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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default A proposed system for categorizing and ranking TTRPG Rules Systems

    I'm going through an exercise where I would like to rate the various RPG systems out there in key areas. Everybody has a different play style and some systems that are perfect for one group are the least favorite of another group. Generally, this has to do with a match (or mismatch) of play style to system strengths.

    The rules that I propose for "ranking" systems are: 1. The system should be ranked in the below categories. 2. Ranking should be from 1-10, with 10 being a system that is the epitome of that category. 3. This process is for ranking the rules systems, NOT specific settings within the system. 4. Only core rules of the system should be considered in the ranking of that system. Rules introduced via accessories or "splat-books" should be ignored in regards to this process. 5. The rankings should be relative to other settings. e.g. if a setting could get even more granular with it's rules, but it is hands-down the most granular system out there, then it should get '10' for 'Rules Granularity'.

    Here are the categories I propose:

    Flexibility of Story - the ability the system has to allow the players and GM to tell the story that they want to tell, with limited modifications or adjustments to the system itself. Examples: FATE is designed for the players to be able to tell any story they want and performs well in that regard. Players can literally play any character they want in any setting they choose. I would give FATE a '10' in this category. Shadowrun however, restricts it's players in that the setting is "baked in" to the system. Also, the setting and rules tend to encourage a certain type of story (heists to be exact). Due to these, I would give Shadowrun a '2' or '3' in this category.

    Rules complexity - The overall difficulty of mastering the core rules of the system. Examples: Pathfinder and D&D 3e are both fairly complex systems (relatively speaking) and so would probably get a '6' or '7' in my book. Shadowrun is even more complex and would receive an '9'. On the other hand, I've found the Savage Worlds system to be fairly easy to master and would probably give it a '3'.

    Rules granularity - This is the systems ability to simulate real life via rules that deal with minutia. Examples: Again, Shadowrun gets a nod here due to the multitude of different firearms available within the system that are, in many cases, nearly identical with the exception of a particular stat that is one point different than another weapon. Additionally, there are rules to simulate recoil, downloading a file, and lifestyle upkeep. This gives Shadowrun another '8' in my mind. Meanwhile, FATE leaves the minutia of real life up to the players to roleplay, as opposed to giving them a lot of rules for guidance. This gives FATE a '2' here.

    Overall PC-to-PC Balance - How well the system has balanced power and abilities of the PCs relative to other PCs. Examples: Pathfinder and D&D 3e have real balance issues between PCs, with certain classes being considered "tier 1" and very powerful (like most spellcasters) and other classes being considered barely able to hold their own. I would give these systems a '3' in this area. Savage Worlds, however, seems to shine in terms of balance, though it isn't without some flaws, and I would give it a '7' or '8'. Additionally, because FATE has no rules built-in to create PC-to-PC balance and relies on the players to do so, I would give it a '1' in this category. Again, not that a FATE game can't have balance, but because the system itself doesn't maintain that balance, it scores low here.

    Overall PC-to-World Balance - How well the system handles PCs relative to the world around them. Examples: Again, this balance breaks down in Pathfinder/D&D 3e very quickly as the PCs gain levels. At higher levels, the PCs have world-altering powers and can bend reality to their will. The GM will oftentimes find it difficult to create realistic scenarios that challenge the PCs without completely altering or making irrelevant major parts of the setting. I give these systems a '2' here. Alternatively, from what I have seen of Savage Worlds, this is not as much of an issue, though the possibility does exist. As such I give it a '6' in this category.

    I have limited experience with RPG systems, so please let me know how you would rank your favorite systems that you have played in the comments.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: A proposed system for categorizing and ranking TTRPG Rules Systems

    I'll start off with my own rankings:

    Savage Worlds 9 3 5 7 6
    Rules System Flexibility of Story Rules Complexity Rules Granularity PC-to-PC Balance PC-to-World Balance
    Pathfinder/D&D 3e 4 7 8 3 2
    Shadowrun 2 9 8 4 5
    FATE 10 3 2 1 8
    Savage Worlds 9 3 5 7 6

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    JNAProductions's Avatar

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    Default Re: A proposed system for categorizing and ranking TTRPG Rules Systems

    I think you done goofed there. FATE has all characters as pretty much equals, narratively speaking, and that's what matters in FATE. It might not score a perfect 10 on PC to PC balance, but it's lightyears better than 3.P.
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    Quellian-dyrae's Avatar

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    Default Re: A proposed system for categorizing and ranking TTRPG Rules Systems

    When judging flexibility of story, you'll probably also want to take into account how easy it is to adapt the system to other things. Mutants and Masterminds, for example, is pretty strongly written towards superhero games, but because it's such a flexible system it can pretty easily be adapted to a wide variety of other genres - although not necessarily perfectly, since there are some underlying assumptions that definitely lend themselves to the superhero style more than others (in particular, M&M wouldn't be great for any sort of high-lethality game).

    Since this is on a higher is better system, you probably want to invert Rules Complexity to Rules Simplicity. Generally speaking, simple is preferable, all else being equal.

    I'd also suggest expanding on granularity some. Simulating the real world and incorporating minutia isn't a universally positive thing in games, though it can be. I'd rate granularity more on general comprehensiveness of the rules - covering more situations and interactions through the rules themselves rather than relying on the GM to come up with them. Real-world simulation and minutia may be part of that, but knowing what happens when a character uses this power with this feat in this situation without the GM having to making a ruling on the spot is probably a bigger part of it in terms of adding value to a system.

    Based on rule 3, I think PC-to-World Balance should be removed as a factor. If we're not judging settings, we can't really accurately judge how the rules work with the setting. This one's also going to be very subjective regardless; you could argue D&D ranks low because high-level PCs completely break the medieval stasis setting, but you could also argue it ranks high because all the high-level characters and monsters, and planes full of high-level adventure opportunities, allow for scaling all through the power ranges.

    Rule 4 might be a bit tricksy. D&D 3e core only is way, way different than D&D 3e will access to splatbooks. My understanding is that judging GURPS on core rules alone would be ignoring 95% of what makes GURPS GURPS. My general sense is that the White Wolf systems would similarly not look right ignoring their splats (unless each character type is treated as a different game? I'm admittedly not super-familiar with WW stuff). I'd probably rephrase that as, judgment should be based on the game's overall scope, without assuming any specific splatbooks. That's more subjective, admittedly, but probably more precise and useful overall.

    I'd also suggest an additional field. System Robustness maybe? Judging how well the system allows for mechanical distinction between situations and characters. This would rate high for games where characters can be very distinct or highly-customized, and how well the system allows for tactical challenges and options using the mechanics. For example, D&D 3e would rate very high here (you can do a ton of stuff and characters can be very mechanically distinct - a wizard plays entirely differently from a barbarian, etc). D&D 4e would probably be middling to lowish (there's a variety of powers and options to choose from and combat is highly tactical, but skill challenges have virtually no mechanical distinction and a lot of the options do wind up feeling kinda samey). And FATE would be very low since everything pretty much all works the same mechanically, the distinction comes mainly from description and the tactical element is mechanically simplistic). This would also clarify the issue JNA pointed out - FATE would have high Balance, but low Robustness.

    You might also add a field called Clarity, which would judge how well the system sets forth and adheres to its goals as a system - running the sort of games it's meant to run. The main reason I'd suggest this is because then you have Clarity/Flexibility, Simplicity/Granularity, and Robustness/Balance as three pairs of often-opposing fields. A system that is very flexible often gets that at expense of not being as good for any given type of setting. A system that is very simple usually isn't all that granular. A system with robust options often has imbalances. You average system will have strengths in one field of each slot offset by weaknesses in the other. A really good system will have higher ratings in both - a system that manages to be both robust and balanced, both simple and granular, etc, is really well-designed. And systems that are low in both are likely weaker from a design standpoint - a system that doesn't offer a lot of mechanical distinction, but there are still glaring balance issues, or one where it's so generic it isn't all that good at anything, for example.
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    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: A proposed system for categorizing and ranking TTRPG Rules Systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Quellian-dyrae View Post
    Since this is on a higher is better system, you probably want to invert Rules Complexity to Rules Simplicity. Generally speaking, simple is preferable, all else being equal.
    It's also currently on a higher is more scale, and complexity is more intuitive a measurement than simplicity (mostly because there's an implicit zero point).

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    Default Re: A proposed system for categorizing and ranking TTRPG Rules Systems

    Quote Originally Posted by JNAProductions View Post
    I think you done goofed there. FATE has all characters as pretty much equals, narratively speaking, and that's what matters in FATE. It might not score a perfect 10 on PC to PC balance, but it's lightyears better than 3.P.
    Agreed, I'd pretty much rank Fate closer to 7-8 in PC to PC Balance at least.

    what about white wolf rpgs though?

    Vampire the Requiem:
    Flexibility of Story: 1
    Rules Complexity: 5
    Rules Granularity: 5
    PC-to-PC Balance: 7
    PC-to-World Balance: 7

    My reasoning is that within their self contained game line, you only have one story to tell and that is the story of the splat your playing, but your pretty balanced with each other and the world, while white Wolf rpgs are in general middle of the road when it comes to complexity.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: A proposed system for categorizing and ranking TTRPG Rules Systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    It's also currently on a higher is more scale, and complexity is more intuitive a measurement than simplicity (mostly because there's an implicit zero point).
    Yes - this.

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