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Setting vs. game mechanics.

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
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.
Out of curiosity, have you looked into freeform roleplaying environments? Because with that position, it seems like even the lightest RPG mechanics are an annoyance to you.

(Its perfectly legitimate to answer "I eat what's on my plate.")
 

J.M

Registered User
Validated User
As a player: Setting. It's what attracts me, I can deal with any mechanics as long as the GM applies the rules consistently.
As a GM: Mechanics. I'd never run a system I don't care for. I'm not as particular about settings, in fact I like to explore lots of them.
 

artikid

passerby
Validated User
Same importance. Wouldn't play a system I hate for a good setting nor a good system for a silly setting. I did, but today I wouldn't.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
For me, definitely setting first. I want to play/run games in interesting worlds. The campaign themes, stories, characters, etc are all part of the setting. Perhaps it is the Anthro Geek in me, but I need an interesting setting. That does not have to mean hundreds of pages of background material to read before play, but the world should feel like it has some depth to it. What makes it an interesting place to adventure?

I am currently a player in a Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign and I am bored out of my mind. There is no sense of setting. Nothing seems to matter except who we are fighting now. The game is all mechanics. Wrse than that it is mechanics that the other players at the table don't seem to want to learn and use.

If I don't like a mechanical system I will just drop it and run the game with a system I do like. I usually run very old school rules light, so the system doesn't matter much any way. I have yet to find a game where good mechanics kept me interested and engaged without an interesting setting.
 

Ravian

Registered User
Validated User
In my opinion, systems make or break settings. My initial decisions on what game I want to run are initially based off of a cool setting or campaign idea, however finding the right system that best supports that setting is what causes me to pull the trigger on running it. I will ditch an idea that I find cannot be adequately served by the systems I enjoy running. I have also done a lot of work with homebrewing content for systems that have the skeleton that I think would work for a given game idea I want to run. And often I find myself disillusioned by systems that don't play well for me, regardless of the setting being run in them.

For example, I'd like to run an ASoIaF game at some point. But if I ever want to do it, it will likely take a fair bit of homebrewing on my part. This is mostly because the Green Ronin System is pretty inadequate in my personal opinion, and I don't think I couldn't deal with just slapping a coat of paint on D&D and calling it a day. Same goes for games like Shadowrun, or many of the White Wolf games. Evocative settings that I love to read about, but the systems fall flat whenever I try to understand the rules or run them. It's why I enjoy generic systems like Savage Worlds. They're not perfect for every setting out there, but they invite tinkering, are extremely versatile and they run quite well for me.

So yeah, when put in its totality, both are important, I probably won't consider running a game in the first place if its in a setting I don't enjoy that much, but I'm willing to subject myself to a lot of work to try and make a system that works better for the game.

To give an example. D&D 5e is a decent enough system, it's serviceable and it's definitely my favorite of the editions, but that's not a high bar. But I don't think I could honestly run forgotten realms with it, because forgotten realms doesn't interest me. Now at best I could use it to run a homebrew setting (that didn't require a lot of changes from the core assumptions of a 5e world) or a setting I did enjoy with only minimal changes. (Like Eberron, or Ravenloft, or maybe even Planescape if I added a few extra homebrew races) or I could try and make a 5e Dark Sun conversion despite the fact that this would require some entirely new races and subraces, new spellcasting mechanics for defiling magic, breakage rules for non-metal equipment, a willingness to toss out the vast majority of the Monster Manuals and starting from scratch and an entirely different psionics system because Wizards' Mystic is broken as hell, before recognizing that this is too much work compared to just running something that takes less tinkering and hoping that Wizards deals with the problem themselves with a 5e Dark Sun Campaign.

So yeah in that scheme I can't really say which is more important. A setting I don't like is going to be dead on arrival but a setting with a less than adequate system will make me waste way too much time trying to adjust everything to make it all perfect. (Often with mixed results)
 

Alban

Registered User
Validated User
I am currently a player in a Ghosts of Saltmarsh campaign and I am bored out of my mind. There is no sense of setting. Nothing seems to matter except who we are fighting now. The game is all mechanics. Wrse than that it is mechanics that the other players at the table don't seem to want to learn and use.
As for myself, that's definitely not why I have in mind when I say I'm interested in a game's mechanisms first. :)
During actual play, roleplay and "sense of setting" are the most important things to me. That's part of the reason why rules are important to me : I want them to support roleplaying. :)
 

jamie

Member
Validated User
Out of curiosity, have you looked into freeform roleplaying environments? Because with that position, it seems like even the lightest RPG mechanics are an annoyance to you.

(Its perfectly legitimate to answer "I eat what's on my plate.")
I'd love to, if I could find players willing to do that. I've played in games that ostensibly used a particular system, but where in reality that system was almost never used, and that was fabulous.

I have sympathy for the idea that mechanics support a setting (elves get +2 to dexterity; elves in the setting are more dextrous than whatever the baseline is), but I don't get any thrill out of interacting with that mechanic - I'd rather just have elves be generally more dextrous in the medium through which I want to interact with the game, which is people describing what people/the world say and do.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
I'd love to, if I could find players willing to do that. I've played in games that ostensibly used a particular system, but where in reality that system was almost never used, and that was fabulous.

I have sympathy for the idea that mechanics support a setting (elves get +2 to dexterity; elves in the setting are more dextrous than whatever the baseline is), but I don't get any thrill out of interacting with that mechanic - I'd rather just have elves be generally more dextrous in the medium through which I want to interact with the game, which is people describing what people/the world say and do.
There are diceless and almost mechanic-less RPGs like Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, but unfortunately, they're only liable to work with the right kind of group (I've played in something vaguely related years ago when I used to MUSH, and it could be satisfying in its way when it went properly, but I felt when it failed, it tended to do so worse than with a conventional RPG).
 

Gee4orce

Registered User
Validated User
Well I've got more settings and rules that I could actually reasonably consume in a lifetime. What I'm looking for is either something so novel in terms or rule or setting that it's worth consideration, especially if the rules are in some way married to the setting.

The worst case is where the rules set is proprietary but derivative, and you wonder why the designer didn't just use an existing rules system.
 

Pete Rogers

Registered User
Validated User
Setting first... and second, and third.

Mechanics can be a deal breaker (e.g. Rolemaster, Shadowrun), but i'll never play a game just based on the mechanics.
 
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