, or present the setting as-is and never make drastic changes.  That's kinda why I like World of Aereth (Goodman Games DCC campaign world before they went woke) and the Epic of Yrth from Dangerous Journeys.

Now, "real-world" games, the mechanics drive me more - I can do whatever I want to some 3rd world shithole during the game, but if the mechanics don't support the feel of modern combat, it turns me off.  My favorite mechanics are 3rd edition Twilight:2000 (Twilight:2013). d20 Modern? Forget it.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2022, 09:06:52 AM by 3catcircus »

tenbones

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Re: Mechanics or Setting - What sells a game to you?
« Reply #89 on: January 15, 2022, 05:03:32 PM »
You ain't wrong.