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Combining Core Systems

Octopus Prime

Retired User
A while back, I read a post about some game - I think it might have been Lancer - that started out with a campaign where they would "play 4e DND for combat, and Fate Core for everything else."
This idea has really stuck me with, and I now find myself somewhat enamored with the idea of having totally different core engines, character sheets, etc. for different modes of play. I found myself grafting little pieces of Powered by the Apocalypse onto my current Anima Prime game, and I'm planning on eventually doing an Avatar: The Last Airbender game that uses Anima Prime for all the combat and Legend of the Elements for non-combat roles (seriously, AP and PbtA are chocolate and peanut butter. I cannot recommend this combo enough).
I've traditionally been very much on Team Streamline and having one core set of mechanics for all aspects of play, most likely a strong reaction to the frustrations of playing 2nd edition Shadowrun at an early age.
The obvious downsides of these grafted games if you have to learn two (or more) completely different systems. The upside, as I see it, is being able to make scenes feel unique and different, and use engines that are well-suited to certain types of gameplay.
I don't necessarily have a big question I'm asking here, besides a call for other people's thoughts on this approach to designing/combining games.
 

Crimson Carcharodon

Registered User
Validated User
It's an interesting idea. If I was going to do it, I'd have a few restrictions. A) Both systems would have to be as simple as can be, because learning two totally separate systems can be a challenge, especially if they're complex. B) Each system has to have a character sheet that's no more than a single page, for similar reasons. No need to get elbow deep into two dense character sheets.

I think it would make it really tough to find appropriate times to switch systems entirely. What I'd be more likely to do is swap out system parts, like a skill system or combat mechanic. One example for me would be replacing 5E's Inspiration system with Fate's aspects and fate points. So instead of relying on a DM to say "well, you acted in accordance with your flaw/bond/personality, here's Inspiration," a player could say "I'm going to pay a fate point to invoke my aspect "Knight of the Chalice take advantage on my attempt to Persuade this other Knight of the Chalice." Or, alternately, the DM could offer a fate point to compel an aspect.

Obviously, putting two wildly different games together is going to require a lot of tweaking. But it's a really cool idea.
 

Alban

Registered User
Validated User
I really dislike this idea.
Why not replace 4e mechanisms such as to-hit rolls with their FATE equivalents instead ?
 
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Crimson Carcharodon

Registered User
Validated User
I really dislike this idea.
Why not replace 4e mechanisms such as to-hit rolls with their FATE equivalents instead ?
Likely because 4E combat is really tightly put together and, for some groups, really fun. The whole point seems to be that the group likes playing 4E's tight combat engine and prefers Fate's looser, more narrative approach to out-of-combat play.

If you replaced all of 4E's mechanisms with Fate, then you're just playing Fate.
 

DeathbyDoughnut

a.k.a. Mr. Meat Popcicle
Validated User
I ran a litrpg genre intrigue campaign where the players played characters who played an MMORPG. I used Fate Accelerated which morphed into Core for the cyberpunk meatspace characters, and D&D 4e for the cyberspace characters.

The campaign was largely inspired by the anime .hack, and The Matrix. My design choice was that I wanted the meatspace and cyberspace characters to feel completely different, I wanted the players to feel like their characters were playing a different game than they themselves were playing. I didn't want the players to play a cyberpunk character playing a different version of a video game character, which is what would have happened had I used one system for the campaign.

As part of the plot of the campaign I began to bleed some Fate Core rules into the MMORPG. The cyberspace characters began receiving Fate Points, the meatspace characters could create advantages in cyberspace. At the start of the campaign I kept the systems completely separate, basically when the meatspace Fate Core character logged into the video game, the Fate stuff went away, and we brought out the D&D 4e stuff.

Overall, the campaign worked great, there were no real hiccups blending the systems.

This campaign directly lead me to using D&D 5e's Traits, Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws as Fate aspects to gain Inspiration. Instead of me, the DM, trying to keep track of PC inspiration, who has it and when to award it. I tell my players, "Just take disadvantage on a roll and call out a Trait, Bond, Ideal, or Flaw you have to justify why it's making the roll harder, and you gain Inspiration." Which allows the PCs to have inspiration whenever they want. Both as a player and DM I've noticed that Inspiration is a pretty good mechanic, but it's usually the first one overlooked in a game of D&D 5e.
 

cparen

Registered User
Validated User
I've been toying with this notion as well for my players - they like 5e, but have said they'd prefer more social interaction, but when I provide homebrew or published adventure material focused on social encounters, I then get feedback that their characters feel bland - they've got their charisma stat and possibly one background feat to draw on. I think having a character sheet 90% devoted to combat contributes to the frustration.

I share your frustation though. I get hung up on how the two systems would interact - if you have 2 stress boxes ticked off and then enter into combat, does that translate in any way?

One of the few areas of success I've had is composing PbtA style success-with-setback choices, as discussed on the failing forward thread. I incorporated it last session with some positive results. That sort of blending instead of replacing might help with the learning curve. Rather than two systems, it's more like homebrewing one system with inspiration from another.
 

Herodarwin

Registered User
Validated User
If your going to graft to systems together it's sometimes better to go full Dr frankenstein or better metaphor Dr Moreau with it Cutting out the part's you don't need from one system, linking using one part of a system to a second part of the second, patching gaps with homebrew and stealing from other systems. More simply instead of trying to run 2 systems run a single customised one.
 

CWalck93

Doom Priest of Peace and Happiness
Validated User
I don't mind combining two core systems if they are able to handle the movement back and forth when needed. The problem is that sometimes the systems seemingly won't work well together and thus the frankenmonster system that you land up using doesn't work because of its mess.

I think what others have said works very well. Use a single customized one instead of two weird system hybrids seem the best way to go. I think you can adjust 4e for example to give you more social combat. Look at other systems and see how they fit within the framework you are looking at.
 

SMHWorlds

Registered User
Validated User
My immediate thought and others may also have thought this, is placing the two systems in a tactical / strategic relationship. I realize that may be a bit war gamey for some folks, but bear with as I think the idea matches up well to what folks are looking for.

Two examples come to mind. The first is the video game Total War: X (Whichever era you like, there are many) where there is a strong strategic and logistic / empire building component as well as a tactical component. These are connected but vastly different systems. To the extent that some people play with one and never the other.

The second example is of course almost any JRPG video game. You walk around the map, talk to people, but when a fight occurs everything changes. It is much more tactical than narrative, the opposite of the "strategic" aspect.

And I think that is where this idea could flourish. One system that supports narrative play with its mechanics, and a tactical system which rewards good tactical play and is fiddly. The example in the OP was a good one I think. That juxtaposition of play could be very rewarding to everyone. You would just need some connective tissue to make them work together.

You would also need a signal or really two, one for when to switch to tactical mode and one to end tactical mode. Perhaps a mechanic for a player to "Engage" this mode, allowing the other players to assist, stay neutral, or oppose that decision. The same would be true for ending the tactical aspects.
 
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