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DonEsteban
2015-07-27, 06:19 PM
Hi playgrounders, I'm looking for kind of a go-to system that I can use for a variety of situations. So if I want to sit down and play a game of zombie apocalypse one day, cthulhuesque investigation the second day and steampunky adventuring the third day, but without learning three whole different games, what should I use? It doesn't have to provide anything fancy: no magic rules, no insanity tables, no time travel procedures. Just something to build a character with, do some combat, use some skills. It shouldn't be too simplistic, so Risus or Dread are probably out, and it should not be too storytelly (if that's a word), so Fate does not really qualify.

Which system would you recommend and why is it fun to use?
What would you recommend if it's not GURPS, because I don't particularly like GURPS?

Rhaegar14
2015-07-27, 06:21 PM
Tri-Stat is meant to run literally anything at any power level, and it's also free. (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/368/TriStat-dX-Core-System-RolePlaying-Game?it=1) The downside is that there's kind of a lot, especially to generating characters and monsters; I don't know why on Earth it's described as rules-light.

Mr Beer
2015-07-27, 06:22 PM
If FATE is too simplistic, then GURPS is my recommendation. Ignore magic, time travel and insanity, which is easy. You will need to do some work deciding what character options are available in each setting though.

Knaight
2015-07-27, 06:26 PM
Fudge is also free, rules light while nowhere near the Risus-Dread level, and likely somewhat familiar. Fate started as a Fudge hack, but Fudge is a far more traditional game, with a gift/fault system instead of aspects, a tendency to use modifiers, a more typical wound track in lieu of the stress-consequence system, and a better trait ladder.

It has also been my go-to system for close to a decade, and has covered a lot of territory. I've used it for everything from antropomorphic animals to emerging AI military robots, and that's just the PCs. Different genres that are more down to earth is nothing.

noob
2015-07-27, 06:54 PM
The simple basic system:
Just say what the players see or succeed and the players says what they want to do and try to describe what they attempt(or even what their character thinks).
You do not need a manual for doing this and it works fairly well but you need paper/computer for writing stuff you need to remember and also know players will simply not do what you want unless you say them that you want them to do something particular for the sake of the story and of awesomeness.
The GM have the final word.(this is the main rule)
It is universal and is is the lightest one and the first one.
The main problem is that it might not be as much great as another system for some battles.

Mark Hall
2015-07-27, 07:53 PM
I lean towards Savage Worlds in this sort of situation. Modular, easy to add or remove powers as you like, with a lot of options covered by the basic rules.

Jay R
2015-07-27, 09:13 PM
Hi playgrounders, I'm looking for kind of a go-to system that I can use for a variety of situations. So if I want to sit down and play a game of zombie apocalypse one day, cthulhuesque investigation the second day and steampunky adventuring the third day, but without learning three whole different games, what should I use? It doesn't have to provide anything fancy: no magic rules, no insanity tables, no time travel procedures. Just something to build a character with, do some combat, use some skills. It shouldn't be too simplistic, so Risus or Dread are probably out, and it should not be too storytelly (if that's a word), so Fate does not really qualify.

Which system would you recommend and why is it fun to use?
What would you recommend if it's not GURPS, because I don't particularly like GURPS?

If simple arithmetic is not a problem for you, I recommend the Hero System (Champions, Fantasy Hero, Star Hero, Pulp Hero). It works well at many different levels, from ordinary humans (100-point characters) to heroes (150-200 point characters) to superheroes (250+ characters).

But you have to be able to do simple arithmetic during character creation. For some people, that's a deal-breaker. I can do simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division without difficulty, so I love it. But some people don't enjoy it.

Kid Jake
2015-07-27, 09:44 PM
I've had some luck using Mutants and Masterminds for everything from Shadowrun to Pokemon with a little fiddling.

JenBurdoo
2015-07-28, 01:37 AM
I'm experimenting, thus far successfully, with Tracy Hickman's XD20 with a bit more complexity. All you need is a single D20, and there are basic (one stat for the character) and advanced (three stats) versions.

http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/14/14739.phtml
^
Ignore the hype and scroll down for the mechanism and sample of play.

http://rpg-tinker.blogspot.com/2014/11/heres-d20-adventure-game.html
^
Here's advanced XD20 with a bit more structure, which I am using at the moment with the addition of FFG 40K games' critical hit charts for interest.

It helps that my players are complete newbies with no idea what to expect. The nice things about it include:

a) they can play ANY kind of character they want
b) they can DO anything they want (including casting hard spells, etc -- they just have to roll really high)
c) works for any genre
d) No charts or page-flipping. The DM just picks a reasonable number or event, and you roll. This makes combat in particular lightning fast.

The bad thing is that the DM has to do most of the work. Which in my case is OK, because I've never really DMed before and I'm learning a lot. Quickly.

Anonymouswizard
2015-07-28, 03:57 AM
GURPS really sounds like the best, but as you don't like it I'll recommend Savage Worlds or Tri-Stat dX.

For another 'universal system', you can do the following:

Make a list of attributes, from 3 (body, mind, charm) to as many as you want (the highest I've tried is eight: Strength, Stamina, Dexterity, Agility, Knowledge, Cunning, Presence, Empathy). This range from -X to +X, I suggest making X=5.

Make a list of skills, and link each to a stat. Go anywhere from two skills to a stat or a full forty-something skill list.

To resolve an action: roll 3d6 and add your skill modifier. Attacks are conflicts with one side using blades, guns etc. and the other using athletics, blades, etc.

For a health system, make HP equal to one of the physical stats and have weapons do Yd6 damage.

This is essentially stripping D&D down to it's very basics and using 3d6 instead of 1d20.

DonEsteban
2015-07-28, 09:35 AM
Wow, 9 answers with 9 different recommendations. I had hoped for a little bit more of a consensus. But thanks a lot anyway.

Yeah, I could make up my own system, but I'd prefer something that someone (preferably smarter than me) has put some thought into. Especially into combat. XDM also sounds interesting, and I see how it could work, but again I'd prefer a little bit more structure, I think.

I did experiment with Fudge years ago. It didn't stick, but maybe I should have another look.

Tri-Stat dX, at first look, appears to be a little bit contrived and sometimes strangely specialized. For example there are Intimidation, Interrogation and Seduction skills, but no general Diplomacy or Persuasion. Anyway, it appears to be remarkably similar to GURPS. How would you say it compares to it in high-level terms (that is, apart from the fact that you roll one less die)?

Hero System, from what little I gather about it, also seems to be very similar.

What I don't like about all three of them are their combat systems with their second-wise resolution. I prefer a more coarse-grained time-frame, but well...

Savage World looks most interesting so far. I'll have to try and play it some time soon.


Nobody has recommended d20, WoD, Unisystem or any d100-based system so far. Or D&D, which I could also see working if you leave out the magic part.

If you want to chime in, please feel free. I'd be especially interested in comparisons. Why Shadowrun would be better suited than Eclipse Phase, for example.

Eisenheim
2015-07-28, 09:53 AM
Well you would have gotten 3 or 4 votes for fate, if previous experience on the these boards is a guide, but you ruled that out at the beginning.

Anonymouswizard
2015-07-28, 09:56 AM
Wow, 9 answers with 9 different recommendations. I had hoped for a little bit more of a consensus. But thanks a lot anyway.

Yeah, I could make up my own system, but I'd prefer something that someone (preferably smarter than me) has put some thought into. Especially into combat. XDM also sounds interesting, and I see how it could work, but again I'd prefer a little bit more structure, I think.

I did experiment with Fudge years ago. It didn't stick, but maybe I should have another look.

Tri-Stat dX, at first look, appears to be a little bit contrived and sometimes strangely specialized. For example there are Intimidation, Interrogation and Seduction skills, but no general Diplomacy or Persuasion. Anyway, it appears to be remarkably similar to GURPS. How would you say it compares to it in high-level terms (that is, apart from the fact that you roll one less die)?

Hero System, from what little I gather about it, also seems to be very similar.

What I don't like about all three of them are their combat systems with their second-wise resolution. I prefer a more coarse-grained time-frame, but well...

Savage World looks most interesting so far. I'll have to try and play it some time soon.


Nobody has recommended d20, WoD, Unisystem or any d100-based system so far. Or D&D, which I could also see working if you leave out the magic part.

If you want to chime in, please feel free. I'd be especially interested in comparisons. Why Shadowrun would be better suited than Eclipse Phase, for example.

d20 is a very... weird game, and nowhere near as universal as Wizards of the Coast (or really a lot of people) seem to think. It's stats are geared towards D&D style fantasy, with Charisma being the god stat in a more social campaign and Strength being basically useless if encumbrance isn't enforced (I've seen this happen in many systems, and I frequently drop Strength when firearms are available. I once tried to get a shopping trolley past my GM so I could carry a full workshop at 'not technically disabled' strength). It's also very much a combat system.

WoD is strange, in that it wants to be a social system but ends up as more of a combat system. I certainly works as a Universal system, and I wouldn't say don't use it as such, but it's 9 stats mean you can easily end up with weird power-gaming (it's also the only system I've found where a beginning character can dual-wield halberds with no special effort). Beware the character with minimum intelligence, presence, and manipulation, as they've probably buffed Willpower. But, even if not better balanced, it is more universal than d20, and can run a larger variety of games. The latest version even has some cool mechanics to encourage optimal stories rather than optimal characters (2 short term and 1 long term aspirations, conditions, taking a dramatic failure for a beat).

Worth mentioning here is Monte Cook's World of Darkness, which is my favourite d20 game for taking the creatures of the nWoD, putting them into the d20 structure, and actually coming out with a decent adaptation of WoD in the d20 mixed-group style. I'd still vastly prefer to run nWoD, but I find MCWoD to be better than d20 Modern, if more limited. It does have the 'combat first' approach, but not quite as much (thanks to vampire powers).

I don't really like Unisystem, partly because of the one GM I've played under, but it's essentially 'D&D, but skill-focused and with a d10'. Not the worst system I've ever come across, but not spectacular.

The only d100 universal system I have experience in is Basic Roleplaying via Call of Cthulhu. It's not horrible, and I've played worse systems, but it's a bit clunkier than something like Eclipse Phase. Skills being completely separate from attributes is fairly fun, but can lead to weird characters.

Out of all the ones I've mentioned or talked about I'd say the best is Savage Worlds, due to the fact that it sets up and runs fairly fast, although you'll want a couple of copies of the edges section at least, and probably the equipment list (please do it legally). After that I'd say WoD (specifically new) for the same reason, and the story encouragement mechanics.

EDIT: there will be a lot of recommendations because there's no consensus on universal systems, I personally think GURPS is the best, but there are people on here who will say that Mutants & Masterminds or Tri-Stat dX is better, and we are pretty much all right. The thing to realise is that even universal systems lean towards a style, I personally prefer GURPS and nWoD because they tend towards a lower power level and squishy characters, while some people like the effect-based nature of M&M and yet more prefer the 'combat first, other stuff second' approach of d20.

Knaight
2015-07-28, 10:02 AM
Nobody has recommended d20, WoD, Unisystem or any d100-based system so far. Or D&D, which I could also see working if you leave out the magic part.

If you want to chime in, please feel free. I'd be especially interested in comparisons. Why Shadowrun would be better suited than Eclipse Phase, for example.

XDM is a d20 system of sorts. As for the rest, you said you wanted something reasonably light, but not at Risus levels. D&D is a crunch heavy game with a lot of rules, WoD is somewhat lighter (though by no means light) and not particularly universal, and Unisystem is just a bit of a mess.

With that said, if you're willing to work with engines tied to non-generic systems, that widens the field considerably. The big things this opens are the d6 system and the One Roll Engine. d6 has a semi-generic adventuring book, plus a bunch of splats for working with different genres. Just about all of it is free. I personally dislike it, but you can get a fan perspective around here - I know Mark Hall quite likes the system, for example.

The ORE games are brilliant. None of them are truly generic, but it absolutely can work as a generic system. Plus, if you know the engine then that gets you two superhero systems, a fantasy system, and a modern horror system. Bits and pieces can be ported over just fine, and some of the optional specialized rules do a very good job with material that other games often have trouble with. REIGN (the fantasy one) has an excellent system for organizations, Nemesis (the horror one) has a beautiful psychological damage system, and while those are the two big gems, there are others.

Nemesis is also free, so there's that. It's crunchy, but it's the sort of crunchy that comes from a 60 page game which is a bit rules dense and not the sort of crunchy that comes from a 600 page game that is basically a hugely long list.

Cealocanth
2015-07-28, 10:39 AM
I'll chime in once again for Savage Worlds. It's my go-to system for a cinematic gaming experience. What I mean is that the characters act a lot more like movie or videogame characters than realistic people, which is good if you don't want to accidentally get realism in your fantasy. I've seen this system work well for both high and low fantasy, science fiction of all varieties, horror, western, adventures on the high seas, pulp adventures, and even superheroes. This is because it's an extremely balanced system in which every rule pulls it own weight. All you have to do is add a few things or discard a few optional rules to change the flavor, and you're done. You can spend your prep time worldbuilding and working on the lore instead of fiddling with numbers.

@V: Yeah. The system pokes fun at itself a lot. It performs much better when you're playing a tongue-in-cheek game than when you're playing it serious. Unless played like Gamma World, Broken Earth is probably their worst supplement because it tries to be serious.

Anonymouswizard
2015-07-28, 11:08 AM
I'll chime in once again for Savage Worlds. It's my go-to system for a cinematic gaming experience. What I mean is that the characters act a lot more like movie or videogame characters than realistic people, which is good if you don't want to accidentally get realism in your fantasy. I've seen this system work well for both high and low fantasy, science fiction of all varieties, horror, western, adventures on the high seas, pulp adventures, and even superheroes. This is because it's an extremely balanced system in which every rule pulls it own weight. All you have to do is add a few things or discard a few optional rules to change the flavor, and you're done. You can spend your prep time worldbuilding and working on the lore instead of fiddling with numbers.

Note: it's not the best at doing dark, and it sucks at gritty. This isn't a problem for horror, but if you want a system where the PCs are professionals but not special, it isn't for you.

Jay R
2015-07-28, 01:32 PM
Wow, 9 answers with 9 different recommendations. I had hoped for a little bit more of a consensus. But thanks a lot anyway.

Variety is an Internet strong suit. Consensus isn't.


Tri-Stat dX, at first look, appears to be a little bit contrived and sometimes strangely specialized. For example there are Intimidation, Interrogation and Seduction skills, but no general Diplomacy or Persuasion. Anyway, it appears to be remarkably similar to GURPS. How would you say it compares to it in high-level terms (that is, apart from the fact that you roll one less die)?

Hero System, from what little I gather about it, also seems to be very similar.

Hero System has Interrogation, Seduction, and Persuasion. Diplomacy isn't a single skill, but it has Acting, Conversation, High Society and Oratory for different aspects of it. All of these are based on the Presence Characteristic. Intimidation is a direct application of Presence, called a Presence Attack.


What I don't like about all three of them are their combat systems with their second-wise resolution. I prefer a more coarse-grained time-frame, but well...

One of the aspects I really like about it is that speedier characters get more actions than slower characters. This makes it easier to design great fighters that aren't entirely about Strength. But yes, to do that, you need to slice combat into more and shorter action phases.