View Full Version : Level of detail

2010-10-20, 03:31 PM
Why do games have widely varying levels of detail?

In particular, why do games feel it necessary to have a complicated grapple system when all of a melee attack is abstracted into a simple die roll?

2010-10-20, 03:49 PM
Because different people like different things.

Complicated Grapple systems are probably because there are folks who are interested in unarmed combat, and like to have all the options they know they have in real life.

2010-10-20, 03:51 PM
Because it's really easy to screw up your own game with complexity creep.

I've got a diceless system I've been building on and off for a while (mostly 'off' though as I can't be bothered to build a system and GM 4e at the same time). The core of it is really elegant and simple. Then I started adding weapons. I saw all the cool things I could do to model fighting and suddenly weapons had 10 different stats depending on the situation and the game was played on a grid that didn't measure yards or 5 foot blocks, but inches. Discovering those notes several weeks later was kinda like finding a leftover mess during a hangover. I kinda twisted my head sideways, said 'err,' and wondered what state my head could have been in when that happened.

Anyway, it's probably a case of somebody wanted to make a grapple check instead of an attack. But they wanted it to be mechanically different than simply attacking. Maybe a touch attack proved too good, so the other rolls are treated as additional restrictions to keep grappling from being too easy?

Varying level of detail isn't necessarily a bad thing though. Your D&D example is pretty bad, but look at Dark Heresy. Most checks are simple and straightforward. Roll percentile. Keep it under your score. Where it gets complex by adding charts is for critical damage. When people die, they do so spectacularly. This tells you quite a bit about what the game is all about. The difference between DH and D&D is that in DH the developers used varying levels of detail intentionally. The game is mostly elegant, but the complex parts are things they feel are important. In D&D the complex parts are things they had to hack on at the last minute, but weren't worth coming up with simple mechanics.

2010-10-20, 03:51 PM
Um, is this rhetorical? A rant, perhaps?

Honestly, subsytems, such as grappling, appeal to certain portions of the masses. I prefer the close combat table from good ol' 1e (maybe it was 2e). Roll to attack. Hit? Yes. Roll on this table (another d20). This is the move you did, this is how much damage it did. End. (Of course, everyone was assumed to be competent in close combat.)
Grappling as it stands now 3.0/3.5 is obscenely complicated and, frankly, lame. I haven't even read to see if there are grappling rules in 4e, since it doesn't make sense to grapple anything in the current edition.
Help any?

2010-10-20, 03:52 PM
Why do games have widely varying levels of detail?

In particular, why do games feel it necessary to have a complicated grapple system when all of a melee attack is abstracted into a simple die roll?
I think the reason for this might be due to any of several reasons: different folks worked on the different sub-systems, nobody bothered to refer to the overall architecture of the game when creating the conflicting sub-system, and/or the game designers conciously thought that a particular sub-system required a conflicting level of detail.

2010-10-20, 04:41 PM
In some cases, the game developers decide that the final touches and polish aren't necessary in minor distractions in the game. The Grapple system in DnD, the Slam attacks in GURPS, contested attribute rolls in Call of Cthulhu, or what have you, often fall victim to a couple of issues.

First, sometimes the developers want things to remain complicated. For example, building explosives in GURPS is a hefty number crunch that I've had to go through enough times now that I've house ruled it. The actual rules are complicated and realistic, but are sparsely gameable for a guy like me that doesn't fully understand real world explosives. It's satisfyingly complicated and encourages thought with those who know about structural damage, gunpowder, and how things go boom, but goes over my head... however Slam attacks are right up my alley and even though (Mass*Speed)/100 dice of damage sounds obnoxious, but I love it!

Second, there's always the issue of a guy like me developing a game in a way that discourages players from performing certain actions. I'm currently building a "Sith Academy" game and designing the powers from scratch so that the players pick only the abilities I want them to and each is given a short description and a creative idea or two so I can direct their characters a bit before we even sit down at the table. When a game uses rules that are extra complex in certain spot... DnD 3e grapple rules come to mind, sometimes developers are trying to guide players into acting like heroes and punching evil in the face rather than grabbing someone and rolling around on the ground with them. The fact that they put an attack of opportunity before the grab attempt really makes me think that they don't want players actually doing this, but feel that they should include rules on this simply because it's likely to show up in games.

Third, oversights and time constraints do happen, and often creep around the sparsely used rules. If you go three sessions without someone attempting to grapple, likely the test games went the same amount of time without such an attempt. And when they came to it, it worked well enough that it didn't seem necessary to change it. Sometimes knowing the system too well can make the more complicated things in the game seem simple and easy... at least I know I've had that issue designing games.

At least, that's my thoughts...