So one of my traditional groups has a member who's gone through a pretty serious health crisis, and in addition to that the remainder of the group is going on some traveling soon. Eventually we'll get back together (most of us are college students, so we'll see each other again there) but over the summer with people traveling and recovering from being ill, I'd like to run a game very different from the normal games they play; they tend to be into heavily mechanical systems (Shadowrun, Pathfinder, and Dark Heresy being the three games that have gone the longest with them, in order), but with people not feeling well I'd like to switch over to an online platform, as we were doing before, but also to a game that will work better for the group-not everyone invests the same amount of effort into the system, and when I can pop over to someone and help answer all their questions about a system while looking at their book over their shoulder we can do a lot more than when we're trying to communicate things over VOIP/phone calls.

I'd like to run a rules-light system, or at the very least one that is significantly less complex, since I've come to the conclusion that several of my 4th edition players have never actually read the rules, and I want something that can be explained in simple sentences. However, this will mean at the very least a system change, and probably a setting change to keep it simple. Unfortunately, my players tend to be heavy metagamers, so they get into things where they can build sports-car characters, though from my experience they'll play pretty much anything and enjoy it if they can get hooked on it.

Are there good ways to hook players when you can't rely on the usual methods of coercing them to play (I can't point to a gear entry, spell chart, or advancement and say "but look at how coooool you'll be" in a more fluid, simple game), especially since I'm pretty sure they'd enjoy the game in question?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I have had mixed success, depending on the group, of offering to run a one-shot. Some groups just don't want to try new things. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    May 1, 2013 at 5:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've tried that in the past; I'll probably wind up doing it again unless someone has a pretty strong suggestion. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 6:05

3 Answers 3


Do not look at systems but at settings. If the setting is interesting enough, if the lure of the story to be told is captivating enough, and if each player can see a protagonist they would like to play then you have won them over. Then, if you must, find a system that match. There are several ways you can do this:

  1. A commonly known setting: say Conan or Dredenverse or Star Fleet Academy. The advantage is that everyone knows it well and the disadvantage is the same as everyone can have different expectations of what's what and might know more than the others.
  2. Your own home brewed setting: This is requires a lot of work from your part not only in building the world but selling it as well. This is where your skills at elevator pitches will be put to the test.

As a side note, I have never been won over by Let's play system X because I just cannot bring myself to care about systems. I have been won over by good settings and stories. Thus my answer is biased... ^_~

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, see, I intentionally avoided going into setting detail, because I'm pretty sure I'll be doing either cyberpunk or a high-fantasy setting. Most of my players are pretty savvy when it comes to roleplaying and universes. As far as home-brewed settings, I'm actually considering putting them in one of mine; a Lovecraftian cyberpunk that eschews horror for conspiracy. It's essentially Vampire: The Masquerade with more corporations and non-euclidean para-sapient threats. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 6:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Your last two sentences are a good pitch. I would play in that game and I think I even have a character idea... ^_~ \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 7:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ orchestra.storynexus.com. Disclaimer: I made it. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 7:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, I think your point about systems vs. settings is valid-I'm a systems geek, so I love playing something unusual, while those who are more into certain settings may choose something on that basis (I do too, I just happen to look for something that fits both criteria, or kludge together something if need be). \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 7:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do think that system matters, it's just that my go to system is systemless... If that makes sense! ^_~ \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 7:54

Less crunch can be Savage Worlds. It is still a classic RPG, but carefully optimized to require the absolute minimum of rules-calls and rolls. It is my go-to system for any style or genre of RPG. SW does pretty much everything well and fast.

Still less crunch means you are in the realm of "story games" where the resolution of actions is not "you lose six hit points" but "the goblin climbs up your spear and sinks his teeth into your biceps, your fingers go numb, what do you want to do?".

If your players are cool with that kind of game I heartily recommend choosing a story game. Ranked from most approachable to most challenging:

  • Dungeon World for deadly old-school dungeon crawls (my Goblin example above is typical DW)
  • Fiasco for disastrous and often hilarious consequences of bad choices and twisted relationships, think Cohen brothers film
  • Dogs in the Vineyard for ethical dilemmas and grim choices.
  • My Life with Master for gothic horror, redemption and doomed love
  • \$\begingroup\$ You know, this is going to sound really, really, really awful, but I'd never checked out Savage Worlds before. It looks like it might be what I want to go for. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 15:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I moved my group over from D&D 4e three years ago and the change in the fluidity of the game generated way more roleplaying and cool moments. I strongly recommend visiting the forums at peginc.com/forum it is the friendliest, most supportive group of gamers I have ever encountered. \$\endgroup\$
    – Timonides
    May 1, 2013 at 17:35

Have you explained the reasons behind that change? Hopefully at least some of them are as smart as you, and will understand why a light rules game is preferrable in your current situation. They may also empathize with the people that can't invest so much in the game.

If that fails, simply tell them "Okay, just trust me. Let me a couple of sessions. If you don't like, we can return to the old games". If your sessions are cool enough, your players will be ok to keep playing, although they could still feel nostalgia of the old times.

They have played many different games, so they are able to try new things, even if they are not so heavy ruled.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The reason is, as they know, that when we start explaining rules over Skype then nobody pays attention afterward. It's not a permanent change, just until we can get everyone in person. \$\endgroup\$ May 1, 2013 at 15:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KyleWilley That's reasonable, and that's why your players should understand that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Flamma
    May 1, 2013 at 18:01

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