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What Games Should Ditch Their House Systems

Dread Moores

He/him
Validated User
I thought Earthdawn was very D&D-like back when it came out. It just had a history for the dungeons and the nasties therein provided in the game. It has levels. It has XP via delving. It has classes. It has spells that while they aren't limited in terms of 'slots per day' are limited by your ability to link them. One thing we did like was magic weapons that could grow in power as your legend grew. Actually, we liked quite a few things about Earthdawn, but it being amazingly different from D&D wasn't one, because it wasn't.
If that's all that required as similarities for one game to resemble another, then there are maybe one to four Ur-games on the market and throughout history. That's a pretty steep simplification of ED's system, and effectively allows for a good portion of the historical marketplace to "just be D&D." And that's on system alone. The setting is pretty drastically different from the most common D&D settings, with the possible exception of Dark Sun. I can't speak to how it would work with Cortex (as I don't know that system), but Earthdawn really doesn't match up that closely to D&D's system, let alone setting.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
If that's all that required as similarities for one game to resemble another, then there are maybe one to four Ur-games on the market and throughout history. That's a pretty steep simplification of ED's system, and effectively allows for a good portion of the historical marketplace to "just be D&D." And that's on system alone. The setting is pretty drastically different from the most common D&D settings, with the possible exception of Dark Sun. I can't speak to how it would work with Cortex (as I don't know that system), but Earthdawn really doesn't match up that closely to D&D's system, let alone setting.
I'd argue once you have exclusive classes, levels, level elevating hit points, class-specific magic, and an entenched dungeon (kaer) concept in the setting, you pretty much are a close relative to D&D. I'd be comfortable calling even systems that don't do the dungeon thing but do the rest of that near-D&D relatives.

Its not like this is exactly a new comparison, either; one of the constant refrains when ED first came out was "Its D&D where the D&D tropes make sense."
 

Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
Classes and levels are pretty much D&D's thing. Just one or the other are pretty common, but both together? That's almost always either D&D, a close derivative (Pathfinder, large segments of the OSR), or an homage (Torchbearer). Add in HP/level, dungeons, EDO fantasy tropes, etc. and it gets really similar.
 

Thornlord

Suffer the likes of me.
Validated User
I'd like to add Unhallowed Metropolis to the list of games I'd rather play with a different system. I feel that it would be an excellent full game with a Unisystem (All Flesh Must Be Eaten) license and input from Eden Games. This allows the game master to use All Flesh's monster design system to create different kinds of unmentionables. Plus, the game has such a rich and deliciously pretentious setting to allow for wonderful story about life and adventure and horror. :)
 

thenorm42

Registered User
Validated User
I think Ars Magica loses something when the experience system no longer drives stories. I’m not sure if that something is worth keeping though.

Ars Magica would be a much easier sell to my group with a lighter system, although I don’t think something like a Skill Pyramid would really fit.
I wonder if one could adapt the Chuubo's quest system to meet Ars Magica needs? With research a major focus of the quests.

I think Reve: the Dream Ouroboros / Dragon could do with a lighter system to better fit its whimsical nature. Keep the cool map-based magic though!
 

Malckuss

Game Design Hobbyist
Validated User
I'd argue once you have exclusive classes, levels, level elevating hit points, class-specific magic, and an entenched dungeon (kaer) concept in the setting, you pretty much are a close relative to D&D. I'd be comfortable calling even systems that don't do the dungeon thing but do the rest of that near-D&D relatives.

Its not like this is exactly a new comparison, either; one of the constant refrains when ED first came out was "Its D&D where the D&D tropes make sense."
Earthdawn is far more nuanced than D&D. Its classes aren't exclusive. Adepts can buy talents from any other discipline and, in fact, could buy into another discipline if they purchased the correct talents. The 'levels are more closely akin to the way power levels are tracked in M&M; you could have two eighth circle adepts of vastly varying power, because your circle caps the rank of attainment that could be sunk into talents, skills, and attributes, not levels that gave out the same amount of stuff per level up. You might have an air sailor with 16 talents who just passed into the eighth circle, and the same party might have a wizard with 32 or more talents.

Earthdawn was one of the first games to have fluid classes. As someone who avoided 2nd Edition D&D like the plague, it felt nothing like it; no THAC0, no race-as-class, no straightjacket-every-member-of-this-class-is-the-same material. It really unique races (pixies, tkrang, obsidimen) alongside unique takes on the more traditional races (dwarves being the bad guys was a trip). But man, the oddly tiered dice step chart was a mind boggler and difficult to figure quickly in play (this was mostly in 1st edition). I would love to dive back into Earthdawn, but I can't seem to find an edition that feels as complete as first without the warts it accumulated. The dice steps of Cortex Prime feels like a far closer fit, to me, than FU.
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Earthdawn is far more nuanced than D&D. Its classes aren't exclusive.
Multiclassing was a thing throughout much of D&D's history by now; if anything its been easier in some versions than it was in ED (at least the 1e version, I can't speak of later ones).

Adepts can buy talents from any other discipline and, in fact, could buy into another discipline if they purchased the correct talents. The 'levels are more closely akin to the way power levels are tracked in M&M; you could have two eighth circle adepts of vastly varying power, because your circle caps the rank of attainment that could be sunk into talents, skills, and attributes, not levels that gave out the same amount of stuff per level up. You might have an air sailor with 16 talents who just passed into the eighth circle, and the same party might have a wizard with 32 or more talents.
And that applied to some degree with a lot of editions of D&D too; you base combat ability might be level based, as was your spell level access, but a whole lot of other elements were not directly level-tied.

Earthdawn was one of the first games to have fluid classes. As someone who avoided 2nd Edition D&D like the plague, it felt nothing like it; no THAC0, no race-as-class, no straightjacket-every-member-of-this-class-is-the-same material. It really unique races (pixies, tkrang, obsidimen) alongside unique takes on the more traditional races (dwarves being the bad guys was a trip). But man, the oddly tiered dice step chart was a mind boggler and difficult to figure quickly in play (this was mostly in 1st edition). I would love to dive back into Earthdawn, but I can't seem to find an edition that feels as complete as first without the warts it accumulated. The dice steps of Cortex Prime feels like a far closer fit, to me, than FU.
The problem is that Cortex also compresses the hell out of things; you can finesse it in different ways with SFX or number of dice in the pool, but it still adds up to the fact that outside of some plot point driven keep-more-dice options, you're still always down to comparing a maximum of 2D12 to a maximum of 2D12; and anything to make that less an early option also compresses any difference between characters too.

(Don't get me wrong; Cortex is an interesting game. I'm running it right now. But it seems a singularly poor replacement for the kind of fantasy ED was doing).
 

Rupert

Active member
Validated User
Earthdawn was one of the first games to have fluid classes.
Rolemaster pre-dates it by a considerable margin, and has professions that are as fluid in most ways (more in some, less in others). Palladium's various games have fairly fluid OCCs, and also pre-date Earthdawn by a good long way.

As someone who avoided 2nd Edition D&D like the plague, it felt nothing like it; no THAC0, no race-as-class
AD&D2 didn't do race-as-class.

But man, the oddly tiered dice step chart was a mind boggler and difficult to figure quickly in play (this was mostly in 1st edition).
It seemed reasonably straight-forward to me, though I would have avoided that d20+d4 combination.
 

Jonathan Tweet

Registered User
Validated User
Anything from Tri Tac or Fantasy Games Unlimited. Great settings.. terrible systems.
Yes. The Tri Tac games, by Richard Tucholka, taught me how to pack the most life into the least words when describing an alien species, monster, etc.
 
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