I have played a lot of d20.  I started right out of the gate, with the release of D&D 3e.  In fact, I took the day off of work, and drove an hour to my favorite FLGS to get my copy of the Players Handbook.  From 3e, I jumped over to Star Wars d20, then to  d20 Modern, over to Mutants & Masterminds, witch lead to True 20, a little D&D 3.5, and finally ending with Iron Heroes; and that does not cover all the PDF’s I bought during those years.

When I stopped playing Iron Heroes in November of last year, I decided that I was done running d20/OGL.  It’s not that I dislike d20, in fact I had a lot of fun running those games, but after almost 7 years, I was kind of bored with the mechanics of the game.  I was longing for new mechanics to learn.

See, I am not a GM who is not married to any one system.  In fact, I am the opposite.  I like different systems.  Game mechanics are one of the things that I find the most fascinating about RPG’s.  As much as I love different systems, I know plenty of GM’s who only play one system, or a small number of systems.  For these guys there is comfort in playing one or few systems, year after year.

I started to think that there must be a spectrum that we GM’s fall upon, when it comes to the systems we run.  I quickly created some rough categories:

  • System Orthodox–For these people the first game they play, is the only game they have ever played.  They don’t want to try other systems, or even other settings within the same system.  One game is all they need.  In the past, most of these people would be D&D players, but these days,  it could just as easily be Call of Cthulhu, Champions, or Savage Worlds.
  • System Monogamous–For these people they prefer one system, be it AD&D, D&D 3.5, Vampire, etc.  They may play a few different settings within their system, like Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, or Dragonlance, but, they are not really interested in playing any other systems.  One system is enough for these people, but they keep it fresh by dabbling in different settings.
  • System Curious–These people have a favorite system, but they are willing to dabble in another game or two.  They are more than likely to play in other games that share a similar system.  It might be a 3.5 player who likes to dabble in a little Star Wars d20, or a Vampire player who likes a side game of Werewolf.
  • System Promiscuous–These are people who drift from system to system, playing anything that is interesting and fun. They are just as comfortable running a game of D&D 4e, as they are playing Burning Empires.  From campaign to campaign, they run a different game.

With these categories defined,  I made a little scale using these terms with a scale of 1 to 10:

1-2  System Orthodox

3-4 System Monogamous

5-7 System Curious

8-10 System Promiscuous

In looking at this scale, I would say that I am about an 8:  System Promiscuous.  I love how a game designer models the world using the rule mechanics.  I am always on the lookout for games that have innovative mechanics.  It is also the reason why after running a game for some time, my GMing eye starts to wander to other games, looking for some interesting mechanic, that would be fun to run.

So for a GM and their players, what does this mean?  Well, by understanding where you fall on this scale, and where your players rate, you will gain some understanding of what games you should be looking at (and which ones to avoid), when starting up a campaign.

For instance, if you are System Promiscuous and your players are mostly Monogamous, you know that over time you are going to get bored of running the game you are currently playing, but that your players may be reluctant to switch over to another game.  Knowing that, you may choose to introduce them to a new game that is more like the system they are playing, than something radically different.

So on the scale above, where do you rank?  For those of you on the lower end of the scale, what are your steady games?  For those of you on the higher end of the scale, what are some of the games you are eying right now?