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Yora
2015-02-09, 07:24 AM
I am not talking about things you think are just poorly written or you simply don't like, but about aspects of certain RPGs that had very bad impacts on roleplaying games as a whole for decades to come. Everyone would agree that FATAL is nothing but bad descisions, but it's really only good for the occasional laugh and its impact on game design and groups was pretty much nonexistant.

Alignment (Dungeons & Dragons)
I consider this to be the biggest problem child of RPGs, ever! Alignment doesn't really add anything to the campaign, but an unbelivable amount of endless and in the end pointless discussions about whether a certain action would be evil or not, and if a lawful character would do certain things or not. That all descriptions of alignment in the official D&D rulebooks are ambigous and regularly contradicting each other doesn't make things any better, but there really was no point to have them in the game in the first place. This caused nothing but trouble and will probably stay with us another 40 years.

Calling the GM "Storyteller" (World of Darkness/Storyteller)
neonchameleon mentioned this one. And I very much agree with it. Calling the gamemaster Storyteller and the rules system Storyteller-system sets up completely false expectations of what a GM does and how a game should be structured. It basically says "I tell the story (and you listen)", which is the opposite of what RPGs are designed for. (Though given how Metaplot-focused oWoD appears to have been, that might not have been an accident by the designers.)

Any other things you would nominate?

Amphetryon
2015-02-09, 07:43 AM
I nominate (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html) the issue The Giant had with Gygax, Arneson, and company having trouble locating a reliable thesaurus.

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-09, 07:56 AM
I agree on those, and think that WoD would have worked better referring to the GM as the "Director", so the PCs are the script writers, taking the idea they've been given and writing the plot, with the GM tailoring the presentation to fit the themes.

I'd argue that the worst decision I've seen is building systems around tactical combat, because nine times out of ten the games I've played have been around a table large enough for a screen, character sheets and dice, and a bunch of glasses from when people decided to get a drink. When the rules expect or require me to break out miniatures for the game to work as intended I find that the rulings over who was standing where and so wasn't hit by the fireball, while with a more abstract system I can still say "J is the sergeant, R is the guardsman with a lasgun, A is the guardsman with a grenade launcher, S is the guardsman with a vox-caster, lord Evildark is the space marine and the bodyguards are goblins" and draw out a map on graph paper.

Although I don't mind a ruleset saying "here are some extra rules for tactical combat".

Segev
2015-02-09, 09:06 AM
I nominate (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html) the issue The Giant had with Gygax, Arneson, and company having trouble locating a reliable thesaurus.

The first RPG book I ever read was the 1e AD&D PHB. In it, there is a discussion about this. The authors (Gygax probably was the one who wrote the passage) had considered renaming "levels (as applied to characters" to "ranks," "levels (as applied to spells)" to "orders" or "circles," and often did use "floors" instead of "levels" for dungeons.

They chose not to change the first two instances because they noticed that, even when they tried to, others they talked to slipped into the old nomenclature, and they figured that players of AD&D would be smart enough to figure out from context what kind of "level" is meant.

Silus
2015-02-09, 09:08 AM
Rolemaster

Nothing in particular, just the whole bloody thing. The tables, the base setting (who in the Nine Hells comes up with 25-hour days, 10 day weeks and 4-month years?), the (lack) of organization, the inherent feeling of no player agency, etc.

Yora
2015-02-09, 09:15 AM
But did that cause trouble down the line beyond the game not being very good?

Silus
2015-02-09, 09:20 AM
But did that cause trouble down the line beyond the game not being very good?

I would say that the over reliance on tables paved the way for excessive things like critical fail charts and stepping away from creative interpretations for critical hits.

The organization issue isn't really an issue with more modern games as everything is nearly ordered by chapter with a somewhat logical methodology for what goes where.

The lack of player agency, I think, is a combination of the terrible skill system and how the DM runs things, which has gotten better (at least the skill stuff in the D&D and PF type things).

DigoDragon
2015-02-09, 10:02 AM
The Initiative Pass system in Shadowrun has always been my nemesis since the dawn of time. :smallbiggrin: While avoiding combat should be encouraged given the usual profession of the runners, if a fight does break out then I generally see everyone fall into one of two categories:

Those with multiple IPs.
Those rolling up new characters. :smalltongue:


I generally just roll with it, and most players I've gamed with don't mind it, but the action economy really builds a gap between those with extra IPs and those without.

Yora
2015-02-09, 10:12 AM
Here's a big one to make lots of people angry:

20-level character classes and feat chains (Dungeons & Dragons, d20)
The d20 system is a huge advancement over AD&D. So many things now make so much more sense and the whole math is so much better. But there is one huge flaw that slipped into the d20 system, which is so fundamental that it affected pretty much every game based on it. Which were quite a lot and together probably held most of the entire RPG market for years.
The 20-level character classes go back to something that had already been in AD&D. Clerics got their highest level spells at level 16 and magic-users at level 18. The system is called d20, so 20th level seems like a logical cutting off point for the maximum level. Which isn't so bad by itself, but combined with the ideas for feats that have other feats as prerequisites, I would call it nothing short of disastrous. The result of this is, that many character concept really only work once the character reaches 8th or 10th level. And as a result, lots of players don't create characters that are fun to play at 1st level, but come up with concept based around things that will be available to them at 15th level and beyond. And the vast majority of characters being played never reaches even 5th level. Most play takes place in the 1st to 3rd level range. All this obsession with character builds comes from this simple fact that you have to plan out a character over 15 levels if you want to be able to do one thing somewhere in the distant and unlikely future. You can't just make a character that is fun at 1st and 2nd level, because that might wreck and cripple the character for the rest of his career.
And it gets worse. With BAB, saves, AC, hp and so on growing very rapidly with each level, any type of enemy only makes sense in an encounter for a very narrow level range. First you fight rats and goblins, advance to goblins and orcs, upgrade to orcs and ogres, and so on. You can't fight full size dragons or giants until you are at least 8th or 10th level, and unfortunately, most parties never get there. As a result, players get stuck with fighting goblins and rats over and over while most creatures never get to show up at all.
WotC adressed this with 5th edition, but it took them 15 years to get there. And Pathfinder is still suffering from it.

And shadowrun reminds me of another one:

Hacking or Spiritwalking Subsystems (Shadowrun and other)
Who ever thought it was a great idea to create subsystems which send one or two characters basically to another world to have their own private adventures and battles all by themselves while the rest of the group waits until it's done?

Hyena
2015-02-09, 10:13 AM
In Star Wars Saga Edition any and all instances of using the Force are skill checks. No matter if you attack, defend, heal, phase through walls, you roll "use the Force" skill. The problem is, skills are ridiculously easy to optimize in this game, you can even do it completly unintentionally. You can have Use the Force at 13 ranks as early as level one. Thus the jedi - especially during the early levels, where most of the games will take place - are the closest thing to a god the game has.

Eldan
2015-02-09, 10:25 AM
And it gets worse. With BAB, saves, AC, hp and so on growing very rapidly with each level, any type of enemy only makes sense in an encounter for a very narrow level range. First you fight rats and goblins, advance to goblins and orcs, upgrade to orcs and ogres, and so on. You can't fight full size dragons or giants until you are at least 8th or 10th level, and unfortunately, most parties never get there. As a result, players get stuck with fighting goblins and rats over and over while most creatures never get to show up at all.

I see that as one of the biggest advantages of the system and "bounded accuracy" of 5E, or whatever else other systems call it, as something I deeply dislike. Why?

Because it enables a lot of different playstyles. D&D is many games in one, more so than in most other systems I know. One can build a character to fight rats and goblins, but one can also build a character to fight dragons. Both are possible in the same system. Verisimilitude is also kept, because the dragon is strong enough to believably represent what it means to be a dragon. Without that, you get into those weird issues where, as I've heard from 5th, a dragon can't get through a wooden door most of the time since the strength check is too difficult.

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-09, 10:39 AM
The Initiative Pass system in Shadowrun has always been my nemesis since the dawn of time. :smallbiggrin: While avoiding combat should be encouraged given the usual profession of the runners, if a fight does break out then I generally see everyone fall into one of two categories:

Those with multiple IPs.
Those rolling up new characters. :smalltongue:


I generally just roll with it, and most players I've gamed with don't mind it, but the action economy really builds a gap between those with extra IPs and those without.

Hmmmm, can we fix this? Maybe using the following system (5e as that's the only version I've played):

Characters taking actions in an initiative pass act in decreasing order of initiative score.
All characters roll initiative dice. You act in a number of initiative passes equal to 1+hits. You act in ever initiative pass until your number of passes reaches 0.
For better balance implants and powers that give +attribute and +initiative dice only give the initiative dice. An extra pass every third turn is powerful in itself.
On initiative passes where you don't act you can reduce your initiative score to take defensive actions except for full defense. Initiative score cannot go below 0.

This makes your initiative score more important, as no matter how fast you are, someone who reacts quickly has a chance to take you down, or at least apply a penalty to your attacks, and then dodge/parry in later initiative passes.

I don't think the idea is bad, just the execution.

goto124
2015-02-09, 10:40 AM
The tables

I thought you meant wooden tables, where Tabletops got their name from...

Amphetryon
2015-02-09, 10:54 AM
And the vast majority of characters being played never reaches even 5th level. Most play takes place in the 1st to 3rd level range. I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.

1337 b4k4
2015-02-09, 11:04 AM
I would like to nominate XP for Killing. This tends to apply most to later D&D and it's derivatives but plenty of RPGs assign XP values to monsters and the natural inclination to the players (and the GM) is to translate this to XP received for killing it. This even carried over to CRPGs as the primary advancement system. Early D&D used XP for gold and other systems like Dungeon World or Mouseguard/Burning Wheel use XP for (failed) actions, and those systems both in my mind encourage a much different and much more interesting game.

neonchameleon
2015-02-09, 11:43 AM
I've already put in "GM as Storyteller" - but I'd like to nominate another two (although really they are the same thing).

1: The Obscure Death Rule from Dragonlance
2: GM advice to fudge rolls (of which both 2e and Storyteller were guilty).

Telling the GM to change the course of events after they'd been resolved by the dice - in other words ensuring the actions of the PCs don't matter.

And on the same note: Metaplot. Of the sort where the PCs are witnesses to the world changing.

Knaight
2015-02-09, 11:57 AM
My previous post got eaten, but I'd like to nominate the standards of table of contents, indices, and general organization. RPGs seem to range from pretty bad to terrible in all of those categories, and the standard industry organization was established early.

Amphetryon
2015-02-09, 11:58 AM
And on the same note: Metaplot. Of the sort where the PCs are witnesses to the world changing.

I don't understand; would you prefer a setting where nothing happened that wasn't directly the PCs' responsibility, where none of the NPCs had an interior life?

DigoDragon
2015-02-09, 12:10 PM
I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.

It's a bitter-sweet amusement to me. I've run many D&D 3.5 campaigns where players have passed 5th level. One campaign took the players from 1st all the way to around level 23. On the flip side, I have yet to be a PC in a 3.5 game where I had a character pass 4th level. I don't know the validity of the statement that games don't last past 5th, but it seems true in my case if I'm not running it. :smallsmile:



2: GM advice to fudge rolls (of which both 2e and Storyteller were guilty).
Telling the GM to change the course of events after they'd been resolved by the dice - in other words ensuring the actions of the PCs don't matter.

I admit that I fudge dice rolls, but I defend it in that I will fudge them to make the situation more fun for the players. Or to cut them a little break if everyone is rolling really really terrible.

neonchameleon
2015-02-09, 12:12 PM
I don't understand; would you prefer a setting where nothing happened that wasn't directly the PCs' responsibility, where none of the NPCs had an interior life?

No. Things can happen with the PCs, or with the PCs not there. It's all the adventures that have the PCs chasing round and acting as spectators to the NPCs who get the job done. And it's the way that the metaplot locks in which way the world goes irrespective of the actions of the PCs.

comicshorse
2015-02-09, 12:25 PM
I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.

I'll second this as the assertion goes against everything I've seen in my years of playing DnD

VincentTakeda
2015-02-09, 12:28 PM
Man. I can't choose just one..
Batllemat. Dice pools. D20. Feats... Prestige classes and power 'trees'. I'm sure I'm forgetting something.
Ah yes... Fate points.

Comet
2015-02-09, 12:38 PM
2: GM advice to fudge rolls


This would be my choice. I used to think that cheating to create what I thought was a better story was okay, but then I realized that allowing that story to form naturally from the system, the players and the GM is so much more worthwhile for everyone involved. There are so many games out there that you're bound to find one that creates exactly the kinds of stories you want to tell without cheating.

Yora
2015-02-09, 12:59 PM
Fudging dice to make things go how you want it to and ignoring the attempts of players to go into other directions with the adventure doesn't have to be the only reason to do it. The best use of fudging is not to negate player descision, but to enable them even though a random die roll would have wrecked it. Avoiding total party kill because your 10d6 fireball rolled an unbelievable 58 and saying it was only 44 is in no way ensuring that player actions don't matter.

I would like to nominate XP for Killing. This tends to apply most to later D&D and it's derivatives but plenty of RPGs assign XP values to monsters and the natural inclination to the players (and the GM) is to translate this to XP received for killing it. This even carried over to CRPGs as the primary advancement system. Early D&D used XP for gold and other systems like Dungeon World or Mouseguard/Burning Wheel use XP for (failed) actions, and those systems both in my mind encourage a much different and much more interesting game.

Oh yes. This one is so big that almost nobody ever thinks about it. This is way worse than anything else mentioned here.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-09, 01:04 PM
Ah yes. For all of its faults, another reason I'm still happily playing palladium.. xp for clever ideas, daring actions clever or not, big xp for putting your life on the line to save others... The kind of characters you see are greatly influenced by the types of activities you reward.

Deophaun
2015-02-09, 01:15 PM
And it gets worse. With BAB, saves, AC, hp and so on growing very rapidly with each level, any type of enemy only makes sense in an encounter for a very narrow level range. First you fight rats and goblins, advance to goblins and orcs, upgrade to orcs and ogres, and so on. You can't fight full size dragons or giants until you are at least 8th or 10th level, and unfortunately, most parties never get there. As a result, players get stuck with fighting goblins and rats over and over while most creatures never get to show up at all.
WotC adressed this with 5th edition, but it took them 15 years to get there. And Pathfinder is still suffering from it.
Meh, I had the party fight a dragon at level 1 in 4e, because I decided right from the start that the party were Big Damn Heroes. It was probably the most intense, perfectly balanced encounter I've ever run, too.

But I'll agree with the level 20 issue, but for a different reason: How many times do people really take 20 levels of the same class? All those capstones that never see play, or only see play for a single adventure. A complete waste. I figured that, in 3.5 at least, classes should have been 10 levels long, and then you were expected to multiclass or PrC out. This is something 4e fixed with Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies, at least.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-09, 01:22 PM
XP as a reward for player behaviour. It creates an atmosphere of competition and the potential for resentment, but probably more importantly it creates uneven pacing and balance for the party. Fixed rates, advancement at narratively appropriate points and weird schemes like Chuubo's where XP gain is the heart of the system are all better methods than treating it as a reward.

Comet
2015-02-09, 01:24 PM
Fudging dice to make things go how you want it to and ignoring the attempts of players to go into other directions with the adventure doesn't have to be the only reason to do it. The best use of fudging is not to negate player descision, but to enable them even though a random die roll would have wrecked it. Avoiding total party kill because your 10d6 fireball rolled an unbelievable 58 and saying it was only 44 is in no way ensuring that player actions don't matter.


Yes, that makes its own kind of sense. Then again, if the game is negating player decisions in places you don't want it to, you could either modify the game or get a new one that is, for example, less severe with its fireballs. Or just tell the players you're just telling them a story without random chance. It's the whole ritual of pretending to roll dice without actually following them that I find frustrating. If you don't find surprises in certain situations interesting, play a game that doesn't involve surprises in those situations.

Yora
2015-02-09, 02:24 PM
I stand by fudging even in a game like D&D. But how often do you actually "have to"? Probably something like 1 in 200 rolls or more likely 1 in 1000. I don't think that's a reason to discard the whole game system

Ashtagon
2015-02-09, 02:27 PM
I'd like to nominate TORG, for integrating cards as a core part of gameplay. It is literally impossible to play that game without the deck of cards supplied, and if you lose a few, your game gets lopsided if it's still playable at all.

oxybe
2015-02-09, 03:23 PM
One of the reasons i'm not a fan of 5th ed is because of bounded accuracy. I like eventually becoming so powerful that goblins, orcs and ogres are below me. That they can't even touch me. It shows a sign of growth and progress that former challenges are now non-issues. 5th ed still has goblins hitting your high level characters, which I know some people love. This isn't so much a bad decision as a stylistic one that not everyone agrees with.

I would say this is an issue with the designers simply not designing a wide enough variety of some monsters within the given scope of the level system, rather then an issue with the system as a whole. That limiting certain aesthetic challenges to certain tiers of play. A dragon, in D&D terms, is really just a sorcerer in full control of a tank.

I would say Dungeon & Dragon's Vancian Casting, along with the assumptions thereof. Partially because it doesn't accurately mimic the spellcasting from the books it draws inspiration from, partially because it greatly limits the stories of magic I can tell, mechanically limiting the characters I can make. At low level I'm teetering somewhere between "commoner in a funny hat" and "I can casts the two magics!" while at higher level reality is being told to sit in the corner and suffer a time out. There are weird break points in D&D where the casters gain certain abilities that define play from thereon out, unless they are specifically banned... and these break points aren't called out in an obvious fashion. New GMs aren't warned that "LEVEL 5 = FLIGHT. PREPARE FOR 3D EXPLORATION AND COMBAT." and I've seen some get caught unprepared for this. Teleportation at higher levels also causes this serious jump, where new GMs are caught unaware of the odd guerrilla-like tactics Teleport-in > PEWPEWPEW > Teleport-out can cause.

Another would be Enemies built like character, followed by the action economy. These are somewhat linked. Enemies built like characters can allow for a certain level of depth... that anything they can do, your character can also eventually amount to. However enemies, monster or not, serve an entirely different narrative and mechanical purpose then characters do in the framework of a TTRPG so they often don't need the same amount of detail and attention in some aspects. It can also force the GM be a bit predictable in that if the players know the system well enough, it's difficult to surprise them without seeming as unfair by making up abilities instead of using the ones the players are familiar with (which they assume you're also using). Limiting your enemies to the same things and scope the characters are capable of can also cause unintended issues, in that if the game is not properly tuned to this type of play...

Problems with the action economy can take effect. IE "the reason 1 Vs 4 is a bad/good idea (depends on who's side you're on)" and "dogpile tactics" works. Basically if you have one monster and four characters, in a typical round sequence the monster goes once and the PCs each get one go: causing the monster to have 1 standard action while the party has four. If they coordinate these actions using the initiative (or similar) system, your villain can land themselves quickly outgunned. This leads to GMs usually upgrading the villain's HP to ludicrous amount, leading to a slog-fest as you grind down that HP, or simply building the villain as a super-PC, making him often too dangerous to confront since he deals too much damage or has effects he's capable of abusing. An asymmetrical monster/PC system usually considers this when creating monsters build to be "bosses", that they have off-turn actions they can use to punish some PC actions, distance themselves as a reaction or something.

ExLibrisMortis
2015-02-09, 03:44 PM
One of the reasons i'm not a fan of 5th ed is because of bounded accuracy. I like eventually becoming so powerful that goblins, orcs and ogres are below me. That they can't even touch me. It shows a sign of growth and progress that former challenges are now non-issues. 5th ed still has goblins hitting your high level characters, which I know some people love. This isn't so much a bad decision as a stylistic one that not everyone agrees with.
Runescape has (had?) a system where attack and defence roll would both be from one to maximum. And the maximum was calculated by (attack level + C) * (equipment attack bonus + C). So you'd start out with (1 + 8) * (10 + 64) or something, and go all the way up to about (125 + 8) * (350 + 64), but since there was always a chance of rolling really badly and that goblin rolling really well, you could be hit by everything. Not that it helped the goblins any, but there was a fun article about how many chickens it would take to kill Tz-Tok Jad (spoiler: they had to use roosters to overcome natural health regen, and it took 5308).

Arbane
2015-02-09, 03:48 PM
Race/Class/Level character design. Makes for an easy shorthand when describing your character, but resulted in 30+ years of stereotypes and cookie-cutter characters.

Escalating hit points: Ensures a world where mundane threats are effectively meaningless to allegedly 'normal' heroes.

TheThan
2015-02-09, 04:13 PM
Mine comes from D&D 3.5.

Wealth by level guidelines:
D&D 3.5 is balanced around the idea that all characters will gain a certain amount of money tied up in magical equipment. This is so strong that the DM is forced to ďgiveĒ the players magical equipment in order for them to keep up with appropriate level monsters. This leads to weird situations where the pcs are getting magical equipment off of non-sentient (say an animal) enemies in order for them to be ready for future encounters against things that require magical weapons to defeat. Or other situation where the sentient beings are not using magical equipment they are ďguardingĒ, for no reason. if they know thereís magical gear, they should be using it.

Defense<offense
Itís always boggled my mind how characters have no defenses other than that provided by gear. If we take two fighters, the first is 1st level, the second is 20th level and strip them down of all gear and compare them. Assuming they have the same dexterity modifier, then their defenses are exactly the same. The experienced and highly trained warrior is just as easy to hit as the inexperienced not very well trained warrior. Anyone whoís studied any sort of fighting, say martial arts, knows that the ability to effectively defend yourself is of primal importance. But this isnít reflected in the rules, instead people must rely upon suits of armor for all their defense and it makes no sense to me.

Magic is power:
In dnd 3.5 magic is intrinsically more powerful than any other force in the game. Wizards, sorcerers, clerics and druids all gain explicit and powerful advantages whey they level up. Those advantages are as follows: access to more powerful spells, access to new spells, access to more spells, and existing spells increase in power as you level. The warrior types canít keep up at all, except when they get magic items, and then the casters will also probably have magic items as well.

Not only do the spellcasters have tremendous pure power, they also have a tremendous amount of versatility, and thatís where a lot of the fun comes into play. Tome of battle sort of band aides this, if you want a fair amount of versatility in combat, play a TOB class, it doesnít fix the inherent flaw in the system, it just replaces a few classes with others that use a system that gives them a bit more versatility.

Sith_Happens
2015-02-09, 04:33 PM
Does the refusal of every RPG developer for the last forty years to standardize the language and syntax in their rulebooks count?

the OOD
2015-02-09, 04:35 PM
I would like to nominate XP for Killing. This tends to apply most to later D&D and it's derivatives but plenty of RPGs assign XP values to monsters and the natural inclination to the players (and the GM) is to translate this to XP received for killing it. This even carried over to CRPGs as the primary advancement system. Early D&D used XP for gold and other systems like Dungeon World or Mouseguard/Burning Wheel use XP for (failed) actions, and those systems both in my mind encourage a much different and much more interesting game.
this is big enough that I forgot what I came in here to post. yes. this.

an interesting aspect of Universal Decay is that gear and powers add to you level for XP purposes for everything but RP, so your indestructible Juggernaut is relying on roleplaying xp for (at least)70% of their xp. this has promoted fantastic player behavior for everyone and works really well overall.

Knaight
2015-02-09, 04:42 PM
Does the refusal of every RPG developer for the last forty years to standardize the language and syntax in their rulebooks count?

Yes. Particularly when rules heavy games using familiar mechanics manage to make you learn a new term for just about all of it. Burning Wheel in particular stands out here, from it's use of the term Obstacle (and Ob.) for difficulty to finding counter-intuitive terms like "Shade" to reflect talent.

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-09, 04:58 PM
Does the refusal of every RPG developer for the last forty years to standardize the language and syntax in their rulebooks count?

One of the best things for me when reading through Eclipse Phase was that the term flip-flop was used in the same way as in Unknown Armies, so I can say that when this seems to happen the feeling is wonderful. In fact I think d% systems have the largest amount of shared language, but when I've tried my hand at writing I attempted to use as standard terms as possible (difficulty for the standard target number, 'attributes' instead of abilities or characteristics, criticals instead of exceptional successes, etc.). I heartily recommend an agreement for 'standard' terms for most things, although I'll likely just fall into referring to them as 'attributes, skills, powers and equipment' as the categories again, so it really doesn't effect me.

SimonMoon6
2015-02-09, 05:01 PM
Character Levels

Seriously. I know, I know, it's cool to go, "ooh, I got some new power today". But really, it's a mess.

If you want to play a powerful character? You don't get to do so. You have to wade through all the boring low powered stuff before you can become the character you wanted to play all along. And then, as you're slowly handed tidbits of power, if you ever get to a decent power level, if you finally have the character you wanted to play? Congratulations, the game's over. You don't get to play that character anymore. But you can start a new game at level one, if you want.

And really, the whole, "Well at least I get to feel more powerful now and then" idea is a farce. It's a charade. The DM will constantly upgrade your opponents so that you fight something equal. It's like every time you double the damage you can deal, your opponents get twice as many hit points. When you get +5 to your attack roll, your opponents get +5 to their AC. So what's the point? It's exactly the same thing but with different numbers.

And even if you can put up with all of that, the dramatic power level difference in a first level and, say, a 7th level character is so huge, it's hard to believe that it's the same person. And it makes it hard to set up "sandbox" scenarios, because if the PCs choose not to go after the goblin raiders plot thread until they've done a few other things first-- which should be a fine sandboxy way to handle plots-- by the time they get around to that plot thread, they're way too powerful for it to be a meaningful adventure anymore.

the OOD
2015-02-09, 05:08 PM
the practice of giving 1 page of general GM advice at the start of a rulebook, and several chapters of system-specific mechanical minutia for GMs. are we trying to make things hard on the kid who picked up a few rulebooks to DM for some friends? a bad/ill-equiped DM kills a game like nothing else in the hobby, and there is almost zero effort made to educate and prepare new GMs. some may be lucky enough to get invited to a group with a good GM, but it took me about 2 years before I found a good GM(once one person is a good GM, it seems to spread to the rest of the group, witch is good).


[EDIT] I have before me a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition Dungons Master's Guide. a $34.95, 222-page book providing "a wealth of advice to new and experienced dungeon masters".
the book dedicates 17 pages to GMing fundamentals(counting some of debatable value), 112 pages of system-specific mechanical details such as encounter levels, 25-ish pages on what a campaign is and basic types, 38-ish pages on worldbuilding and a premade town and and adventure.
we can do better. 17 pages of a 222-page book about GMing is pathetic.

(numbers come from a quick skim, may not be fully precise. sample was taken from the closest GMing-reladed book to my desk, witch happened to be this one)

dps
2015-02-09, 05:44 PM
The first RPG book I ever read was the 1e AD&D PHB. In it, there is a discussion about this. The authors (Gygax probably was the one who wrote the passage) had considered renaming "levels (as applied to characters" to "ranks," "levels (as applied to spells)" to "orders" or "circles," and often did use "floors" instead of "levels" for dungeons.

They chose not to change the first two instances because they noticed that, even when they tried to, others they talked to slipped into the old nomenclature, and they figured that players of AD&D would be smart enough to figure out from context what kind of "level" is meant.

Or, as a review I read of it said, their justification for not fixing the problem amounted to, "We did it that way before".

NichG
2015-02-09, 05:49 PM
I would say for me it's: Conflicts are resolved in terms of success vs failure

There's a huge tendency for system designers to try to boil things down to the 'opposed roll' or 'roll vs DC', maybe with fancier dice mechanics or things to modify the rolls or whatever. We're so used to 'roll to see if you succeed' that people have a blind spot for coming up with alternatives.

The problem is, boiling things down to random success vs failure is often a really bad way to handle particular types of situations. For example, in situations where retrying the task is logically permitted and has low cost, you get behavior like 'roll until you succeed' or swinginess of attacks in combat. In other situations, projecting a very nuanced situation onto the idea of a single person succeeding or failing destroys that nuance (see pretty much any system with a Diplomacy skill or similar) - if one person 'wins' the Diplomacy situation then that implicitly directs things away from the possibility of some sort of set of compromises where each participant gets some but not all of what they want. Success vs failure also often runs afoul of the issue of the game grinding to a halt or being very swingy: if you fail to pick the lock on the door in the dungeon, do you just go home? So either you succeed, or you fail but keep trying things until one works, or the game grinds to a halt.

The other issue is, success vs failure mechanics have a tendency to lead to the thought process: 'If I want to make this more complex/nuanced, I should make it into a sequence of checks!'. This particular thought suffers from a failure to understand probabilities - the probability of success decays exponentially with the number of checks in sequence that you require (furthermore, its not more complex since there are no additional decision branches between rolls - you could just calculate this joint probability and roll it directly). So you have things like 'if you want to pull off this special move, do a skill roll followed by an attack roll', which is almost always a bad deal (since you're basically rolling twice and taking the worse of the two rolls).

So, what I'd like to see is more focus on different types of outcomes than just 'success' or 'failure': resource pools, bidding systems, wager systems, trade-offs, etc. There's all sorts of ideas in these directions which tend to be mostly explored by fringe RPGs, but which I'd like to see used more widely. I'd also like to see a general philosophy shift from 'what is the chance of success?' to 'what are the consequences of action?'.

BRC
2015-02-09, 05:57 PM
I would say for me it's: Conflicts are resolved in terms of success vs failure

There's a huge tendency for system designers to try to boil things down to the 'opposed roll' or 'roll vs DC', maybe with fancier dice mechanics or things to modify the rolls or whatever. We're so used to 'roll to see if you succeed' that people have a blind spot for coming up with alternatives.

The problem is, boiling things down to random success vs failure is often a really bad way to handle particular types of situations. For example, in situations where retrying the task is logically permitted and has low cost, you get behavior like 'roll until you succeed' or swinginess of attacks in combat. In other situations, projecting a very nuanced situation onto the idea of a single person succeeding or failing destroys that nuance (see pretty much any system with a Diplomacy skill or similar) - if one person 'wins' the Diplomacy situation then that implicitly directs things away from the possibility of some sort of set of compromises where each participant gets some but not all of what they want. Success vs failure also often runs afoul of the issue of the game grinding to a halt or being very swingy: if you fail to pick the lock on the door in the dungeon, do you just go home? So either you succeed, or you fail but keep trying things until one works, or the game grinds to a halt.

The other issue is, success vs failure mechanics have a tendency to lead to the thought process: 'If I want to make this more complex/nuanced, I should make it into a sequence of checks!'. This particular thought suffers from a failure to understand probabilities - the probability of success decays exponentially with the number of checks in sequence that you require (furthermore, its not more complex since there are no additional decision branches between rolls - you could just calculate this joint probability and roll it directly). So you have things like 'if you want to pull off this special move, do a skill roll followed by an attack roll', which is almost always a bad deal (since you're basically rolling twice and taking the worse of the two rolls).

So, what I'd like to see is more focus on different types of outcomes than just 'success' or 'failure': resource pools, bidding systems, wager systems, trade-offs, etc. There's all sorts of ideas in these directions which tend to be mostly explored by fringe RPGs, but which I'd like to see used more widely. I'd also like to see a general philosophy shift from 'what is the chance of success?' to 'what are the consequences of action?'.
the Star Wars: Edge of Empire RPG had an interesting mechanic on this front. It required special dice, but basically Advantage and Disadvantage were calculated seperatly from Success and Failure. (Your dice had "Sucess" and "Advantage" sides, while the DM's dice had "Failure" and "Disadvantage" Sides). So you might hit with your attack (Success) but lose your weapon in the process (Disadvantage), or miss with your attack (Failure), but force your enemy to drop their weapon (Advantage).

Sith_Happens
2015-02-09, 06:15 PM
Yes. Particularly when rules heavy games using familiar mechanics manage to make you learn a new term for just about all of it. Burning Wheel in particular stands out here, from it's use of the term Obstacle (and Ob.) for difficulty to finding counter-intuitive terms like "Shade" to reflect talent.


One of the best things for me when reading through Eclipse Phase was that the term flip-flop was used in the same way as in Unknown Armies, so I can say that when this seems to happen the feeling is wonderful. In fact I think d% systems have the largest amount of shared language, but when I've tried my hand at writing I attempted to use as standard terms as possible (difficulty for the standard target number, 'attributes' instead of abilities or characteristics, criticals instead of exceptional successes, etc.). I heartily recommend an agreement for 'standard' terms for most things, although I'll likely just fall into referring to them as 'attributes, skills, powers and equipment' as the categories again, so it really doesn't effect me.

I guess I should clarify what I did and didn't mean by "standardized:"

I'm not talking about consistency of language between different games, or about some games coming up with their own "unique" terms for things. Different developers can do things as differently from each other as they want for all I care, and that second bit is actually one of the easier ways to ameliorate the problem that am talking about.

The "problem I am talking about" being the insistence of every RPG writer in the history of the industry on using conversational language to describe rules, mechanics, and effects. At least for rules-heavy games, these things should not be written in conversational style, they should be written in a rigid fashion making as much use as possible of specific words and syntaxes that have been specifically defined in the context of the game. All rules text that can't or is better off not using such terms and syntaxes should be written in a single, consistent style throughout all books that are part of that game system, and that style should be as clear and unambiguous as possible.

Magic: The Gathering is a perfect example of how RPGs should be written:

1. Read the basic rulebook and/or quick-start guide, you know everything you'll need to know in 95% percent of games you'll ever play, with no room for misinterpretation.

2. Open the comprehensive rulebook during one of those other 5% of games, and you'll find it to be a numbered, well-organized document written in such a way as to be completely airtight yet still readable without difficulty (if incredibly dry).

3. Any time you see the word "trample," "flying," "destroy," "sacrifice," or one of countless others, you immediately know what it means and precisely how it does and doesn't work. Any time you see a colon in the text of an ability, you immediately know that it's an activated ability, that everything before the colon is the activation cost (which can't be responded to), and that everything after the colon is the effect of the ability (which goes on the stack and can therefore be responded to). And so on.

the OOD
2015-02-09, 06:21 PM
Problems with the action economy can take effect. IE "the reason 1 Vs 4 is a bad/good idea (depends on who's side you're on)" and "dogpile tactics" works. Basically if you have one monster and four characters, in a typical round sequence the monster goes once and the PCs each get one go: causing the monster to have 1 standard action while the party has four. If they coordinate these actions using the initiative (or similar) system, your villain can land themselves quickly outgunned. This leads to GMs usually upgrading the villain's HP to ludicrous amount, leading to a slog-fest as you grind down that HP, or simply building the villain as a super-PC, making him often too dangerous to confront since he deals too much damage or has effects he's capable of abusing. An asymmetrical monster/PC system usually considers this when creating monsters build to be "bosses", that they have off-turn actions they can use to punish some PC actions, distance themselves as a reaction or something.
there are a few things I have learned to always keep in mind, especially when designing single foes. "how do I think the fight/encounter will play out" "how/in what ways can the enemy threaten the players" and "what stops the players from ganging up and overwhelming the foe"

solutions to the third one can include an illusionist making copies of themselves, flying foes, a sniper with mooks to contain the PC's, superfast regeneration, absurdly high AC(stun/blind before attacking), foes who stun/blind you before attacking, phaseing/incomporal foes, and outright immunity to damage(ended up getting thrown out the airlock), and foes suited for low visibility/zero gravity combat.
and mind control. any NPC who uses mind control becomes the players most hated foe, so be warned. (and try not to frustrate players *to* much by keeping durations short and switching targets)
just don't use these to often, and save them for big NPCs, and you should be golden.

[EDIT] lots of these are good for keeping combat fresh and interesting to, adding different and varied challenges to basic combats is always fantastic!
other ideas:
fight in a crashing ship, need to keep it in the air/escape, but also fight.
fighting in any kind of restrictive terrain, be it a narrow beam o a skyscraper, dark wherehouse(who holds the flashlight?(good target)), near anything important+fragile/explosive
any kind of fight where they need the foe alive afterwards, be it for info, passcodes, or something else.

Amphetryon
2015-02-09, 06:24 PM
I guess I should clarify what I did and didn't mean by "standardized:"

I'm not talking about consistency of language between different games, or about some games coming up with their own "unique" terms for things. Different developers can do things as differently from each other as they want for all I care, and that second bit is actually one of the easier ways to ameliorate the problem that am talking about.

The "problem I am talking about" being the insistence of every RPG writer in the history of the industry on using conversational language to describe rules, mechanics, and effects. At least for rules-heavy games, these things should not be written in conversational style, they should be written in a rigid fashion making as much use as possible of specific words and syntaxes that have been specifically defined in the context of the game. All rules text that can't or is better off not using such terms and syntaxes should be written in a single, consistent style throughout all books that are part of that game system, and that style should be as clear and unambiguous as possible.

Magic: The Gathering is a perfect example of how RPGs should be written:

1. Read the basic rulebook and/or quick-start guide, you know everything you'll need to know in 95% percent of games you'll ever play, with no room for misinterpretation.

2. Open the comprehensive rulebook during one of those other 5% of games, and you'll find it to be a numbered, well-organized document written in such a way as to be completely airtight yet still readable without difficulty (if incredibly dry).

3. Any time you see the word "trample," "flying," "destroy," "sacrifice," or one of countless others, you immediately know what it means and precisely how it does and doesn't work. Any time you see a colon in the text of an ability, you immediately know that it's an activated ability, that everything before the colon is the activation cost (which can't be responded to), and that everything after the colon is the effect of the ability (which goes on the stack and can therefore be responded to). And so on.
Your definition - or experience - of M:tG's rules document as 'completely airtight and yet still readable without difficulty' does not happen to mesh with mine, or a few tournaments I've seen.

Telok
2015-02-09, 06:41 PM
Hit points. Undefined and increasing hit points.

This has wreaked more boredom and blandness on RPGs, CRPGs, MMOs, and many others. Your special attack is more damage, or damaging more people. Your best roll does more damage, your worst roll does no damage. DPS or DPR becomes a thing.

I want kneecapping, nut shots, and slit throats. Hit points are boring and stupid.

Pex
2015-02-09, 07:03 PM
For the internet only, the Tier System, D&D.

One person's personal opinion of the classes has morphed into a gospel resulting in some players judging all decisions they make to seek approval of Tier System Advocates. They overanalyze trying to remake the game to change classes into a preferred Tier. Just being in a particular Tier causes DMs to blindly ban classes. DMs and players cannot make up their own minds as to what is fun for them, instead relying on the Tier System to make all their decisions.

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-09, 07:22 PM
I guess I should clarify what I did and didn't mean by "standardized:"

I'm not talking about consistency of language between different games, or about some games coming up with their own "unique" terms for things. Different developers can do things as differently from each other as they want for all I care, and that second bit is actually one of the easier ways to ameliorate the problem that am talking about.

The "problem I am talking about" being the insistence of every RPG writer in the history of the industry on using conversational language to describe rules, mechanics, and effects. At least for rules-heavy games, these things should not be written in conversational style, they should be written in a rigid fashion making as much use as possible of specific words and syntaxes that have been specifically defined in the context of the game. All rules text that can't or is better off not using such terms and syntaxes should be written in a single, consistent style throughout all books that are part of that game system, and that style should be as clear and unambiguous as possible.

I had this great reply before my browser crashed and I lost it, so let me just say, what style do you want? It sounds to me that you want a dry style where everything is made perfectly clear and explained perfectly, but in that case, at least I will never read your rulebook.


Magic: The Gathering is a perfect example of how RPGs should be written:

1. Read the basic rulebook and/or quick-start guide, you know everything you'll need to know in 95% percent of games you'll ever play, with no room for misinterpretation.

2. Open the comprehensive rulebook during one of those other 5% of games, and you'll find it to be a numbered, well-organized document written in such a way as to be completely airtight yet still readable without difficulty (if incredibly dry).

3. Any time you see the word "trample," "flying," "destroy," "sacrifice," or one of countless others, you immediately know what it means and precisely how it does and doesn't work. Any time you see a colon in the text of an ability, you immediately know that it's an activated ability, that everything before the colon is the activation cost (which can't be responded to), and that everything after the colon is the effect of the ability (which goes on the stack and can therefore be responded to). And so on.

So you've never had an in-game argument. I've been caught out by damage not going on the stack many time since I took it up again, and will often respond to abilities at the 'wrong' point. I also never read the rulebook or quick start guide but learned from another person, which means that I can't comment on them. Also, if the activation of an activated ability does not go on the stack, but the effect of the ability does, then what if my activated ability is to deal 2 damage to target creature or player. Damage is not put on the stack, so can I respond to the activation of the ability (apparently, nope), the ability itself (again nope, as damage does not go on the stack), or the targeting of the ability (in which case the 'damage does not go on the stack' rule is pointless, as all damage must target something and I can respond to that). Bare in mind that I've also seen better players than me respond to people paying activation costs (mainly for spells, but occasionally for activated abilities no matter if the cost is 'X mana' or 'tap this card'). The rules just make no sense once you go beyond the basic and set abilities and what is printed on each card. Also can I react to the resolving of an effect, i.e. an effect leaving the stack. I'm sure the rulebook says this, but I'm also sure that my query can be met in a way that'll keep me entertained and will suffice if I don't wish to search the index for 'rules relating to the stack'.

Arbane
2015-02-09, 07:47 PM
Or, as a review I read of it said, their justification for not fixing the problem amounted to, "We did it that way before".

That's pretty much the explanation for EVERYTHING in D&D.
AD&D was not so much 'designed' as 'accumulated'.

Vancian Casting's already been mentioned, so I'll mention D&D's general insistence that magic is always superior to mundane effort, and 3.5's insistence that if you want to do anything more interesting in a fight than sword your opponent in the hitpoints, you'd better cast a spell, spend a feat, have a magic item, or be prepared to suck a Attack of Opportunity.

Sith_Happens
2015-02-09, 08:04 PM
Your definition - or experience - of M:tG's rules document as 'completely airtight and yet still readable without difficulty' does not happen to mesh with mine, or a few tournaments I've seen.

I guess I am good at reading things.:smalltongue:


So you've never had an in-game argument.

Not a full-on argument, no. Disagreements sure, confusion definitely, but stopping for a few minutes to find the right part of the comprehensive rules has always cleared such things up completely and immediately.


Also, if the activation of an activated ability does not go on the stack, but the effect of the ability does, then what if my activated ability is to deal 2 damage to target creature or player. Damage is not put on the stack, so can I respond to the activation of the ability (apparently, nope), the ability itself (again nope, as damage does not go on the stack), or the targeting of the ability (in which case the 'damage does not go on the stack' rule is pointless, as all damage must target something and I can respond to that).

I just meant "effect" as "what the ability will do if allowed to resolve," which can be responded to in the sense of it being the part that responding to the ability can potentially do anything about. As contrasted to the ability's cost, the payment of which is already too late to do anything about by the time anyone has a chance to respond.


Bare in mind that I've also seen better players than me respond to people paying activation costs (mainly for spells, but occasionally for activated abilities no matter if the cost is 'X mana' or 'tap this card').

People forget things, the point is that if someone tries to remind you of a rule you don't remember correctly (or at all) and you don't believe them, there should be some bit of text somewhere that unambiguously settles which if either of you is right.


Also can I react to the resolving of an effect, i.e. an effect leaving the stack. I'm sure the rulebook says this, but I'm also sure that my query can be met in a way that'll keep me entertained and will suffice if I don't wish to search the index for 'rules relating to the stack'.

Sort of. Removing the spell or ability from the stack is part of the process of resolving it, but after that happens you have the chance to do things before the next spell or ability down starts to resolve.

Telok
2015-02-09, 08:10 PM
Vancian Casting's already been mentioned, so I'll mention D&D's general insistence that magic is always superior to mundane effort, and 3.5's insistence that if you want to do anything more interesting in a fight than sword your opponent in the hitpoints, you'd better cast a spell, spend a feat, have a magic item, or be prepared to suck a Attack of Opportunity.
That's mostly 3e+ in my experience. I remember AD&D fighters who did things like pin vampires to the ceiling with tridents and pile drive medusa into chamber pots. It was rather more fun than the guy who said "I cast shield, I cast slow, I cast flaming sphere, I'm out of spell so I give up."

In all D&D up through the 3.x editions I've found that playing an interesting and fun character to be more effective than playing a cardboard cut out with super powers. Mostly, I think, because being invested in the character and the session causes you to think and react more appropriately than just having buttons to push. People who listen when the npc says "invisible demons and fire trolls live there" do better than casters who assume that their current set of spells can fix anything.

I'm not saying that more options aren't better options, just that players can make more options if they try and tend to choose worse options when they assume one thing is always better than anything else.

goto124
2015-02-09, 08:22 PM
Race/Class/Level character design. Makes for an easy shorthand when describing your character, but resulted in 30+ years of stereotypes and cookie-cutter characters.

...I would like an example of a system that doesn't do this, please

VincentTakeda
2015-02-09, 08:39 PM
Within palladium, dead reign, revised recon, and ninjas and superspies pretty much assume you're a human...

So 'race' is negligible... Then you pick an occ... which might be called a 'class' but is more tacitly a 'job'

And heroes unlimited for the most part presumes you're 'a human' with the only alternatives being mutants, mutant animals, robots, cyborgs, and aliens... Aliens being the only opportunity really to create other 'races'... but in doing so you're kind of choosing your characters capabilities as a function of 'what they are' more than 'what they do'... less 'my class is about my training/job/class' and more about 'my skillset is training in my powers.'

I'd call that 3 and a half systems worth of not usign the Race Class Level design... Most of palladiums systems put you in the situation where you're either choosing a job, or you're choosing a race that chooses your job for you... By and large, even in Rifts, for the most part you're either choosing 'human' with the occasional dog boy as long as the campaign is on earth itself... You only dip into aliens a bit when you start dealing more directly with atlantis or the 3 galaxies or the naruni and such... At the end of the day an 'atlantean' is, for the most part, still a human.

I also don't see much diversity in terms of racial options when you look at games like 'cyberpunk 2020' or shadowrun... By and large wall to wall humans all around...

Necroticplague
2015-02-09, 08:45 PM
Excessive use of Binaries.

Different portions of this have been mentioned in various ways, but it sums up a lot of things I think are wrong with a lot of things in game design. Simply put, having too many options where something is only in a small amount of states. Some of the things I view as subsets of this problem:

1.Binary success/failure. You missed or hit, you saved or failed. Kinda versimilutude breaking, as looking around me provides all kind of evidence of "this works, but there are some issues" and "this doesn't work, but you might be able to salvage this". A simple fail/success fails to emulate this.

2. Usage limits on power. Simply put, saying 'its O.k. if this power is more useful than average, because it can't be used as often'. This seems like a good way to balance at first, but its actually a horrible way to do things. Because it creates two situations that are both kinda unfun: either you have uses, and you can just steamroll things, or you don't and you have significantly less ability to contribute relative to your teammates. D&D vancian magic is an excellent example of what's wrong with this idea, as the proliferation lead to spellcasting being world-breakingly powerful under the idea "they can only do it a couple times per day!"

3.Binary prerequisites. Similar to the above, making something gated behind some other thing, and then using that to justify it being more powerful. This is especially true if the opposite, something that is weaker than normal, but has value derived from serving as a prerequisite, exists. It makes larger disparities between those who are just dipping their feet into the hobby and those who don't, punishes builds that need to originally waste time on the lower side of the power curve building up prerequisites for things on the later, and encourages characters to be 'pre-planned' instead of being derived organically.

Arbane
2015-02-09, 08:48 PM
...I would like an example of a system that doesn't do this, please

Point-buy games like GURPS and HERO system spring instantly to mind. Also more free-form games like Over the Edge, RISUS and FATE. (Unknown Armies kinda-sorta has 'classes' in that there's a strong distinction between Adepts, Godwalkers, and Normals.) Skill-based systems like RuneQuest or Call of Cthulhu, though in RQ your species, culture and religion are fairly important.

There's a fair number of games where race/class/level isn't really a 'thing', aside from D&D & derivatives.


I also don't see much diversity in terms of racial options when you look at games like 'cyberpunk 2020' or shadowrun... By and large wall to wall humans all around...

I suppose you could play an AI or a genemodded animal in Cyberpunk, but that would be reaaaallly unusual. Shadowrun has all the usual Tolkien races, plus trolls.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-09, 08:56 PM
...I would like an example of a system that doesn't do this, please

Honestly, there are probably more systems that don't than there are that do. I can mostly think of D&D, Star Wars systems and a lot of stuff from the 80s.

goto124
2015-02-09, 09:04 PM
How would you homebrew/houserule/change DnD to not use that Race/Level/Class system?

VincentTakeda
2015-02-09, 09:08 PM
Shadowrun has all the usual Tolkien races, plus trolls.

Ah thats true... I kind of surprised myself here because when I think about/reminisce about shadowrun games, we dont really much talk about them in terms of what your race contributed to how things went down unless, of course, we're talking about trolls. On the face of it, at the end of the day, the differences between core tolkein races like an elf and a human and a dwarf is pretty negligible even in systems like d&d... a few stat points, seeing in low light... Different races dont mechanically do a hell of a lot for ya and its only when people start choosing whackadoo races because what they offer is more than just a tick or two on a stat that you start to feel like 'ugh'...

But I know the opposite is true... When people start choosing Kitsune, sure, it can as easily be about the crunch bonuses as it can be about the 'spirit' of the racee. When people start choosing Kender and Gnomes and Drow... Its rarely about the crunch at that point and more about either justifying a degree of suave or an excuse to do annoying things/be annoying. Its not like Kender/Gnomes/Drow are an order of magnitude more powerful than their cohorts... Aasimar and Tieflings on the other hand seem to, at least at my tables, be the choices of the 'crunch hunters' than the 'stylish'...

Maybe I'm biased. Maybe I just think that way because their 'style' of playing aasimar and tieflings feels a little grating...

Its like the difference between a trope and a clichť... They're pretty much the same thing, but I tend to use the word trope when I'm referring to things we all recognize that are reasons I like a certain thing... Clichť is the word I use when referring to things that make me sigh and roll my eyes because I don't feel like its being done in a clever imaginitive way or that it adds to the character arc or story meaningfully or because I feel like its only being done for crunch purposes and the player could care less about exploring the nuance or style of the race in any way...

Shadowrun races 'feel' to me like palladium races... Either when you choose a troll, you're mostly choosing your job at the same time, or the fact that you chose a tolkien race within that system has produced characters that could have just as easily been humans in my mind... Thats more my players than the system maybe.

Probably a better thread for musings of this nature, but at the very least I think there are plenty of systems out there where race is either unified, or an afterthought/amazingly minor difference at the end of the day crunchwise and it takes effort from the player for the race to stand out as being particularly different.

The number of times I've said at the table 'Oh that's right! You're an elf! I forgot.' means the player themselves has gone a little too long without doing anything I particularly consider elfy... Our dwarf player on the other hand goes out of his way to be xenophobic and gruff. Dont wanna run much further down that rabbit hole since it could go off topic a bit to pursue this stuff to much analytical depth...

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-09, 09:29 PM
...I would like an example of a system that doesn't do this, please

As has been said before, more games don't do it. Going just by the games I've played:

D&D: classes, races and levels. Uses a race/class/level system.

Dark Heresy: homeworlds are races, careers are classes, and ranks are levels. Uses a race/class/level system.

Call of Cthulhu: Occupations are similar to classes in theory. Uses a class system.

Shadowrun: Has races, but despite featuring common archetypes is practically classless. Uses a race system.

Unknown Armies: you have four classes in the main book: normal, adept, thaumaturge and avatar. Uses a class system.

Vampire: clans are races. Uses a race system.

Savage Worlds: has races, uses a race system.

All flesh must be eaten: Are there races/classes? I'm not actually sure

I suppose you could say that races=backgrounds from a crunch perspective, but I like to separate them because they imply different things fluff-wise.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-09, 09:31 PM
Shadowrun: Has races, but despite featuring common archetypes is practically classless. Uses a race system.

There ya go. Thats what I'm getting at.

TheCountAlucard
2015-02-09, 09:35 PM
I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.In fact, I've made the mistake of starting the group off at level one precisely once, and it was in the first game I ever ran; since then, all of the D&D games I've DMed have started at a minimum of level 5.

TheThan
2015-02-09, 09:43 PM
I would say for me it's: Conflicts are resolved in terms of success vs failure


Excessive use of Binaries.

This is another reason why fate is such a good system. It takes into account variable degrees of success and failure.

Letís borrow from Indiana Jones for a second. In the opening of Raiders of the lost ark, Indiana has to leap across a chasm. He runs, makes his jump and promptly slams his chest into the edge of the precipice on the other side.
Did he succeed his leap? Did he fail his leap?

Beating an arbitrary DC is binary, you either succeed or you donít. However things arenít always so well defined. In the above example Indiana could have very well failed his attempt to leap across the chasm, but he may not have failed it by such a large margin that he fell to his doom; Or he may have succeeded his attempt, but only just barely, escaping death by the skin of his teeth. How do we know? Fateís shift system accounts for this and the outcomes are determined by a system that takes that into account. I call it degrees of degrees of success or failure. This allows Dms and players to describe in detail the action of whatís going on, this leads to a lot more exciting encounters.




Magic: The Gathering is a perfect example of how RPGs should be written:


Yeah, Iíll agree. Magic did such a great job of detailing the rules of the game that other systems (even in different genres) tend to fall flat when you try to read the rules.

I mean when you had some obscure and weird rules interaction that wasn't in the big ol' book of rules, you could (at least used to) e-mail a judge and get an official ruling. Things were usually sorted out in quick order.

Arbane
2015-02-09, 09:53 PM
How would you homebrew/houserule/change DnD to not use that Race/Level/Class system?

I know someone's tried to make a point-buy system for 3.5, but personally I'd probably just use Mutants and Masterminds (which is d20 based but point-buy already, and fairly generic), because I'm too lazy to rewrite an entire game-line.

Solaris
2015-02-09, 09:54 PM
I would say Dungeon & Dragon's Vancian Casting, along with the assumptions thereof. Partially because it doesn't accurately mimic the spellcasting from the books it draws inspiration from, partially because it greatly limits the stories of magic I can tell, mechanically limiting the characters I can make. At low level I'm teetering somewhere between "commoner in a funny hat" and "I can casts the two magics!" while at higher level reality is being told to sit in the corner and suffer a time out. There are weird break points in D&D where the casters gain certain abilities that define play from thereon out, unless they are specifically banned... and these break points aren't called out in an obvious fashion. New GMs aren't warned that "LEVEL 5 = FLIGHT. PREPARE FOR 3D EXPLORATION AND COMBAT." and I've seen some get caught unprepared for this. Teleportation at higher levels also causes this serious jump, where new GMs are caught unaware of the odd guerrilla-like tactics Teleport-in > PEWPEWPEW > Teleport-out can cause.

Vancian casting in D&D is the big one I was thinking of. It's... it's really painful, especially in AD&D.


How would you homebrew/houserule/change DnD to not use that Race/Level/Class system?

Honestly, I wouldn't. At that point, why not just play a different game? It's not like D&D's race/level/class system is a bad thing in and of itself. It works well in the native setting and style of D&D play.


If you want to play a powerful character? You don't get to do so. You have to wade through all the boring low powered stuff before you can become the character you wanted to play all along. And then, as you're slowly handed tidbits of power, if you ever get to a decent power level, if you finally have the character you wanted to play? Congratulations, the game's over. You don't get to play that character anymore. But you can start a new game at level one, if you want.

You've never started a game at a higher level? Most of mine start in the 3-5 range and go to mid-teens or so, and I know my brother likes to start his in the teens. It's the ranges we like best to play in. I only start at 1st level if it's a players very first game of D&D, and I try to shovel experience points on them so they get to third level pretty quickly.


For my contribution to the thread, I submit Critical Fumbles as one of the worst far-reaching bad decisions in RPG design. To my knowledge, they started off as house rules in a Dragon Magazine article and have spread throughout games like an infectious plague. While they remain house rules in D&D, they're particularly baneful in their common applications in 3.XE because of how they punish warrior-types for getting better at combat.

Knaight
2015-02-09, 09:54 PM
This is another reason why fate is such a good system. It takes into account variable degrees of success and failure.

I'd be more impressed if the way they did this wasn't taking it wholesale from Fudge, and then reducing the extent to which it did this.

Solaris
2015-02-09, 10:02 PM
I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.

I'm trying to collect data on that question here (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?397674-What-Levels-Do-You-Start-At&p=18796024#post18796024).

While hardly the most scientific of studies, I figure it'll do well enough for our purposes.

Vitruviansquid
2015-02-09, 10:56 PM
The most far-reaching bad decision in RPG design is probably something so ubiquitous and even banal by now that it's ubiquity and banality would cause it to be mistaken for benign, even a core of the medium.

So I submit the concept of scaling power as characters gain experience.

Should your character get more powerful as you play? Sure. I don't see the harm in that. More spells, new moves, and different powers are all good because that gives you more options. There's a reason that those exist. The idea that you should simply gain some numbers when you level up while all the other player and non-player characters gain numbers that are *supposed to scale, making the ultimate point of gaining numbers meaningless* is as idiotic as it is ubiquitous.

endur
2015-02-09, 11:01 PM
The result of this is, that many character concept really only work once the character reaches 8th or 10th level. And as a result, lots of players don't create characters that are fun to play at 1st level, but come up with concept based around things that will be available to them at 15th level and beyond. And the vast majority of characters being played never reaches even 5th level. Most play takes place in the 1st to 3rd level range. All this obsession with character builds comes from this simple fact that you have to plan out a character over 15 levels if you want to be able to do one thing somewhere in the distant and unlikely future. You can't just make a character that is fun at 1st and 2nd level, because that might wreck and cripple the character for the rest of his career.
And it gets worse. With BAB, saves, AC, hp and so on growing very rapidly with each level, any type of enemy only makes sense in an encounter for a very narrow level range. First you fight rats and goblins, advance to goblins and orcs, upgrade to orcs and ogres, and so on. You can't fight full size dragons or giants until you are at least 8th or 10th level, and unfortunately, most parties never get there. As a result, players get stuck with fighting goblins and rats over and over while most creatures never get to show up at all.

If your campaign is starting at 1st level, then this is absolutely a true statement. Think RPGA living campaigns, Pathfinder, etc.

However, a lot of people have adventures that start at higher than 1st level.

For the reasons above, I don't like prestige classes and complicated feat chains. Take prestige classes and complicated feat chains away, and all of a sudden, you aren't forced into planning your character any more. You can level up however you feel like and focus on the fun once more.

Also one minor disagreement ... you listed progression as 1. rats and goblins. 2. goblins and orcs 3. orcs and ogres... I seem to recall fighting Ogres as a 1st level character and slaying a giant by 6th level.

goto124
2015-02-09, 11:07 PM
Wouldn't you just look for monsters your level then?

And if you meant storyline-related creatures/mooks/people, it's going to be boring if you blast through them, or if they're really difficult and bring you to the brink of TPK.

You could say you can still choose your adventures, but why waste them jumping from plot hook to plot hook just to find something your level? Might as well make it the party's level in the first place.

Vitruviansquid
2015-02-09, 11:31 PM
Wouldn't you just look for monsters your level then?

And if you meant storyline-related creatures/mooks/people, it's going to be boring if you blast through them, or if they're really difficult and bring you to the brink of TPK.

You could say you can still choose your adventures, but why waste them jumping from plot hook to plot hook just to find something your level? Might as well make it the party's level in the first place.

Alternate to all that bothersome sounding work, the system could just allow the DM to give you any monster at any level.

Psyren
2015-02-09, 11:37 PM
I stand by fudging even in a game like D&D. But how often do you actually "have to"? Probably something like 1 in 200 rolls or more likely 1 in 1000. I don't think that's a reason to discard the whole game system

This.



Defense<offense
Itís always boggled my mind how characters have no defenses other than that provided by gear. If we take two fighters, the first is 1st level, the second is 20th level and strip them down of all gear and compare them. Assuming they have the same dexterity modifier, then their defenses are exactly the same. The experienced and highly trained warrior is just as easy to hit as the inexperienced not very well trained warrior. Anyone whoís studied any sort of fighting, say martial arts, knows that the ability to effectively defend yourself is of primal importance. But this isnít reflected in the rules, instead people must rely upon suits of armor for all their defense and it makes no sense to me.

You forgot hitpoints, which are meant to represent this sort of thing as well. It's not a perfect solution but it's there.


Character Levels

Seriously. I know, I know, it's cool to go, "ooh, I got some new power today". But really, it's a mess.

If you want to play a powerful character? You don't get to do so. You have to wade through all the boring low powered stuff before you can become the character you wanted to play all along. And then, as you're slowly handed tidbits of power, if you ever get to a decent power level, if you finally have the character you wanted to play? Congratulations, the game's over. You don't get to play that character anymore. But you can start a new game at level one, if you want.

And really, the whole, "Well at least I get to feel more powerful now and then" idea is a farce. It's a charade. The DM will constantly upgrade your opponents so that you fight something equal. It's like every time you double the damage you can deal, your opponents get twice as many hit points. When you get +5 to your attack roll, your opponents get +5 to their AC. So what's the point? It's exactly the same thing but with different numbers.

And even if you can put up with all of that, the dramatic power level difference in a first level and, say, a 7th level character is so huge, it's hard to believe that it's the same person. And it makes it hard to set up "sandbox" scenarios, because if the PCs choose not to go after the goblin raiders plot thread until they've done a few other things first-- which should be a fine sandboxy way to handle plots-- by the time they get around to that plot thread, they're way too powerful for it to be a meaningful adventure anymore.

To point out the obvious though, nobody is forcing your group to start at level 1 except your group. If you want to start at, say, 15 and have a game with no additional progression or slow progression, you can do so easily.



Yeah, Iíll agree. Magic did such a great job of detailing the rules of the game that other systems (even in different genres) tend to fall flat when you try to read the rules.

I mean when you had some obscure and weird rules interaction that wasn't in the big ol' book of rules, you could (at least used to) e-mail a judge and get an official ruling. Things were usually sorted out in quick order.

Magic has to have very tight rules and responsive judges, because it is used for highly lucrative tournament play, and it has the financial resources to make that kind of support viable. While I wish that every other game (especially rules-heavy ones like D&D) had this level of rigorous playtesting and speed of errata, it's just not something you're going to see for most TTRPGs with their "sourcebook" business model.

Talakeal
2015-02-10, 01:05 AM
That's mostly 3e+ in my experience. I remember AD&D fighters who did things like pin vampires to the ceiling with tridents and pile drive medusa into chamber pots.

That sounds incredibly awesome, but for their sake I sincerly hope the fighters remembered to put on chainmail knickers first.

oxybe
2015-02-10, 01:40 AM
Do note that those "awesome fighters" also were not using the rules as written and likely succeeded due to appealing to the GM's personal tastes. I've done some cool stuff in D&D, but I make no mistake that a lot of it was playing my GM.

I've never seen anyone be nostalgic and wax poetically about AD&D's grappling/wrestling/overbearing rules.

I don't see it as a plus or strength of the system if the best-remembered parts were when you stopped using the system :smalltongue:.

Der_DWSage
2015-02-10, 03:11 AM
Geeze, most of the good ones have been taken already. Uh, lessee.

Special attacks are standardized
This one is due to me watching too much anime, I'm sure. And I've gotten very good at refluffing spells, basic attacks, and other such things. But it downright bugs me that absolutely every Wizard in the world, regardless of where he grew up, regardless of how he was taught, knows the exact same Magic Missile spell, that works in the exact same manner, right down to range and damage progression.

Even the Book of Nine Swords did this-and while they did it better, and there's a much larger chance that it's unlikely that two Initiators will fight in the same fashion, they still have the exact same attacks drawn from the exact same list.

It'd be nice if they had a list of components you could pull from, and shape your special attacks/magic/etc. in your own fashion. That way, while there might be some overlap between spells and special attacks, it wouldn't be absolutely everyone casting the same Magic Missile.

Stat numbers aren't meaningful
Bear with me on this one-and it's mostly Dungeons and Dragons that does this. But your stats mean very little, in the long run-and there's no meaningful difference between an odd number, and an even number one point below that. An 20 Strength might very well be the strongest of strongmen in the world, but he's still going to lose an arm-wrestling contest with little Timmy's strength of 8 roughly 20% of the time. In standardizing the numbers from 2e to 3e, they did lose that level of granularity, where 18 strength really meant something over an 8. (Besides a 30% increase in accuracy, and +5 damage on attack rolls-which while significant, isn't quite the same as 'You can barely lift that sword you're attacking with.')

I mean, thank goodness they did, but still. There seems to be something...lacking in that kind of situation. It also plays into the binary success/failure that was pointed out before, as well as the fact that every rakkum frakkum kind of door seems to require a 20+ strength check to break down.

Vancian Casting, Issue #2385
A subset of the Vancian Casting issue, but I've long been convinced that Sorcerers and other spontaneous casters shouldn't be subject to the same rules as Wizards and Clerics. They should instead be on a spell point system, one that feels more flavorful for casters that just innately know their magic. Instead, they're bound to the same system, and so is every spontaneous caster after them.

Additionally, a lot of Sorcerers and other spontaneous casters feel like they should have requirements to learn certain spells. Something like 'You need two spells of the [Fire] descriptor before you can take Delayed Blast Fireball.' I know it's an awful limitation to throw on them when I can't think of a similar limitation for Wizards, but it feels more natural that you'd need to build on existing foundations before they can just pop in and grab the most powerful Illusions when they've been doing nothing but conjuring for their entire career.

Easily abused skill checks
There should not be so many spells that grant gigantic bonuses on skill checks. Glibness is the biggest offender, closely followed by Guidance of the Avatar. One-time bonuses, such as Moment of Prescience? Sure, that's both high level and a one-time thing. Tiny bonuses, like Guidance? Sure, that makes sense that a Cleric would give a blessing, and you'd be able to focus a little bit better. It's the ones in-between that bug me, along with items of +20 to skill checks. It really feels like it should cap at 10, and the biggest persistent bonus spells should grant to checks is closer to +5. Even the one-time bonuses shouldn't be higher than, say, spell level * 2.

And don't even get me STARTED on Invisibility, Knock, Fly, and other 'Skills? What skills?' spells.

Save Or Die
These are perfect when in the hands of PCs, because enemies are disposable. The issue comes when they're used against PCs, and things often become 'The fate of your character lies on a single die roll,' or 'Well, you spent half your gold being immune to this so you'd never have to roll, so I'm going to have to challenge you in a different direction instead' or 'Geeze, I need to fudge the dice so you don't die from just entering this evil temple.'

I also don't like the design philosophy of Save or Die, because it just reeks of 'Player vs. GM' mentality to me. There's rarely a nonlethal option that can be used that simply knocks people unconscious rather than kill them outright, and there's the issue of how it often enforces that someone has to be the Cleric, because you're not surviving otherwise.

Milo v3
2015-02-10, 03:41 AM
So I submit the concept of scaling power as characters gain experience.

Should your character get more powerful as you play? Sure. I don't see the harm in that. More spells, new moves, and different powers are all good because that gives you more options. There's a reason that those exist. The idea that you should simply gain some numbers when you level up while all the other player and non-player characters gain numbers that are *supposed to scale, making the ultimate point of gaining numbers meaningless* is as idiotic as it is ubiquitous.

What game has the NPC's level up when you level up? There are games with enemies for different levels so you can take on different challenges and enemies as you increase in power, but I haven't seen one tabletop game where leveling up actually causes the world to scale with you.

Arbane
2015-02-10, 04:05 AM
Save Or Die
(SNIP)
I also don't like the design philosophy of Save or Die, because it just reeks of 'Player vs. GM' mentality to me. There's rarely a nonlethal option that can be used that simply knocks people unconscious rather than kill them outright, and there's the issue of how it often enforces that someone has to be the Cleric, because you're not surviving otherwise.

Plus, SoD stuff works against D&D's conceit that high-level characters have a certain amount of Ablative Plot Armor (aka 'hit points') that needs to be broken off before they can be killed - magic just bypasses all that, because magic.

Cazero
2015-02-10, 04:19 AM
Magic has to have very tight rules and responsive judges, because it is used for highly lucrative tournament play, and it has the financial resources to make that kind of support viable. While I wish that every other game (especially rules-heavy ones like D&D) had this level of rigorous playtesting and speed of errata, it's just not something you're going to see for most TTRPGs with their "sourcebook" business model.
I'd rather think Magic needs the tight rules because there is no GM in it. The judges for tournament play, sure, but 95% of the rules are written so they don't require a ruling because MtG was designed without the core assumption that one player is making arbitration. Considering how rules heavy D&D is, the same thing should be true in most situations.


What game has the NPC's level up when you level up? There are games with enemies for different levels so you can take on different challenges and enemies as you increase in power, but I haven't seen one tabletop game where leveling up actually causes the world to scale with you.
Most game don't, but since you usually never encounter threats too weak to be challenging, they might as well have dragons evolving from kobold pokťmon style.

Yora
2015-02-10, 05:09 AM
Funky Dice: I don't know who first had the idea, but using special dice unique to your game was a terrible idea. But instead of everyone thinking "what a terrible idea", there seem to be lots of game designers who thought "hey, this is awesome". But it's just awful. You can't buy six to ten new dice for every new game you want to try out. Handing dice around the table is only a little thing, but with the amount of dice rolling involved with many RPGs, this becomes really quite disruptive. Especially if the GM has to start searching for his dice because someone took one of them away. There is an almost-universal standard for RPG-dice. Use that one.
There are a number of games that I simply won't touch because of their funky dice.

While I am totally not a fan of D&D spellcasting, I don't really think it's that much of an actual problem with annoying consequences. The only problem I see is the disassociation of suddenly being unable to cast one spell, but still being able to cast dozens other spells. I hate it, and it's one of the reasons I no longer play D&D, but I don't think it's actually disruptive.

Eldan
2015-02-10, 05:18 AM
Still my favourite magic system and I haven't seen one with more flavour. I love the Hermetic and the Vancian and D&D combines both. I love the idea of casters being forced to use long rituals for their magic, as they have to, I love the idea of mages being forced to think and prepare the magic they will use later ahead of time. It gets people to think strategically. It's awesome on so many levels.

Ashtagon
2015-02-10, 05:25 AM
Funky Dice: ...

Funky dice seems to be a later development of the custom playing cards as an integral game mechanic I noted earlier.

Douglas
2015-02-10, 05:50 AM
Also, if the activation of an activated ability does not go on the stack, but the effect of the ability does, then what if my activated ability is to deal 2 damage to target creature or player. Damage is not put on the stack, so can I respond to the activation of the ability (apparently, nope), the ability itself (again nope, as damage does not go on the stack), or the targeting of the ability (in which case the 'damage does not go on the stack' rule is pointless, as all damage must target something and I can respond to that).
The ability and the damage caused by the ability are separate things. You can respond to the ability itself. The damage does not exist until the ability is resolved. Damage not going on the stack is important because there are ways to deal damage that are not based on spells or abilities - primarily, combat.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-10, 07:06 AM
Skills
2E had proficiencies (rather than skills) that you either did or did not have - you either have Balance skill, or you don't. Problem: this doesn't address the fact that some characters may be better in a skill than others.

Solution: skill points. New problem: it's a good strategy to, say, put all your 40 ranks in bluff at level one, thus achieving ludicrous results.

Solution: level-dependent skill caps. New problem: since NPCs are expected to be low-level, they are now no longer capable of performing any skill well.

Solution: add extra classes, that can do the same thing as regular classes only suck at them. Now claim that the city guards aren't 3rd level fighters, but 6th level warriors, because otherwise they wouldn't be able to have enough ranks in knowledge: local.

New problem: 20th-level commoners. Don't tell me that makes sense. It is often argued that the Samurai class (apart from being badly written) is pointless because that's what fighters are for and the fighter can easily be refluffed to anything from a knight to a circus strongman. By that reasoning, there is entirely zero point in any of the NPC classes.


Wisdom
While I wouldn't call it a bad decision, the development of the wisdom score is certainly far-reaching. When the first prototypes of D&D were made, they wanted to make a clear distinction between offensive casters (i.e. wizards) and healing casters (i.e. clerics). Since intelligence was the ability score associated with wizards, wisdom basically started out as "intelligence, but for clerics". Note that whereas pretty much every RPG system has "strength" and "intelligence" scores, the only RPGs that have a "wisdom" score are D&D spinoffs.

Problem: as the 3E design team correctly found out, unless you are a cleric, wisdom doesn't actually do anything for your character.

Solution: one of the most common houserules for 1E/2E was to include Perception as a 7th stat, because those games had no real perception mechanic (the way to search a room was to tell the DM explicitly where you were searching). So the solution taken for 3E was to fold perception (search/spot) into wisdom.

New problem: when 4E removed skill points from the game, suddenly clerics are better at scouting and trapfinding than rogues are. Whoops :smallcool:

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-10, 07:07 AM
The only things I really agree on are calling the GM a "storyteller", and fudging dice. Those two have the distinction of actually being bad decisions in addition to having spilled over from their original games.

I don't agree with most of the other stuff listed in this thread. Mostly because they aren't really far-reaching, being limited to one game or franchise, but also because most of them weren't actually bad at all. Notable examples dissed in this thread are experience points, hitpoints, alignment, race, level and so on. The prime reason they were copied over so much was because they worked to facilitate a whole new genre of gaming and they still have their uses today. Being bored with them now is not a good reason to call them "bad".

Milo v3
2015-02-10, 07:21 AM
The only things I really agree on are calling the GM a "storyteller", and fudging dice. Those two have the distinction of actually being bad decisions in addition to having spilled over from their original games.

I don't agree with most of the other stuff listed in this thread. Mostly because they aren't really far-reaching, being limited to one game or franchise, but also because most of them weren't actually bad at all. Notable examples dissed in this thread are experience points, hitpoints, alignment, race, level and so on. The prime reason they were copied over so much was because they worked to facilitate a whole new genre of gaming and they still have their uses today. Being bored with them now is not a good reason to call them "bad".
I greatly agree with this post.


Skills
I wouldn't say that skills are an issue, but that their are issues with the implementations you described, rather than the decision of having skills itself.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-10, 07:41 AM
Defense<offense
Itís always boggled my mind how characters have no defenses other than that provided by gear. If we take two fighters, the first is 1st level, the second is 20th level and strip them down of all gear and compare them. Assuming they have the same dexterity modifier, then their defenses are exactly the same. The experienced and highly trained warrior is just as easy to hit as the inexperienced not very well trained warrior. Anyone whoís studied any sort of fighting, say martial arts, knows that the ability to effectively defend yourself is of primal importance. But this isnít reflected in the rules, instead people must rely upon suits of armor for all their defense and it makes no sense to me.
I would say that this is very much intentional, and is a great design decision.

This is because the alternative is basically to make growth irrelevant. In 4E, a character's defense grow at the same rate as their attack; this means that at level 1 you have +5 to hit against AC 15, whereas at level 10 you get +15 to hit against AC 25, so regardless of what level you are the to-hit chance is the same. And 5E does away with growth almost entirely, leading to level 10 characters having almost the same to-hit and defense values as level-1 characters, so again regardless of your level the to-hit chance is the same.


For my contribution to the thread, I submit Critical Fumbles as one of the worst far-reaching bad decisions in RPG design. To my knowledge, they started off as house rules in a Dragon Magazine article and have spread throughout games like an infectious plague. While they remain house rules in D&D, they're particularly baneful in their common applications in 3.XE because of how they punish warrior-types for getting better at combat.
I second that. It leads all too easily to silly rules where rolling a one means you stab yourself.



Another would be Enemies built like character, followed by the action economy. These are somewhat linked. Enemies built like characters can allow for a certain level of depth... that anything they can do, your character can also eventually amount to. However enemies, monster or not, serve an entirely different narrative and mechanical purpose then characters do in the framework of a TTRPG so they often don't need the same amount of detail and attention in some aspects.
There is a difference between "enemies follow the same rules as PCs" and "enemies are built in the exact same way as PCs". For example, if a fireball spell normally does Xd6 damage and gives a reflex save, then the NPC's fireball shouldn't suddenly do Xd10 damage with no save. On the other hand, it is not necessary to do a full distribution of skill points for an NPC enemy, and it's fine if he has abilities that are off-limits to the PCs (e.g. he gets +20 hit points as a blessing from Asmodeus; and the PCs aren't allowed to play evil alignment so they can't get that particular boon).


I wouldn't say that skills are an issue, but that their are issues with the implementations you described, rather than the decision of having skills itself.
Yes, that's what I meant.

Eldan
2015-02-10, 07:49 AM
Fumbles are also one of those rules that seem to have spread to other games. Shadowrun, World of Darkness, probably dozens of others. "Roll bad enough and you injure yourself or your teammates" is endemic and annoying. (Though occasionally fun in a short, light-hearted game.)

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-10, 07:54 AM
There is a difference between "enemies follow the same rules as PCs" and "enemies are built in the exact same way as PCs". For example, if a fireball spell normally does Xd6 damage and gives a reflex save, then the NPC's fireball shouldn't suddenly do Xd10 damage with no save. On the other hand, it is not necessary to do a full distribution of skill points for an NPC enemy, and it's fine if he has abilities that are off-limits to the PCs (e.g. he gets +20 hit points as a blessing from Asmodeus; and the PCs aren't allowed to play evil alignment so they can't get that particular boon).

Also create in story reasons why it's not available e.g. executing a difficult and complex but completely legal plan got the attention of a greater demon of Asmodeus, your questionably legal plans restrict you to lesser demons who can give +10 hp but no more, and boons do not stack. By the way, take 2d10 corruption points for doing that.

Giving players the chance to access abilities I'd normally keep for villains also fuels great scenes, like the time where an invisible daemon nearly got the psyker to turn on the party with the promise of +1 psy rating and some pyromancy powers, along with some weird super corpus conversion thing.

Segev
2015-02-10, 08:24 AM
Or, as a review I read of it said, their justification for not fixing the problem amounted to, "We did it that way before".

Which is not an invalid reason, if accompanied by, "...and the effort to change it didn't seem to add any value."

While the Order of the Stick gets some mileage out of the jokes based on it, I cannot say I have ever met anybody who is confused by the conflation, with one highly rare exception: I have seen some people assume that Nth level spells meant that an Nth level wizard could cast them. Even that, however, took minimal explanation to clear up in every case I saw it, save one. And that one case was bound-determined that GURPS was the only comprehensible way to run a game, and was, I'm pretty sure, going to effort to remain confused by any and every rule in D&D. ("I'm third level; of course I can cast the third level spell Fireball" was hardly the only thing he was confused about. He also couldn't figure out that skill ranks weren't equal to your character level. --this was 3e, not 4e, where that actually wouldn't have been quite so terrible an assumption. Still wrong, IIRC, but closer.)

Segev
2015-02-10, 08:35 AM
As to Magic: The Gathering being an "ideal" way to design RPGs...3e D&D was trying to be that. Where and why it failed to be as precise - if, in fact, it did - is a much longer discussion probably for a different thread, but 3e's rules crunchiness and strange rules interactions, as well as the "the RAW are god, even if they act counterintuitively" playstyle it encouraged all stem from that. 3e D&D tried to spell out the rules with no ambiguity. It didn't always succeed.

Perhaps they could have done it perfectly if they'd had the M:tG editing staff on the job? I don't know. But the style of rules design from M:tG is very evident in 3e D&D and its direct descendents.

DigoDragon
2015-02-10, 08:40 AM
Point-buy games like GURPS and HERO system spring instantly to mind.

I've played a lot of GURPS and it's a pretty good system for the classless/level-less style. Has a decent called-shot system too for those who want to do things like slit throats and kneecap. Downside is that it can be a math-heavy system. Over the years I've made little cheat-sheets of the formulas to help me run games.

Amphetryon
2015-02-10, 08:44 AM
Which is not an invalid reason, if accompanied by, "...and the effort to change it didn't seem to add any value."

While the Order of the Stick gets some mileage out of the jokes based on it, I cannot say I have ever met anybody who is confused by the conflation, with one highly rare exception: I have seen some people assume that Nth level spells meant that an Nth level wizard could cast them. Even that, however, took minimal explanation to clear up in every case I saw it, save one. And that one case was bound-determined that GURPS was the only comprehensible way to run a game, and was, I'm pretty sure, going to effort to remain confused by any and every rule in D&D. ("I'm third level; of course I can cast the third level spell Fireball" was hardly the only thing he was confused about. He also couldn't figure out that skill ranks weren't equal to your character level. --this was 3e, not 4e, where that actually wouldn't have been quite so terrible an assumption. Still wrong, IIRC, but closer.)

I am not sure I can get on board with the notion that 'we're too lazy to come up with a clearer delineation or terms' (or 'we understand what we meant, and don't see the effort to make ourselves any clearer as worthwhile') is 'not an invalid reason,' but I'll agree that it's one that crops up with regularity outside of game design.

I can think of at least a half a dozen threads, here and elsewhere, wherein someone was convinced that ToB was overpowered because Characters were using Mountain Hammer when they reached 2nd Level Character status, and White Raven Tactics at their next Level-up. In each of those instances, nobody at their play-table had noticed the table (relatively tucked away) to indicate this was not play as intended. The fact that the confusion can be relatively easily cleared up does not - to my mind - preclude the confusion from existing, or excuse it when there exists an easy way of circumventing it entirely (use a thesaurus to describe these concepts with different verbiage).

Segev
2015-02-10, 08:52 AM
Actually, I am not sure that calling Maneuver Levels something else (say, "Maneuver Degrees") would have cleared that up. If you don't know there's a table telling you what Initiator Level you must be to have a certain Degree of Maneuver, the assumption that it's 1:1 may still be made.

Again, the writers of AD&D had come up with a new nomenclature. They found that it was not being used when they tried, and that keeping straight what synonym (order, rank, floor) applied to what thing (spell, class, dungeon) was more hassle than it was worth. And, again, people just called them all "levels" in conversation.

Now, that could be because they hung out with people who were used to the "old way," but it still is a valid consideration.

Now, you might think differently, but I don't think you can accuse them of laziness or uncreativity; they had terms they'd picked out, and they chose to stick with "level" for specific reasons.

Amphetryon
2015-02-10, 09:35 AM
Actually, I am not sure that calling Maneuver Levels something else (say, "Maneuver Degrees") would have cleared that up. If you don't know there's a table telling you what Initiator Level you must be to have a certain Degree of Maneuver, the assumption that it's 1:1 may still be made.

Again, the writers of AD&D had come up with a new nomenclature. They found that it was not being used when they tried, and that keeping straight what synonym (order, rank, floor) applied to what thing (spell, class, dungeon) was more hassle than it was worth. And, again, people just called them all "levels" in conversation.

Now, that could be because they hung out with people who were used to the "old way," but it still is a valid consideration.

Now, you might think differently, but I don't think you can accuse them of laziness or uncreativity; they had terms they'd picked out, and they chose to stick with "level" for specific reasons.

For the portion I emphasized, I'm reasonably sure I can, and did. You're free to disagree with the characterization, but that's different than telling me I'm not allowed to characterize the decision that way. . . particularly since it is, to my mind, merely a rephrasing of the phrasing you used yourself ([we did it this way before] and the effort to change it didn't seem to add any value). I mean, I suppose you could make the assertion that reducing confusion, by even a small amount, doesn't add any value; indeed, it reads from here as the assertion you believe the designers made. I disagree that the reduction of confusion over the rules is not valuable.

Segev
2015-02-10, 09:45 AM
I would actually contend that making a change which adds no value is counterproductive, and is symptom of the sunk costs fallacy if it's done for no other reason than the effort had already been attempted.

You're right, you can accuse them of laziness and uncreativity. But you cannot do so and be factually correct, particularly when there is clear evidence that they had actually done the work to rename them. The evidence takes the form of spelling out what they would have used had they gone through with it.

That certainly puts lie to the "uncreative" accusation, as well as they "didn't crack open a thesaurus" one (at least in spirit; we have no way of knowing if a thesaurus was involved, or they just knew some synonyms off the tops of their heads).

That they took the time to try it out, decided it wasn't worth implementing, and then took the time to explain their thought process seems to put lie to the "laziness" acusation.

But, you're right. You can accuse them of being lazy, uncreative orcs from the planet Krypton in service to the dark god Xenu out to spread scientology in the spell writeups, too. You're perfectly capable of doing so.

You're still demonstrably incorrect when you do.

Amphetryon
2015-02-10, 10:02 AM
I would actually contend that making a change which adds no value is counterproductive, and is symptom of the sunk costs fallacy if it's done for no other reason than the effort had already been attempted.

You're right, you can accuse them of laziness and uncreativity. But you cannot do so and be factually correct, particularly when there is clear evidence that they had actually done the work to rename them. The evidence takes the form of spelling out what they would have used had they gone through with it.

That certainly puts lie to the "uncreative" accusation, as well as they "didn't crack open a thesaurus" one (at least in spirit; we have no way of knowing if a thesaurus was involved, or they just knew some synonyms off the tops of their heads).

That they took the time to try it out, decided it wasn't worth implementing, and then took the time to explain their thought process seems to put lie to the "laziness" acusation.

But, you're right. You can accuse them of being lazy, uncreative orcs from the planet Krypton in service to the dark god Xenu out to spread scientology in the spell writeups, too. You're perfectly capable of doing so.

You're still demonstrably incorrect when you do.
I do not believe 'demonstrably incorrect' means what you think it means, and I do not recall using 'uncreative orcs from the planet Krypton in service to the dark god Xenu out to spread scientology in the spell writeups' as a part of the definition of 'lazy' that I was using in choosing the term; where, precisely, did that addition to its definition come from, other than unnecessary hyperbole?

Segev
2015-02-10, 10:23 AM
I do not believe 'demonstrably incorrect' means what you think it means, and I do not recall using 'uncreative orcs from the planet Krypton in service to the dark god Xenu out to spread scientology in the spell writeups' as a part of the definition of 'lazy' that I was using in choosing the term; where, precisely, did that addition to its definition come from, other than unnecessary hyperbole?

My apologies. I assumed that the fact that I demonstrated that neither "lazy" nor "uncreative" were accurate terms to use made it obvious where your claim that they were "lazy and uncreative" was demonstrably wrong.

Yes, the rest of it was hyperbole meant to illustrate that you are capable of making any number of outlandish claims that you and I both know are untrue, as well as able to make inaccurate claims which I had demonstrated to be untrue. I could have expressed that more clearly.

I will endeavor to repeat it for clarity, now (and no, I really am not trying to be a smart alec here; I'm just trying to avoid dancing around the point further):

I agree that you are fully capable of claiming it is laziness and uncreativity that caused the designers to stick with "level" in 1e AD&D for all three things. I assert that you are still demonstrably wrong. I demonstrate this by pointing out that they had not only taken the time and effort to come up with alternate terms and test applying them to the things in question, but further took the effort to write out an explanation wherein they tell us the terms they'd chosen and let us know why they did not ultimately choose to go through with the change.

This demonstrates that they both had the creativity to come up with and select synonyms, and put forth the effort to do so and to explain why, after having done that work, they chose not to use the work done in that direction. This means they were neither lazy nor uncreative.

Therefore, you are capable of making the claim, despite it being demonstrably wrong.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-10, 11:44 AM
geez... where to start.

I'm a roleplayer rather than a tactic player so mechanical issues that don't mess up emmersion fly under the radar. Keeping that in mind...

white wolf, old WOD
Ones cancel sucesses and the botches rules - on any difficult roll (difficulty 9+) a hyper skilled character is more likely to botch the more dice you rolled, you also COULDN'T just fail - you would either succeed, or botch, failure went into the less than .1% bin pretty quick. While part of me likes that the best of the best either fire it out of the park or break their hand, an "impossible" task was best attempted by one die bad stat no training PC - 10% chance of getting it done, 10% chance of botch, 80% chance of not blowing yourself up.


Shadowrun, Exalted, Werewolf others...
Dice Swimming pools - 15+ is common, 30+ is not unheard of, 50+ is possible you twink, I've seen 70+, heard of 100+. When play needs to stop to sort dice for 30 seconds to a few minutes its getting out of hand. Find another way to show high levels of skill. Why are there 100+ dice on the table ever? Does whitewolf manufacture dice?


Good old 1st and second aD&D
Hilariously sexist gender stat caps, racial level max's and restrictions

I'm sure theres more... heck heading the thread: theres LOTS more

mephnick
2015-02-10, 12:34 PM
Going to second (third, tenth..whatever) alignment and XP for kills. I hate them both with a passion.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-10, 12:37 PM
Actually, I am not sure that calling Maneuver Levels something else (say, "Maneuver Degrees") would have cleared that up. If you don't know there's a table telling you what Initiator Level you must be to have a certain Degree of Maneuver, the assumption that it's 1:1 may still be made.

I concur. It is common for any sort of games (RPG/computer/card/whatever) to make up their own exotic terminology for standard conventions, as the game equivalent or Smeerping (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CallARabbitASmeerp). It is also common for players to ignore the exotic terms and use the standard instead.

For example, in Magic: The Gathering, you activate a card by "tapping" it. Pretty much every collectible card game uses a different term ("exhaust", "turn", whatever) and pretty much every player of those games calls it "tapping" anyway; the term is ubiquitous.

I've not seen the term "level" cause any problems at the game table; so I don't believe it's a far reaching bad decision.



Ones cancel sucesses and the botches rules - on any difficult roll (difficulty 9+) a hyper skilled character is more likely to botch the more dice you rolled,
That's an urban legend. If you do the math, it turns out it isn't actually the case.


Shadowrun, Exalted, Werewolf others...
Dice Swimming pools - 15+ is common, 30+ is not unheard of, 50+ is possible you twink, I've seen 70+, heard of 100+
And that one isn't true either. Sorry, this thread isn't about making vastly exaggerated claims about games you dislike.

(a common dice pool in Werewolf is four dice, and a min-maxed character can reach 14-20 on attack rolls only; 30+ is wildly ridiculous)

Solaris
2015-02-10, 12:43 PM
That's an urban legend. If you do the math, it turns out it isn't actually the case.

It is, however, true for CthulhuTech.
That's probably the least of that game's sins.

YossarianLives
2015-02-10, 12:45 PM
Good old 1st and second aD&D
Hilariously sexist gender stat caps, racial level max's and restrictions

I'm sure theres more... heck heading the thread: theres LOTS more
I think this takes the cake, even if it didn't carry over to other editions of d&d. It's just such a bad idea.

Vitruviansquid
2015-02-10, 12:45 PM
What game has the NPC's level up when you level up? There are games with enemies for different levels so you can take on different challenges and enemies as you increase in power, but I haven't seen one tabletop game where leveling up actually causes the world to scale with you.

In DnD, you level up and the DM sweeps those goblins under the rug to give you hobgoblins, and then they sweep the hobgoblins under the rug to be replaced with bugbears, or whatever.

It's the same effect.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-10, 12:52 PM
In DnD, you level up and the DM sweeps those goblins under the rug to give you hobgoblins, and then they sweep the hobgoblins under the rug to be replaced with bugbears, or whatever.

It's the same effect.

It's really not. In classic D&D, you start weak enough to have trouble with the city guard, and end up being able to trounce dragons, and in the middle of it you're stronger than the guards and weaker than the dragon. Whereas in 4E, both city guards and dragons are always of an appropriate challenge rate to you, meaning that a level-1 character can defeat an ancient dragon and a level-15 character can get clobbered by the city guard. And yes, that happens in official printed adventures.

"There is always a stronger monster" is not the same a "everything in the world is scaled to your current level".

neonchameleon
2015-02-10, 01:00 PM
It's really not. In classic D&D, you start weak enough to have trouble with the city guard, and end up being able to trounce dragons, and in the middle of it you're stronger than the guards and weaker than the dragon. Whereas in 4E, both city guards and dragons are always of an appropriate challenge rate to you, meaning that a level-1 character can defeat an ancient dragon and a level-15 character can get clobbered by the city guard. And yes, that happens in official printed adventures.

"There is always a stronger monster" is not the same a "everything in the world is scaled to your current level".

Really? O_o - which official adventures? Because that's certainly against the letter and spirit of the various Monster Manuals where yes a level 1 party could take on a dragon, but it was a White Dragon Hatchling. Normal human city guard (as opposed to the City Guard employed in the Abyss) are level 3.

That said, early 4e adventures (especially Keep on the Shadowfell) were written by people without a clue what made a good 4e campaign.

Arbane
2015-02-10, 01:02 PM
Shadowrun, Exalted, Werewolf others...
Dice Swimming pools - 15+ is common, 30+ is not unheard of, 50+ is possible you twink, I've seen 70+, heard of 100+. When play needs to stop to sort dice for 30 seconds to a few minutes its getting out of hand. Find another way to show high levels of skill. Why are there 100+ dice on the table ever? Does whitewolf manufacture dice?




And that one isn't true either. Sorry, this thread isn't about making vastly exaggerated claims about games you dislike.

(a common dice pool in Werewolf is four dice, and a min-maxed character can reach 14-20 on attack rolls only; 30+ is wildly ridiculous)

I dunno Werewolf, but I've played Exalted. A reasonably specialized Solar Exalted can be rolling 13 dice on any skill they choose to be good at WITHOUT using Charms (5 stat, 5 skill, +3 specialization), and on an attack roll, it can easily be 20+ (5 stat, 5 skill, +3 specialization, +2 from a magic weapon, +10 from a Charm).
That's straight out of chargen. It only gets more ridiculous from there.

Yora
2015-02-10, 01:08 PM
In DnD, you level up and the DM sweeps those goblins under the rug to give you hobgoblins, and then they sweep the hobgoblins under the rug to be replaced with bugbears, or whatever.

It's the same effect.
And this is where random encounters with 400 goblins come into play. Before 3rd edition, quantity did have a real quality of its own. You might scoff at a dozen city guards or goblins after a few levels, but you would most likely never be immune to them. And the same goes the other way round. With enough people and clever use of environment, even a low level group can take down a giant.
I am not going to say AD&D was a well and carefully designed game. It was a terrible mess. But a lot of its elements where connected and dependent on each other and once you remove some of them, the others collapse as well. Random encounter tables show up occasionally, but it's never made clear what they are good for. For some reason 3rd edition assumes that everything gets fought and killed, and that just doesn't work if you can run into creatures that are invincible and creatures that fall dead just by looking at them.

Vitruviansquid
2015-02-10, 01:16 PM
It's really not. In classic D&D, you start weak enough to have trouble with the city guard, and end up being able to trounce dragons, and in the middle of it you're stronger than the guards and weaker than the dragon. Whereas in 4E, both city guards and dragons are always of an appropriate challenge rate to you, meaning that a level-1 character can defeat an ancient dragon and a level-15 character can get clobbered by the city guard. And yes, that happens in official printed adventures.

I played 4e, and I'm not sure what you're talking about there. An Ancient Black Dragon has an AC of 43. A level 1 character can't even touch that outside of critting, because crits are no longer confirmed. What are the chances a level 1 party can defeat that ancient black dragon when they can only hit on crits, and the dragon is hitting all the time? I consider that astronomical. Virtually, and for all intents and purposes, zero.


"There is always a stronger monster" is not the same a "everything in the world is scaled to your current level".

Yet where are all these stronger and weaker monsters when you're actually playing? And why would you even want them around when they break the game so bad?

kaoskonfety
2015-02-10, 01:28 PM
In both games it was the damage rolls I was mostly pointing at for "oh oh".

Its been a LONG time for Werewolf, you will forgive me if I misremember rolling over 30 dice of damage a few times, and I was not really "pushing" the character when I made it so I assumed it could go at least a bit higher - maybe I just lucked out or am flat wrong. Most of the truly stupid pools are in fact Exalted references, with shadowrun a somewhat distant second in the 30+ upper range (I've heard of higher in Shadowrun, but not bothered digging to deep into the "how"). I had to stop making an Exalted villain for my table recently cause the damage dice pools got too dumb with reliably rolling 30+ pre-soak dice before non-scene long charm use, with 3 options to double the damage along the way (4 against objects).
And you misunderstand: I love these games. I can have an issue with several mechanics that are just poorly applied and relish it for what it is anyway.
And yes, I yield, it appears you are quite right, I'm repeating bad math from poor sources - Ones cancelling successes still sucked (had a GM try to tell me that rule applied in Shadowrun, they managed to convince everyone else so I shrugged and said "you'll see", that game stopped due to being on fire pretty fast).

SimonMoon6
2015-02-10, 01:47 PM
To point out the obvious though, nobody is forcing your group to start at level 1 except your group. If you want to start at, say, 15 and have a game with no additional progression or slow progression, you can do so easily.

Well, in the various D&D editions, it's not so much "forcing" as "not supporting any other action".

Yes, we could play at level 15 if everyone else wanted to.

But the problem is that the game isn't designed for that level of play, so the game breaks down fast because the game is built around the idea that you'll stop playing once you get to a decently high level, and nobody wants to play a game that doesn't work. And if you're playing a game with levels but you tell everybody "sorry, you don't ever level up," then you're taking away something that's in the game that everybody wants simply because they "deserve" it because it's the default version.

If the game was designed around starting and staying at level 15, that'd be fine, but it's not because it's designed around "levels", which has the consequence of expecting people to start as a nobody and quitting once you're somebody.

There are many games (superhero ones, for example) where the expectation is different, where you're expected to be super right out of the box. And, heck, you may even improve from there (even if only slightly), but you at least get to have all your cool powers to begin with, with no expectation of "you must quit playing once you've fought ten villains".

kaoskonfety
2015-02-10, 02:10 PM
snip...
If the game was designed around starting and staying at level 15, that'd be fine, but it's not because it's designed around "levels", which has the consequence of expecting people to start as a nobody and quitting once you're somebody.

snip...

Everyone starts at level 15 - you are in a incorporeal undead infested country (some place in Ravenloft or similar) fleeing for your lives - stated goal at start of the horror sessions (1-3) - group escapes with at 1 level or so remaining and start playing the campaign to stop the undead end of the world approaching like a cold uncaring tide...

YA!

sakuuya
2015-02-10, 02:10 PM
Well, in the various D&D editions, it's not so much "forcing" as "not supporting any other action".

Yes, we could play at level 15 if everyone else wanted to.

But the problem is that the game isn't designed for that level of play, so the game breaks down fast because the game is built around the idea that you'll stop playing once you get to a decently high level, and nobody wants to play a game that doesn't work. And if you're playing a game with levels but you tell everybody "sorry, you don't ever level up," then you're taking away something that's in the game that everybody wants simply because they "deserve" it because it's the default version.

If the game was designed around starting and staying at level 15, that'd be fine, but it's not because it's designed around "levels", which has the consequence of expecting people to start as a nobody and quitting once you're somebody.

There are many games (superhero ones, for example) where the expectation is different, where you're expected to be super right out of the box. And, heck, you may even improve from there (even if only slightly), but you at least get to have all your cool powers to begin with, with no expectation of "you must quit playing once you've fought ten villains".

D&D does support other options, though--the rules for starting characters above 1st level are right in the DMG, at least for 3.5 and 4e. If they were buried in a different book, it may not have been the designers' intent, but they're part of the core rules:


Sometimes youíre going to want to create characters that arenít 1st level. Perhaps you have purchased an adventure youíre dying to play, but no one has characters of the appropriate level. Perhaps you just want to jump right to 5th level and start your campaign there. Whatever the reason, creating new characters at any given level isnít hard (and, in fact, many players find it fun).


Sometimes you donít want to start characters at 1st level. A paragon- or epic-tier game might be more to your taste. Maybe you want to run a published adventure that requires higher-level characters, or you want to try a one-shot that pits 30th-level characters against Orcus. Whatever the reason, at some point youíll need to create higher-level characters. This process isnít much harder than making a 1st-level character.

3.5 is borked at high levels, and both DMGs are wrong about the difficulty of (or at least time required to) create high-level characters, but the options are presented to DMs. Yeah, starting at 1st level is the default, but you're talking like high-level play is terra incognita. It's not. Both editions support it, and I'll bet 5e does, too.

Yora
2015-02-10, 03:08 PM
Let's not get tied up too deeply in specific situations of individual rules editions. Focus is on things that caused trouble on a wider scale because they were generally bad ideas, not just flawed executions.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-10, 03:16 PM
Being okay with dead-end failures.

D&D is full of this, as are lots of other games. You attack and miss, for no effect. You attempt a skill and fail, to no effect. You fail in combat and are ejected from the game. You fail in a social scene and are stonewalled.

"Damage on a miss" or "damage on a save" effects mitigate this somewhat. The D&D designers clearly see that it's an issue, since the most important abilities in 4th Edition, the daily powers, always did something on a miss, or at least could be tried again.

Lots of more "modern" games have started to figure this out. Failure can mean a range of things, or it counts toward experience (even old Call of Cthulhu did this), or it just otherwise moves things forward instead of just being a null.

So, it's not hopeless, but it has had far reaching effects, and is even fetishized in some quarters to the point that if someone tries to make all actions interesting in some way people howl about it.

sakuuya
2015-02-10, 03:18 PM
Fair enough, Yora.

On topic, then, one design element that bothers me and which no one has brought up yet is uneven PC advancement. I have never, ever found that PCs being at different levels (or whatever the system's advancement rules are) enhances a game, it just leaves the lagging PC unable to fully contribute and the other PCs needing to protect hir.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-10, 03:47 PM
Paladium, Rifts specifically, seemed to be a sound offender on: The whole character generation system
Don't get me wrong, a veteran could pound out a character in a few minutes and I had a blast - the setting is great. The magic flavourful, physical combat varied.
But....

Uber random stats - you rolled some D6's - if you rolled well you got to roll more dice to add to these scores - high enough scores were basically minor superpowers - if you failed at dice rolling you go sit in the corner and have your "class" options seriously reduced. The better classes could further increase your stats.

The illusion of choice - 50-70% of your "choices" are not choices - select 4 skills from the following list of 9 skills but not (list of 4 skills from the list) - Later on... select one additional skill from list but not (list of previously banned 4 skills from the list) - aka take these 5 skills (you are better a some of them - I guess that was the point?)

You're a fool if you don't - Everyone boxes, everyone, an extra attack each round, some stat boosts and some dodge perk - but extra attack. In a system that assumes 1 attack per round, its basically a superpower to get more and allows most any offensive action as an "attack". I guess the creator was a fan of boxing? Boxing wizards everywhere!

404 errors - The rule you are looking for has not been found - You could spend hours flipping though all the rules supplements for the detail on a trick you took from the core (wrestling training gives you some combat options including pinning... these combat option rules are outlined in the Ninjas and Super spies book and no where else that I could ever find.)

Horrid index error - the index was... of limited use. If I recall the published a centralized index for all their books so you would have a hope in hell of finding things (see 404 error). It was large for a rule book and was just page references, cover to cover...

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-10, 04:20 PM
Being okay with dead-end failures.

Dead-ends are not a problem if you can trace back and choose another road. I see the troubles with dead-ends being intimately tied with the thought of the GM as a storyteller, and more generally, the idea that games progress linearly like stories. I don't see it as a primarily mechanical problem, but rather a scenario design problem, and most of the mechanical solutions (like dealing half damage on a miss) do jack squat to fix the core problems, which are lack of choice and player iniative.

Ceiling_Squid
2015-02-10, 04:51 PM
the Star Wars: Edge of Empire RPG had an interesting mechanic on this front. It required special dice, but basically Advantage and Disadvantage were calculated seperatly from Success and Failure. (Your dice had "Sucess" and "Advantage" sides, while the DM's dice had "Failure" and "Disadvantage" Sides). So you might hit with your attack (Success) but lose your weapon in the process (Disadvantage), or miss with your attack (Failure), but force your enemy to drop their weapon (Advantage).

"Had"? "Required"? It still does, considering the game is still being actively supported with regular splat releases. Unfortunately, it's largely been overlooked by people who are still attached to the D20-based SAGA edition.

I love the resolution mechanic. It can best be summed up as "success with complications". The players spend "advantage" die results and get to have some input describing what positive side effects happens. On the other hand, the DM can spend the negative equivalent, "threat", to invoke various negative complications. This is effectively on a separate track from the binary success/failure dice, meaning you get a variety of possible results.

I think it's a step in the right direction for an alternative to the usual pass/fail binary most RPGs default to.

BRC
2015-02-10, 04:55 PM
"Had"? "Required"? It still does, considering the game is still being actively supported with regular splat releases. Unfortunately, it's largely been overlooked by people who are still attached to the D20-based SAGA edition.

I love the resolution mechanic. It can best be summed up as "success with complications". The players spend "advantage" die results and get to have some input describing what positive side effects happens. On the other hand, the DM can spend the negative equivalent, "threat", to invoke various negative complications. This is effectively on a separate track from the binary success/failure dice, meaning you get a variety of possible results.

I think it's a step in the right direction for an alternative to the usual pass/fail binary most RPGs default to.
Sorry, past tense was because I have only played it once, with no plans to play it again (Mostly because I don't particularly want to play a Star-Wars RPG).

the Edge of Empire RPG Does have interesting dice roll mechanics that separate advantage and success in an intriguing and dynamic system that I feel is superior to the standard pass/fail used by D20 systems.

Talakeal
2015-02-10, 05:01 PM
I am not sure if these qualify as bad base decisions, but my 3 pet peeves that are common in RPG design are:

1: Complex initiative systems that don't do a whole lot.
It is so much easier to just go around the table, but in most games we have a convoluted initiative system where everyone roles and has to remember an order and be reminded of their turn when it doesn't affect the game much if at all.

2: Keeping the players ignorant of numbers.
Most RPGs keep the difficulty of a task secret from the players. Again, there isn't really a good reason for this imo. I don't find any suspense in learning what my enemies AC is, and it makes using a lot of abilities like rerolls, power attack, action points, etc. feel more like a very frustrating game of Battle Ship.

3: Player driven resource recovery.
Being able to rest at any time to recover your abilities makes balancing a nightmare for the DM as it is under the players honor not to rest too often, or the DM has to come up with contrived ways to stop them. Going nova and the 15 minute adventuring day are huge thorns in the side of every edition of D&D and completely turn the notion of challenge on its head. 4E is better, but still keeps long rests mostly in the players court, and making it so easy and reliable to heal and recover abilities throws any sense of strategic play out the window and makes fights with mooks more or less pointless and thus boring.

Ceiling_Squid
2015-02-10, 05:21 PM
Sorry, past tense was because I have only played it once, with no plans to play it again (Mostly because I don't particularly want to play a Star-Wars RPG).

the Edge of Empire RPG Does have interesting dice roll mechanics that separate advantage and success in an intriguing and dynamic system that I feel is superior to the standard pass/fail used by D20 systems.

Ah, thanks for clarifying!

I think a lot of people have written it off as a bust, when really it's still chugging along just fine. It is a rather compelling system I'd like to see ported to other settings and genres, though. I like SW a fair bit, but I see plenty of people who are too stuck on their preferred Star Wars RPG to give it a fair shake or consider the mechanic independent of the book's trappings.

BRC
2015-02-10, 05:23 PM
Ah, thanks for clarifying!

I think a lot of people have written it off as a bust, when really it's still chugging along just fine. It is a rather compelling system I'd like to see ported to other settings and genres, though. I like SW a fair bit, but I see plenty of people who are too stuck on their preferred Star Wars RPG to give it a fair shake or consider the mechanic independent of the book's trappings.

If I could get my hands on those dice without spending a bunch of money on a book I'm never going to use, I would gladly hack together my own system with those mechanics.

I mean, I suppose I could make a table, assigning the various symbols to different values or whatever, but that's really really clunky.

Or get some blank dice (I know they exist) and modify them myself. But that requires effort.

Ceiling_Squid
2015-02-10, 05:26 PM
If I could get my hands on those dice without spending a bunch of money on a book I'm never going to use, I would gladly hack together my own system with those mechanics.

I mean, I suppose I could make a table, assigning the various symbols to different values or whatever, but that's really really clunky.

Or get some blank dice (I know they exist) and modify them myself. But that requires effort.

The EoTE dice are actually sold on their own, apart from the core book. You can order them off Amazon or FFG's site.

And I'm not sure if it's available online, but the core book does indeed include a conversion table for using regular numerical dice. Someone must have transcribed it by now.

Edit: It also occurs to me that FFG did a very similar mechanic for WFRPG 3e. I don't know how I missed that. Though Warhammer Fantasy isn't my usual setting of interest, so that may explain it.

neonchameleon
2015-02-10, 05:49 PM
If I could get my hands on those dice without spending a bunch of money on a book I'm never going to use, I would gladly hack together my own system with those mechanics.

I mean, I suppose I could make a table, assigning the various symbols to different values or whatever, but that's really really clunky.

Or get some blank dice (I know they exist) and modify them myself. But that requires effort.

If you want most of the benefits of the SW dice and have polyhedral dice, go for Cortex Plus (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/117419/Cortex-Plus-Hackers-Guide) (especially the Firefly (http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/128012/Firefly-RolePlaying-Game-Corebook) implementation or Marvel Heroic Roleplaying) 90%+ of the benefits of the Edge of Empire dice without needing the Edge of Empire dice. (Don't use a conversion table - that just makes the game crawl).

Milo v3
2015-02-10, 06:43 PM
In DnD, you level up and the DM sweeps those goblins under the rug to give you hobgoblins, and then they sweep the hobgoblins under the rug to be replaced with bugbears, or whatever.

It's the same effect.
If your GM does that, then your GM does that it isn't a listed rule, and the only area that suggests something like that I know of also states about using "Bugbear hill has bugbears, doesn't matter if you go there at 1st or 20th level, bugbears live there." I don't think I've ever played with someone who auto-scales the world when we levelled up.

Either way, Realism
In my opinion when your game has vampires and dragons and magic, you don't need to add in annoying stuff just for the sake of "that's how it'd work in real life". Games shouldn't have stuff in them that lowers the fun of it's participants.

Tengu_temp
2015-02-10, 06:56 PM
You want far-reaching? I'd go with -4 strength for female characters and other sexist bull**** in first edition DND. This drove away a huge number of female players from the hobby in its early years, which were the most important as it was creating its identity back then. It took decades for the gender ratio to even out, and even today there's still a noticable gap.

And speaking of oldschool, high-lethality dungeon crawling and treating it as the default way to play the game. Nothing kills roleplaying and immersion better than playing a game like that. In general, playstyles that put overcoming challenges over creating a story together bore me and I consider everything that propagates them bad decisions; tabletop RPGs are the worst medium to create fair, balanced and unbiased challenges. If I want one, I'll boot up my PC and play Dark Souls instead.

Ceiling_Squid
2015-02-10, 07:06 PM
And speaking of oldschool, high-lethality dungeon crawling and treating it as the default way to play the game. Nothing kills roleplaying and immersion better than playing a game like that. In general, playstyles that put overcoming challenges over creating a story together bore me and I consider everything that propagates them bad decisions; tabletop RPGs are the worst medium to create fair, balanced and unbiased challenges. If I want one, I'll boot up my PC and play Dark Souls instead.

I suppose you're entitled to that opinion, but it is bit harsh.

It matters much less in a system where a character can be rolled up in mere minutes instead of an hour or more, and the group knows what to expect.

Tengu_temp
2015-02-10, 07:11 PM
It matters much less in a system where a character can be rolled up in mere minutes instead of an hour or more, and the group knows what to expect.

Games with little to no roleplaying, in other words. You can't have a meaningful narrative or character interaction in games where characters are created en-masse, a few minutes each at most, and die en-masse at well. I don't care much for such games.

Kaun
2015-02-10, 08:03 PM
You can't have a meaningful narrative or character interaction in games where characters are created en-masse, a few minutes each at most, and die en-masse at well.

If i can manage it while playing a half hour game of munchkin i'm sure it's doable in the above mentioned situation.

goto124
2015-02-10, 08:16 PM
...but how? Your characters don't even last long enough. Even if you DID manage to somehow do speed storytelling, doesn't it get tiring fast? Won't you end up apathic to your PCs, because they'll die and be replaced in moments anyway?

I tried this sort of perma-death game before. After a while (and lots of deaths), I couldn't get attached to my own characters. Things just weren't as fun anymore.

Probably doesn't happen as much these days though.

TheCountAlucard
2015-02-10, 08:20 PM
On topic, then, one design element that bothers me and which no one has brought up yet is uneven PC advancement. I have never, ever found that PCs being at different levels (or whatever the system's advancement rules are) enhances a game, it just leaves the lagging PC unable to fully contribute and the other PCs needing to protect hir.The notion that a player has to "fully contribute" or be on par with the others in some fashion isn't a bad decision? That an unlucky, unskilled, or not-interested-in-power player has to be ostracized for it doesn't seem odd? :smallconfused:

oxybe
2015-02-10, 08:27 PM
I suppose you're entitled to that opinion, but it is bit harsh.

It matters much less in a system where a character can be rolled up in mere minutes instead of an hour or more, and the group knows what to expect.

It's not so much the character creation time that's a problem, it's the emotional investment. I've done high level spellcasters for 3rd ed with 0 emotional investment. Lots of time spent creating characters does not necessarily equal lots of investment.

But for me to get interested in the story events, i need a character who is invested in these things that I can latch onto.

If we're playing in a game where characters can die at the drop of a hat, but are generated just as quickly and you're supposed to be invested in every one of those characters, you're likely to get burned out pretty quickly. I know I have in those games.

No matter how quickly you make character generation, if every time I generate one character with a link to the story but have it get unceremoniously killed a few encounters later or even a session later, I'll stop trying to make those links. It's an extra effort that never pans out because character survival isn't even assured for a short time.

It gets discouraging.

goto124
2015-02-10, 08:28 PM
Then it becomes an annoying Escort Mission because the whole party has to bring along that one very weak and squishy character who they have to protect in combat? Sure he may be good at diplomancy or something, but at least he should not make battles more complicated for everyone else.

TheCountAlucard
2015-02-10, 08:32 PM
Then it becomes an annoying Escort Mission because the whole party has to bring along that one very weak and squishy character who they have to protect in combat? Sure he may be good at diplomancy or something, but at least he should not make battles more complicated for everyone else.Was that in response to me? Making a lot of assumptions, there...

1337 b4k4
2015-02-10, 08:32 PM
And speaking of oldschool, high-lethality dungeon crawling and treating it as the default way to play the game. Nothing kills roleplaying and immersion better than playing a game like that. In general, playstyles that put overcoming challenges over creating a story together bore me and I consider everything that propagates them bad decisions; tabletop RPGs are the worst medium to create fair, balanced and unbiased challenges. If I want one, I'll boot up my PC and play Dark Souls instead.


Games with little to no roleplaying, in other words. You can't have a meaningful narrative or character interaction in games where characters are created en-masse, a few minutes each at most, and die en-masse at well. I don't care much for such games.

I'm going to have to disagree here. First, high-lethality dungeon crawling did not have far reaching impacts except within the D&D line itself. In fact, short of games attempting to reproduce D&D, I can't think of very many games where "dungeon crawling" is the default mode of play, never mind high lethality. Secondly, even within the D&D line, high lethality dungeon crawling was certainly not the default mode in 3e (2000) and realistically, I don't think it was the default mode much past the early 90's. The advent of the story gaming mode (circa Dragon Lance) meant that high lethality was in direct conflict with the type of game intended. Further more it is worth remembering that the most famous of the "high lethality dungeon crawls", the Tomb of Horrors was an aberration and was specifically designed in response to the challenge of creating a ridiculously high lethality dungeon, it was never intended to be the default mode.

As for the "little to no roleplaying" where you "can't have a meaningful narrative or character interaction" I would submit that the first 15 or so years of D&D history (where you could most accurately describe the play style as "high lethality dungeon crawl") prove you wrong. There are endless stories of characters and campaigns from that era, that are no less "meaningful" or "roleplaying" than any number of modern campaigns.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-10, 08:36 PM
...but how? Your characters don't even last long enough. Even if you DID manage to somehow do speed storytelling, doesn't it get tiring fast? Won't you end up apathic to your PCs, because they'll die and be replaced in moments anyway? Just because one doesn't get attached to characters doesn't mean one doesn't care for them.

I'm not sure what you mean by "speed storytelling." Obviously a collection of temporary characters would have less development to them, but again that doesn't mean they're not roleplayed or engaged with while they last.

And my understanding is that in a very lethal game players just tend to turtle up and stop taking risks. That's what I dislike about high-lethality games: nothing ever happens unless it's been "solved" up front. Great my character survived, but he's a complete drag so why do I car


I tried this sort of perma-death game before. After a while (and lots of deaths), I couldn't get attached to my own characters. Things just weren't as fun anymore.

Probably doesn't happen as much these days though. No, and I find the tension between lethality and continuity to be fascinating. It has caused all sorts of compromises to come up. You can Raise Dead, but not until a certain level and a lot of gold, and then only a certain number of times or at some other hit to the character. Hit points are low, so we'll max them out at first level. A lucky critical could still take them out, so we'll make that less likely by requiring confirmation. Dead at zero, no wait -10, no wait -half HP. Aw now characters are really hard to kill and no one is worried anymore.

Sheesh.

The game really needs to make up its mind and say "If you want a high-lethality game, here's how to do it, what to expect and how to address it. If you want a high-continuity game, here's how to do it, what to expect and how to address it." Without something like that, crossed signals in the rules and during play are far too easy.

neonchameleon
2015-02-10, 08:37 PM
Games with little to no roleplaying, in other words. You can't have a meaningful narrative or character interaction in games where characters are created en-masse, a few minutes each at most, and die en-masse at well. I don't care much for such games.

Yes you can. And in true old school dungeon crawling there's a name for characters die en-masse. NPCs. Seriously, go in with about four PCs and about a dozen NPCs. There's plenty of roleplaying there if there's enough description of the dungeon and how to overcome it, but the game is largely challenge centred.

goto124
2015-02-10, 08:41 PM
...I'm going to start a new thread to ask how to do fulfilling RP with such short-lived characters.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-10, 09:07 PM
Yes you can. And in true old school dungeon crawling there's a name for characters die en-masse. NPCs. Seriously, go in with about four PCs and about a dozen NPCs. There's plenty of roleplaying there if there's enough description of the dungeon and how to overcome it, but the game is largely challenge centred.

I need to ask...What kind of people are desperate enough to let themselves be hired by a group of first level advernturers? I've heard the need for hirelings at level one come up when discussing this playstyle, but a first level adventurer is basically a hapless, penniless buffoon desperately trying their luck somewhere insanely lethal...Where do they find somebody even less capable and even more desperate than them who is willing to sign up to be canon fodder and possible trap disposal for a smaller share of the loot? Are they rounding up beggars and hobos or something?

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-10, 09:22 PM
Then it becomes an annoying Escort Mission because the whole party has to bring along that one very weak and squishy character who they have to protect in combat? Sure he may be good at diplomancy or something, but at least he should not make battles more complicated for everyone else.

Wow, frankly that's insulting. In a game I'm currently playing in the other players love my character because despite built with minimum combat efficiency (I am the second worse in combat, and the absolute worst when fighting demons) he's got a high enough charm/diplomacy/lie/persuade spread of +11/+9/+8/+8 to get us into almost any building and out of a sticky situation, in fact going so far as to be a better tempter than most demons (we've mathematically worked out the lie modifiers of a few demons, and they come up just shy of my +8). This combined with okay scores in some knowledges and compel demon have meant that my character has been extremely valued, despite being the worst in combat whenever deprived of firearms (read: whenever we have to work undercover or aren't officially on the job), and even managed to use it to save us from certain doom. He's one of the least optimised (about equal to the investigator and healer, with the exact ranking depending on session, but far below the 'ninja' and 'godtank' that pull us through combat).

But if this game was D&D, I'd be useless as I can't hit anything in combat and have a -6 to all melee damage. And that is the most important thing.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-10, 09:30 PM
He's one of the least optimised (about equal to the investigator and healer, with the exact ranking depending on session, but far below the 'ninja' and 'godtank' that pull us through combat). He's optimized to do what he does.


But if this game was D&D, I'd be useless as I can't hit anything in combat and have a -6 to all melee damage. And that is the most important thing. No, it's just the easiest thing for everyone to make characters around. What are the other characters doing when you're talking your way in to a building? What are you doing while they're fighting? There are, of course, ways to have multiple things going on, and I encourage that, but it's often nice to have everyone more or less working on the same thing, and often that's going to be combat.

Anyway, characters with high social skills occur in D&D, so the idea that combat is the most important thing is a drastic and uncharitable oversimplification.

goto124
2015-02-10, 09:38 PM
So er... what happens during combat? How much combat is there?

johnbragg
2015-02-10, 09:42 PM
And speaking of oldschool, high-lethality dungeon crawling and treating it as the default way to play the game. Nothing kills roleplaying and immersion better than playing a game like that. In general, playstyles that put overcoming challenges over creating a story together bore me and I consider everything that propagates them bad decisions; tabletop RPGs are the worst medium to create fair, balanced and unbiased challenges. If I want one, I'll boot up my PC and play Dark Souls instead.

I don't think that was a bad decision. That was the reality of gaming at the time. Your character having a personality was something that emerged from those high-lethality dungeon-crawls.

Although you could be talking about folks doing it today. Yes, I'm not quite sure why they aren't playing Call of Duty or World of Warcraft.

Frozen_Feet
2015-02-10, 09:43 PM
Are they rounding up beggars and hobos or something?

Yes. This was as common trope as the PCs being (practical if not literal) beggars and hobos themselves.

But it should be noted that in high mortality games, especially at low levels, the distinction between PC and NPC is not that great. The best I can describe it is that players will have to assume similar mentality as the GM - not get too attached to any single character, and develop them more only if they survive and appear interesting. In case of a PC casualty, the typical solution was to nab hold of closest NPC henchman and continue playing.

To say this inhibits roleplaying or "building a narrative" is, to me, obviously false. It's the in-game equivalent of picking up and playing Samvise when Master Frodo is out for the count.

neonchameleon
2015-02-10, 09:52 PM
I need to ask...What kind of people are desperate enough to let themselves be hired by a group of first level advernturers? I've heard the need for hirelings at level one come up when discussing this playstyle, but a first level adventurer is basically a hapless, penniless buffoon desperately trying their luck somewhere insanely lethal...Where do they find somebody even less capable and even more desperate than them who is willing to sign up to be canon fodder and possible trap disposal for a smaller share of the loot? Are they rounding up beggars and hobos or something?

The same sort of people as are desperate enough to become first level adventurers but haven't quite got the initiative to put an adventuring party together yet. Hapless, penniless schlubs who think they can beat the odds - and in truth are barely distinguishable from first level fighters or rogues and are taking a slightly lower share of the risk because they get paid whatever happens. Oh, and war dogs. Don't forget the war dogs

johnbragg
2015-02-10, 09:56 PM
Games with little to no roleplaying, in other words. You can't have a meaningful narrative or character interaction in games where characters are created en-masse, a few minutes each at most, and die en-masse at well. I don't care much for such games.

I've had plenty of memorable characters in one-shots, where lethality is usually higher. Not to mention Paranoia, or Call of Cthulu.

Cikomyr
2015-02-10, 10:22 PM
The Fighter class.

The idea that some occupation can be entirely summed up as "I know how to hit stuff good".

Are you a Tournament Champion? A mercenary sellsword? a Bodyguard? a Master of Arms?

All of these social function necessitate a great deal of skills others than "hitting people", the sort of extra competences that can help flesh out a character's functions and roles in society. It helps distance oneself from the hateful "murderhobo" stereotype.

neonchameleon
2015-02-10, 11:06 PM
The Fighter class.

The idea that some occupation can be entirely summed up as "I know how to hit stuff good".

Are you a Tournament Champion? A mercenary sellsword? a Bodyguard? a Master of Arms?

All of these social function necessitate a great deal of skills others than "hitting people", the sort of extra competences that can help flesh out a character's functions and roles in society. It helps distance oneself from the hateful "murderhobo" stereotype.

The problem there isn't actually the Fighter class. It's the thief. In oD&D where you had Fighter/Wizard/Cleric there wasn't actually a problem. Introduce Supplement 1: Greyhawk in which an entire new class comes along and cuts hard into the Fighter's schtick (and wasn't the last to do so) and you have problems.

1337 b4k4
2015-02-10, 11:07 PM
But it should be noted that in high mortality games, especially at low levels, the distinction between PC and NPC is not that great. The best I can describe it is that players will have to assume similar mentality as the GM - not get too attached to any single character, and develop them more only if they survive and appear interesting. In case of a PC casualty, the typical solution was to nab hold of closest NPC henchman and continue playing.

To say this inhibits roleplaying or "building a narrative" is, to me, obviously false. It's the in-game equivalent of picking up and playing Samvise when Master Frodo is out for the count.

Very much this. One of my favorites from my table (even if it is something of a cliche) was a player who had a 3rd level fighter and a handful of men at arms adventuring with them. They had been through a few adventures and a handful of very close scraps and one of the henchmen had survived long enough and was well treated enough to have stuck around and even earned enough XP to take 1st level. And then, disaster struck. While in some dank hole with the enemy closing in, the fighter and the henchman stood side by side holding a narrow passage while the party retreated. A few well placed flaming flasks had temporarily cut off the enemy reinforcements and the fighter and henchman had whittled the immediate threat to two monsters.

Things were looking good, and then initiative for the round was thrown. A tie! The player rolls a hit, and enough damage to dispatch the first monster. The henchman goes, and it's the same, now all they have to do is survive the goblin turn. The first goblin rolls and it's a miss! One more and they're home free. The second goblin rolls and it's a 20, but this is early D&D so all it means is it's an auto success, all the Fighter needs to survive is for the monster to roll a 4 or less on the damage die. The die is cast, breaths are held, fingers are crossed and the result comes in.

For just a brief moment as victory seemed within reach, the Fighter dared to cast a grin to his stalwart and constant companion. But it is in these brief moments that fate is most cruel, and the grin turned to a grimace as the pain of a rusty dagger being thrust between armor spread through the fighter's side. A foul beast which moments earlier the Fighter had though slain managed one last gasping thrust and had stuck home. And as the last of his life drained from his body with his blood, the Fighter looked to his companion, raised his prized +1 sword in offering and weakly spoke: "Avenge me, and protect the party, I can go no further." The henchman grabbed the precious sword and fled to rejoin the party. And thus was born Clyde the Fighter, with a +1 sword handed down by his dearly departed friend, with a vendetta against the local goblin clan and a personal (and as blessed by the party cleric, holy) mission to return to that cave and retrieve the remains of his former comrade, so that a proper burial may be given and rest may be obtained for that soul.


The Fighter class.

The idea that some occupation can be entirely summed up as "I know how to hit stuff good".

Are you a Tournament Champion? A mercenary sellsword? a Bodyguard? a Master of Arms?

All of these social function necessitate a great deal of skills others than "hitting people", the sort of extra competences that can help flesh out a character's functions and roles in society. It helps distance oneself from the hateful "murderhobo" stereotype.

The Fighter class was a fine idea when the classes were limited to Fighter, Magic User and Cleric. Each had a specific niche (or in the case of the Cleric, was a combo class). Where things went wrong was when they started making other classes that did fighter things. The reality is, even with other spell casting classes, no one gets upset if the party wizard out fireballs the party sorcerer, but people get really annoyed when the fighter out damages the barbarian, or out sneaks the rogue and so on. The bad decision was less the Fighter class and more the decision not to retire that class when all of it's creamy nougat filling was drained and given to other classes, leaving an empty chocolate shell like last year's easter bunny.

Othniel
2015-02-11, 12:50 AM
I'm going to go with leveling up as well. This is probably personal taste on my part, but once I get past the initial thrill upon leveling up of "Oo, I get a new ability!" I get annoyed that I have to wait until higher levels to essentially play my class or archetype well. It's the same essential complaint I have about other games (MMOs, single-player RPGSs, whatever) where you have to wait until you're a higher level for all the fun abilities.

Agrippa
2015-02-11, 03:44 AM
I need to ask...What kind of people are desperate enough to let themselves be hired by a group of first level advernturers? I've heard the need for hirelings at level one come up when discussing this playstyle, but a first level adventurer is basically a hapless, penniless buffoon desperately trying their luck somewhere insanely lethal...Where do they find somebody even less capable and even more desperate than them who is willing to sign up to be canon fodder and possible trap disposal for a smaller share of the loot? Are they rounding up beggars and hobos or something?

Sounds about right. The kind of people who willingly go to work for 1st level PCs are typically the same sort of people who make up the Fluttering Horde.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-11, 04:38 AM
On topic, then, one design element that bothers me and which no one has brought up yet is uneven PC advancement. I have never, ever found that PCs being at different levels (or whatever the system's advancement rules are) enhances a game, it just leaves the lagging PC unable to fully contribute and the other PCs needing to protect hir.

I disagree.

One way of stimulating roleplaying is giving bonus XP for good roleplaying (or for good ideas, or for personal sidequests, or whatnot). It's not the only way, but it does work. The consequence of giving personal XP instead of group XP is that certain characters may level up earlier.

It's clearly not true that one character that is a level behind needs the other PCs to protect him; having different levels at the table happens all the time in LG/LFR/PFS and it's completely not a big deal.

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-11, 05:21 AM
He's optimized to do what he does.

He's optimised to do one thing very well, compared to two characters who do a variety of things well, and two who do several things very well (the ninja has ridiculous combat skills as well as stealth, and the godtank is also our academic). He's in a weird place of being so over optimised he's comparatively suboptimal.


No, it's just the easiest thing for everyone to make characters around. What are the other characters doing when you're talking your way in to a building? What are you doing while they're fighting? There are, of course, ways to have multiple things going on, and I encourage that, but it's often nice to have everyone more or less working on the same thing, and often that's going to be combat.

When I'm gaining us entrance? They are either refining the plan, or for the ninja is sneaking in to flank suspected threats. What am I doing in combat? Running for the closest piece of cover and occasionally taking potshots (and missing with 99% of them).

Also, my blue text was meant to be sarcastic. I'll make sure to mark it with giant letters saying "that was sarcasm" from now on THAT WAS SARCASM


Anyway, characters with high social skills occur in D&D, so the idea that combat is the most important thing is a drastic and uncharitable oversimplification.

The system is built around combat, compared to the one I'm currently playing which has very stripped back combat rules. This focus on combat (I believe that roughly 80% of class abilities [not spells] are combat orientated) means that social focused characters have to be good at either combat or avoiding combat, whereas other systems have less of a combat focus. Saying "you can play games without combat in D&D" is the same as saying "you can play sci-fi horror in D&D" in that it's completely true, but why do it when I can just pick up a better system for it. Although 5e may be better at non-combat stuff, I have no idea, I don't want to pay £90 for a system when I can get others for £40 and a single rulebook.

sakuuya
2015-02-11, 09:31 AM
The notion that a player has to "fully contribute" or be on par with the others in some fashion isn't a bad decision? That an unlucky, unskilled, or not-interested-in-power player has to be ostracized for it doesn't seem odd? :smallconfused:

I meant advancement, not power. I must not've explained myself clearly enough. Sorry.


I disagree.

One way of stimulating roleplaying is giving bonus XP for good roleplaying (or for good ideas, or for personal sidequests, or whatnot). It's not the only way, but it does work. The consequence of giving personal XP instead of group XP is that certain characters may level up earlier.

It's clearly not true that one character that is a level behind needs the other PCs to protect him; having different levels at the table happens all the time in LG/LFR/PFS and it's completely not a big deal.

Kurald's got what I mean, even if s/he disagrees.

Segev
2015-02-11, 09:38 AM
You're a fool if you don't - Everyone boxes, everyone, an extra attack each round, some stat boosts and some dodge perk - but extra attack. In a system that assumes 1 attack per round, its basically a superpower to get more and allows most any offensive action as an "attack". I guess the creator was a fan of boxing? Boxing wizards everywhere!

I have played admittedly few Paladium system games, though I've been in a Rifts game (using that system) for more than a year now. I have one quibble to bring up: I don't think it is fair to say the system assumes one attack per round.

"Melee rounds" or "melees" are 15 seconds, and one of the sins of the system is that the way it describes how actions are handled within a melee is opaque enough that every DM I've seen has a different way of doing it. The most common theme to the methods I have seen tends to be that you act in initiative order, once each, and then cycle around again while anybody still has actions (those who are out of actions don't get to act in a given cycle through initiative order).

I have never actually seen a character or enemy who had less than 3 attacks per melee. I won't say that's a hard and fast assumption of the system; Paladium is not fond of consistency and tends to give specific rules for each and every class and creature. Rhyme and reason can be conjectured, but not mathematically demonstrated.

The typical Rifts creature seems to be in the ballpark of 4-6 attacks per melee, from my experience.

And yes, Boxing is a god-skill for anybody who wants to be relevant during combat time; an extra action per melee is really that good. It's one more time you can defend yourself, or one more cycle through the initiative order each melee round that you get to be one of those acting.

Her husband put together an Excel spreadsheet to track combat actions. Each participant's number of attacks/melee is entered in, and the spreadsheet spaces them out as evenly as possible over the 15 seconds. She then treats each second as a "cycle," running down the initiative order for each combatant who has an action during that second.

With the spreadsheet, it's a pretty comprehensible way to run a complicated and ill-defined system. It spaces "extra" actions (over and above those of participants with fewer than you have) more evenly, so it's not having the high-action-count creatures getting progressively more actions in a row as the round progresses, but I certainly wouldn't call it 'simple,' and definitely wouldn't want to even try to run it without the spreadsheet's automating help. Calculations would take too long.

I have had a bee in my proverbial bonnet about trying to design a bidding-based initiative system for a while. It started with a desire to design something that gave everybody reason to pay attention during every action, because they might be acting next or even want to try to interrupt or override an action.

This (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OE8T5vt9W7TdG75f3EOvXcsz6QlLIgg-TdGAMaM9Foc/edit?usp=sharing) is the most satisfying (in theory) bidding system I've yet come up with, probably because it doesn't abandon the idea of rounds (whereas most of my efforts have tried to find ways to abandon rounds in favor of always-dynamic action possibilities...with poor results). It is for the Palladium system, and I'd love to try playing with it sometime, just to see if it works.

It retains the idea of melee rounds and attacks/melee, using both initiative points and attacks as a resource to manage. As long as you still have attacks left, you can keep bidding for priority to be the next person to act. If you're out of attacks, you're still out of attacks, of course, but you could use them all up early, or you could reserve them for when they're most critical relative to others' actions.

Telok
2015-02-11, 01:28 PM
Segev, the HERO system does something like what you describe is happening in your Rifts game. Each character has a Speed stat and the round is broken into phases (ten or twelve I think, it's been years) with a simple chart to tell you on which phases people with what Speed act. It's easy to use, stat -> chart -> action order. People generally have an equal number of phases between actions and the beginning and end of the round.

CarpeGuitarrem
2015-02-11, 01:47 PM
D&D 3rd Edition's symmetrical PC/NPC design and heavy focus on character builds. It's had a heavy influence on the design of a lot of RPGs that often winds up being a lot of bulk for little effect, to the point where players have hard times thinking outside of that paradigm.

Also, 3rd Edition's incredibly detailed level of combat microgame stuff. The action micro-economy has done a lot to make RPG play hard to get into and hyper-focused on killing things.

Hmm. I would also nominate the concept of an "[X]Master" in general, whether it be Dungeon Master, Game Master, or any other similar title. Games do benefit from someone who has more mastery of the rules who can be a facilitator and editor/producer, but calling that position a sort of "Master" implies a massive level of authority that has been adopted without thinking into a lot of modern games. It also leads to a lot of gamers-on-a-powertrip incidents. "I'm the DM, and this is my world and my story!" sort of stuff.

I would love to see Apocalypse World's concept of "facilitator as MC" take off more, because "MC" is the perfect analogy for what this role does when it's done well.

Yora
2015-02-11, 04:21 PM
Yeah. I think 3rd edition is really a quite special case for very rules heavy games, but unfortunately was by far the biggest game around for one and a half decades (counting Pathfinder) and gave lots of people the impression that this is the standard for RPGs in general.
The game most likely to be given a first look by interested people also happened to be one of the least suitable for new beginners. It's not necessarily that they made a design failure, but this rules system being released under this label had a massive effect on RPGs in general, one which I would consider negative in the long run.

PC/NPC symetry is nice, but only in games with simple rules. For a hyper complex game, it was a pretty dumb descision, though.

Shining Wrath
2015-02-11, 04:47 PM
The idea of "class". If you're going to have a Simulationist game at all, you will have a set of skills / capabilities / things a PC can do. There's no particular reason to pick a subset and say "You get to be good at these, not good at the others" and call it a class. Some sort of "being better at this costs N build points of your starting supply of X" would allow for a lot more creativity.

Yora
2015-02-11, 04:55 PM
Thank you, this reminds me of another one:

GNS

Stupid GNS. It's not even part of any game, but this thing that should never have been made public somehow managed to permanently establish itself in RPG discussions anywhere. Not sure if it actually did any harm to any game or playing group, but it added a lot of headache to all internet discussions. Almost as bad as alignment in this regard.

neonchameleon
2015-02-11, 05:04 PM
Thank you, this reminds me of another one:

GNS

Stupid GNS. It's not even part of any game, but this thing that should never have been made public somehow managed to permanently establish itself in RPG discussions anywhere. Not sure if it actually did any harm to any game or playing group, but it added a lot of headache to all internet discussions. Almost as bad as alignment in this regard.

Aggghhh!!!

GNS was an interesting idea and from its inner circle lead to two good results. The first was a rehabilitation of D&D among the disaffected White Wolf players it was made for (remember White Wolf talked about "Roleplaying not Roleplaying"), and the second was for the group in question to focus on what makes a story, leading to good games starting with My Life With Master and continuing through Fiasco.

On the other had it was a deeply flawed theory and is now rejected by all the initial proponents. It only really shambles on at places like here and ENWorld, far from the Forge where it was originally formulated. Its use as a map having been there but been exhausted years ago, but for some reason it is still taken as holy writ (largely because there is little theory of RPGs).

Talakeal
2015-02-11, 05:07 PM
The idea of "class". If you're going to have a Simulationist game at all, you will have a set of skills / capabilities / things a PC can do. There's no particular reason to pick a subset and say "You get to be good at these, not good at the others" and call it a class. Some sort of "being better at this costs N build points of your starting supply of X" would allow for a lot more creativity.

Agree 100 percent. But for some reason I meet a lot of people who love classes and wont play any RPG that doesnt have them. I suppose it does limit power gaming to some extent, but aside from that I cant see why.


Thank you, this reminds me of another one:

GNS

Stupid GNS. It's not even part of any game, but this thing that should never have been made public somehow managed to permanently establish itself in RPG discussions anywhere. Not sure if it actually did any harm to any game or playing group, but it added a lot of headache to all internet discussions. Almost as bad as alignment in this regard.

I actually find it very useful. With or without the terms the concepts still exist in games, and before I heard of these terms I would really struggle to voice a lot of criticisms or commentary on certain game mechanics. Discussing, say, 4E healing surges is a lot easier when you can call them an overly gamist mechanic.

mephnick
2015-02-11, 05:17 PM
D&D 3rd Edition's... heavy focus on character builds. It's had a heavy influence on the design of a lot of RPGs that often winds up being a lot of bulk for little effect, to the point where players have hard times thinking outside of that paradigm.

It's all over video games too. Any RPG, strategy game, MMO or Diablo-clone has thousands and thousands of pages on builds, stats and optimization. I'm sure this existed before 3.5, but not to the level it is today. I guess it kind of sprung up in conjunction with the popularity of internet forums though.

veti
2015-02-11, 05:27 PM
Class. As others have said, it's a clunky way of straitjacketing you into playing one of the game designer's preconceived stereotypes, and explicitly penalising you for deviating from it. Leading to the inevitable escalation where ever more classes get added, and people actually sit around planning character builds combining different classes, purely to escape this stupid limitation that should never have been there in the first place.

And it's been enormously far-reaching. Well over half of all the game systems I've seen enforce "class" in some meaningful way.

Hit points. I get it, it's a way of letting your heroes shrug off their wounds. But "shrugging off your wounds" is only necessary in a particular type of heroic fantasy, there are many genres - including other interpretations of "heroic fantasy", e.g. 'Lord of the Rings' - where heroes spend their time avoiding damage, not soaking it up. And yet the huge majority of games simply copy this half-baked, implausible, lazy-ass mechanic for measuring damage. Epic fail.

Segev
2015-02-11, 05:53 PM
It is noteworthy that most systems which try to move away from hit points fall into the trap of replacing them with "more realistic" "wounds" or similar. These "wounds" are often much fewer in number and explicitly represent losses of capability as the pain and damage to your body interferes with your actions.

This replaces the "unrealistic" hit points with an arguably-realistic but highly coarse-grained system that typically means combat is a fast spiral into death.


What hit points really are, as somebody recently put it in another thread, is a pacing mechanism. That is, they allow you to have drawn-out action with continuing meaningful consequences leading towards a conclusion whose outcome is in doubt.

Moreover, they're a means of allowing partial success and partial failure (going into the degrees of success discussion from before). Even though being hit or missed is a binary thing, the actual consequences of being hit are graded by the damage roll. Each hit is a partial success by the one hitting. When enough success has accumulated, the victor is determined (i.e., somebody's still alive, and somebody else isn't).

Recent iterations of D&D, amongst other games, have recharacterized "hit points" as not strictly the damage you soak. They also represent, supposedly, the ability to turn lethal blows into near misses. Their depletion is a degredation of your stamina, morale, and luck as a fight wears on and you narrowly miss more and more strikes.

One could reasonably argue this sounds more like something that accuracy should take away. Introducing a second set of points - dodge points, perhaps - that were whittled away by attack rolls as well as hit points or a "more realistic" wounds system that are represented by damage could be interesting.


Conversely, the abstraction of ability to function in combat to hit points could be used to create partial successes and more interesting skill challenges, as skill rolls whittle away at the obstacle's "hit points," while the obstacle whittles away at some equivalent gauge on the player's side.


So I wouldn't say hit points are a bad game design element. They can be applied poorly, but they do their job quite well.

Milo v3
2015-02-11, 06:15 PM
To those who are against classes, would you prefer there were only point buy's and rules-lite games? All non-class based games I've seen were point-buy or rules-lite or both.

DrDeth
2015-02-11, 06:45 PM
I would like to nominate XP for Killing. This tends to apply most to later D&D and it's derivatives but plenty of RPGs assign XP values to monsters and the natural inclination to the players (and the GM) is to translate this to XP received for killing it. This even carried over to CRPGs as the primary advancement system. Early D&D used XP for gold ...


Indeed you did get XP for gold, but you also got XP for killing. And it's even realistic, to a extent.

Beta Centauri
2015-02-11, 06:46 PM
To those who are against classes, would you prefer there were only point buy's and rules-lite games? All non-class based games I've seen were point-buy or rules-lite or both. Mongoose Traveller is definitely neither and it doesn't have classes. Or levels. It has careers, but those are cosmetic. Your character might have spent time in the Army and as a Scout, and might even have some benefits related to those, but the character is not a Soldier/Scout or anything. They're just a character with a load of skills that speak to a background in the military and space exploration - but another character could have the same skills and a completely different career path, or the same career path and completely different skills.

DrDeth
2015-02-11, 06:48 PM
Character Levels

Seriously. I know, I know, it's cool to go, "ooh, I got some new power today". But really, it's a mess.

If you want to play a powerful character? You don't get to do so. You have to wade through all the boring low powered stuff before you can become the character you wanted to play all along.

Well, two things: 1. Even without levels, experienced PC's have a huge edge over newbs in just about every game. Try playing a new Runequest PC vs a Runelord.

Even in games liek Champions, you get exp, and after 20+ games the experienced PC's are more powerful than the new ones.

And in PF you can always start at any level, given the campaign.

Earthwalker
2015-02-11, 07:01 PM
Flaws at character creation. Specifically to give you more build options. Be they build points or more feats or what ever the system uses. Look at the best flaws thread in the 3.5 forum. Its a list of flaws that have no effect on your character. Or that will never come up in game....

Flaws should effect the game. I don't mind flaws but make it so that they do nothing at all unless they come up in the game. So when you are playing if your flaw is activated you get the bonus for it.

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-11, 07:03 PM
Hmm. I would also nominate the concept of an "[X]Master" in general, whether it be Dungeon Master, Game Master, or any other similar title. Games do benefit from someone who has more mastery of the rules who can be a facilitator and editor/producer, but calling that position a sort of "Master" implies a massive level of authority that has been adopted without thinking into a lot of modern games. It also leads to a lot of gamers-on-a-powertrip incidents. "I'm the DM, and this is my world and my story!" sort of stuff.

I would love to see Apocalypse World's concept of "facilitator as MC" take off more, because "MC" is the perfect analogy for what this role does when it's done well.

I agree with this whole heartedly, but something that's always bugged me when people talk about AW is 'what is the meaning behind the term MC?'


To those who are against classes, would you prefer there were only point buy's and rules-lite games? All non-class based games I've seen were point-buy or rules-lite or both.

Point Buy all the way :smalltongue: I've yet to have a point buy system that I dislike. But I don't want to get rid of classed systems, as they can occasionally be very useful in presenting the world (I love Dark Heresy 1e because the strict classes serve to show just how regimented and defined the Imperium is, although I wouldn't want a generic science fiction game with classes as there is no benefit to them).

EDIT:

Flaws at character creation. Specifically to give you more build options. Be they build points or more feats or what ever the system uses. Look at the best flaws thread in the 3.5 forum. Its a list of flaws that have no effect on your character. Or that will never come up in game....

Flaws should effect the game. I don't mind flaws but make it so that they do nothing at all unless they come up in the game. So when you are playing if your flaw is activated you get the bonus for it.

YES YES YES YES YES. To this day I don't understand why games do this, and find that in a few of them flaws are almost required to get competent characters. I've always wondered why games don't use the '+1 hero/fate/moxie/drama point when the flaw comes up' model, make having at least 1 flaw required, and just throw players a few more points at character generation, is it really that bad that the guy with an addiction and anger problem is slightly more lucky than the squeaky clean character with no flaws? I'm not fond of having them give XP, from the idea that a 1 time penalty should not give a permanent bonus. Even restricting where the extra points can be spent isn't enough to balance them, because some flaws just won't come up, or aren't regarded by players as flaws ('I get free points for being a raging pyromaniac? Awesome!').

Kurald Galain
2015-02-11, 07:38 PM
Flaws at character creation.
Good point.

Another common but ill-conceived decision in RPGs is dexterity as god stat. In almost every game that has a dex score, it covers defense and init and ranged combat and some of the best skills. Some games even give more actions per round for high dexterity. Generally this means that this score is way better than any of the other stats, and straightforward min-maxing starts with putting everything you can into dex. And there are generally easy workarounds, such as having initiative rely on wisdom instead, or in Whitewolf games have the firearms skill work off perception.

Cikomyr
2015-02-11, 07:48 PM
At least with Dark Heresy's class system, you were not funneled into a single role archetype no matter what. There was plenty of variation within each classes, and accomodations were allowed to step outside of your class's designated skills or talents.

WFRP 2nd edition is, in my opinion, one of the strongest RPG around. Careers, no classes. It was a requirement to fit within a social requirement. You were never locked into a single role, it allowed horizontal development as well as specialization.

No "XP for killing". Lethal combat that was a bit complicated, but hardly rocket sciences.

Any massive design flaw in WFRP 2nd?

Jay R
2015-02-11, 07:57 PM
Challenge Ratings.

The number one, essential decision in survival is "fight-or-flight?" This is at the core of any real situation, and the essence of the suspense and tension of the game. The idea of a Challenge Rating takes that decision away, by substituting the notion that you should be able to beat, in a straight-up fight, any encounter you face.

Thousands of other little things grow out of this, like the idea that character death isn't a result of bad choices, or the entitlement of victories, or the absurd notion that your character should be automatically successful, independent of the choices made and the strategy employed.

It all goes back to the one anti-realistic, anti-gaming, anti-suspense idea that your character can expect to face something he is expected to defeat.

veti
2015-02-11, 08:43 PM
It is noteworthy that most systems which try to move away from hit points fall into the trap of replacing them with "more realistic" "wounds" or similar. These "wounds" are often much fewer in number and explicitly represent losses of capability as the pain and damage to your body interferes with your actions.

This replaces the "unrealistic" hit points with an arguably-realistic but highly coarse-grained system that typically means combat is a fast spiral into death.

As, probably, it should be. Most people spend most of their time going to, literally, any lengths necessary to avoid getting into fights. That's even true - especially true - of people like police officers and soldiers, whose job and training and equipment gives them significant advantages in any actual fight, and who actually know something about the subject: they'll still go to great lengths to avoid doing it.

Why? Because it's stupidly dangerous, even with those advantages.


Recent iterations of D&D, amongst other games, have recharacterized "hit points" as not strictly the damage you soak. They also represent, supposedly, the ability to turn lethal blows into near misses. Their depletion is a degredation of your stamina, morale, and luck as a fight wears on and you narrowly miss more and more strikes.

One could reasonably argue this sounds more like something that accuracy should take away. Introducing a second set of points - dodge points, perhaps - that were whittled away by attack rolls as well as hit points or a "more realistic" wounds system that are represented by damage could be interesting.

D&D has given that gloss since the beginning, and the "two sets of points" idea has been around almost as long. (The first time I saw it was with 'fatigue' and 'body' in Chivalry & Sorcery, 1977.) I quite like the Champions approach, with separate stats for Body, Stun and Endurance - it doesn't completely deal with the absurdity, but it does reduce it somewhat, and in that game there's no denying it's thematically appropriate to the genre.

But I think the more significant difference is between "hit points that increase significantly as you gain levels" and "hit points that stay constant, or at most increase very slowly, throughout the game". The former (D&D and most of its imitators) lead to all sorts of stupid, the latter (Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, Champions) tend to contain it.

Milo v3
2015-02-11, 08:45 PM
As, probably, it should be. Most people spend most of their time going to, literally, any lengths necessary to avoid getting into fights. That's even true - especially true - of people like police officers and soldiers, whose job and training and equipment gives them significant advantages in any actual fight, and who actually know something about the subject: they'll still go to great lengths to avoid doing it.

Why? Because it's stupidly dangerous, even with those advantages.
Why is that inherently better?

veti
2015-02-11, 08:54 PM
Why is that inherently better?

"Inherently"? I don't know about that.

What I do know is that the widely-imitated D&D approach makes for high-level characters striding about the land in the certain knowledge that they're, to all intents and purposes, immune to anything a significantly-lower-level character can do to them.

And I hate that. Partly for realism reasons, partly for the PC attitude it breeds, where low-level NPCs can safely be (at best) totally ignored, (more often) roundly abused.

Terraoblivion
2015-02-11, 09:01 PM
That sounds more like you're playing with *******s than a feature of the system.

goto124
2015-02-11, 09:02 PM
But isn't the whole point (fine, maybe not, but an often major one) of playing DnD to do a lot of combat, and precisely because it's unfeasible IRL?

Of course, personal preferencea yadda yadda.

If you don't like your players abusing low-level NPCs, why not just tell them? Or make those NPCs useful in other ways? What do you even mean by 'abuse'? Telling them should help a bit though.

Solaris
2015-02-11, 09:25 PM
I'm going to go with leveling up as well. This is probably personal taste on my part, but once I get past the initial thrill upon leveling up of "Oo, I get a new ability!" I get annoyed that I have to wait until higher levels to essentially play my class or archetype well. It's the same essential complaint I have about other games (MMOs, single-player RPGSs, whatever) where you have to wait until you're a higher level for all the fun abilities.

That's more a problem of the class design than the level-up system itself.
I've seen classes designed so that you get cool abilities useful to the role/archetype right from the get-go. It's not even difficult, much less not impossible; all the game designer has to do is get his head out of the "Hurr hurr make them work to not suck" mentality.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-11, 09:39 PM
I actually adhere to my own version of GNS theory...

For me gamist are the 'character sheet solitaire' guys and wargamers... stormwind or not, these guys focus more on numbers for fighting and fighting for numbers than anything else... Mathism as a priority. Optimizers and murderhobos... Gaming the system is almost 'more important' than playing the actual game. Gms who play escalation fu with the players in a death spiral of 'finding that sweet spot where the players both feel really powerful but still really challenged', which lasts until the players start to feel that the enemy's immunity to their attacks and the enemy's ability to target all of their weaknesses starts to feel contrived to a shark-jumping degree.

Narrativists are the setting and story types... the gms who must design entire worlds even when the players will never explore them or the player who cant make a character unless he knows what the mission or setting is before hand. Gms who value the setting or the story over player agency... Gm's that resist a player's attempt to make sweeping changes to their predesigned worlds and story arcs... Novelists posing as gms who get upset when the players dont play their role as expected. You must go down into the sewer or the game is over because thats what has to be done... or telling the player that only plays elves that your world has no elves... You know what your player likes but put something into your world design that precludes the very thing your player likes...

Simulationists/sandboxers... The plot (and sometimes even the setting) is created by the characters themselves. The gm's job is to simply play how the world reacts or is affected by the players' whims and desires. The adventure or challenge comes primarily from the consequences of the players choices. Games tend to fall apart only if the players themselves aren't imaginative enough to self motivate and are unsatisfied when the gm compensates by 'introducing a spanner in the works'. Or when the consequences of the players actions dig them a hole so deep its no longer fun to fight/figure their way out of.

Tricky part for me is that I have at least one of each of these at my current table... Makes it particularly challenging for them to all get on the same page...

Also the leveling problem. Another reason I still happily play the sdc palladium systems is that character generation gives you pretty much all of your abilities at first level, and leveling only makes them 'more powerful/successful'... some players hate gaining 15 levels without gaining any new abilities, but I'd way rather have all my variety of options up front than have a limited and sucky character with barely any options for months and months, only to let my neat tricks out of the bag just as the campaign is about to end... 17th level isnt when my campaigns should end... Its where my campaigns should really start to get going.

1337 b4k4
2015-02-11, 10:02 PM
Indeed you did get XP for gold, but you also got XP for killing. And it's even realistic, to a extent.

This is true, but the amount pales in comparison. For example, let's say that you're going up against a Large Black Dragon in RC D&D. This is a 10+3*** HD monster, saving as a level 21 fighter. This gives the dragon an Adjusted Hit Die (AHD) value of 26 (10 + 3/5 round up + 5 + 5 +5). To be a "challenging" fight for a standard party of 4, that gives us a required level of 10 for each player. Assuming you give the dragon spells to work with, it's worth a whopping 4,300 XP, divided by 4 (assuming no henchmen/retainers) gives a whopping 1075XP per player, or (for a thief, the fastest leveling class in the game) 0.2% of the total XP you need to advance to the next level.

By comparison, the same dragon has treasure type Hx2, I giving an average horde value of 127,500 GP not counting magic items. This creates massively different incentives for players compared to 3e and later D&D's XP model.


Mongoose Traveller is definitely neither and it doesn't have classes. Or levels. It has careers, but those are cosmetic. Your character might have spent time in the Army and as a Scout, and might even have some benefits related to those, but the character is not a Soldier/Scout or anything. They're just a character with a load of skills that speak to a background in the military and space exploration - but another character could have the same skills and a completely different career path, or the same career path and completely different skills.

I think this is largely a distinction without a difference. People have treated classes as straight jackets, but the game doesn't treat them that way and they're not in my experience any more restrictive than Traveller's careers are.

Arbane
2015-02-12, 01:02 AM
That's more a problem of the class design than the level-up system itself.
I've seen classes designed so that you get cool abilities useful to the role/archetype right from the get-go. It's not even difficult, much less not impossible; all the game designer has to do is get his head out of the "Hurr hurr make them work to not suck" mentality.

I'd say the 'EARN your fun' D&D zero-to-hero paradigm is one idea that could stand to die in a fire. (Yes, it has its place, but that place is not in every game.)


I think this is largely a distinction without a difference. People have treated classes as straight jackets, but the game doesn't treat them that way and they're not in my experience any more restrictive than Traveller's careers are.

Assuming "The Game" = "D&D", I'd say you're flat-out wrong. Your class defines your abilities pretty strongly. If you don't believe me, try making a fighter who can cast spells (or who's good at a multitude of skills), or a rogue who can wear heavy armor. (Yeah it CAN be done, but not by staying in class, usually.) And cue rules geeks who will pull out options from three dozen splatbooks to prove I'm wrong....

Yora
2015-02-12, 01:20 AM
Flaws at character creation. Specifically to give you more build options. Be they build points or more feats or what ever the system uses. Look at the best flaws thread in the 3.5 forum. Its a list of flaws that have no effect on your character. Or that will never come up in game....

Flaws should effect the game. I don't mind flaws but make it so that they do nothing at all unless they come up in the game. So when you are playing if your flaw is activated you get the bonus for it.

Atlantis has Flaws, but they don't do anything for you until you suffer from them. While those are flaws at character creation, they are not flaws in character creation, so not quite what you talked about.

Earthwalker
2015-02-12, 04:27 AM
Atlantis has Flaws, but they don't do anything for you until you suffer from them. While those are flaws at character creation, they are not flaws in character creation, so not quite what you talked about.

Yeah I am more than happy with Flaws that give you things back in game. Its just the systems that the benifit from flaws only is usful at character creation for more build points.

Next on my list.

Build Point Systems that have an advancement system with completely different costs than the build points. I am once again looking at shadowrun here.

Getting 5 in a skill at character creation costs 5 build points.
After game starts getting 5 in a skill costs the same as 15 build points.


Say you are making a character that has been around a while so must have picked up a few skills lets say your ideal would be

Pistol 5
Ettiquette (street) 5
Stealth 5
Athletics 2
Drive Car 2
Computer 2

You only have 15 build points to spend tho so what do you do. Lets compare two options.

First lets give the character some skills you think he must have developed getting by in the world. So you spend your points as

Pistol 3
Ettiquette (street) 3
Stealth 3
Athletics 2
Drive Car 2
computer 2

Second someone that understands Maths He gets

Pistol 5
Ettiquette (street) 5
Stealth 5

Now after the game begins they want to move to thier ideal.

The first guy is going to have to spend 27 BPs to get to the ideal.
The second guy only needs to spend 9.

It just annoys me that its so much better creating a character you imagine as 30 years old but has managed to live his life without learning how computers work or how to drive his own car.

Eldan
2015-02-12, 04:51 AM
Can I just say that I hate the entire concept of rewarding your players for "good roleplaying"? Be it getting more points for taking flaws, getting a +2 to a roll if it's especially important to your character's beliefs or worst of all, roleplaying XP.

First of all, "good roleplay" is highly subjective. But that's not the bad part.

The bad part is that, well, I really don't want to bribe my players into playing interesting characters. Or be bribed into it. I just want to play an interesting character. It's what I'm here to do. The entire concept of "Weep at this death scene for 200 XP" is so damn condescending. Like I can only behave like a good boy and properly play if I'm given some candy for it and otherwise would, heck, I don't even know. Stand around silently? I want my players to be engaged in the story and the characters, not mentally check of a series of boxes labelled "have motivation" and "show depth" so the can gain a mechanical advantage. If there are players out there, I wouldn't want them in my group.

NichG
2015-02-12, 05:15 AM
Narrativists are the setting and story types... the gms who must design entire worlds even when the players will never explore them or the player who cant make a character unless he knows what the mission or setting is before hand. Gms who value the setting or the story over player agency... Gm's that resist a player's attempt to make sweeping changes to their predesigned worlds and story arcs... Novelists posing as gms who get upset when the players dont play their role as expected. You must go down into the sewer or the game is over because thats what has to be done... or telling the player that only plays elves that your world has no elves... You know what your player likes but put something into your world design that precludes the very thing your player likes...

So what do you call a DM who builds a complex world and setting specifically with the intent that changing it or breaking it is the core puzzle of the campaign, and the major gameplay is the players trying to learn enough about the world so that they can figure out what things they can do that will break it in the direction they want?

Talakeal
2015-02-12, 05:17 AM
Yeah I am more than happy with Flaws that give you things back in game. Its just the systems that the benifit from flaws only is usful at character creation for more build points.

Next on my list.

Build Point Systems that have an advancement system with completely different costs than the build points. I am once again looking at shadowrun here.

Getting 5 in a skill at character creation costs 5 build points.
After game starts getting 5 in a skill costs the same as 15 build points.


Say you are making a character that has been around a while so must have picked up a few skills lets say your ideal would be

Pistol 5
Ettiquette (street) 5
Stealth 5
Athletics 2
Drive Car 2
Computer 2

You only have 15 build points to spend tho so what do you do. Lets compare two options.

First lets give the character some skills you think he must have developed getting by in the world. So you spend your points as

Pistol 3
Ettiquette (street) 3
Stealth 3
Athletics 2
Drive Car 2
computer 2

Second someone that understands Maths He gets

Pistol 5
Ettiquette (street) 5
Stealth 5

Now after the game begins they want to move to thier ideal.

The first guy is going to have to spend 27 BPs to get to the ideal.
The second guy only needs to spend 9.

It just annoys me that its so much better creating a character you imagine as 30 years old but has managed to live his life without learning how computers work or how to drive his own car.

Yeah, point buy games that use different mechanics for creation and advancement are 100% stupid. I hate playing WoD and looking at my character thinking "You know, if I had started with stats XW and Z rather than ABC I could have everything I have now with plenty of XP to spare. I wonder if anyone would notice if I retroactive went back and redid my build?"


On the subject of flaws; I like the idea of flaws that give you a reward whenever they come up rather than flat points at creation, but how does that work mechanically? Do you have to pay for them at creation like merits, can you only have so many, or can you have as many as you like but you MUST adhere to them when they come up?

Almarck
2015-02-12, 05:23 AM
Yeah, point buy games that use different mechanics for creation and advancement are 100% stupid. I hate playing WoD and looking at my character thinking "You know, if I had started with stats XW and Z rather than ABC I could have everything I have now with plenty of XP to spare. I wonder if anyone would notice if I retroactive went back and redid my build?"


On the subject of flaws; I like the idea of flaws that give you a reward whenever they come up rather than flat points at creation, but how does that work mechanically? Do you have to pay for them at creation like merits, can you only have so many, or can you have as many as you like but you MUST adhere to them when they come up?

You'll be happy to know that nwod's latest edition removed exponential exp price increases and made it so that buying the 5th dot in a thing on creation doesn't cost double. So you might say it's better in that regard.

Now you just pay whatever XP it costs for raising an item. And the cost always stays the same.

you can get the rules up sate for free on line in places legitimately. Look up God Machine Chronicle.

Regardless flaws are taken for free I believe and when they come up its mandatory. Otherwise they wouldn't be flaws.

Arbane
2015-02-12, 06:22 AM
On the subject of flaws; I like the idea of flaws that give you a reward whenever they come up rather than flat points at creation, but how does that work mechanically? Do you have to pay for them at creation like merits, can you only have so many, or can you have as many as you like but you MUST adhere to them when they come up?

Well, Legend of the Wulin lets you get one or two disadvantages for free at character generation, and every session where you're notably hindered by one, you get extra XP. You can also spend XP to buy more in play, as you accumulate enemies, curses, weird medical conditions, etc. But you don't have to.

FATE has Aspects, which can be good or bad. For example, if you have the aspect: "Stubborn as a mule", you can spend a fate point (luck) to get a bonus to avoid being persuaded or intimidated.... and the GM can give you a fate point to make you stick to a bad idea when your allies try to talk you out of it (but you can give the GM a fate point instead to say 'no thanks, I'll be sensible this time', and so on).

Earthwalker
2015-02-12, 06:31 AM
Yeah, point buy games that use different mechanics for creation and advancement are 100% stupid. I hate playing WoD and looking at my character thinking "You know, if I had started with stats XW and Z rather than ABC I could have everything I have now with plenty of XP to spare. I wonder if anyone would notice if I retroactive went back and redid my build?"
Glad I am not alone in this.

On the subject of flaws; I like the idea of flaws that give you a reward whenever they come up rather than flat points at creation, but how does that work mechanically? Do you have to pay for them at creation like merits, can you only have so many, or can you have as many as you like but you MUST adhere to them when they come up?
Well generally speaking you get them for free, they are flaws when they come up in game you might get bonus xp at the end of the session but you still have to live with the flaw. Some system limit the number you can take. Others donít but the flaws are so bad as a player you limit the amount you want to take. You want to add onto the character and have some new form of conflict.
Does my character crawl back into the bottle or push on and try to help his team mates?
Does the fact my character is branded a traitor effect the current negotiation ?
The flaws are to help define who your character is and what conflicts they have. They are not there to give you a bonus feat at first level and you hope they never come up

neonchameleon
2015-02-12, 06:31 AM
Flaws at character creation. Specifically to give you more build options. Be they build points or more feats or what ever the system uses. Look at the best flaws thread in the 3.5 forum. Its a list of flaws that have no effect on your character. Or that will never come up in game....

Flaws should effect the game. I don't mind flaws but make it so that they do nothing at all unless they come up in the game. So when you are playing if your flaw is activated you get the bonus for it.

Some flaws at character creation work (like lower stats) but yes. This is a general issue.


I agree with this whole heartedly, but something that's always bugged me when people talk about AW is 'what is the meaning behind the term MC?'

Master of Ceremonies. It's used in place of GM because it has completely different connotations as to the powers and responsibilities.


Point Buy all the way :smalltongue: I've yet to have a point buy system that I dislike. But I don't want to get rid of classed systems, as they can occasionally be very useful in presenting the world (I love Dark Heresy 1e because the strict classes serve to show just how regimented and defined the Imperium is, although I wouldn't want a generic science fiction game with classes as there is no benefit to them).

There absolutely is a benefit to classes, but very few classed games manage to demonstrate it. Classes work when different people interact with the world in a fundamentally different manner; a good example would be Apocalypse World with the Hardholder is as likely to dispatch a team of minions to handle something as they are to do it themselves.

Fundamentally (and one of the bits of genius in Gygax's/Arneson's design) a class based system allows each player at the table to be playing a very different game as part of the same overarching game. Between oD&D (1974) and Apocalypse World (2010) I can count on my fingers the number of games I'm aware of between the two I can think of that did this that were not direct derivatives of oD&D (either actual D&D or Fantasy Heartbreakers) and in cases like Shadowrun the Decker minigame was a problem.


YES YES YES YES YES. To this day I don't understand why games do this, and find that in a few of them flaws are almost required to get competent characters. I've always wondered why games don't use the '+1 hero/fate/moxie/drama point when the flaw comes up' model,

Because it's a newer model. I don't think that Karma points of the sort you mention trace back further than Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP) in 1984 and I can't think of such elegant use of abstract resources before Fate (2003) or nWoD (2004). Also the "Disassociated mechanics" lobby scream blue murder every time someone tries.


Challenge Ratings.

The number one, essential decision in survival is "fight-or-flight?" This is at the core of any real situation, and the essence of the suspense and tension of the game. The idea of a Challenge Rating takes that decision away, by substituting the notion that you should be able to beat, in a straight-up fight, any encounter you face.

Thousands of other little things grow out of this, like the idea that character death isn't a result of bad choices, or the entitlement of victories, or the absurd notion that your character should be automatically successful, independent of the choices made and the strategy employed.

It all goes back to the one anti-realistic, anti-gaming, anti-suspense idea that your character can expect to face something he is expected to defeat.

Challenge ratings are information, pure and simple. And contain the idea that you should emphatically not be able to straight up beat any opposition you fight. What they are is something to give the GM a good idea of how much chance you have. They were also present right the way back to oD&D where the monsters had levels.

Calling information and understanding how competent people are expected to be anti-realistic, anti-gaming, or anti-suspense is IMO just plain wrong. And the idea that a character can only expect to face things they can beat is directly against the guidance in any CR system. On the other hand it comes from a number of places including Dragonlance (with the Obscure Death Rule) and a number of people rioting because of the Rope in the bottom of the Forge of Fury.

Eldan
2015-02-12, 07:06 AM
To expand on the challenge rating stuff: the 3E DMG also explicitely says that the party shouldn't only face challenge of the perfect CR, but instead suggests a mixture of easy, challenging, hard and nearly impossible encounter.

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-12, 07:35 AM
Some flaws at character creation work (like lower stats) but yes. This is a general issue.

I think we're differentiating between "lack of capability" and "flaw" here. So having a strength of 6 isn't a "flaw", but a shaky hands trait would be. I agree with the actual meaning of your words though.


Master of Ceremonies. It's used in place of GM because it has completely different connotations as to the powers and responsibilities.

Definitely the better term :smallsmile:


There absolutely is a benefit to classes, but very few classed games manage to demonstrate it. Classes work when different people interact with the world in a fundamentally different manner; a good example would be Apocalypse World with the Hardholder is as likely to dispatch a team of minions to handle something as they are to do it themselves.

Fundamentally (and one of the bits of genius in Gygax's/Arneson's design) a class based system allows each player at the table to be playing a very different game as part of the same overarching game. Between oD&D (1974) and Apocalypse World (2010) I can count on my fingers the number of games I'm aware of between the two I can think of that did this that were not direct derivatives of oD&D (either actual D&D or Fantasy Heartbreakers) and in cases like Shadowrun the Decker minigame was a problem.

I'm aware of the advantages, I just have a preference for point buy.


Because it's a newer model. I don't think that Karma points of the sort you mention trace back further than Marvel Superheroes (FASERIP) in 1984 and I can't think of such elegant use of abstract resources before Fate (2003) or nWoD (2004). Also the "Disassociated mechanics" lobby scream blue murder every time someone tries.

It's such a shame though, they work together to make Fate Points a resource that you can realistically spend, instead of horde and then use them only against certain doom.

Ashtagon
2015-02-12, 07:41 AM
To expand on the challenge rating stuff: the 3E DMG also explicitely says that the party shouldn't only face challenge of the perfect CR, but instead suggests a mixture of easy, challenging, hard and nearly impossible encounter.

This. CR in itself wasn't a bad idea. But people ended up designing only encounters that matched the level-appropriate range, when the DMG intention was to use it to intentionally design varying difficulties quickly and easily.

It didn't really help though, that the early published adventures only really contained level-appropriate encounters. They kind of set the template for what to expect.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-12, 08:49 AM
Challenge Ratings.

The number one, essential decision in survival is "fight-or-flight?" This is at the core of any real situation, and the essence of the suspense and tension of the game. The idea of a Challenge Rating takes that decision away, by substituting the notion that you should be able to beat, in a straight-up fight, any encounter you face.

Thousands of other little things grow out of this, like the idea that character death isn't a result of bad choices, or the entitlement of victories, or the absurd notion that your character should be automatically successful, independent of the choices made and the strategy employed.

It all goes back to the one anti-realistic, anti-gaming, anti-suspense idea that your character can expect to face something he is expected to defeat.

Very good point. With the addendum that the bad decision is not so much the concept of challenge ratings, but the notion that a party should only face level-appropriate encounters.

That goes for non-combat encounters as well: I am not a fan of the notion that (e.g.) any lock the party comes across has a level-appropriate DC to match with the average lockpicking skill for that level.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-12, 08:53 AM
I think we're differentiating between "lack of capability" and "flaw" here. So having a strength of 6 isn't a "flaw", but a shaky hands trait would be. I agree with the actual meaning of your words though.


Snip

Best system/idea I saw for "Flaws" was Ars Magicas "story flaws" - if the benefited you somewhat, but generated storyteller options (Friend to Faeries - generally the Fae like you and you get some social bonuses, but they may call on you for help, use you as a contact, ask your advise in tricky politics), you got one point. If it hosed you and generated story (Plagued by Faeries, Titania thinks you're cute - this is not a good thing, kidnapping attempts, attacked by rivals for her affections, you dare not go into the woods alone or without iron on your person etc), you got 3 points. Points were GOOD. One was worth reviewing what you could spend it on. 3 could buy you a magic power, giant kin or similar impressive mods (well of course Titania granted me the power to curse my enemies with boils and lesions, she thinks I'm cute *shudder*).


Most merit/flaw systems are twink playgrounds. this one... still kinda was, but at least it was cool and focused on driving the game forward.

Telonius
2015-02-12, 09:41 AM
My nomination for most far-reaching bad decision in RPG design:

The failure to adequately playtest and quality control D&D 3.0.

That single, simple failure set the stage for a multitude of problems that came after. Some of the most obvious problems with the system (thinking of Druid in particular) might have been caught even before character creation. Others (wizards that do something other than throw fireballs, magical superiority, combat bogging down at high levels, feat and equipment options that almost literally no one would ever pick) could and should have been caught in gameplay. They obviously couldn't catch everything - that's what the Internet is for - but there are some things that frankly baffle me as to how they could have possibly slipped through QC.

The consequences cascaded past its own edition. Most obviously, 3.5 was a fix that tried (not all that successfully) to patch up some of the worst problems. Likewise for Pathfinder. It carried over to 4th edition. One of the defining characteristics of 4e is the absolute insistence on balance. (Not saying that's good or bad, just that it's a consequence) I think it's not too much of a stretch to say that's a direct response to 3.x's massive balance problems - problems that go back to the playtest.

sakuuya
2015-02-12, 09:50 AM
I think GURPS' flaws system has kinda the same problem people have been talking about for roleplaying XP, though it comes at that problem from the other direction: For a lot of mental flaws, you roll to resist, and if you roll high enough, then you get greedy or whatever. I can see why they formulated it that way (because if a flaw coming into effect was player-driven, some players would treat it as free points), but it's as unimmersive to me as acting sad in order to get XP.

Of course, GURPS' flaw system also has the problem that characters with 100 points of flaws are hilarious messes of people, but that's much easier to fix.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-12, 10:02 AM
Of course, GURPS' flaw system also has the problem that characters with 100 points of flaws are hilarious messes of people, but that's much easier to fix.

ya, but some of us are hilarious messes of people

sakuuya
2015-02-12, 10:35 AM
ya, but some of us are hilarious messes of people

Lemme guess: Bad smell (-10), enemy of a 1000 ninjas (-30), kleptomaniac (-15), lunatic (-10), megalomaniac (-10), one eye (-15), leaves clues like the Riddler (-10).

That sound like you? :smalltongue:

SimonMoon6
2015-02-12, 10:46 AM
What hit points really are, as somebody recently put it in another thread, is a pacing mechanism. That is, they allow you to have drawn-out action with continuing meaningful consequences leading towards a conclusion whose outcome is in doubt.

But there are times when that sort of slow pace is inappropriate.

How many times have we seen in fiction a story where the hero finds the villain, but the villain draw his weapon (gun, crossbow, whatever) and the hero is now at the villain's mercy because the villain has his weapon out first? Can that *ever* happen in a game with hit points?

"So what? He's gonna shoot me point blank with his rifle? That's what, d6 hp damage? I'll still have like 100 hit points left over!"

So, any kind of interesting drama is instantly lost in a hit point game. (At least in ones where you have lots of hit points unlike, say, Call of Cthulhu where the slightest scratch has you in the hospital for a week.)

Jay R
2015-02-12, 10:48 AM
Very good point. With the addendum that the bad decision is not so much the concept of challenge ratings, but the notion that a party should only face level-appropriate encounters.

Thank you. Yes, I accept the addendum wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, I find that notion in far too many players who started with E3+.

Two weeks ago, I was in an game in which two party members died. The three AD&D & original D&D players thanked the DM for an exciting game, while the players who started with 3.5E all complained about challenge rating.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-12, 10:53 AM
Lemme guess: Bad smell (-10), enemy of a 1000 ninjas (-30), kleptomaniac (-15), lunatic (-10), megalomaniac (-10), one eye (-15), leaves clues like the Riddler (-10).

That sound like you? :smalltongue:

bad sight (correctable), chronic injury (rare occurrence/bedridden - back issues), overconfidence, combat paralysis (I can throw a punch/block/dodge from a bit of kickboxing, but lock up when actually threatened, not sure if this flaw fits or something a bit lesser...), phobia heights (severe) , poor wealth level... probably a couple others...

Edit - forgot: dependents

sakuuya
2015-02-12, 10:54 AM
bad sight (correctable), chronic injury (rare occurrence/bedridden - back issues), overconfidence, combat paralysis (I can throw a punch/block/dodge from a bit of kickboxing, but lock up when actually threatened, not sure if this flaw fits or something a bit lesser...), phobia heights (severe) , poor wealth level... probably a couple others...

At least you get a ton of points back, though!

Knaight
2015-02-12, 10:54 AM
With flaws, there's the obvious question of what is incentivized. Systems where flaws have some sort of thing that rewards you when they come up (while also making life difficult) encourage choosing flaws that actually will come up and are relevant to the character. That is to say, they encourage interesting flaws. Systems where you just get more build points up front incentivize picking flaws that don't do anything, which is all sorts of boring.

Almarck
2015-02-12, 10:58 AM
I believe the way Flaws are set up in WoD was due to genre. It's a roleplaying incentive sure, but honestly, since the gamelines are all about horror in some form or fashion, the flaws are there so that Storytellers have weaknesses to capitalize on.

There's even mechanics in that game about how you can choose to skip rolling and take the worst result for just about anything in order to get bonus exp.

Segev
2015-02-12, 11:14 AM
"Inherently"? I don't know about that.

What I do know is that the widely-imitated D&D approach makes for high-level characters striding about the land in the certain knowledge that they're, to all intents and purposes, immune to anything a significantly-lower-level character can do to them.

And I hate that. Partly for realism reasons, partly for the PC attitude it breeds, where low-level NPCs can safely be (at best) totally ignored, (more often) roundly abused.You are free to hate that. Play a game with a more punishing death-spiral; they're out there. White Wolf, believe it or not, tends to have it, as long as you don't take powers that effectively negate the combat system (2e Exalted's perfect defenses, for instance).

Different games are designed to handle different styles of story. Which brings us to...


But there are times when that sort of slow pace is inappropriate.

How many times have we seen in fiction a story where the hero finds the villain, but the villain draw his weapon (gun, crossbow, whatever) and the hero is now at the villain's mercy because the villain has his weapon out first? Can that *ever* happen in a game with hit points?

"So what? He's gonna shoot me point blank with his rifle? That's what, d6 hp damage? I'll still have like 100 hit points left over!"

So, any kind of interesting drama is instantly lost in a hit point game.

Yes, this is true. If you want a high-drama, death-is-easy game, then you either don't want hit points in the sense that D&D uses them, or you want some sort of hit point-bypassing system to allow for execution moves under certain conditions.

This could be as easy as the GM saying, "Okay, there are times and ways to create narrative death threats. These should be fairly obvious; generally, if somebody has you menaced with a weapon, it's safe to assume that they are going to be able to do something crippling."

It could be as complicated as having specialized coup de grace rules for various levels of being unable to defend yourself.


It's worth noting that D&D is a high fantasy, high heroics game. If you're a high-level PC, that guy holding the crossbow on you isn't a threat because you ahve a lot of hp. But the conceit in D&D is, again, that hp are ability to turn lethal blows into lesser ones. The reason your high-level character is rolling his eyes at the crossbow-wielding guard, despite having no weapons out of his own and being plainly in the guard's sights, is because he's awesome enough that he can tilt his head to the side at the last second and have the bolt just scratch his cheek, or something similarly spectacular.

High level PCs in D&D are the kinds of characters that nobles who want to "take them in" have entire rooms full of crossbow-wielding guards aim at them...and the guards and the noble are nervous as heck when a single PC of this sort walks confidently forward, crossbows tracking his movement in dead silence.




As for "two kinds of points," yeah, I've seen systems where they have "hit points are your ability to brush off moral wounds by dodging or luck, while vitality are real damage to you." I was actually positing a system whereby the "dodge points" would be removed by the accuracy of the attack. The to-hit roll. Not by the damage roll. I'm not sure quite how I'd implement such a system, though.

It is noteworthy that systems which use the hp/vitality style of separation often do manage to maintain the threat of the bad guy holding a gun on the hero. The rules allow for ways to attack vitality directly - that is, to attack the "real damage" points and bypass the "in a fight, I can turn a lot of punishment into lesser injuries" points.

How those rules are structured can get, again, complicated. But they do exist. (I believe one d20 system that has vitality/hp allows critical hits to bypass the "I can turn it into a lesser wound" points and go straight for the "real" ones. And that you can guarantee a hit is a crit if you set up such situations as the "I have a sword held to your chest and you've not yet drawn a weapon" types of situations.)

neonchameleon
2015-02-12, 11:30 AM
This. CR in itself wasn't a bad idea. But people ended up designing only encounters that matched the level-appropriate range, when the DMG intention was to use it to intentionally design varying difficulties quickly and easily.

It didn't really help though, that the early published adventures only really contained level-appropriate encounters. They kind of set the template for what to expect.

That's just it. The Forge of Fury (the second of the published adventures for 3.0) had a much bigger range of the sort indicated in the DMG, and fan reaction was outrage when people hit the Roper (they didn't have to take on) and were TPK'd

Anonymouswizard
2015-02-12, 11:33 AM
With flaws, there's the obvious question of what is incentivized. Systems where flaws have some sort of thing that rewards you when they come up (while also making life difficult) encourage choosing flaws that actually will come up and are relevant to the character. That is to say, they encourage interesting flaws. Systems where you just get more build points up front incentivize picking flaws that don't do anything, which is all sorts of boring.

Or if they give build points up front, you'll find a character taking the highest level of addiction allowed, buy up several years worth of their drug of choice (they were a troll so only needed armour and a commlink), and then complain when the police raid your house because they suspect the several boxes of white powder may be drugs (as a note, everyone I've talked to about it said I did the right thing in making the flaw cone up). Compare this to the character I'm playing in a friend's game, who is hated by our employers.

Yora
2015-02-12, 11:34 AM
And took the completely wrong lesson from it. Instead of explaining why they did it, what the purpose is, and how GMs are supposed to treat it, they just stopped doing it.
Because D&D has always been terrible at explaining anything to GMs (http://angrydm.com/2014/09/dear-wotc-why-do-you-suck-at-selling-games/).

Segev
2015-02-12, 11:47 AM
One of the more interesting approaches to flaws I've seen is in Seventh Sea. It is a points-based system, and you pay points for your flaws.

When your flaws come up and hinder you, you gain bonus XP for the session.

So they're a way to ensure that trouble finds you, makes you plot-relevant on a session scale, and return character-building resources as an investment. But, IC, you still "pay" for those extra XP every time.



Another system for which I have no specific reference, but which I would find interesting, would be one wherein your flaws give you some sort of "power" resource when they come up. If, for instance, Hero Points are a system element that can be used for some general narrative-control purposes, and also to fuel some powers or abilities (actually, this sounds like M&M 3e, as I write it), flaws would be things which, when they come up, grant you hero points.

Perhaps even more player-empowering would be for players to be able to deliberately invoke their PCs' flaws, as long as the flaw could reasonably come up, in order to gain this resource for later.

M&M 3e shows us one of the potential pitfalls in implementation of this, however: most of the time, I've seen GMs invoke their ability to have "bad stuff" happen (in favor of the antagonists/against the PCs) by giving each player a Hero Point...and whatever the situation the GM created was, it takes multiple Hero Points from each PC to manage to get out of.

So whatever the flaws are, they have to generate "hero points" at least as fast as recovering from the problems they cause would cost them. And balancing THAT without going too far the other way (making flaws meaningless as anything but point-generators) is, itself, tricky.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-12, 12:05 PM
Snip
Another system for which I have no specific reference, but which I would find interesting, would be one wherein your flaws give you some sort of "power" resource when they come up. snip

Nobilis - flaws grant miracle points, the primary currency for "being awesome", as there are no dice flaws are the most reliable way to get your juice back - but only if they seriously hinder you (you can be blind all you'd like, but until being unable to see in some way pooches you it doesn't matter).

Segev
2015-02-12, 12:09 PM
I've always liked the theory of Nobilis, but in practice I've never seen MP actually make a difference in who "succeeds" in a contested action. The guy with the higher stat just spends enough MP to counteract whatever the guy with the lower stat tried to spend to overcome him. And now the guy with the higher stat has some MP left, while the guy with the lower stat doesn't.

Has anybody played in a game of Nobilis where this has worked such that spending MP actually made a difference in who "won" a contested action? If so, how did it work?

Almarck
2015-02-12, 12:31 PM
I think the thing I realize I dislike the most might well be Mage the Awakening's Flexibile magic system. While this in of itself is good and allows characters to be stronger, it's also one of those things that makes GMing or having control in a crossover game all that much harder.

Mostly, it comes down to the fact that a mage would really only never spend points in Arcana and Gnosis and never care about any attributes or skills as Rotes (investing points into getting specific spells using Attribute + Skill + Arcana instead of Gnosis Arcana) actually hurts you in the long run if you buy them. Which goes against the fluff that rotes are considered codified knowledge held to a certain order.

I believe the problem is getting resolved in the next edition.


The other thing in WoD that I dislike is the NWoD Werewolf Gift system. Just... the Werewolf gift system. Imagine playing a D&D spontaneous caster that gets to pick powers in a "list" format but scattering the spells so that it's possible to 9th level spells at 3rd level, having the 9th level spell that builds off of the the previous actually being a glorified cantrip, having the first level spell being gamebreaking to the point of crazy.. all within the same list. Then have each and ever spell rely not just on a different casting stat, but also have each different spell have different caster levels depending on how you built your characters. More specifically, you have 5 different caster levels that are dependant on other things. Most NWoD games do that, so it's not a problem, the problem is that the way the lists are set up you have to buy powers that are completely useless to you because they rely on different casting stats or find a way to skip them entirely. Buy powers out of order causes you to spend more exp.

I am so happy they're tossing it out entirely.

kaoskonfety
2015-02-12, 12:38 PM
I've always liked the theory of Nobilis, but in practice I've never seen MP actually make a difference in who "succeeds" in a contested action. The guy with the higher stat just spends enough MP to counteract whatever the guy with the lower stat tried to spend to overcome him. And now the guy with the higher stat has some MP left, while the guy with the lower stat doesn't.

Has anybody played in a game of Nobilis where this has worked such that spending MP actually made a difference in who "won" a contested action? If so, how did it work?

In practice I generally found it worked well. If someone out-stats you by more than 1 it is deeply not cost effective to confront them - by design, do not fight your superiors. So don't confront them, evade, confuse, yield or redefine victory (in some cases by literally redefining "victory"). Most standard NPC encounters in the games I ran/played in let you have your cookie and best them by exerting yourself and take it on the chin - now you are in a weaker position to stop them from doing their thing as you have both wronged them and weakened yourself. It's a game of politics and gods, not an inner city brawl.

One of the core ideas was "once Nobles are fighting, nobody wins" - you might not be able to beat them head on, but if they force it you can tap them nearly dry so anyone else *can* beat them. Spending MP was generally reserved for : saving the world and being awesome as hell. Most players who acted otherwise came up short on power FAST.

Was it perfect? No, show me something that is. But I'm sorry to report I did not see the issue you are reporting.

SimonMoon6
2015-02-12, 01:10 PM
Another bad decision: Dungeons.

(It may seem like I'm picking on D&D since almost everything famous and bad came from D&D; that's just because everything famous came from D&D.)

Because of dungeons, many people running RPGs of various kinds will consider dungeons to be "what an adventure is". Dungeons have an unfortunate tendency to take the story out of the adventure (oh, you found a dungeon. Now open doors, fight a monster, take treasure, rinse and repeat). I've know people who've been playing RPGs for nearly 30 years who still think dungeons are the epitome of RPG adventuring (though they might not know what the word "epitome" means). And the whole "return to the dungeon" (vomit, barf, barf, bleah) idea of 3.0 wasn't helping.

I've spend decades trying to keep adventures out of the boring old dungeons. I've constantly been trying to have innovative adventures and story structures. And people just want to return to the same old boring plot-less things? SMH

SimonMoon6
2015-02-12, 01:15 PM
Well, two things: 1. Even without levels, experienced PC's have a huge edge over newbs in just about every game. Try playing a new Runequest PC vs a Runelord.

Even in games liek Champions, you get exp, and after 20+ games the experienced PC's are more powerful than the new ones.

And in PF you can always start at any level, given the campaign.

I'm not against advancement in general, just the quantum leaps in power levels that happens in games with levels. I've played many superhero games and, generally speaking, the things that challenged you when you started will still be some sort of challenge to you later on. In D&D, that's just not the case. A goblin cave will be no challenge to a 10th level character, much less a 15th or 20th level character. But Dr. Doom will always be dangerous to your superhero (unless you started out so powerful that he was never a threat in the first place).

And, again, there's no point playing at, say, 18th level in PF or 3.x, since you "have to" stop in just a couple of levels, making for a very short game (since nobody wants to play epic levels) or you take away leveling which is effectively realizing that levels are bad (which is what I'm saying).

neonchameleon
2015-02-12, 01:36 PM
Another bad decision: Dungeons.

(It may seem like I'm picking on D&D since almost everything famous and bad came from D&D; that's just because everything famous came from D&D.)

And here, as with a lot of decisions made by oD&D, dungeons are a good one - easy to GM, easy to explore, fun to build, evocative. The bad decision was keeping dungeons in games (like Shadowrun and Traveller) that weren't set up around the dungeon.

Edit: The escalating power structure of levels wasn't as great pre-3.0 as it was in 3.X. The power curve wasn't nearly as steep in any edition outside 3.X. And pre-WotC D&D soft-caps at level 9 or 10 (depending on your class) which is a big part of what the getting a keep business is about. So it was intended as a 10 level game with characters doubling in power about every 3-4 levels, not a 20 level game with characters doubling in power every 2 levels.

sakuuya
2015-02-12, 01:55 PM
And here, as with a lot of decisions made by oD&D, dungeons are a good one - easy to GM, easy to explore, fun to build, evocative. The bad decision was keeping dungeons in games (like Shadowrun and Traveller) that weren't set up around the dungeon.

I'm with neonchameleon. Dungeons are especially nice for new GMs, because they act like adventure flowcharts. The party's movements are constrained to what the GM has prepared for without feeling too railroad-y (unless it's a strictly linear dungeon). In my experience, new GMs who try to run story-centric adventures tend to lay tracks to Railroad City more often than ones who try location-centric (i.e., dungeon) adventures.

CarpeGuitarrem
2015-02-12, 02:05 PM
I agree with this whole heartedly, but something that's always bugged me when people talk about AW is 'what is the meaning behind the term MC?'
"MC" is just short for "Master of Ceremonies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_ceremonies)", the person who manages an event where there's performers who do cool stuff. They introduce the talent, keep things moving, and make sure that everyone is entertained--but their #1 job is to make sure that the talent gets a spot to shine and to showcase their abilities.

In an RPG, the talent is the player characters, the protagonists of the story. You help them shine by putting them in difficult situations while still giving them the opportunity to be awesome through overcoming them.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-12, 02:27 PM
So what do you call a DM who builds a complex world and setting specifically with the intent that changing it or breaking it is the core puzzle of the campaign, and the major gameplay is the players trying to learn enough about the world so that they can figure out what things they can do that will break it in the direction they want?

That could be a simulationist. His top priority is on the players decisions and actions having an effect desirable to the players themselves. The setting is secondary to player agency. The qualifier is that the players have control over what the changes to the world end up being, or that if the players are not interested in the 'narrative of learning about the world in order to break it'... then the narrative of the campaign can change with the players' motivations. Maybe they dont want to change it. Maybe they just want to run it. Maybe they want to just do something else within the world without changing it...

I'd revert back to calling him a narrativist if the players decided they were not interested in 'learning about his world in order to break it' and they got all bothered by the players not having an interest in following the theme. Then his narrative 'learn about my world and care enough about breaking it to break it' takes precedence over player agency.

I'd also call him a narrativist if there is only one possible outcome for the players changing the world. If the 'change that can happen to the world by the player's actions' is [b]a single outcome that the gm has already planned as part of his narrative[b/], then the players never really had much agency in the first place. They were just along for the ride. Story time on the reading railroad.

Yora
2015-02-12, 02:43 PM
Here's a big AD&D screwup:

Releasing tournament modules made for convention one-shots along with regular adventure modules.

Tomb of Horrors? Lost Caverns? Hidden Shrine? These were never designed to be beatable without a huge amount of luck. The question was not if you could finish the dungeon, but how far you could get during the limited time of the adventure. There was a small note in the very front with the writing credits that mentions that it was originally a tournament module, but it seems lots of GMs thought these are something you can just drop into your regular long-running campaign where players have their old, highly-cherished characters. These are the modules with no story and few if any possible routes to take, and those who often have the PCs simply trapped inside the dungeon with no way to get out without fighting everything inside.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-12, 02:46 PM
I've run 'Castle Amber' more times than I can count and have yet to have anyone get more than halfway through it.

NichG
2015-02-12, 03:05 PM
That could be a simulationist. His top priority is on the players decisions and actions having an effect desirable to the players themselves. The setting is secondary to player agency. The qualifier is that the players have control over what the changes to the world end up being, or that if the players are not interested in the 'narrative of learning about the world in order to break it'... then the narrative of the campaign can change with the players' motivations. Maybe they dont want to change it. Maybe they just want to run it. Maybe they want to just do something else within the world without changing it...


Since beating around the bush is tedious, yes, I am describing the style behind my own campaigns here. In the case I described, the setting is the vehicle to player agency. If you decide not to learn about the world, it'd be comparable to deciding to pick random feats when building a 3.5ed character. But once you have learned about the world, that lets you do anything you want with that information, not just one specific thing.

For example, last campaign the gimmick was that things about your past that you don't know can be consciously 'determined' as a way to alter the timeline of the world. So e.g. a character who didn't know who his parents were could arrange to 'remember' his parents as noblemen, or inheritors of an artifact of power, or best buddies of the BBEG, or whatever. This was not stated explicitly, but rather had to be discovered by trial and error. If you choose not to engage in that, then, well, you don't get crazy timeline-altering powers. Someone who does engage with that is going to be able to run circles around your character in terms of fulfilling their own personal goals. But the specific goals are still up to the player.

Or previously, a campaign in which magic in the world existed as the blending between the laws of physics of two adjacent universes: one which literally had story-based physics, where the underlying unit of reality has some degree of intelligence and causes things to happen due to laws of narrative, and the other which was purely materialistic, deterministic, and extremely harsh - so much so that life couldn't exist there (but all manner of signals and energy sources could). So, players could choose to ignore those sources and just use magic as presented to them in the system, but players who investigated magic's origins could become orders of magnitude more powerful since they could e.g. import more of the storytale physics where it would be convenient, or import more of the materialistic physics to basically make magic stop working. But if you want to use that power to overthrow the government or take over the universe or start a boutique or march into fairytale and destroy the concept of death itself, thats up to you and the rest of the party.



I'd revert back to calling him a narrativist if the players decided they were not interested in 'learning about his world in order to break it' and they got all bothered by the players not having an interest in following the theme. Then his narrative 'learn about my world and care enough about breaking it to break it' takes precedence over player agency.

I'd also call him a narrativist if there is only one possible outcome for the players changing the world. If the 'change that can happen to the world by the player's actions' is [b]a single outcome that the gm has already planned as part of his narrative[b/], then the players never really had much agency in the first place. They were just along for the ride. Story time on the reading railroad.

I guess I just think it odd that you're automatically lumping all your negative descriptors into the 'narravist' portion of your theory. E.g. the other DM types you describe in terms of what they want to achieve or whatever, but with the narrativist DM type you're talking specifically about someone who is 'bothered by things' or someone who wants to force things their way. It sounds like what you want to say with 'narrativist' belongs to a different axis, which is more about flexibility, experience, and DM skill than it is any particular philosophy of the game.

E.g. there's no reason why you couldn't have a DM who is first and foremost interested with the story, its trappings, etc, but gives players agency through story-level abilities such as 'turn the target NPC into a villain' or 'describe an event that happens which causes a particular level of alteration of the storyline'. There are many systems built around that kind of conceit - Adventure! for example, explicitly has story-level dramatic editing mechanics for the PCs, and so presumably there are DMs who operate in that sort of game.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-12, 03:18 PM
I think your detection of my negative bias towards gamists and narrativists is accurate.

I essentially run like crazypants from any gm that's addicted to 'world building' or 'running modules' anymore. Its only my rewrite of the definition of GNS that lumps a simulationist into a group of folks who 'simply run the world reacting to the players, which defacto makes the players the engine of plot'. I'll admit my bias goes a bit overboard, but in my experience a gm that spends days nights weekends and holidays building cool stories and cool settings usually isnt the kinda guy who's ok with people running around with free will and mucking their stuff up in unexpected ways.

That's what makes them narrativists. The fact that they are more interested in the setting or the story than in the players and their contribution or indifference to it. I'm all for pretty worlds and gms who are good at 'painting the barmaid's toenails'... But only when it starts stepping on the toes of player agency do I call it Narrativist and consider it a 'bad thing'.

And of course while there's nothing wrong with gamist wargaming, murderhoboing, and optimization... Its kinda how I used to play when I was 9. Mostly this playstyle falls victim to the post montyhaul problem... Once you're the ultimate badass... What's next for your character really... and if your characters motivation is 'to find the next most powerful fight'... The gm is obligated to use his infinite fiat to either keep giving you harder and harder encounters until the meta conversation becomes blatant, or he's obligated to just sigh and sit back and watch the murder machine roll around uncontested until the players themselves learn to get tired/bored of it. One or the other happens 100 times out of 100 in my experience. Its a rare gm that can keep a game interesting when 99.9% of it is 'meet random creature/npc'... I KILL IT!... Moving on.. Meet random creature/npc number two...' I KILL IT!

If a player wants to optimize something, the only time I really appreciate it is when its a non combat skill... Optimizing combat doesnt take a lot of skill in my opinion. Especially with such easy access to the interwebs. And the fights are usually the most boring part of most games for me... If the most interesting thing you can say about your character is 'he's got twice the armor class of anything else in the printed materials'... Thats not really an 'interesting' guy to me, no matter how 'fun' he might be to play. And what I'm being told is that the thing the player likes best about his guy is something combat related... Which means there's a good chance he's going to want to get into a lot of combats so he can show off that fancy stat.

So the only option in gaming I truly enjoy is simulationist... Players choose their goals, gms choose the effect/consequences of the player's actions. The game is supposed to be about the player's in the first place. Have all the pretty embellishments and challenging combats you like... But if the characters want to ignore your embellishments and run away from all your fights... The story is mostly about player choices. In my experience those are the games that are the most successful, memorable, and last the longest. The players are great at telling a gm what kind of game they'd like to participate in. As a simulationist gm, my saddest days are when I have a table full of gamists. As a simulationist player my saddest days are when I'm in a group of gamists or when i'm trapped in a world where the 'really awesome setting' or really awesome story can't handle me playing the way I want to play my guy.

I'm more than happy to play with gm who has mad world building and detailed immersive settings and who has a good handle of how to create a plot from my choices. Just dont want his idea of how things should go be immune to my involvement in them. It would kind of be like saying the setting or the plot is 'just another horrible gmpc' that's unalterable, unassailable, unignorable.

Amphetryon
2015-02-12, 03:28 PM
Here's a big AD&D screwup:

Releasing tournament modules made for convention one-shots along with regular adventure modules.

Tomb of Horrors? Lost Caverns? Hidden Shrine? These were never designed to be beatable without a huge amount of luck. The question was not if you could finish the dungeon, but how far you could get during the limited time of the adventure. There was a small note in the very front with the writing credits that mentions that it was originally a tournament module, but it seems lots of GMs thought these are something you can just drop into your regular long-running campaign where players have their old, highly-cherished characters. These are the modules with no story and few if any possible routes to take, and those who often have the PCs simply trapped inside the dungeon with no way to get out without fighting everything inside.

If the Players - including the DM - had fun dropping those tournament adventures into long-running campaigns, is it still a 'big AD&D screwup'?

Almarck
2015-02-12, 04:01 PM
If the Players - including the DM - had fun dropping those tournament adventures into long-running campaigns, is it still a 'big AD&D screwup'?

Maybe not, but it might be called "liking things for unintended reasons".

VincentTakeda
2015-02-12, 04:07 PM
Not to say that simulationism cant have an 'evil side' as well though...

An evil simulationist might be the kind of guy who's so interested in things being 'realistic' that the game stops being fun... Nobody should be able to survive a fall from x feet... I'm rebuilding the world from the ground up because a world built with this kind of economy wouldnt happen... A world with this many magic items would inevitably be this and this kind of world... Or a player who uses the 'in the interest of realism what is published shouldn't be how a thing is resolved' kinda person... Like folks who argue that a guy couldnt use his initiative to run around a corner and disappear because their character is faster than the one who is running... Yes that might be realistic but if that's not how actions are distributed within the system... Them's the breaks.

Someone who's preconceived notion of how a thing would realistically play out gets in the way of the fact that you're playing a game with dragons and demons and superheroes....

So dont get me wrong... Its just that I see less bad simulationists than I see bad gamists and bad narrativists. Personal experience is all that is. Perspective bias. I has it.

Segev
2015-02-12, 04:24 PM
I generally find it better to accept that a presented setting is what it is...and change underlying things in the background to explain WHY, if I don't think it's believable with both the presentation and background assumptions.

Done right, this may not even come up unless the players' characters realize that this shouldn't work the way it does, and try to figure out what's going on.

Yora
2015-02-12, 04:25 PM
If the Players - including the DM - had fun dropping those tournament adventures into long-running campaigns, is it still a 'big AD&D screwup'?

That question could be asked about everything in this threat. That it sometimes worked doesn't negate the problems it caused. It's not that these modules are badly made or that they should not have been released to the public. But the way this was handled created all kinds of bizare notions about how D&D is normally played. Now the "go down this corridor and kill everything in your path, and no, you can not go back and do something else" has become the standard for adventures.

Amphetryon
2015-02-12, 04:39 PM
That question could be asked about everything in this threat. That it sometimes worked doesn't negate the problems it caused. It's not that these modules are badly made or that they should not have been released to the public. But the way this was handled created all kinds of bizare notions about how D&D is normally played. Now the "go down this corridor and kill everything in your path, and no, you can not go back and do something else" has become the standard for adventures.

Given that I've already seen personal opinion dismissed as 'demonstrably untrue' in this thread, I'm simply trying to determine which of these decisions are, in fact, not 'demonstrably untrue.'

Segev
2015-02-12, 04:46 PM
Given that I've already seen personal opinion dismissed as 'demonstrably untrue' in this thread, I'm simply trying to determine which of these decisions are, in fact, not 'demonstrably untrue.'

As I am the only one that I know of who's used the words "demonstrably untrue," I can also with authority say that I was not calling personal opinion such. I was calling a statement of fact which was demonstrably untrue.

Specifically, it is factually true or false that something was done out of laziness or uncreativity. It is possible to have a belief about whether this is true or not, but not an opinion. Opinions cannot be right or wrong. Beliefs can. (For instance, if I believe that Amphetryon is a kind of purple semi-precious gem, I am wrong; that's amethyst. I don't believe Amphetryon, the poster, is made of purple stone; I could be wrong, but I would be very surprised if I were.)

When one can demonstrate that effort was put towards something, then deliberately discarded after deliberation, one can prove that the "something" was not left undone due to laziness. When the options that would have been used if that "something" were to be done are laid out, it is proven that a lack of creativity did not lead to a failure to come up with options.

Therefore, the claim that "level" was left overloaded in D&D because of laziness and uncreativity can be demonstrated to be false.

One can continue to believe that claim to be true, but that belief is demonstrably and demonstrated to be wrong. It is also not an opinion.

the OOD
2015-02-12, 04:54 PM
And took the completely wrong lesson from it. Instead of explaining why they did it, what the purpose is, and how GMs are supposed to treat it, they just stopped doing it.
Because D&D has always been terrible at explaining anything to GMs (http://angrydm.com/2014/09/dear-wotc-why-do-you-suck-at-selling-games/).


the practice of giving 1 page of general GM advice at the start of a rulebook, and several chapters of system-specific mechanical minutia for GMs. are we trying to make things hard on the kid who picked up a few rulebooks to DM for some friends? a bad/ill-equiped DM kills a game like nothing else in the hobby, and there is almost zero effort made to educate and prepare new GMs. some may be lucky enough to get invited to a group with a good GM, but it took me about 2 years before I found a good GM(once one person is a good GM, it seems to spread to the rest of the group, witch is good).


[EDIT] I have before me a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition Dungons Master's Guide. a $34.95, 222-page book providing "a wealth of advice to new and experienced dungeon masters".
the book dedicates 17 pages to GMing fundamentals(counting some of debatable value), 112 pages of system-specific mechanical details such as encounter levels, 25-ish pages on what a campaign is and basic types, 38-ish pages on worldbuilding and a premade town and and adventure.
we can do better. 17 pages of a 222-page book about GMing is pathetic.

(numbers come from a quick skim, may not be fully precise. sample was taken from the closest GMing-reladed book to my desk, witch happened to be this one)
high five!
o/

yeah, the shoddy starter kits and guides are all oriented to someone who is familiar with RPGs, or has at least played before. I know more than a few folks who have garbed a starter kit and some friends, jumped right in, didn't have fun, and never came back.:smallfrown:

Segev
2015-02-12, 05:04 PM
yeah, the shoddy starter kits and guides are all oriented to someone who is familiar with RPGs, or has at least played before.

Which is ironic, because nearly every gaming "core" book for a system has a "what is role-playing?" blurb.

Arbane
2015-02-12, 05:10 PM
To expand on the challenge rating stuff: the 3E DMG also explicitely says that the party shouldn't only face challenge of the perfect CR, but instead suggests a mixture of easy, challenging, hard and nearly impossible encounter.

The problem with that is that in 3rd ed, anything you can't beat you probably can't outrun, either.


Not to say that simulationism cant have an 'evil side' as well though...

An evil simulationist might be the kind of guy who's so interested in things being 'realistic' that the game stops being fun... Nobody should be able to survive a fall from x feet... I'm rebuilding the world from the ground up because a world built with this kind of economy wouldnt happen... A world with this many magic items would inevitably be this and this kind of world... Or a player who uses the 'in the interest of realism what is published shouldn't be how a thing is resolved' kinda person... Like folks who argue that a guy couldnt use his initiative to run around a corner and disappear because their character is faster than the one who is running... Yes that might be realistic but if that's not how actions are distributed within the system... Them's the breaks.

Someone who's preconceived notion of how a thing would realistically play out gets in the way of the fact that you're playing a game with dragons and demons and superheroes....

So dont get me wrong... Its just that I see less bad simulationists than I see bad gamists and bad narrativists. Personal experience is all that is. Perspective bias. I has it.

This is part of the reason that D&D3 has such a bad case of Caster Supremacy - because every time anyone suggests some Nice Thing for the Fighter, a large faction of the players complains 'that's not REALISTIC!'. (Meanwhile, the Wizard is still floating in midair firing lightning-bolts from their fingertips at the fire-breathing dragon and nobody complains about that BECAUSE MAGIC.)

Yora
2015-02-12, 05:12 PM
And it's almost always the same usless stuff. It only shows how to roll the dice and get a result. But that covers perhaps 5 to 10 minutes of play and doesn't help at all with preparing scenarios, playing NPCs, and so on.

There are a few games that do try to help total noobs with these things. Fate being one that does a really good effort. But you never get anything even remotely like what Alexandrian and Angry DM wrote for their website and give away for free, simply out of kindness to new and bad GMs.

Kurald Galain
2015-02-12, 05:23 PM
Which is ironic, because nearly every gaming "core" book for a system has a "what is role-playing?" blurb.

A blurb is only lip service. What it needs is a whole chapter aimed at novice players.

Segev
2015-02-12, 05:28 PM
A blurb is only lip service. What it needs is a whole chapter aimed at novice players.

Agreed. My point was mostly that they give the same dry, usually hillariously innacurately idealistic notion of what an RPG session looks like, explain stuff that anybody who can read the rest of the book easily already knows, and then moves on to skip from "1+1=2" to "limit theroem" in the span of a page.

veti
2015-02-12, 05:54 PM
The problem with that is that in 3rd ed, anything you can't beat you probably can't outrun, either.

That's only a problem if it decides to spend its valuable time chasing you.

Talakeal
2015-02-12, 05:59 PM
I actually adhere to my own version of GNS theory...

For me gamist are the 'character sheet solitaire' guys and wargamers... stormwind or not, these guys focus more on numbers for fighting and fighting for numbers than anything else... Mathism as a priority. Optimizers and murderhobos... Gaming the system is almost 'more important' than playing the actual game. Gms who play escalation fu with the players in a death spiral of 'finding that sweet spot where the players both feel really powerful but still really challenged', which lasts until the players start to feel that the enemy's immunity to their attacks and the enemy's ability to target all of their weaknesses starts to feel contrived to a shark-jumping degree.

Narrativists are the setting and story types... the gms who must design entire worlds even when the players will never explore them or the player who cant make a character unless he knows what the mission or setting is before hand. Gms who value the setting or the story over player agency... Gm's that resist a player's attempt to make sweeping changes to their predesigned worlds and story arcs... Novelists posing as gms who get upset when the players dont play their role as expected. You must go down into the sewer or the game is over because thats what has to be done... or telling the player that only plays elves that your world has no elves... You know what your player likes but put something into your world design that precludes the very thing your player likes...

Simulationists/sandboxers... The plot (and sometimes even the setting) is created by the characters themselves. The gm's job is to simply play how the world reacts or is affected by the players' whims and desires. The adventure or challenge comes primarily from the consequences of the players choices. Games tend to fall apart only if the players themselves aren't imaginative enough to self motivate and are unsatisfied when the gm compensates by 'introducing a spanner in the works'. Or when the consequences of the players actions dig them a hole so deep its no longer fun to fight/figure their way out of.

Tricky part for me is that I have at least one of each of these at my current table... Makes it particularly challenging for them to all get on the same page...

Also the leveling problem. Another reason I still happily play the sdc palladium systems is that character generation gives you pretty much all of your abilities at first level, and leveling only makes them 'more powerful/successful'... some players hate gaining 15 levels without gaining any new abilities, but I'd way rather have all my variety of options up front than have a limited and sucky character with barely any options for months and months, only to let my neat tricks out of the bag just as the campaign is about to end... 17th level isnt when my campaigns should end... Its where my campaigns should really start to get going.

Its funny, this is almost exactly the opposite of how I normally here it being used. Going by this description I would probably be a narrativist, but using standard GNS theory that is my least favorite style of game. Still, kudos for redefining it in a manner that maps up to the most common forms of obnoxious player.

Solaris
2015-02-12, 07:04 PM
Another bad decision: Dungeons.

(It may seem like I'm picking on D&D since almost everything famous and bad came from D&D; that's just because everything famous came from D&D.)

Because of dungeons, many people running RPGs of various kinds will consider dungeons to be "what an adventure is". Dungeons have an unfortunate tendency to take the story out of the adventure (oh, you found a dungeon. Now open doors, fight a monster, take treasure, rinse and repeat). I've know people who've been playing RPGs for nearly 30 years who still think dungeons are the epitome of RPG adventuring (though they might not know what the word "epitome" means). And the whole "return to the dungeon" (vomit, barf, barf, bleah) idea of 3.0 wasn't helping.

I've spend decades trying to keep adventures out of the boring old dungeons. I've constantly been trying to have innovative adventures and story structures. And people just want to return to the same old boring plot-less things? SMH

This sounds a lot like "Dungeons are badwrongfun" to me. While you may like games that aren't dungeon-crawls and have a lot of RP, other players may prefer something that doesn't require a lot of emotional investment.

If they prefer the kick-in-the-door style games, what's wrong with that? It's no less valid a way of enjoying pretending to be elves and wizards than deep-immersion roleplaying.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-12, 10:08 PM
I will admit with 3.0 and its successors bringing back battlemats and battlemat mechanics, while it has 'revitalized the gaming community'... The way it has done that is by bringing back a lot of the gamists who gave up on the industry when it went from 1e to 2e. A lot of people found their particular gm's theater of the mind to be too different and/or too nebulous to enjoy. There apparently were a lot of 2e gm's that used their 'mastery of the no' to ill effect.

I agree that when you leave every rule to the gm's whim that such a system is bound to fail if you disagree with how that whim turns out, which is veeeeery easy to do if you are a gamist. Unmet expectations can become serious not-fun when its ad nauseum ad infinitum. When you leave a lot of how the game functions up to one man's definition of imaginationland, the game really only works well if his vision of imaginationland functions at least very similarly to the expectations of his players.

Sure the rules heavy 3.x versions were designed to reduce the number of arguments about how a thing should work, but at the end of the day 3.x still lets gms choose the dc value of the skillcheck and still lets gms choose the difficulty of the encounters, and still lets the gm fiat anything that's poorly worded, and still lets the gm fiat anything that's not been written. Despite its efforts, theres a lot more places to disagree than to agree, so having a gm and players that are able to resolve their differences amicably is still a higher priority than what's printed.

Me personally I'll still vote 2e over its successors 10 times out of 10.

goto124
2015-02-13, 04:45 AM
the game really only works well if his vision of imaginationland functions at least very similarly to the expectations of his players.

*clap* Nicely said,

Yora
2015-02-13, 05:09 AM
I think Dungeon Crawling should not be considered bad design. Because it was there before roleplaying. Roleplaying grew out of dungeon crawling, which started as a special version of military tactical wargames.
You can decide to completely leave this style of playing behind, and there's lots of good reasons to do so, but you can't really blame the earliest GMs for using them as the default.

Amphetryon
2015-02-13, 06:29 AM
Sure the rules heavy 3.x versions were designed to reduce the number of arguments about how a thing should work, but at the end of the day 3.x still lets gms choose the dc value of the skillcheck and still lets gms choose the difficulty of the encounters, and still lets the gm fiat anything that's poorly worded, and still lets the gm fiat anything that's not been written. Despite its efforts, theres a lot more places to disagree than to agree, so having a gm and players that are able to resolve their differences amicably is still a higher priority than what's printed.

Me personally I'll still vote 2e over its successors 10 times out of 10.

Having played 2e for many years, it was my experience that every complaint levied against 3.X in the above paragraph applied to 2e, as well, merely replacing 3.X's verbiage with that appropriate to the 2e system. If you find 2e to be more your cuppa, great, more power to you, and congratulations on having fun, but DM fiat and encounter design are hardly new functions of the 3.X system.

mephnick
2015-02-13, 10:36 AM
Maybe I misread it, but I think he's more saying that pages of legalistic rules never stopped arguments, or prevented the DM from making DC's up on the spot anyway. Proponents of rules-heavy systems always argue that 3.5's strict rules prevented these things. After 20 years of playing I never noticed a difference between 2e, 3.5, 5e, etc in this capacity. People will always argue over rules or lack of rules and DM's will always make up DC's on the fly if they don't want to murder their own gaming session, so you might as well have more vague rules in the first place.

VincentTakeda
2015-02-13, 11:07 AM
Precisely.

A player who's expectations are unmet will always shake the boat...
The more rules you have, the more expectations of how a rule should work occur...
This in fact increases the odds that an unmet expectation happens...
Doesnt matter if you then label it a houserule.
In 2e you created something in the moment and it was supposed to be up to the table to decide if that adjucation seemed fair.
In the moments where your table disagreed with you, you could either keep working on it until you found something that worked for your table or you were called a bad gm for summoning rule zero to your defense.
In 3e you have way more of those decisions as printed material, some of them poorly written so as to be fungible as a course of verbiage, so fundamentally completely unhelpful...
Your interpretation, when it doesn't match theirs, creates an even more fervent rift than before because they feel they have published words to back them up, and so do you for the same reasons...
And heaven forbid something is written clearly enough to not be left up to interpretation, but you don't like how its written and houserule it... Prepare for war.
In my experience, only PFS society play takes away the gm's ability to set DCs, or create random encounters where he chooses the CR of the encounters on his own. Or treasure values... The only freedom he has is in the embellishment and fluff. He almost might as well be a computer.

So a rules heavy system both increases the odds of a disagreement and at the same time increases the fervor and indignance of the opponents. Neither of those is particularly good 'for the hobby' if what that means is every table spends more time passionately disagreeing with each other.

I simply prefer a system that handles the basics and leaves the funk to my table, without giving anyone (player or gm) poorly written ammo for the gray areas. See what happened with rolling attributes. In becmi there was only one way... Roll 3d6. In order. Play them as they lie... A decade later we see 6 or 7 different methods for rolling attributes... 4d6 drop lowest, put them where you want them... Point buy... Many alternatives, none of them stamped in stone... They are simply suggestions for a few ways to handle it. A book purposefully written vaguely is tacitly saying 'figure out as a table how you'd like this to go'... It wants you to figure out how to make the game work well with your own personal group. Its giving you freedom to create your own game. Steer your own ship. Each ruling should be going where your players feel is where they want to go. Players know best what 'feels like fun' to them.

Some people on the other hand really really don't enjoy playing a game on nebulous terms... Either because they disagree with the gm a LOT, or they don't want to ever have to stop the game to sort out an unprinted rule. A PFS society player for example would hate this freedom because they hate unmet expectations. If every rule adjucation is stamped in stone, no surprises. No unmet expectations.

If, however, I disagree with PFS's choices on how a rule is adjucated, i'm not free to change it and still be a part of society play. I thus PREFER to play non society games because my group gets a greater and more satisfying variety of gaming experiences working stuff out between ourselves.

Richard Bach said 'you don't want answers. You want questions. Questions are like diamonds... They will be different every time you look at them depending on where you are and what time it is and what angle you look at them and what angle you hold them.' If all you have is an answer, sometimes that answer doesnt work in the moment... But if in each moment you instead have the question... "how would this work best in this particular moment at this particular table with these particular people..." the answer may be different, but it will be a better answer for that table for those poeple for that moment every single time.

Even for PFS society play. PFS society players simply answer the question 'how would this work best' the same way every time... The way some dude 3000 miles away who isn't at our table says it does. It might eliminate the possibility of disagreements at the table completely, which is seen as 'great for the hobby'... But its 'nice' like the 'Giver' or 'Pleasantville'... It has no soul. Something is missing. A diamond doesnt always sparkle just in black and white. Its the 'south park christmas play, by Phillip Glass' where all the kids are spinning around droning in monotone 'happy happy happy happy we are very happy'... Remember that time when all of our gaming experiences were exactly the same as everyone else's? Man that was awesome!

I'm not happy with that answer personally. Moment to moment I find that diamond to be pretty inadequate for my purposes, at my table, with my people. Everything might run more smoothly, but at the expense of improvisational awesome from moment to moment. You've 'neutered gaming'... Removed, dare I say it... the sense of 'adventure' from an 'adventure game'. Some people are only comfortable in a world of black and white and gray. I just don't choose to play in pleasantville personally...

Gaming is a big enough hobby for both types though and I do think that rules heavy systems are an important. mmmm.. stage in a gamer's development... But to me they're kind of the kiddie pool of gaming. Sure you're getting wet, but I don't quite call it 'swimming'. You can safely develop some good swimming skills there though. Learn to hold your breath and how long you can... and bravely get your head under the water. Learn to come up for air when you need it... You're learning what rules do, and when we need them why do we need them... Do they accomplish what we set them out to accomplish and do they create other unforseen problems at the same time? You start to learn the 'nature' of rules... That's a valuable thing...

The opposition would say that the less rules you have the more you're playing a game of calvinball or imaginationland, which is what kids do... And I wouldnt disagree with them... When I play... I want to play like a kid does. It doesnt always 'make sense'... But I enjoy it more. HISHE and Cinema Sins do show us how the movies 'don't make sense'... And they're funny for pointing out the difference between the movie we got and the movie that would make sense... But I'd argue 10 times out of 10 that the movie we got is a better movie than the one that made sense.

Real life and satisfying gaming to me are rarely so sensible and safe and absolute. I think thats a good lesson that gaming can teach a player. Richard Bach also said 'In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It's not always an easy sacrifice.'

Yora
2015-02-13, 11:51 AM
The rules of D&D 3rd edition are not written for roleplaying. It's something that is assumed to happen at the side, while the rules themselves are optimized for their utility as a (competitive) tactical wargame.
For a very long time I was of the oppinion that the while idea of rules for roleplaying is nonsense to begin with, and that the rules should only cover combat. But the last couple of years I've seen quite a number of games that are build on rather different frameworks and have actual incentives built into the rules that steer players to complex social interactions and "getting into character" in combat. For example, in the game I am currently learning, players get additional XP for playing naked and can get huge bonuses to some dice rolls by cursing the gods for having put them in such a hopeless situation. There is no rule for what happens in exchange for getting this bonus, it just says that the GM should take a note and think how the gods will get their revenge for this insult later, on a scale appropriate to the transgression. It's not fluff, but a definite mechanical rule.
D&D 3rd edition does not concern itself with such things. It is written as a system for highly complex combat where everyone is exactly on the same ground and success or failure depends entirely on logical, tactical use of the rules the game gives you.

That's not an invalid design for a tabletop game, but when done to the brand of the quasi-monopolist (as far as outside perception goes), the effect was rather unfortunate. Same thing with 4th edition. By all evidence, it's not a bad game, but it does something very specific quite unlike many other games.
But fortunately it seems the time where there was one RPG to rule them all are over, with D&D now a much smaller brand than it was in 2nd and 3rd edtion.

Solaris
2015-02-13, 12:19 PM
...players get additional XP for playing naked...

I really, really want you to mean characters.