If you've been on this blog recently, you might've noticed I updated my "Currently Running" links--and besides the redoubtable Pendragon, GURPS has joined the list as well. As part of my action plan to find a system to master, I'm giving GURPS the first crack. I figured I'd start with the crunchiest system I owned and work my way back until I found something my group and I liked.
We might just end up sticking with GURPS, as it turns out. Jury's still out on whether it's a bit too crunchy for our tastes, but we're also having a good time with the current campaign. I'm digging the system's extreme flexibility and customizability. And as I grow more familiar and comfortable with the system the crunchiness, as anticipated, begins to fade into the background. So who knows?
This hasn't prevented me from thinking of alternatives, of course. In my original post on system mastery, I mentioned Basic Roleplaying and Savage Worlds as other choices. But recently another possibility has occurred to me: Basic/Expert D&D!
This is owed primarily to the OSR and the products that have been produced in the last four years. Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edition Companion and/or JB's B/X Companion and Complete B/X Adventurer expand the fantasy framework laid down in the original Basic and Expert sets; Stars Without Number covers interplanetary sci-fi and even cyberpunk (with a supplement for the latter); Mutant Future covers post-apocalyptic science-fantasy; Realms of Crawling Chaos allows you to inject a little Mythos action into any of the above. And those are just the "marquis" titles. Pretty much covers the vast majority of popular gaming genres. Certainly, at this point I could see running a B/X hack of Rifts with almost no effort. And even as I type this, JB is talking about putting out other supplements to expand the B/X scope even further.
I realize this is really nothing new. People have been hacking D&D into "universal" systems pretty much from the get-go. Indeed, up through the early 80s pretty much every system out there was essentially someone's D&D house rules. And yet more recently d20 made its bid to become the one D&D-derived system to rule them all. As that proved, it's not always a good thing to take a game beyond its intended limits. And yet I was surprised to realize that such a venerable system as B/X D&D--which turned 30 last year, positively ancient by gaming standards--has suddenly flowered into this de facto "universal" system. In a way it reminds me of the progression of the Palladium system, which started out as a D&D clone and kept getting modded, cludged, bolted, and bashed to fit a nearly universal set of genre conventions. Unlike Palladium, however, I feel that B/X has managed to retain its core simplicity through the various mods.
If nothing else, it certainly makes for an interesting addition to my list of potential systems to master.