A conversation about Modiphius’ upcoming Conan RPG has me thinking about house systems, i.e., a core ruleset that a publisher will use across multiple properties, very often licensed properties.

Question: Does this work? Can disparate properties be done justice by a single ruleset?

When I think about this being done well, I think of Cortex Plus and Burning Wheel.

Cortex Plus seems focused on embracing genre, and it’s intentionally malleable. Ergo, when I played Marvel Heroic it felt like a Marvel comic, and Leverage and Firefly pretty much felt like episodes of the show.

As for BW, Luke seems to make a point of seeking out (or being handed) properties that are inherently “Burnable”, i.e., both Iron Empires and Mouse Guard seem to be ready-made for BW’s core “fight for what you believe” ethos. Add in BWHQ’s expertise in design, and you end up with perfect licensed RPGs.

Does anyone else do this well?

(Attached is a photo of Amy Acker int he Angel episode “The House Always Wins”, because I was Googling for “house” phrases and because Amy Acker is awesome and super-cute in this outfit.)

10 thoughts on “A conversation about Modiphius’ upcoming Conan RPG has me thinking about house systems, i.e., a core ruleset that a…

  1. < ![CDATA[Cortex Plus wasn't even supposed to be a house system. I just used similar ideas to make various licenses work, and people noticed they shared a lot of common language and system tech.]]>

  2. I think it can be great as long as you’re willing to tweak and modify the system to fit setting and genre. Cortex plus is of course the examplar of this (though one could argue it’s several systems built up from similar principles and the same base mechanic). I’m trying to think of others that have in my view done this really well.

  3. < ![CDATA[I think it can be great as long as you're willing to tweak and modify the system to fit setting and genre. Cortex plus is of course the examplar of this (though one could argue it's several systems built up from similar principles and the same base mechanic). I'm trying to think of others that have in my view done this really well.]]>

  4. PbtA games are an interesting crowdsourced variant of this: they seem to have drawn particular genres as people flock to one topic or another. So there’s a lot of emergent phenomena around that.

  5. < ![CDATA[PbtA games are an interesting crowdsourced variant of this: they seem to have drawn particular genres as people flock to one topic or another. So there's a lot of emergent phenomena around that.]]>