Endday, part two

The world is going to end. But the question is: what rules system will we use to end it? Usually, picking a system for a specific campaign is a no-brainer – you pick the one sitting on your bookcase which you and your players enjoy the most, and the one which best fits the genre.

For example, it involves superheroes, I’ll reach for Mutants & Masterminds every time. If it’s D&D-style fantasy, I’ll use…. well, D&D. relishing the fact that I can fine-tune my choice between Classic, Third Edition and 4e depending on exactly the style of play I envisage. If it’s gritty low-fantasy, I’ll use M&M, GURPS, Savage Worlds or Warhammer Fantasy, as the mood and style takes me. And if it’s sci-fi gaming, then I’ll choose between M&M, 3:16, Traveller or Savage Worlds. Simple choices, eh?

In theory you should be able to run any campaign using any system, but only a crazy fool would try to do so. A rules system is far more than it’s constituent parts. How the system feels during play is an important factor, as is how complex it is to create characters. I wouldn’t use Rolemaster to run a one-shot beer and pretzels game as the time it takes to generate a character isn’t worth the effort. Similarly, I wouldn’t use Risus for an in-depth long term game of political intrigue. Each system plays to its strengths, and if you can maximize those, you maximize the fun. Of course, sometimes it’s fun to play against type too – using the Paranoia RPG to run a grim dark future Bladerunner-style game, for example – but that’s not what I plan to do here.

For the Endday campaign, we’re looking at a modern-day setting, so the choice (given our play preferences and available systems) should be between M&M, GURPS, d20 Modern or Savage Worlds, right?

But for this specific campaign, I’ve discarded each and every one of ’em. I’ll explain why in turn, and reveal my final choice of system. Along the way, you’ll learn a little more about Endday. But not too much!

Mutants & Masterminds
Our number-one go-to system is, as far as we can see, the perfect RPG. With it’s ultra-freeform character generation, combat rules which actually work and keep the action flowing and ability to adapt to damned-near any genre imaginable, this should be a perfect fit for any campaign. It’s a system we know backwards as well as forwards and provides everything I need out of a system in just one book.

So, why not use it?

I’m expecting this campaign to have a high character bodycount (at least one death per session, probably more), so a this isn’t the place for a system which lets you finely craft every facet of your character’s personality. Players get very attached to their M&M characters as they re-work their character points from session to session, and the last thing I want is to incur the wrath of a player by killing off a character he’s spent many hours working on. Yes, my players are like that.

The alternative would be to present archetypes and let the players choose from them and customize to taste. I’m a LazyGM and that’s too much like hard work for this campaign. Nah.

Crunchier than M&M but just as tasty, there’s GURPS. Whilst it’s billed as a generic system, it’s strengths lie in the modern day with a wealth of setting and genre options for gaming in the Real World(tm).

So, why not use it?

Again, it’s not a system well suited toward creating characters quickly, and I want (for reasons which will become clear later) a system that includes a ready-made cast of characters, monsters, mooks and more. GURPS will demand rather more of my prep-time than I’m willing to invest, so out it goes.

d20 Modern
The ideal choice, right? Heck it’s even got “Modern” in the name! Character generation is quick, and there’s a whole wealth of d20 Monster Manuals and more to dive into for ideas. It’s a cinematic system tailor-made for running Strange Tales in the here and now. Cool, eh?

So, why not use it?

Two words: power level. I want the characters to start out as big screen heroes, and potentially become the freakin’ saviours of the human race. Starting at 1st level is out of the question, so where to begin? 6th? 10th? 15th? I dunno. Upping the level means my planning turns into some kind of arms race where the challenges I throw have to raise to their level to be exciting. Ick.

Also d20 Modern feels wrong for this campaign. That’s harder to quantify, but I want the campaign to be more manga than CSI. More on that though, another time.

So, no to d20 Modern.

Savage Worlds
Soon to be the Official Role-Playing Game of the RPG Blogger’s Network (only kidding, folks!) this is a system which promises much, and delivers in spades. It’s quick to play, great fun to work with and seems to be able to handle everything you throw at it. Character generation is quick and flexible, but without M&M’s crunch overhead, and it’s more than up to the task of running a modern-day game.

So, why not use it?

Firstly, we’re still learning the system, and I’d much rather use an rpg we’re well acquainted with for this campaign. Secondly, I suspect that Savage Worlds is going to be just a little too light for my needs this time around – that last thing I want to happen is realize halfway through I should have used Mutants & Masterminds after all.

So…….. what are we going to use for this modern day campaign, if I’ve discounted all the likely candidates?

Fourth Edition D&D.

And I’ll tell you why. Tomorrow.

3 Comments on “Endday, part two”

  1. Hmm… I would have figured you’d go with Savage Worlds, particularly since you can make a character in ten minutes (faster if you know what you’re doing).

    Besides, there’s plenty of official and fan-made content, like the Savage Beasts guide, a fan-made creation that includes everything from Aliens to Zombies. Stuff like that helps to be a Lazy GM along with the fact that you can create nearly everything on teh fly. Also, Savage Worlds has already got rules for vehicles and guns, both of which I’m guessing would be necessary in a modern campaign.

    When you say that it’s “too light,” do you mean that it’s too “rules light”?Savage Worlds is intentionally light to be simple and for everything to be useful out of the box. PEG has a lot of free game aids like the Combat Survival Guide that helps with learning some of the more difficult aspects of the system (in this case, all the things you can do in combat). And giving a $10 book to each of your players makes it easier too.

    All that said, I suppose a modern campaign could happen in D&D 4e. After all, they pulled it off with Urban Arcana. However, it just seems like a whole lot of extra work getting weapons, vehicles, technology, and whatever else you’ll need. But if you’re up to it, power to you; I’d love to see how it turns out! And I’m interested in hearing your reasons tomorrow.

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