Wednesday, April 14, 2010

System Specialist or System Generalist?

So it should come as no surprise that I know a lot of gamers. A lot of a lot.

And while tags like "simulationist" or "immersion" or even "rollplayer vs. roleplayer" get thrown about like they are important, there is one classification that actually interests me.
System Specialist vs. System Generalists.

The System Specialist plays one system only and that is it.  So they only play AD&D 1st ed or d20 or GURPS. This is not to say they have tried other systems.  I am going to bet many have, but they have found one system that they have decided that is all they need.
I like the System Specialist because they usually become experts of their chosen system.  They in a sense achieve in their system that elusive "fade into the background" element that so many designers strive for, whether it was a design principle of that system or not.  Great system specialists seem like elder sages of their system, knowing rules or situations at such a higher level to even surprise the designers.

The System Generalist (wish I had a better name) plays a large number of systems and may have tried even more.  They are comfortable using True20, FUDGE or Rifts in any given situation and they can often give you informed opinions of why X system is perfect for Y situation.  A lot of game designers I know fall under this category.
I like the System Generalist because they are usually able to adapt to newer systems easier and transfer over concepts from one system to the other to improve their own game play.  Game play details are often rendered in short-hand, "oh it is like BLANK from Call of Cthulhu" or "BLANK from Kult".

There are negatives too, but I am not so much interested in those to be honest.

It should not surprise anyone, but I tend to view myself as a System Generalist.  I like having multiple systems laying around, I like reading new ones, playing old ones and even mixing them is strange and odd ways.
I come very, very close to being a System Specialist when it comes to Cinematic Unisystem.   But I still forget some esoteric bit during play, and sometimes even important ones.  For example, for the life of me I can never remember the formula for life points.  I know it is a function of Strength and Constituion.  I know there is addition in there, and some multiplication and 3 and 10 work into it.  I know you 3 extra points per level of Hard to Kill, but that is it.  Pathetic huh?  I have made what, a few hundred characters for CineUnisystem?
The nice thing though outside of that I can run a Cine Unisystem game without books.  If it Ghosts of Albion chances are I don't even need to look up the spells.  I used to be like that for AD&D first ed, but those memories have faded over the years, or more to the point supplanted by similar rules in other versions of the game.

Where do you see yourself?  Generalist or Specialist?  What do you think are the pros of being...well you?


BlUsKrEEm said...

I'm most certainly a generalist. I love trying out new systems. I might even call myself a compulsive generalist. I rarely run to campaigns in a row using the same system anymore.

I'm comfortable running BESM (2nd and Up), Fudge, GURPS (2nd and 4th), Any version of D&D(and maybe a half dozen or D20 systems,) any version of the Story teller system, Troll Babe, and Unisystem (Classic more so then Cinematic.) There are probably a few more that I would be OK running after a day or two of review.

Of those I'm probably only encyclopedic of the BECMI D&D line, the New World of Darkness material (And maybe Mummy the Resurrection.) I used to be able to rattle off All Flesh Must be Eaten info, but I haven't played since Dungeons and Zombies was released, and I'm pretty rusty.

Anonymous said...

How about System Polymath for those that explore multiple systems?

I consider myself a Specialist in D20/3.x/and getting there with Pathfinder and I used to be one with Hero System too. But overall, I am happy to try and explore new systems and I would like to learn more of FATE and L5R (as I am currently running the later one).

Aaron E. Steele said...

I'm a dabbler, would that put me in the generalist camp?

Swordgleam said...

I'm a generalist. I don't see how you could be otherwise unless you've lived in one place and gamed with one group all your life - most of us become generalists first out of necessity, because it's hard enough to find a group without demanding they all play a certain system. Only after this happens a few times do people actively go out and look for new systems to try. Or at least that was my experience.

Undeadhost said...

I know oWoD, classic Unisystem, Cinematic Unisystem like the back of my hand. I can pick up and run WEG Star Wars with very little studying. I know everything in True20 outside of the magic. If I were to run a magic user in a regular game, I'd know that as well. I can pick up and run a|state, no questions asked.

I can easily hop into a Savage Worlds, D&d related, or Runequest, Unknown Armies, or Call of Cthulhu game.

I've designed my own (crappy) rules systems and plenty of my own settings.

What does all of this make me?

I usually go with professional gamer, majoring in GM abilities and double minoring in setting creation and convention game session designing.

Dagda (Brooks Harrel) said...

I think I might be several steps beyond a System Generalist(My suggested alternative for that term's "Polygamer"). I half-play, half-study games of all types, and in the past year have started making RPGs from scratch as a kind of "Iron Chef" exercise- you spontaneously pick a premise, then custom-build the core elements of a moderate-complexity RPG in the space of a couple hours.

Jason said...

((Str + Con)x4)+10, plus 3 per level of HtK :p

I guess I'm a generalist, though I lean towards specialist in a couple specific systems.

~HANZO~ said...

I guess I would fit generalist, I've played hundreds of systems, But only play a few any more. while I'm familiar with tons of games I stick to a few specialized systems that fit mine and my groups style of play the closest.

So I think for me it was a path, from a a generalist, back to a specialist who can dabble. lol