System Comparisons

As the Facets Engine is currently under development and implemented in its first version in Iron Facets, I thought it might be in place to make some comparisons to give a better heritage overview of the system, and what you could expect from it. First of all, in its implementation in Iron Facets, it is designed to put the focus on the narrative rather than numbers, provide a collaborative framework and toolset for fantasy adventures.

The design goals have been to create a small and fast-played, adaptable system, with descriptive faceted abilities instead of values and scores, and to cut away as much mechanical clutter as possible on the player side, all while staying within the framework games Powered by the Apocalypse have established. It is based on Alfacet System, my old lovechild I designed and played years ago, long before I discovered story games, using dice pools and trait descriptors. It evolved over and survived a number of projects, and, since I was introduced to story game design, has been refined by the help of many friends and strangers out there. Now it is my go-to framework when designing a game, as it is very versatile and can easily be modded.

Here's a quick comparison to known story games you might be familiar with:

Apocalypse World/PbtA, you will recognize;

  • Tags as facets but with a more central role to the character, the narration, and the mechanics.
  • The catch-all move 'Face a Challenge' with its tight set of variations. Characters have talents that further tweak it.
  • The fail/success at a cost/success outcome structure.

Blades in the Dark/FitD, you will recognize;

  • The simple dice pool.
  • Harm and trauma in the shape of slots and conditions (facets).
  • Talents.
  • How equipment is handled.

Fate Core/FAE, you will recognize;

  • Aspects as facets.
  • Approaches as facets.
  • Stress and conditions, as harm and conditions.

Cthulhu Dark, you will recognize;

  • Character's competence structure.
  • How nicely only a few descriptors will do the job.

Sorcerers & Sellswords, you will recognize;

  • Character's competence structure.
  • How descriptive advantages can make a great impact.

Feel free to use it if you want a framework that has a low learning curve that is usable off-the-shelf for any narratively driven game design project, in one-shots, as well as in more long-playing games.

I'd love to hear which story games or story game mechanics that are your favorites. Drop a comment!

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Christian Svalander

A forty-something Swede with beard, wife, kids, cat, and just recently, dog (in that order). During the daytime, I work as a design consultant, with a background as a user experience and type designer, art director, illustrator, and writer. During nighttime, my ventures include game design, previously for Swedish games, but more recently my own in English.

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