So I read in some of the threads your discussions about why systems matters and just wanted to give my humble thoughts on the topic.
I would argue that the system matters, matters a lot wheter you have a good roleplaying experience or not (or if there actually is any roleplay at all). It matters because at the end of the day we still play a game, wheter roleplaying or board or video game, it does not matter.
Every game has mechanics and objectives, those are usually represented by rules. And how those rules work tells us quite a bit about what the designer of the game intended that the game is actually about.
If we take DnD as an example, there are tons of rules about combat, treasure, magic, skills, feats and whatnot. Are there any rules that will help foster roleplay? No. There are literally none. There are no rules that will help the players have the opportunity of expressing their character. If a major belief or characteristic of my character never comes up in play, well tough luck, I cannot (within the rules of the game) enforce that the topic be brought up.
Now good players and GMs can work around that, they can adress the topics and create situations that will create good roleplay. But the game does not help them with that. Furthermore the game does not require any player to actually have any beliefs or character at all. It is more an afterthought to the whole system.
DnD is just about loot and XP, that is what the system is designed for and what the mechanics enforce.
So but you might say: Good players and a good GM can still roleplay!
But to that my answer would be: Yes, but are you still playing DnD? Hell you could even roleplay the shit out of Monopoly! But that doesn’t make Monopoly a good roleplaying system!
Now if we take Burning Wheel as an example. The core mechanic of that game is that every character has three core beliefs that are central to their character at that moment. Eg:
- All monsters are human.
- I will protect the sister of my friend no matter what!
Now the GMs responsibility (and this is an explicit rule), is to challenge those beliefs via the game. So just there we have a very different goal than in DnD. It’s not about fighing, XP and loot. It’s about challenging what the characters belief, what they hold dear and breaking them, changing them. So the game is more the medium through which we explore the characters.
Of course we can do the same with DnD, but then again, do we still play DnD (as a system)? Notice that the main difference is just that Burning Wheel has those elements, that are directly aimed at fostering roleplay, explicit in its ruleset (i.e. the system).
Just by making those beliefs explicit and writing them down (1/4th of the character sheet is dedicated to beliefs, instincs and traits), there is a big difference in how you play. Every player and the GM can just look at a character sheet and see what is really important for that character.
It is not just in heads of people, where you are likely to forget about it or never really have an exactly definition. By making those things explicit we have much more to work with.
PS: A very good talk about RPGs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERc0-mp75oY
Disclaimer: I’m talking about DnD 3.x
I never actually played Burning Wheel, I only read the rulebook. But I can imagine