• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

Setting vs. game mechanics.

Vincent Takeda

Chilllin in Rifts Denmark
Validated User
I agree. 'How does the world work and what are we meant to be doing in it' far surpass 'where exactly are we'. And this is coming from a gamer that considers himself first and foremost an explorer. One would think setting would be highest on my list. Particularly when it comes to 'dollars spent on the hobby' I abjectly refuse to put money into a product that is simply 'our game, but now slightly modified to reflect being in this other place/time/genre instead!'. When it comes to money, i'm a megaversalist. I expect the rules to be able to adequately handle any setting and many themes. Probably why i'm not into storygames. Collecting a never ending stream of setting variants and playbooks like pokemon cards isn't why I'm a gamer.

Recent threads on 'how much of your collection have you actually played' seem to reflect i'm in the minority though... Lots of collectors who aren't able to play but that doesnt stop them from amassing a library of dreams on paper that never make it to game day.


Registered User
Validated User
Mechanics are number one to me, I like a variety of settings, so that is cool, and if the mechanics are 90% of what I already know, that is easy buy in for me.


Validated User
I'm in the false dichotomy crowd. Setting and system for me are strongly interlinked; take Generic Setting X and pair it with D&D vs. Savage Worlds vs. Fate vs. GURPS vs. Rolemaster and you'll get five very different takes on and experiences of X. You're pretty much always dealing with the fusion of the two once you're at the table.


Registered User
Validated User
1 everytime... I've seen too many great settings married to horrible systems so tightly that converting them is an absolute chore. It's worse as its a failed investment.

My problems with systems:

When, instead of simply existing to serve gameplay they become a second tier of game.

Exotic for exotics sake (precious systems) that then uncomfortably shoehorn in the setting.

Multiple micro-systems.

Personally I feel that while settings should be copywrited, systems should not. I absolutely salute designers & companies who support open gaming licenses.

As for settings grumbles: the big sandbox with not enough scenarios. This is the death of games. I've played Call of Cthulhu most my life. Why? The quality and number of scenarios and setting books out there. I suspect a lot of D&Ders would say the same. While I do have an imagination I don't have much free time to be an unpublished game designer working to a deadline.
Last edited:


Registered User
Validated User
Mechanics. I've got settings, can make settings improvisationally well, and generally have the setting side under control to the point where it is easier for me to make a setting than learn one*. Even stealing parts for settings is generally served better by novels, anthologies, textbooks, etc.

Mechanics though? Those I'm in the market for, with my piles of setting seeking mechanical inspiration. Parts stealing is also vastly more useful here, as other sources generally don't provide much.

*A few games have settings so interesting I'm willing to use them, but they're rare exceptions.


Mostly simulationist
Validated User
I agree. 'How does the world work and what are we meant to be doing in it' far surpass 'where exactly are we'.
From context, you seem to be implying that the first of those is mechanics and the second is setting. But to my mind, those are both part of the setting. I mean, "how does the world work" is quite clearly a question about the game world, and even "what we are meant to be doing" is part of contextualisation within the greater world.


Wandering stranger
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Mechanics. I want a system that has enough widgets to provide interesting results. If the setting is absolutely terrible good mechanics won't save it, but a lackluster setting can come to life during play if people enjoy the mechanics.

The reverse, having a great setting with lackluster mechanics can also work, but requires either players/GM who don't really care about the mechanics ("Just tell me what to roll") or tinkering/retrofitting with the mechanics. I absolutely detest the first and I don't have the time to do the second option justice.


Registered User
Validated User
For me,

Setting can make a game but mechanics can break one.

Amen to that. Can and do. Far too often.

That's a condensed take on what I was saying earlier about the negative impact of systems and mechanics. I do understand that systems and mechanics are much harder to get right, and that good ones deserve praise. But I don't feel any onus to stick with a bad or unappealing system just because of the hard work that's gone into it. Tastes can differ all over the shop about settings, but a mechanical failure is just that, objectively, for far more people.
Top Bottom