Popularity of focused v generic game systems

Open Discussion on all things C&C from new product to general questions to the rules, the laws, and the chaos.
Post Reply
User avatar
Lurker
Greater Lore Drake
Posts: 4037
Joined: Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:00 am
Location: Oklahoma

Popularity of focused v generic game systems

Post by Lurker »

It isn’t something I’ve thought about before, but I know it has existed. However, recently, I’m noticing a lot of game systems that are highly focused on being 1 thing. Games like Modiphious’ Star Trek, FLP’s Alien, Symbaroum, The One Ring, and many others.

They are all specific to the game and not flexible to changing the setting or introducing other game elements in. Heck Modiphious had to put out a new complete rule book for creating Klingon based players, and on their boards there is talk about needing a book to create ‘none star fleet’ Federation characters. You can’t take the main rule book, say I want a merchant crew member, and change the narrative fluff in the rules to make it.

Alien’s, from what I’ve read and seen (I admit I haven’t played it so don’t have 1st hand knowledge) it look amazing at capturing the look and feel of Alien(s) movies – 1,2,& 3 . But I don’t think it would be usable for anything else. I’m not sure if you could pull off playing a campaign in the setting but be focused on something like a megacorp spy arc , or a colonial / military v a pirate / raider arc. At least not without the rules focused on the feel of the horror of “In space no one can hear you scream’ feel of the game being an issue.

Now I’m not saying those focused games are bad or fail – jus the opposite they well succeed at their focus – just that they are narrow and rigid. I haven’t been able to play in a Modiphious Star Trek game, but after getting a couple of ‘Bag of Holding’ bundles or Humble bundles and reading through the rule and supplement books, it looks like it would be a perfect Star Trek game and a blast to play.

On the other hand, you have games that are made to be flexible and be useful in many genres or settings. C&C, AA, Victorious, Traveller, and the list goes on.

Case in point on this side of the equation, you can easily play a high fantasy setting, a lower fantasy setting and semi-historic based games with C&C. I have played in and ran Victorious games set in the btb setting, a modern setting, a fantasy setting, and have ideas on using it for a Star Wars type setting (you can’t get more flexible than that). Similarly AA works perfectly well for a btb pulp setting, I ran it for a horrorish 1880s setting, and there is info floating around for using it in a sci fi setting. Of course there are other games just as flexible – SWd6 does not have to have Jedi or storm troopers and it works perfectly fine, etc.

Admittedly, all that flexibility required house rules to focus the btb game into the other areas, or additions to graft the feel of a horror game into AA. Whereas the focused games do not need that. However, that tinkering and morphing does not break them, where it (I assume) would with the focused games.
So, now my question(s).

Which do you all think is more preferable, the flexible or the focused games systems ? And, of course, why ?

Why are these focused games becoming more popular now (or have I lived under the cabbage life and just not noticed those types of games being that popular or prevalent before) ?
"And so I am become a knight of the Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows!" - Mark Twain

Forgive all spelling errors.

Knight Errant & Humble C&C Society Contributor
C&C Society

serleran
Mogrl
Posts: 13866
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 7:00 am

Re: Popularity of focused v generic game systems

Post by serleran »

I'll make a distinction.

There are "focused" games, such as Chill or Call of Cthulhu which drive toward a certain game style, or theme/tone. These are OK to me as I sometimes want to delve into an otherwise uncharted territory. These are basically "genre games" and there are countless numbers of them. C&C, and in fact most other games, would fall here for me -- there aren't many totally generic games allowing one to create "anything" and interact with "anything else" (and the few I have seen have tended to not be my thing, like GURPS.)

However, there are "property" games which I do not like and do not play, but that is more about me than them -- I simply do not have the same level of like/fandom for a given setting than those who apparently do. Things like WEG Star Wars, FASA's Star Trek, even TSR's Marvel Super Heroes. They rely on a familiarity that I do not have and do not want. It doesn't make them bad on their surface (the rules might be another, separate, issue but anything can suffer from this.)

It has always been popular to cash in on a craze or license some idea, especially if you're hyped on it to start. There have been numerous RPGs down the timeline for various products (Aliens has been done before by Leading Edge Games, for example, and even Dracula or DC comics/Batman.)

But, anyway, I prefer the "genre game." It has certain innate limits but also gives some room to bend them, plus they can more readily take compromise from players who may enjoy an occasional reference without feeling the need for 100% accuracy (say, if I want to use a xenomorph as an encounter but change it ever so slightly due to lack of faithful adaptation.)

anvil242
Ungern
Posts: 81
Joined: Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:04 pm
Location: Jacksonville, FL

Re: Popularity of focused v generic game systems

Post by anvil242 »

I believe that the specific RPG's are fighting in a crowded market for sales, and the licensed IP will bring it to the attention of fans of that IP. As an experienced player you could, for example, set your C&C game in a high school for wizards. But how many C&C fans are there compared to Harry Potter fans. I also think that many of the specific games have generic games as their base. Star Trek Adventures is 2d20, so is Mutant Chronicles, John Carter of Mars, and Conan. Dune and Fallout are in play test using the same system. Margaret Weiss' Cortex system has been made into Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, Marvel Heroic, Smallville, and some Buffy style game I can't remember the name of (Demon Hunters?). The specific stuff is all about sales to an existing market. Alien, by the way, is based on the Year Zero engine found in Mutant Year Zero, and Tales from the Loop, among others.

anvil242
Ungern
Posts: 81
Joined: Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:04 pm
Location: Jacksonville, FL

Re: Popularity of focused v generic game systems

Post by anvil242 »

Also, Star Trek Adventures is a blast to play

User avatar
Grandpa
Mist Elf
Posts: 34
Joined: Fri Aug 28, 2020 8:59 pm

Re: Popularity of focused v generic game systems

Post by Grandpa »

Lurker wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 4:17 pm
It isn’t something I’ve thought about before, but I know it has existed. However, recently, I’m noticing a lot of game systems that are highly focused on being 1 thing. Games like Modiphious’ Star Trek, FLP’s Alien, Symbaroum, The One Ring, and many others.
That has been the way of RPGs since the 1st one. I'd say WELL over 90% of all RPGs are highly focused n being one thing. GURPS and a few others being the exception to that ~50 year rule.

User avatar
finarvyn
Global Moderator
Posts: 984
Joined: Sun May 14, 2006 7:00 am
Location: Chicago suburbs
Contact:

Re: Popularity of focused v generic game systems

Post by finarvyn »

Lurker wrote:
Wed Aug 19, 2020 4:17 pm
Alien’s, from what I’ve read and seen (I admit I haven’t played it so don’t have 1st hand knowledge) it look amazing at capturing the look and feel of Alien(s) movies – 1,2,& 3 . But I don’t think it would be usable for anything else. I’m not sure if you could pull off playing a campaign in the setting but be focused on something like a megacorp spy arc , or a colonial / military v a pirate / raider arc. At least not without the rules focused on the feel of the horror of “In space no one can hear you scream’ feel of the game being an issue.
I have the Alien RPG but haven't had a chance to play it. My impression is that most Free League games use a similar dice system and so the nucleus of rules for Alien is similar to that for Tales From the Loop or Twilight 2000. What each game brings to the table, however, is genre specific customization. Alien, for example, has a "stress" mechanic which looks really fun and is intended to emulate the tension of the movies. I think you could import that mechanic into a horror campaign and see similar effect. Twilight 2000 is supposed to have ammo dice where if you use more you do more damage but run out of ammo faster. I like the fact that they are trying to customize each game to fit a particular niche, but at the root I think they are all the same core system.
Marv / Finarvyn
Lord Marshall, Earl of Stone Creek, C&C Society
Just discovered Amazing Adventures and loving it!
MA1E WardenMaster - Killing Characters since 1976, MA4E Playtester in 2006.
C&C Playtester in 2003, OD&D player since 1975

Post Reply