Kickstarter and Support for Multiple Systems

I’ve seen a disturbing trend in RPG-related Kickstarters for a while. A lot of stretch goals include support for multiple systems. There are quite a few games with support for various D&D editions, 13th Age, Fate Core, Pathfinder, etc.

While I understand that this might make sense in certain cases, it’s not something I am particularly happy about. One of the reasons why I withdrew my support of the Shotguns & Sorcery Kickstarter was because of this. It was advertised as a game powered by Monte Cook’s Cypher System. I love the system and was very excited about the KS at first.

But as soon as they announced support for Pathfinder as one of the stretch goals I was not that amused. I haven’t followed the KS after that anymore and I withdrew my backing. I might still pick the game up after release but I am not willing to support them upfront anymore. It’s just a risk I am not willing to take. I am not comfortable with the idea that a part of the money I contributed is going into system support for a game system I am not interested in at all.

Support for multiple systems also often means that each system gets less attention during development. Sure, they might collect more money by adding support for another system, but I doubt there will be enough money to give each system the attention it needs. In the case mentioned above I find it especially odd that someone decides to use Cypher and then adds Pathfinder support. These are two system which are very different from each other. A Pathfinder version will undoubtedly play very much different.

While I have no general issue with settings being supported by various RPG systems – Green Ronin did a great job with their Freeport setting – but especially when it comes to Kickstarters I fear that developers may either put too much on their plate, or the support for the various systems may end up too lackluster.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you agree with me, or is multiple system support something you are looking forward to? Please share your thoughts below.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

5 thoughts on “Kickstarter and Support for Multiple Systems”

  1. I do agree. I would rather have the focus on the one system and get it right, wich is hard enough. Adding more systems to me screams “I need more potential customers for even more money”. In itself that is not a bad goal but as you say, I support the KS for a specific system and it would be nice if they finished that first and made it kick ass. Otherwise I fear for watered down systems as you try to make it fit. It can work, I am just not convinced it is as easy as many portray it to be, at least not if you want to do it right. You can reuse the fluff pieces but all the mechanics need to be designed fres from the ground up and I have a hard time believing one designer will do many different systems justice.

    I would very much prefer if people would just say: That is it, no more stretch goals. If you want to pledge now it is more of a pre order but we have closed out the featurelist and this is the product you will be getting.

  2. Sorry to disagree with you Michael, but I do. I don’t see how having secondary systems as stretch goals dilutes the committment to the primary system. Surely this simply means that if they raise money, they’ll have enough rest to provide a translation, not they will in any way reduce attention to the original. I feel you’re being unnecessarily strict on this.

  3. Whether it might be a concern can depend on the balance between setting material and system mechanics. Primeval Thule is a great example. The bulk of the book is setting, and there are only a few chapters with mechanics (i.e. char gen, adversaries, etc). And, in this case, the setting is the big draw for Primeval Thule.

  4. For settings and adventures: I like to see multiple systems (and I specifically look for Fate Core and/or FAE, OSR-D&D, and a 3e D&D variant … I might include 5e in that, at some point). I don’t mind if it’s originally written around one particular system, and they tightly couple it … and then sort of fudge it to fit into the systems I care about, that’s fine (I want/expect the setting to work well with its native system, and I’m ok with that making some compatibility issues with other systems — even my pet systems). I also like seeing system-agnostic settings and adventures that leave the grunt work to me. Best is system-agnostic plus one or more of my pet systems.

    For the base game? Core rules are core rules. Accomplish what you want to accomplish.

    The difficult part is: what about the core setting that you include with the core rules? That fits what I said about “tightly couple it to one system, and then sort of fudge it to fit into the systems I care about”.

    In the case you bring up, as long as it works REALLY well with Cypher, and they give its Cypher compatibility the most attention, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Then give my the basics to use it with D&D and Fate. I don’t mind if they skimp on the conversions a little, even if/when my pet systems are the conversions.

    Though, if you want to see it “done right”… “Achtung! Cthulhu” seems to have a done a great job with supporting two systems (Basic RPG/Call of Cthulhu, and Fate Core) with a high degree of fidelity.

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