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I sometimes see some of the ever problematic game recommendation questions having very specific requirements. And sometimes, I don't see a game I know answering those requirements, but I see how hacking a game I know could work.

An example is this question, where Fate hacks or Burning Wheel/Mouse Guard hacks have been mentioned.

This brings several questions:

Would a game hack be an appropriate answer to an game recommendation question? How detailed would it need to be? And finally, is personal experience with this hack necessary, or is personal experience with the original system enough?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What about games that were made to hack like Fate? Does it still count as "hacking". \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Mar 31 '14 at 23:15
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Remember the game-rec rules. You have to have done it or seen it done. Given that criterion, and assuming the question itself doesn't put it out of scope by saying "no really, something published" then a hack is... kinda OK as an answer, if it's a hack that's online that someone can use. "I did my own private hack" isn't an actionable answer. But if it's a public one, sure.

The reason I say that it's "kinda OK" is that there's a difference between most "hacks" the way the community uses the term and a total conversion. It's one thing if someone says "I took the Apocalypse World engine and have fan-published Aquarium World, a full game about being a fish." That's 100% OK. It's another when there's just a blog post saying "Oh in AW you could all be fishies, just replace a couple drives and flavor it, you're done..." Many such "hacks" have not even been used by their originator - it's the indie game scene wankery of choice, the game-design version of a "bad subjective" SE answer.

"I'm sure you could hack that" is of course totally off limits and is the main reason why we have the game-rec guidance, because everyone is sure their favorite game could totally do that... You can't suggest a universal rpg or hack or whatever because "it could work" - that violates Good Subjective, Bad Subjective.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why only "kinda OK"? If the person has experience, backs up that it's a good choice, and the hack is available for others to use, that strikes me as hitting all the bells for a "good" answer, no? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 2 '14 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I'm not certain of mxy's reasoning, but the questionable quality of many hacks quickly comes to mind. There are also problems of information loss when the hack is posted in some forum somewhere. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Apr 4 '14 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly, there's a difference between most "hacks" the way the community uses the term and a total conversion. It's one thing if someone says "I took the Apocalypse World engine and have fan-published Aquarium World, a full game about being a fish." That's 100% OK. It's another when there's a blog post saying "Oh in AW you could all be fishies, just replace a couple drives and flavor it, you're done..." Many "hacks" have not even been used by their originator - it's the indie game scene wankery of choice, the game-design version of a "bad subjective" SE answer. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Apr 4 '14 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see where you get that "I did my own hack" is not an actionable answer, but it seems to me it would be in some cases and not in others. Specifically, it is actionable if the hack was something simple enough that it can be explained, within the answer, well enough for someone to use it \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Apr 4 '14 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying it's impossible - I'm saying that a hack that is so simple that it can be explained in an answer is very, very unlikely to be a good answer. Taking the fish example question, the answer "you know, just use D&D and be an aquatic elf" is one of those "simple hacks" - but also a terrible, terrible answer to the question. So sure, propose a hack (that meets GS/BS, ideally you've used it for the OP's purpose) that's either published or simply explainable, but in my opinion most "simply explainable hacks" are likely to be poor answers. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Apr 4 '14 at 17:35
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  • Hacks are totally appropriate for game rec. TRPGs are a heavily DIY-based culture. From a pure "System Does Matter" perspective, it's often better to recommend a way to reskin and tweak a system that's a good fit for the goals of a game than to recommend an appropriate pre-built setting with a ho-hum system attached.

    If someone doesn't want to hack, they can specify that in their question or just ignore your answer.

  • As I suggested in this meta answer, the key to suggesting hacks is to actually teach us what to do in your answer. Now, your answer should be actionable, but I don't think it needs to do everything. But you have to "teach your reader to fish" by sharing the fruits of your play experience and system mastery — clearly signpost the hardest and most important changes, and make at least a passing mention of the other kinds of things to be aware of.

  • An answer should be more than mere speculation. A good answer should have a clear and detailed understanding of the issues involved in making a hack like this. Because there are issues that come up that aren't obvious from an armchair viewpoint. "Oh, I dunno, hack my favorite game, I'm sure it'll work out fine" isn't a useful answer.

    Direct experience with a similar situation is ideal. (I don't think it needs to be identical; that'd be an insane and counterproductive requirement that excludes too many good answers to be worthwhile, I think.) Indirect experience, i.e. you've read a bunch about someone else doing it, can also be useful — you should definitely link back to the source so readers know where they can go to learn more, though.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer a lot. I think it's important to emphasize that RPG systems can and should be tweaked and hacked. A GM is part game designer. Especially when you want something rare or unusual, hacking a system is going to be unavoidable. Experience hacking the base system is important, but not with that exact hack. Every hack is unique in its own way. \$\endgroup\$ – mcv Apr 10 '14 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mcv I think everyone playing should be part game designer. :) \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Apr 10 '14 at 13:17

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