It was a long standing 'common wisdom' (i.e. not really common, but still accepted by a good number of people) that universal rules such as HERO or GURPS did not serve a setting as well as a set of rules designed specifically for it.
Like many things online, few if any actually backed up this assertion with real examples, and when they did- they often were little more than Chrome style rules and had little to do with the core mechanics themselves. As a result I was always doubtful and I think the passage of time has basically disproved the concept.
Let's talk about a few often quoted examples.
Let's take Call of Cthulhu. This one was a bad example out of the gate as the original system was that from the earlier game (by three years) Runequest which was about fantasy adventure- not 1920s dark investigations. It did introduce the insanity tracking mechanic- but that was just a bit of Chrome easily added to any game. And the monsters were powerful, but that was just powerful monsters. Rules wise, there's really little there really related to the setting and there have been a number of very successful conversions to other game systems including (in the judgement of some people) D20.
The original Deadlands is a better example, sort of. Here you have the use of playing cards and poker chips, which reflects... well a bit of the Old West if your version of the Old West happens the Old TV show Maverick. Actually, it doesn't provide much of even that to be honest. Beyond the cards and the chips, it's just a handful of dice game paired with a magic system offering a high fumble rate. We can see how important all the system flavor was when it was dropped in the newer editions of the game for a universal system with some setting related Chrome.
All in all, I'm at a loss to point out a real example where the rules really reflect and invoke the setting. The actually work is done by setting fluff, renaming common concepts and using them, constructing NPCs to the proper power level, or a bit of Chrome here and there. I'll be interested if anyone can point out a true example.
Thus I've sided with the Universal Systems that I can learn once, take off the shelf and add a bit to. The final result is every bit as good as anything a custom rule set has ever offered- but with additional expandability built right in.
Way of the Wicked
2 days ago