349 Pull Mechanics In From Other RPG's

You appreciate the thing that one rpg does but you prefer to run another game. Why not pull in a mechanic from one system into another?

Thanks to @DMCojo for the inspiration.

dropping to public on 7/8 at 12:05 CT


Well @Fafhrd , since you said you’re looking for a Hellboy RPG…

Also, I hope you’re reading Young Hellboy, it’s fun.

As far as the meat and potatoes of this episode, I feel like this is a better/ easier version of what we all did pre-internet. Now, instead of creating house rules from whole cloth, we can borrow and steal from ideas other people have. To some extend, I think this is really the seeds of the fantasy heart breaker. And perhaps most importantly, this is nothing to be ashamed of. I steal all sorts of stuff, and as has been discussed before, I think the main concern there is consistency. If you have a rule in March, strive to apply the same rule in June, unless there is a VERY good reason.


One of the many things I miss about the G+ days were I saw a lot of people posting/writing about the mechanics they were porting from system to system…all in one location (Google+).


I’ve not read Young Hellboy yet - that’s on the list though for sure!

1 Like

You mentioned Cortex during the podcast.

Definitely something I would recommend.

Our group first used the Smallville cortex system for you Supernatural Serenity campaign (Firely settting, but Supernatural frame - we flew around the 'verse on our ship investigating the supernatural and hunting demons).

We are currently using the most recent iteration, Cortex Prime, for our two Star Wars campaigns. While our group was initially a little skeptical about the system but are now converts. It’s so flexible and with some practice you can design a set of mechanics that create the experience you’re looking for.

In the primary Star Wars campaign, our characters are former Jedi apprentices who fled Order 66 to a strange planet unlike any other in the galaxy. (hard to explain). We built a Cortex Prime system that is just fantastic for Force powers.

In our secondary Star Wars campaign, we have street-level characters (detective, forensics specialist etc) who are part of an X-Files-like team who investigate supernatural events on the strange planet above. Using the same mechanics, we built a system that is great for street level characters, where we don’t even bother with character advancement.

Highly recommended. It just takes some getting used to.


Mining for mechanics (and story ideas) is one of my primary motivations for being an RPG tourist. I am always checking out new games to find cool new ways to run some part of the games I am running. Those mechanics get dropped in as house rules. I’ve been using some of these so long, I don’t even remember where I got some of them

Ye Olde “Roll a d6” is a rule I’ve had in my toolbox since AD&D.

Stunting aka giving your action an awesome description earns you a bonus on your roll.

Clocks from Blades in the Dark are a great way to run skill challenges and they can be easily setup on the fly.

I used Wraith the Oblivion’s “Shadow” mechanic in my D&D 5E game to represent the PCs being haunted while traveling through a cursed land. Every player played the Shadow for someone else’s character. They taunted, shamed, and encouraged bad behavior in others and used creepy voices to represent when they were talking as someone’s Shadow.

I’ve used D&D 4E’s minion rules in my 5E games. Minions have 1 hit point which allows you to throw a good number of them at PCs without overwhelming them because they go down quickly.


I’ve definitely used clocks in various games, where I don’t track “you only have this much real world time,” but “whenever X happens, we tick off another box, and at the end, a thing happens.”


I find that pulling in mechanics from otter games is temporary. Unless, its a rule used all the time I forget what I decided. Generally, there is not a good place to write these sorts of things down. Or iso it was in the past, but with Google forms and it’s like this might be changing. However, once again if it is not regularly looked at it will fade in time with my memory. Which is why I try to hew close to most of the rules of a system.

The only rule mechanic that I pulled from a game was the XP system from Champions. It was a loose pull at best, or more accurately it was inspired by the Champions system and I applied it to everything. Unless there is a compelling reason (Dungeon World’s xp for missing) I give group XP. If one player role plays well, everyone benefit’s. This is not how Champions did it. However, it asked questions like, "did the player role play well, did they learn something, were they challenged, From that I made up how much XP to doll out to the group.

Anymore, it’s about how fast the group wants to progress. Before the campaign I’d tell everyone when and how much they get. For example, I. might say every three games you make a level or something similar to that.

All this said, I am curious how groups remember or record their rule changes and how many of these pulled in mechanics get left behind because of memory issues.

1 Like

We ended up porting over quite a bit of Iron Heroes (Mike Mearls’ d20 hack from Malhavoc Press) into our D&D 3e game that it was almost better to make it full on Iron Heroes. To keep track of the new rules and feat trees, I used my time learning layout and press production to make a very limited run softcover book (3 copies) of our 50-ish page homebrew guide. That was probably my most hacked game ever that was never meant for publication.

There were always two components to D&D that I’d hack back in the day: initiative and attacks of opportunity. The former was simply because it felt like there could be more options for something as important as reacting first (at least, that’s what they taught us in swordhandling - strike first!) and the latter was to simplify it from the list of, like, twenty possible triggers. That hacking is what started teaching me about game design in the same way someone electrocuting themselves learns about wiring a home. Most people will give up once discharged from the hospital, some people die from it, and others decide to do better next time on their way to becoming an electrician. Those hacks started teaching me what I liked to use in games as an overall approach and lead to my work creating new games. Sure, I have no feeling on my left side and everything smells like burnt toast, but I also have copies out in the world with my name on it. And that means someone looking at the cover at some point, sees my name, and says to themselves, “I wonder if that name means this is a shitty book.” Living the dream, baby!

1 Like

We all talk about things to add to our toolbox, but what about the junk drawer? Anyone have any mechanics/tools they’d love to use in their games but can never find a way to work them in?

1 Like

Howdy Folks!

I have definitely pulled some various mechanics into other games. The ones I can think of are FFG Star Wars Initiative Slots, Clocks from Blades in the Dark/Powered by the Apocalypse Games, and DCC RPG XP tiers.

I really like FFG Star Wars Initiative Slots as both a player and a GM. My group has been using them in just about every game we have played since we first encountered this mechanic and it works like a dream. It really promotes teamwork and setup within an encounter. Though, there are some hiccups that you have to work through. For example, everyone has to pay attention and remember whether or not they have acted during this turn, or what do you do with mechanics/effects that say they last until the end of your next turn and when you act is variable? For this question we looked at what the intention of the effect was. Is the effect meant to boost/inhibit someone for one turn? Then it lasts until everyone has “lived through” that effect, etc.

Clocks from Blades/PbtA are an excellent mechanic to track a lot of different things. Time, guards, chases, general suspicion, etc.

DCC RPG XP Tiers are where the amount of XP a character gets per encounter is based on how difficult/what happened during that encounter and is usually listed as a number from 0-4 (I think…it might be 0-3). Basically, did the party breeze through the encounter while expending no resources…0-1 XP. Did the party experience a character death and barely survive by the skin of their teeth…3-4 XP. I did have to do a little digging to find a table/XP numbers that made sense based on 5th’s expected amount of XP to level. What I found and used was the XP Thresholds by Character Level table on pg. 82 of the DMG. What this did was replace the 0-4 chain with the correct line based on the character’s level.
I used this in the Tomb of Annihilation game that I ran for my group in 5th Ed D&D and printed off the XP Thresholds table for each player/placed them around the game area. Each player was then responsible for tracking their own XP and leveling up at the appropriate time (over a long rest) and I just started whether each encounter was Easy-Deadly. I enjoyed this mechanic a lot as a DM but my players did express some difficulty tracking it (they wanted Milestones instead), though, the also had fun pointing out when a character was knocked down or killed and salivating over the expected XP reward coming later. It was an interesting experiment and I enjoyed trying it out for that game.



Using clocks in my D&D game for the infiltration of the giant city of Andarre tonight.


One other aspect of this I was thinking of was borrowing procedure from other games. For example, if everytime you start a mission in a game, you make checks for X, Y, and Z, you can port that procedure over to another game if you cna map those checks to skills or abilities in a different game.

I like this idea for games that don’t give you a set way to model something, even though it’s assumed as part of the game rules. For example, in some games, you might need to get a job from someone, but you don’t have a set means of determining where and when a job shows up, and you don’t feel like always controlling the whole process. You might pull in procedures from another mission based game that let you know how trustworthy your employer is, how well the job pays, and how dangerous the job is.

I should be less lazy, but I’m pretty sure the Misdirected Mark folks did a discussion on the difference between mechanics and proceedure, even though both are part of the “rules” of the game.

1 Like