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I intend to run an experimental play-by-post dungeoncrawling game where different player characters can be played with different rules sets. E.g. there can be a Pathfinder Gunslinger, Burning Wheel born peasant/hunter/trapper and OD&D magic-user adventuring side-by-side. Each character will interact with the world based on the rules that character happens to use. If there is PC-to-PC interaction, then we'll figure out something.

I will restrict the systems so that starting characters are somewhat on par with low-level D&D characters, so no Amberites or Nobilis Nobles get involved. I will also restrict to rules sets which give answers to questions such as "Does my character notice the ambush?", as opposed to "Do I get narrative rights to state that there is an ambush?", so no Universalis or such. Furthermore, no systems which require constant gm-player interaction during resolution will be allowed; e.g. Dogs in the Vineyard is not fine.

If the system uses experience points or similar, they will be granted on basis of treasure recovered (and maybe some minor factors), with the conversion rate determined on system-by-system basis. Another modification is that if the system allows characters to recover to full strength with great speed, this will be changed.

What problems am I likely to encounter in this experiment? How to get past them?

Here are two examples:

  • Initiative: There will be group initiative with all player characters acting first (or second, as the case may be) and all NPCs, monsters and environmental factors acting next, etc. This will break the scripted combat of Burning Wheel and probably some other intricate combat systems, but that's life.

  • Attacking an opponent: If several characters that use several different wounding rules attack a given opponent, what to do? This is still partially open, but converting hit points works for some systems and in others wounds cause penalties on actions - both of these are fine. More exotic systems might still cause problems.

Some non-problems:

  • Characters will not be balanced against each other and will advance at different rates.

  • Judging the difficulty of monsters and traps will be next to impossible.


We are playing in Finnish at the Pelilauta forum. There are two Pathfinder characters (a gunslinger and a ranger), one Lamentations-dwarf and Natural 20 psychic.

Thus far there has been fairly little combat and also very few problems. I had to adjudicate N20 wound treatment on LotFP-powered character, and decided that temporary healing of 1 hp per level per 10 points in the result was the way to go. And the N20 character trying to scare a Pathfinder character was adjudicated as a command roll against DC similar to what intimidate would have had in PF, and the effects were as per intimidate. N20 and PF work on a reasonably similar scale, so this was not a problematic call.

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You mentioned monsters, but now how you plan on deciding how much hp a monster has or what it's armor class is... Did you think about that allready but just fail to mention it? –  GMNoob May 25 '12 at 9:23
    
@GMNoob If the systems are fairly similar, stat it for one of them; if they are very different, stat it separately for each. Note that only AC and hp as concepts don't even exist in many game systems. –  Thanuir May 25 '12 at 10:22
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Interesting experiment. You should blog about the ongoing findings of the experiment or "meta" the play-by-post forums (are the forums/posts public?). I think that abstract system concepts house ruled into a common system would be better suited, as I think you'll find that conflict/friction resolution will create frustration for all parties involved. Yet, I would raise a glass, but I'm drinking coffee at the moment, so I raise my mug. Good luck. –  javafueled May 25 '12 at 12:54
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

I have run games where there are different systems involved, normally a few of the DnD versions and some home grown systems.

Initiative: Tend to roll a D20 and adjust it according to the implied dexterity of the character. For example, if your character is (according to it's system) is meant to be blindly fast we might consider trying a +8 modifier.

Damage Caused: I tend to track the damage done to the enemy using each of the different systems and when I think that enough has been done, he/she/it keels over dead. This is not scientific enough for some players but it normally works for the group that I have.

Damage Taken: Some systems I have played with have the concept of permanent damage, and others don't. So you may have to decide if all damage can be regenerated and how, or how you are going to handle one character losing an arm and another character taking an almost mortal blow and standing up next round.

Experience: I work on the level every 10 sessions or so. So just figure out how that scales to the xp needed for the system. Now that assumes that the systems have (a) levels and (b) each level is the same increase in power as another systems level. Most of the time it is play it by ear and see how things are going as the players progress.

Most of the time I tend to just play it by ear and adjust the difficultly on the fly. For the to-hit number I tend to work on trivial-easy-normal-hard-impossible level of enemy and figure out the to-hit for each of the systems that are in the game. The same works for the traps and skill checks. Come up with a set of numbers that allows each system to work, and just call out the various bits when it is the characters turn.

The difficult part tends to be getting the players to accept that "yes in your system you could do X, but that only does Y in this game".

As you have said, the characters will never be balanced but as long as your players are happy either dumbing done the uber character or boosting the weed up a little to make the game more fair and interested it shouldn't be a problem.

I find this type of gaming good at the conventions that I attend so people can play their own special characters. But there is a lot of give and take necessary between the player and GM to get the level and fun factor in the game right. Also be prepared to say "NO" to a power or character if the system is too broken.

I cannot think of any additional problems that you might encounter that cannot be solved with a chat between the players and the GM.

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