Game Companies, why oh why have you changed?

Yeah I know folks are still waiting on a review for No Thank You Evil. I hope to make that my next post.

Right at the moment however there is something that has been on my mind about companies that make RPG’s for a while now. I call it the One Engine Problem.

So at least in my area there are very few published RPG books (yeah that means printed with bindings and all that, not the digital copies) where you can find an company with more than one game engine. I mean if you go looking for Fantasy Flight Games you may find their Star Wars RPG and their Warhammer 40K game Dark Heresy. And they are one of the few who has more than one game engine. WOTC has D&D 5th, with occasional books being published from the older versions (so that sorta counts as more than one game engine). Piazo only has Pathfinder. Palladium, Chaosium, Post Human (or is that supposed to be one word) and so many others have only one engine. When a publisher has more than one engine it seems like most of the places that carry games will only carry their biggest name game.

So here is the thing… I can hear a lot of people saying “So what?!” out there. “I can find a lot of stuff on PDF, or order it from the publisher directly if I want some in print.”

Here is my so what. I… I guess really I miss the 80’s for RPGs.

Back when TSR was in its hey day they had all sorts of regular games, each with their own game engine. D&D, Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Top Secret, Top Secret SI, Marvel Super Heroes, Amazing Engine, and a small string in the early 80’s of mini RPG games sold as one offs. West End Games hit the ground running with Paranoia and before the 80’s ended they had added Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg, but they kept on coming with new systems and new ideas even after they merged with Humaniods and eventually passed. And even Steve Jackson Games was in there with more than just GURPS.

I can understand from a business perspective, the 80’s were full of money, expansion was crazy, no one wanted to specialize. More was better. Everyone went crazy and then the top blew off. So then game companies started to specialize, or get bought out. And so the number of games dwindled. Now online companies are bringing many of them back. Digital versions of so many older games. And a few of them are coming up with new material… but only a few.

I would really love to see a new publisher that comes out with four or five game engines and works to support them all. Digital or print. Actually the heck with that if I were to have my druthers I want it all in print…

Sigh ok so it was a bit of a rant… and it rambled.

Gimme the dice, I need to chase a game engine.


  1. #1 by dantherpgman on April 4, 2016 - 5:35 am

    So what would you say are the advantages of having one company put out multiple engines? You didn’t really address that.

    I agree that part of the reason companies have gone to one engine is to make it simpler and easier to support, but I think another reason is to make it easier for players to swing from one genre to another. If you can go from sci-fi to western to fantasy to modern and not have to learn a new system each time players might be more willing to branch out. I guess it might be a chicken and egg situation, but it seems like most people (not everyone) learn one or two systems they like and then are reluctant to learn anything new (even when it’s an incremental change from say 3.0/3.5 to Pathfinder, ahem). With so many options for entertainment available today most people aren’t going to want to learn a new system for every campaign methinks.


    • #2 by authortao on April 7, 2016 - 2:43 am

      Yeah, I guess I was too busy ranting to really give a solid reason for the rant. Other than I miss parts of the 80’s… heh. Ok so I have noted more than once that most game engines cannot do everything. Even the ones that do manage to do everything have issues with scaling. Like with the Hero System. 10-25 points makes Mr Every day. 125-175 points makes a good fantasy or cowboy character. 200 points makes a good martial arts action movie character. 300 points makes a good superhero. 350 makes a good wuxia character. 500 points makes an epic whatever you want. Each one of those point bases comes with different limitations. So while the rules remain the same, they also alter slightly to accommodate the requirements of the genre. I actually really liked having one game engine for my fantasy games, one for modern horror, one for super heroes, and one for sci-fi. Instead of looking at a rules system like d20. It did fantasy really well. d20 modern tried to make modern characters in almost the exact same rule set. Others tried to adopt it to other genres and it was already stretched thin in modern, let alone future. The point based engines have an easier time being everything by working the point balance like Hero does, level based systems either go into instant power creep (Palladium) or slip up slowly until the engine is no longer the engine (d20, d20 modern, d20 future, d20 Star Wars). I know for years I have been trying to figure out how to build an engine that can do everything and keep it balanced and the rules stay the rules the whole time. I am not saying it cannot be done, but I have yet to see it, and I have yet to build it. So I would much rather embrace multiple engines and have several different games. Each game can then specialize and really embrace a set of mechanics that does something well. But that is of course just my opinion. I am sure there are others who feel like I am nitpicking… but hey thats the sort of thing that blogs are for right 🙂


      • #3 by dantherpgman on April 11, 2016 - 7:19 am

        OK, that totally makes sense, I see what you’re saying.

        So while the rules remain the same, they also alter slightly to accommodate the requirements of the genre.

        I think that’s the key; having a system that can bend a little bit to accommodate different games but stay constant enough to not require a data dump every time you switch playstyles. What you said about point-based systems is good as well.


      • #4 by authortao on April 14, 2016 - 2:54 am

        Agreed. The bending of rules systems gives me a challenge though too. If you look at d20 Fantasy (D&D 3.0-3.5) and d20 Modern, there is a core element that remains the same but the mechanic does not balance. A level 1 modern character (in the experiments I have done) will wipe the floor with a level 1 fantasy character seven out of ten times. The ones that win are either sneaky or berserk. And before you can say or think guns change it. They do. But the added effects of every class getting a defense bonus in modern, backgrounds adding feats and special skill bonus’, and then add equipment on top… And when WOTC did Star Wars, same core engine… mostly… but it starts drifting even further away. Star Wars is sort of like taking d20 Modern and adding that everyone gets the equivalent of a Wild Talent feat from the Psionics book. So the rules bend, but they really are not the same rules… argh!!! you already agreed and here I am on the soap box again… arrrrrgh!!!! gotta stop that…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: