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Episode Nineteen: Does System Matter?

This is a perennial debate amongst roleplayers on the Internet. Some feel the debate is settled, some do not, it’s still an interesting point to debate, and so Nicky and I do so.

Let us know how you feel about it via email, on the Forums, on Facebook, or even on Twitter.

Episode 2-19

Favorite Games of the Week

Blue Planet
Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. – Savage Worlds Edition

Currently Playing

Well, Shadows of Esteren died an ignominious death. We discuss what happened, and talk about how we selected Dresden Files RPG. Our monthly game also settled on Vampire: the Requiem!


OneBadMoFo, congratulations!


Be sure to check out the IndieGoGo for RATS!

Also, be certain to look at the Kickstarter for Magicians: A Language Learning RPG.

Music Section

“Roll the Dice, Make my Day [Stick Jones Remix]” (Stick Jones)

The rest of this week’s music is provided by Midnight Syndicate from their album A Time Forgotten. Specifically, the tracks are:
01 The Lost Overture (Fallen Grandeur)
08 Master of Evil (Unseen Eyes)
13 Farewell Forever (Noctem Aeternus – Encoder Remix)

Games Mentioned

Dresden Files RPG
The Shadow of Yesterday
Shadows of Esteren
Vampire: the Requiem
Castles & Crusades
World of Darkness
Dogs in the Vineyard
Star Wars D6
Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition
GURPS 4th Edition
Sorcery & Super Science!
High School of the Damned
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
Qin: The Warring States

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  • If the system does not matter why are you playing a game as opposed to just sitting around and telling a story? Are you really playing a game if you are not actually “playing the game?” Shouldn’t the game mechanics reward the type of story that you want to play?

    Even if I tell the same story with Dread, Fiasco, My Life With Master, and DnD 3.5 the game will turn out VERY differently.

    If it turns out differently, then system matters.


    October 30, 2012

  • Those are all very good points. I am firmly in the middle when it comes to this debate. I think group dynamics trump system every time.


    October 31, 2012

  • I find this debate an interesting one. It reminds me of the “form follows function vs. function follows form” debate in architecture.

    My view is one of the three blind men with the elephant. System is part of the whole animal we call role playing games. It is only as important as the rest of the experience. Is character creation any more or less important then developing that characters back story? No they are both important. The interesting thing is how the hobby has evolved over the years to incorporate these aspects into the actual act of role playing.

    When you reviewed Dresden in the episode about character creation as play it dawned on me that they have taken what was at first a solitary event (in my personal experience) of creating my character and made it a group act in game. That is amazing. Now you can make your characters with interconnected backgrounds and it is covered in the rules which gives structure to the process. That is what the rules are for, providing a process that allows random chance to take a hand in the telling of the story and then provide the structure to interpret the result of that aspect of randomness. Thus the whole action is made more enjoyable and interactive.

    It is possible for system to get in the way of the role playing experience as noted in the episode. These are not bad games (well most of them are not) but instead they are niche games that are specific and direct in what they have to offer and what the players can do in range of action. It is just a matter of knowing your group and discussing the game fully before playing it.

    I know the discussion will march forward until the end of time or gaming (may that never come). It is an interesting topic and I enjoyed the episode. Keep up the great work.


    November 6, 2012