22 February 2014
Sticking To A System
Being asked my own opinion, I reply that I started GMing The Fantasy Trip in 1983, flipped to its successor system GURPS when it was in playtest a couple years later, and have pretty much GMed nothing else since. An answer considered unremarkable when the system you solely play is D&D (or, these days, Pathfinder), this bugs a surprising number of people. What's the point of doing that? I've been asked.
For one thing, I don't dance around genres much. I've done some SF, done some Firefly (not quite the same as space opera), done some French Revolution. Mostly, though, I've been doing the same setting, genre and milieu since 1978.
This has its advantages. I know my gameworld to an eyepopping degree. I have DECADES of prepwork behind me. Detailed realms. MULTIPLE cities with hundreds of businesses apiece. Hundreds of NPCs, many of which have detailed notes. 20 page writeups for religions for the in-depth priest. Etc etc ad nauseam.
So tell me, why would I forfeit the sheer knowledge there to run Some Other Setting? I couldn't possibly do the same job. I don't have the time or the energy to duplicate all that work. I'd have to say "I don't know" a lot more often, and slow up play to think up an answer. (And I'd sure get caught out a lot, when the players knew I was wrong, and was contradicting myself.)
That's how I feel about switching systems. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that there is a setting I want to run, and that X System is "better" than GURPS for running that setting. (This being an argument made about a hundred times more often than it's been proven, and has always seemed to me an attempt at self-justification, but let's go with it.)
But I understand GURPS. I have long experience in creating characters, and long experience in shepherding others through character creation. I know how the combat system works. I know how the magic system works, and I've created hundreds of new spells to go with it. I don't have to refer to a rulebook very often at all during runs. I know the weaknesses of the system - or at least those elements I feel to be weak - and have come up with variations and houserules to cover the gaps.
So tell me, why would I forfeit the sheer knowledge there to run Some Other Game System? I couldn't possibly do the same job. I don't have the time or the energy to duplicate all that learning. I'd have to say "I don't know" a lot more often, and slow up play to look up the answer. (And I'd sure get caught out a lot, when the players knew I was wrong, and was contradicting the rulebook.)
I don't have GM ADD, I'm not enough of a moron to feel that a game system which wasn't invented last year is "obsolete," I don't ascribe unique virtues to systems just because they're published by the creator, I'm not rich enough to drop hundreds of dollars on corebooks and splatbooks every switch, and I'm not insane enough to insist my players go through the same relearning process just because I have a short attention span.
There. That's the point.