[generic] What are your favourite toolkit games?

First Age

D&D h@ck3r
Staff member
Do you have a favourite system that acts as either a toolkit or framework on which you run your games?

For the purposes of this discussion, a framework is a consistent whole, whereas a toolkit is a selection of components which you can pick and choose. With a framework, your game is essentially a skin over the top of the system, which remains largely unchanged from one game to another. With a toolkit, you might bolt a few components together to make your game, but these could be very different from one game to another.

So, for me, I like to use Genesys, which provides a nice framework, with flexible narrative dice mechanics, a host of skinable talents and a broad covering of scale and technologies to build out rules for most any situation I need. I've thrown in my own 66 Suns setting space opera take. I ought to go back.

Fate is another favourite. As an old school Fudge GM, I returned to the ladder and 4dF dice with relish, especially with a dollop of Aspects that let you tag anything and bring it into the game with a mechanical impact. Sarah Newton's Chronicles of a Future Earth will serve as a refresh of the engine for me and a chance to flex some new muscles. I think I might like her tweaks to Core.

In similar vein, indulge my love of my own Wordplay. Phrases as traits that provide dice that build up in a hand that explode on the table and give you a visceral feel for the odds as they clatter discordantly on the table. Anything is possible with an evocative description and a 12mm 4x9 dice block.

Everywhen takes my beloved 'Barbarians of Lemuria' and throws it into an elven Sherman tank, fighting for the Asgard Star League. Same simple 2d6 engine, with options for larger dice, and application across the multiverse. I might put it into the Eastern Front and watch the players try to escape the Bagration destruction of Army Group Centre.

Cypher provides me with a simple 1-10 difficulty scale for everything and pliable PC generation to give players the assets to work down the difficulty and make the roll. I like the player facing side to the mechanics, freeing me up to enjoy pushing the story about whilst keeping me fairly mechanics light. I've backed the new Kickstarter as the settings looked good and I think this new version will help me address my suspicion of the way you apply Cyphers (one shot assets) in the game in a way that makes sense of a wider array of settings. I've used Cypher for high fantasy to some fun effect.

I'm going to consider a whimsical fantasy take of the gritty Ironsworn through the new open text version. Just saying.

By way of contrast, there are other excellent games that, whilst applied in many settings, I wouldn't consider using to build my own game around a new story. 2d20 is great, but I'll take the settings given whatever the OGLness. PbtA is my bag (come to Revelation and play some), but again I'll take the Moves and settings others have ingeniously contrived. Savage has it all going on for pulp action, but I'll probably only wheel it out when I have a setting book to hand.

Gosh. I have a lot of toolbox and framework games. I use a lot of them as mood plays out. I still do this, even though I like to dive into deep and bespoke games. I still like the idea of this, despite limited time. Forbidden Lands will open up a Free League system for your own kit bashing. I might have a fiddle.

I have babbled. I'll return. What have you used and how did the toolkit help you build up your own game?
Dead of Night, 2nd Ed, remains my go-to toolkit for any kid of horror-themed game, whether that's 'monster chasing teenagers' to 'the existential angst of discovering that your existence is a lie' and on at least one occasion, both of those in the same game!

I've also found Cold City/Hot War provides some of the best mechanics for handling intra-character conflicts at a low-key level that can also bubble up into full-on physical confrontation.
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Fudge still works better for me than FATE does; and when it comes to adapting material probably only HeroQuest is simpler. The original seven step ladder is design genius.

Bob Portnell has recently produced a new, more streamlined version of his Fudge build, EZFudge Essentials. Short, clear and very adaptable to different settings, it could be the accessible version of the game people complain doesn't exist.
Obviously, for a framework system, I will go with Fantasy Flight Games Genesys because one important reason I enjoy "Edge of the Empire" and "Age of Rebellion" are those Star Wars funky dice mechanics designed by Jay Little and incorporated into the generic Genesys now. The aspect of this framework I love best is that both positive and negative dice results are mixed in the same dice pool. But not just that, but the positive results have higher percentages on the dice faces, unlike the Fudge/FATE ones that are perfectly equal, which is why I do not enjoy the FATE dice penchant for nullifying results all too often. That is actually my main gripe with FATE. and I even considered altering those baseline probabilities into more heroic d6 options of [+][+][+][-][-][ ], that is with three positives, two negatives and a blank face on two of the four dice (call them heroic dice).

The announcement by Fria Ligan of the Open Gaming License for the Year Zero Engine, means I can use it for my own settings, and already have inspiration of multiple genres from its original post-apocalyptic Mutant Year Zero, to whimsical urban adventures in Tales from the Loop, to my favorite space opera in Coriolis: The Third Horizon. This particular engine is quaint and simplistic in that it limits character creation to just 4 attributes, which makes blending genres a bit challenging with this structure. I may try to see how this plays with 8 attributes using the OGL for my experiments.

Modiphius' 2d20 game engine is one I enjoy immensely in play, from its very crunchy Mutant Chronicles debut, to my favorite Conan variant, and even the lighter Star Trek Adventures (apart from its Extended Tasks mechanic). Unlike the across the board fluidity of Genesys, the 2d20 has been heavily modified for each genre, despite sharing the simple roll-under dice mechanics and most notably, "success accumulation" mechanics called Momentum. The good news for those who enjoy lighter mechanics, is that the John Carter of Mars 2d20 engine shows the streamlined edition.

The erudite reader may notice an obvious uniting factor in all the above frameworks listed, and that is my preference for dice pools over single die rolls. And not just dice pools, but a bit of narrative metagaming mechanics that allow boosting (and sometimes penalising) the dice pools. Which is probably, why Coriolis The Third Horizon showcases my ideal framework at its best with the dice re-rolls woven thematically into prayers within the in-game universe.
My favourite framework system is Wordplay as it will handle gritty through to epic with minimal difficulty. In some ways, there is a similarity between this and the Fria Ligan engine, and I'd pick this first because the gamey part of building a hand of dice adds to the simple narrative traits.

I have enjoyed using Savage Worlds in the past, but it verges on too crunchy for me these days. I think the BRP d100 engine is solid but it's one of those that doesn't draw me in these days (although I really like the new Delta Green engine)

I've not explored WEG's D6 enough.

Wordplay killed the attraction of FATE to me. The buzz from the mechanic being as important as the traits part trumps the blandness. Although I've really enjoyed games of FATE that I've played.

I like the mechanics of PbtA, but the reality is that the games from that engine that work are all incredibly tailored to the setting that they are in, and that is a lot of work to do if there isn't one that draws you. Uncharted Worlds seemed to do this for SF but ended up being a bit on the bland side and also suffering from a lack of thought on what happens if you get PVP.