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Is there a universal RPG that can truly handle any type of game?

David Artman

Designer and Producer
Validated User
What about Universalis? You essentially make up the rules as you play, within the basic 'control economy' of tokens to declare facts.

Hmmm... though you'd have to do a LOT of Rule Tweaks to get it playing like D&D or Hero System. And then you're back to Nomic.
 

SibKhatru

Registered User
Validated User
I'll cast my vote for Heroquest 2e/G. I think it can scale to anything with minor dial setting.
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
I agree with your general statement, which is basically any system can be made to do almost anything if you're willing to put the work into it, but given that the real world is rife with cults I find it hard to believe that they're somehow out of place in sci-fi. ;)
Sorry, I meant cults as generally used in D100 Fantasy games, i.e. organisations set up to allow the worship of deities and which allow cult-specific spells to be gained as part of said worship. I don;t think that works in a SciFi game. Belonging to a religion in a SciFi game is fine, gaining particular supernatural benefits from said worship doesn't really fit the genre, unless you have some mystical psionic abilities controlled by a cult. Of course, D100-style cults are fine for a Science fantasy setting.
 

Delgarde

Registered User
Validated User
Truly handle any genre? No, I don't think so. I think the best you can hope for with a generic system is a good approximation. It's a whole "Jack of all trades, master of none" deal.
That sums it up pretty well, yeah. There are plenty of generic systems that can be used to run pretty much any genre - but they won't do all genres equally well, and even in the best case, they usually still benefit from some custom fitting.

Take Fate Core as an example. Out of the box, you can play pretty much anything with it, with varying degrees of success. But the best Fate games all tweak the system to some degree - maybe they use FAE's approaches instead of skills, maybe they have some special rules around stunts, maybe they have entire new subsystems built on top (e.g Tianxia's martial-arts system), new types of scene (e.g brainstorming from Atomic Robo). And even then, I wouldn't use Fate for everything, since other less-generic games may still do a better job.
 

Susanoo Orbatos

Social Justice Mindflayer
Validated User
Sorry, I meant cults as generally used in D100 Fantasy games, i.e. organisations set up to allow the worship of deities and which allow cult-specific spells to be gained as part of said worship. I don;t think that works in a SciFi game. Belonging to a religion in a SciFi game is fine, gaining particular supernatural benefits from said worship doesn't really fit the genre, unless you have some mystical psionic abilities controlled by a cult. Of course, D100-style cults are fine for a Science fantasy setting.
Perhaps with some sort of War in the Stars?
 

mook

Registered User
Validated User
There are countless "universal" RPGs out there. Do you feel that any of them can handle any genre and approach? In other words, be able to successfully pull off not only various genres of fantasy, scifi, horror, et al… but also cinematic heroism, gritty realism, and so on.

Put another way, is there a game that can do justice to both Star Trek and Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, James Bond and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mad Max and The Road, bla bla bla.
I have always been way in the minority on this question (thank goodness), but for me the answer is absolutely "yes." (I'm assuming you can figure the system.)

Over the years, I have run games of all of those IPs explicitly by name except for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "The Road," though I imagine multiple "real-world espionage" and "grounded post-apocalyptic survival" games would cover those. As far as I can tell, we all had a great time in all of 'em.

"Genre" is the easier of the two, mostly being a matter of using relevant settings, character archetypes, gear and weapons, that sort of thing, which are trivial/simple to come by for any generic system worth its salt.

"Approach," to me, means things like "cinematic," "god-like," "cartoonish," "hyper-realistic," "mundane character study," etc., which is also -- well, maybe not trivial, but certainly do-able (and often simple) by turning off and on various dials (i.e., "Bugs Bunny" means turning off these dozen rules; "Black Hawk Down" means turning on these dozen). Admittedly, the GM has to have enough experience with whatever system to know where those dials are and what they do, but that has no bearing on whether or not it's possible. It also depends a great deal on the way the group chooses to embrace (or not) that approach.

Some character sheets are scrawled on a notecard with a half-dozen skills, others are multiple pages long with scores of 'em. But, they all work for the specific campaign they're designed for.

The biggest complaint about generic systems seems to usually be that they don't "feel" right for this or that genre/approach, and after years of reading dozens of threads discussing it, I still don't really grok that, presumably because I have no first-hand experience of it. If we want a game that feels like Star Wars, or NCIS, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we use the rules that support that feel and ignore the rest.

So... it's an incredibly subjective thing to gauge, I guess is what I'm saying. But whatever that personal reservation, preference, whatever it is that sooo many others seem to have towards generic games -- I am so, so happy that I've never had it. :)
 

Mr_Sandman

Registered User
Validated User
I have always been way in the minority on this question (thank goodness), but for me the answer is absolutely "yes." (I'm assuming you can figure the system.)
This is more or less my experience too.

I have no problem adjusting my generic game of choice (GURPS as well) to any particular genre, power-level, degree of realism/grittiness. I enjoy choosing and adjusting all the options that GURPS provides to tune a campaign to fit my vision of it.

What is harder to change to a really large degree (I think for any game) is play-style -- which includes things like how much 'authorial' control players have over the narrative and the game world. There are advantages and optional rules in GURPS that can give players more control (serendipity, impulse points, etc.), but GURPS is never going to mimic the experience of playing Fiasco, even though you could play both in an identical setting and genre and even have the characters taking more or less the same actions.

That's ok for me, because I like the range of play-style that GURPS delivers. When I want to play more of a 'story game', I can break out Once Upon a Time and play that with my family.
 

Magnum Opus

Registered User
Validated User
certainly do-able (and often simple) by turning off and on various dials (i.e., "Bugs Bunny" means turning off these dozen rules; "Black Hawk Down" means turning on these dozen). Admittedly, the GM has to have enough experience with whatever system to know where those dials are and what they do, but that has no bearing on whether or not it's possible.
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Some character sheets are scrawled on a notecard with a half-dozen skills, others are multiple pages long with scores of 'em. But, they all work for the specific campaign they're designed for.
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If we want a game that feels like Star Wars, or NCIS, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we use the rules that support that feel and ignore the rest.
Implicit in any discussion of "does system matter" is a second discussion of: how much of a system can be ejected or how many house rules can you use before it stops being that system.
At some point, says one side, you're not playing GURPS you're just rolling 3d6.

ETA: of course with GURPS in particular this is a much squidgier line than other RPGs because A) you've almost always had to bin a bunch of rules B) they've been writing new rules for so long that you rarely have to make up your own unless you really really want to.
 
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