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Vajra games are not generic-genre games. Fates Worse Than Death is not “here’s a generic cyberpunk game where you can do anything you could in standard-cyberpunk-world.” It’s a very specific setting with very specific differences from standard cyberpunk. Now, I’m not trying to denigrate generic-cyberpunk, but if you’re trying to GM generic cyberpunk you don’t need me to write a book to tell you how. Just download one of many wonderful free generic rule-systems and tell your players “we’re doing generic cyberpunk” and everything will proceed beautifully.

I offer a service. Like a maid or a chef my job is to do the things you don’t have time to or don’t feel like doing yourself. My service I offer is this: I detail a setting, tell people what can and can’t be done in the game universe, and I put the setting in the book so that players and GMs can read it and play in a shared universe.

Vajra games have ‘crunchy’ character creation. You have to choose your skills from a list instead of making them up, same with equipment. This does make character creation a little bit longer, but there’s an important benefit to doing so. It lets players know what their character can and can’t do within the confines of the game universe. This wouldn’t be necessary if the setting was pure-generic and everyone already knew what was possible in the game universe, or if the game setting and what’s possible is the product of constant negotiation between players and GM but, as I said before, if you’re doing that you don’t need to buy a book.

Does Tibet need a long equipment list? Yes, it does, unless the players either already know what kinds of equipment and technology 1959 Tibetans have access to (I wish they would have told me, it would have saved me hundreds of hours of research), or if they don’t care (‘Don’t worry, I’ll use my unnamed-generic-object to save us!’ ‘Yay!’)

‘Crunchiness’ is the most expedient way of teaching players about the game universe. Yes, character creation takes a while, but players in Fates Worse Than Death, for example, aren’t going to choose an arm-cannon cyber-implant or ‘making-heads-explode’ psychic ability only to find out that’s not how things work in that game universe. Some explanation of the game universe by the GM is still necessary, but at least players know what their character can and can’t do.

So, to sum it up, if you don’t need someone else to write you a setting, then you don’t need crunchiness, but if you want your players to know what they can and can’t do in this particular setting, then ORC’s crunchiness will be good for you.

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