Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The problem with System Fundamentalists...

Although I play only a handful of systems regularly, I'd never say that there is one system that I feel is the best, nor would I down one system over another, which is probably why system fundamentalists bother me. I feel that they're a disservice to the hobby, especially when they're elitist and insulting about their disdain of one system over another.

I'm sure we've all heard the phrase about being a "role-player, not a roll-player," with the implied insult toward players of one system that the speaker doesn't approve of. It's a stereotype, that everyone who players D&D is a hack-n-slash gamer, just like it's a stereotype that everyone who plays a narrative game is an drama king or queen. While there are always examples of stereotypes, thus lending some level of reinforcement, these are normally just anecdotal evidence, at best, and full of more holes than a strainer.

Whether a game come from a major publisher or through one of the independents, it is up to the folk who play it, from either side of the screen, about whether the tone of the game is good or bad. There isn't anything wrong with talking in character for a whole session, without the resolution mechanic ever being touched, just like there isn't anything wrong with a whole session of dice-throwing...if that, in both cases, is what those involved in the game want.

Regardless of the publisher's desires, once the game is purchased and falls into the hands of others, once the folk who will play the game have purchased it, the intended purpose of the system ended at the point of sale. It is those who play the game, those who gather around a table, or even over the Internet these days, who set the ton of a game and that's just the fact of it.

In my nearly thirty years of gaming, I've seen a large variety of game systems and styles and not once, ever, did a specific system force me to play one way or another. Some of the best in-character role-playing I've ever had was in a homebrew D&D campaign that used a modified 2nd Edition system with a Dragonbone Chair series wrapper on it and it was awesome. In contrast, one of the most bloody, epic carnage and power-play games was an early World of Darkness game I played in when I was in college, it had a mix of Mage, Werewolf, and Vampire and it was very over the top.

But, each time, it was those who played in the games, as well as those who ran it, that determined the tone of the games, not the systems. Maybe I've just been lucky, guilty of my own anecdotal evidence taking precedence, but I've never had a game style forced on me, nor have I had my role in a game reduced to just rolling dice and letting someone else narrate my character's actions.

My advice to folk out there, think about whether you're being a system fundamentalist or not and if you feel you are one, please think about how you're coming across to others. Passion is a good thing, but sometimes if you're overly passionate about something, to the point of being push or rude, even insulting, then you're doing more harm to folks opinions of your system than you are improving it.