Jeremy asked a very good question in my last post about my proposed Gamma World (or Mutant Future, really) crossed with Marvel Comics game.
Why not use the old TSR Marvel RPG (or the 4C clone of it) for the game?
I've played the Marvel RPG a bit. You remember it, right? The FASERIP system with the color-coded resolution chart? Yep, that one. I've played as a player in it a few times, but not extensively. And I've never run the game before. So I'd have some learning curve issues. Maybe not extensive, but in order to run with that system, I'd at least need to read all the rules and get a better feel for them than what I have now.
In answer to Jeremy, I also said that I think that the game wouldn't be the best fit for what I want the game to do. What do I want the game to do? I want the game to be about neo-primitive tribesmen venturing out into the scary, dangerous, irradiated (and worse!) ruined world in search of the fabled ancient technology of the Ones Before, and running into mutated creatures and robots and such, and a lot of the robots and leftover tech would resonate with comic book readers. Not everything in the world would be "Marvel" stuff, but there would be Sentinels and Doom Bots, you might find a wrist-mounted device that shoots webbing, or find a damnation van with a red octo-skull emblem on it, or a red and gold metal glove that shoots blasts of force, along with all the badders and orlen and spider-goats of normal Gamma World/Mutant Future play.
Marvel RPG is suited for a heroic action game, where villains are up to no good and you the heroes need to stop them. And the Karma system (both XP and hero points, not to be confused with Ron Edwards's "karma" resolution mechanic, see below) as written enforces a Comics Code Authority style of play in order to advance and improve characters. Now that could be modified, but then we fall into the trap that Ron Edwards discussed in his (in)famous article, "System Does Matter."
How much work will it be fore me to adapt FASERIP to what I want to run? What benefit is there to using a super hero RPG to run a semi-supers game in a post-apocalypse version of a super hero universe?
Would it be easier for me to use Mutant Future, which I know well enough by proxy (Labyrinth Lord/Classic D&D are no sweat to run, and I'm plenty familiar with Gamma World)? Definitely. Would Mutant Future give me the style of game I want to run? Definitely. Would there be some work for me to adapt the game to have more "Marvel Comics" stuff in it? A little, but it would be less than trying to learn and adapt a less well-known game system.
I agree with Edwards's article to a point. I think he started off from a mistaken ontological stance regarding RPGs. The three themes he outlines are there, but there's a lot more crossover in actual gaming and in actual gaming styles than he conceived of 10 years ago. I'm not sure how strongly he believes in that now, so I won't put words in his mouth, but I think he was off-base a decade ago. Also, he seems to believe that the system should do all of the heavy lifting for the GM and players. This may be nice, but it ignores one thing -- all those anecdotal accounts of good GMs who can make any type of game work with their system of choice. It assumes a priori that the work load of the GMs to make their game of choice "work" must be burdensome, and that they'd have more time to make the game awesome if they had a system in which the heavy lifting had been done.
But then look at my situation right now. Look at the d20 boom of 15 years ago. Look at the OSR, coming out with untold variations of D&D in all sorts of niches over the past five years. Is D&D the best framework to run a space opera game, or a steampunk mystery game, or a post-apocalyptic survival game, or a cowboy gunslinger game, or a wandering hero wuxia game? No. There are other games that are tailor made to those genres, and I'm sure many of them do the tropes and settings well.
But D&D, and its variations, have a big leg up on any of those systems. Familiarity. Most gamers, although not all, began with D&D in one form or another, or have at least experienced it if it wan't their first game. It's comfortable. It's flexible. It's well-known. And it can easily be shifted without much effort to a gamist (3E), narrativist (2E) or simulationist (1E) stance while retaining a core of familiar rules and mechanics.
I'd argue that someone who had played and run lots of FASERIP games could easily use it to run this idea of mine, and make it work beautifully. Not me, however.
System design matters, but it isn't the only factor in the "good gaming" equation. How familiar everyone, especially the GM, is with the rules counts just as much, or maybe more.
Wednesday Comics: The Wretch
1 hour ago