Unisystem pros and cons?


  • Coder

    @sunny and @Misadventure, I am trying to pull a conversation snippet out of the Novel Game thread that I am interesting in hearing about for purely selfish reasons.

    I am unaware of Unisystem being crunchy, nor it being a good building system

    Unisystem was one of the systems I have looked at for building out the game I am working on, as is The Window RPG and a few others. They are all basically the same, so I think this conversation can apply to most of them, at a high level.

    I am interested in hearing a Pros vs Cons debate from the two of you, as you seem to have experience with the system. Sunny seems to be pro, Misadventure seems to be con.



  • There are two general traits of games where the term crunchy is applied. One is more common, and means that there are a lot of rules for how to do things, with many modifiers, and perhaps many interactions in the rules to pay attention to. They often have methods to "realistically" assess the difficulty of some task and complete it. Think about the detail many games have for combat, and apply that to other areas (social conflict, how to customize a car, inventing new things, how hard it is to cut a rope under tension). Combat can have staggered actions (plain ole order, or many actions a turn), moves that change your state and thus affect other moves beyond just an offense or defense score. Shock, bleeding, heal times, the kinds of medical treatment can be included.

    Examples of what I'd call that sort of crunchy: GURPS, Exalted, Phoenix Command, Shadowrun, Hero System, BTRC (Warpworld, CORPS), RoleMaster.

    Then there is crunchy applied to the rules having a mechanisms to create new something: spells, cybernetics, mecha, cars, poisons and drugs, cults, memes, Often all instances of a given thing in the game were designed using these rules. So you can in theory say a 250 point mecha should be an even match for another 250 point mecha, and that a 43 point spells is about as good as another 43 point spell. No guarantees, and there are often ways to min-max these systems. Note that they go a step beyond giving you pre-made pieces (which is how most Traveller, Star Trek, Star Wars, and BattleTech work for vehicles, and how Marvel, Savage Worlds, and Cinematic System work for personal super powers. You choose every aspect, ever advantage and flow a given thing has, and balance the cost.

    Examples: Hero, Mekton Zeta, Mutants & Masterminds, Heavy Gear, Traveller's Fire Fusion & Steel, MasterBook.

    As for skill checks and how combat works, find a system you like to play. Cinematic fell apart for me because it's NOT designed to do Buffy. Classic example is that any group of opponents can waste your defense and then dog pile you. If the whole system was full of tricks like this, that would be a point of play, but as is they are pitfalls where the GM realizes they have to carefully construct every combat so as to not destroy a character.


  • Pitcrew

    Really, it's just a fundamental difference of opinion. I, having like 3 games that use this system, find it easy to create balanced things with. It's not AS crunchy as HERO (HERO does it better and is superior in pretty much every way, good luck getting people who don't already know it to use it on a mush), but @Misadventure is comparing it to other systems, while I was looking at it in terms of how much crunch is necessary for the style of the setting.



  • And my point was mainly about having a system to custom build things. I suppose I should mention the templates of D&D 3 and 4 as well.


  • Pitcrew

    We also tend to disagree on a lot of these sorts of things; we're two people that are very heavily weighted at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of our approaches to gaming and perspectives. I come from a heavily no-stats-at-all roleplaying background, so the bar for what I view as crunchy is significantly different than @Misadventure's view. It's the same viewpoint sort of with this, it's just on a different scale.

    This, though, this was just "I was talking about this and @Misadventure was talking about that".



  • Here is a Pro for Unisystem as it relates to Buffy etc: It has the name on the book. It talks about and describes things from the various series, and so the players most interested in playing it feel that it meshes with the story material. They are used to gaes where stats don't directly function to create the fiction feel they are looking for. It's a fan targetted game, and it works on that level, so folks get excited and in the right mind set. This lets them go for what they want to see, and gloss over little things that may otherwise be jarring. This is a big plus, just one that happens despite the actual game mechanics.


  • Pitcrew

    @Misadventure

    See, for me, the operative word involved as far as the system's flaws is 'Cinematic'. It's not supposed to mimic actual reality, the laws of physics, or anything along those lines. It's supposed to mimic movie/television/fiction/entertainment reality, which is significantly different. I expect (though this is just knowing the personalities here) that some of the things that you view as a bug (design flaw), I view as a feature. The system is for over the top movie madness, and within that context it works very well. The game simply encourages/supports a specific playstyle.

    Cinematic fell apart for me because it's NOT designed to do Buffy. Classic example is that any group of opponents can waste your defense and then dog pile you. If the whole system was full of tricks like this, that would be a point of play, but as is they are pitfalls where the GM realizes they have to carefully construct every combat so as to not destroy a character.

    One, that's part of the GM's job, and two, the GM creating encounters where the enemy is exploiting flaws in a system rather than behaving reasonably means the group is playing the wrong game. You don't play Cinematic Unisystem like you would D&D or even WoD.

    What Buffy did as her show progressed is way above and beyond what any of the PCs are going to start out like. Angel ended up actually balancing things out a little better with the various traits and things available. Witchcraft, which is not the Cinematic system (but is Unisystem) is a significantly different game that superficially looks quite similar. It removes much of the cinematic aspects, putting it back along the same level as WoD, except for including specific rules as part of the system to make your own stuff.



  • @Sunny said:

    @Misadventure

    Cinematic fell apart for me because it's NOT designed to do Buffy. Classic example is that any group of opponents can waste your defense and then dog pile you. If the whole system was full of tricks like this, that would be a point of play, but as is they are pitfalls where the GM realizes they have to carefully construct every combat so as to not destroy a character.

    One, that's part of the GM's job, and two, the GM creating encounters where the enemy is exploiting flaws in a system rather than behaving reasonably means the group is playing the wrong game. You don't play Cinematic Unisystem like you would D&D or even WoD.

    I don't think she meant that's a flaw enemies have to specifically "exploit." From my reading, she's saying one PC just can't handle groups of baddies very well if they all target him/her and tend to get stomped, and which isn't very Buffy-esque at all -- I remember even very early Buffy and Angel wading into groups of vampires without too much difficulty, if you want to compare the feel of the show vs game mechanics.


  • Politics

    @Wizz said:

    @Sunny said:

    @Misadventure

    Cinematic fell apart for me because it's NOT designed to do Buffy. Classic example is that any group of opponents can waste your defense and then dog pile you. If the whole system was full of tricks like this, that would be a point of play, but as is they are pitfalls where the GM realizes they have to carefully construct every combat so as to not destroy a character.

    One, that's part of the GM's job, and two, the GM creating encounters where the enemy is exploiting flaws in a system rather than behaving reasonably means the group is playing the wrong game. You don't play Cinematic Unisystem like you would D&D or even WoD.

    I don't think she meant that's a flaw enemies have to specifically "exploit." From my reading, she's saying one PC just can't handle groups of baddies very well if they all target him/her and tend to get stomped, and which isn't very Buffy-esque at all -- I remember even very early Buffy and Angel wading into groups of vampires without too much difficulty, if you want to compare the feel of the show vs game mechanics.

    This has caveats.

    The Unisystem, especially the Cinematic Unisystem, uses "Combat Scores" for NPCs. The NPCs always have the same "rolls", so to speak. Their Dodge is always the same as well. And high-Dex characters like Buffy and Angel can hit more than once per turn (IIRC, you can take 2 Actions at Dex 5, 3 at 7, and 4 at 9).

    Angel and Buffy both have at least DEX 7 in the RPG book sheets. That means they can hit 3 targets per turn. At very high Strength (which they also have) the amount of damage they do can easily take out mooks (which these vamps you mention technically are).

    As such, the system does indeed allow you to do the things you see in the show, provided that your ST doesn't over-stat the mooks.


  • Coder

    I keep hearing about Unisystem, but I find it hard to find the books. Does anyone have a link?


  • Pitcrew

    There was no general unisystem books, and comes in two flavors Cinematic and Classic.
    For Classic look for Witchcraft which is available free on Drive thru I think or it might be pay what you want, and Armageddon: Let the End Times Roll
    Cinematic was Used in the licensed Buffy and Angel RPGs
    All Flesh Must Be Eaten also uses one of the flavors of Unisystem, but since i am not a zombie fan i did not buy it so do not know which one. Other games using it may be out there as well .




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