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View Full Version : When does a tabletop rpg become to video-game like to you?



Ozfer
2012-07-18, 10:18 AM
I ask this because I am attempting to make an rpg system, but I'm afraid I lost sight of my original goal. As I've gone forward, it gets more and more complex, so I wanted to ask-

What makes an rpg too video-game like? I don't want my system to fall the same way 4e dnd did.

-Too powerful characters?
-No classes?
-Anything else you can think of?

Thank you in advance :).

dsmiles
2012-07-18, 10:23 AM
There are plenty of classless systems out there that aren't video-gamey. Where 4e went wrong for me was arbitrary numbers of successes needed to win on the so-called "skill challenges," and what amounted to recharge times on abilities.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 10:23 AM
4E didn't fall. Lots of people think 4E is the best version yet. Its just not for everyone.


I think the video game thing is a complete canard here.


My best advice is this: avoid trying to please everyone, figure out what you want your system to do well, and focus on that.

Eldan
2012-07-18, 10:24 AM
Classes aren't required. I've had much fun playing point-based system. Neither does power really matter.

What matters is this: the players need to be able to come up with unexpected and creative plans, and the rules must support this. I want a relatively simple and versatile system to implement unexpected solutions, and I want character resources that are open for creativity.

Example? In D&D, this can be something as simple as rolling an ability check for something you don't have skill points in. For FATE, it can be paying a fate point, or using an aspect. It needs a mechanic like that. How to do things the rules dind't really think of.

The second is abilities that are relatively open-ended. I don't like it when an ability says "this deals 6d6s damage, and only under these circumstances". I want an ability that gives a few general guidelines, but lets the player come up with their own thing. Silent Image, in D&D, which can create whatever image you think of is my favourite go-to example.

Craft (Cheese)
2012-07-18, 10:27 AM
Ugh, honestly, the complaint that something is "too videogamey" almost universally comes from old people who just hate video games. It has no substance or meaning, it's just a way for someone to insult two things they hate simultaneously.

Yora
2012-07-18, 10:33 AM
I can't really think of a lot of things that are video-gamey in RPGs.

I guess item slots and ability cooldown would count.
Sorry, 4E.

Eldan
2012-07-18, 10:34 AM
Well, not really. Something can be too videogame-like. But often not in the way people think, and it's more often the DM's fault than the system's fault.

In a computer RPG, there are a list of predefined solutions to a situation, htose that are programmed in. In an RPG, it is possible to find your own solutions.

Example? If you come up to a chasm, the programmers thought of four ways for you to get across it. A flight spell, felling a tree so it falls across the chasm, trying to climb down and up again, or jumping. If you have a fifth idea, it will never work, no matter how great it sounds. You will not be able to tie your weapons together into a primitive grappling hook. You can not go back to chapter two and ask the griffon king to fly you part of the way as thanks for rescuing his son.

So, that makes the difference. It gets too videogamey when your GM tells you that none of your ideas work, since he doesn't like them and didn't think of them himself. I've seen it happen.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 10:35 AM
I can't really think of a lot of things that are video-gamey in RPGs.

I guess item slots and ability cooldown would count.
Sorry, 4E.

Ability cooldown is realistic, not video gamey. If I max press on the bench, my muscles need time to recover.

I can walk over and do the leg press immediately, but its going to take time before I can bench press again.

BRC
2012-07-18, 10:39 AM
Ugh, honestly, the complaint that something is "too videogamey" almost universally comes from old people who just hate video games. It has no substance or meaning, it's just a way for someone to insult two things they hate simultaneously.

Holy Generalizations Batman!


But anyway. For me "Too Video-Gamey" is when the system forgets the advantages Tabletop games have over Video Games in order to simulate them.

Tabletop Games have the advantage of flexibility, flexibility in terms of both play and character creation.
Video Games have the advantage of Complexity. With a computer doing most of the calculations, a Video Game needs only to worry about how complex the mechanics are on the player's end. A video game can keep track of large numbers of buffs and penalties, for example, providing the player with a single, simple, lump sum. A Tabletop game all those penalties need to be calculated in, with everything it affects.
By the criteria above, a tabletop game would become too video-gamey when it abandons flexibility and tries to implement overly-complex mechanics in order to simulate a video game.

Gensh
2012-07-18, 10:39 AM
Ugh, honestly, the complaint that something is "too videogamey" almost universally comes from old people who just hate video games. It has no substance or meaning, it's just a way for someone to insult two things they hate simultaneously.

Nope. There are plenty of people who make that complaint with legitimate reasons. Sure, there are also lots of people who just parrot what other people say as well, but this was essentially my complaint against 4E. In fact, I found the comparisons to WoW an insult to WoW. Heck, comparing 4E Core to most video games is an insult. Dynasty Warriors, king of the repetitive hack-and-slash genre, has more complexity than 4E Core.

That is when you know a tabletop game is "too videogamey": when it possesses limited character ability outside of combat, and the combat is dull and repetitive. I'm a "don't knock it 'til you've tried it" sort of guy, so I did play 4E before coming to this conclusion. I said "I fire my laser" literally every round in combat. Can you guess which class I played?
Cleric.

Craft (Cheese)
2012-07-18, 10:41 AM
Well, not really. Something can be too videogame-like. But often not in the way people think, and it's more often the DM's fault than the system's fault.

In a computer RPG, there are a list of predefined solutions to a situation, htose that are programmed in. In an RPG, it is possible to find your own solutions.

Example? If you come up to a chasm, the programmers thought of four ways for you to get across it. A flight spell, felling a tree so it falls across the chasm, trying to climb down and up again, or jumping. If you have a fifth idea, it will never work, no matter how great it sounds. You will not be able to tie your weapons together into a primitive grappling hook. You can not go back to chapter two and ask the griffon king to fly you part of the way as thanks for rescuing his son.

So, that makes the difference. It gets too videogamey when your GM tells you that none of your ideas work, since he doesn't like them and didn't think of them himself. I've seen it happen.

Except... that's a flaw in video games as well (as are ability cooldowns, weird, arbitrary success conditions, etc.).

The accusation of something being "too videogamey" implies that the reason this is a problem is because video games do it. That's what I object to.

valadil
2012-07-18, 10:44 AM
I have two requirements in my tabletop games that are relevant.

When I play the game I have to be able to go anywhere and do anything. If the game is a multiple choice choose your own adventure of things the GM has already thought of for me to do, that's a video game.

Now, that particular requirement is often broken by poor GMing rather than the system. But, the system can certainly help the GM. First off, whatever GM guide comes with the system needs to encourage the GM to allow the players to go everywhere, not just everywhere the GM already thought up. The system also needs to be able to handle improvisation. I'll use 4e as an example since it already came up. I actually find it easier to improvise combats in 4e than 3.5, even though 4e is a bit heavier mechanically. This is because 4e does a better job at estimating encounter difficulty. I can throw together an encounter and as long as it follows the XP budget and level appropriate guidelines, the encounter runs at roughly the correct difficulty. I never had that experience in 3rd ed. Combats took a while to prep because I either had to come up with the NPCs or sanity check everything. In general though, I'd say that a minimalistic light system will be easier to improvise because there's less to crunch.

Too much math also makes tabletop feel video gamey. Yes, we could play D&D with physics and calculus. I'm sure some people do. But for me that detracts from the tabletop aspect. I like rough estimations with simpler calculations. It's part of the tabletop game charm for me.

Anyway, the point where I cry too much math is fractions. I think any amount of math up until that point works, but as soon as fractions hit the table people start pulling out calculators.

I associate this level of math with video games because that's where computers shine. Let them do ridiculous amounts of math in a nanosecond. When I want accurate projectile trajectories projecting dynamic shadows I'll get them from video games.

Eldan
2012-07-18, 10:49 AM
Except... that's a flaw in video games as well (as are ability cooldowns, weird, arbitrary success conditions, etc.).

The accusation of something being "too videogamey" implies that the reason this is a problem is because video games do it. That's what I object to.

That's not a flaw in some videogames. That's a thing in all CRPGs. There can always only be so many situations that can be programmed into a game. Every game has this limitation.

BRC
2012-07-18, 10:50 AM
Except... that's a flaw in video games as well (as are ability cooldowns, weird, arbitrary success conditions, etc.).

The accusation of something being "too videogamey" implies that the reason this is a problem is because video games do it. That's what I object to.

No, it implies that it's a problem because the Tabletop game is trying to be a video game.

Imagine going to a restaurant, one that serves, let's say, burgers. You go there because you want a burger. You walk in and the guy says "We've worked very hard to make sure our burgers taste as much like Tacos as possible!"
You say "but I want a burger that tastes like a burger"
and they say "Well more people like Tacos, so we're making Burgertacos!".
The problem isn't that Tacos are bad, it's that what works on a Taco does not work on a Burger.

The problem isn't video games. Video games are awesome. The problem is that video game mechanics don't always translate well the Tabletop Games, they are two very different mediums.
Imagine if you sat down and the DM said
"A town guard approaches you and asks you to bring him ten bear pelts."
"We go into the woods"
"You see bears, boars, and bandits"
"We attack a bear!"
you beat the bear. The DM rolls
"No pelt on this one. What do you do?"

And you repeat that until you have Ten Bear Pelts. It would be Boring and terrible, but video games do that sort of quest all the time, and it works, it can be pretty fun, but only in a video game.

Craft (Cheese)
2012-07-18, 10:55 AM
That's not a flaw in some videogames. That's a thing in all CRPGs. There can always only be so many situations that can be programmed into a game. Every game has this limitation.

Most video games give the player a set of tools with an environment, then defines a consistent set of laws governing how each tool affects each part of the environment.

You really only see developers attempt to directly implement a tree of options the player can follow with dialogue, because nobody has dialogue mechanics figured out yet. You see CRPGs do this a lot because dialogue is really important in those games, but it is in no way inherent to the medium itself.


The problem isn't video games. Video games are awesome. The problem is that video game mechanics don't always translate well the Tabletop Games, they are two very different mediums.
Imagine if you sat down and the DM said
"A town guard approaches you and asks you to bring him ten bear pelts."
"We go into the woods"
"You see bears, boars, and bandits"
"We attack a bear!"
you beat the bear. The DM rolls
"No pelt on this one. What do you do?"

And you repeat that until you have Ten Bear Pelts. It would be Boring and terrible, but video games do that sort of quest all the time, and it works, it can be pretty fun, but only in a video game.

Not really: This is just about the laziest form of quest design there is. The difference isn't that this is somehow better in a video game, the difference is video games make lazy quest design more palatable because that gets masked over by the pretty lights and sound effects.

The thing is that the pretty lights and sound effects are even more effective when you're playing through level design that's actually good.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 10:58 AM
The problem isn't video games. Video games are awesome. The problem is that video game mechanics don't always translate well the Tabletop Games, they are two very different mediums.
Imagine if you sat down and the DM said
"A town guard approaches you and asks you to bring him ten bear pelts."
"We go into the woods"
"You see bears, boars, and bandits"
"We attack a bear!"
you beat the bear. The DM rolls
"No pelt on this one. What do you do?"

And you repeat that until you have Ten Bear Pelts. It would be Boring and terrible, but video games do that sort of quest all the time, and it works, it can be pretty fun, but only in a video game.

Has anyone ever seen a DM do this?


When people say "too-videogamey" they never mean any of these things. They almost always mean "I don't like it and I can't explain why".

Yora
2012-07-18, 10:58 AM
Ability cooldown is realistic, not video gamey. If I max press on the bench, my muscles need time to recover.

I can walk over and do the leg press immediately, but its going to take time before I can bench press again.
Yes, but you won't be able to do sommersaults, rope skipping, and do 100 meter dash either. Either you can do any of them or none of them.

Ashdate
2012-07-18, 10:59 AM
I ask this because I am attempting to make an rpg system, but I'm afraid I lost sight of my original goal. As I've gone forward, it gets more and more complex, so I wanted to ask-

What makes an rpg too video-game like? I don't want my system to fall the same way 4e dnd did.

-Too powerful characters?
-No classes?
-Anything else you can think of?

Thank you in advance :).

You know, video-games can do a lot of things right. Modern pen and paper game design would be foolish to ignore the medium just because they want to fit it into a box and push it aside. They're just as capable of creating a compelling experience as a pen and paper game, and one that can hit multiple buttons. Consider some of the things that you could incorporate, whose origins can generally be found in a videogames:


Heavy customization of characters, but (generally) presented in a design where there are no "wrong" picks (consider a game like Deus Ex for example).

The ability to present information in very simple ways, that allow new players to quickly grasp some of the game's mechanics (I consider a game like Final Fantasy X to do this, but your result may vary).

Boss fights with a clear beginning/middle/end progression that require players to switch tactics, as the boss changes its own tactics, making a more compelling fight (such as a game like World of Warcraft).


People who think 4e is a "videogame" are just looking at excuses to dislike it, rather than engaging with what the system is trying to do. 4e (like editions before it) is an excuse to build heroic, fantasy-style characters who tackle heroic, fantasy-style problems. Certainly, 4e has it's strengths and weaknesses, but so do all of the previous editions.

Despite 4e being considered the most "video-game" like, it has arguably the most robust improvisation mechanics presented in their DMG (someone will need to check older editions for me; there are, to my gaze, little about improvisation in the 3.5 DMG), and I would even argue does a better job of "not using the dice" for skills than 5e is currently attempting.

Despite 4e being the most "video-game" like, it does not reward "system mastery" nearly to the extent that 3.5 did (which, I might remind people, would involve breaking the game despite following the rules).

Despite 4e being the most "video-game" like, it is easily the most flexible system for a DM to modify, as the math has been done for you already. Love it or hate it, 4e is a dream to DM.

So don't look at a system like 4e with scorn. There are a lot of positives to draw out of it, even if you don't like how they handled daily powers, or hit points, or whatever. I don't care if a mechanic is inspired by a video game, as long as it plays quickly and is fun. Make a game that's fun to play rather than worrying about whether it feels like a video game.

The Glyphstone
2012-07-18, 11:03 AM
Great Modthulhu: Please remember that while discussing positive/negative traits of games is acceptable, putting down or insulting play styles and/or other people based on their choice of playstyle or game system is not. This is an obviously touchy topic, and will be shut down if it gets out of hand.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 11:03 AM
Yes, but you won't be able to do sommersaults, rope skipping, and do 100 meter dash either. Either you can do any of them or none of them.

I'd definitely be able to run the 100 after bench pressing. I'd probably be able to do sommersaults too. Rope skipping, no.

BRC
2012-07-18, 11:10 AM
Has anyone ever seen a DM do this?


No, because it would be a terrible idea. But it's illustrating my point that one can say a tabletop is "Too Video-gamey", without saying that videogames themselves are bad.
The "Kill Ten Bears" Quest is considered a standard in CRPGs, a lazy standard, but a standard nonetheless. It's acceptable. In a tabletop it would be unacceptable.

Emmerask
2012-07-18, 11:13 AM
Hm we should have a clear definition of what the current major difference between a tabletop and a videogame is.

And I think the only real difference (I can think of) is the limitation on the actions you can do in videogames.

Then again the rulebooks dont cover all this stuff so from a raw perspective they are limited too, BUT in most cases they have a sentence that says something like the dm/player consensus can approximate rules for actions that are not in the rulebook.

So a tabletop rpg would be too videogamy (for me) if it would explicitly forbid to take actions that are not part of the rulebooks.

Ashdate
2012-07-18, 11:15 AM
So a tabletop rpg would be too videogamy (for me) if it would explicitly forbid to take actions that are not part of the rulebooks.

Thus, 4e is not "videogamy", because it's DMG is very clear about telling DMs to say "yes", and providing quick rules to improvise in situations that the DM did not expect would happen.

Phosphate
2012-07-18, 11:15 AM
The game is too videogamey for me if I can't do anything I realistically could do to my defeated enemies, as creepy as that sounds.

Call me Bear Grylls, but if I kill a camel, I WANT to eat it, I WANT to skin it, I WANT to make a necklace out of its teeth, and I WANT to use the carcass as an impromptu bed and shelter for the night.

Eldan
2012-07-18, 11:17 AM
Thus, 4e is not "videogamy", because it's DMG is very clear about telling DMs to say "yes", and providing quick rules to improvise in situations that the DM did not expect would happen.

Exactly. I read the core books. I did not like them much, but I would not call them too close to videogames. They probably had more rules for this kind of thing than 3E.

Emmerask
2012-07-18, 11:23 AM
No, because it would be a terrible idea. But it's illustrating my point that one can say a tabletop is "Too Video-gamey", without saying that videogames themselves are bad.
The "Kill Ten Bears" Quest is considered a standard in CRPGs, a lazy standard, but a standard nonetheless. It's acceptable. In a tabletop it would be unacceptable.

But thats not a system being videogamy but a dm playing too much wow and thinking that such "quest" activities are the height of epic gaming :smallbiggrin:

(I kid actually Im a pretty big mmo fan (daoc 7 years ^^))


Thus, 4e is not "videogamy", because it's DMG is very clear about telling DMs to say "yes", and providing quick rules to improvise in situations that the DM did not expect would happen.

Yes I agree :smallsmile:

Totally Guy
2012-07-18, 11:25 AM
When I play the game I have to be able to go anywhere and do anything. If the game is a multiple choice choose your own adventure of things the GM has already thought of for me to do, that's a video game.

Have you ever heard of a game called Murderous Ghosts? It's a two player game where one player takes the role of a character and the other player takes the role of the environment and ghosts that wish malevolence on the lost character. Each player has a "choose your own adventure" style book and each tells the other which page to go to once they've described their part. The player either escapes or is murdered by ghosts.

Although this directly violates your requirements I found it was solidly in RPG territory when I played it.

Ozfer
2012-07-18, 11:30 AM
Wow... 19 replies in like.. What was I gone for? An hour?!

Thanks so much for all the information on what people like. I'm definitely doing well with the flexibility of the rules and such things.

Also, I would like to point out I have never actually played 4e. I was calling it similar to video games because that is my best example of a 'video-gamey' RPG (I have read the rulebooks). And in no way was I saying video games are bad. I just think that when you come to a tabletop game you want a tabletop game, not a video game.

If you don't mind though, I'm interested in a few other things you pointed out-

-When math gets too heavy:
Where I'm drawing the line for this is dividing something in half and rounding up or down, then dividing that in half again (This rule will take affect almost every turn in combat, used for calculating armor advantages). Is this too much to you?

-Limited character ability outside of combat:
When does this start to bother you? There will be many options for crafting, lockpicking, basically any skill based thing will have a couple options, but combat will always have tons more content. This seems normal to me, but what do you think?

-Too many abilities:
I don't think anyone mentioned this, and it isn't necessarily something video-gamey, but it could still be a pitfall. Does a game bother you if in some cases you could be using an ability every round? Each one is very different and has advantages and disadvantages, but I could see how this could get irritating. (To be clear, ability means anything from blasting someone with a spell to slicing extra hard with a sword.)

Last question-
Custom magic: If players are allowed to create their own spells, it can lead to a lot of calculations (Even though I've never even seen a GURPS rulebook, I've heard it has the same problem). Are custom spells worth the sacrifice of more calculations to you?

BRC
2012-07-18, 11:30 AM
But thats not a system being videogamy but a dm playing too much wow and thinking that such "quest" activities are the height of epic gaming :smallbiggrin:

(I kid actually Im a pretty big mmo fan (daoc 7 years ^^))

Which is exactly the situation under which a Tabletop can become "too Video-Gamey". When the creators (or the DM) try to intentionally mimic Video Game Mechanics, not because they're good mechanics, but because they are trying to intentionally mimic a video game.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 11:50 AM
Which is exactly the situation under which a Tabletop can become "too Video-Gamey". When the creators (or the DM) try to intentionally mimic Video Game Mechanics, not because they're good mechanics, but because they are trying to intentionally mimic a video game.


Right, but has anyone actually designed a tabletop rpg to mimic a video game?

Eldan
2012-07-18, 11:58 AM
Right, but has anyone actually designed a tabletop rpg to mimic a video game?

There are things like the Dragon Age RPG or the WoW RPG. I don't know how they actually work, though.

Fatebreaker
2012-07-18, 12:01 PM
A major flaw here is that "too video-game like" or "too video-gamey" has no real definition.

Video games are an incredibly diverse medium. They encompass such diverse elements as Tetris, the Total War series, Mass Effect, Doom, Minecraft, and God of War. To say that a tabletop roleplaying game is too "video-gamey" is an empty accusation which means nothing.

At best, it's a shorthand for larger, more nuanced criticisms. At worst, it is, to quote Craft: Cheese, baseless vitriol from people looking to insult two things they hate simultaneously.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 12:03 PM
There are things like the Dragon Age RPG or the WoW RPG. I don't know how they actually work, though.

The fact that they're using the intellectual content from a video game doesn't mean the systems are designed to be "video-gamey".

Kurald Galain
2012-07-18, 12:09 PM
What makes an rpg too video-game like? I don't want my system to fall the same way 4e dnd did.

It is usually either

(1) When it's your turn, you don't think about what your character wants to do and is doing, but you think about which specific power or skill you're going to use. This mode of thought feels like a video game, because instead of using your imagination and the sky is the limit, you have a (virtual) GUI with a limited set of buttons you can press. Note that giving all improvised actions the same (and low-powered) effect does not alleviate this issue.

(2) When interactions happen that don't make sense, merely because the rules say so. For example, when you can scare a zombie to death or set a fire elemental on fire, because the designer forgot to make that monster immune to that particular affliction. This feels like a video game, because it makes effects feel like a rules construct, rather than something that actually happens to your character.

Without going into specifics, it is clear that certain RPGs on the market encourage this kind of behavior, whereas other RPGs discourage it. Note that "encourage" does not mean "mandate". Obviously, this also depends on your DM or the group you're playing with.

Ozfer
2012-07-18, 12:13 PM
I don't think so :smalltongue:, but who knows what the makers of FATAL will churn out next.

Totally Guy
2012-07-18, 12:13 PM
Right, but has anyone actually designed a tabletop rpg to mimic a video game?

Action Castle!

Oracle_Hunter
2012-07-18, 12:13 PM
I ask this because I am attempting to make an rpg system, but I'm afraid I lost sight of my original goal. As I've gone forward, it gets more and more complex, so I wanted to ask-

What makes an rpg too video-game like? I don't want my system to fall the same way 4e dnd did.
Uh, then I guess it's up to you. IMHO 4e did it right and I have no idea what "video-gamey" even means in that sense :smallconfused:

IMHO, a RPG is only like a video-game when it is on serious rails. The grand division between the two is that in one you can only interact with the world in a sub-set of ways that are far smaller than should be available -- you can only say certain things, respond in certain ways, and move along certain set paths. Any RPG which permits me more than a few dialogue options and tactical choices to make is sufficiently distinguishable from a video game.

* * * *

As far as complicatedness in RPG design my advice is thus:

(1) Determine the Purpose of your RPG
Every RPG should be intended to do something in particular. It should work to provide a certain gaming experience and nailing that down is the very first thing you need to do. Simply trying to make something "more realistic" or "good for anything" is a recipe for disaster. In particular, I find it helpful so aim for a particular Genre first and then add in some "flavor" elements for guidance. As an example, Bliss Stage has "Giant Robot" as its Genre with "Relationship Mechanics" as a flavor-element.

(2) Focus complexity on the Purpose, keep secondary mechanics simple or nonexistent.
You will want your Players to focus the most on whatever the Purpose of the game is, so make sure you devote your energies to making it mechanically interesting. Auxiliary concerns can be handled comparatively simply since they shouldn't be the focus of gameplay and things which are irrelevant shouldn't be addressed mechanically at all. As an example, Bliss Stage has a (comparatively) complex system of interactions between Relationship Values and your abilities while piloting your Giant Robot; physical combat between characters is not important beyond its impact on relationships so the rules have a very basic, optional, mechanic to deal with it rather than a full-on tactical wargame.
I'd say look at your game as is and come at it from this angle. Once you've settled on purpose it will be much easier to choose what mechanics to develop and which ones to simplify or throw away.

Totally Guy
2012-07-18, 12:18 PM
I'd say look at your game as is and come at it from this angle. Once you've settled on purpose it will be much easier to choose what mechanics to develop and which ones to simplify or throw away.

Seriously, this is just about spot on advice. Oracle Hunter really knows his stuff in this field.

Blackdrop
2012-07-18, 12:27 PM
It is usually either

(1) When it's your turn, you don't think about what your character wants to do and is doing, but you think about which specific power or skill you're going to use. This mode of thought feels like a video game, because instead of using your imagination and the sky is the limit, you have a (virtual) GUI with a limited set of buttons you can press. Note that giving all improvised actions the same (and low-powered) effect does not alleviate this issue.

(2) When interactions happen that don't make sense, merely because the rules say so. For example, when you can scare a zombie to death or set a fire elemental on fire, because the designer forgot to make that monster immune to that particular affliction. This feels like a video game, because it makes effects feel like a rules construct, rather than something that actually happens to your character.

Except that neither of these things seem like problems with a given system being "video-gamey" and more like a problem with a given player's immersion, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

Also, I defy you to give an example of a person basing their character's action on what the character WOULD do without looking at what they COULD do.

Ozfer
2012-07-18, 12:28 PM
That's great advice Oracle, thank you. I never should have used the term 'video-gamey'. It's too vague.

Thank you so much, everyone, for all your help. This is great information to remember while I continue writing the rules. :smallsmile:

Kurald Galain
2012-07-18, 12:28 PM
I'd say look at your game as is and come at it from this angle. Once you've settled on purpose it will be much easier to choose what mechanics to develop and which ones to simplify or throw away.

Ironically, the exact same advice applies to designing a video game. That is, the advice fails to consider in what ways a roleplaying game should be different from a video game.

Kurald Galain
2012-07-18, 12:35 PM
Except that neither of these things seem like problems with a given system being "video-gamey" and more like a problem with a given player's immersion, which is a whole other kettle of fish.
No, that is the same kettle of fish. When people complain about an RPG being "video-gamey", they usually mean either of these points (or, of course, they are looking for random words to put down a game they don't like, but you can't draw any good advice from that.


Also, I defy you to give an example of a person basing their character's action on what the character WOULD do without looking at what the COULD do.
That is not what I said. Does one consider what your character COULD do from the viewpoint of what a regular human could do in the situation, or from the viewpoint of a short list of skills where one has to select one? Video games do the latter; so if you have an RPG (or DM) that makes it feel like the latter, then that makes the RPG video gamey.

There are, of course, adventures out there that have an encounter wherein the players take turns in using a skill from a given short list, and that end the encounter victoriously as soon as a certain amount of these skill checks are successful. These are video gamey adventures (if your DM actually follows them instead of improvising).

Synovia
2012-07-18, 12:39 PM
It is usually either

(1) When it's your turn, you don't think about what your character wants to do and is doing, but you think about which specific power or skill you're going to use. This mode of thought feels like a video game, because instead of using your imagination and the sky is the limit, you have a (virtual) GUI with a limited set of buttons you can press. Note that giving all improvised actions the same (and low-powered) effect does not alleviate this issue.

(2) When interactions happen that don't make sense, merely because the rules say so. For example, when you can scare a zombie to death or set a fire elemental on fire, because the designer forgot to make that monster immune to that particular affliction. This feels like a video game, because it makes effects feel like a rules construct, rather than something that actually happens to your character.

Without going into specifics, it is clear that certain RPGs on the market encourage this kind of behavior, whereas other RPGs discourage it. Note that "encourage" does not mean "mandate". Obviously, this also depends on your DM or the group you're playing with.



So, basically, every version of D&D is videogamey? Because all these things happen at some point or another.

Reverent-One
2012-07-18, 12:40 PM
(1) When it's your turn, you don't think about what your character wants to do and is doing, but you think about which specific power or skill you're going to use. This mode of thought feels like a video game, because instead of using your imagination and the sky is the limit, you have a (virtual) GUI with a limited set of buttons you can press. Note that giving all improvised actions the same (and low-powered) effect does not alleviate this issue.

Man, that's vague to the point of near-uselessness. Simply giving people useful, defined abilities/powers/whatever encourages this, so basically every non-rules light RPG besides WoD:Mage (due to the "do whatever you want" nature of their magic system) I can think of falls in here. The other WoD games might not as well, I believe their various abilities are more defined though, but I'm not as familar with them.

EDIT:

There are, of course, adventures out there that have an encounter wherein the players take turns in using a skill from a given short list, and that end the encounter victoriously as soon as a certain amount of these skill checks are successful. These are video gamey adventures (if your DM actually follows them instead of improvising).

Where's an "I see what you did there" jpeg when you need one?

Kurald Galain
2012-07-18, 12:47 PM
So, basically, every version of D&D is videogamey? Because all these things happen at some point or another.
It's never a black-and-white thing. A game is more videogamey the more these things happen, and less videogamey the less these things happen.

A relevant question would be if the game gives bonuses or penalties to improvised actions: certain games give them a higher change of success or bonus experience points, whereas certain other games make them do less damage and have less effects than normal actions.

Another relevant question is, when you're trying to set a fire elemental on fire, whether the rules suggest that the DM prohibits it (because it doesn't make sense) or that the DM follows the rules as written (because they are the rules).

And, remember that this is a game design question. So it is not about what you personally think, but what random people in your target audience think. So even if you personally don't see a problem with a certain mechanic, when enough people do, then the game is going to lose market share.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 12:52 PM
I've never seen a video game where you can set a fire elemental on fire, so it seems kind of silly to say that this is an example of thigns being "video-gamey"

Kurald Galain
2012-07-18, 01:09 PM
I've never seen a video game where you can set a fire elemental on fire, so it seems kind of silly to say that this is an example of thigns being "video-gamey"

Not at all. If you try to set a fire elemental on fire, the difference is whether the DM looks for a rule that says that you can't (and allows it if there is no such rule) or whether he judges whether your action makes sense or not (and disallows it if it doesn't).

Why is this video gamey? Because video games by definition can only do it in the first way.

And yes, video games are usually careful to explicitly make certain creatures immune to fire. But there is at least one popular RPG on the market where the designers have accidentally omitted this immunity on, yes, a fire elemental.

Synovia
2012-07-18, 01:17 PM
Not at all. If you try to set a fire elemental on fire, the difference is whether the DM looks for a rule that says that you can't (and allows it if there is no such rule) or whether he judges whether your action makes sense or not (and disallows it if it doesn't).

Why is this video gamey? Because video games by definition can only do it in the first way.

They're the same thing. The video game is looking at a set of properties to determine if the object is flammable. The DM is doing THE EXACT SAME THING, he's just using an internal table that the particular game doesn't feel the need to explicitly print.


Also, in this example, I think you're confusing HP and damage. A fire spell removing HP from a fire elemental does not mean it hurt the fire elemental. It means it made the fire elemental less able to continue combat. Maybe it takes energy for a fire elemental to maintain control over its body, and throwing fire at it stresses the control.

Blackdrop
2012-07-18, 01:21 PM
Does one consider what your character COULD do from the viewpoint of what a regular human could do in the situation, or from the viewpoint of a short list of skills where one has to select one?

...Yes? I don't about you but, I tend to look at the list of abilities and tools I have available to me when I have a problem or a goal to achieve. Does that make real life a video game?

Oracle_Hunter
2012-07-18, 01:46 PM
Ironically, the exact same advice applies to designing a video game. That is, the advice fails to consider in what ways a roleplaying game should be different from a video game.
It is rather good general advice when designing games. I'm glad you agree with me :smallbiggrin:

As I mentioned in the top-half of my previous post, you have to try really hard to make a pen & paper RPG "video gamey" as far as I can define it. Personally, I think the term is even worse for meaningful debate than "verisimilitude" and I'd never use it were I talking about game design.

kyoryu
2012-07-18, 01:52 PM
I've never really understood the "4e is a videogame" thing myself, when it seems much more heavily based on M:tG (they have ability CARDS, people! CARDS!), especially in the how the powers are laid out - including flavor text, keywords, etc.

That said, I understand where the fundamental criticism comes from, and that's from the fact that 4e is based on very strictly defined powers and conditions. Previous editions, in contrast, had less strictly defined powers that gave more leeway in their use. Prior to 4e, this was often seen as a detriment, as it caused more table arguments about what would/wouldn't happen, and gave the DM more control via DM fiat.

If you want to avoid this reaction in a game, create more open-ended abilities with less strictly defined effects, and avoid complete separation of effect/rules from flavor in how they are presented.



I'd say look at your game as is and come at it from this angle. Once you've settled on purpose it will be much easier to choose what mechanics to develop and which ones to simplify or throw away.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. Another benefit of this style of design is that if you start with the kind of end goal in mind, you're more able to determine if your rules actually meet the desired goals or not.

The one thing I'd add to it is to also think about what kinds of *decisions* you want your players to be making. As Sid Meier said, a game is a series of interesting decisions. Many new designers think about systems and mechanics, and forget that systems and mechanics only exist to facilitate interesting decisions being available.

JustSomeGuy
2012-07-18, 02:12 PM
Yes, but you won't be able to do sommersaults, rope skipping, and do 100 meter dash either. Either you can do any of them or none of them.

Adventurers aren't crossfitters - cardiovascular shunt is real, folks!

Aron Times
2012-07-18, 03:23 PM
Sorcerers in 4e can burn things made of fire, including most fire elementals. Let me get the demotivator I made several years ago...

Here we go...

http://i234.photobucket.com/albums/ee136/Joseph_Silver/Motivators/DragonSorcerers.jpg

We don't need no water let the fire genasi burn... Burn, fire genasi, burn...

Hiro Protagonest
2012-07-18, 03:40 PM
It is usually either

(1) When it's your turn, you don't think about what your character wants to do and is doing, but you think about which specific power or skill you're going to use. This mode of thought feels like a video game, because instead of using your imagination and the sky is the limit, you have a (virtual) GUI with a limited set of buttons you can press. Note that giving all improvised actions the same (and low-powered) effect does not alleviate this issue.

(2) When interactions happen that don't make sense, merely because the rules say so. For example, when you can scare a zombie to death or set a fire elemental on fire, because the designer forgot to make that monster immune to that particular affliction. This feels like a video game, because it makes effects feel like a rules construct, rather than something that actually happens to your character.
Both of those also apply to 3.5, the game with the largest group of 4e-haters. Sure, you might not be able to scare a zombie, but Searing Spell lets you hurt a fire elemental with an Orb of Fire. And the first one? that applies to pretty much anything with rules heavier than Wushu.

Not at all. If you try to set a fire elemental on fire, the difference is whether the DM looks for a rule that says that you can't (and allows it if there is no such rule) or whether he judges whether your action makes sense or not (and disallows it if it doesn't).

Why is this video gamey? Because video games by definition can only do it in the first way.

And yes, video games are usually careful to explicitly make certain creatures immune to fire. But there is at least one popular RPG on the market where the designers have accidentally omitted this immunity on, yes, a fire elemental.

But 4e doesn't encourage you to do the first any more than any other system I've seen (besides, y'know, freeform). I think it's safe to say that it's the DM and players who decide whether any particular game is video-gamey, not the system.

erikun
2012-07-18, 10:52 PM
I find that tabletop RPGs become too video-gamey when you put them on a computer and force the player on only run through pre-programmed areas and plots. :smallwink:

Rather, I think the bigger problem is a tabletop RPG becoming a board game, and most of the criticisms are when the resemblence is too close. Board games generally have very specific moves and defined actions, and what you can do is restricted to only a few options set out by the rules. When a RPG becomes like this, you begin running into problems. This is one of the big problems I have with D&D 3rd edition - you get a few narrow actions you can do, and anything else you might try gets either met with "no, you can't do that, you don't have the feat" or "only if you can roll a 32 on the d20". (D&D4 had the appearance of doing this as well, but certainly didn't feel like it when playing. The system had other problems, though.)


It looks like the question you are really asking, though, is how (mathematically / numerically) complex the system should be. This is an entirely different question, and the general response is that players should be able to look over the information and quickly determine the results of a roll they make. The more math and numbers you throw into the equation, the more problems you start to run into.



-When math gets too heavy:
Where I'm drawing the line for this is dividing something in half and rounding up or down, then dividing that in half again (This rule will take affect almost every turn in combat, used for calculating armor advantages). Is this too much to you?
Why?

I mean, if you are quartering all your values, why not start with everything quartered to begin with and ignore the math in total? Or, for that matter, why not multiply the HP/damage by four so you don't need to divide anything?


-Limited character ability outside of combat:
When does this start to bother you? There will be many options for crafting, lockpicking, basically any skill based thing will have a couple options, but combat will always have tons more content. This seems normal to me, but what do you think?
I think that martial combat should have as much content as social conflict or any other sort of multi-player engagement against a challange.

Note, however, that it depends a lot on what kind of a system you're creating. Superhero or Jedi Fight systems will likely have far more focus on combat, as those genres tend to focus on people fighting.

Also note that "combat-heavy" does not mean "limited ability outside combat". As long as your non-combat parts are practical and useful, it will still make those options valid, even if most of the system is taken by combat.


-Too many abilities:
I don't think anyone mentioned this, and it isn't necessarily something video-gamey, but it could still be a pitfall. Does a game bother you if in some cases you could be using an ability every round? Each one is very different and has advantages and disadvantages, but I could see how this could get irritating. (To be clear, ability means anything from blasting someone with a spell to slicing extra hard with a sword.)
I'm not quite sure what you are asking. Using specific abilities too much, or having too many different abilities?

Using the same ability over and over isn't a problem. When a single ability is the unquestionably best option is when it's a problem. You'll then end up with players who either always use the best option, or players who are frustrated because the best option isn't something they wish to RP, but who end up gimped because of it.


Last question-
Custom magic: If players are allowed to create their own spells, it can lead to a lot of calculations (Even though I've never even seen a GURPS rulebook, I've heard it has the same problem). Are custom spells worth the sacrifice of more calculations to you?
This is more a question for a Game Master than for a developer. You should not be worried about how many calculations it would take to create custom spells - as long as it is optional, the interested can do the calculations and the uninterested can leave them out. Just make sure they are functional (i.e. not broken / overpowered / underpowered).

Slipperychicken
2012-07-19, 01:27 AM
When the rules change the moment a fight starts, as this brings up the mental image of the "overworld" (plot-land, with backstories and personalities, where "combat" stuff usually doesn't carry weight) being distinct from "combat-zone" (the much-smaller land of numbers, hp, and conditions). Things like a power lasting "as long as the fight does, then immediately ends with the fight", as though there's some arbitrary distinction between combat and non-combat. I can usually accept per-encounter things as being done for the purpose of gameplay, and overlook them anyhow. However, something like a Phoenix Down, which can reverse "combat" death but not "story" death, is unacceptable.

When metagaming is pretty much required for the game to work.

When someone takes a hit in combat that barely scratches him, heals up, and keeps going like nothing happens... then takes that same hit in a cutscene and falls down dead. And vice versa.

When I can't be creative (that is, I'm carrying enough explosives to level a skyscraper, and I'm standing next to the best safe-cracker in the city, yet I still have to get the key to the flimsy wooden door, because the door is a "story" obstacle and my plastic explosives are a "combat" item). Non-interactable environments do this in video-games, and usually bad DMs in tabletops.

When seemingly-arbitrary limits appear. Like a 3.5 Barbarian, who can only Rage a few times per day, or a Bard, whose music is only magical a few times a day.

Oracle Hunter is spot-on with figuring out what you want your game system to do before you try making mechanics for it.

Synovia
2012-07-19, 11:35 AM
When the rules change the moment a fight starts, as this brings up the mental image of the "overworld" (plot-land, with backstories and personalities, where "combat" stuff usually doesn't carry weight) being distinct from "combat-zone" (the much-smaller land of numbers, hp, and conditions). Things like a power lasting "as long as the fight does, then immediately ends with the fight", as though there's some arbitrary distinction between combat and non-combat. I can usually accept per-encounter things as being done for the purpose of gameplay, and overlook them anyhow.

...When metagaming is pretty much required for the game to work.
.

See, I completely disagree with this. I think metagaming is required for this to not work.

There are tons of explanations for why these sorts of thigns would work in combat and not out of it, adrenaline for one. The fact that combat rounds are six seconds, and an entire combat usually takes less than 30 seconds for another. The combat takes less in-game time than it takes after the combat to search the bodies.

We could probably say these abilities "last 30 seconds" and it would have the exact same in-game effect... except there'd be more book keeping, for no gain.

Slipperychicken
2012-07-19, 01:04 PM
See, I completely disagree with this. I think metagaming is required for this to not work.

There are tons of explanations for why these sorts of thigns would work in combat and not out of it, adrenaline for one. The fact that combat rounds are six seconds, and an entire combat usually takes less than 30 seconds for another. The combat takes less in-game time than it takes after the combat to search the bodies.

We could probably say these abilities "last 30 seconds" and it would have the exact same in-game effect... except there'd be more book keeping, for no gain.

As I mentioned in the quoted text, I approve of per-encounter/encounter-duration powers, precisely because they cut down bookkeeping and can make sense from a narrative and gameplay standpoint (none of this "sorry, your angry, brutal warlord already got angry 3 times today. No more Rage for him"-business). Sometimes you have to suspend disbelief for it, but it's usually a good tradeoff regardless.

Synovia
2012-07-19, 01:16 PM
As I mentioned in the quoted text, I approve of per-encounter/encounter-duration powers, precisely because they cut down bookkeeping and can make sense from a narrative and gameplay standpoint (none of this "sorry, your angry, brutal warlord already got angry 3 times today. No more Rage for him"-business). Sometimes you have to suspend disbelief for it, but it's usually a good tradeoff regardless.

I just don't see why you draw a line.


RAGE as a class ability isn't "getting angry". Its way past that. Its so physically taxing that the character is [fatigued] afterward. RAGE is like when a mom lifts a car off of one of her kids.

Your argument is akin to having a problem with : "sorry, your in shape, perenially training, marathon runner already ran a marathon today. Can't run another one".

This idea that physical/mundane characters should be able to just do everything as many times as they want is just ridiculous, and isn't grounded in any sort of reality. (i'm not saying mundanes can't have nice things. They should have plenty of cool stuff, but this objection is just assinine)

Avilan the Grey
2012-07-19, 01:16 PM
I ask this because I am attempting to make an rpg system, but I'm afraid I lost sight of my original goal. As I've gone forward, it gets more and more complex, so I wanted to ask-

What makes an rpg too video-game like? I don't want my system to fall the same way 4e dnd did.

-Too powerful characters?
-No classes?
-Anything else you can think of?

Thank you in advance :).

Nothing.
Providing it works and is enjoyable to play. "Too Video-Gamey" is a fake complaint that hides the real problems with a system.

Slipperychicken
2012-07-19, 02:07 PM
This idea that physical/mundane characters should be able to just do everything as many times as they want is just ridiculous, and isn't grounded in any sort of reality. (i'm not saying mundanes can't have nice things. They should have plenty of cool stuff, but this objection is just assinine)

So are Wizards, and Dragons, and Zombies, and Magic. It's not about reality so much as what we expect from fantasy -the hero should be able to push himself through more fights if needed. If a Barbarian fights extremely well four times in a day, with no decrease in his capacity, why does his effectiveness suddenly and drastically fall for the fifth? He's being magically regenerated each fight, he's eating all his potions/veggies/coffee and feeling full of energy and bloodlust, but there's some arbitrary thing keeping him from raging one more time.

That's basically my argument for Rage being a per-encounter ability rather than a per-day one, maybe with some representation of getting more tired over the day (rage bonus decreases steadily?)

Synovia
2012-07-19, 02:34 PM
So are Wizards, and Dragons, and Zombies, and Magic. It's not about reality so much as what we expect from fantasy -the hero should be able to push himself through more fights if needed. If a Barbarian fights extremely well four times in a day, with no decrease in his capacity, why does his effectiveness suddenly and drastically fall for the fifth? He's being magically regenerated each fight, he's eating all his potions/veggies/coffee and feeling full of energy and bloodlust, but there's some arbitrary thing keeping him from raging one more time.

That's basically my argument for Rage being a per-encounter ability rather than a per-day one, maybe with some representation of getting more tired over the day (rage bonus decreases steadily?)

So, why is it that the fighter has to be constrained by reality, if, like you said, reality isn't important for Wizards, Zombies, Dragons, etc?

I mean, really, there's no real explanation why a wizard can't just fireball non-stop all day that isn't any more arbitrary than the explanation you're giving here. Its all arbitrary, so why the hell are we objecting on these grounds?

kyoryu
2012-07-19, 03:06 PM
Nothing.
Providing it works and is enjoyable to play. "Too Video-Gamey" is a fake complaint that hides the real problems with a system.

Pretty much. It's a way to justify "I don't like it", without actually thinking of *why* you don't like something.

(And I can come up with a metric ton of reasons why a 3.x fan wouldn't like 4e, and I say that as someone that likes 4e).

Jay R
2012-07-19, 03:50 PM
If the game has a set menu of options, and I need to use one of them, in the exact way it was intended, it's too video-gamey for me.

If I can attempt to simulate any action, including making up ideas the DM and game designers never thought of (attempting to sell the monster some Girl Scout cookies), or using game mechanics in a different way than originally intended (using a sword pommel for bludgeoning damage), then it feels like a role-playing game.

I don't disapprove of video games. I don't disapprove of sports. I don't disapprove of role-playing games. But when a sport plays like a role-playing game, it becomes an inferior sport, and for the same reasons, when a role-playing game plays like a video game, it's an inferior role-playing game.