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Generic system comparison

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Vivsavage (whom I thank very much if he reads this) has recently run a

Poll about generic systems.

I did not post the link before because I did not want to alter the statistical results of the outcome with a "Let us all go there and vote BRP". We can now consider the poll closed, as no one has posted on the thread for two days. Let us examine the results.

Question: What is the best multi-genre RPG?

18.74%: GURPS

16.04%: Savage Worlds

13.90%: BRP

10.16%: HERO


6.42%: HeroQuest

Well, the results were predictable, but these %ages tell us something:

a) 6% for HeroQuest is incredibly good for a system that was not even defined as "generic" till the last edition, which, I remind to all, has been released twenty days ago.

B) It was clear from the beginning that GURPS would win, but BRP is almost on par with Savage Worlds (it was second for one day, between GURPS and SW while the poll was still running). Given that SW is the "trendy" game this moment, it could be argued that BRP has the potential to be second once the RPG community has acknowledged the fact that there is now a real "generic" edition and some of the hype about SW has stopped.

c) GURPS and BRP have rather similar mechanics (roll-under, skill-based, unopposed rolls with optional rules for opposed rolls) and amount for almost one third of the choices. Even HERO has some points in common with GURPS. So I dare to say that the roll-under mechanics is confirmed as the favored one, and certainly GURPS is the game to beat - and BRP is the one game that can do that, as it has the most similar mechanics.

In addition to this, last week there were several other good threads about BRP, HeroQuest and GURPS on rpg.net. I recommend reading them. The one about BRP has really interesting comments by Jason and Ray Turney.

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With 187 participants the 95% confidence level for the poll would be around +/- 3%.

This means GURPS could be near 15.74% and BRP could be at 16.09%. All in all I'd say it is too close to call though BRP is up in the mix with games that spend much more on advertising/color-hardback books etc which is nice.

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I'm in NZ currently, and quite busy in many ways, so forgive me if I don't hang around too long to follow up with comments, etc.

Anyway, having checked some local games shops (in Wellington and Christchurch) I do think that GURPS probably still gets more 'shelf-exposure' overall, compared to other generic systems (although I did pick up a hardcopy BRP, pleasingly enough). GURPS still has the marketing advantage of being seen as 'the original' generic rules-set (regardless of the actual history), and it does have a strong amount of visible supplemental support. I'd say that the same was true of game shops in the UK, when I was there - but let's not forget that they have 20+ years head start on the matter!

The major factor that influences the other titles, in terms of marketing, is tone (I think). That is, HERO is still pretty much seen by casual fans as being about super-powers primarily, and Savage Worlds is seen as a fast, action-orientated system. BRP has the advantage over these, like GURPS, as being more neutral in tone, although some still consider it 'old', 'dated' or 'gritty'.

The onus, then, is on supplement writers to demonstrate that it can be universal and truly generic in it's tone, by being able to apply it to multiple genres in the same style as the specialist games would be done.

The best example of this so far is the Troll-Slayers adventure - which really does feel like an old school D&D adventure (and is presented like one). (I also note that John Wicks recent Call of Cthulhu adventure, actually had a similar tonal structure to what was being attempted with 'Straight' Paranoia, incidently). If writers can produce adventures, or supplements that feel like other 'staple' rpgs (eg like a Star Wars style application, or a WoD one, or Heavy Gear, say), complete with pre-gens that have the same 'look' as characters from those other games - well, I think it would help really sell the game to new people. Oh, and a Traveller-style life-path generation system would make an interesting supplement too.

The other thing of note is that new free fast-play version of the BRP rules is excellent, particularly with all those adventures in, and should be mass-distributed even more than the full rules quite possibly. Regardless of the reasoning, new players always look at 400pp books as being 'complex', especially with a lot of optional rules to choose from. Having a fast-play booklet may end up hooking more people into the rules, whilst major licences could include the fast play rules in the back, maybe.

Edited by TrippyHippy
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