RPG Rule Mechanics: Universal Versus Varied

November 17, 2009 | | Comments 1

Role-Playing game rule systems fall into two categories: universal and varied. Universal games use a single mechanic for every action. “Alpha Omega” uses the same skill check system for everything from picking locks to shooting a pistol. Varied systems like some older “Dungeons and Dragons” versions use percentile for picking locks and a d20 mechanic for combat. The ultimate example of a varied system is “Aces and Eights.” It is a series of mini-games that bear no resemblance to each other. A bar fight uses poker chips in a bidding system to determine success and a mounted chase uses a deck of cards.

Clearly a universal system is easier to learn, since only one mechanic resolves all contests. Conversely, the varied systems offer greater complexity, but some players enjoy the variety. I am curious as to how my readership feels about this issue. Should a role-playing  game use a single mechanic to resolve all actions or use different mechanics for different aspects of the game?

Trask, The Last Tyromancer

Filed Under: Role-PlayingRPGRule Systems


About the Author: Trask is a long-time gamer, world traveler and history buff. He hopes that his scribblings will both inform and advance gaming as a hobby.