Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?
In the early-mid 1980s, I didn’t bother adapting other systems but would write rulesets for new games when my group and I wanted to play a different setting or have another type of adventure. In truth, there wasn’t all that much difference between systems: some new spells, alternative attributes, different player character classes and a different world setting that were largely interchangeable with any of the systems.
There is so much that appealed in the setting. I had no inclination to create alternative fantasy worlds. It was glorious to explore and easy to extend with new settlements, organisations and paraphernalia.
But there was also so much that was broken with the system that you had no choice but to create house rules and alternative mechanics and new subsystems, as I have done for elements ranging from social conlfict and sleep to randomised weather patterns. I’ve played it more than probably any other system, and adapted it the most as a consequence, and it has been fun to do that.
(Actually, it’s probably less adapting the game and more fixing it.)
Zoom forward to gaming in the narrative era – I wouldn’t bother adapting from such a crunchy system anymore. As much as I love the attention and detail of works such as the Liber Fanatica series of user-generated content (setting and rules customisations for WFRP), I couldn’t entertain the idea of adapting a system like that again. For me, the time for a product like Zweihander has passed.
To the Apocalypse
What interests me now is the idea of systems that are designed to be hacked, and open gaming licenses that permit their adaptation. There are plenty of options that have been made available by designers and publishers, but the one that I am most intrigued with is the Apocalypse World Engine.
I’m continually impressed with the range of settings and tones that people have created in making games that are Powered by the Apocalypse. With so many, it’s no surprise that we can sustain the Revelation convention. It is exclusively for games that are Powered by the Apocalypse and, coincidentally has just opened its online doors for tickets for the 2018 edition.
What I like about the Apocalypse World engine is the simple dice mechanic, the concept and structure of generic and character moves, the in-built relationship mechanics and the way the rules seem to actively support a player-led narrative. The playbook setup feels like it helps to closely integrate what characters can do and the gameworld in which they operate, so agency and relevance is much tighter than a generic or universal roleplaying system.
I’ve not played a campaign that really uses the advancement system, but it looks to be a neat and clean way for character development. I’ve also not MC’d (acted as GM in Apocalypse parlance) a game, so haven’t really got my head around GM moves, fronts and antagonists. The engine certainly feels like it provides a firm structure to handle opposition and pacing aspects in a given setting though.
Altogether, for my gaming requirements, Apocalypse World Engine looks like a solid and simple basis to adapt from, rather than just ‘fix’.