How important is the system you use in your TTRPG experience?
In tabletop role playing, a system is the codified rule set used to represent the world and the player’s experiences of it. Dungeons and Dragons uses a system based around a d20 dice roll, with modifiers that change the possible spread of numbers you can successfully roll, and other dice to represent things like the damage dealt to characters or monsters in the game’s combat system. This is just one of potentially hundreds of systems out there — games like Call of Cthulhu or Champions use entirely different rules, with different means of conflict resolution and success at tasks. Think of it as all the stuff a video game handles ‘under the hood’ ultimately.
Systems are designed by people and by their very nature prioritize different aspects of gameplay. A game like Blades in the Dark or Agon prioritizes storytelling, role playing, combat scenarios, skill usage differently than a game like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. It can be a lot easier to handle an encounter in a game like Masks with dialogue than in D&D, just because of how the latter game was designed, and especially because D&D is an iterative game with several previous versions that all contribute to its current design in some ways. Sometimes a newer system comes at things with fresher eyes, and sometimes it’s just trying to reinvent a wheel that D&D already has pretty well figured out.
I personally play and enjoy a lot of different systems for a lot of different reasons. I enjoy crunchy systems like Pathfinder 2e or Mutants and Masterminds while also enjoying PbtA style games like the upcoming Avatar Legends or Masks. Sometimes I like designing or modifying a system, like I did for the Mass Effect one shot we ran here, and at other times I enjoy just playing good ol’ D&D, which does pretty much all I need for most games. But I do think choosing a specific game system can have an impact on how your games play out — when all you have is an extremely robust system for tracking turn based combat scenarios, every problem starts to look like initiative should be rolled.
So what do you think? Do you think any game system will do, or do you have specific preferences, and if so what are they?
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