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Setting vs. game mechanics.

lordabdul

Registered User
Validated User
The good thing is that if the mechanics are not good, you can replace them. And if you find some good system, you can use it with cool settings. It's a mix and match, on a case by case basis. I certainly won't refuse to play a game with an interesting setting or concept just because the rules suck -- I'll just change the rules for some good ones.

So if I had to pick, I'd say "setting". I'm not playing RPGs for game mechanics, I've got board games for that. I play RPGs to tell and experience cool stories.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Tastes can differ all over the shop about settings, but a mechanical failure is just that, objectively, for far more people.
While its possible to have one that's pretty obviously problematic for a lot of people, there's plenty of room for mechanical decisions that are not failures (as in, they do exactly what they're trying to do) that are exactly what one relatively large group of people want and absolutely anathema for another. So I think taste can be a significant factor in both.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
The good thing is that if the mechanics are not good, you can replace them. And if you find some good system, you can use it with cool settings. It's a mix and match, on a case by case basis. I certainly won't refuse to play a game with an interesting setting or concept just because the rules suck -- I'll just change the rules for some good ones.

So if I had to pick, I'd say "setting". I'm not playing RPGs for game mechanics, I've got board games for that. I play RPGs to tell and experience cool stories.
This is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but you can find when you get right down to it that porting an interesting setting to another system can be work that well exceeds your capacity. This is particularly noticeable with a setting that has paranormal abilities that are supposed to work in particular ways and with particular constraints where even getting a specific system not set up for it to represent them (because they require a level of detail the system doesn't do normally, for example) can be far from trivial.
 

brennanhawkwood

Registered User
Validated User
For me, setting... although mechanics can be important. When approaching the possibility of buying something new, the setting is more likely to be what pulls me in. There are a few sets of mechanics that will get me to look at something new just because it uses that underlying set of rules, but its mostly setting that gets me interested and invested in a given game. I'm also far more likely to deal with a good setting with bad/disliked mechanics by replacing the mechanics than I am to go the other direction. Though of course, the best option is a game with a great setting and solid mechanics that fit well and support each other as a single 'thing'.
 

lordabdul

Registered User
Validated User
This is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but you can find when you get right down to it that porting an interesting setting to another system can be work that well exceeds your capacity.
True! Good thing is that I'm not very particular about systems -- there's only been a couple systems ever (in my almost 25 years of gaming) that I disliked enough to replace with other things. One is most flavours of d20 (easy to replace since most are for generic-ish FRP where the idiosyncrasies of the magic system are also stuff I want to get rid of), and the other is FFG's new system (like for their Star Wars games, which is easy to replace with the old d6 system or something). I did run for a while with CoC using GURPS and that does require indeed some work to figure out how to adapt SAN rules and magic, but if you're willing to GM with GURPS then you're up to tinkering with rules (and I did it mostly to give a grittier/crunchier feeling than vanilla CoC rules anyway so the point was to make the game a bit different). But anyway yes, YMMV.
 

Tom B

Registered User
Validated User
It's the setting that gets people interested in the game (as player or GM), but it has to have a set of mechanic that suits that setting. So, while they're equally important, in my experience it's the setting that comes first and the mechanics that have to fit it. I've run a campaign using different sets of mechanics until we found one that worked, but it was the setting that was popular.

That's my experience in all my previous (and current) groups, anyway. If anyone asks if we want to play 'X' where 'X' is (game system of choice), the answer has always been, maybe...what's the game about?

So equally important in different ways. The setting interests our group, the mechanics can kill it or support it. If they don't support it, another set of mechanics will.
 
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Kurt McMahon

Academic Ninja
RPGnet Member
Validated User
For me,

Setting can make a game but mechanics can break one.
This for me as well. Outside of generic systems, if I'm not interested in a game's setting, I usually won't even bother with it. But there are games with settings that I've liked where I disliked the mechanics enough that I ditched them in favor of a different system or just gave up on the game entirely.
 

Balac

Registered User
Validated User
Setting is nice and all but I'm a realist these days - no one I play with has the time and inclination to sit down and read a hundred pages of setting background. So what I want is an evocative but easily summed up setting along with mechanics that reinforce it's themes. Yhea I know that's asking a lot so most of the time I'll go with a system that matches a genre / theme that interest me then find / build a setting around that.
 

Kurt McMahon

Academic Ninja
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Setting is nice and all but I'm a realist these days - no one I play with has the time and inclination to sit down and read a hundred pages of setting background. So what I want is an evocative but easily summed up setting along with mechanics that reinforce it's themes. Yhea I know that's asking a lot so most of the time I'll go with a system that matches a genre / theme that interest me then find / build a setting around that.
Even when I use highly detailed published settings, I would never ask anyone to read a hundred pages of setting background before playing in the game. I mean, if I player wants to, good for them, but I just don’t think it’s necessary. A lot of the time I may not do it either.

I’ve run Mage: The Ascension multiple times without ever using any of White Wolf’s published NPCs or chantries. I ran a long 1st Edition Exalted campaign that used huge amounts of the game’s mechanical widgets but was confined to a small area in the Hundred Kingdoms. The only published NPCs the player characters ever even heard about were the Empress and the Bull of the North.

I’ve run Star Trek RPGs for people who’d only seen a handful of episodes of The Next Generation. I’ve run Forgotten Realms games that rarely strayed outside a single region of the setting. The background info I gave the players before the game was a single sheet of bullet points. Ditto for Legends of the Five Rings.

My Star Wars game ignored 99% of the Extended Universe of the time because I’ve never read that stuff.

These days, sketched in settings are increasingly common, so there’s less I need to boil down or ignore. :)
 

jamie

Member
Validated User
Setting is most important for me, always. Whether as player or GM, I want to interact with the world as directly as possible, rather than mediated through a layer of mechanics that serve only to make me feel divorced from the world. Sure, some mechanics reflect the setting, but I have direct access to the setting anyway, so a mechanic doesn't do anything for me except intrude.
 
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