New year! New possibilities! New WORLD.
New idea. We have a proposal for you. It will be astounding. It will be interesting. It will be something.
First off, take a look at this, from which we gathered inspiration. Its about being a sommelier of game, pairing a setting with a ruleset which complements it. Neat, yes? In a world whose history spans centuries, different periods are more appropriately played with different mechanics… some which focus on martial flair, others which focus on social interaction, et cetera. Keen idea, yes? Certainly, it’s something that interests us here: we love thinking about the way something that is entirely mechanical feels narratively, which is why one of our hobbies is setting up little microgames.
But why, we ask ourselves, must these settings be so entirely separate? What if the players could go from the epic pulp action of the Demonfall war to the more socially-oriented, gritty world of the New Empire, and (more importantly) back again. What if they could experience these settings, ebbing and flowing into one another?
The short answer? Because it would be INCREDIBLY difficult for a GM to maintain two consistent universes with radically different rules. No way around that. But not, we think, impossible.
Consider two worlds: one is defined by… oh, let’s say GURPS, for the sake of argument. It’s a world of specificity… it’s a point-buy universe. It’s simulationist, which is to say it’s all about the LAW. On the other hand, you have something like… oh, PDQ. It’s a world of approximation… it’s a free-form trait universe. It’s narrativist, which is to say, it’s about being incredibly adaptive.
Whatever you can build in GURPS, you can recreate in PDQ. Approximately. It won’t be exact… it can’t, and it wouldn’t make sense to be, but you can approximate all the goods you buy through collecting them under the penumbra of a free-form quality. This gives you characters who exist in two simultaneous forms… one (relatively) gritty and realistic, the other much more loose. One certain, the other mutable.
One equally effective when injured, the other made weaker with damage. One limited in the skills he or she can use, the other able to attack with a profession or socialize as an attack. One, in all likelihood, possessing an extra low-level skill or two that the other just didn’t have room for. Two visions of one character. All you need now is a way to flip between them.
Well that’s not hard. The GURPS character must exist in the GURPS world, and the PDQ character must exist in the PDQ world, otherwise the math just doesn’t bear out. This suggests to us that there are parallel worlds… perhaps linked by a portal or two (see Fringe), or perhaps portals can be created from time to time (see Sliders), or perhaps they have the natural capacity to slip between the two at will. Each world is drawn in the same broad strokes, but the specifics may differ… from the mechanical necessities, which make battle in one world or the other a very different proposition, to the occupants, to the set-ups of a room. Think of the strange dungeon complexes which might be made by forcing players to encounter doors which are locked in GURPS but open in PDQ, or choose between an obvious trap in PDQ or an obvious ambush in GURPS, or otherwise flip between worlds to progress! Perhaps the PDQ universe has a goblin city with a jail in the center, so our players flip to the GURPS universe, where the same city, with the same outline, is run by the humans who were able to fight off the goblins in this particular timeline. Perhaps the PDQ president has been replaced by an evil robot double, so we must find and abduct his identical analogue from the GURPS universe. Perhaps we slip into the PDQ universe, where we can more effectively interrogate someone, to learn secrets from a spymaster that we can take to the GURPS universe, where the knowledge will make skill checks significantly easier. Who knows?
But beyond even the practical possibilities of the twin universes, there is the different feel of them. Played right, one can feel like the “true” world, and one can feel like the dangerous “alternate” world that the PCs must dip into. Whether you see GURPS or PDQ as the better home world most likely depends on whether you are aligned with law or chaos. Regardless, the shift can (and should) be unsettling but essential.
As a final note, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the finest PDQ sourcebook is Truth and Justice, and that there’s a mighty fine GURPS: Supers, and a grand tradition of crises on arbitrarily huge numbers of Earths in comic books. So, that’s a thing to consider.
Alas, for we do not have a group at the moment upon which we can force this idea, even though we have a niggling little plot bunny in the back of our collective heads, so we leave the general idea on the table for the world’s enjoyment.