By what standards doth ye PrinceofNothing proclaim to judge what is or is not good RPG? T’is difficult but essential we outline the marks of QUALITY so future generations may look upon them and produce greatness. This is a work in progress that may very well change as i accumulate wisdom and age from my long and drawn out pilgrimage into the lands of RPGdom. I shall try to define what I look at when I judge an rpg.
Campaign Settings (i.e Campaign settings for existing rulesets. For campaign settings included with a core ruleset, look ye not here).
* Novelty: Let it be known, for ye Campaign Setting to reach the heights of RPGdom it must tantalize us with wonders never beheld afore this day. So doth your Prince proclaim: If ye conjure uppe a Campaign Setting, ye Campaign setting muste allowe us to explore the gaeme in ways we could not do before this day. Whether by new rules, strange locations or items and creatures unfathomable. Good examples: Planescape, Birthright, Spelljammer. Bad example: Greyhawk vs Forgotten Realms. Novelty is always a plus.
* Utility: Campaign settings that get bogged down in navelgazing or pages and pages of flavour text or minituae receive scorn. While detail may add versimilitude and therefore some anthropologic detail is excellent, a Campaign Setting exists so that I may have fun adventures therein. Good examples: Gaz 1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos and Gaz 3: the Principalities of Glantri. Bad example: Gaz 14 – The Atruahgin Clans
Also, a special lair of hell is reserved for games that insist on giving me page upon page of in-game-fiction.
* Crunch: Any supplement that deigns to add rules must ensure that its rules are neither overcomplex, inefficient nor so sparse as to require frequent use of GM Fiat. And they should work as intended. Ideally, any new elements should be implementable with the barest minimum of consideration, houseruling and caution. If the author perceives a problem with the implementation of said elements, he may note this and offer means of implementing them safely. Damnation in hell for adhering to the Vancian Magic System when its implementation would make zero sense. Bad example: Carcosa.
* Creativity, Writing and Style: An admittedly subjective critereon, your Prince has always been a sucker for well-written, excellently executed, superlatively presented tidbits of writefaggotry and rulefaggotry. The ratio of appreciatively raised eyebrows vs glazed stares when perusing a work of RPG is an essential component of its awesomeness. Comparatively, nothing bores me so much as stat blocks that are included for versimilitude or completeness but that will see little to no actual use. I must cite the 2nd edition Monstrous Compendia for Forgotten Realms as repeat offenders.
* Presentation. Art shall be judged on how well it manages to convey a theme or spirit of the setting. Presentation shall be judged on ease of use (i.e an index). Ridiculous font choices, atrocious unintuitive layout or hideous art shall earn nothing but contempt and the laughter of dark gods. If maps are provided they must be useful. Good AND bad example: A Red and Pleasant Land has weird art and a shitty map but its presentation is efficient, clean and very functional.
* Versimilitude: A devil though it may be, those who do not temper their relentless creative spirit with the cold, harsh spectre of Versimilitude are little better then drooling madmen. A setting must maintain an internal sort of consistency or believability. Failure or rampant handwaving results in a firm corrective beating. Offender: Any setting with a readily available and reliable source of magical ressurection that still functions as the Dark ages with elves. Mystara is probably an offender (though i forgive it). Also used to measure succesful genre emulation if the Setting is based on a book, movie or whathaveyou.
*Depth/Scope: In general, the more your game facilitates different types of play, the better. Some games go for a very focused experience while others prefer a kitchen sink approach. This aspect, like pretty much every aspect of a game, is subjective and depends on your frame of reference, some people will read a Post-singularity Sci-fi RPG and see a million possible campaigns branch out while others can read the same material and simply not know what to do with it. Replayability is also an element of Depth/Scope.
*Personal Taste: I, as a human being, am biased towards things I like, and I have no shame admitting this. If a game makes me actually want to play it I consider this a point in its favour. It is not always possible to correlate the myriad impressions you get during a reading process into a coherent whole but the question whether or not you want to play it is simple and immediately obvious.
It goes without saying that works that openly advocate delusional psychopathic ideologies like facism, radical islam, cultural marxism and all but the most moderate strains of 3rd wave feminism automatically fail this test, unless the game in question is just exceptionally good. Note that advocate does not equate to “feature” or “have in it”, this is something most people seem to have trouble grasping. A game can have racism in it without promoting racism for example, by portraying it as bad or merely neutral/historically accurate.
A game that is deficient in one area may compensate by being unusually strong in another section. This is still a work in progress but it gives me something to collect my thoughts and meditate upon the spirit of goodness.