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BlacKnight
2017-12-28, 07:13 AM
I'm designing my RPG ruleset, version 28. In the process of streamlining it I removed all the rules, reducing it to the essential rule: "player says what their PC does, if the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice. The Master has to say what the DC is and eventual situational modifiers to the roll, the player can change his action before rolling."
The character sheet is supposed to have just a bunch of skills expressed by a dice, from D4 to D12. Only the players are supposed to roll.

Now I should add some rule, but I'm having some trouble justifying their purpose. For example I can add items and tools that give a bonus to appropriate rolls. But this can be done also by the Master, by giving modifiers to the roll.
I can make rules for HP or wounds, but again the Master can handle this by saying what happens to the player.
Probably you are thinking: this way the Master can do anything he wants. Which is true, but the obvious counterpoint is that the same is true even if we add more rules.
For example the players are trained fighters, but random thugs wipe the floor with them. This can happen with my system, if the Master sets absurd DC for hitting the thugs or avoiding being hit. But it can happen even in the most complex system (like GURPS or Pathfinder) if the Master makes thugs with ridiculously high stats. In both cases there is a disconnection between the setting and the rules of the game. Or the Master is just an *******.
The latter is not a problem that can be solved by the game, so let's think about the first. Are rules required to see what happen in fiction ? Do we need a rule to know what happens if a car crashes into a wall at 100 km/h or if someone is hit by a bullet in the stomach ? I doubt it. Group storytelling was always a thing and people didn't need rules. So what I'm trying to do by adding such rules ?

Notice that I'm not talking about metaphysical rules like plot point. I'm only thinking about the physical engine that is supposed to match the physics of the setting. I'm also not interested in "gamist" rules.
I just want a system for simulating the actions of some dudes in a setting of choice.
What rules would you add and what is your reasoning for adding them ?

Koo Rehtorb
2017-12-28, 08:00 AM
I think a problem you might run into is when player and GM expectations mismatch. A player thinks he's doing something totally reasonable, the GM thinks he's doing something ridiculously hard, and then no one can agree on what the DC should actually be. A warning sign is also that the system gives the GM the power to (very easily) go "Wow that's a stupid derailing idea, DC 500".

I don't think either of these problems are game breaking, but they are something to keep an eye on.

Knaight
2017-12-28, 08:08 AM
What rules would you add and what is your reasoning for adding them ?

What's the focus on the game? As a fairly generalized statement I'd add more rules to the game focus, such that the simulation (which looks to be what these rules are specifically for) is a little more detailed there.

Beyond that, there's a few really broad categories that can be modeled. You've got a really basic rule for PCs attempting to do things. What about rules for the condition the PCs are in, and things that change that condition? What about rules for acknowledging the general state of the fiction? What about rules for character creation?

There are very minimalist systems which can work just fine (Risus, Wushu, Roll for Shoes, Prose Descriptive Qualities). Heck, I've made a couple (Titled (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1dLz59cxeHwXyd8oq1EQ9qB3eZKK1hr54E6igXR-Rlww/edit?usp=sharing), The Iron Fist of New Atlantis (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxPbaxURu-atZGM3NTdmNTQtODY1YS00YzE4LTg5OGMtMjg1NGRiNTEwZGEx/view?usp=sharing)). There's also heavier systems made for reasons other than just limiting GM power, which have their heavier rules for a reason.

As for the question of needing rules to determine what happens in the fiction, that's exactly what your core rule is. When in the course of the fiction a character attempts a task they might fail the player rolls a die against a number. If they roll over the number the character succeeds, if they roll under the number the character fails. That's a rule that affects the fiction right there.

Those heavier systems I mentioned? Often their added rules are there to affect the fiction in more subtle ways. What if you wanted a pass-fail mechanic that also could cause effects beyond just the character succeeding or failing? You might use something like the Glitch system in Shadowrun, or the die mechanic in Genesys. What if you want to model the characters getting slowly worn down by a hostile environment in a bunch of ways? You might see the status effects from Mouseguard, or Torchbearer. What if you want the rules to reflect a bunch of detailed research that individual GMs probably haven't conducted? Enter GURPS.

Then there's the matter of balancing different tasks needed to GM. There's effectively a spectrum of judgement calls to rules memorization, with rules that prevent having to routinely make the same judgement calls over and over again counting for more than rules that only crop up occasionally but still have a mechanical load. Everywhere on this spectrum is fine; completely freeform RPG with no mechanics works just fine, as do RPG-like boardgames like Gloomhaven. You don't need to have rules, but you also don't need not to have rules. This suggests that the entire question of what rules are necessary is a bit of a waste of time for practical design. Instead, think about whether specific rules add more than the mechanical load of dealing with them removes, in the context of your design goals.

Cluedrew
2017-12-28, 10:28 AM
OK, tiny thing that is annoying me, master is a title that can be applied to multiple people, therefore is not a proper noun and (unless I have forgotten my English) should not be capitalized.

Second, my general rule is "does this resolve a situation with an uncertain outcome?" With added notes that is of a type of situation that will come up in the game and is not covered, satisfactorily, by other rules. For instance an attack may or may not connect, so we use rules to figure out how likely it is and then randomize the result. Random events answer: "So we travel all day, what do we see?"

They also codify other aspects of the game, like how good of a musician a character is or that having gecko toes lets you walk on walls, but not ceilings. The latter is more important if you really shift from the norm.

BlacKnight
2017-12-28, 11:14 AM
I think a problem you might run into is when player and GM expectations mismatch. A player thinks he's doing something totally reasonable, the GM thinks he's doing something ridiculously hard, and then no one can agree on what the DC should actually be. A warning sign is also that the system gives the GM the power to (very easily) go "Wow that's a stupid derailing idea, DC 500".

I don't think either of these problems are game breaking, but they are something to keep an eye on.

I think that both GM and players should know the setting, to reduce the amount of mismatches and enable both to motivate their position. In fact while I'm liking more and more light rulesets, I'm leaning to the other side for setting guides. Which could be considered rules handbooks in disguise, but the difference would be that you consult them only when you need (a disagreement has risen) instead of "I need to do X, how does it translate in rules term ?".




What's the focus on the game? As a fairly generalized statement I'd add more rules to the game focus, such that the simulation (which looks to be what these rules are specifically for) is a little more detailed there.

Beyond that, there's a few really broad categories that can be modeled. You've got a really basic rule for PCs attempting to do things. What about rules for the condition the PCs are in, and things that change that condition? What about rules for acknowledging the general state of the fiction? What about rules for character creation?

I would say that the general focus of the game is playing groups of people accustomed to action and danger. Pirates in the Caribbeans, gunslingers in the Old West, gang members in a modern urban setting, space marines in the future... so the first thing I would think of are combat rules. But then I think: why should I made rules that detail weapons ? I know how they work. If I have a doubt I can inform myself from a variety of sources. If I want to have a non realistic experience I can tweak what I want (for example mooks always miss the heroes). I guess having detailed rules can help in setting a discussion, but wouldn't a coin toss do the same ?


As for the question of needing rules to determine what happens in the fiction, that's exactly what your core rule is. When in the course of the fiction a character attempts a task they might fail the player rolls a die against a number. If they roll over the number the character succeeds, if they roll under the number the character fails. That's a rule that affects the fiction right there.

That's very true. Could it be reduced even more ? Is the dice roll necessary ? I guess is fun to have some things decided randomly. Luck can maybe be considered the third party, other than the GM and the players.
So we can have a system that work this way: players and master play the group storytelling game, they can decide to leave some decisions to fate. They decide what the odds are, so they should be satisfied of the result.
In this system I can see that removing the random roll would remove something. But would have some rule that say "in this situation the odds of the roll are fixed, you can't decide them" improve the game ?


Those heavier systems I mentioned? Often their added rules are there to affect the fiction in more subtle ways. What if you wanted a pass-fail mechanic that also could cause effects beyond just the character succeeding or failing? You might use something like the Glitch system in Shadowrun, or the die mechanic in Genesys. What if you want to model the characters getting slowly worn down by a hostile environment in a bunch of ways? You might see the status effects from Mouseguard, or Torchbearer. What if you want the rules to reflect a bunch of detailed research that individual GMs probably haven't conducted? Enter GURPS.


For pass-fail mechanic you intend fail-forward ? If that's the case I generally like it, but it's more of a "methaphisycal" rule that I don't want to touch for now. Also is it something that can be done without need of a detailed rule ? For example in the ultra minimalist system above the players and the maser just have to decide that the random roll outcomes aren't success and failure, but success and success with a cost.

Martin Greywolf
2017-12-28, 11:15 AM
I'm designing my RPG ruleset, version 28. In the process of streamlining it I removed all the rules, reducing it to the essential rule: "player says what their PC does, if the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice.

And there's your first mistake, IMO. You should have started with asking yourself: why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve?

FATE tries to mimic the pacing of adventure movies, DnD 3.5 or GURPS trie to be simulations, Planet Mercenary wants to make it easy to tell a funny story and Call of Cthulhu desires to scare you. All of these have mechanics that are very much dictated by this primary goal.

Next step is to look at your dice system - it's pretty bad for simulationist system, since an expert has the output of a complete novice far too much. Something like FATE gets away with it because it only rolls skills against significant opposition - if your knight wants to kill a civilian, he does it without rolling for damage.

Another problem is that your rule is insufficient as a basis of a system, since it only takes one character into account. What if there are two people fighting, or if someone is trying to actively stop someone else from doing a thing? Better way to phrase it would perhaps be that a roll tells you how well you did at an activity, but that removes the binary nature of it, which may or may not be a good thing.

Once you have all of this fixed, next step will come out of what you're trying to do. If your RPG is supposed to be wuxia, then differences between the weapon types aren't as important as between the styles, and you should definitely have more rules about them since they're what defines the genre your RPG is supposed to simulate. If you're going for Game of Thrones like political intrigue, then all you need for combat is no, light and heavy armor and some basic weapon types, but your rules for social interactions will need to be fairly robust. Witcher-like down to earth medieval fantasy with low magic will need some more work on the weapon and armor side, and also a magic system since a lot of players will want to play around with it.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-28, 11:40 AM
If 3.5 is trying to be a "simulation", what is it trying to "simulate"?

By any concept of "simulation" I'd use, if that was really the goal, then that system was a total utter monumental disaster and outright epic failure.

(And yeah, I know that's really harsh, but I just don't get how the notion of 3.x or any other edition of D&D/d20 as "simulationist" ever got started -- and there was a time when saying "I prefer a more simmy system" would get the condescendingly delivered "then why don't you go back to D&D" response, which is just mind-boggling.)

Knaight
2017-12-28, 11:50 AM
For pass-fail mechanic you intend fail-forward ? If that's the case I generally like it, but it's more of a "methaphisycal" rule that I don't want to touch for now. Also is it something that can be done without need of a detailed rule ? For example in the ultra minimalist system above the players and the maser just have to decide that the random roll outcomes aren't success and failure, but success and success with a cost.

There were a few different mechanical examples there, most of which had a bit more range than just replacing failure with success with a cost.

Grod_The_Giant
2017-12-28, 12:50 PM
The purpose of rules is to provide structure to a game. The knowledge that such and such a thing will happen in such and such a way.

On the player side, they provide preliminary guidance about what is and isn't possible for a character, so that you can make plans without having to ask how such-and-such a thing will work every time. On the GM side, they provide a template to work from so you can concentrate on non-mechanical parts of the game, instead of constantly having to re-invent the wheel. Too many rules can make GMing difficult by boxing you in and limiting your options, but too few rules can make GMing difficult by forcing you to write mechanics at the same time you're trying to control NPCs and describe an environment and all the other stuff. The tipping point is subjective, and the spectrum runs all the way from total free-form games to RPG-y board games like Arkham Horror, but... that's why rules are there.

Mastikator
2017-12-28, 01:44 PM
Removing all rules from a game would effectively remove all player agency. They don't know what they can and can't do, they don't know the odds of success and consequences of failure, they don't know even know the results of success. They have no knowledge and can therefore make no informed decisions. That is the same as blindly swinging in the dark, which is worse than being 100% railroaded because at least then you know what's going on.

One inevitable problem I see with having "the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice" rule is the lack of consistency, even if you don't mean to you WILL absolutely make inconsistent decisions or at the very least decisions that feel inconsistent for the players. Frankly this is going to be absolute hell for them. This might work only in a hopeless horror game.

The bare minimum purpose of rules is to avoid the above.

tyckspoon
2017-12-28, 01:46 PM
If 3.5 is trying to be a "simulation", what is it trying to "simulate"?

By any concept of "simulation" I'd use, if that was really the goal, then that system was a total utter monumental disaster and outright epic failure.

(And yeah, I know that's really harsh, but I just don't get how the notion of 3.x or any other edition of D&D/d20 as "simulationist" ever got started -- and there was a time when saying "I prefer a more simmy system" would get the condescendingly delivered "then why don't you go back to D&D" response, which is just mind-boggling.)

Side effect of the influence of OD&D/assorted early editions, I think, which had a tendency to get really really randomly detailed about certain things (20 different kinds of very slightly different polearms, the infamous 'Random harlot' table, the modifiers of different kinds of weapon attacks versus different kinds of armors, really fine-grained encumbrance rules with an optional version for encumbrance by how annoying something is to lug around instead of just by how much it weighs.) Gives the illusion of simulation if you don't pay too much attention to how huge major parts of the rest of the system (like what HP actually is and how they're recovered, non-combat skills, and combat rounds) are incredibly abstracted and not really trying to simulate much of anything in particular. D&D has never been a really simulation-focused game, on the whole - it's a fairly abstracted game with a few areas where somebody with a geek-on for a certain topic wrote unnecessarily detailed rules to simulate something they cared about.

Rynjin
2017-12-28, 02:53 PM
Removing all rules from a game would effectively remove all player agency. They don't know what they can and can't do, they don't know the odds of success and consequences of failure, they don't know even know the results of success. They have no knowledge and can therefore make no informed decisions. That is the same as blindly swinging in the dark, which is worse than being 100% railroaded because at least then you know what's going on.

One inevitable problem I see with having "the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice" rule is the lack of consistency, even if you don't mean to you WILL absolutely make inconsistent decisions or at the very least decisions that feel inconsistent for the players. Frankly this is going to be absolute hell for them. This might work only in a hopeless horror game.

The bare minimum purpose of rules is to avoid the above.

This.

I've played freeform "systems" before and the inevitable result is a complete lack of structure, players unsure of what they can/should do, and GMs having the pressure of needing to wing EVERYTHING all the time pushing down on them the whole game.

The purpose of rules is to give at least a vague sense of what every person's role at the table is and what the expectations of the system are.

Quite frankly an RPG system as vague as you describe is not a system, or a game, and is barely a tool. It is merely an extremely vague and simplistic conflict resolution tool for a freeform roleplaying group.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-28, 03:51 PM
Part of the purpose is to "map" all the elements into a common framework of reference just to understand their relative capabilities, odds of or degree of success/failure, etc. As others have said, to give an idea of what characters are and aren't capable of -- but also get all the players (GM included) on the same page as to how likely/unlikely things are. This is why I cringe whenever someone says that the system and setting don't need to be in sync, and that the rules are just there to enable the "fun". If the "fiction"-derived expectations and outcomes, and the rules-derived expectations and outcomes, are out of alignments, it causes dissonance and discord.

If the "fiction" (setting, characters, etc) says that people should be able to jump over a one-foot-tall stone fence without any real effort, but the rules say they can't, or have a 50% chance of failure, that's a problem. If the rules say people can jump 10' straight up reliably, but the "fiction" doesn't reflect that, it's ALSO a problem.

Cosi
2017-12-28, 06:54 PM
The point of rules is to provide shared expectations. If we sit down to tell a story, we probably won't agree about everything. Maybe you think a Fire Demon is strong enough to take three lightning bolts, but I think it would go down in two. Maybe you think the King is persuaded by an argument while I don't. The rules exist to give consistent answers to those questions. You define how tough a Fire Demon is and how much damage a lightning bolt does, and you can use that to resolve our conflict. You write up some rules for persuading people, and we apply those to the king.

Your rule doesn't do this, instead ending up as a weird version of Munchausen. Only one player can challenge, and they can set the odds of challenges. Those changes don't seem like positives over Munchausen.

Cluedrew
2017-12-28, 07:21 PM
On Freeform: My early role-playing experience was actually entirely in free-form. And it can work, you just have to make up the missing system knowledge with setting knowledge. From what technology and/or magic is available in the setting, to an idea of the tone and the power of the protagonists.

Jormengand
2017-12-28, 07:33 PM
The game master doesn't need rules to tell her to do what she wants. She can already do what she wants. She needs resolution mechanics which actually do something other than "Choose what percentage chance you want players to have of succeeding."

NichG
2017-12-28, 07:48 PM
From the GM's point of view, adding a rule to the game is a way to remove doubt from a certain aspect of how things could go, and thereby direct what se sorts of things are plannable and what sorts of things are not. As a byproduct of rendering some things certain, rules also tend to channel planning into themselves - that is to say, if you have a lot of rules that make it possible to figure out who will win a fight with some guards, but no way to know for certain whether someone can successfully sneak past those guards, players will tend to fight the guards rather than sneak past them.

That makes rules a very powerful tool for determining what kind of stuff happens during game. If you want a politically focused game or a combat focused game or something that's all about alchemy, giving the focal element special rules and making everything else more hazy will encourage play to flow through that particular game element.

You can also use the certainty of a rule to counterbalance the haziness of very unclear, abstract, or difficult concepts, and make it possible for players to more easily engage with things that they don't yet have mastery of. For example, if you're running a game about politics and blackmail, players may not have a good idea how one goes about obtaining blackmail material, what sort of position is strong enough to support a political push and what kinds of risks will just get them arrested or killed, etc. If you build a system around it which quantifies those aspects and provides guarantees, even if they're a bit gamey, it can give enough stability that players will engage with the dynamics rather than just avoiding them out of fear of being worse off for trying.

A simpler example might be something like bribery. If you as the GM just play a guard, players won't know whether your guards are extremely honorable and will arrest someone at the merest suggestion of a bribe, or very shady and are expecting a bribe, or even how much a particular guard thinks a reasonable bribe is. So you could make a rule, for example: 'in order to determine if a bribe will be successful, you can make a Streetwise check; if your check succeeds, you know if a given character will accept a given bribe; if it fails, you don't know and can't check again'. Now, players will be more likely to engage with bribery interactions because they have some explicit ability to assess or control the risk. And that means that, over time, they'll also get a better idea for the future of the circumstances in which you consider a bribe to be a reasonable approach, so that eventually they won't even need (that) piece of mechanics anymore.

RazorChain
2017-12-28, 11:09 PM
I'm designing my RPG ruleset, version 28. In the process of streamlining it I removed all the rules, reducing it to the essential rule: "player says what their PC does, if the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice. The Master has to say what the DC is and eventual situational modifiers to the roll, the player can change his action before rolling."
The character sheet is supposed to have just a bunch of skills expressed by a dice, from D4 to D12. Only the players are supposed to roll.

Now I should add some rule, but I'm having some trouble justifying their purpose. For example I can add items and tools that give a bonus to appropriate rolls. But this can be done also by the Master, by giving modifiers to the roll.
I can make rules for HP or wounds, but again the Master can handle this by saying what happens to the player.
Probably you are thinking: this way the Master can do anything he wants. Which is true, but the obvious counterpoint is that the same is true even if we add more rules.
For example the players are trained fighters, but random thugs wipe the floor with them. This can happen with my system, if the Master sets absurd DC for hitting the thugs or avoiding being hit. But it can happen even in the most complex system (like GURPS or Pathfinder) if the Master makes thugs with ridiculously high stats. In both cases there is a disconnection between the setting and the rules of the game. Or the Master is just an *******.
The latter is not a problem that can be solved by the game, so let's think about the first. Are rules required to see what happen in fiction ? Do we need a rule to know what happens if a car crashes into a wall at 100 km/h or if someone is hit by a bullet in the stomach ? I doubt it. Group storytelling was always a thing and people didn't need rules. So what I'm trying to do by adding such rules ?

Notice that I'm not talking about metaphysical rules like plot point. I'm only thinking about the physical engine that is supposed to match the physics of the setting. I'm also not interested in "gamist" rules.
I just want a system for simulating the actions of some dudes in a setting of choice.
What rules would you add and what is your reasoning for adding them ?

There are only 3 rules in RPG's. If somebody thinks there are more they can happily correct me.

1) What role the players take. Usually one is the GM who controls everything but the PC's and then there are players that control only their PC's
2) The capabilities and limitations of the PC's.
3) Task/Conflict resolution

Most rules are just expand upon this.

Jormengand
2017-12-28, 11:12 PM
There are only 3 rules in RPG's. If somebody thinks there are more they can happily correct me.

1) What role the players take. Usually one is the GM who controls everything but the PC's and then there are players that control only their PC's
2) The capabilities and limitations of the PC's.
3) Task/Conflict resolution

Most rules are just expand upon this.

Many RPGs give the capabilities and limitations of NPCs too. And in the second instance, while it's technically true that pretty much everything can be reduced to why things happen, what things happen and whether things happen, that's somewhat reductionist.

RazorChain
2017-12-29, 12:39 AM
Many RPGs give the capabilities and limitations of NPCs too. And in the second instance, while it's technically true that pretty much everything can be reduced to why things happen, what things happen and whether things happen, that's somewhat reductionist.

Ok then I'll expand upon this

1) What role the players take.

By assigning roles and giving the players clear limitations what they have control over. I have played GM-less games or everybody is GM and has GMing powers to some degree. Traditionally there is one GM and he has control over evertything but the PC's. As he has control over NPC's he dictates their capabilities and limitations and there is nothing to stop him from adjusting this during play so this isn't a limitation in reality, just an artificial limitation.


2) The capabilities and limitations of the PC's.

This dictates what the PC's can and cannot do. Without this the players can just declare that their PC's can fly or shoot lasers out of their ass. This can be as broad or vague as you want, represented by numbers or just sentences. For example "Fightiness 5 out of 10" or "My character is an Ex navy seal and know everything an ex navy seal should know"



3) Task/Conflict resolution

How you are going to resolve tasks or conflicts. This could be as simple as that the player decide if his character is capable of solving the task or the Game Master adjucates everything on a whim. Or you can roll a die, high succeeds or low fails. Or you could dives a more elaborate mechanic.



For an example of system that follows a minimalistic approach I recommend TWERPS.

BlacKnight
2017-12-29, 06:00 AM
The purpose of rules is to provide structure to a game. The knowledge that such and such a thing will happen in such and such a way.

On the player side, they provide preliminary guidance about what is and isn't possible for a character, so that you can make plans without having to ask how such-and-such a thing will work every time. On the GM side, they provide a template to work from so you can concentrate on non-mechanical parts of the game, instead of constantly having to re-invent the wheel. Too many rules can make GMing difficult by boxing you in and limiting your options, but too few rules can make GMing difficult by forcing you to write mechanics at the same time you're trying to control NPCs and describe an environment and all the other stuff. The tipping point is subjective, and the spectrum runs all the way from total free-form games to RPG-y board games like Arkham Horror, but... that's why rules are there.

I'm not sure I understand you there. How is the GM forced to write mechanics ? From my point of view he is just applying the mechanics of the setting.
Can you make an example ?


Removing all rules from a game would effectively remove all player agency. They don't know what they can and can't do, they don't know the odds of success and consequences of failure, they don't know even know the results of success. They have no knowledge and can therefore make no informed decisions. That is the same as blindly swinging in the dark, which is worse than being 100% railroaded because at least then you know what's going on.

One inevitable problem I see with having "the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice" rule is the lack of consistency, even if you don't mean to you WILL absolutely make inconsistent decisions or at the very least decisions that feel inconsistent for the players. Frankly this is going to be absolute hell for them. This might work only in a hopeless horror game.

The bare minimum purpose of rules is to avoid the above.

In my experience the players have no problem in questioning the decisions of the GM. And while the GM has the last word and it's possible to have inconsistent decisions, the same it's true if you have detailed rules.
"Hey GM, I'm a great sniper, the DC for hitting that target is ridicolous" is not different from "Who the hell wrote these rules ? The best sniper has trouble hitting a man sitting immobile at 200m ?" which would result in rule change, thus we are at the starting point. By cristallizing stuff with rules you are sure there will be situations where fiction and rules are inconsistent. Altough maybe its better to have mismatches between rules and player expectations, instead that between players ?


Part of the purpose is to "map" all the elements into a common framework of reference just to understand their relative capabilities, odds of or degree of success/failure, etc. As others have said, to give an idea of what characters are and aren't capable of -- but also get all the players (GM included) on the same page as to how likely/unlikely things are. This is why I cringe whenever someone says that the system and setting don't need to be in sync, and that the rules are just there to enable the "fun". If the "fiction"-derived expectations and outcomes, and the rules-derived expectations and outcomes, are out of alignments, it causes dissonance and discord.

If the "fiction" (setting, characters, etc) says that people should be able to jump over a one-foot-tall stone fence without any real effort, but the rules say they can't, or have a 50% chance of failure, that's a problem. If the rules say people can jump 10' straight up reliably, but the "fiction" doesn't reflect that, it's ALSO a problem.

As I said before both the players and the GM should know the setting. If the fiction says that people can jump over the one meter fence, they can, no need for a rule that say so. In Star Wars people can jump over that fence, but only Jedi can jump 10 meters straight. In the case of settings that don't have an established fiction (like D&D settings) you would need a big setting guide.


The point of rules is to provide shared expectations. If we sit down to tell a story, we probably won't agree about everything. Maybe you think a Fire Demon is strong enough to take three lightning bolts, but I think it would go down in two. Maybe you think the King is persuaded by an argument while I don't. The rules exist to give consistent answers to those questions. You define how tough a Fire Demon is and how much damage a lightning bolt does, and you can use that to resolve our conflict. You write up some rules for persuading people, and we apply those to the king.

Your rule doesn't do this, instead ending up as a weird version of Munchausen. Only one player can challenge, and they can set the odds of challenges. Those changes don't seem like positives over Munchausen.

And again I say we should know the setting. What is a Fire Demon ? What is a lightning bolt ? Reading the D&D handbook I must say I don't know. I just have a bunch of HP and damage dices. What do these represent ? What happen when the lightning bolt strikes the Fire Demon ? Following the rules I just know that at some point the Fire Demon dies. Somehow. We can't have shared expectations because there is no shared setting.
If instead we play in a realistic setting we can have shared expectations. If we play in a know setting we can have shared expectations.


From the GM's point of view, adding a rule to the game is a way to remove doubt from a certain aspect of how things could go, and thereby direct what se sorts of things are plannable and what sorts of things are not. As a byproduct of rendering some things certain, rules also tend to channel planning into themselves - that is to say, if you have a lot of rules that make it possible to figure out who will win a fight with some guards, but no way to know for certain whether someone can successfully sneak past those guards, players will tend to fight the guards rather than sneak past them.

That makes rules a very powerful tool for determining what kind of stuff happens during game. If you want a politically focused game or a combat focused game or something that's all about alchemy, giving the focal element special rules and making everything else more hazy will encourage play to flow through that particular game element.

You can also use the certainty of a rule to counterbalance the haziness of very unclear, abstract, or difficult concepts, and make it possible for players to more easily engage with things that they don't yet have mastery of. For example, if you're running a game about politics and blackmail, players may not have a good idea how one goes about obtaining blackmail material, what sort of position is strong enough to support a political push and what kinds of risks will just get them arrested or killed, etc. If you build a system around it which quantifies those aspects and provides guarantees, even if they're a bit gamey, it can give enough stability that players will engage with the dynamics rather than just avoiding them out of fear of being worse off for trying.

My first tought is: why would people play a game about something they don't know ? If they are interested, why don't they study the argument ? Or the most probable case is that some players know the matter and others don't, but in this case shouldn't the more experienced ones help the others ?
This reminds me that I've done political games without rules for politics. For example we once made a post apocalyptic campaign. It wasn't supposed to be a political game and there were no rules for politics. But at some point the players decided to take on a town that was in state of anarchy. They succeded and founded a government. I (the GM) proposed them different form of government and other solutions, warning them about probable outcomes of each. I did this both directly and via NPC. When they become accostumed to ruling they started doing their own things, and again I warned them about the obvious outcomes of such actions.
Being interested in the argument it wasn't tiresome for me to think about the consequences of all that stuff.
Later they made the power grid for the city. One of the players knows way more than me about the argument, so he corrected my wrong assumptions and we made a sensible power grid. Following his teachings I modified the plot hooks regarding the electricity matter. Had the game provided rules for energy I would probably have said "too complicated, let's do something else" and if I had used them the player would have said "those rules suck, it should be this way..."

NichG
2017-12-29, 06:31 AM
My first tought is: why would people play a game about something they don't know ? If they are interested, why don't they study the argument ? Or the most probable case is that some players know the matter and others don't, but in this case shouldn't the more experienced ones help the others ?
This reminds me that I've done political games without rules for politics. For example we once made a post apocalyptic campaign. It wasn't supposed to be a political game and there were no rules for politics. But at some point the players decided to take on a town that was in state of anarchy. They succeded and founded a government. I (the GM) proposed them different form of government and other solutions, warning them about probable outcomes of each. I did this both directly and via NPC. When they become accostumed to ruling they started doing their own things, and again I warned them about the obvious outcomes of such actions.
Being interested in the argument it wasn't tiresome for me to think about the consequences of all that stuff.
Later they made the power grid for the city. One of the players knows way more than me about the argument, so he corrected my wrong assumptions and we made a sensible power grid. Following his teachings I modified the plot hooks regarding the electricity matter. Had the game provided rules for energy I would probably have said "too complicated, let's do something else" and if I had used them the player would have said "those rules suck, it should be this way..."

By engaging with it in the context of a game, it becomes much easier to experiment, make mistakes, and ultimately learn. If you want real life experience with e.g. crime and bribery, well, thats fairly difficult to obtain safely. You can study it or read books or stories, but there's a gap of getting the feeling for what actually making those decisions yourself is like. Games give you a means to get closer to that.

As to whether you can just have an experienced person lead the others through it, yes, but only kinda. That situation is essentially one where one person at the table acts as a teacher and others are students. However, just having the students ask random questions or propose random things and have the teacher say 'yeah sure' or 'this is what happens' or 'no, thats a bad idea' isn't the most effective way to communicate knowledge. It's flexible, but on its own its not very good. By making the teacher (game designer) spend some time to express the most important elements of their understanding in explicit form (e.g. write rules that they believe cover the highlights), its much faster for others to absorb. Part of it is that once you have that explicit knowledge, you can explore the consequences on your own or work things out without having to interact over every single element.

There's also the aspect where, if you come to a surprising conclusion on your own its often easier to accept than if you just have to take it for granted when someone tells it to you. So if e.g. the way that negotiations in a political system work doesn't fit a player's mental image of politics from the outside, having a system where the political dynamics emerge from lower level rules can allow that person to grasp the reason why things end up that way on their own (which would otherwise often lead to a back and forth over what 'makes sense'). It's much the same way that breaking an argument into a number of smaller components where agreement can be reached about each component individually is an effective way to resolve confusion surrounding disagreements - it makes the 'why' of things explicit.

All of this basically makes it easier and faster to learn compared to just free-forming things. None of it is strictly essential to learning new concepts or skills, but if used well it can improve the experience of learning quite a lot.

Jormengand
2017-12-29, 09:30 AM
I'm not sure I understand you there. How is the GM forced to write mechanics ? From my point of view he is just applying the mechanics of the setting.
Can you make an example ?

Ooh, I do love examples!

In 5th edition D&D, about 80% of the skill system flat out doesn't exist. Unlike in 3.5, there's no set DC for climbing a rope, climbing a rough wall, climbing a tree, or climbing anything much else. This means that in 5th, any time a player wants to climb something, you have to make up the rule that Wizards of the Coast didn't.

In your game, it's even worse, because you have no rules except "The DM makes something up". But the DM doesn't need rules to tell them to make something up, because they can already make something up. The DM needs an actual rule set to help define what happens, and how likely it is to happen.

Knaight
2017-12-29, 02:19 PM
Ooh, I do love examples!

In 5th edition D&D, about 80% of the skill system flat out doesn't exist. Unlike in 3.5, there's no set DC for climbing a rope, climbing a rough wall, climbing a tree, or climbing anything much else. This means that in 5th, any time a player wants to climb something, you have to make up the rule that Wizards of the Coast didn't.

Using a judgement call to define one variable that's plugged into a rules set is not making up a rule by any reasonable definition, and not defining specific difficulties for everything has been practically standard for decades now (with D&D being a holdout).


In your game, it's even worse, because you have no rules except "The DM makes something up". But the DM doesn't need rules to tell them to make something up, because they can already make something up. The DM needs an actual rule set to help define what happens, and how likely it is to happen.
There's other rules, most notably that there's mechanical codification of character abilities (skills are rated in dice size), and mechanical codification of how a check works (roll the die, if you get over a variable difficulty you succeed). Those rules provide a framework for the DM to make something up in.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-29, 02:24 PM
As a general observation, I've found that the most frustrating and unfun part of variable "difficulty target" systems is that many of them are so aggravatingly vague and obtuse about what reasonable target numbers are for various tasks and situations.

It gets even more frustrating when the die pool is also all over the place.

Jormengand
2017-12-29, 06:30 PM
As a general observation, I've found that the most frustrating and unfun part of variable "difficulty target" systems is that many of them are so aggravatingly vague and obtuse about what reasonable target numbers are for various tasks and situations.

Yeah, this. If 5e at least had a framework for you to make things up in - rather than the DM having to decide what kind of arcana check should be difficult and what kind of arcana check should be easy (without, obviously, having any knowledge of how hard "Arcana" is from real-life experience) - such as spending about a page on example DCs for the kind of thing each skill could do and how hard it is, then I would have more truck with it. At the moment, it's "Here are some skills, make the DCs up." There are a couple of DCs that are made specific, but they're made specific outside of the skill section (like the heal check in the death and dying section is specified to be DC 15 IIRC).

Imagine if the rest of the game were like that. Spells could be one sentence long ("Fireball launches a pea-sized bead of magic into an area, which then explodes in a blast of flame") and then the DM could make up what they do and how hard they are to aim/resist/whatever. Monsters could be very similar ("Vampires (http://5e.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/vampire.htm) have the ability to turn into a cloud of mist (which they do automatically if they would otherwise be defeated) or a bat. They have the ability to bite creatures, turning them into vampires, or to charm people by looking into their eyes, but otherwise fight with their fists. Their resistance and regenerative abilities are legendary, but they are weak to sunlight, running water, wooden stakes and personal property." Now time for the DM to make up what happens in combat...). "DM go figure" isn't a roleplaying game: it's freeform with a DM. And 5e players deserved more from their skill system than freeform with a DM because Wizards couldn't be bothered to write a table of example DCs.

Frozen_Feet
2017-12-29, 07:41 PM
The purpose of rules is to define the game. The one rule in the original post isn't sufficient for that. Or rather, it uses a couple of loaded terms from RPG jargon to communicate additional rules which are otherwise nowhere to be seen.

So before adding new rules, I'd suggest laying those out. Starting with: What is a "player character" and what is a player supposed to do with such a thing?

BlacKnight
2017-12-30, 06:49 AM
By engaging with it in the context of a game, it becomes much easier to experiment, make mistakes, and ultimately learn. If you want real life experience with e.g. crime and bribery, well, thats fairly difficult to obtain safely. You can study it or read books or stories, but there's a gap of getting the feeling for what actually making those decisions yourself is like. Games give you a means to get closer to that.

As to whether you can just have an experienced person lead the others through it, yes, but only kinda. That situation is essentially one where one person at the table acts as a teacher and others are students. However, just having the students ask random questions or propose random things and have the teacher say 'yeah sure' or 'this is what happens' or 'no, thats a bad idea' isn't the most effective way to communicate knowledge. It's flexible, but on its own its not very good. By making the teacher (game designer) spend some time to express the most important elements of their understanding in explicit form (e.g. write rules that they believe cover the highlights), its much faster for others to absorb. Part of it is that once you have that explicit knowledge, you can explore the consequences on your own or work things out without having to interact over every single element.

There's also the aspect where, if you come to a surprising conclusion on your own its often easier to accept than if you just have to take it for granted when someone tells it to you. So if e.g. the way that negotiations in a political system work doesn't fit a player's mental image of politics from the outside, having a system where the political dynamics emerge from lower level rules can allow that person to grasp the reason why things end up that way on their own (which would otherwise often lead to a back and forth over what 'makes sense'). It's much the same way that breaking an argument into a number of smaller components where agreement can be reached about each component individually is an effective way to resolve confusion surrounding disagreements - it makes the 'why' of things explicit.

All of this basically makes it easier and faster to learn compared to just free-forming things. None of it is strictly essential to learning new concepts or skills, but if used well it can improve the experience of learning quite a lot.

I have to say that I agree with your point. If a player wants to experiment with a system it's better to have rules he can work on alone. Playing wargames is a different thing than just reading stuff, even if often you notice inconsistencies because the games are not perfect as simulation.
But there can be different situations. For example the player has no interest in studying the rules alone, he just wants to play the game. In that case the application of the rules would fell on the GM, which could already know the matter. Would the rules help him ?
Or all the players could be experienced. In this case would the rules actually add something, or would they just be an hindrance ?
I mean: if the rules are a system for learning what should you do once you have learned the matter ? Keep them, expand them or get rid of them ?


As a general observation, I've found that the most frustrating and unfun part of variable "difficulty target" systems is that many of them are so aggravatingly vague and obtuse about what reasonable target numbers are for various tasks and situations.

It gets even more frustrating when the die pool is also all over the place.

What is a system that you think does DC well ?


Yeah, this. If 5e at least had a framework for you to make things up in - rather than the DM having to decide what kind of arcana check should be difficult and what kind of arcana check should be easy (without, obviously, having any knowledge of how hard "Arcana" is from real-life experience) - such as spending about a page on example DCs for the kind of thing each skill could do and how hard it is, then I would have more truck with it. At the moment, it's "Here are some skills, make the DCs up." There are a couple of DCs that are made specific, but they're made specific outside of the skill section (like the heal check in the death and dying section is specified to be DC 15 IIRC).

And I say it again: we should know the setting. What is an arcana check ? Nobody knows. Having fixed DC would change nothing, you are just rolling dices without knowing what is actually happening.


Imagine if the rest of the game were like that. Spells could be one sentence long ("Fireball launches a pea-sized bead of magic into an area, which then explodes in a blast of flame") and then the DM could make up what they do and how hard they are to aim/resist/whatever. Monsters could be very similar ("Vampires (http://5e.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/vampire.htm) have the ability to turn into a cloud of mist (which they do automatically if they would otherwise be defeated) or a bat. They have the ability to bite creatures, turning them into vampires, or to charm people by looking into their eyes, but otherwise fight with their fists. Their resistance and regenerative abilities are legendary, but they are weak to sunlight, running water, wooden stakes and personal property." Now time for the DM to make up what happens in combat...). "DM go figure" isn't a roleplaying game: it's freeform with a DM. And 5e players deserved more from their skill system than freeform with a DM because Wizards couldn't be bothered to write a table of example DCs.

Maybe you missed when I said that if are using a fictional setting you need sources ? They could be setting guides or books, movies and other media. Are they rules in disguise ? In a sense yes, but it's not different from the myriad of rules from the real world like gravity, electromagnetic waves, the human body functioning... that for some reason get rarely fixed in rules. Maybe because they are obvious and everybody know them ? (I mean they know their effects on everyday life, not that everybody has a degree in everything...)
If rules are just the knowledge about the setting like you seem to imply does it means that a real world setting would need no rules or very minimal rules ?

Jormengand
2017-12-30, 09:35 AM
And I say it again: we should know the setting. What is an arcana check ? Nobody knows. Having fixed DC would change nothing, you are just rolling dices without knowing what is actually happening.



Maybe you missed when I said that if are using a fictional setting you need sources ? They could be setting guides or books, movies and other media. Are they rules in disguise ? In a sense yes, but it's not different from the myriad of rules from the real world like gravity, electromagnetic waves, the human body functioning... that for some reason get rarely fixed in rules. Maybe because they are obvious and everybody know them ? (I mean they know their effects on everyday life, not that everybody has a degree in everything...)
If rules are just the knowledge about the setting like you seem to imply does it means that a real world setting would need no rules or very minimal rules ?

No, rules are, well, rules. They aren't "The knowledge about the setting." Sure, rules are what tell you how hard knowledge checks are ("10+creature's HD" in 3.5 and "Bugger off, I'm not going to tell you" in 5e), and the rules also tell you what exactly an arcana or knowledge (arcana) check is in case you're not sure what knowing about arcane things means. But they're also what tells you how hard hitting things is ("Creature's AC" both times) and what you need to do to find out if you reach the DC or AC.

You can have "The DM makes up some random crap vaguely consistent with how they remembered or misremembered the material that inspired the setting" as a rule, but it's pretty hollow.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-30, 09:49 AM
No, rules are, well, rules. They aren't "The knowledge about the setting." Sure, rules are what tell you how hard knowledge checks are ("10+creature's HD" in 3.5 and "Bugger off, I'm not going to tell you" in 5e), and the rules also tell you what exactly an arcana or knowledge (arcana) check is in case you're not sure what knowing about arcane things means. But they're also what tells you how hard hitting things is ("Creature's AC" both times) and what you need to do to find out if you reach the DC or AC.

You can have "The DM makes up some random crap vaguely consistent with how they remembered or misremembered the material that inspired the setting" as a rule, but it's pretty hollow.

Indeed, the rules are supposed to help form framework of shared expectations.

I find the notion that "knowing about the setting" alone will reliably be enough to establish shared expectations to the degree necessary to have a game in that setting, and to eliminate the need for the framework... rather dubious.




As I said before both the players and the GM should know the setting. If the fiction says that people can jump over the one meter fence, they can, no need for a rule that say so. In Star Wars people can jump over that fence, but only Jedi can jump 10 meters straight. In the case of settings that don't have an established fiction (like D&D settings) you would need a big setting guide.


If people can easily jump over a one meter fence, the rules need to reflect that by making it easy for the average person to jump over a one meter fence. That's part of the scale of "jumping over stuff" that the rule needs to incorporate if you have a rule for jumping over things. The GM is always free to waive the rule in favor of automatic success, but that given that someone might be below average when it comes to jumping, or facing extra-difficult circumstances (in a downpour and the ground is muddy, carrying a heavy burden, being chased by goblins, whatever), and a resolution required, the rules needs to include that part of the possible spectrum.

Mastikator
2017-12-30, 10:04 AM
In my experience the players have no problem in questioning the decisions of the GM. And while the GM has the last word and it's possible to have inconsistent decisions, the same it's true if you have detailed rules.
"Hey GM, I'm a great sniper, the DC for hitting that target is ridicolous" is not different from "Who the hell wrote these rules ? The best sniper has trouble hitting a man sitting immobile at 200m ?" which would result in rule change, thus we are at the starting point. By cristallizing stuff with rules you are sure there will be situations where fiction and rules are inconsistent. Altough maybe its better to have mismatches between rules and player expectations, instead that between players

If the rules are bad then the players will lose faith in the rules and may either lose interest in the game or suggest improvements (if they are good ideas, you absolutely should implement).

If however the players feel you make unfair or irrational arbitration then they will lose faith in you. It's a lot easier to fix a bad set of rules than it is to fix a GM.

The only option is to allow the players to try to overrule your decision, have a conversation, listen to each other like adults, be open minded about changing your mind on both sides. This is a lot of big if's and even then it will drag out the game.

Jormengand
2017-12-30, 10:10 AM
Indeed, the rules are supposed to help form framework of shared expectations.

I find the notion that "knowing about the setting" alone will reliably be enough to establish shared expectations to the degree necessary to have a game in that setting, and to eliminate the need for the framework... rather dubious.

Indeed, (quoting with people to agree with them is fun!) one of the things I like about D&D 3.5, for all its many and varied flaws, (and as far as I can tell, pretty much uniquely about 3.5 and games that are rip-offs of based on it) is that if you want to do something, either there's a rule for it or you can guess pretty much what the rule for it should be from context ("I'm grappling a creature in midair and their wings aren't strong enough to lift me; we probably fall and then we take falling damage when we land"). Certainly, it's the only game I've played (that I didn't make) where I haven't seen a DM have to make rules up completely on the spot.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-30, 10:18 AM
Indeed, (quoting with people to agree with them is fun!) one of the things I like about D&D 3.5, for all its many and varied flaws, (and as far as I can tell, pretty much uniquely about 3.5 and games that are rip-offs of based on it) is that if you want to do something, either there's a rule for it or you can guess pretty much what the rule for it should be from context ("I'm grappling a creature in midair and their wings aren't strong enough to lift me; we probably fall and then we take falling damage when we land"). Certainly, it's the only game I've played (that I didn't make) where I haven't seen a DM have to make rules up completely on the spot.

You need at least enough of a rules set that the rules that aren't there can be extrapolated without bogging the game down or feeling unfair to the players.

Jormengand
2017-12-30, 10:30 AM
You need at least enough of a rules set that the rules that aren't there can be extrapolated without bogging the game down or feeling unfair to the players.

Yeah, pretty much that.

NichG
2017-12-30, 10:32 AM
I have to say that I agree with your point. If a player wants to experiment with a system it's better to have rules he can work on alone. Playing wargames is a different thing than just reading stuff, even if often you notice inconsistencies because the games are not perfect as simulation.
But there can be different situations. For example the player has no interest in studying the rules alone, he just wants to play the game. In that case the application of the rules would fell on the GM, which could already know the matter. Would the rules help him ?
Or all the players could be experienced. In this case would the rules actually add something, or would they just be an hindrance ?
I mean: if the rules are a system for learning what should you do once you have learned the matter ? Keep them, expand them or get rid of them ?


The GM might still want to write certain things down in order to remind themselves to be consistent about those things, especially if its stuff which is ambiguous, where there are multiple different ways one could rule, or if its stuff that required a lot of thought to get straight in the first place. In that case, writing rules is like writing prep for sessions. You're basically doing a bit of your thinking ahead of time so that when it comes time during game, you can adjudicate things smoothly and quickly.

Rules can also act to abstract things which are just not relevant to the game in question, giving players a way to just assume the answer automatically. A really simple example of this is, giving out a list of items and their prices and saying 'okay, go ahead and figure out what you buy during the week, but have it done before next game'. That way each player can go and take care of those logistical aspects without needing to take any table time for it. The rule in that case is basically just there to establish that there's an automatic okay for certain things. There's definitely stuff that I want players to keep track of themselves in a game, since as a GM I already have quite a lot to keep track of myself. So sometimes a handful of rules can serve to streamline things quite a bit.

That said, all of these things are tools, to be used or not as appropriate. There's no reason that you must have a line somewhere that says e.g. 'this is how you calculate how far you can jump in inches'. But if there's going to be a lot of jumping, adding that rule could basically say 'yeah, jumping might be more complicated in reality or work different in corner cases or depend on various factors, but lets just go with this to simplify things so we don't have to revisit this each time'.

Also keep in mind that 'the players are experienced' is a moving target, especially when fantasy/supernatural elements are involved. It's always useful to consider that expectations could differ wildly. If we're playing a superhero game, is it reasonable to expect that strong-type characters could stop a falling asteroid or not? Well, depends on how superheroes work in that setting.

Satinavian
2017-12-30, 10:54 AM
As I said before both the players and the GM should know the setting. If the fiction says that people can jump over the one meter fence, they can, no need for a rule that say so. In Star Wars people can jump over that fence, but only Jedi can jump 10 meters straight. In the case of settings that don't have an established fiction (like D&D settings) you would need a big setting guide. If both players and DM need to know and agree about the setting, is there any reason left to let the DM decide about difficulties and results instead of the player initiating the action ?

Every possible reason to do that require that background is not enough for both to agree anyway. And every such disagreement would have been better handled with proper rules.[/QUOTE]

BlacKnight
2017-12-30, 02:25 PM
No, rules are, well, rules. They aren't "The knowledge about the setting." Sure, rules are what tell you how hard knowledge checks are ("10+creature's HD" in 3.5 and "Bugger off, I'm not going to tell you" in 5e), and the rules also tell you what exactly an arcana or knowledge (arcana) check is in case you're not sure what knowing about arcane things means. But they're also what tells you how hard hitting things is ("Creature's AC" both times) and what you need to do to find out if you reach the DC or AC.

Ok, tell me what is an arcana check in D&D 3.5 What is the character doing ?



If people can easily jump over a one meter fence, the rules need to reflect that by making it easy for the average person to jump over a one meter fence. That's part of the scale of "jumping over stuff" that the rule needs to incorporate if you have a rule for jumping over things. The GM is always free to waive the rule in favor of automatic success, but that given that someone might be below average when it comes to jumping, or facing extra-difficult circumstances (in a downpour and the ground is muddy, carrying a heavy burden, being chased by goblins, whatever), and a resolution required, the rules needs to include that part of the possible spectrum.

So you are saying that if there isn't a rule people would think that they can't jump over a 1 meter fence ?
If you are playing, you want your character to jump the fence but you notice that there is no jumping rule what do you do ?


If the rules are bad then the players will lose faith in the rules and may either lose interest in the game or suggest improvements (if they are good ideas, you absolutely should implement).

If however the players feel you make unfair or irrational arbitration then they will lose faith in you. It's a lot easier to fix a bad set of rules than it is to fix a GM.

The only option is to allow the players to try to overrule your decision, have a conversation, listen to each other like adults, be open minded about changing your mind on both sides. This is a lot of big if's and even then it will drag out the game.

If you have to change the rules the game would drag out anyway. So the question become: would you have more disagreements with the rules or without ? And there is also the matter that if you have to just set a DC you need time, but if you have to modify a complex system where there could be cascade effects you need even more time.


If both players and DM need to know and agree about the setting, is there any reason left to let the DM decide about difficulties and results instead of the player initiating the action ?

Every possible reason to do that require that background is not enough for both to agree anyway. And every such disagreement would have been better handled with proper rules.

So if there is no disagreement is ok to ignore the rules ? What would you think if 80% of the random rolls were made with agreement on both sides and rules were used only for the remaining 20% ? In this case the rules don't suck, it's just that it's quicker to ignore them.



The GM might still want to write certain things down in order to remind themselves to be consistent about those things, especially if its stuff which is ambiguous, where there are multiple different ways one could rule, or if its stuff that required a lot of thought to get straight in the first place. In that case, writing rules is like writing prep for sessions. You're basically doing a bit of your thinking ahead of time so that when it comes time during game, you can adjudicate things smoothly and quickly.

In theory I would agree, but in practice you risk to write too much stuff, at that point searching trough the notes and the rules become a long process that drag out the game.
I mean I could run GURPS with all the optional rules. But it's insane. So I use just the basic rules. But there are to many blank spaces, so I make my own rulings. So I'm back to the beginning.
It seems easy to say: find the otimal middle way. But any ruleset has its limit and some things have to be decided by the GM. And if for those things is fine, why is not for others ?
For example let's take hit location. Generally combat is common in our games, so having rules for hit location would be natural. But we noticed it slowed things too much. So we removed those rules, but now the GM has to say where hits land, in a total arbitrary way. But if we accept this why shouldn't the GM also decided the DC to hit at all ?


Rules can also act to abstract things which are just not relevant to the game in question, giving players a way to just assume the answer automatically. A really simple example of this is, giving out a list of items and their prices and saying 'okay, go ahead and figure out what you buy during the week, but have it done before next game'. That way each player can go and take care of those logistical aspects without needing to take any table time for it. The rule in that case is basically just there to establish that there's an automatic okay for certain things. There's definitely stuff that I want players to keep track of themselves in a game, since as a GM I already have quite a lot to keep track of myself. So sometimes a handful of rules can serve to streamline things quite a bit.

I notice that in the case of a price list the price is something that exist in the fiction, so not exactly what I would define a "rule". A more fitting example would be a list of weapons, with the damage expressed in numbers or dices.
This damage values are an abstraction. If the players are familiar with the weapons in question should I keep the damage values ?


That said, all of these things are tools, to be used or not as appropriate. There's no reason that you must have a line somewhere that says e.g. 'this is how you calculate how far you can jump in inches'. But if there's going to be a lot of jumping, adding that rule could basically say 'yeah, jumping might be more complicated in reality or work different in corner cases or depend on various factors, but lets just go with this to simplify things so we don't have to revisit this each time'.

If I understand correctly you are stressing the importance of consistency. If the DC for jumping our fence is X, it should be always X (assuming the same situation). By writing down the rule you make sure the GM doesn't make it Y the second time.
But I think: if the group remember the DC for the first time they would use it (ok, if they remember different things they would disagree, but I doubt that they would have rather different memories that often). If they don't remember they would just use a new one.


Also keep in mind that 'the players are experienced' is a moving target, especially when fantasy/supernatural elements are involved. It's always useful to consider that expectations could differ wildly. If we're playing a superhero game, is it reasonable to expect that strong-type characters could stop a falling asteroid or not? Well, depends on how superheroes work in that setting.

Which is why I think is important decide together what are we playing before starting the actual game. We are playing a superhero game ? What power level ? Your character is strong, but how ? Can you quantify ? How many tons can he lift ? Ok that is to specific, he's strong as Captain America, Hulk or Superman ? Well looking at the other characters don't you think that this power level would be more appropriate ?

Also I would like to ask: what is a ruleset that you think make superheroes in a good way ?

Knaight
2017-12-30, 02:57 PM
If people can easily jump over a one meter fence, the rules need to reflect that by making it easy for the average person to jump over a one meter fence. That's part of the scale of "jumping over stuff" that the rule needs to incorporate if you have a rule for jumping over things. The GM is always free to waive the rule in favor of automatic success, but that given that someone might be below average when it comes to jumping, or facing extra-difficult circumstances (in a downpour and the ground is muddy, carrying a heavy burden, being chased by goblins, whatever), and a resolution required, the rules needs to include that part of the possible spectrum.

You could have an explicit jumping rule, with a difficulty formula that incorporates height, ground conditions, load, curvature of approach path, character stress/fear/whatever, and other things. That formula is either going to be ridiculously complicated (start with mapping character skill level to a long tailed skewed curve, use that as the center point for individual character jump distances on a symmetrical normal distribution, use that baseline in a formula that takes into account all the other variables, and add a table per variable to find out what it is for the specific jump), a bad model that produces bizarre results, or both.

Alternatively, the GM could just eyeball the specifics and assign a difficulty to making that specific jump on a standard scale. I'd rather do that than use an equation which looks like it escaped from one of my engineering textbooks, and I'm pretty confident that basically every GM can do at least as well as a simple rule. Plus, if there is a complex rule it's probably not accurate; in my experience RPG writers tend to have questionable math skills most of the time. When the creators of Starfinder, a flagship product for one of the biggest companies that can hire tons of people somehow manage to miss basic details like mass not scaling linearly with length as objects get bigger it doesn't exactly inspire hope in highly specific rules.

PhoenixPhyre
2017-12-30, 03:04 PM
Another thing that rules do is set sane defaults. That's harder than one might think--a good set of defaults (and information about the normal range of variation) goes a long way to creating a zone of acceptability. If DCs are always in the range [10-20], then knowing the exact number is less important (to me at least). If the range is entirely up to the DM's whim, then it's more concerning.


You could have an explicit jumping rule, with a difficulty formula that incorporates height, ground conditions, load, curvature of approach path, character stress/fear/whatever, and other things. That formula is either going to be ridiculously complicated (start with mapping character skill level to a long tailed skewed curve, use that as the center point for individual character jump distances on a symmetrical normal distribution, use that baseline in a formula that takes into account all the other variables, and add a table per variable to find out what it is for the specific jump), a bad model that produces bizarre results, or both.

Alternatively, the GM could just eyeball the specifics and assign a difficulty to making that specific jump on a standard scale. I'd rather do that than use an equation which looks like it escaped from one of my engineering textbooks, and I'm pretty confident that basically every GM can do at least as well as a simple rule. Plus, if there is a complex rule it's probably not accurate; in my experience RPG writers tend to have questionable math skills most of the time. When the creators of Starfinder, a flagship product for one of the biggest companies that can hire tons of people somehow manage to miss basic details like mass not scaling linearly with length as objects get bigger it doesn't exactly inspire hope in highly specific rules.

Amen.

For as much as people vilify 5e's skill system, the game works just fine if every skill check has one of these DCs: 0 (auto-success), 10, 15, 20, or +INFINITY (auto-fail). The vast majority are 0 or INFINITY, with the dominant majority of the rest being either 10 or 15. It makes adjudicating things very easy and allows adaptation to circumstances, something that tables of pre-determined numbers or formulas do very poorly.

Satinavian
2017-12-30, 03:16 PM
So if there is no disagreement is ok to ignore the rules ? What would you think if 80% of the random rolls were made with agreement on both sides and rules were used only for the remaining 20% ? In this case the rules don't suck, it's just that it's quicker to ignore them.Yes, if everyone agrees what should be the result, you ignore the rules. But if everyone agrees on a single result, you don't have any use for a random roll anyway.
Every situation where a roll is useful must have several possible results, often more than two, which all need probabilities assigned. Usually it is something complex and actually using the rules is not that much more complicated than doing all that work yourself.

But the question was : Why should the DM assign the chane of success and not the player if both are assumed to have deep setting knowledge and that knowledge and common sense is all that is used to set the DC ?

If you have basically freeform roleplaying, that works better if everyone can participate to the fullest, sharing the decisions not only about what people try to do but also about what the results are.

Max_Killjoy
2017-12-30, 06:17 PM
You could have an explicit jumping rule, with a difficulty formula that incorporates height, ground conditions, load, curvature of approach path, character stress/fear/whatever, and other things. That formula is either going to be ridiculously complicated (start with mapping character skill level to a long tailed skewed curve, use that as the center point for individual character jump distances on a symmetrical normal distribution, use that baseline in a formula that takes into account all the other variables, and add a table per variable to find out what it is for the specific jump), a bad model that produces bizarre results, or both.

Alternatively, the GM could just eyeball the specifics and assign a difficulty to making that specific jump on a standard scale. I'd rather do that than use an equation which looks like it escaped from one of my engineering textbooks, and I'm pretty confident that basically every GM can do at least as well as a simple rule. Plus, if there is a complex rule it's probably not accurate; in my experience RPG writers tend to have questionable math skills most of the time. When the creators of Starfinder, a flagship product for one of the biggest companies that can hire tons of people somehow manage to miss basic details like mass not scaling linearly with length as objects get bigger it doesn't exactly inspire hope in highly specific rules.

Who called for a highly detailed equation-based jumping rule? I didn't.

It could be a range of Target Numbers to roll against with modifiers for conditions for a system with variable TNs/DCs.

It could just be modifiers for different heights and conditions, for a system with fixed roll under or roll over values for skills or etc.

Thrudd
2017-12-30, 08:33 PM
The problem with "everyone agrees what would happen, because we all know the setting" is that very often people don't agree, even when you all know the setting. Either for the reason of wanting to succeed or just because it's almost impossible for everyone to have the exact same picture in their head, if the game is free form and the GM declaring outcomes, there will be arguments. Any event of any consequence in the game is not going to go smoothly, it will be at best a debate or discussion about how the setting works that takes everyone's attention aside from the actual narrative/action. It won't be 80% unanimous agreement/20% needing rules, it'll be more like 5/95.

This is not a good thing for a game that is meant to be about action and excitement, nor for a game that is meant to immerse the players in a simulated world as a fictional character. Unless all players give complete control to the GM and agree never to contradict or disagree with the GM's decisions (yeah right), the game will slow to a crawl. If every event involves all the players talking about what they think should happen to their characters and what would make the most sense according to the setting, that isn't really a game, it's more like a story brainstorming session. More time will be spent determining what it is that all the players agree with than will be spent narrating the fictional events.

When designing a game, you should start with the big picture - what it is that the players of the game should be doing. In what ways do you want them (the players, not the characters) to interact with the game and each other, what sort of skills should they employ, what challenges are they (the players, not the characters) facing? What kind of game experience do you want the players to have?

This should guide you in deciding what things require the most detailed attention in the rules, what can be less defined, what can be ignored. The rules also provide fairness - objectivity that gives all the players an equal chance to participate and impact the game and a common understanding of what is possible and what isn't.

The reason for randomly determining outcomes in an RPG is to simulate how we experience things in the real world- there are variables which affect what happens in often unpredictable ways. There is such a thing as luck, at least from our perspective - similar actions don't always have the same results, people that are skilled at something can make mistakes, the weather changes, animals and people might act in unpredictable ways, etc. If you want players to be able to feel like they are in a fictional world, they need to experience things in this manner.

If the game does not have that sort of experience as one of its goals, then there may be no need for random determination of things. However, you still need to ask what the goal of the role playing game actually is (and in what way it behaves as a game rather than a writing workshop or a person telling some other people a story.)

Quertus
2017-12-30, 08:54 PM
Removing all rules from a game would effectively remove all player agency. They don't know what they can and can't do, they don't know the odds of success and consequences of failure, they don't know even know the results of success. They have no knowledge and can therefore make no informed decisions. That is the same as blindly swinging in the dark, which is worse than being 100% railroaded because at least then you know what's going on.

One inevitable problem I see with having "the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice" rule is the lack of consistency, even if you don't mean to you WILL absolutely make inconsistent decisions or at the very least decisions that feel inconsistent for the players. Frankly this is going to be absolute hell for them. This might work only in a hopeless horror game.

The bare minimum purpose of rules is to avoid the above.


If the rules are bad then the players will lose faith in the rules and may either lose interest in the game or suggest improvements (if they are good ideas, you absolutely should implement).

If however the players feel you make unfair or irrational arbitration then they will lose faith in you. It's a lot easier to fix a bad set of rules than it is to fix a GM.

The only option is to allow the players to try to overrule your decision, have a conversation, listen to each other like adults, be open minded about changing your mind on both sides. This is a lot of big if's and even then it will drag out the game.

Largely agree with these. Here's my take:

The rules are there to set expectations.

The rules are there to make the game fair and consistent.

The rules are there to be cool. A table of thieves skills? A mutation table? Oooh, I can buy a fez?!

The rules are there to minimize GM favoritism, and GM bias.

The rules are there to be mined by Diamonds, for people who enjoy that minigame.

The rules are there because I've only met one GM (out of the many, many I've played with) who I'd trust to consistently make good rulings on the fly. And, btw, that's definitely not me.

Cluedrew
2017-12-30, 09:27 PM
Indeed[...] one of the things I like about D&D 3.5, for all its many and varied flaws, (and as far as I can tell, pretty much uniquely about 3.5 and games that are rip-offs of based on it) is that if you want to do something, either there's a rule for it or you can guess pretty much what the rule for it should be from contextIsn't that GURPS?

Seriously, I have only looked at some excerpts from that system, but everything I have seen and all the other bits I have heard indicate that.

NichG
2017-12-30, 09:42 PM
In theory I would agree, but in practice you risk to write too much stuff, at that point searching trough the notes and the rules become a long process that drag out the game.
I mean I could run GURPS with all the optional rules. But it's insane. So I use just the basic rules. But there are to many blank spaces, so I make my own rulings. So I'm back to the beginning.
It seems easy to say: find the otimal middle way. But any ruleset has its limit and some things have to be decided by the GM. And if for those things is fine, why is not for others ?
For example let's take hit location. Generally combat is common in our games, so having rules for hit location would be natural. But we noticed it slowed things too much. So we removed those rules, but now the GM has to say where hits land, in a total arbitrary way. But if we accept this why shouldn't the GM also decided the DC to hit at all ?


This doesn't make sense to me - what's compelling you to suddenly lose control and meaninglessly write rules for things that don't matter once you've written a few? Rules are a tool that a system designer/GM can use to achieve certain outcomes, so you use them when they help you achieve those outcomes.

Like with hit location, it sounds like you're operating from the assumption that you're compelled by some external consideration to care where a blow lands and to resolve it, so your only choice is 'resolve it arbitrarily' or 'resolve it with a recorded rule'. But you can also choose 'hit location isn't important, so we'll just ignore it' or 'hit location is only going to be important in a small number of special cases, so lets just handle it as we go'. If you're going to write a hit location rule, you should have some reason in mind why putting that down as a rule will achieve a desired effect in terms of how the game is played. That could be something like 'I keep having players who want to do instant-kill headshots, so I need a rule to: change that behavior, or introduce strategic diversity, or make sure that once I say yes once I'm not on the hook to make it always work every time'.

Similarly with consistency, not everything has to be consistent all the time (and not everything is difficult to make consistent), but there are often a few particular things where being inconsistent would be really bad. For example, if you have supernatural abilities in the setting and you're going to have a supernatural murder mystery, making sure that you and the players are both on the same page about what things are hard limits that don't change versus what things are flexible and conditional and have lots of special cases is essential for the players to actually be able to rely on that knowledge to solve the mystery and not come to a wrong conclusion.

Often the first things I write down in a new system are the long-term plotty, cosmological things which are going to be the backbone of the campaign. I want to be running them the same way from the very start, so that players can use those recurring things as cues to figure out what's going on. There are consequences for me being inconsistent there.

If I have to change how we're handling library research checks or something like that mid-campaign, that matters less. I'm not intending to hang anything on its consistency.



I notice that in the case of a price list the price is something that exist in the fiction, so not exactly what I would define a "rule". A more fitting example would be a list of weapons, with the damage expressed in numbers or dices.
This damage values are an abstraction. If the players are familiar with the weapons in question should I keep the damage values ?


This goes back to 'rules as guarantees which shape direction of play'. The reason for weapons to have different damage values is because you want differing levels of damage to be a consideration, and you're making that more salient to the players. Alternatively, I could have a very gritty system where basically any solid hit from a weapon will at the very least take someone out of the fight, so damage level is less important than, say, reach. So if I make a system where there are no damage numbers listed, I'm (in a way) communicating how game will be, what expectations to have, and also what constitutes reasonable strategies. That in turn determines what aspects of play the game will focus on - is it going to be about packing the right weapon to get through an opponent's particular kind of defense, or is it going to be about complex positioning and maneuvers, or what?

If the game isn't going to be about any of that, having no stats for weapons at all can be quite reasonable. I wouldn't have weapon stats in a game about starting corporations - if someone gets your rising tycoon in a room with a gun and shoots you, thats that - we can all figure out what happens next well enough.



Which is why I think is important decide together what are we playing before starting the actual game. We are playing a superhero game ? What power level ? Your character is strong, but how ? Can you quantify ? How many tons can he lift ? Ok that is to specific, he's strong as Captain America, Hulk or Superman ? Well looking at the other characters don't you think that this power level would be more appropriate ?

This actually sounds to me a lot like the process of writing a rule system. You're pre-deciding some things before they come up and agreeing as to how those things will work, so that everyone is on the same page. It's just crafting the rules for the specific party members directly rather than crafting the rules for any arbitrary character that someone might choose to play.


Also I would like to ask: what is a ruleset that you think make superheroes in a good way ?

Not sure yet, I mention it because its something I've been thinking about but I'm not satisfied with what I've seen or come up with so far. I'm tempted to try something like a mix of FATE (which I normally dislike for being too generic, but a reimagined version of aspects seems really useful for the superhero genre) and Nobilis with extended bidding elements replacing the Auctoritas. The issue is that in the superhero genre, its most interesting if powers are really weird and specific, so having a set of 10 standard powers or whatever would be boring. So you want players to be able to write down pretty much whatever. But at the same time, the superhero genre often is about direct conflict between superheroes so Nobilis' thing about 'you can do anything and everything, just never to each-other' doesn't quite work. It's also rather boring if the fights become something like what one player in our group described as 'two titans take turns hitting each-other' - there should be room to turn a fight around with a clever trick or realization, and furthermore that should be a regular and mandatory occurance - thus, why I kind of want to borrow the idea of aspects and tagging from FATE.

But its not where I want it to be yet.

Jormengand
2017-12-31, 12:48 AM
Ok, tell me what is an arcana check in D&D 3.5 What is the character doing ?

From the SRD:

"Knowledge represents a study of some body of lore, possibly an academic or even scientific discipline.

Below are listed typical fields of study.

Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, constructs, dragons, magical beasts)

Answering a question within your field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).

In many cases, you can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monsterís HD. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster.

For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information."

That is, the knowledge (arcana) skill from 3.5 tells the players how hard it is to answer questions about ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols and cryptic phrases, and there are tables in the PHB that give examples of what kinds of things should be at each DC. It also allows players to identify dragons, constructs and magical beasts, and gives a formula telling you exactly what the DC is. That's what a rule should do: tell you, consistently, what you need to be skilled in and how hard it is to do a particular thing.

Knaight
2017-12-31, 07:18 AM
But the question was : Why should the DM assign the chane of success and not the player if both are assumed to have deep setting knowledge and that knowledge and common sense is all that is used to set the DC ?

If you have basically freeform roleplaying, that works better if everyone can participate to the fullest, sharing the decisions not only about what people try to do but also about what the results are.
I don't necessarily think that DC setting has to be attached to the GM role, the classical GM roll is just one of many ways to split roles at the table. However if you're using the rest of that role it generally implies that the GM largely controls setting-side material, and the players largely control PC-side material. That roll has two components. The players have defined the PC-side material (skills, what the character is actually doing, equipment), so it pretty naturally falls on the GM to set


Who called for a highly detailed equation-based jumping rule? I didn't.

It could be a range of Target Numbers to roll against with modifiers for conditions for a system with variable TNs/DCs.

It could just be modifiers for different heights and conditions, for a system with fixed roll under or roll over values for skills or etc.
It could be. If you use that though you inevitably get a pretty poor model which does all sorts of weird stuff at a high level compared to just eyeballing it. That might be a worthwhile design decision if you care less about the model making sense than the players having access to detailed mechanical information, and it's often a good design decision for situations where just eyeballing it is a bit harder (magic, superpowers, and other entirely fictional elements come to mind). There's valid reasons to use it.

The depiction in this thread of it being a mandatory rule for all systems with no downsides, where any rule that trusts the GM's mathematical intuition more than a hastily made model restricted to dead simple arithmetic is actually just the absence of a rule? That's a load of crap.

Satinavian
2017-12-31, 07:30 AM
I don't necessarily think that DC setting has to be attached to the GM role, the classical GM roll is just one of many ways to split roles at the table. However if you're using the rest of that role it generally implies that the GM largely controls setting-side material, and the players largely control PC-side material. That roll has two components. The players have defined the PC-side material (skills, what the character is actually doing, equipment), so it pretty naturally falls on the GM to setWhy would consequences of PC actions automatically fall on the setting side of things? It is PCs who are doing stuff, so that natural division would suggest that the player narrates the PCs actions and how they work out.

It could be. If you use that though you inevitably get a pretty poor model which does all sorts of weird stuff at a high level compared to just eyeballing it. That might be a worthwhile design decision if you care less about the model making sense than the players having access to detailed mechanical information, and it's often a good design decision for situations where just eyeballing it is a bit harder (magic, superpowers, and other entirely fictional elements come to mind). There's valid reasons to use it.You take the length of what an untrained but healthy person could jump and put that down to average attributes and no jumping skill. Then you take the attribute value of an immobile person and set that to jumping distance 0. Then you take what a good athlete could jump and set that to attributes and skills a good athlete should have in your system. Then you do linear extrapolation and have a very easy formula with a*attribute + b*skill. And now you have an easy rule system for jumping distance for normal sized adult humanoid that does not produce any stupid extremes, not even in high level content. If you want you can substitute skill rank with average skill check result to allow some fluctuation but if that is a good idea depends on how exactly your skill checks work.

Honestly, it is easer to do the math for transforming your expectation to proper rules than it is to actually come up with the distances for "healthy untrained adult" or "athlete" which would at least require some googling.

BlacKnight
2017-12-31, 07:49 AM
Yes, if everyone agrees what should be the result, you ignore the rules. But if everyone agrees on a single result, you don't have any use for a random roll anyway.
Every situation where a roll is useful must have several possible results, often more than two, which all need probabilities assigned. Usually it is something complex and actually using the rules is not that much more complicated than doing all that work yourself.

But the question was : Why should the DM assign the chane of success and not the player if both are assumed to have deep setting knowledge and that knowledge and common sense is all that is used to set the DC ?

If you have basically freeform roleplaying, that works better if everyone can participate to the fullest, sharing the decisions not only about what people try to do but also about what the results are.

You seem to think that random rolls are for clearing disagreements. That's not true in the majority of cases. Random rolls are for generating random events, because in some cases it's more fun that way.
And yes DC should be decided by both sides, it's just that in the flow of the game it feel more natural that the GM sets them and the players agree or disagree. If we have to decide some things and you usually come out with solutions I agree with the habit would be that you decide and I speak only if I disagree.


The problem with "everyone agrees what would happen, because we all know the setting" is that very often people don't agree, even when you all know the setting. Either for the reason of wanting to succeed or just because it's almost impossible for everyone to have the exact same picture in their head, if the game is free form and the GM declaring outcomes, there will be arguments. Any event of any consequence in the game is not going to go smoothly, it will be at best a debate or discussion about how the setting works that takes everyone's attention aside from the actual narrative/action. It won't be 80% unanimous agreement/20% needing rules, it'll be more like 5/95.

Even if it was 5/95 you would be saving time in the 5% of cases, while in the remaining 95% you would be applying the rules... the same thing that you would have done normally.
I mean I don't see how "I disagree in this case. Let's use the official rules" is slower than "let's use the official rules...always".


This should guide you in deciding what things require the most detailed attention in the rules, what can be less defined, what can be ignored. The rules also provide fairness - objectivity that gives all the players an equal chance to participate and impact the game and a common understanding of what is possible and what isn't.

Regarding fairness: you say that all players should have an equal chance to partecipate and impact the game. If the GM gives the first player a DC for trying to hit the bad guy he would give the same DC even to the second player, or not ? Unless there is a reason, and he would have to explain it. There is also the problem that the rules could be bad and some character weaker than others (hello d&D 3.5 !) or they could be different and the GM scenario favour one over the other. You could say: it's better if the rules are unfair, rather than the GM. Which sounds more like you need rules as safeguards for bad groups, rather than tools to accomplish something for good groups.



This doesn't make sense to me - what's compelling you to suddenly lose control and meaninglessly write rules for things that don't matter once you've written a few? Rules are a tool that a system designer/GM can use to achieve certain outcomes, so you use them when they help you achieve those outcomes.

Like with hit location, it sounds like you're operating from the assumption that you're compelled by some external consideration to care where a blow lands and to resolve it, so your only choice is 'resolve it arbitrarily' or 'resolve it with a recorded rule'. But you can also choose 'hit location isn't important, so we'll just ignore it' or 'hit location is only going to be important in a small number of special cases, so lets just handle it as we go'. If you're going to write a hit location rule, you should have some reason in mind why putting that down as a rule will achieve a desired effect in terms of how the game is played. That could be something like 'I keep having players who want to do instant-kill headshots, so I need a rule to: change that behavior, or introduce strategic diversity, or make sure that once I say yes once I'm not on the hook to make it always work every time'.

Problem 1: the number of situations where you need a specific rule are quite common (but the specific rule change every time !).
Problem 2: rule weight. If hit location is important (because combat is realistic and every hit counts) I need to describe where every shot lands. Thus I can't ignore it. Doing so would destroy the fiction.
But every rule I use slow the game.
For example I want to have scenes like "your bullet hits the bad guy in the thigh, he fell and starts to crawl in the high grass, leaving behind a trail of blood". Do I need rules fo hit location and bleeding ? If I have them I would have to ignore them in another fight with a dozen of goons, or I would go crazy by managing a lot of stuff that in the end doesn't matter ("the two goons you hit to death in the first round are out of combat and will die soon, can we avoid tracking the bleeding to see in which exact round do they die ?"). If there are no such rules I'm going freeform with the crawling bad guy. Either way I'm inventing rules or ignoring them (which is the same).
Or I could do the worse thing: not having stuff in game because there are no rules for it. Just like D&D, where you could track down a bleeding guy wounded out of scene, but you will never inflict a wound in combat that makes the enemy bleed to death.


Similarly with consistency, not everything has to be consistent all the time (and not everything is difficult to make consistent), but there are often a few particular things where being inconsistent would be really bad. For example, if you have supernatural abilities in the setting and you're going to have a supernatural murder mystery, making sure that you and the players are both on the same page about what things are hard limits that don't change versus what things are flexible and conditional and have lots of special cases is essential for the players to actually be able to rely on that knowledge to solve the mystery and not come to a wrong conclusion.

Yeah, fantastical things need to be explained well. But if we are talking about a real world setting ?


This goes back to 'rules as guarantees which shape direction of play'. The reason for weapons to have different damage values is because you want differing levels of damage to be a consideration, and you're making that more salient to the players. Alternatively, I could have a very gritty system where basically any solid hit from a weapon will at the very least take someone out of the fight, so damage level is less important than, say, reach. So if I make a system where there are no damage numbers listed, I'm (in a way) communicating how game will be, what expectations to have, and also what constitutes reasonable strategies. That in turn determines what aspects of play the game will focus on - is it going to be about packing the right weapon to get through an opponent's particular kind of defense, or is it going to be about complex positioning and maneuvers, or what?

I can easily read such a list more like a guideline than "hard rules". It's a great way for explaining the setting without losing time at the table. But the problem of expectation mismatches can still arise. And it can be caused by both extremes: if the rules are too simple the player doesn't know how they other guys will fill the blank spaces. But if the rules are too complex he doesn't know what the outcomes really are. For example people make wrong choices in character creation in D&D all the time.
Altough I can see the middle ground here as a far more achievable and effective objective than it is for the rules used during the game.


This actually sounds to me a lot like the process of writing a rule system. You're pre-deciding some things before they come up and agreeing as to how those things will work, so that everyone is on the same page. It's just crafting the rules for the specific party members directly rather than crafting the rules for any arbitrary character that someone might choose to play.

You are right. Isn't it more efficient than making rules for cases than you are not going to see ?


Not sure yet, I mention it because its something I've been thinking about but I'm not satisfied with what I've seen or come up with so far. I'm tempted to try something like a mix of FATE (which I normally dislike for being too generic, but a reimagined version of aspects seems really useful for the superhero genre) and Nobilis with extended bidding elements replacing the Auctoritas. The issue is that in the superhero genre, its most interesting if powers are really weird and specific, so having a set of 10 standard powers or whatever would be boring. So you want players to be able to write down pretty much whatever. But at the same time, the superhero genre often is about direct conflict between superheroes so Nobilis' thing about 'you can do anything and everything, just never to each-other' doesn't quite work. It's also rather boring if the fights become something like what one player in our group described as 'two titans take turns hitting each-other' - there should be room to turn a fight around with a clever trick or realization, and furthermore that should be a regular and mandatory occurance - thus, why I kind of want to borrow the idea of aspects and tagging from FATE.

But its not where I want it to be yet.

I like FATE for superheroes too. In fact the success of those sessions with my group is one of the causes that lead me to this reasoning and this thread.


From the SRD:

"Knowledge represents a study of some body of lore, possibly an academic or even scientific discipline.

Below are listed typical fields of study.

Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, constructs, dragons, magical beasts)

Answering a question within your field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).

In many cases, you can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monsterís HD. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster.

For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information."

That is, the knowledge (arcana) skill from 3.5 tells the players how hard it is to answer questions about ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols and cryptic phrases, and there are tables in the PHB that give examples of what kinds of things should be at each DC. It also allows players to identify dragons, constructs and magical beasts, and gives a formula telling you exactly what the DC is. That's what a rule should do: tell you, consistently, what you need to be skilled in and how hard it is to do a particular thing.

From D&D 5e: "Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."
It's the exact same thing !
3.5 doesn't tell you what an easy or hard Arcana question is, so doesn't really add anything (5e gives too the DCs for easy or hard tasks, but again what are these tasks ?) If there are such tables that provide DCs for Arcana checks please post them.
The only thing that 3.5 add is the rule for identify monsters. Which is based on HD, which have no correlation with how famous or known a monster is. Thus is a terrible rule that I wouldn't use.

Knaight
2017-12-31, 08:17 AM
Why would consequences of PC actions automatically fall on the setting side of things? It is PCs who are doing stuff, so that natural division would suggest that the player narrates the PCs actions and how they work out.
The consequences fall out from the die roll as described, which explicitly takes play information into account. It's one of the inputs to said die roll. The other one is the difficulty, and the difficulty of performing a task in a setting is pretty clearly on the setting side most of the time.

With that said, the classical GM-players structure is still only one way to distribute mechanical responsibilities, and players setting DCs for situations described by the GM is hardly unreasonable.


Then you do linear extrapolation and have a very easy formula with a*attribute + b*skill. And now you have an easy rule system for jumping distance for normal sized adult humanoid that does not produce any stupid extremes, not even in high level content.

It produces a downright weird distribution, and also doesn't include a bunch of important factors. Ground condition didn't get mentioned, load didn't get mentioned, time to build up speed didn't get mentioned. If you're sticking to a linear model (and from a usability perspective you probably should) the obvious option is to introduce these as a distance penalty, which is where you start running into problems. On average jumping in knee deep water will almost completely remove the jump. Having that as a new factor at -c quickly leads to characters able to jump further in normal conditions getting huge and stupid leaps when in said knee deep water. Tweaking that a and b factors and recalculating jumping distance is getting out of the simple rules territory.

Satinavian
2017-12-31, 09:12 AM
The consequences fall out from the die roll as described, which explicitly takes play information into account. It's one of the inputs to said die roll. The other one is the difficulty, and the difficulty of performing a task in a setting is pretty clearly on the setting side most of the time.If we use that kind of logic, then every effect the environment or an NPC has on a PC should fall into the authority of the player alone to decide.




It produces a downright weird distribution, and also doesn't include a bunch of important factors. Ground condition didn't get mentioned, load didn't get mentioned, time to build up speed didn't get mentioned. If you're sticking to a linear model (and from a usability perspective you probably should) the obvious option is to introduce these as a distance penalty, which is where you start running into problems. On average jumping in knee deep water will almost completely remove the jump. Having that as a new factor at -c quickly leads to characters able to jump further in normal conditions getting huge and stupid leaps when in said knee deep water. Tweaking that a and b factors and recalculating jumping distance is getting out of the simple rules territory.
As every rules that is an abstraction. Things like ground condition are usually far too detailed to ever get to be part of the rules. Load does in most games that bother using it with its own rules, usually giving out penalties to skills or to movement distances. Which means if the game has any load rules at all, load in jumping would probably already be covered anyway.

It is a simple rule. That means, it does not model every detail. If you want a really complex jumping simulation with dozens of variables, you need complex rules that account for dozens of variables. That much is obvious.

But even that doesn't mean eyeballing is superior. If you want to eyeball at the same level of detail, how much cm distance is wet sand worth compared to dry sand or stone ? How much distance is lost per additional kg of weight ? Could you really estimate that properly without making long calculations ? No, you couldn't.

Knaight
2017-12-31, 09:22 AM
It is a simple rule. That means, it does not model every detail. If you want a really complex jumping simulation with dozens of variables, you need complex rules that account for dozens of variables. That much is obvious.

But even that doesn't mean eyeballing is superior. If you want to eyeball at the same level of detail, how much cm distance is wet sand worth compared to dry sand or stone ? How much distance is lost per additional kg of weight ? Could you really estimate that properly without making long calculations ? No, you couldn't.

You don't need to estimate the formula, you need to assess the difficulty of a particular jump. There's rarely a need to determine exactly how far someone jumped, just whether or not they could make a given jump at all - and in that specific context, I'm confident that I (and basically every other GM) could do better than your rule in terms of accuracy. This with a skill exceptionally friendly to numerical codification.

There's still a lot of reasons to use a more codified system, but the specific claim that it allows a GM to be more accurate is incredibly dubious.

NichG
2017-12-31, 09:34 AM
Problem 1: the number of situations where you need a specific rule are quite common (but the specific rule change every time !).
Problem 2: rule weight. If hit location is important (because combat is realistic and every hit counts) I need to describe where every shot lands. Thus I can't ignore it. Doing so would destroy the fiction.
But every rule I use slow the game.
For example I want to have scenes like "your bullet hits the bad guy in the thigh, he fell and starts to crawl in the high grass, leaving behind a trail of blood". Do I need rules fo hit location and bleeding ? If I have them I would have to ignore them in another fight with a dozen of goons, or I would go crazy by managing a lot of stuff that in the end doesn't matter ("the two goons you hit to death in the first round are out of combat and will die soon, can we avoid tracking the bleeding to see in which exact round do they die ?"). If there are no such rules I'm going freeform with the crawling bad guy. Either way I'm inventing rules or ignoring them (which is the same).
Or I could do the worse thing: not having stuff in game because there are no rules for it. Just like D&D, where you could track down a bleeding guy wounded out of scene, but you will never inflict a wound in combat that makes the enemy bleed to death.


Realism and detail aren't really the same thing though. You can be realistic in the sense of outcomes without going into very high resolution as to how exactly those outcomes came to be. For example, with the enemy getting shot in the thigh - you can basically say, wherever the enemy gets shot only three outcomes really matter: it's a graze that won't matter any time in the immediate future, its bad enough that they're basically no longer an effective combatant and will for the most part be dealing with things like shock and bleeding out, or it kills them outright. If someone is going for the kill shot, a perfect outcome is that the target is killed outright, a partial success is the disabling shot, and a failure is a graze or miss. If someone is going for a disabling shot, a perfect outcome is to disable but not kill, a partial success is a low chance of kill or a high chance of graze, and a failure is a graze/miss.

Whether its thigh or arm or foot or a stomach wound or whatever doesn't really matter in terms of what will - realistically - happen in the next thirty seconds. So you can preserve realism just fine without resolving it. Or, alternately, since you know that you also know that its totally fine to let anyone narrate the details however they like as long as it doesn't change the type of hit. If someone wants their disabling shot to be a hit to the thigh or a hit to the arm or whatever, you can just let them decide since you know that its isolated from the mechanical elements which are there to ensure realism.

The place where you'd want detailed rules for hit locations is if you want players to actually incorporate that into their planning somehow - e.g. if by choosing a specific location to plant their sniper, they can increase the odds of that thigh hit in exchange for a decreased chance of head wounds and thereby improve their chances of taking the target alive, or something like that. But if its just something that's going to be random and hard to influence anyhow, you might as well just not bother with making any rules for it.


Yeah, fantastical things need to be explained well. But if we are talking about a real world setting ?

For a real world setting, I'd mostly be using rules to guide and direct play. So I might have rules for various things but then conspicuously leave out any rules for evaluating combat if I want to discourage using combat as a means to solve problems in that campaign, for example.



You are right. Isn't it more efficient than making rules for cases than you are not going to see ?


It can be, but its also often good to have a few templates ready to give players an idea what kind of stuff you're prepared to stat out and what kind of stuff will be a difficult fit for the game. For a superhero game for example, I wouldn't restrict players to powers in the rulebook, but I'd definitely want to have a few example powers statted out in advance - partly for me to get a feeling of how the process is going to go, and partly to provide inspiration or ideas for what character rules are going to look like.

If you want to have really really mind-twisting stuff, getting out in front of it and putting it in text before character creation can also be a bit of a 'yes, I know it looks broken or crazy, but I'm prepared to run this if you want to give it a shot' thing. For example, having rules ready for how a time travel power would work is saying 'go for it'.

Jormengand
2017-12-31, 11:58 AM
3.5 doesn't tell you what an easy or hard Arcana question is, so doesn't really add anything (5e gives too the DCs for easy or hard tasks, but again what are these tasks ?) If there are such tables that provide DCs for Arcana checks please post them.
The only thing that 3.5 add is the rule for identify monsters. Which is based on HD, which have no correlation with how famous or known a monster is. Thus is a terrible rule that I wouldn't use.


3.5 is full of tables (which don't appear on the SRD or under the OGL, so I'm afraid you'll actually have to open your PHB) telling you what a DC for a particular task should look like. In addition, most skills do have tables which do appear in the SRD, such as Climb's:

"Climb
DC Example Surface or Activity
0 A slope too steep to walk up, or a knotted rope with a wall to brace against.
5 A rope with a wall to brace against, or a knotted rope, or a rope affected by the rope trick spell.
10 A surface with ledges to hold on to and stand on, such as a very rough wall or a shipís rigging.
15 Any surface with adequate handholds and footholds (natural or artificial), such as a very rough natural rock surface or a tree, or an unknotted rope, or pulling yourself up when dangling by your hands.
20 An uneven surface with some narrow handholds and footholds, such as a typical wall in a dungeon or ruins.
25 A rough surface, such as a natural rock wall or a brick wall.
25 An overhang or ceiling with handholds but no footholds.
ó A perfectly smooth, flat, vertical surface cannot be climbed."

"Climb DC
Modifier1 Example Surface or Activity
-10 Climbing a chimney (artificial or natural) or other location where you can brace against two opposite walls (reduces DC by 10).
-5 Climbing a corner where you can brace against perpendicular walls (reduces DC by 5).
+5 Surface is slippery (increases DC by 5).
These modifiers are cumulative; use any that apply."

And 3.5's knowledges should be defined in a more rigourous way in the skill description (it's hardly the perfect RPG either). Maybe when you create your RPG, you can do one better and actually define properly how knowledge works, rather than throwing up your hands and going "The DM will know, dammit!"

Arbane
2017-12-31, 12:29 PM
If 3.5 is trying to be a "simulation", what is it trying to "simulate"?


Dwarf Fortress. Why else would it list hitpoints for walls?

Cluedrew
2017-12-31, 02:35 PM
']Not sure yet, I mention it because its something I've been thinking about but I'm not satisfied with what I've seen or come up with so far. I'm tempted to try something like a mix of FATE (which I normally dislike for being too generic, but a reimagined version of aspects seems really useful for the superhero genre) and Nobilis with extended bidding elements replacing the Auctoritas. The issue is that in the superhero genre, its most interesting if powers are really weird and specific, so having a set of 10 standard powers or whatever would be boring. So you want players to be able to write down pretty much whatever. But at the same time, the superhero genre often is about direct conflict between superheroes so Nobilis' thing about 'you can do anything and everything, just never to each-other' doesn't quite work. It's also rather boring if the fights become something like what one player in our group described as 'two titans take turns hitting each-other' - there should be room to turn a fight around with a clever trick or realization, and furthermore that should be a regular and mandatory occurance - thus, why I kind of want to borrow the idea of aspects and tagging from FATE.But its not where I want it to be yet.Just looking at your analysis of what you have so far, I like the way you think and if you get the thing you like I think I would like to see it.


There's still a lot of reasons to use a more codified system, but the specific claim that it allows a GM to be more accurate is incredibly dubious.Personally, I feel ease of use and speed are better reasons. Sitting around and talking it out will get you an accurate answer, to within the precision of what the group knows/cares about, almost every time. However that takes time and maybe reviewing some technical details (or even looking them up) that are important but not interesting. So instead we figure out what should be important and how it translates into the game ahead of time (or the system designers do) so it doesn't have to be done during gameplay.

But it is probably not quite as accurate, because you can't think of and encode everything. For example I had a character who not much of an explorer, but was outdoorsy. This meant that she couldn't find her way around the wilderness she lived in/near as well as a streetwise who had never left the city before now. In another I have a character who is proficient in weapons they might never have seen, but not ones they have carried on them for self-defence for years (we got a house ruling to fix that).

Still we use them, because it speeds the general case enough that it is worth it.

Knaight
2017-12-31, 03:34 PM
Personally, I feel ease of use and speed are better reasons.

I'd agree, with the caveat that both of these depend on whether people find it faster/easier to look up material or make a judgment call. That can go either way, and even within the context of one person it can vary depending on just how heavy the material is.

Thrudd
2017-12-31, 08:36 PM
Even if it was 5/95 you would be saving time in the 5% of cases, while in the remaining 95% you would be applying the rules... the same thing that you would have done normally.
I mean I don't see how "I disagree in this case. Let's use the official rules" is slower than "let's use the official rules...always".

Yes, if everyone agreed to follow the rules always, it would go more smoothly and quickly than if you allowed debate whenever someone thought something should be different. Ideally everyone is on the same page from the beginning, you know what situations are covered by game rules and what happens when something isn't covered by the rules, and there should be little argument or disagreement.



Regarding fairness: you say that all players should have an equal chance to partecipate and impact the game. If the GM gives the first player a DC for trying to hit the bad guy he would give the same DC even to the second player, or not ? Unless there is a reason, and he would have to explain it. There is also the problem that the rules could be bad and some character weaker than others (hello d&D 3.5 !) or they could be different and the GM scenario favour one over the other. You could say: it's better if the rules are unfair, rather than the GM. Which sounds more like you need rules as safeguards for bad groups, rather than tools to accomplish something for good groups.

This is about creating your own rules, right? Why would you create bad or unfair rules?
If you think some rules in a game are bad, you change them. You need rules for a game.
You shouldn't be playing against the rules, or "making it work" in spite of the rules. If there are too many rules you think you need to ignore, you aren't playing the right game.
You need the right rules for the sort of game you want to play.

It isn't "good" and "bad" groups or GMs. I'm talking about fairness on a meta-level - everyone knows what to expect at the beginning of the game and have an equal chance to make game decisions with full awareness of how the game works, and hopefully can somewhat predict the possible outcomes of their actions. Very light rules might be appropriate for a certain type of game. More mechanical involvement is appropriate for others.

BlacKnight
2018-01-02, 07:24 AM
Realism and detail aren't really the same thing though. You can be realistic in the sense of outcomes without going into very high resolution as to how exactly those outcomes came to be. For example, with the enemy getting shot in the thigh - you can basically say, wherever the enemy gets shot only three outcomes really matter: it's a graze that won't matter any time in the immediate future, its bad enough that they're basically no longer an effective combatant and will for the most part be dealing with things like shock and bleeding out, or it kills them outright. If someone is going for the kill shot, a perfect outcome is that the target is killed outright, a partial success is the disabling shot, and a failure is a graze or miss. If someone is going for a disabling shot, a perfect outcome is to disable but not kill, a partial success is a low chance of kill or a high chance of graze, and a failure is a graze/miss.

Whether its thigh or arm or foot or a stomach wound or whatever doesn't really matter in terms of what will - realistically - happen in the next thirty seconds. So you can preserve realism just fine without resolving it. Or, alternately, since you know that you also know that its totally fine to let anyone narrate the details however they like as long as it doesn't change the type of hit. If someone wants their disabling shot to be a hit to the thigh or a hit to the arm or whatever, you can just let them decide since you know that its isolated from the mechanical elements which are there to ensure realism.

The place where you'd want detailed rules for hit locations is if you want players to actually incorporate that into their planning somehow - e.g. if by choosing a specific location to plant their sniper, they can increase the odds of that thigh hit in exchange for a decreased chance of head wounds and thereby improve their chances of taking the target alive, or something like that. But if its just something that's going to be random and hard to influence anyhow, you might as well just not bother with making any rules for it.

In D&D we had a problem: when critting against normal humans we described the hit as a lethal hit, but then the enemy still had HP. The rules forced the fiction to go in a direction we tought was wrong.
In the same way if the rules don't distinguish between the type of wounds there will be situations where the narration done by the player/GM is decisive, even if it was supposed to be just cosmetic. For example if wounded enemies still have a chance to fight back the location of the wound could matter. If the PC shoots the bad guy, which is lying on the floor, then the PC is distracted by something and the opponent takes his gun... the description of the hit done earlier would be decisive. "I've hit him in the hand !" or "damn, why didn't I hit him in the hand ?"

You say "It doesn't matter as long as it doesn't have a mechanical effect" but how would you resolve the situation above ? Saying that the bad guy takes his gun even if not allowed by the narration, because the rules say so ? Or ignoring the rules ? Or maybe such narration should have never happened, because the rules don't support it ? It seems to me that the latter is your position. If that's the case it means that a group who wants detailed hit location needs mechanical rules that support it, right ?


If you want to have really really mind-twisting stuff, getting out in front of it and putting it in text before character creation can also be a bit of a 'yes, I know it looks broken or crazy, but I'm prepared to run this if you want to give it a shot' thing. For example, having rules ready for how a time travel power would work is saying 'go for it'.

And if instead you give the players a list of "sample characters" made of famous Marvel superheroes ? Maybe with links to their Wiki page ?



This is about creating your own rules, right? Why would you create bad or unfair rules?
If you think some rules in a game are bad, you change them. You need rules for a game.
You shouldn't be playing against the rules, or "making it work" in spite of the rules. If there are too many rules you think you need to ignore, you aren't playing the right game.
You need the right rules for the sort of game you want to play.

The problem is that many rules are important in some situations, while in others they are just a drag. So if we ignore them we are playing the wrong game, but if we switch to a simpler ruleset what happen when we are in the first type of situation and we don't have the rule ? The idea that "stuff don't happen because the rules don't support it" is something that I can't accept. The rules should follow the fiction, not the other way around.




3.5 is full of tables (which don't appear on the SRD or under the OGL, so I'm afraid you'll actually have to open your PHB) telling you what a DC for a particular task should look like. In addition, most skills do have tables which do appear in the SRD, such as Climb's:

Done. Page 79 of PHB. It's just two lines in the Knowledge skill description (which are the same of the SRD). If there are more info please give me the page number. The climb table doesn't help in the slightest in understanding what a fictional skill does.


And 3.5's knowledges should be defined in a more rigourous way in the skill description (it's hardly the perfect RPG either). Maybe when you create your RPG, you can do one better and actually define properly how knowledge works, rather than throwing up your hands and going "The DM will know, dammit!"

There are other RPG that explain better what an Arcana skill or something similar is ?
Because AFAIK they usually just give rules and the GM is supposed to make a setting out of it.
Although I lack experience with setting dependant RPG like Ars Magica or Shadowrun.

NichG
2018-01-02, 08:33 AM
In D&D we had a problem: when critting against normal humans we described the hit as a lethal hit, but then the enemy still had HP. The rules forced the fiction to go in a direction we tought was wrong.
In the same way if the rules don't distinguish between the type of wounds there will be situations where the narration done by the player/GM is decisive, even if it was supposed to be just cosmetic. For example if wounded enemies still have a chance to fight back the location of the wound could matter. If the PC shoots the bad guy, which is lying on the floor, then the PC is distracted by something and the opponent takes his gun... the description of the hit done earlier would be decisive. "I've hit him in the hand !" or "damn, why didn't I hit him in the hand ?"

You say "It doesn't matter as long as it doesn't have a mechanical effect" but how would you resolve the situation above ? Saying that the bad guy takes his gun even if not allowed by the narration, because the rules say so ? Or ignoring the rules ? Or maybe such narration should have never happened, because the rules don't support it ? It seems to me that the latter is your position. If that's the case it means that a group who wants detailed hit location needs mechanical rules that support it, right ?


Well, first I'd examine some of those choices and ask 'is this rule really doing what I wanted it to do?'. Like, when you describe all crits as lethal, why did you make that choice? What was the intended purpose of making that (narrative) rule, as opposed to just describing a critical hit as, say, a strike to a weak point or just any particularly effective strike?

Similarly, lets take the example of the wounded enemy. If we go by the breakdown I described before, a disabling shot is defined as 'injuring in a way such that they are out of the fight'. So, ergo, even if you didn't shoot them in the hand they're succumbing to shock or they've passed out or they're writhing in pain or something like that, at least for the next 30 seconds or however long fights last. If they aren't, then what happened wasn't a disabling shot but rather a graze that the enemy is playing up to make it look like they were taken out. Now lets say the fight finishes, but there's some issue that later on requires you to know where the enemy was shot - for example, maybe you take them captive and you need to know if they can march or if they need to be carried or something like that. In that case, you can simply leave it up to the person who shot them to decide post-facto where the hit was - even if its a metagame advantage to be able to decide that after the fact, its not an advantage which will come up often enough to really cause more problems than the ability to abstract hit location (which could come up all the time) will solve.

As to 'the group who wants detailed hit locations' again I ask - what is this level of detail supposed to accomplish? It shouldn't be there just because it could be there, it should be there because there is some way that the gameplay engages with it. That means that it needs to be something which is sufficiently non-random that it can be part of strategy and planning. If this isn't going to be the case, its probably a mistake to have rules about hit locations at all, because those rules aren't actually doing anything or accomplishing any design goals.

It's a bad design habit to add things to a system just because you can...



And if instead you give the players a list of "sample characters" made of famous Marvel superheroes ? Maybe with links to their Wiki page ?


That's nowhere near the same as saying 'here is how timetravel will work in this game, you interested?'. Knowing that there's a solid system behind it allows an informed decision. Linking to a Marvel character is just going to be ambiguous - if I link to Dr. Strange does that mean that the cosmology will be the same and timetravel will try to emulate how it works in the movie (or comics)? Or does it just mean I'm saying 'look, this level of power is appropriate' (and what exactly does that mean either, since taking the movie for example in some scenes he's having trouble with a martial arts brawl and in others he's soloing a sentient universe).

On the other hand I could say something like:



In this campaign, time is a branching and merging flow, where paradoxes and inconsistencies correspond to whorls and ripples in that flow. A character with powers that violate the normal order of causality can freely change future and past events, but these changes tend to be localized and self-healing, along the path of least resistance - a person saved from death who lives the rest of their life a hermit will likely survive, but someone whose death was historically significant will likely find themselves dying in increasingly improbable fashions a week or two after they've been saved. Even extreme things such as killing one's own parents will end up resolving as twists in history where, it turns out all along, the character had been adopted or some other such distortion. A secondary tendency of this self-healing property is that accidental side-effects of time travel tend to be minimized. Going back and changing an event somewhere that intersects the party's timeline doesn't mean 'play the whole campaign over again', but rather somehow things end up working out mostly the same way.

A sufficiently powerful character can offset this tendency of time to heal itself by acting as an anchor for the new course of events. Each Rank of this power gives the character the potential to anchor a single history-changing alteration even against the self-repairing nature of time. The anchoring lasts up to the furthest reaches of time in which a living version of the character can be found, beyond which time heals once again. Making time-duplicates of an item or person counts as a use of this. At Rank<=3, a character can only release anchors where they were created. At Rank=4, they can be dissolved over the course of a week from any place or time. At Rank=5, a character can release anchors at will. Releasing an anchor can cause a backlash if the anchor was responsible for some benefit - if the character used a time paradox to avoid death, they might find their life imminently threatened once the anchor is released.

It may also be possible, if risky, to anchor a change in a paradox which is so difficult to resolve sensibly that time simply shears into two simultaneously existing branches. Such anchors are notoriously unstable - any other time travel occurring around the event has a chance of introducing a fluctuation which grounds it out, a highly energetic and destructive event to anyone causally connected to the branch point.

At Rank 1 of this power, a character cannot bodily venture into past or future, but can receive information from either. The character can also locally distort the rate of time's passage by about ten percent, allowing them to alter the trajectories of moving objects (e.g. causing a projectile to miss, preventing a car crash by slowing the oncoming vehicle, etc). Distance into the past or future is 10 seconds per level of Insight.

At Rank 2, the character can receive small objects directly from their future or past selves - this doesn't require anchoring so long as the character returns the object in a timely manner. Time distortion is sufficient to slow or accelerate characters giving them either 1 fewer or 1 extra action per 3 rounds. Distance multiplier is 10 minutes.

At Rank 3, the character can project things directly into the past or future, where they can stay for a short period of time (ten minutes per level of Puissance) before snapping back. Time distortion can freeze a target completely in time, or give an extra action every 2 rounds. Distance multiplier is 1 day.

At Rank 4, projection has almost no time limit, and the character can even summon things from other periods in time to their present. The character can maintain a single 'future action' which is a plan for their future self to intervene in the present at a moment of need (essentially getting a free action that round), but this does not refresh until they pay it back unless they anchor the paradox. Distance multiplier is 1 month.

At Rank 5, the character can rip time itself asunder, creating parallel timelines, 'time bubbles' outside of time in which enemies can be imprisoned, or other high-end effects. One big consequence of this rank of power is that paradoxes associated with the character's own body and mind are anchored for free - they can for example freely explore an alternate branch of time and then erase it without the paradox of that alternate information they possess needing to be anchored, and they need never fear backlashes due to the loss of an anchor supporting their continued existence. A character with this rank of the Time power can also spend actions to advance or regress along their own timeline directly - healing wounds that they have just taken, reverting to a younger age, etc. Distance multiplier is 5 years.


If something like that is in the rules, it lets players know what it's going to be like to play a time traveler in this game and to what extent they will be able to do classic time travel shenanigans.

Lord Raziere
2018-01-02, 08:48 AM
On Freeform: My early role-playing experience was actually entirely in free-form. And it can work, you just have to make up the missing system knowledge with setting knowledge. From what technology and/or magic is available in the setting, to an idea of the tone and the power of the protagonists.

My experience with freeform is that it works much better for PbP than system-based roleplaying because you don't have to go through the arduous process of rolling and can think out your actions, thus every post can have a reasonable response as long as you think it through.

the worst freeform I've ever seen was one where everyone tried to make themselves as invincible as possible, with only a single obscure weakness for each person so battles became long drawn out affairs full of nothing but counters and counters to the counters, and long OOC arguments about the battles. Didn't have a GM, so players being powergamers was the problem

As long as you don't powergame in freeform, your good.

Thrudd
2018-01-02, 02:28 PM
In D&D we had a problem: when critting against normal humans we described the hit as a lethal hit, but then the enemy still had HP. The rules forced the fiction to go in a direction we tought was wrong.
...
The problem is that many rules are important in some situations, while in others they are just a drag. So if we ignore them we are playing the wrong game, but if we switch to a simpler ruleset what happen when we are in the first type of situation and we don't have the rule ? The idea that "stuff don't happen because the rules don't support it" is something that I can't accept. The rules should follow the fiction, not the other way around.
That problem means you either need to change the way you narrate, or change the rules. Add rules for specific injuries and hit locations. Change the way critical hits work (auto kill instead of just extra damage, if that's what you think it should be). Add a rule that says the GM can fiat injuries, long-term penalties or restrictions to actions at their discretion (not a great rule for fairness, but at least the players would have a heads up).

The rules and the narrative should never work against each other. If they aren't in-sync, you should examine that and fix it. They should help you narrate what and how you want to narrate. It isn't that "stuff doesn't happen if the rules don't cover it." If the rules don't cover it, then it's a thing that shouldn't affect game play - it isn't a strategic consideration for players in creating characters or taking actions. If there are no rules for injured hands, it doesn't mean you can't describe an injured hand- it means injured hands don't affect the things characters can do in the game. You can describe a hurt hand, but maybe like an action hero the character can power through it and use it anyway. That's the type of game/story that rule-set would promote.

Jormengand
2018-01-02, 07:51 PM
The point which I think is being obnoxiously and deliberately ignored is that the rules are supposed, whether 3.5 is good at it or not (it is; do the work: extrapolate) to provide players with consistent results for consistent actions. You shouldn't have to ask the DM "Can my character climb buildings like the Brotherhood and the Memory Hunters can?" Your character should have a set of rules which tells them whether they can climb walls like an Assassin or an Errorist can, and how likely they are to succeed if they attempt that, and what happens if they fail. Not just "The DM says it happens so it happens."

But fine, whatever, create a game where the only rule is "What I say goes". See how far that gets you. :smallannoyed:

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-02, 07:58 PM
The point which I think is being obnoxiously and deliberately ignored is that the rules are supposed, whether 3.5 is good at it or not (it is; do the work: extrapolate) to provide players with consistent results for consistent actions. You shouldn't have to ask the DM "Can my character climb buildings like the Brotherhood and the Memory Hunters can?" Your character should have a set of rules which tells them whether they can climb walls like an Assassin or an Errorist can, and how likely they are to succeed if they attempt that, and what happens if they fail. Not just "The DM says it happens so it happens."


I have to generally agree with that, especially the part I bolded.

Knaight
2018-01-03, 10:20 AM
The point which I think is being obnoxiously and deliberately ignored is that the rules are supposed, whether 3.5 is good at it or not (it is; do the work: extrapolate) to provide players with consistent results for consistent actions.
The quality is relevant here. If the rules aren't good at it (and they aren't), then a lot of the alleged advantages are lost.


You shouldn't have to ask the DM "Can my character climb buildings like the Brotherhood and the Memory Hunters can?" Your character should have a set of rules which tells them whether they can climb walls like an Assassin or an Errorist can, and how likely they are to succeed if they attempt that, and what happens if they fail. Not just "The DM says it happens so it happens."
This is the primary point of contention. I don't need these rules. I don't wan these rules. I have consistently had more fun, as a player and GM, in systems where we didn't deal with these rules. A general climbing skill rank and one general difficulty table is enough for me, and I've found that it works better.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-01-03, 10:39 AM
I like having rules, but I differ with a few things here.


Your character should have a set of rules which tells them [1]whether they can climb walls like an Assassin or an Errorist can, and [2]how likely they are to succeed if they attempt that, and [3]what happens if they fail.

[1] This should be a tunable parameter, as long as the system isn't setting/tone-locked. For a multi-setting system, the information should be available at session 0. "For this game, we're running in action-hero mode. Things like Assassin's Creed-style parkour occur regularly" vs "For this game, we're playing dark-and-gritty mode. Expect to be limited to 'regular people' stunts." and then have some mechanical backing.

[2] As long as exact precision isn't required, I'm fine with this. Knowing "I have a 25% chance to succeed" is, to me, very meta. Real people don't know that. They know "can succeed without a challenge (usually because I've done this exact thing before repeatedly)", "easy but a chance of screwing up", "challenging but doable", "difficult but possible with luck", or "I will only succeed if I get really lucky." And this is at best. Humans are bad with assigning probabilities to things. DMs should telegraph the rough difficulty, but knowing the exact numbers ahead of time is unnecessary, as is knowing all the factors that go into the DC calculation.

[3] Consequences of failure depend strongly on the situation, so encoding this in the actual mechanics is very difficult and failure-prone, IMO. The consequence of failing a climb check in one case may be that you never start climbing; in another it means you fall to your certain doom. And this depends on the fictional situation which can't be given on a table somewhere.

As a general rule, rules that require multiple table lookups (especially conditional table lookups) and chains of logic (If X, then Y, but if Y then Z, but only if not Y') make me not want to use a system. Things that require strong consistency, have high consequences, and are outside the normal experience of prospective players (e.g. combat) should have the most well-defined and nailed-down rules. Things that have weaker consequences or are not consistent (not all "rough walls" are the same!) or are within the normal experience of the prospective players can have much looser rules with only a framework to guide DMs.

Segev
2018-01-03, 04:16 PM
I'll just third (or fourth, or whatever) the point that the purpose of rules in an RPG are to allow players to have shared expectations of what the results of their actions will be. They may be uncertain, but the uncertainty will be bounded by parameters they can judge based on the rules. "Can Billy the Bat get across the chasm?" is a question that should be answerable by examining his character sheet and knowing a few details about the width of the chasm and any extraneous terrain or environmental features (such as up/downdrafts, if important).

If Billy the Bat can fly, his sheet should say so, and the answer of "yes, of course he can" would be obvious. If he instead is a gadget-based superhero, then rules for what his gadgets can (and can't) do should inform whether he definitely can, has to make some sort of roll, or definitely can't. If Billy the Bat is just a really awesome athlete, estimates of minimum and maximum distances he can leap based on a roll should, when compared with the chasm's width, tell us whether he has a chance to succeed or fail, or if the results are certain one way or the other. (A 2-foot-wide 'chasm' is a guaranteed success; a mild-wide chasm is a guaranteed failure for even a comic-book "normal human.")

The reason the rules are there is to let the players make this kind of determination without having to ask the GM whether they can or not. To take guessing out of it.

To make it so that the game of cops & robbers with a judge doesn't just amount to asking the judge, every time, if he decides the shooter hit the target or not.

BlacKnight
2018-01-04, 05:43 AM
Well, first I'd examine some of those choices and ask 'is this rule really doing what I wanted it to do?'. Like, when you describe all crits as lethal, why did you make that choice? What was the intended purpose of making that (narrative) rule, as opposed to just describing a critical hit as, say, a strike to a weak point or just any particularly effective strike?

We tought a normal human should die to the best hit possible with a weapon. The rules didn't work with the fiction we had in mind.


Similarly, lets take the example of the wounded enemy. If we go by the breakdown I described before, a disabling shot is defined as 'injuring in a way such that they are out of the fight'. So, ergo, even if you didn't shoot them in the hand they're succumbing to shock or they've passed out or they're writhing in pain or something like that, at least for the next 30 seconds or however long fights last. If they aren't, then what happened wasn't a disabling shot but rather a graze that the enemy is playing up to make it look like they were taken out. Now lets say the fight finishes, but there's some issue that later on requires you to know where the enemy was shot - for example, maybe you take them captive and you need to know if they can march or if they need to be carried or something like that. In that case, you can simply leave it up to the person who shot them to decide post-facto where the hit was - even if its a metagame advantage to be able to decide that after the fact, its not an advantage which will come up often enough to really cause more problems than the ability to abstract hit location (which could come up all the time) will solve.

As to 'the group who wants detailed hit locations' again I ask - what is this level of detail supposed to accomplish? It shouldn't be there just because it could be there, it should be there because there is some way that the gameplay engages with it. That means that it needs to be something which is sufficiently non-random that it can be part of strategy and planning. If this isn't going to be the case, its probably a mistake to have rules about hit locations at all, because those rules aren't actually doing anything or accomplishing any design goals.

Why I want hit location ? Let's see: why would I want a system where the combat is divided in actions, instead of having a single roll deciding the entire fight ? I would say because I think that level of detail is interesting. So on the same page I would say that having to deal with specific wounds and penalties is interesting. Even if it's random. I mean the rolls to hit are random too.

I think I have a problem with the level of detail. Basically I like detail. So for any situation there are going to be situational modifiers. One time could be "the range of your weapon is not enough to hit that target" the other "your weapon can penetrate that door" and the other again something about hit location. These things are interesting in that specific situation, but not in the majority of other situations.
So I should make rules only for the common situations, which could be (for example) rules for combat rounds, initiative and rolls to hit. But then a lot of situations would have GM calls that modify the basic rules.
But following your line of tought I shouldn't do that: the rules are for players to understand stuff and plan around it.
So I have to ignore that level of detail. But I don't want to do that. We like those details. They are important to us, even any one of them comes out rarely.


If something like that is in the rules, it lets players know what it's going to be like to play a time traveler in this game and to what extent they will be able to do classic time travel shenanigans.

I have to say your time power description is quite good and detailed. I wish RPG designers made more stuff like that instead of "this power makes XD6. Go figure what actually happens".



That problem means you either need to change the way you narrate, or change the rules. Add rules for specific injuries and hit locations. Change the way critical hits work (auto kill instead of just extra damage, if that's what you think it should be). Add a rule that says the GM can fiat injuries, long-term penalties or restrictions to actions at their discretion (not a great rule for fairness, but at least the players would have a heads up).

The rules and the narrative should never work against each other. If they aren't in-sync, you should examine that and fix it. They should help you narrate what and how you want to narrate. It isn't that "stuff doesn't happen if the rules don't cover it." If the rules don't cover it, then it's a thing that shouldn't affect game play - it isn't a strategic consideration for players in creating characters or taking actions. If there are no rules for injured hands, it doesn't mean you can't describe an injured hand- it means injured hands don't affect the things characters can do in the game. You can describe a hurt hand, but maybe like an action hero the character can power through it and use it anyway. That's the type of game/story that rule-set would promote.

If a thing can't affect the characters is just like it doesn't exist.
If I can describe an injured hand, that means there is an injured hand in the fictional world. If it's a world of heroes that can be a neglectable thing, but if it's not ? I need that injured hand to affect the fiction. So I need rules for it ?
It would seems so by your answer. But you haven't really answered about the problem of rules weight. I mean if I want to promote realistic combat I need a ruleset that simulates realistic combat ? But that would be basically unplayable.


EDIT: I tought of a better example to explain my crux. The PCs want to kill a bad guy that is behind a heavy wood door. Al shoots with his 9mm handgun against the door. Then Bob shoots with his .50 machine gun. There are no rules about material penetration. What happens ?

NichG
2018-01-04, 08:04 AM
We tought a normal human should die to the best hit possible with a weapon. The rules didn't work with the fiction we had in mind.

Yeah, you need a different system to make a rule like that work. If you have a system where any hit could randomly kill you, it also has to be a system where the primary tactical element is preventing enemies from even getting a chance to hit you. So it fits more in a Counterstrike-like stealth game than a game like D&D where the system is built on the expectation of standing there and trading blows.

You could also do it in a system where armor or cover can just outright prevent crits, which would get you something that plays kind of like the recent X-Com games.



Why I want hit location ? Let's see: why would I want a system where the combat is divided in actions, instead of having a single roll deciding the entire fight ? I would say because I think that level of detail is interesting. So on the same page I would say that having to deal with specific wounds and penalties is interesting. Even if it's random. I mean the rolls to hit are random too.

Here we get into things that really need to be analyzed from a somewhat 'gamist' point of view though. Having rolls to hit rather than just a straight out deterministic comparison primarily has gamist consequences - in terms of the design purpose, it's twofold: one is that, psychologically, chance is exciting; adding uncertainty to something can make fairly boring strategic elements more interesting because of the way that risk feels to a player. The other is that the alternative would be very binary - always hit or always miss - and so adding a probabilistic element smooths the outcomes and therefore makes it so that improvements or situational modifiers to character abilities can have a finer level of granularity. You could also solve this by folding to-hit into damage and taking average, which actually plays almost the same in terms of outcomes.

The bigger issue of, why divide combat into actions, has to do with making tactical decisions relevant. If combat is just a single roll, there are no decisions that can be made within combat which change things. It would be like playing chess and just looking at the Elo rankings of players rather than having them actually play the game. By breaking combat down into smaller elements, you make it so that there are decisions and evaluations to be made which influence the outcome from within the activity, which ultimately makes those things more relevant to the game and to the story. That's the different between detailing something which has player input (where do you stand, how do you move, what action do you choose?) and something which can just be immediately re-abstracted (roll to hit, then roll for damage; versus take-average or a combined roll method). The second is almost entirely about illusion and perception - you might feel like there's more going on, but actually there isn't.



I think I have a problem with the level of detail. Basically I like detail. So for any situation there are going to be situational modifiers. One time could be "the range of your weapon is not enough to hit that target" the other "your weapon can penetrate that door" and the other again something about hit location. These things are interesting in that specific situation, but not in the majority of other situations.
So I should make rules only for the common situations, which could be (for example) rules for combat rounds, initiative and rolls to hit. But then a lot of situations would have GM calls that modify the basic rules.
But following your line of tought I shouldn't do that: the rules are for players to understand stuff and plan around it.
So I have to ignore that level of detail. But I don't want to do that. We like those details. They are important to us, even any one of them comes out rarely.


The alternative is, you can have that level of detail but it's your responsibility to make sure that it's somehow tactically meaningful - by which I mean, there must be relevant choices tied to controlling those details. In which case the players then can understand it and plan around it. Otherwise you get that 'harmful complexity' effect you were noticing in your first post, where you end up with all of these rules you 'have to have' but they're not actually doing much of anything other than taking time and attention.

If we take your above example of 'crits kill', we can build such a system around that idea.


Lets start with the idea that whether something a crit is not just a function of the roll, but is also a function of the cover or armor the target has. We'll resolve an attack in the following way: the attacker has a rating which is derived from other stuff, but is generally from 1 to 10. Attackers always make called shots at a bonus or penalty to their choice of: legs (+0), arms (-1), head (-1), torso (+1). The attacker rolls 10 d10's and each d10 which rolls equal to or less than the attacker's rating is considered a 'success' (optionally, on rolling a 1 add another d10 and roll that too, as long as 1s keep coming up). Subtract the defender's location-specific armor and cover from the number of successes, where someone shooting blind from cover has for example arms exposed, someone looking at shooting has head and arms exposed, etc.

On 1-4 successes, the attacker causes damage. On 5-7 successes, the attacker causes damage and compromises the armor at the hit location. On 8-9 successes, in addition the attacker also causes an injury to the hit location which has a corresponding debuff. On 10 successes, the target loses the limb if struck on an extremity, or is killed outright if struck on torso or head.

Armor on arms interferes with aim, armor on legs interferes with reflexive movement and swimming, torso armor is heavy and slows the character, head armor penalizes perception, etc. Armor piercing weapons reduce the effective level of armor by a fixed amount. Rapidfire weapons allow the attacker to subdivide their successes into a certain number of dice-groups based on the weapon type (so if they roll 6 successes, they could deal two 3-success chunks of damage with a Rate 2 weapon) but must apply armor separately to each chunk, etc. Lots of different ways you can play with this kind of setup.

So now there's a couple of potentially interesting choices tied to the detail. A character who really wants to be the best possible scout probably has to go lightly armored in certain ways at least, which leaves them vulnerable to specific attacks that an attacker can choose intentionally. Because of the armor-degrading aspect of attacks, followup attacks to a very successful hit might tend to focus on that location with the tradeoff that the attacker loses some flexibility. Furthermore, you can have automatically lethal crits (10 successes) but characters can ensure that the conditions that would permit them are avoided by e.g. riding around in a tank or making sure to secure cover.

This also answers your door question - ad hoc rule the number of armor points of cover something is worth, but it integrates into the armor system with everything else.

To really make this shine, I feel like it'd need some other thing that is both location-connected and diverse between targets to tie it all together. Location-specific cyberware perhaps.


Anyhow, the point is if you're going to take up time and space in the rules with something, it should be doing some work towards a specific purpose.

Zombimode
2018-01-04, 08:21 AM
I tought of a better example to explain my crux. The PCs want to kill a bad guy that is behind a heavy wood door. Al shoots with his 9mm handgun against the door. Then Bob shoots with his .50 machine gun. There are no rules about material penetration. What happens ?

I guess by "there are no rules about material Penetration" you mean that there are no rules specifically called out to deal with material Penetration, right?

But there are likely other rules that are relevant to the context of the Situation.
Thus, how to map the effect of the door against the weapons as well as the differences between the weapons depends on the specific rules language and rules constructs of the System in question.

So lets view your Situation through the lense of some Systems I'm familiar with:

Fate:
The most simple solution is to increase the difficulty of the check of attacking (through the door).
Fate is not big on granularity so there might no difference in the weapons in this situation.
Or the GM could declare an Aspect of the .50 machine gun "overpenetration" or so that could be invoked by the player to ignore the increase in difficulty of the attack.
Or the machine gun could just ignore the difficulty increase per default.
Really depends on the mood of the game.

Savage Worlds:
Since Toughness governs if a hit actually affects (and how much) the target, having a closed door increasing the Toughness against an attack trough the door seems reasonable to me.
The weapons are likely to differ in their damage (and rate of fire), both of which are naturally linked to attacks and Toughness.
The GM has to make up the actual increase in Toughness, of course.

2d20 (Conan, Star Trek Adventures):
Reduce the damage dice or apply a flat penalty on the damage.

d20:
Many Options. The GM could use the provides stats for Hardness and Hit Points of Wood and calculate the difference of the attack's damage to that.
Or provide the target with a Bonus to Armor Class.
Or apply a flat damage reduction on the attack's damage.


The gist of all that is: once you have decided what the door will be, conceptionally, in our case: a hindrance to the attempt of Shooting a target on the other side of the door, most if not all Systems are able to map this into rules.

Knaight
2018-01-04, 11:35 AM
We tought a normal human should die to the best hit possible with a weapon. The rules didn't work with the fiction we had in mind.
Different rules are made for different fiction, and the rules aren't necessarily bad because they don't support what you're trying to do with them. They're just the wrong tool for the job. A chisel is an excellent tool, but you wouldn't pound in a nail with it (even if you technically can).


Why I want hit location ? Let's see: why would I want a system where the combat is divided in actions, instead of having a single roll deciding the entire fight ? I would say because I think that level of detail is interesting. So on the same page I would say that having to deal with specific wounds and penalties is interesting. Even if it's random. I mean the rolls to hit are random too.
Cool. So play a system which has hit locations.


I have to say your time power description is quite good and detailed. I wish RPG designers made more stuff like that instead of "this power makes XD6. Go figure what actually happens".
A lot of RPGs do this. There's a concept I like to call qualitative mechanics, where there are game mechanics that do game mechanical things, but they don't work numerically. A lot of RPGs are full of them, D&D mostly avoids them (and the player base tends to hate them when they show up).


If a thing can't affect the characters is just like it doesn't exist.
If I can describe an injured hand, that means there is an injured hand in the fictional world. If it's a world of heroes that can be a neglectable thing, but if it's not ? I need that injured hand to affect the fiction. So I need rules for it ?
It would seems so by your answer. But you haven't really answered about the problem of rules weight. I mean if I want to promote realistic combat I need a ruleset that simulates realistic combat ? But that would be basically unplayable.
If you want to simulate that detail there are some pretty lightweight options to do so. They often rely on those qualitative mechanics (e.g. wound Aspects in Fate), but not always.


EDIT: I tought of a better example to explain my crux. The PCs want to kill a bad guy that is behind a heavy wood door. Al shoots with his 9mm handgun against the door. Then Bob shoots with his .50 machine gun. There are no rules about material penetration. What happens ?
The GM makes a judgement call.

With all that said, you should really check out Nemesis (http://www.arcdream.com/pdf/Nemesis.pdf). It's not a super heavy system (although it's heavier than the length of less than 60 pages would suggest, the rules explanation leans towards density), but it covers everything you want. It's got a location specific wounding system with wounds that influence later mechanics. An unarmored headshot is usually a one shot kill, and the best shot is shooting someone in the head, so that meets your normal human dying criteria. It has an explicit weapon penetration stat and weapon penetration table, and in addition to it being generally useful it has details on it that help evoke the implied action horror setting (human shields show up on the penetration difficulty table, as just one example). It's got powers with qualitative mechanics to them.

Also it's free, and it's a quick read. The mechanics are pretty easy once you get your head around them, although getting the basics firmly might take two readthroughs.

Jormengand
2018-01-04, 01:53 PM
The quality is relevant here. If the rules aren't good at it (and they aren't), then a lot of the alleged advantages are lost.

True. Rules should be of high quality of course. Obviously.


This is the primary point of contention. I don't need these rules. I don't wan these rules. I have consistently had more fun, as a player and GM, in systems where we didn't deal with these rules. A general climbing skill rank and one general difficulty table is enough for me, and I've found that it works better.

Fine: play roll to dodge or something. I prefer systems where I actually know that climbing a tree won't arbitrarily change difficulty because the DM has a different idea of how climbing works than most people.


[1] This should be a tunable parameter, as long as the system isn't setting/tone-locked. For a multi-setting system, the information should be available at session 0. "For this game, we're running in action-hero mode. Things like Assassin's Creed-style parkour occur regularly" vs "For this game, we're playing dark-and-gritty mode. Expect to be limited to 'regular people' stunts." and then have some mechanical backing.

Right, and this is definitely a thing you can do, but you need a method of doing that responsibly, not just making the DM make stuff up like in 5e.


[2] As long as exact precision isn't required, I'm fine with this. Knowing "I have a 25% chance to succeed" is, to me, very meta. Real people don't know that. They know "can succeed without a challenge (usually because I've done this exact thing before repeatedly)", "easy but a chance of screwing up", "challenging but doable", "difficult but possible with luck", or "I will only succeed if I get really lucky." And this is at best. Humans are bad with assigning probabilities to things. DMs should telegraph the rough difficulty, but knowing the exact numbers ahead of time is unnecessary, as is knowing all the factors that go into the DC calculation.

The point here is that the DM shouldn't have to make up the DC of climbing a rough wall with a few handholds, because it should be in the book. The rules should say what the DC is so that you can have shared expectations. And honestly I don't really mind people knowing the percentage chance because "55%" isn't really more useful than "A little over half".


[3] Consequences of failure depend strongly on the situation, so encoding this in the actual mechanics is very difficult and failure-prone, IMO. The consequence of failing a climb check in one case may be that you never start climbing; in another it means you fall to your certain doom. And this depends on the fictional situation which can't be given on a table somewhere.

Again: no. It shouldn't depend on the DM's decision whether you get partway up, or get all the way up, or don't get anywhere at all, before you fall. The DM shouldn't have to choose how many falling dice they want to throw at your character. The DM doesn't need a rule to tell them to do what they want. They can already do what they want.

Knaight
2018-01-04, 02:27 PM
Fine: play roll to dodge or something. I prefer systems where I actually know that climbing a tree won't arbitrarily change difficulty because the DM has a different idea of how climbing works than most people.


The thing is "roll to dodge or something", as you put it, is a category that encompasses a great many RPGs. The idea that it's fine for the GM to determine difficulties isn't an unusual one, and it's well supported. I prefer systems where I can be confident that stupidity like not being able to see the moon because the designers screwed up an explicit penalty on a spot skill doesn't come up. I prefer systems where the game moves along at a decent pace and isn't slowed by constantly having to check tables all the time.

As far as your preferences go, cool. There's games for that too, and there should be. I'm all for having a wide variety of RPG systems. What I'm not for is taking personal preferences and claiming that they're a mandate by which all RPGs should be designed, with RPGs that don't follow them being objectively worse.

Pelle
2018-01-05, 05:48 AM
To the OP: Cool thread! In theory I agree if one can accept the premise, that if all players are on the same page with regards to the setting, character abilities, challenges presented and so on, we don't need many rules, since everyone agrees on what should happen. We could even agree on the chance of success if some action is uncertain as well, and roll for it. In practice however, getting to this level of shared understanding is hard, especially when playing games that are involving superhumans. I think it's worth striving for though.



I'll just third (or fourth, or whatever) the point that the purpose of rules in an RPG are to allow players to have shared expectations of what the results of their actions will be. They may be uncertain, but the uncertainty will be bounded by parameters they can judge based on the rules. "Can Billy the Bat get across the chasm?" is a question that should be answerable by examining his character sheet and knowing a few details about the width of the chasm and any extraneous terrain or environmental features (such as up/downdrafts, if important).

[...]

The reason the rules are there is to let the players make this kind of determination without having to ask the GM whether they can or not. To take guessing out of it.

In theory I agree with this too. But what if the rules get too extensive, so that no player is able to memorize everything?

When no one remembers the rules, the players are not able to expect what the results of their actions will be anyways. Then looking up the rules to get the true answer achieves the same as the GM making something up on the spot. Sure, sometimes the players can be proactive and look up the rules before the situation arises, but you can't do that with everything.

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-05, 10:20 AM
To the OP: Cool thread! In theory I agree if one can accept the premise, that if all players are on the same page with regards to the setting, character abilities, challenges presented and so on, we don't need many rules, since everyone agrees on what should happen. We could even agree on the chance of success if some action is uncertain as well, and roll for it. In practice however, getting to this level of shared understanding is hard, especially when playing games that are involving superhumans. I think it's worth striving for though.


This need for a shared set of fictional-facts is part of what lead me to my deep interest in extensive, iceberg-model worldbuilding.

However, it is my experience that even when we can get everyone to agree on the facts, what those facts mean can still be contentious, especially when it's a fictional world being considered with all the personal subjective interpretation and gap-filling that people do.




In theory I agree with this too. But what if the rules get too extensive, so that no player is able to memorize everything?

When no one remembers the rules, the players are not able to expect what the results of their actions will be anyways. Then looking up the rules to get the true answer achieves the same as the GM making something up on the spot. Sure, sometimes the players can be proactive and look up the rules before the situation arises, but you can't do that with everything.


Good point, there's a complexity and scope limit beyond which the rules would become effectively as arbitrary-feeling as whim.

We see this in real law too... people end up breaking the law not via negligence or malice or unethical intent, but simply because the body of law becomes so vast, self-referential, and arcane, that no one can know all the laws in detail.

BlacKnight
2018-01-05, 10:27 AM
The bigger issue of, why divide combat into actions, has to do with making tactical decisions relevant. If combat is just a single roll, there are no decisions that can be made within combat which change things. It would be like playing chess and just looking at the Elo rankings of players rather than having them actually play the game. By breaking combat down into smaller elements, you make it so that there are decisions and evaluations to be made which influence the outcome from within the activity, which ultimately makes those things more relevant to the game and to the story. That's the different between detailing something which has player input (where do you stand, how do you move, what action do you choose?) and something which can just be immediately re-abstracted (roll to hit, then roll for damage; versus take-average or a combined roll method). The second is almost entirely about illusion and perception - you might feel like there's more going on, but actually there isn't.

The alternative is, you can have that level of detail but it's your responsibility to make sure that it's somehow tactically meaningful - by which I mean, there must be relevant choices tied to controlling those details. In which case the players then can understand it and plan around it. Otherwise you get that 'harmful complexity' effect you were noticing in your first post, where you end up with all of these rules you 'have to have' but they're not actually doing much of anything other than taking time and attention.

Your argument makes me think "We should play FATE". Aspects enter the game only when they are relevant, so you can avoid checking the rules just to add tedious +1 or -1 that have little effect.
In my experience players plan around meaningful details. For example if they can't shoot trough the door they will think of a way to go beyond it or to crush it. If the door just gives a little penalty to damage they will just shoot trough it and the outcome is that we just need more time to resolve the action.
But aspects are tied to GM call. Players can't know in advance that the door can stop 9mm cartridge but not .50 (if not being on the same page with the GM about the setting).


If we take your above example of 'crits kill', we can build such a system around that idea.


Lets start with the idea that whether something a crit is not just a function of the roll, but is also a function of the cover or armor the target has. We'll resolve an attack in the following way: the attacker has a rating which is derived from other stuff, but is generally from 1 to 10. Attackers always make called shots at a bonus or penalty to their choice of: legs (+0), arms (-1), head (-1), torso (+1). The attacker rolls 10 d10's and each d10 which rolls equal to or less than the attacker's rating is considered a 'success' (optionally, on rolling a 1 add another d10 and roll that too, as long as 1s keep coming up). Subtract the defender's location-specific armor and cover from the number of successes, where someone shooting blind from cover has for example arms exposed, someone looking at shooting has head and arms exposed, etc.

On 1-4 successes, the attacker causes damage. On 5-7 successes, the attacker causes damage and compromises the armor at the hit location. On 8-9 successes, in addition the attacker also causes an injury to the hit location which has a corresponding debuff. On 10 successes, the target loses the limb if struck on an extremity, or is killed outright if struck on torso or head.

Armor on arms interferes with aim, armor on legs interferes with reflexive movement and swimming, torso armor is heavy and slows the character, head armor penalizes perception, etc. Armor piercing weapons reduce the effective level of armor by a fixed amount. Rapidfire weapons allow the attacker to subdivide their successes into a certain number of dice-groups based on the weapon type (so if they roll 6 successes, they could deal two 3-success chunks of damage with a Rate 2 weapon) but must apply armor separately to each chunk, etc. Lots of different ways you can play with this kind of setup.

So now there's a couple of potentially interesting choices tied to the detail. A character who really wants to be the best possible scout probably has to go lightly armored in certain ways at least, which leaves them vulnerable to specific attacks that an attacker can choose intentionally. Because of the armor-degrading aspect of attacks, followup attacks to a very successful hit might tend to focus on that location with the tradeoff that the attacker loses some flexibility. Furthermore, you can have automatically lethal crits (10 successes) but characters can ensure that the conditions that would permit them are avoided by e.g. riding around in a tank or making sure to secure cover.

This also answers your door question - ad hoc rule the number of armor points of cover something is worth, but it integrates into the armor system with everything else.

To really make this shine, I feel like it'd need some other thing that is both location-connected and diverse between targets to tie it all together. Location-specific cyberware perhaps.


Anyhow, the point is if you're going to take up time and space in the rules with something, it should be doing some work towards a specific purpose.

Nice system, altough it rolls too many dices for my taste. Also there is a way to add successes (other than rolling 1) ? Bacause otherwise having a 10 successes kill would be basically impossible.



I guess by "there are no rules about material Penetration" you mean that there are no rules specifically called out to deal with material Penetration, right?

But there are likely other rules that are relevant to the context of the Situation.
Thus, how to map the effect of the door against the weapons as well as the differences between the weapons depends on the specific rules language and rules constructs of the System in question.

The gist of all that is: once you have decided what the door will be, conceptionally, in our case: a hindrance to the attempt of Shooting a target on the other side of the door, most if not all Systems are able to map this into rules.

But the door could also totally prevent the PCs from shooting trough. Either way the GM is making up how the door interacts with the rules. Yes, often following the ruleset style, but even so the difference between -1 to damage and -10 can be massive.



A lot of RPGs do this. There's a concept I like to call qualitative mechanics, where there are game mechanics that do game mechanical things, but they don't work numerically. A lot of RPGs are full of them, D&D mostly avoids them (and the player base tends to hate them when they show up).

If you want to simulate that detail there are some pretty lightweight options to do so. They often rely on those qualitative mechanics (e.g. wound Aspects in Fate), but not always.


Qualitative mechanics is a good definition. I can't think of many RPGs with similar stuff. I suppose Fate, Dungeon World... and nothing else. Do you have some advice ?


With all that said, you should really check out Nemesis.

I will do, thanks. Altough it's maybe a little too heavy.



In theory I agree with this too. But what if the rules get too extensive, so that no player is able to memorize everything?

When no one remembers the rules, the players are not able to expect what the results of their actions will be anyways. Then looking up the rules to get the true answer achieves the same as the GM making something up on the spot. Sure, sometimes the players can be proactive and look up the rules before the situation arises, but you can't do that with everything.

I noticed the same issue too. Usually the GM knows the rules better than the players, which are not interested in checking the handbook in the middle of the session. Thus if the GM doesn't remember a rule he can invent something reasonable and 99% of the cases nobody notices anything. This leads to not studying the rules, which leads to making too many unnoticed mistakes, which leads to the Dark Side to me wondering what's the point in checking the handbook to be sure I'm following the rules.

Zombimode
2018-01-05, 10:30 AM
But the door could also totally prevent the PCs from shooting trough. Either way the GM is making up how the door interacts with the rules. Yes, often following the ruleset style, but even so the difference between -1 to damage and -10 can be massive.

Sure.
Your point being?

Segev
2018-01-05, 10:44 AM
In theory I agree with this too. But what if the rules get too extensive, so that no player is able to memorize everything?

When no one remembers the rules, the players are not able to expect what the results of their actions will be anyways. Then looking up the rules to get the true answer achieves the same as the GM making something up on the spot. Sure, sometimes the players can be proactive and look up the rules before the situation arises, but you can't do that with everything.

As Max_Killjoy said, that is a problematic level of rules complexity. However, it still doesn't change that there exist rules for those situations, so if the player is trying to prepare a character who will engage in certain activities as part of his concept, he can hunt down the rules and develop his character to be good at it. The rules empower him that way.

Not advocating for all the rules at maximal complexity everywhere. But the purpose of rules remains to tell people what they can do, and how to make it possible to do it.

NichG
2018-01-05, 11:32 AM
Your argument makes me think "We should play FATE". Aspects enter the game only when they are relevant, so you can avoid checking the rules just to add tedious +1 or -1 that have little effect.
In my experience players plan around meaningful details. For example if they can't shoot trough the door they will think of a way to go beyond it or to crush it. If the door just gives a little penalty to damage they will just shoot trough it and the outcome is that we just need more time to resolve the action.
But aspects are tied to GM call. Players can't know in advance that the door can stop 9mm cartridge but not .50 (if not being on the same page with the GM about the setting).


I don't like how aspects tend to collapse down into interchangeable roll modifiers in FATE, but something conceptually aspect-like but with more structure might be good.


Nice system, altough it rolls too many dices for my taste. Also there is a way to add successes (other than rolling 1) ? Bacause otherwise having a 10 successes kill would be basically impossible.

It's potentially fewer dice than a high level Fighter's full attack in D&D 3.5, and its probably faster to resolve (since you only have a single roll all at once), but you could tweak the numbers a bit. As I wrote it, you don't need a 1 to get a success, you just need to roll <= your threshold (based on skill or other factors). If you have a threshold of 8, for example, then 10% of your shots are instant kills. For both your concerns, dropping the dice pool to 5d10 might be better. That way a threshold of 5 means that 3% of attacks are instant kills on unarmored enemies. I tend to consider a 1% chance of instant kill per action to be on the high side, since a character might receive something like 2 attacks a session on average, 100 sessions a campaign, meaning at 1% each player is looking to lose two characters to lucky crits regardless of anything they do at that level, but the armor system helps a lot with that.

Anyhow, its just an example.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-01-05, 11:43 AM
As Max_Killjoy said, that is a problematic level of rules complexity. However, it still doesn't change that there exist rules for those situations, so if the player is trying to prepare a character who will engage in certain activities as part of his concept, he can hunt down the rules and develop his character to be good at it. The rules empower him that way.

Not advocating for all the rules at maximal complexity everywhere. But the purpose of rules remains to tell people what they can do, and how to make it possible to do it.

But more complex rules come at significant cost even well before you reach unplayable levels. It's more moving parts that have to be balanced against each other, it's more room for strange interactions, it's harder to get into, it takes more effort to DM, etc.

Having defined DC values also strongly limits the scenarios that can be described to those that match the prescribed values. Even within a given setting, not all "iron doors" are the same. If you allow circumstance modifiers that are anywhere near the size of the actual value, you've just got "DM decides" but hidden. There's also strong pressure to make all such entities the same. To me, it feels like playing a video game where everything's stamped out from a uniform backing entity (game asset) rather than an actual world where the variation between "similar" (at the level of the DC tables) things is on the same magnitude as the variation between entities that supposedly vary. I've seen wooden doors that were much stronger than metal ones. And for more complicated things this gets progressively worse. Better to have an expected range (the vast majority of DCs are between 10 and 20, with most in the 10-15 range) than to have these purported exact numbers that either actually vary strongly at DM fiat (circumstance modifiers) or that force all "similar" things to be identical.

But that's just my preference--this isn't an objective right/wrong. Only a "this is better for style X, that's better for style Y, but YMMV" situation.

CharonsHelper
2018-01-05, 12:07 PM
But more complex rules come at significant cost even well before you reach unplayable levels. It's more moving parts that have to be balanced against each other, it's more room for strange interactions, it's harder to get into, it takes more effort to DM, etc.

Very true.

This gets into one of my guiding design principles based upon the below three points.

1. Depth is good.

2. Complexity is bad.

3. Depth is purchased with complexity.

Therefore -

Only purchase significant depth for the game's focus/strengths and try to get the best depth/complexity bargain that you can. Streamline everything else as much as you can get away with.

Of course: how much to streamline & how much complexity is okay are both extremely subjective.

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-05, 12:12 PM
But more complex rules come at significant cost even well before you reach unplayable levels. It's more moving parts that have to be balanced against each other, it's more room for strange interactions, it's harder to get into, it takes more effort to DM, etc.

Having defined DC values also strongly limits the scenarios that can be described to those that match the prescribed values. Even within a given setting, not all "iron doors" are the same. If you allow circumstance modifiers that are anywhere near the size of the actual value, you've just got "DM decides" but hidden. There's also strong pressure to make all such entities the same. To me, it feels like playing a video game where everything's stamped out from a uniform backing entity (game asset) rather than an actual world where the variation between "similar" (at the level of the DC tables) things is on the same magnitude as the variation between entities that supposedly vary. I've seen wooden doors that were much stronger than metal ones. And for more complicated things this gets progressively worse. Better to have an expected range (the vast majority of DCs are between 10 and 20, with most in the 10-15 range) than to have these purported exact numbers that either actually vary strongly at DM fiat (circumstance modifiers) or that force all "similar" things to be identical.

But that's just my preference--this isn't an objective right/wrong. Only a "this is better for style X, that's better for style Y, but YMMV" situation.


This is where I'd say that DCs (or TNs, or whatever they're called in a system) for things like "how hard is a door of this type to break" should be clearly presented as "typical" or "average" or "suggested" instead of "this is how hard every iron door is to break down".

If the GM needs a "typical" iron door on the fly, they grab that number. If the GM has a specific iron door in mind, they adjust for great construction or for decades of rust or whatever.

Pelle
2018-01-05, 12:34 PM
This is where I'd say that DCs (or TNs, or whatever they're called in a system) for things like "how hard is a door of this type to break" should be clearly presented as "typical" or "average" or "suggested" instead of "this is how hard every iron door is to break down".

If the GM needs a "typical" iron door on the fly, they grab that number. If the GM has a specific iron door in mind, they adjust for great construction or for decades of rust or whatever.

But isn't it better if what door is considered hard to break (iron or wood) is dependent on the setting, genre, and a shared understanding by the players, instead of hardcoded by the system?

Again, I guess it depends on how difficult it is to have a consensus, but if possible I greatly prefer that.

PhoenixPhyre
2018-01-05, 12:41 PM
This is where I'd say that DCs (or TNs, or whatever they're called in a system) for things like "how hard is a door of this type to break" should be clearly presented as "typical" or "average" or "suggested" instead of "this is how hard every iron door is to break down".

If the GM needs a "typical" iron door on the fly, they grab that number. If the GM has a specific iron door in mind, they adjust for great construction or for decades of rust or whatever.

A large part of this depends on the expected range of difficulties over the entire game is. If I (as DM) am supposed to set an integer DC over a range of 40 or so (ie 3e D&D), I'm gonna need a table of default values. Because each individual point may matter strongly (especially given the range of skill points available).

If, on the other hand, DCs are 90% of the time in the range 10-20, with suggestions of using 10, 15, or 20, it's a lot easier. Instead of thinking "this is an iron door with modifications XYZ, so DC = base + mod_1 + mod_2 + ..." I think "this is a really hard door to break. DC 20". And then players know that the range of expected values is 10-20, with most being 10 or 15.

Edit: And having it vary by setting (or even micro-setting) is also a thing. The dwarves of Fuar-Uulan make much better metal doors than the people of Byssia (who barely use any metal). On the flip side, a well-made Byssian wood door is going to be much better than a well-made Uulanian wood door (because the Byssians have master woodcrafters and tree-growers).

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-05, 01:04 PM
But isn't it better if what door is considered hard to break (iron or wood) is dependent on the setting, genre, and a shared understanding by the players, instead of hardcoded by the system?

Again, I guess it depends on how difficult it is to have a consensus, but if possible I greatly prefer that.


My personal preference is that the "average door" breaking DC be set as example in a master list of example DCs, based against how hard it would be for the average person to break the average door. If the person is stronger than average, it will be easier for them to break the door because their great strength is represented in their character build. If the door is better or worse than average for doors, then its DC is set higher or lower.

Personally, I would much rather have a frame of reference (that doesn't cause "WTH?" moments) than operate in a vacuum.

Tinkerer
2018-01-05, 01:47 PM
My personal preference is that the "average door" breaking DC be set as example in a master list of example DCs, based against how hard it would be for the average person to break the average door. If the person is stronger than average, it will be easier for them to break the door because their great strength is represented in their character build. If the door is better or worse than average for doors, then its DC is set higher or lower.

Personally, I would much rather have a frame of reference (that doesn't cause "WTH?" moments) than operate in a vacuum.

Yeah, there are a couple of problems which can easily cause this. I call the first one the "5-15" problem. That's where (in a d20 system) a GM will routinely rule that a rolled 5 will fail and a rolled 15 will succeed regardless of other circumstances. Now that is admittedly an exaggerated example (although one I've seen played straight on a number of occasions) but the more common example that I've seen is that if you have a character with a +19 to a task who rolls a 3 and a character with a +2 to a task who rolls a 19 several GMs will rule that the character who rolled a 3 failed and the character who rolled a 19 succeeded.

The other one is "Oblivion scaling" where the GM will scale things which really don't make sense such as a stuck rotted non-magical door in an epic level dungeon having a higher bash DC than a well constructed locked door in a 1st level dungeon.

I've seen both of these examples come up more often than I would care to admit.

Pelle
2018-01-05, 02:55 PM
My personal preference is that the "average door" breaking DC be set as example in a master list of example DCs, based against how hard it would be for the average person to break the average door. If the person is stronger than average, it will be easier for them to break the door because their great strength is represented in their character build. If the door is better or worse than average for doors, then its DC is set higher or lower.

Makes sense. I guess I kind of do the same in practise. I prefer 'realistic' games (not a fan of superheros or god-wizards), so I just calibrate the DCs on what is possible for normal people, world records, real physics and so on.

I realize it comes down to for me; when I estimate a DC, it will either roughly match what the system rules say or it will not. If it matches, good, but what is the point of having an extensive ruleset then? If it doesn't match, the system is bad, since it produces nonsensical results :smallsmile:

I know, this isn't helpful for making the players understand what their characters can do. Though, I'm assuming that if I judge a task to be 'difficult', it is more likely that other people will also do that than them considering it 'easy'...

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-05, 03:12 PM
Makes sense. I guess I kind of do the same in practise. I prefer 'realistic' games (not a fan of superheros or god-wizards), so I just calibrate the DCs on what is possible for normal people, world records, real physics and so on.

I realize it comes down to for me; when I estimate a DC, it will either roughly match what the system rules say or it will not. If it matches, good, but what is the point of having an extensive ruleset then? If it doesn't match, the system is bad, since it produces nonsensical results :smallsmile:

I know, this isn't helpful for making the players understand what their characters can do. Though, I'm assuming that if I judge a task to be 'difficult', it is more likely that other people will also do that than them considering it 'easy'...

To expound on the part in your first paragraph -- if a game using this system does end up with a character who is a superhero or demigod (and thus possessing or able to access fantastic strength), then their attempt (roll, whatever) will be able to easily overcome the DC of a normal door, maybe even to the point that they automatically succeed.

Quertus
2018-01-05, 04:07 PM
Yeah, there are a couple of problems which can easily cause this. I call the first one the "5-15" problem. That's where (in a d20 system) a GM will routinely rule that a rolled 5 will fail and a rolled 15 will succeed regardless of other circumstances. Now that is admittedly an exaggerated example (although one I've seen played straight on a number of occasions) but the more common example that I've seen is that if you have a character with a +19 to a task who rolls a 3 and a character with a +2 to a task who rolls a 19 several GMs will rule that the character who rolled a 3 failed and the character who rolled a 19 succeeded.

The other one is "Oblivion scaling" where the GM will scale things which really don't make sense such as a stuck rotted non-magical door in an epic level dungeon having a higher bash DC than a well constructed locked door in a 1st level dungeon.

I've seen both of these examples come up more often than I would care to admit.

Ugh. I'd find both rather jarring. I've occasionally called for a roll, only to have a player tell me that they have X in Y, and ask if they really need to roll, to which I'll generally just respond "no".

PhoenixPhyre
2018-01-05, 04:28 PM
To expound on the part in your first paragraph -- if a game using this system does end up with a character who is a superhero or demigod (and thus possessing or able to access fantastic strength), then their attempt (roll, whatever) will be able to easily overcome the DC of a normal door, maybe even to the point that they automatically succeed.

If person X should automatically succeed, they shouldn't have to roll at all. I'm not fond of critical fails for skills (or critical success, for that matter).

5e's DC setting process basically asks this same question (ie calibrate with "normal" people):

1) Is the outcome in doubt? If not, don't roll. Either auto-success or auto-failure. Err on the side of success (presume the PCs are competent).

This includes if any reasonable DC would be less than the bonuses of the character (so they'd succeed on a 1). For example, I have a rogue in one game who (because of a class feature) can't roll below a 21 (minimum roll of 10, +11 modifier) on an acrobatics check. That means that many acrobatics tasks can't fail for him, since normal DCs are in the range 10-20. So he just succeeds without rolling unless it's super special.

2) Decide how hard it should be for a beginning adventurer who's trained in the skill (+4 modifier). Easy (DC 10) = 25% chance of failure. Medium (DC 15) = 50% chance of failure. Hard (DC 20) = 75% chance of failure. Very hard (DC 25) = 100% chance of failure, although someone with very good stats (+5 modifier) can succeed by sheer chance (5%). An impossible task (that could be overcome by someone very good) has DC 30. DC 20+ should be pretty rare (especially at lower levels)--those things usually just fail. DCs don't change as you level--a certain door that's DC 10 is still DC 10 when you're level 20. But by then you're probably auto-succeeding.

You could use an untrained commoner (+0), but that just shifts things by 20% (so "medium" is actually hard, etc).

3) Roll the dice. Partial success, partial failure are allowed (usually failing by 5 or less or succeeding by 5 or more). What a success or a failure looks like depends too much on the exact situation to really encode (at least for me), although the guidance is that partial success (or success at a cost) should change the environment and make further progress require a new strategy.

4) If they failed (but not really bad), but that failure doesn't really have bad consequences other than lost time, they can succeed if they take 10x as long. Often this is used by default for non-hurried "search the whole room exhaustively" type things.

Max_Killjoy
2018-01-05, 04:33 PM
If person X should automatically succeed, they shouldn't have to roll at all. I'm not fond of critical fails for skills (or critical success, for that matter).


I tend to agree that there comes a point where a roll is superfluous (thus "maybe even to the point that they automatically succeed") -- or should only be made for degree of success, not chance of success.

And in general I'm not much of a fan of "you fail no matter what on this result" rules unless they're handled very carefully.

Pelle
2018-01-05, 04:37 PM
To expound on the part in your first paragraph -- if a game using this system does end up with a character who is a superhero or demigod (and thus possessing or able to access fantastic strength), then their attempt (roll, whatever) will be able to easily overcome the DC of a normal door, maybe even to the point that they automatically succeed.

Yeah. I'm running a 'well known' d20 system at the moment, and try to mostly follow this approach:
http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/38039/roleplaying-games/art-of-rulings-part-5-skill-and-difficulty