Thursday, August 1, 2013


I'm sure some of you at least are familiar with the meme, "First World Problems." That's what this is: I can't decide on a system to use for a Mythic/Feudal Japan RPG. 

As mentioned previously, it will be a social game, not one of my many solo ventures.

And, as such, I'm trying to narrow down my list to just a few choices to present to the players. It will help too, when they let me know what kind of game they want to have (historical, mythic, anime, just a skin with standard fantasy tropes, etc.)

For setting/campaign fluff I have acquired and plan on using one or more of:
  • GURPS Japan - lends itself to GURPS but also easily converts to d20 and Savage Worlds.
  • Bushido - not sure if there is any simple conversion but system is complete.
  • Sengoku - looks like it could convert to d20, which means GURPS and Savage Worlds too.
  • Land of the Samurai - RuneQuest but again, looks easy to convert stats.
  • Legends of the Samurai - d20 but stats are easily converted. Comes complete with classes, magic, skills, etc.
But for the actual game mechanics, I have an embarrassment of riches.

Contenders, in no particular order:
  • Bushido (not as complicated as I feared, but not one I could easily teach someone without a lot of learning on my part)
  • GURPS Lite - stripped down GURPS, perfectly usable.
  • Microlite20 (stripped down d20)
  • Microlite20 OSS (stripped down d20 w/o skills)
  • Yamato M20 (stripped down d20, some legwork done for classes and spells for setting)
  • Basic Roleplaying Quickstart Rules 
  • Serious Risus - I'm not a huge fan of counting successes, but then I do it for Two Hour Wargames, so maybe I should just be quiet.
  • Savage Worlds - I've never played this, but I have read the quick start rules, and just ordered the Deluxe Explorer's Edition. If anything, it will give me a system I can use with lot of prepared settings for whatever mood/genre strikes, and it's supposedly a pretty good tactical miniatures game too.
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • Ruins & Ronin (Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, w/classes appropriate to medieval Japan)
(Why no USR? Because I'm using that for my current social game and because none of the settings books mentioned above would convert as easily as most of the other systems and I'm trying to make this easy on myself.)

Ruins & Ronin is really just a re-skinning of S & W Whitebox, and so I figure I can do the same thing with LL (in fact, several such attempts are available over on DrivethruRpg.) For the most part, it seems to me relatively easy to convert d20 stats to LL.

My concern about going that route is that the mechanics are so familiar that I wonder if I won't end up making it feel like a bog standard fantasy in gusoku. On the other hand, the mechanics are so familiar to me that they won't get in my way.

Microlite20 OSS would be a close second - even though I've never played the rules before, it's an "old school" flavored stripped down d20 without the pesky skills. And my players definitely have a preference for ascending AC. This could potentially make converstion that much easier (not that converting descending to ascending AC is difficult.

All the rest have skills or something similar, and there lies my hangup.

My experience with skills is primarily 1 game of Pathfinder and sessions of Call of Cthulhu, and in both games, I observed players looking to their sheets to tell them what they could do, rather than narrating it and letting the GM decide if they needed to do a skill check of some sort.

Strangely, I see many defenses of Basic Roleplaying noting that it gets out of the way and makes the narrative the most important thing. I'm not sure how that's the case, but I'm willing to concede that it may well be true.

Suggestions appreciated!

1 comment:

  1. I only played in a few sessions of BUSIDO around 30 years ago. I don't recall any of the mechanics, but I DO remember that it felt very Japanese and we had a good time playing it.

    -- Jeff