Sniffen Packets

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System Matters, and John Snead

From a thread on, I begin to see why Exalted has some of the disconnection it does. It doesn’t make it a bad game, but… well, look at this quote from John Snead, one of the authors:

…As long as there are applicable stats (charisma and wisdom primarily, and a variety of social skills (bluff, diplomacy, gather information, intimidate, & sense motive) then you have all you need, the rest is roleplaying, which for me is far more important in social sequences than in combat, because social sequences are the more interesting portion of the game, and thus the place where I want rules to have the least affect. I love Exalted, but I’ll never use Social Combat, and argued successfully against anything remotely similar being included in Blue Rose.

I do not in any way understand the idea that the focus of the mechanics are the focus of the game, for me mechanics should be easy and fast (both true of True20) and should serve to specifically handle those sections of gaming that are not the primary focus of the campaign. The major (and fairly long) climactic scene of the best session of Blue Rose I ever ran involved not a single die roll - everyone deeply got in character and roleplayed marvelously, which was especially surprising since it was at a convention game at Origins, and so was with totally unfamiliar players. In any case, so-called “mechanical support” would have gotten in the way and made that scene far less interesting and powerful than it was.

Anything this man writes about mechanics or system is going to be worse than useless to me. I’ll need to excise it from my game, since it’ll be otherwise constantly getting in my way. I want rules to mediate and schedule the interesting parts of my game. If we’re bargaining for influence, make it currency! If there’s tactical positioning to do, give me a map and some system for movement.

The funny thing is, he’s a systems guy. He wrote a bunch of the magic rules for Dying Earth, and they’re fantastic. They’re not the core of the game—that’s snide remarks and hat design—but they’re certainly important to getting the feel right.

I wonder if part of this is due to different definitions of “system”. After all, the most fun part of Shadowrun is the prep and planning. There’s no dice-rolling then, but plenty of IC arguments… backed up by a rich system of price and availability. When it starts to get un-fun, an OOC argument over wise plans, is when I find myself wanting more system, not less. By calling on a system agreed upon in principle beforehand, we resolve a conflict and get back to the fun part. I think we’d agree that the latter part is system, but I’m not sure he’d see the former as system. He might characterize it as a very well-established setting.

I don’t have links to the threads mentioned above handy; I’ll edit them into this post Thursday some time.