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Zuras
2021-07-24, 11:59 PM
Question for GMs out there who have experience with multiple systems.

Are there any particular systems that you've used that you felt gave you a completely different viewpoint on how RPGs work? I've been playing a lot of Fate over the last year, and the way it pares down the system gave me a much better sense when the story was dragging or when there were pacing problems. Now when I'm running my D&D 5e games, I have a much higher comfort level with my players improv--not because I ever disliked giving them narrative freedom, but after a year of playing Fate, I have much greater confidence in my feel for when the story is veering from our collective reality narrative.

What games have opened your eyes the most to new possibilities? I'm asking because I'm not familiar with exactly how different other games like the Storyteller System, HERO, and others are from D&D--I've played GURPS before too, and I happily mine it for mechanical ideas at times, but it didn't really change my perspective on D&D, the way Fate did.

Telok
2021-07-25, 03:28 PM
Running supers games put me more in tune with keeping an eye on player expectations and style.

Specifically there are people who learned on D&D and can't seem to set aside certain D&D-isms, like "kill & loot = success, all else is failure" or "we need a tank & healer or we can't play". Leading them to try to play all games as though they were D&D, even after months of regular play in a different system.

Unfortunately I don't have a solution for it beyond not playing non-D&D with those people.

NichG
2021-07-25, 04:33 PM
Nobilis is just very different than anything else I know of. There are a lot of assumptions or frameworks that other games build around, such as the role of randomness, resolution systems, balance, keeping things grounded or realistic, being specific about what characters can and cannot do, etc ideas which all just go out the window with Nobilis, and yet it works.

Wraith
2021-07-25, 04:39 PM
Playing Mouseguard was a revelation for me, and my TTRPG-ing career. I started out in AD&D, played a lot of 3rd Edition, and V:tM, and SLA Industries, and Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, and the thing that all of those systems have in common is that the intent is to roll big numbers on the dice until the baddies stop rolling dice back at you - this is 'victory'.

Mouseguard has a very, very different system that requires the players to determine not just "I win" but to determine a compromise between differing goals. For example, if my goal is "kill the guy" and their goal is "to kill me", we roll dice and play cards and THEN compare each player's result to determine an outcome depending on whether it was a narrow victory (or loss) or an overwhelming one.

For example, if "kill you vs kill me" ends with me winning 7/10 rounds, drawing 1/10 and losing 2/10, that is a convincing victory but not an utterly unresisted one - I don't kill the opponent (that would require 10/10 successes), but perhaps I severely wound them and have them at my mercy. Compare this to 4 wins, 2 draw, 4 loses, and the fight ends in a stalemate where both of us are battered but neither has a clear advantage.
The intention of the system is to drive a story - you state your goal, your opponent states theirs, and then you work out something like a compromise to decide how the story ends, based on how close the conflict was.

I like this a lot. It reframed everything I knew about conflict and how to end fights - or even just verbal arguments, as Mouseguard uses the same system to end all of it's conflicts, just with different stats involved - in a way that was more interesting than just "everybody dies or runs away". I mean, I *knew* you could do that while playing D&D, but to see it as a core element of a game really drilled it in and inspired me to think of new, less linear ways to run and play games.

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-25, 06:22 PM
Question for GMs out there who have experience with multiple systems.

Are there any particular systems that you've used that you felt gave you a completely different viewpoint on how RPGs work? I've been playing a lot of Fate over the last year, and the way it pares down the system gave me a much better sense when the story was dragging or when there were pacing problems. Now when I'm running my D&D 5e games, I have a much higher comfort level with my players improv--not because I ever disliked giving them narrative freedom, but after a year of playing Fate, I have much greater confidence in my feel for when the story is veering from our collective reality narrative.

What games have opened your eyes the most to new possibilities? I'm asking because I'm not familiar with exactly how different other games like the Storyteller System, HERO, and others are from D&D--I've played GURPS before too, and I happily mine it for mechanical ideas at times, but it didn't really change my perspective on D&D, the way Fate did.

Playing WEG d6 Star Wars and HERO/Champions fairly early in my gaming "career" really blew up the notion that things like levels, classes, etc were necessary or even good.

Zuras
2021-07-25, 11:01 PM
Playing WEG d6 Star Wars and HERO/Champions fairly early in my gaming "career" really blew up the notion that things like levels, classes, etc were necessary or even good.

How so? My experiences with entirely skill based systems definitely showed me how strict the limitations of class and level systems are, but also gave me more appreciation for character classes as a concept to facilitate teamwork and ensuring every character has a useful role they understand. The analysis paralysis new players hit when trying to build a new GURPS character can be a significant issue (especially for finding new players). It’s comparatively much easier for a 12 year old playing their first D&D game to understand what they’re supposed to do with their barbarian.

Did you run into those sorts of issues in your HERO and d6 games, or did your groups have a solid grasp on party building dynamics and character roles from the beginning?

Anonymouswizard
2021-07-26, 04:18 AM
Playing WEG d6 Star Wars and HERO/Champions fairly early in my gaming "career" really blew up the notion that things like levels, classes, etc were necessary or even good.

Personally for me it was Savage Worlds followed by Unknown Armies 2e that killed the appeal of classes for me. M&M didn't do it because of a mixture of character creation being fairly in depth mechanically and the GM not actually bothering to learn some things like how PL limits actually work (which led to characters being very samey). But UA with it's simple haracter creation more focused on what makes your character tick (with the focus only being stronger in 3e), plus it's really strong flavour and down to earth feel made me reconsider a lot of what I found important

Never had a problem with party building, most groups I've played with grasped 'build different archetypes' very quickly. I've had more problems with interchangeable dwarven fighters in D&D than I've had with role overlap in point build systems.

As a side note, Dark Heresy is what made me more accepting of randomness in character creation, but only when it's actually player choice and you're not compelled into it with bonus XP or Fate Points. I'd still be against random stat rolls in any other setting, but I'm now more willing to randomly determine class/career and race/background bgefore assigning stats (even though DH did it the other way round).

Oh, Unknown Armies followed by Fate also managed to kick me out of the 'more rules is good rules' mentality. The fewer exceptions I find in your game the better, justt give me some broad mechanics that apply to everything

Vahnavoi
2021-07-26, 06:46 AM
I've done freeform play-by-post almost as long as I've done tabletop - no game master, no dice, no party, no mechanical conflict resolution. The differences between various tabletop rulesets are fairly pedestrian in comparison.

I've also done live-action roleplaying and escape rooms - conflict resolution by actual physical action. Again, differences between various tabletop rulesets are fairly pedestrian in comparison.

I've seen some tabletop players argue those are not roleplaying games. Those players are wrong. They are roleplaying games allright - but they are different hobbies. If that's confusing, consider: would you consider football and handball to be the same hobby? I wouldn't.

One thing this has taught me: there are tabletop players who say they want less rules, less dice, less GM interference - as if that is the key to achieving roleplaying nirvana. It isn't. Indeed, I'm convinced these people haven't actually done freeform, if they had, they'd shut up about it. :smalltongue:

On the tabletop side, I started with Cyberpunk 2020, then moved to Basic and Expert D&D, then Middle-Earth Roleplaying Game, then Praedor, then CODA Lord of the Rings, then Lamentations of the Flame Princess... interspersed with dozens of games using homemade systems by myself and others, a dozen smaller local publications and I don't care to name, and a good number of bigger publications that I read through but didn't play much (d6 Star Wars, Twilight 2000, Paranoia etc.).

What this has taught me that even if you stay within a very traditional set of tabletop rules - say, Basic D&D versus Lamentations of the Flame Princess - you can get wildly different games exploring different themes and genres just by changing how the game is run on the GM's side. There are tabletop players who say you can't do low magic with D&D, or can't do horror with D&D, can't do player-versus-player in D&D - those people are wrong. Or rather: they are fixating on completely wrong parts of the rules for their argument.

Related, lot of game design even in published tabletop products is a combination of uncritically derivative combined with naive attempts to dodge past failures. I haven't personally played them, but everything I've heard of White Wolf games (Vampire, Werewolf etc.) from people who did peg them as posterboy examples for this. The game designers didn't want dice and math-head min-maxers ruining their narrative of personal horror... so what did they do? Remove dice and ability scores? Or make a dice pool system that only the math-head min-maxers really understood? The LARP crowd did more innovative and interesting things with Vampire than the tabletop crowd ever did. :smalltongue:

I've played my share of FATE derivatives and Powered-by-the-Apocalypse at conventions and all I can say about them is that they offered nothing groundbreaking or particularly innovative to me. I seriously do not get the people who tout these things as the best thing since sliced bread.

Cluedrew
2021-07-26, 07:47 AM
I started with free-form role-playing, from that I have learned that you don't need any rules to play. Roll for Shoes also convinced me that you don't have to have a lot of rules once you have some.

The biggest single revelation though is when I played a Powered by the Apocalypse game (back when they were Apocalypse World hacks) for the first time. And it was run (and written) by someone who really understood it. It was my first introduction to a truly different role-playing paradigm. Not sold on the entire package but there are some things I really do like and there are bits and bobs I have definitely carried forward. It did take me a while to unpack everything even to really understand how the underlying design had really shifted.

Nothing else really had the same impact because that sparked a search for other paradigms. I did find some, the other example that comes to mind is the toolbox system.


Specifically there are people who learned on D&D and can't seem to set aside certain D&D-isms,Stuff like this is why D&D came up in the worst role-playing games thread for its effect on the hobby. D&D's effect probably isn't quite a net negative but there are days where I see where that is coming from.

Zuras
2021-07-26, 08:17 AM
I've played my share of FATE derivatives and Powered-by-the-Apocalypse at conventions and all I can say about them is that they offered nothing groundbreaking or particularly innovative to me. I seriously do not get the people who tout these things as the best thing since sliced bread.

First off, as a Fate fan I must remind you that Fate is the best RPG system since *sandwiches*, not sliced bread, as indeed for folks like us it provides the perfect amount of rules “bread” to contain the meat of the story, unlike you freeform savages who let all that narrative slop around like a bowl of delicious Wendy’s chili.

More seriously, there are lots of people out there who want to run games but need a structure for it. Games like Fate give you a much lighter structure than D&D, but most people need that structure. It’s like meetings—not every group needs to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, but you need some rules detailing how you take turns talking and how decisions are made unless it’s an extremely chill group or there is a lone supreme facilitator with dictatorial powers.

I can’t disagree that Fate is often underwhelming at conventions, though—I don’t think any game like that really starts cooking till everyone is comfortable with the narrative conventions/operating space in the game, which usually takes more than one session to get going.

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-26, 08:43 AM
How so? My experiences with entirely skill based systems definitely showed me how strict the limitations of class and level systems are, but also gave me more appreciation for character classes as a concept to facilitate teamwork and ensuring every character has a useful role they understand. The analysis paralysis new players hit when trying to build a new GURPS character can be a significant issue (especially for finding new players). It’s comparatively much easier for a 12 year old playing their first D&D game to understand what they’re supposed to do with their barbarian.

Did you run into those sorts of issues in your HERO and d6 games, or did your groups have a solid grasp on party building dynamics and character roles from the beginning?

First, I don't agree with the idea that "character roles" or "niches" are important. Restricted roles and protected niches won't foster teamwork, just attempts to solve the task at hand with the tools each character has, IME. I care far more that each player is invested in and having fun with their character, and that all characters are competent in at least some of the things that the campaign will deal with. D&D and its wargame and dungeon crawl history, to a large degree is as much the source of this idea that classes and defined roles are needed, as it is the classes themselves. If you're not engaged in tactical, tile-based, front-row-back-row combat in a confined space as a central feature of the gaming, a lot of these assumptions don't hold up.

(Big point of disagreement with some other gamers, I actively hate the "just a guy" who gets dragged along and never becomes anything but "just a guy" -- give us a reason why the rest of the PCs haven't dropped you at a village or roadside inn or the last spaceport... don't try to be the permanent bystander or plucky sidekick or damsel in distress or "I just want to go home to my bakery" character, that only works in fiction.)

Second, WEG d6 at least is a simple enough system that it doesn't require a ton of player experience to build characters -- plus it comes with archetypes for beginners if they don't want to build from scratch.

Third, a ton of this comes down to the GM being willing to help with builds, you don't just slide the book across the table to a new player and say "first session next Saturday, make a character".

Jason
2021-07-26, 09:21 AM
Legend of the Five Rings showed me that a game can still be great despite weak mechanics if the setting is compelling enough.

Traveller convinced me that random character generation (including possibly dying during character generation) can be a lot of fun even in serious games.

FFG's Star Wars finally convinced me that terrible mechanics can in fact ruin a game even if I really like the setting and the people I'm playing with.

Zuras
2021-07-26, 09:36 AM
First, I don't agree with the idea that "character roles" or "niches" are important. Restricted roles and protected niches won't foster teamwork, just attempts to solve the task at hand with the tools each character has, IME. I care far more that each player is invested in and having fun with their character, and that all characters are competent in at least some of the things that the campaign will deal with. D&D and its wargame and dungeon crawl history, to a large degree is as much the source of this idea that classes and defined roles are needed, as it is the classes themselves. If you're not engaged in tactical, tile-based, front-row-back-row combat in a confined space as a central feature of the gaming, a lot of these assumptions don't hold up.

(Big point of disagreement with some other gamers, I actively hate the "just a guy" who gets dragged along and never becomes anything but "just a guy" -- give us a reason why the rest of the PCs haven't dropped you at a village or roadside inn or the last spaceport... don't try to be the permanent bystander or plucky sidekick or damsel in distress or "I just want to go home to my bakery" character, that only works in fiction.)

Second, WEG d6 at least is a simple enough system that it doesn't require a ton of player experience to build characters -- plus it comes with archetypes for beginners if they don't want to build from scratch.

Third, a ton of this comes down to the GM being willing to help with builds, you don't just slide the book across the table to a new player and say "first session next Saturday, make a character".

I wouldn’t say roles or niches have to be important, but I definitely find there is a very common sort of player out there whose first response to the GM informing them there is something in the game world to interact with is to look at their character sheet for the appropriate tool/skill. For those players stuff like classes or archetypes (in GURPS they’re called templates) are extremely helpful.

I’m totally on board with your point that no game rules are going to help situations where some of the players don’t want to participate with the narrative conventions. Why do so many people want to play quirky unicyclist jugglers rolling through the dungeons of doom?

Anonymouswizard
2021-07-26, 09:56 AM
Stuff like this is why D&D came up in the worst role-playing games thread for its effect on the hobby. D&D's effect probably isn't quite a net negative but there are days where I see where that is coming from.

Huh. I think I was one of the ones who's nominated it for that exact reason. Also about how it makes it hard torun Unknown Armies or whatever happens to be the thing I want to run this year.


(Big point of disagreement with some other gamers, I actively hate the "just a guy" who gets dragged along and never becomes anything but "just a guy" -- give us a reason why the rest of the PCs haven't dropped you at a village or roadside inn or the last spaceport... don't try to be the permanent bystander or plucky sidekick or damsel in distress or "I just want to go home to my bakery" character, that only works in fiction.)

Agreed. Also the 'wandering barbarian with no tribe, no ancestral axe, and no bethrothed' deal. I want characters who have reasons to drag the party to places I haven't dangled a BBEG in front of.Sure I've done it myself, but it led to my worst characters.

I now start every session 0 by creating a relationship map. Every PC must be connected to atr minimum two other PCs and one NPC or organisation. It makes the world feel alive and gives met a lot more characters to play with.


I wouldn’t say roles or niches have to be important, but I definitely find there is a very common sort of player out there whose first response to the GM informing them there is something in the game world to interact with is to look at their character sheet for the appropriate tool/skill. For those players stuff like classes or archetypes (in GURPS they’re called templates) are extremely helpful.

I’m totally on board with your point that no game rules are going to help situations where some of the players don’t want to participate with the narrative conventions. Why do so many people want to play quirky unicyclist jugglers rolling through the dungeons of doom?

I'd argue that even here simpler enough character creation makes it a nonissue. Plus as the number of tools decreases their applicability increases, I find having the tool be 'fire magic' instead of 'firebolt/fireball/meteor swarm' actually helps with picking the tool as it moves from being a screwdriver to being a screwdriver set.

kyoryu
2021-07-26, 10:44 AM
GURPS.

Burning Wheel

Fate

PbtA games



I've seen some tabletop players argue those are not roleplaying games. Those players are wrong. They are roleplaying games allright - but they are different hobbies. If that's confusing, consider: would you consider football and handball to be the same hobby? I wouldn't.

I draw the "roleplaying game" line very widely.


One thing this has taught me: there are tabletop players who say they want less rules, less dice, less GM interference - as if that is the key to achieving roleplaying nirvana. It isn't. Indeed, I'm convinced these people haven't actually done freeform, if they had, they'd shut up about it. :smalltongue:

I think that there's an ideal amount of structure for most people. Or more like an ideal band of it.

I think there's also some key binary differences - whether the rules act as the "physics engine" of the game, or whether they're there to help resolve ambiguity (physics engines games *also* resolve ambiguity, of course). So I think people say things like "rules light" when they mean a slightly different way of approaching how you run games at all.


What this has taught me that even if you stay within a very traditional set of tabletop rules - say, Basic D&D versus Lamentations of the Flame Princess - you can get wildly different games exploring different themes and genres just by changing how the game is run on the GM's side. There are tabletop players who say you can't do low magic with D&D, or can't do horror with D&D, can't do player-versus-player in D&D - those people are wrong. Or rather: they are fixating on completely wrong parts of the rules for their argument.

While this is true, most games aim themselves at a certain set of experiences. They do those well. You can change how that comes off with presentation, and you can houserule when that's insufficient. But at the end of the day, while any system can do anything, there's going to be some things that require more tinkering.


I've played my share of FATE derivatives and Powered-by-the-Apocalypse at conventions and all I can say about them is that they offered nothing groundbreaking or particularly innovative to me. I seriously do not get the people who tout these things as the best thing since sliced bread.

I'd be happy to run a game for you.

I don't know that they're necessarily groundbreaking, overall. I think they're very well put together packages of some things that hit specific targets pretty well. PbtA is interesting to me in how it puts the conversation at the table squarely in the center of the game design. Unlike a lot of games where the rules are the underpinning of the game, and you talk about what's happening as a secondary activity, in PbtA the rules are centered on the conversation itself. It's the driver.

Fate is similar in a lot of ways, but one of the interesting things to me about Fate is how it pushes the idea of "what do you care about?" front and center, and also how it often prompts for creativity and cool moments.



More seriously, there are lots of people out there who want to run games but need a structure for it. Games like Fate give you a much lighter structure than D&D, but most people need that structure. It’s like meetings—not every group needs to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, but you need some rules detailing how you take turns talking and how decisions are made unless it’s an extremely chill group or there is a lone supreme facilitator with dictatorial powers.

I think this is a reasonable statement. I think that a lot of more traditional games (and, uh, i started playing around '82 so I'm not pointing my fingers at them and making disapproving noises) were facilitated by that "one person" model. I wouldn't go so far as dictatorial because of the connotations, though.


I can’t disagree that Fate is often underwhelming at conventions, though—I don’t think any game like that really starts cooking till everyone is comfortable with the narrative conventions/operating space in the game, which usually takes more than one session to get going.

I've had pretty good results with one shots, myself.

Zuras
2021-07-26, 11:06 AM
I'd argue that even here simpler enough character creation makes it a nonissue. Plus as the number of tools decreases their applicability increases, I find having the tool be 'fire magic' instead of 'firebolt/fireball/meteor swarm' actually helps with picking the tool as it moves from being a screwdriver to being a screwdriver set.


I agree that vague skill descriptions work better as tools in the hands of experienced players, but haven’t you run into players who just aren’t able to quickly access their mental supply of tropes to come up with concrete ideas for solutions, or alternately, have option paralysis?

In my experience there are plenty of players who will just make giant boxing gloves even if you give them a green lantern power ring and tell them it can create anything.



I've had pretty good results with one shots, myself.

Did you do anything specific in terms of nailing down genre conventions or the narrative space beforehand? I don’t doubt that it’s possible to get everyone on the same page without a session zero, but I would think there was significant prep ahead of time to make that happen.

Or maybe the people you meet at cons are just all awesome? That’s not even snark, as every new person I’ve ever DMed for at cons was awesome and receptive to the the experience, so I could definitely see players just rolling with the experience.

Anonymouswizard
2021-07-26, 11:16 AM
I agree that vague skill descriptions work better as tools in the hands of experienced players, but haven’t you run into players who just aren’t able to quickly access their mental supply of tropes to come up with concrete ideas for solutions, or alternately, have option paralysis?

Yes, and I tend to find that reducing options help-s. It's why I hate playing D&D, either I'm a mundane with too few tools or a magician with too many narrowly defined tools. For most players there's a sweet spot in number and breadth that reduces decision paralysis, and IME that tends to be on the 'fewer, more versatile' end.


In my experience there are plenty of players who will just make giant boxing gloves even if you give them a green lantern power ring and tell them it can create anything.

So what? If I let a player have fire magic I have no problem if all they do is throw fire around instead of using it to inflame passions or whatever. Plus I'm not arguing for 'do anything' limits encourage creativity, I'm just arguing that players should be looking at three or four fields of magic they can access rather than forty prepared spells.

It's the exact reason that D&D has been going for a smaller list of skills, and I think it works well when applied to powers. Sure, freeform powers lead to more in-play adjudication, but also leads to fewer problems with the player not being able to decide which of thirty six different spells they want to cast.


Plus it makes character creation faster. I don't have three hours to dedicate to an individual character any more (even in a session zero, there's other things I'll want to be establishing).

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-26, 11:23 AM
I agree that vague skill descriptions work better as tools in the hands of experienced players, but haven’t you run into players who just aren’t able to quickly access their mental supply of tropes to come up with concrete ideas for solutions, or alternately, have option paralysis?

In my experience there are plenty of players who will just make giant boxing gloves even if you give them a green lantern power ring and tell them it can create anything.

At least for me, I don't have an internal supply of tropes, so it often throws me off when people try to solve in-game problems with stuff that works in fiction. For me, it's always "how would this character solve this problem given their mentality and their abilities".

And IME when playing, option paralysis is far less of a problem than "man I could use _____ on this character right now".

Zuras
2021-07-26, 11:35 AM
At least for me, I don't have an internal supply of tropes, so it often throws me off when people try to solve in-game problems with stuff that works in fiction. For me, it's always "how would this character solve this problem given their mentality and their abilities".

And IME when playing, option paralysis is far less of a problem than "man I could use _____ on this character right now".

I’m probably projecting a bit there, then. I play mad gadgeteer and summoner characters quite a bit. I spout plausible sounding technobabble at the drop of a hat, and have to rein myself in quite a bit in more freeform systems, usually. Don’t ever let me near nanites or a holodeck.

Actually had a touching character moment in the last game I played when I finally made the Hunter/Killer droid on the team the disintegration ray he had been asking for all year right before the final showdown.

Theoboldi
2021-07-26, 01:01 PM
I've seen some tabletop players argue those are not roleplaying games. Those players are wrong. They are roleplaying games allright - but they are different hobbies. If that's confusing, consider: would you consider football and handball to be the same hobby? I wouldn't.


This is something I find myself agreeing with more and more over the years. There's many different games I've read and played at this point, from D&D to Fate to PbtA, and weird experimental things like Mythender, and they often felt distinct enough that I genuinely could not call them the same kind of hobby except for in the very broadest of strokes. They are all roleplaying alright, but the details of what kind of aspects they emphasize and where the fun is supposed to be found are so different at times that it cannot be called the same hobby between two people with different preferences. In that way, roleplaying games have reached a level of diversity similar to other mediums like sports or video games or movies.

Which is also why I get very frustrated whenever somebody declares the first game they find that they prefer over D&D to be the pinnacle of game design. And which all of their friends should now also get excited over. :smalltongue:

What's weird, I think, is that I have also picked up a greater admiration for games that are less tightly designed. The ones that might have a theme, but the rules aren't completely focused on making it happen. I've come to really enjoy the level of customizeability and freedom to pick and adjust where the game will go next that comes with them, especially if they are made to be generic. It's something that's made me go back to D&D lately, and even encouraged me to homebrew my own system for my own games.

The most eye-opening experience for me personally, was oddly enough with an MLP fangame I ran somewhere around ten years ago. Mostly because NPCs and anything else did not have any stats in that system beyond Difficulty Targets for individual checks that I decided on in the moment. While I didn't think each and every random side character needed to be statted out before that, the idea of PCs and NPCs not needing to work by the same rules was incredible. It allowed me to focus my preparation completely differently, and made me feel much more flexible when running the game than I had expected to be. Likewise, it also helped me put my focus more firmly on the player characters, as the rules simply no longer asked me to put the same kind of attention on both sides of the GM screen. To this day, that has stayed a definitive goal of mine when running games, to give the players proper feedback and clear results to what they are doing.

I've not always managed it, but I do try. :smalltongue:

lacco36
2021-07-26, 01:06 PM
There were several eye-openers for me. Incidentally, the first one was D&D (we played locally created systems similar to the oD&D, so 3.5 was actually second or third system that I found out):

I like the tropes/aesthetic/overall style a lot more than I like the game. Also: it reads much different than it plays.

The other one was Mouse Guard. When you come to the table with wrong expectations and the GM has a different set of expectations, you'll have to work twice as hard to get a good game. However, the part I loved the most was the thing I expected to dislike - solving an IC discussion with social combat mechanics. I enjoyed it too much.

Now, for those that know my gushings about Riddle of Steel, you may pass the next part.

My biggest eye opener was my favourite: Riddle of Steel. It had the same "feature" that D&D had: it read much different than it plays. It reads as a hell of a clunky system, with too many moving parts. Too complex to work at a table, too complicated to remember anything, too much tables to be able to pull off a round in less than ten minutes. I wanted to give it a try, because I wanted something more than D&D could offer, and I got it.

Also: it runs too good for how it reads.

The double-blind initiative mechanic will provide a jolt of chaos, and will put you on edge from the start. The combat pool mechanic together with me maneuvers will give you enough tactical choices and will put you right into your characters' shoes. The combat is mostly 1st person view - no battlemats, no "all-seeing player syndrome" - you can get a overview about what the others are doing, but you'll be most probably locked into your own 1 on 1 fight and will be trying to survive, so you'll check on your companions only after your foe was downed. A microcosmos of violence, just for you and your enemy. Or two. The death spiral is there, but with enough player skill can be managed. With a good GM, you'll learn the basics of the system in two or three combats, and once you get there, you'll see there's much more to it. The combat system makes melee combatants into the best thing you can play.

The best part was - the mechanics supported the fast, chaotic style of play, that comes with fighting for your life. It also supported teamwork (you helped each other, because that's how you survive, and you got rewarded for actions like that), tactics (you could win or lose the whole combat before first throw of dice), but was also fast, quite intuitive (after you got the basics down) and was exhilarating - combat was both a risk and a reward in itself.

For me, the best thing was to be able to switch my players' brains to a different mental setup. That was not only due to the game itself - it was mainly the possibility due to switching to a different game + different expectations.

Vahnavoi
2021-07-26, 01:42 PM
I think that there's an ideal amount of structure for most people. Or more like an ideal band of it.

I, personally, find this to be a truism. That is: it's trivially true, but not useful. Why? Because type of structure matters more than amount. Granted, you touched on that with the difference you made between physics engines and simple conflict resolution.



While this is true, most games aim themselves at a certain set of experiences. They do those well. You can change how that comes off with presentation, and you can houserule when that's insufficient. But at the end of the day, while any system can do anything, there's going to be some things that require more tinkering.

I disagree with the idea that any system can do anything - I find it trivially false, and that's not what my point is about. My point is more that people often have somewhat petty ideas about what set of experiences can be done well. A lot of that comes down to mistaken ideas about rule priority. On a general level: Pareto's principle often applies to rules. 20% of rules cover 80% of game situations. Failure to understand this leads to naive arguments about what a game is for, based on just how much page count is spent on some silly thing.

For example: since AD&D days, majority of printed rules in D&D have been spell descriptions, magic item descriptions and monster descriptions. You can just forget 95% of those rules exist for purposes of making and running a scenario, and indeed, that is the practical way to run D&D games. Yet some poor bastard came up with the idea that since those rules are printed, they ought to feature in games, which leads to overstuffed games and settings.

This is at the root of claims like "D&D can't do horror" or "D&D can't do low magic". You "can't do horror", somehow, despite the books having every classic horror monster in them. Why? Because somewhere in the books, there's also a way to beat those monsters. How about, uh, just not having both in the same game? Similarly: you "can't do low magic" because you need magic items to defeat some of the monsters! How about, uh, not having those monsters in the low magic game? Or, if this is that horror scenario, having those monsters present without having the means to defeat them be present could very well be the damn point. You don't have to change the functional, core rules that you use for 80% of the actual playtime to do any of this. All it takes is for the DM to be prudent in cherry-picking what content they use for a scenario, which is what the rules advise the DM to do anyway!

Second example: "Don't split the party". What is this rule about? It's chiefly about tactics. It's a soft rule for situations where characters need to stick together to proceed in a scenario. Failure to heed that rule only needs to lead to characters losing that type a scenario. It doesn't need to be enforced on a metagame level by a game master! You don't have to make every scenario into one where characters need to sleep, eat and crap together to survive. Now, you may counter: "But holding separate turns for players is extra effort!" That's true, but it is only extra effort. Again, you don't need to change the functional, core rules you use to cover 80% of the play time to do it.

Third example: player versus player and uncertain co-operation. As above, this is mostly about tactics and the particular scenario the player characters are in. There's a situation that requires co-operation to solve, hence betrayal and adversarial play are undesired. Again, failure to co-operate only needs to lead to characters losing that type of a scenario. It doesn't need to be enforced on a metagame level by a game master. You don't need to kick players out of a group for playing poorly. You don't have to make every scenario into one requiring flawless co-operation. Again, you don't need to change the functional, core rules you use to cover 80% of play time to do this. Mostly you just need to abandon one, specific metagame conceit.

The joke about the second and third examples is that while they obviously originate from D&D, they have wormed their way to games that aren't D&D, even when tactical situations prevalent in D&D don't need to be included at all. Again, based on hearsay, White Wolf games, especially Vampire, strike me as a major offenders. So, they came up with a setting prominently featuring clan rivalries, and what did they do? Did they make the logical choice and base their game around backstabbery and keeping up appearances? Or did they bent over backwards to include a concept equivalent to a D&D party so that players would conveniently form vampire SWAT teams? You tell me. :smalltongue:


I'd be happy to run a game for you.

Thanks for the offer, but I'm not looking for new games. :smallwink:



I don't know that they're necessarily groundbreaking, overall. I think they're very well put together packages of some things that hit specific targets pretty well. PbtA is interesting to me in how it puts the conversation at the table squarely in the center of the game design. Unlike a lot of games where the rules are the underpinning of the game, and you talk about what's happening as a secondary activity, in PbtA the rules are centered on the conversation itself. It's the driver.

Fate is similar in a lot of ways, but one of the interesting things to me about Fate is how it pushes the idea of "what do you care about?" front and center, and also how it often prompts for creativity and cool moments.


Against that background, it's easier for me to say why they didn't feel groundbreaking to me:

For PbtA games: In freeform, conversation of what's happening very often ends up being the meat of what's happening - literally. Since one player can't advance or describe a situation very far without input of another, yet short posts are often frowned upon, many players end up writing lots of dialogue and inner monologues. The end-result is games that are 95% talking heads. After years of that, I want games that inspire doing things more than talking about things. :smalltongue:

For FATE: in non-structured freeform, where you have to come up with your character from whole-cloth, "what do I care about enough to spend time typing it?" is the guiding line for pretty much everything. Once you've done it enough, you don't lose the ability to ask that question in more structured games. So FATE putting that question front and center is kind of easy to miss - because it never left the center stage.

KorvinStarmast
2021-07-26, 03:28 PM
There are tabletop players who say you can't do low magic with D&D, or can't do horror with D&D, can't do player-versus-player in D&D - those people are wrong. Or rather: they are fixating on completely wrong parts of the rules for their argument. We did all three of those in OD&D before 1980, and certainly before the Forge was a glimmer in anyone's eye. We did a version of horror in Traveller, in terms of, un nameable monsters with tentacles and combat that was lethal. When I first saw the movie Alien, my brain went to "This is a traveller adventure!" (Original Traveller).

I started with free-form role-playing, from that I have learned that you don't need any rules to play. We learned in OD&D that you don't need mechanics to role play. (But then, a lot of us had played Diplomacy before we played D&D).

Roll for Shoes also convinced me that you don't have to have a lot of rules once you have some.
Yes.

[I]Traveller convinced me that random character generation (including possibly dying during character generation) can be a lot of fun even in serious games. Yep. It can also be a drinking game. :smallsmile:

Vahnavoi
2021-07-26, 04:42 PM
We did all three of those in OD&D before 1980, and certainly before the Forge was a glimmer in anyone's eye.

I wasn't talking about the Forge, you shouldn't be talking about the Forge, really, no-one should be talking about the Forge. :smalltongue:

kyoryu
2021-07-26, 05:12 PM
I wasn't talking about the Forge, you shouldn't be talking about the Forge, really, no-one should be talking about the Forge. :smalltongue:

The Site That Shall Not Be Named

kyoryu
2021-07-26, 05:16 PM
I, personally, find this to be a truism. That is: it's trivially true, but not useful. Why? Because type of structure matters more than amount. Granted, you touched on that with the difference you made between physics engines and simple conflict resolution.

It's useful to avoid the idea that you have to go to an extreme - people that want "rules light" don't want "rules lightest" and that's not better necessarily.

I also do think that "rules light" is a super vague term that's used to describe a slightly different fundamental model for resolving things.


I disagree with the idea that any system can do anything - I find it trivially false, and that's not what my point is about.

Sure it can. With enough hacking. But I mean, that's the Oberoni fallacy.


My point is more that people often have somewhat petty ideas about what set of experiences can be done well. A lot of that comes down to mistaken ideas about rule priority. On a general level: Pareto's principle often applies to rules. 20% of rules cover 80% of game situations. Failure to understand this leads to naive arguments about what a game is for, based on just how much page count is spent on some silly thing.

Oh, for sure. We can look at how applicable a given system is to a particular thing. And it's not going to be binary.


This is at the root of claims like "D&D can't do horror" or "D&D can't do low magic". You "can't do horror", somehow, despite the books having every classic horror monster in them. Why? Because somewhere in the books, there's also a way to beat those monsters. How about, uh, just not having both in the same game? Similarly: you "can't do low magic" because you need magic items to defeat some of the monsters! How about, uh, not having those monsters in the low magic game? Or, if this is that horror scenario, having those monsters present without having the means to defeat them be present could very well be the damn point. You don't have to change the functional, core rules that you use for 80% of the actual playtime to do any of this. All it takes is for the DM to be prudent in cherry-picking what content they use for a scenario, which is what the rules advise the DM to do anyway!

But sometimes it's a bit tougher. Like, I don't think D&D is great at low magic. It pretty much wants magic healing, lots of things are predicated on getting more magic stuff, the class progression stuff gives stronger spells. Sure, you can do something like E6 with 3.x or the equivalent for other editions, but you're doing some decent levels of hacking.


Second example: ...
Third example: ...

Yeah I'd agree with that. That said, the introduction of PvP changes the dynamics of the game significantly, so that's something that needs to be managed and session-zeroed. I think that "cooperate" is enough of an assumption in most games that it's reasonable to start with that. And if that's your goal, yeah, make sure you have a cohesive party up front.


Against that background, it's easier for me to say why they didn't feel groundbreaking to me:

For PbtA games: In freeform, conversation of what's happening very often ends up being the meat of what's happening - literally. Since one player can't advance or describe a situation very far without input of another, yet short posts are often frowned upon, many players end up writing lots of dialogue and inner monologues. The end-result is games that are 95% talking heads. After years of that, I want games that inspire doing things more than talking about things. :smalltongue:

For FATE: in non-structured freeform, where you have to come up with your character from whole-cloth, "what do I care about enough to spend time typing it?" is the guiding line for pretty much everything. Once you've done it enough, you don't lose the ability to ask that question in more structured games. So FATE putting that question front and center is kind of easy to miss - because it never left the center stage.

I wonder how much PbP colors your perception of games.

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-26, 06:32 PM
I wasn't talking about the Forge, you shouldn't be talking about the Forge, really, no-one should be talking about the Forge. :smalltongue:

I still suffer from Forge-induced twitch...

smcc360
2021-07-26, 09:19 PM
DC Heroes and Savage Worlds both have rules designed to emulate different genres, rather than trying to enforce one particular type of simulation for every style of game. This showed me I prefer games that give actual mechanical weight to story tropes, even at the expense of 'realism.'

neonchameleon
2021-07-28, 02:14 PM
Question for GMs out there who have experience with multiple systems.

Are there any particular systems that you've used that you felt gave you a completely different viewpoint on how RPGs work? I've been playing a lot of Fate over the last year, and the way it pares down the system gave me a much better sense when the story was dragging or when there were pacing problems. Now when I'm running my D&D 5e games, I have a much higher comfort level with my players improv--not because I ever disliked giving them narrative freedom, but after a year of playing Fate, I have much greater confidence in my feel for when the story is veering from our collective reality narrative.

What games have opened your eyes the most to new possibilities? I'm asking because I'm not familiar with exactly how different other games like the Storyteller System, HERO, and others are from D&D--I've played GURPS before too, and I happily mine it for mechanical ideas at times, but it didn't really change my perspective on D&D, the way Fate did.

Off the top of my head other than Fate the three I'd really recommend are Dread (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/83854/Dread) (with the Jenga tower), Fiasco (https://bullypulpitgames.com/games/fiasco/), and Apocalypse World (http://www.apocalypse-world.com/).

Dread is a really interesting one-shot game that shows, more strongly than any other game I've played, just how much difference a resolution mechanic can make. The reason's simple; Dread is a horror game and the resolution system for hard actions is a Jenga tower. Knock it over and you die. This leads to bags of tension and shaking hands (sometimes even for the GM who never pulls).

Fiasco's a one shot that will create a Cohen Brothers movie in the time it would take to right one. Heavily structured for the story but GMless things are inherently not going to go smooth.

Apocalypse World (and Monsterhearts (https://buriedwithoutceremony.com/monsterhearts) which I recommend looking at the pitch for and don't think it's suitable for most groups despite being amazing) is a clinic in things to do well.
The GM is advised to go into the first session with nothing prepared; you make the world as part of character creation
It has the rhythm of freeform and you roll when you'd hand over narration for minimal disruption
Your class is your place in the world. The classes are anyone from the travelling loner Driver to the local town boss, the Hardholder.
Many of those are leaders. But more people, more problems.
The moves are simple and evocative
The most likely result is Success With Consequences which makes everything more interesting and twistier, rendering plans fairly
The NPCs never roll and basically have no stats. For that matter there are no dice roll modifiers
One of the options you can take when you level up is to change your class and hence your place in the world
One of the options you can take once when "life becomes untenable" is to change your class and hence your place in the world. (The other three are +1 Weird, -1 Hard, and dying).

It's fast playing, intense, and really different in some ways.

Cluedrew
2021-07-28, 06:49 PM
I would throw in, if you don't like the look of Apocalypse World itself, consider trying one of the Powered by the Apocalypse systems. Although quality is not universal they do all organise themselves around different concepts, there is probably at least one to interest anyone. (For both reasons, ask around.)

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-28, 07:55 PM
I would throw in, if you don't like the look of Apocalypse World itself, consider trying one of the Powered by the Apocalypse systems. Although quality is not universal they do all organize themselves around different concepts, there is probably at least one to interest anyone. (For both reasons, ask around.)

Part of that depends on why it is one does not like AW / PbtA.

Cluedrew
2021-07-28, 08:38 PM
To Max_Killjoy: At least explain what your problem with the system is so other people can try to figure out if it applies to them or not.

LordCdrMilitant
2021-07-28, 09:22 PM
Question for GMs out there who have experience with multiple systems.

Are there any particular systems that you've used that you felt gave you a completely different viewpoint on how RPGs work? I've been playing a lot of Fate over the last year, and the way it pares down the system gave me a much better sense when the story was dragging or when there were pacing problems. Now when I'm running my D&D 5e games, I have a much higher comfort level with my players improv--not because I ever disliked giving them narrative freedom, but after a year of playing Fate, I have much greater confidence in my feel for when the story is veering from our collective reality narrative.

What games have opened your eyes the most to new possibilities? I'm asking because I'm not familiar with exactly how different other games like the Storyteller System, HERO, and others are from D&D--I've played GURPS before too, and I happily mine it for mechanical ideas at times, but it didn't really change my perspective on D&D, the way Fate did.

I've run
D&D 3.5, 4, 5 and Pathfinder
Dark Heresy 2e, Deathwatch, Black Crusade
Traveller
A Time of War

They've each given me their own insights.
Traveller was probably has the most broad insight on play paradigm, in that it focuses on the generation of a character as a character instead of as a collection of combat functionalities. I try to focus more now on who characters are and who their connections and themes are.

Deathwatch particularly, but also A Time of War, have really driven in that massive and specific skill lists aren't good. Deathwatch in particular had a problem where, because it had a separate Demolition skill which was gated behind several 'levels' at it's earliest access and the consequence was that a Spec Ops team of Space Marines [including their Techmarine] couldn't breach walls or blow up objectives or other such basic tasks without blowing themselves up for like a third of the game. DH2e and BC combined a ton of skills together [Demolitions was rolled into Tech Use] and also removed "tiered" skill access gates which went a long way to fixing this problem.
Time of War also has this problem that being able to take a rank in a skill is dependent on spending a week training it from a person with both a higher training level and higher skill level than you before you spend your XP, which basically blocks players from advancing their skill competency. It also has too many skills, like DW, which means that the party can't get any adequate skill coverage.

Time of War has also taught me that no single action should take 6 die rolls to resolve, particularly in combat. In order to attack, you need to: 1: Roll to hit [2d6 Skill Check], 2: Roll to determine where the shot hit [2d6 table], 3: Assess damage reduced by armor and modified by location multiplier [no roll], 4: roll on location critical hit table [1d6 table, except for arm, hand, leg, and foot which only have 1 effect], 5: resolve critical effect [2d6 characteristic test usually], 6: test for bleeding [2d6 characteristic test], 7: test for consciousness [2d6 special characteristic test]. This is far too much.

Playing all the non-D&D systems has informed me that I prefer games with more character customization and free-form character building rather than classes with levels like 5e and Deathwatch/RT have. It makes for far more diverse character builds and characters.

And the comparison between PF and 5e has also informed me of a few more specific thoughts about D&D like systems, mostly that there are specific traits of both that I dislike and like compared to each other but in general I'd err on the side of 'more options of less use' than a smaller number of higher impact options.

KineticDiplomat
2021-07-28, 10:01 PM
Dark Heresy taught me it’s ok for players to die if it buys something.

Traveller taught me that RPGs about average, faulty, imperfect people with limited options and little if any “progression” can be loads of fun and encourages thoughtful scenario design.

Blade of the Iron Throne taught me that player stories having real goals create better games than most GMs can author, and that combat is a lot more fun if player skill goes into the actual fight, not just builds and magic-puzzle-rock-paper-shotgun.

Shadowrun taught me that even an extraordinary concept can rarely survive too many rules, but the same concept can make a brilliant setting somewhere else.

OWOD taught me that some games place higher requirements on groups than others, but the reward for those games is often higher.

Ironsworn taught me solo play is possible and elegant, but I’m not disciplined enough for it.

PbtA taught me that details are often unimportant.

Rolemaster taught me that the path to better combat is not taking D&D and detailing it.

D&D taught me not to play D&D.

Gnoman
2021-07-28, 10:09 PM
GURPS really cured me of the notion that HP inflation was a general positive. Turns out that a lot of game headaches go away when the PCs aren't becoming massively toughter as the game goes on.

LordCdrMilitant
2021-07-29, 09:49 AM
GURPS really cured me of the notion that HP inflation was a general positive. Turns out that a lot of game headaches go away when the PCs aren't becoming massively toughter as the game goes on.

Yup. I hate HP mechanics in general, though.

Anonymouswizard
2021-07-29, 10:15 AM
Yup. I hate HP mechanics in general, though.

I find HP okay when it includes or is a small buffer to a death spiral. But that's just a personal preference.

Honestly the worst part about HP inflation is that either it's rendered practically meaningless by damage inflation or it makes combat drag. I'm honestly fine with damage and HP, and even to-hit and [defence] remaining static as characters grow in power.

Xervous
2021-07-29, 10:27 AM
Being the forever GM with a group of generally agreeable players I haven’t actually played many systems. Curiosity still drives me to read a new one every few months because you never know when there’s a good idea sitting in a trash heap. Biggest takeaways being:

3.5e D&D: NPC classes should be labeled properly and not served up as suggested defaults. Numbers going up for the sake of numbers generally isn’t ideal. Fancy toys should do fancy things.

4e: when providing templates or guidelines for how to produce a desired thing X it’s best to talk about it at the functional level and provide examples for how to add trappings. This goes for number crunchy stuff and narrative spice. It’s not so much something the system provided, but what it helped me realize.

5e: simplify things enough and you’ll get more people wondering why you’re even flipping coins. Also, attempts to cater to too broad an audience will yield inconsistencies. Third: don’t provide a collection of words generally describing what something does all the time in a way that makes it hard to understand what it actually means (or as it should be said, write clear, unambiguous rules).

7th sea: the best flaws are the ones that invite then reward complications and conflict. Not the drawbacks that can be avoided, nor the ones that force disruptions.

Shadowrun: hidden discounts in character building are often a needless learning curve because they often are solvable. Also: d6 dicepool is statistically beautiful, sucks to roll IRL, and is true bliss on VTT. Also, how many games fail to put emphasis on making sure the given group of characters will play well together? Great settings can tempt people in even if they dislike the rules.

PF2e: dozens of rounding error impact features to sift through add only an illusion of depth that will fade quickly as it is unmasked. If you give players options for their characters make them impactful, distinct, and preferably not a +X.

M&M3: comments on designer intent of rules, features and their usage absolutely should be given to GMs and players alike. There are countless common practices that don’t get acknowledgment in subsequent editions of various games.

WHFRP: choice flavoring in text can be exceptional for delivering the desired themes, but only when it doesn’t get in the way of understanding the rules.

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-29, 01:21 PM
Part of that depends on why it is one does not like AW / PbtA.




To Max_Killjoy: At least explain what your problem with the system is so other people can try to figure out if it applies to them or not.


OK, well, I am going to post these, but to be honest up front I am not interested in anyone's attempt to explain to me why these are objectively "good" things I shouldn't dislike, or why I am "wrong", which is why I did not go into detail in the first place... so please no one waste your time and mine by doing so.

...

I don't care for the basic assumptions -- it's pretty much Forge: the RPG., whether we're looking at AW specifically or PbtA.

It is a conflict-resolution system, rather than a task-resolution system, predicated on the false assertion that task-resolution needs to be eliminated to prevent bad GMing (ie, forcing checks until the character fails), instead of just telling GMs how to be better GMs. And I don't care for the conflict resolution approach beyond that, when the character rolls the dice to crack the safe, I do not care why they are trying to open the safe, only that they are trying to open the safe.

Conflict resolution cares about "why", such that you're not rolling to see if you can open the safe, you're rolling to see if you get what you want from opening the safe -- and as far as I'm concerned, whether that thing is in the safe is determined by whether it was in the safe to begin with, not the result of a player's roll... I loath the idea of in-setting facts being subject to "superposition". If the documents are not in the safe, even an infinitely successful role will make them be in the safe when it's opened.

Plus, conflict resolution falls under disassociated mechanics, which I also do not like:
https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/17231/roleplaying-games/dissociated-mechanics-a-brief-primer
https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1545/roleplaying-games/dissociated-mechanic

It is set up to emulate genre stories within the specific genre being emulated, invoking genre tropes, etc, too often at the expense of coherence and internal consistency.

Stats -- such as Monsterheart's "Hot, Cold, Volatile, and Dark" -- that map the character into the genre/drama, and not into the "secondary world".

Rather than being set up to facilitate things like relationships when needed, it is set up to force them as a core part of the game, even where not applicable.

Playbooks, which are just another way to create predetermined roles/niches, that characters must fit into... just Classes by another name, but in this case even more genre/story based.

And I could keep going.


See also, story games -- https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/6517/roleplaying-games/roleplaying-games-vs-storytelling-games

lacco36
2021-07-30, 02:07 AM
OK, well, I am going to post these, but to be honest up front I am not interested in anyone's attempt to explain to me why these are objectively "good" things I shouldn't dislike, or why I am "wrong", which is why I did not go into detail in the first place... so please no one waste your time and mine by doing so.

But I feel like you don't understand that they are great and need to educate you! :smallbiggrin:

Just joking. I agree with most of your points. My question would be: have you seen a system, where this (emphasis mine):


Rather than being set up to facilitate things like relationships when needed, it is set up to force them as a core part of the game, even where not applicable.

is done exceptionally well? Or how would you propose this to work in general? I'm genuinely interested.

Cluedrew
2021-07-30, 06:19 PM
OK, well, I am going to post these, but to be honest up front I am not interested in anyone's attempt to explain to me why these are objectively "good" things I shouldn't dislike, or why I am "wrong", which is why I did not go into detail in the first place... so please no one waste your time and mine by doing so.OK but what were you intending accomplish with your first post? Just in case someone reads this thread without realising Powered by the Apocalypse is universally loved and adored?

In any I do enjoy Powered by the Apocalypse family (but I have no urge to play Apocalypse World). I like conflict resolution as I feel it cuts to the hard of the matter, I like the format of moves, sure play-books aren't the most flexible format (although I have played some with just one character play-book) but they are extremely evocative, I like the focus on qualitative upgrades and the diversity of characters. It is most definitely: subjectively good.

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-31, 11:02 AM
OK but what were you intending accomplish with your first post? Just in case someone reads this thread without realising Powered by the Apocalypse is universally loved and adored?


First, I think you missed a "not" in there. :)

Second, the point was that your post seemed to be getting into "you just haven't found the right one yet" territory, which just isn't true for anyone who doesn't care for the basic design assumptions or mechanics of the PbtA "family".

Max_Killjoy
2021-07-31, 02:49 PM
But I feel like you don't understand that they are great and need to educate you! :smallbiggrin:

Just joking. I agree with most of your points. My question would be: have you seen a system, where this (emphasis mine):



is done exceptionally well? Or how would you propose this to work in general? I'm genuinely interested.

I've been trying to think of a game that does it well, but I can't... it might be a thing where systemizing it isn't needed for players who want a relationship between characters, and won't work for players who don't want the relationships.

Mark Hall
2021-08-03, 04:43 PM
For me, Ars Magica really gave me an appreciation of ensemble games with a variety of characters who might partake in any adventure (while also opening up the idea of the occasional guest GM), but also the idea of place-as-character... that the base of the characters, and its features, was an important aspect of the game itself.

Blueiji
2021-08-04, 06:28 AM
Seven years of frequent LARPing (minus a period of quarantine) have completely changed my perspective on roleplaying games, both from the player and gamerunner perspective. One example of this is bleed.

The concept of “bleed” is something I hear discussed very often by LARPers, but not by TTRPGers. It refers to when OOC and IC mindsets/experience begin to blend (or “bleed”) together, typically unconsciously. This can include stuff like an IC loss causing OOC depression, or something like an OOC phobia making certain IC scenarios untenable (even if the character which the player wishes to portray wouldn’t have a problem with the matter at hand). Being able to identify, articulate, and address bleed is critical for any roleplaying ecosystem, and its a concept I’d like to see recognized more within the tabletop RPG scene.

Kymme
2021-08-04, 02:14 PM
I ended up playing Masks: A New Generation with a good friend of mine from the forums a few years ago, and it completely redefinined the way I look at ttrpgs. And now, when I think about playing games like D&D 5e and 3.5, I cringe internally. Compared to the nonstop rollercoaster of fun I had with Masks, all of my previous experiences were slogs. There are no good tools in D&D and many of its various children to actually facilitate the things I want out of ttrpgs. I don't want four hour combats on a tactical grid - if I did I'd just play Chess or something - I don't want endless arguments about rules and character builds and what is and isn't overpowered. I just want to tell fun stories with my friends. And there are systems designed to do just that.

Yora
2021-08-05, 10:02 AM
Apocalypse World really makes you work for it, but once you made it through the deliberate obtuseness of the writing style, there's a lot of really interesting ideas how to approach games differently.

Vahnavoi
2021-08-05, 11:52 AM
Deliberate obtuseness? On what grounds is the obtuseness deliberate, and why? Genuine questions, I do not have access to the materials or any commentary from thr designer.

Yora
2021-08-05, 12:54 PM
It tries very hard to evoke setting flavor while describing the mechanics. And the reliance of in-setting slang for naming mechanics makes it difficult to understand what the rules are talking about.
Not a problem unique to AW, but it's a system that's actually really useful to understand, even if you don't want to run it.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-05, 02:09 PM
AW comes out of a set of specific assumptions that includes a very strong assertion that System Matters; not just that system and setting should be compatible, but that system needs to invoke the genre conventions and setting tropes and "themes being explored". So, it's not surprising if they keep getting their setting stuff in their mechanics in a way that's not helpful, but rather obfuscating.

The tone of AW is also really condescending, IMO.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-05, 02:27 PM
The tone of AW is also really condescending, IMO.

And highly opinionated, of the "there is only one right way to GM a TTRPG and anything else is not only badwrongfun, but outright evil" variety. "Do it my way or you're an incompetent idiot who wants to cause problems" is not exactly persuasive at making someone want to play unless they already agree with you. And that's the very strong vibe I got from a read-through.

Yora
2021-08-05, 02:50 PM
AW comes out of a set of specific assumptions that includes a very strong assertion that System Matters;

Though I have to say that AW would always be my first choice to show how system makes a big difference.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-05, 08:40 PM
And highly opinionated, of the "there is only one right way to GM a TTRPG and anything else is not only badwrongfun, but outright evil" variety. "Do it my way or you're an incompetent idiot who wants to cause problems" is not exactly persuasive at making someone want to play unless they already agree with you. And that's the very strong vibe I got from a read-through.

That "you're evil" vibe isn't imaginary... Forge "head priest" Ron Edwards eventually doubled-down by asserting that players of other systems were victims of abuse and had suffered literalbrain damage.

Of course, that was also what many people consider The Forge's "jump the shark" moment, and really marked the beginning of the end for The Forge and that approach to RPG theory.

Cluedrew
2021-08-05, 08:50 PM
the point was that your post seemed to be getting into "you just haven't found the right one yet" territory, which just isn't true for anyone who doesn't care for the basic design assumptions or mechanics of the PbtA "family".Ah, well you could have just said that and I could clarify that I'm just talking about giving the family its best shot. And even if you don't end up liking it you will probably enjoy yourself more if the system is well constructed and has a premise you enjoy (or equivalently, hate it less). Sorry about the delay.

More generally, I can't speak for Apocalypse World itself because I got into Powered by the Apocalypse though different games but I will say: These are the most specialised specialty systems I have seen* and I haven't seen one that present anything outside them as wrong. At most a simple statement of "this is what this particular system is for".

* But not heard of, apparently there is a system that does not include character creation rules because all possible player characters in its single campaign are premade. That beats out even the narrowest Powered by the Apocalypse system. And now that I remember it maybe Blades in the Dark is more specialised also having a fixed setting.

Theoboldi
2021-08-06, 04:06 AM
That "you're evil" vibe isn't imaginary... Forge "head priest" Ron Edwards eventually doubled-down by asserting that players of other systems were victims of abuse and had suffered literally brain damage.

Of course, that was also what many people consider The Forge's "jump the shark" moment, and really marked the beginning of the end for The Forge and that approach to RPG theory.

Sadly, the sort of thinking that lead to those ideas is still pretty wide-spread in RPG discussion circles. In discussions about PbtA or narrative games I've read, every time somebody's brought up the idea that they find narrative games difficult for beginners to play or teach to, there's been somebody claiming that actually it's D&D players who have a uniquely hard time learning new systems.

It is one of the main factors that has kept me from delving deeper into them. Which I suppose makes it pretty fitting that the PbtA game I enjoy the most, Ironsworn, is optimized for solo gaming or very small, gm-less groups.


Speaking of which, GM-less play. Something very neat I've discovered through other systems like the Mythic GM Emulator and Ironsworn, and which I really enjoy for its unique strengths. It's usually a whole lot closer to collaborative storytelling than traditional roleplaying, and really allows you to stretch those creative muscles whenever you want to. Not to mention literally not needing a GM and not needing to prepare things makes it much easier to schedule games. :smallbiggrin:

It's also given me a stronger appreciation for games that do have and require a GM. Having one person in charge of the world and able to centrally make creative decisions for where the game goes has given me some wonderful experiences over the years, and is genuinely not to be underestimated.



More generally, I can't speak for Apocalypse World itself because I got into Powered by the Apocalypse though different games but I will say: These are the most specialised specialty systems I have seen* and I haven't seen one that present anything outside them as wrong. At most a simple statement of "this is what this particular system is for".

* But not heard of, apparently there is a system that does not include character creation rules because all possible player characters in its single campaign are premade. That beats out even the narrowest Powered by the Apocalypse system. And now that I remember it maybe Blades in the Dark is more specialised also having a fixed setting.

I believe you may be thinking of Lady Blackbird and its spin-offs. Somebody has made a more generic homebrew of the system, but in essence you are correct. The characters in that game (and its spin-offs) are laser-focused around a single, specific scenario about the length of one or two sessions. The mechanics meanwhile are focused around having a specific form of pacing through the way task resolution and resting works, and encouraging characters to develop over the short timespan of the adventure by giving you a huge amount of XP for replacing old character traits with new ones in specific, pre-defined way.

The way I've described it probably makes it sound more rail-roady than it is. Genuinely, I think Lady Blackbird is a brilliant little piece of game design that I'd love to try out at some point. There's something extremely clever to the way it encourages the intended game experiences without being a full straight-jacket, and I've liked it enough to import some of its elements into my own homebrew system.

kyoryu
2021-08-06, 10:18 AM
Conflict resolution cares about "why", such that you're not rolling to see if you can open the safe, you're rolling to see if you get what you want from opening the safe -- and as far as I'm concerned, whether that thing is in the safe is determined by whether it was in the safe to begin with, not the result of a player's roll... I loath the idea of in-setting facts being subject to "superposition". If the documents are not in the safe, even an infinitely successful role will make them be in the safe when it's opened.

While that can be true, it's not necessarily true.

From what I can tell, the core difference is whether you specify your desired intent when rolling. Which I think makes more sense in most cases that aren't "firing an arrow", IOW, any situation where you don't do all the inputs into the action before actually doing the action. Like, if I'm charging someone, there's a ton of little things I'd do as I do that, as I reach them and grab them, etc., that can change based on my goal.

Where you run into trouble, I think, is when it's presumed that the dice can override previously established facts... which isn't really a thing. The only case where the roll should "change reality" is where reality wasn't defined in the first place. IOW, where the GM hadn't decided if something was true, but it was plausible, and so the GM might roll a dice anyway to figure it out.

So, in these situations, the two are equivalent:

1) The GM knows the information is in the safe
2) The GM knows the information is not in the safe, or it's implausible that the info is in the safe

For the second one, under "conflict resolution", the GM may not even ask for a roll since it kinda doesn't matter (unless there's something else that's time pressure going on)

The only situation where the two differ is:

3) The GM hadn't decided if the info is in the safe, but it's totally plausible.

So under task resolution, I'd normally expect the GM to make two rolls, first to see if the info is in the safe, and second to see if the safe gets opened. The only difference is that the conflict resolution mechanic combines those into a single roll.

IOW, I get your concerns, and think they're valid, but I also think that's at best a fringe reading of how it's supposed to work.


Plus, conflict resolution falls under disassociated mechanics, which I also do not like:
https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/17231/roleplaying-games/dissociated-mechanics-a-brief-primer
https://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1545/roleplaying-games/dissociated-mechanic

Conflict resolution can be disassociated, but doesn't have to be. A lot of games that use it tend to be more comfortable with author stance stuff, but it's not a requirement. I run PbtA games as character-stance as possible, which in most cases is "pretty darn character-stance". I actually prefer my games to be as character-stance as possible.


It is set up to emulate genre stories within the specific genre being emulated, invoking genre tropes, etc, too often at the expense of coherence and internal consistency.

I'm unaware of any games where the rules require you to abandon coherence or internal consistency. I don't doubt they exist, but I'd be critical of those, too.


Stats -- such as Monsterheart's "Hot, Cold, Volatile, and Dark" -- that map the character into the genre/drama, and not into the "secondary world".

Meh. They're descriptors of a character, and ones relevant to the focus of the game.


Rather than being set up to facilitate things like relationships when needed, it is set up to force them as a core part of the game, even where not applicable.

In Monsterhearts, the presumption is they are applicable. It's a game about relationships.

Also, RE and his "brain damage" can take a flying leap. Even most of the people on the Forge roasted him for that. While it's certainly a fantastic criticism of RE (and he doubled down and said it was like child abuse, and a particularly vile type), I don't think it's fair to level that at the rest of the Forge people.


Sadly, the sort of thinking that lead to those ideas is still pretty wide-spread in RPG discussion circles. In discussions about PbtA or narrative games I've read, every time somebody's brought up the idea that they find narrative games difficult for beginners to play or teach to, there's been somebody claiming that actually it's D&D players who have a uniquely hard time learning new systems.

RE and his "brain damage" can take a flying leap.

BUT I can 100% tell you that I have had an easier time teaching Fate to new players than long-term players. 100%. That's not theory, that's not following RE (can't stand the guy's arguments and think GNS is the biggest load of garbage ever, and telling me RE said something is probably the easiest way to get me to dismiss it). That's just observation.

Theoboldi
2021-08-06, 10:44 AM
RE and his "brain damage" can take a flying leap.

BUT I can 100% tell you that I have had an easier time teaching Fate to new players than long-term players. 100%. That's not theory, that's not following RE (can't stand the guy's arguments and think GNS is the biggest load of garbage ever, and telling me RE said something is probably the easiest way to get me to dismiss it). That's just observation.

Well, yes, I don't disagree. But I would argue that this has more to do with new players having fewer preconceived notions than anything else. Obviously, people who come in from a background of D&D will have those. Not to mention that long-term players will also have already established roleplaying preferences, which they'll hold to while playing something new.

I just really hate the common assertion (not from you) that this is a particular trait of D&D players, and how it's used to discredit the system and its players. Especially its players.

Xervous
2021-08-06, 10:54 AM
Well, yes, I don't disagree. But I would argue that this has more to do with new players having fewer preconceived notions than anything else. Obviously, people who come in from a background of D&D will have those. Not to mention that long-term players will also have already established roleplaying preferences, which they'll hold to while playing something new.

I just really hate the common assertion (not from you) that this is a particular trait of D&D players, and how it's used to discredit the system and its players. Especially its players.

If anything I’d expect correlation without causation. In all likelihood these players would have similar difficulties moving from starting system A to system B, it’s just that D&D is a big name they got drawn to. Dare I say mainstream attractions are more likely to scrape the bottom off the barrel? Yes I will. There’s only so many ways to increase the size of your audience after all.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-06, 11:08 AM
If anything I’d expect correlation without causation. In all likelihood these players would have similar difficulties moving from starting system A to system B, it’s just that D&D is a big name they got drawn to. Dare I say mainstream attractions are more likely to scrape the bottom off the barrel? Yes I will. There’s only so many ways to increase the size of your audience after all.

IMX, almost anyone who has only played <SYSTEM A> struggles to move to any other system. But those who have played all sorts of things (or no things at all) can switch more freely. And that's for any value of <SYSTEM A>.

It's like that first system embeds itself deeply and creates ruts; coming at it fresh or having lots of other paths eases things.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-06, 12:02 PM
Forge "head priest" Ron Edwards eventually doubled-down by asserting that players of other systems were victims of abuse and had suffered literal brain damage. Not the only thing wrong with the Forge and what it did to RPG thoughts.

and really marked the beginning of the end for The Forge and that approach to RPG theory. Ron would have been better off asking Dave Wesley about why certain things did and didn't work in the proto RPGs they were mucking about with before D&D even existed.

I wonder how many Forge regulars ever played Diplomacy.

Willie the Duck
2021-08-06, 12:30 PM
* But not heard of, apparently there is a system that does not include character creation rules because all possible player characters in its single campaign are premade. That beats out even the narrowest Powered by the Apocalypse system. And now that I remember it maybe Blades in the Dark is more specialised also having a fixed setting.
A game that only includes pre-mades seems more like a party game you pull out when so-and-so (who used to game with the group but moved away) is in town for the weekend and wants to game with the group and you play this instead making them play a onetime character (the GM has to figure out how to shoehorn into the story) or play Talisman or Axis and Allies or whatever.

Sadly, the sort of thinking that lead to those ideas is still pretty wide-spread in RPG discussion circles. In discussions about PbtA or narrative games I've read, every time somebody's brought up the idea that they find narrative games difficult for beginners to play or teach to, there's been somebody claiming that actually it's D&D players who have a uniquely hard time learning new systems.
And Grognards/OSR players and players of modern versions still battle over who is playing the better/more mature/more skillful game while at the same time calling the other condescending. And D&D players and players of all other games battle over who is playing it right and who is being a jerk. There’s even some in some circles that continue to suggest that storygames and the related genre aren’t TTRPGs at all. It seems a reinforcement of the truisms that the closest of cousins are the bitterest of rivals and the smaller the stakes the higher the vitriol (and one I’ve been slowly formulating, that is something along the lines of ‘forget the jocks in high school, no one is worse to nerds than other nerds’).
Ron Edwards certainly was one of the worst offenders, both in terms of the toxic framing of his opposition, and in general condescension. I am a little surprised how frequently people still have axes to grind with him, though. He said bad things, and got reputationally trashed for it. R.E./The Forge being condescending is right up there with 90s White Wolf being pretentious or 90s T$R being litigious in terms of memetic negative reputations in the industry.

IMX, almost anyone who has only played <SYSTEM A> struggles to move to any other system. But those who have played all sorts of things (or no things at all) can switch more freely. And that's for any value of <SYSTEM A>.
It's like that first system embeds itself deeply and creates ruts; coming at it fresh or having lots of other paths eases things.
Oh definitely. I’m running a nice, serene, pastoral journey tale for my niece and nephew and brother using Ryuutama, and the kids are doing great just taking it for what it is. My brother, who started gaming with my using a D&D/AD&D hybrid BITD, cannot get out of the habit of making sure the combat rules are right at hand. Myself, I’ve been reading a few Cepheus Engine games as of late, and find myself having to remind myself every few pages that I don’t need to thing of it in Traveller terms. Habits are hard to break.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-06, 12:51 PM
Oh definitely. I’m running a nice, serene, pastoral journey tale for my niece and nephew and brother using Ryuutama, and the kids are doing great just taking it for what it is. My brother, who started gaming with my using a D&D/AD&D hybrid BITD, cannot get out of the habit of making sure the combat rules are right at hand. Myself, I’ve been reading a few Cepheus Engine games as of late, and find myself having to remind myself every few pages that I don’t need to thing of it in Traveller terms. Habits are hard to break.

One of the things I love most about playing with new players (especially kids) is that they're willing to take risks and do "crazy" things that fit the world and the ongoing narrative without trying to force it into some "optimal" framework. I've found they tend to be much better roleplayers, because they're not so caught up in piloting the "rules ship" around--they just act/decide as their character. Sure, it's a bunch more work for the DM, at least in heavier systems, because he has to shoulder most of the "rules engine" work.

Oh, and new players are much less frequently jaded and cynical. Genre savvy, maybe[1], but generally still kinda awed by even the "standard" things.

[1] my most paranoid bunch were a group of adults who'd never RPG'd at all. But they were savvy about traps, knew that those suits of armor would likely come alive (even though they didn't know about Animated Armor as a monster), knew that touching the "inviting" chests would be bad, knew that walking on the "suspiciously obvious" rugs would be bad, and even were worried about a "pulling the item will cause a pressure plate to move" trick that wasn't even there.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-06, 01:02 PM
A game that only includes pre-mades seems more like a party game you pull out Or a decent game for a con. :smallcool: I know a guy who has run it at a few cons and has had pretty good luck with it.

And D&D players and players of all other games battle over who is playing it right and who is being a jerk. ... that is something along the lines of ‘forget the jocks in high school, no one is worse to nerds than other nerds’).
Arguing seems to be a form of entertainment at some tables. I no longer play at such, and my son was driven away from D&D by that table culture when he was in college.

R.E./The Forge being condescending is right up there with 90s White Wolf being pretentious or 90s T$R being litigious in terms of memetic negative reputations in the industry. Fair.

Myself, I’ve been reading a few Cepheus Engine games as of late, and find myself having to remind myself every few pages that I don’t need to thing of it in Traveller terms. Habits are hard to break. I got the Firefly game (IIRC Cypher system?) book and never ended up with anyone to play it with. I had hopes.

As an answer to the OP, things I got from other RPGs:

Golden Sky Stories: players reward each other for cool things they did. (IIRC, it was called dreams or dream points).

Great Ork Gods: don't take your Fantasy RP too seriously; the gods really do hate you.

Traveller: backgrounds are a fun mini game that you can play if nobody showed up that night. It also gives you some back up characters if things go pear shaped when everyone does

Theoboldi
2021-08-06, 01:10 PM
And Grognards/OSR players and players of modern versions still battle over who is playing the better/more mature/more skillful game while at the same time calling the other condescending. And D&D players and players of all other games battle over who is playing it right and who is being a jerk. There’s even some in some circles that continue to suggest that storygames and the related genre aren’t TTRPGs at all. It seems a reinforcement of the truisms that the closest of cousins are the bitterest of rivals and the smaller the stakes the higher the vitriol (and one I’ve been slowly formulating, that is something along the lines of ‘forget the jocks in high school, no one is worse to nerds than other nerds’).


Oh believe me, I've spent some time around OSR-focused communities. The arrogance can be staggering at times. People building up a playstyle of roleplaying games until it sounds more like a philosophy of life, just so they can put down anything else that is popular and feel like the most enlightened gamers ever. And of course those people who act in that worst way are also the loudest, allowing those ideas to spread elsewhere and making jerks on other ends of the aisle feel justified....

You're quite right that it's the same old everywhere. Just petty clique-building and infighting. It's all honestly pretty tiring to see over and over again. :smallfrown:

kyoryu
2021-08-06, 01:25 PM
There's an old saying in programming, "A Pascal programmer can program Pascal in any language".

It's not unique to Pascal, though. Heh.

I don't think any RPG is necessarily at fault here. I do think that the longer you get away with "programming Pascal in every language", the harder it is to learn languages that don't let you write Pascal in them.

Like, if you know Pascal, you can write Pascal in C, or C++, or Java. But then you get to something like LISP or Erlang, and you really can't write Pascal in those languages.

So.... I think it's a matter of what game you're used to, how different it is from what you're trying to pick up, how long you've been "writing Pascal in other languages" (thus cementing the idea that really all languages are really just Pascal, even if they're not), and also how much the game you're looking at can kinda look like the one you're coming from, even if it works differently.

But no matter what, it's not a matter of "Game A" being bad.

And I really haven't had much issue with people learning PbtA games. Burning Wheel is probably the worst, and Fate a close second. Of the ones I've tried.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-06, 01:39 PM
Oh believe me, I've spent some time around OSR-focused communities. I've got some OSR material - most of it is some nice clean up, and some tightening of some of the earlier editions. (I got started in '75).
I was out of the game for a decade or so, but my chances to play had already reduced a lot (RL, young kids) and then we moved out of the country in '95 for an overseas assignment. (Navy).
The current edition brought me back and, seven years into it, it has kept me. It works well enough and the number of new players it has introduced is nice. My play groups have had people with ages from the late teens to early sixties.

If a goal was to unify the player base, WotC has at least partly succeeded.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-06, 03:49 PM
While that can be true, it's not necessarily true.

From what I can tell, the core difference is whether you specify your desired intent when rolling. Which I think makes more sense in most cases that aren't "firing an arrow", IOW, any situation where you don't do all the inputs into the action before actually doing the action. Like, if I'm charging someone, there's a ton of little things I'd do as I do that, as I reach them and grab them, etc., that can change based on my goal.

Where you run into trouble, I think, is when it's presumed that the dice can override previously established facts... which isn't really a thing. The only case where the roll should "change reality" is where reality wasn't defined in the first place. IOW, where the GM hadn't decided if something was true, but it was plausible, and so the GM might roll a dice anyway to figure it out.

So, in these situations, the two are equivalent:

1) The GM knows the information is in the safe
2) The GM knows the information is not in the safe, or it's implausible that the info is in the safe

For the second one, under "conflict resolution", the GM may not even ask for a roll since it kinda doesn't matter (unless there's something else that's time pressure going on)

The only situation where the two differ is:

3) The GM hadn't decided if the info is in the safe, but it's totally plausible.

So under task resolution, I'd normally expect the GM to make two rolls, first to see if the info is in the safe, and second to see if the safe gets opened. The only difference is that the conflict resolution mechanic combines those into a single roll.

IOW, I get your concerns, and think they're valid, but I also think that's at best a fringe reading of how it's supposed to work.



Conflict resolution can be disassociated, but doesn't have to be. A lot of games that use it tend to be more comfortable with author stance stuff, but it's not a requirement. I run PbtA games as character-stance as possible, which in most cases is "pretty darn character-stance". I actually prefer my games to be as character-stance as possible.



I'm unaware of any games where the rules require you to abandon coherence or internal consistency. I don't doubt they exist, but I'd be critical of those, too.


I wish it still existed to link to, there was a whole thread on this on another forum that was eaten by one of their database implosions.

It featured several advocates of PbtA games, and conflict resolution, pushing the things I described above, with statements I recall (or close enough to paraphrase) such as:

- "You're not rolling to search the room, you're rolling to find the hidden thing that might be in the room -- and whether it is, is based on your roll."

- "Whether the thing is there is determined by the roll, it's not established before -- anything else is bad, because either they search until they find it and so there's no roll, or it was never there so you're wasting their time and leading them on."

- "Only roll when it matters, even if this means telegraphing information to the players that their characters don't have access to".

- "Task resolution is just bad GMing, because the GM can just keep forcing rolls until the players fail."

Those are the sorts of places and conversations I get that impression from. And of course going back through all the twisty turns to Usenet.

Cluedrew
2021-08-06, 09:18 PM
[...] somebody claiming that actually it's D&D players who have a uniquely hard time learning new systems.I think this is not actually a D&D problem so much as a problem that D&D players are uniquely positioned to experience. In that I think your second paradigm is the hardest to learn. The first time you have no "bad"/mismatched habits to fall back on and after that you have a bit more practice. D&D is the main system that you could play on its own for a long time and really let those habits sink in before you branch out.


I believe you may be thinking of Lady Blackbird and its spin-offs.That sounds right.

To Max_Killjoy: There are indeed people with... extreme tastes who play Powered by the Apocalypse. Just like every other system with players.

Formion
2021-08-07, 02:22 AM
Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone (using the omni system iirc) does three things that I found particularly unique and interesting.

1. Character creation is a a very involved collaborative process for the party. There are over a dozen pages of rolls to decide a character's backstory, and this is what I found out hooks players in and introduces them to several key concepts of the game.

2. A player will most often play more than one character - characters are phased out as time progresses through the decades or centuries a campaign is supposed to last, succeeded by the descendants of the original character, building an entire dynasty.

3. It emphasizes the collaborative nature of the game with several tools for players to alter and enhance the story the GM is telling.

neonchameleon
2021-08-07, 05:08 PM
Seven years of frequent LARPing (minus a period of quarantine) have completely changed my perspective on roleplaying games, both from the player and gamerunner perspective. One example of this is bleed.

The concept of “bleed” is something I hear discussed very often by LARPers, but not by TTRPGers. It refers to when OOC and IC mindsets/experience begin to blend (or “bleed”) together, typically unconsciously. This can include stuff like an IC loss causing OOC depression, or something like an OOC phobia making certain IC scenarios untenable (even if the character which the player wishes to portray wouldn’t have a problem with the matter at hand). Being able to identify, articulate, and address bleed is critical for any roleplaying ecosystem, and its a concept I’d like to see recognized more within the tabletop RPG scene.

It's talked about in the parts of the indie community with Powered by the Apocalypse games. But then there's a lot more freeform LARP in the DNA of PBTA games (like Apocalypse World) than there is most tabletop RPGs; Vincent Baker designed Apocalypse World round the rhythm of more freeform LARP so the rules only intruded at the point you would normally hand over narration, giving it almost the speed and snappiness of a freeform game while also providing chaos from the dice and structure from the rules.

And yes Apocalypse World is overwritten, in part making the point that you are not supposed to run it the way you'd run e.g. D&D. The role of the MC is not the role of the DM, and if you go in trying to run AW the same way you run D&D you are going to have a bad time. If people who would be running the game don't like being told how to run the game and don't run it then the didactic nature of the writing is doing part of its job in preventing people from running bad games.

neonchameleon
2021-08-07, 05:35 PM
Sadly, the sort of thinking that lead to those ideas is still pretty wide-spread in RPG discussion circles. In discussions about PbtA or narrative games I've read, every time somebody's brought up the idea that they find narrative games difficult for beginners to play or teach to, there's been somebody claiming that actually it's D&D players who have a uniquely hard time learning new systems.

I for one find it far easier to teach beginners new systems than I do long term players who are only used to only a single system and think that all RPGs should work the same way (something that could happen with World of Darkness games in the past but now only happens with D&D). I also find it easier to teach beginners more narrative games than D&D; even 5e is ultimately pretty complex.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-07, 06:02 PM
I for one find it far easier to teach beginners new systems than I do long term players who are only used to only a single system and think that all RPGs should work the same way (something that could happen with World of Darkness games in the past but now only happens with D&D). I also find it easier to teach beginners more narrative games than D&D; even 5e is ultimately pretty complex.

This, and honestly I tend to find that anything above what most people consider 'rules light' gets bogged down in abilities and exceptions which makes it much more difficult to teach. I could probably teach a beginner Barebones Fantasy or Fate Accelerated* more easily than D&D.

But yes, 'used to one system' is the big hurdle, and in the anglosphere a lot of people who play D&D aren't aware of the industry at large. I understand other places have their own dominant RPGs, although the only one I know of is DSA in Germany.

* Teaching FAE to people only familiar with D&D is a nightmare. 'I'm a wizard so all my magic is Clever' is annoyingly common.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-07, 06:47 PM
It's talked about in the parts of the indie community with Powered by the Apocalypse games. But then there's a lot more freeform LARP in the DNA of PBTA games (like Apocalypse World) than there is most tabletop RPGs; Vincent Baker designed Apocalypse World round the rhythm of more freeform LARP so the rules only intruded at the point you would normally hand over narration, giving it almost the speed and snappiness of a freeform game while also providing chaos from the dice and structure from the rules.

And yes Apocalypse World is overwritten, in part making the point that you are not supposed to run it the way you'd run e.g. D&D. The role of the MC is not the role of the DM, and if you go in trying to run AW the same way you run D&D you are going to have a bad time. If people who would be running the game don't like being told how to run the game and don't run it then the didactic nature of the writing is doing part of its job in preventing people from running bad games.

I am very tempted to post that yes, the condescending and disdainful nature of Baker's writing helped prevent me from running the bad game he published.

But I won't.

:smallcool:

InvisibleBison
2021-08-07, 08:56 PM
And yes Apocalypse World is overwritten, in part making the point that you are not supposed to run it the way you'd run e.g. D&D. The role of the MC is not the role of the DM, and if you go in trying to run AW the same way you run D&D you are going to have a bad time. If people who would be running the game don't like being told how to run the game and don't run it then the didactic nature of the writing is doing part of its job in preventing people from running bad games.

There's no such thing as a bad game, just a game that a given person doesn't enjoy. If a group plays Apocalypse World like D&D and enjoys doing so, they're not doing something wrong. If the didactic nature of the writing, as you put it, prevents said group from doing so, then the writing is doing something wrong.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-07, 11:08 PM
There's no such thing as a bad game, just a game that a given person doesn't enjoy. If a group plays Apocalypse World like D&D and enjoys doing so, they're not doing something wrong. If the didactic nature of the writing, as you put it, prevents said group from doing so, then the writing is doing something wrong.

You know what I call a system that falls apart if a group plays differently than intended? A narrow, confining, fragile system.

It's like Apple products--everything's great if you follow the one true way. But the instant you try to deviate, pain results. Well designed systems can handle GMs and parties not following the expected flow, at least to some degree.

Edit: and the very strong vibe I got from reading the system was not just "if you don't do it this way, you won't have fun" but "if you don't do it this way you're a bad GM". That "playing D&D like D&D" is fundamentally wrong and no one should do it. It was the strongest One True Way-ism I've seen outside of a hardcore religion event. It smelled of ideological purity tests. And frankly, many of the people I've talked to online that are strong fans also portray that attitude. With a strong (although not universal) tendency to burst into other portions of forums and tell people they're bad for liking D&D and that no one should play it and instead they should play one of the PbtA games, because that's true TTRPG. Ok, I exaggerate. Slightly. Only very slightly.

Lord Raziere
2021-08-08, 02:20 AM
You know what I call a system that falls apart if a group plays differently than intended? A narrow, confining, fragile system.

It's like Apple products--everything's great if you follow the one true way. But the instant you try to deviate, pain results. Well designed systems can handle GMs and parties not following the expected flow, at least to some degree.


Yeah, like how DnD falls apart whenever you use it for anything thats not DnD.

Theoboldi
2021-08-08, 06:07 AM
I for one find it far easier to teach beginners new systems than I do long term players who are only used to only a single system and think that all RPGs should work the same way (something that could happen with World of Darkness games in the past but now only happens with D&D). I also find it easier to teach beginners more narrative games than D&D; even 5e is ultimately pretty complex.


This, and honestly I tend to find that anything above what most people consider 'rules light' gets bogged down in abilities and exceptions which makes it much more difficult to teach. I could probably teach a beginner Barebones Fantasy or Fate Accelerated* more easily than D&D.

But yes, 'used to one system' is the big hurdle, and in the anglosphere a lot of people who play D&D aren't aware of the industry at large. I understand other places have their own dominant RPGs, although the only one I know of is DSA in Germany.

* Teaching FAE to people only familiar with D&D is a nightmare. 'I'm a wizard so all my magic is Clever' is annoyingly common.

Just to clarify, my objection with that commonly brought up argument is that it is treated as something uniquely awful about D&D and its players and a killer argument against them. Yes, obviously new players have no pre-established assumptions that get in the way of learning new things, while people familiar with one system do.

Like you said, the same happened with World of Darkness.

On that note, I will say that the first time I ran FAE, despite having played many other systems in the past, I ended up in a similar situation to the one you described. My player wanted to use Flashy when attacking some enemies in a combat, and I interpreted the approaches too narrowly. So I instead demanded her to use Forceful, which did end up making her feel (justifiedly) like her swashbuckling character had been nerfed. I've gotten better at running it since, but FAE definitely was hard to learn how to run well. From a GM perspective, I think the book puts a little too much emphasis on being strict with what approaches can do what.

I will also argue that a robust rules-medium or heavy system, when it does not get in the way by being overly complex, can actually help with learning a game since it provides the players and GM with structure. Rules-light games can require strong improv skills and more importantly, ask the people around the table to be clear on the tone and style of the game with each other. They're in some ways easier to teach, but in some others harder to learn and require a different kind of set-up preparation. There's no one size fits all, even if I personally do prefer them.

Which is something I've learned from running different kinds of rpgs, to get back to the thread's title. :smalltongue:

Zuras
2021-08-08, 10:01 AM
There's an old saying in programming, "A Pascal programmer can program Pascal in any language".

It's not unique to Pascal, though. Heh.

I don't think any RPG is necessarily at fault here. I do think that the longer you get away with "programming Pascal in every language", the harder it is to learn languages that don't let you write Pascal in them.

Like, if you know Pascal, you can write Pascal in C, or C++, or Java. But then you get to something like LISP or Erlang, and you really can't write Pascal in those languages.

So.... I think it's a matter of what game you're used to, how different it is from what you're trying to pick up, how long you've been "writing Pascal in other languages" (thus cementing the idea that really all languages are really just Pascal, even if they're not), and also how much the game you're looking at can kinda look like the one you're coming from, even if it works differently.

But no matter what, it's not a matter of "Game A" being bad.

And I really haven't had much issue with people learning PbtA games. Burning Wheel is probably the worst, and Fate a close second. Of the ones I've tried.

It’s a little harder to directly translate anything you learn working with Lisp back into Pascal, though.

My original question was actually prompted by my experience moving from D&D to Fate and then running some D&D again reminding me of going back to Visual Basic (because legacy code never seems to die) from Python. The syntax was a bit uglier, but you could use dictionaries and lists in the same way (it was the same problem space, just needed to do some of it with the legacy software). The tools to do things more cleanly were always there, but their utility was obscured by a bunch of syntax that keeps you from seeing clearly.

That experience isn’t a great analogy for what I found great about mechanically lighter games, though. Basically, with Fate there isn’t that pull to get into the weeds of the conflict resolution system—you know it’s going to be a dice roll based on whatever bonuses you can think up in your approach. With less to worry about, issues with pacing and player participation become obvious, because play is never dragging because a player doesn’t know how to use their abilities or is looking up a spell.

The programming analogy would probably be working with a functional style data transformation tool that forces you to turn each step into concrete transforms. The first time you have to do it that was was a chore, but you now have a different view of the process and answers to some questions about it (is it reversible? What data is lost between the systems?) become trivially easy to answer.

Yuki Akuma
2021-08-08, 11:12 AM
There's no such thing as a bad game, just a game that a given person doesn't enjoy.

FATAL would like a word. Even if you remove all the peurile misogyny and racism, you're still left with an awful system that doesn't work. :smalltongue:

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-08, 11:42 AM
Hmm, with all of the talking, ranting, and theorizing that Ron Edwards did, did he ever produce a successful, playable game? (I know V. Baker did).

Thane of Fife
2021-08-08, 02:08 PM
Hmm, with all of the talking, ranting, and theorizing that Ron Edwards did, did he ever produce a successful, playable game? (I know V. Baker did).

While I can't say I personally have experience with it, I've always heard good things about Sorcerer.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-08, 06:36 PM
While I can't say I personally have experience with it, I've always heard good things about Sorcerer.

It's a pretty bog standard "art-house" and "minimalist" system, that ironically gives the GM a huge amount of power -- often through the vague or undefined nature of terms and of rules -- in contrast to many of the "storygames" it gets lumped in with due to the context of its origin and originator.

Witty Username
2021-08-08, 09:29 PM
I haven't played anything tabletop rpg outside of d&d except for a brief stint into pathfinder and scion. So I haven't gotten much from play experience.
But, I do have other rpgs I own. Five Torches Deep, which has 5e compatible material, Scion, Call of Chulthuhu, World of Darkness, and Solar Blades & Cosmic spells. I will borrow concepts and mechanics from them periodically.
The big thing I have taken away is reward mechanics. I am using XP for gold in my current game, which has gotten some interesting results. First, it has created large amounts of money for my party to have on hand which they have started using for long term projects. Second, parley has been used more since combat has no inherent reward. The big one is that the players decide their progression, balancing new equipment, levels, and world building(one character is funding a cult & and other is establishing a workshop).
How you give out XP can drastically effect a game.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-09, 04:52 AM
Just to clarify, my objection with that commonly brought up argument is that it is treated as something uniquely awful about D&D and its players and a killer argument against them. Yes, obviously new players have no pre-established assumptions that get in the way of learning new things, while people familiar with one system do.

Like you said, the same happened with World of Darkness.

Oh sure, I tried to make it clear in my post that I was talking about a correlation, not a causation. It's why I brought up Das Schwarze Auge, even though it's essentially the German D&D (in terms of rough genre and success, not in terms of rules) it's the only other gsame which sprang to mind.


On that note, I will say that the first time I ran FAE, despite having played many other systems in the past, I ended up in a similar situation to the one you described. My player wanted to use Flashy when attacking some enemies in a combat, and I interpreted the approaches too narrowly. So I instead demanded her to use Forceful, which did end up making her feel (justifiedly) like her swashbuckling character had been nerfed. I've gotten better at running it since, but FAE definitely was hard to learn how to run well. From a GM perspective, I think the book puts a little too much emphasis on being strict with what approaches can do what.

Yeah, I might not have been so hard on them, but Clever wasn't too narrow here as it was still very useful outside of combat. You can also very much use magic Cleverly in combat, but it doesn't involve throwing blasts of fire and lightning.

Yes it's a hard line to walk, and GMs should probably err on the side of players more than the book suggests. But I'd still run a D&D player through Fate Core before FAE (and I have a slight preference for Core anyway).


I will also argue that a robust rules-medium or heavy system, when it does not get in the way by being overly complex, can actually help with learning a game since it provides the players and GM with structure. Rules-light games can require strong improv skills and more importantly, ask the people around the table to be clear on the tone and style of the game with each other. They're in some ways easier to teach, but in some others harder to learn and require a different kind of set-up preparation. There's no one size fits all, even if I personally do prefer them.

Which is something I've learned from running different kinds of rpgs, to get back to the thread's title. :smalltongue:

Note the quotes around 'rules light', I'd consider most such systems rules medium. I plonk Fae into the rules medum category. But yes, easier to learn but harder to master is probably true for lighter systems.

But I stand by my stance that an exception-based ruleset is harder to learn.

Although one of the reasons I'd go for Barebones Fantasy is because there are games in other genres which use the same ruleset (Covert Ops=spy fiction, Frontier Space=space opera,Art of Wuxia=take a wild guess, Sigil & Shadow=urban fantasy with a dash of horror). So not only is there plenty of stuff to pinch it also means that the second game can easily be in another genre.


FATAL would like a word. Even if you remove all the peurile misogyny and racism, you're still left with an awful system that doesn't work. :smalltongue:

Look, I need to use my d1000000 for something.

But yes, there are bad games. Also games that are great for entirely unintended reasons, deadEarth and it's bizarre ability to create interesting concepts comes to mind.

Kymme
2021-08-09, 05:47 AM
Hmm, with all of the talking, ranting, and theorizing that Ron Edwards did, did he ever produce a successful, playable game? (I know V. Baker did).

I'll throw in my voice - Sorcerer is super great. It's the oldest ttrpg I've found that really gets into the meat of what makes ttrpgs fun. Apocalypse World is something of a successor to Sorcerer, as its introduction of GM moves and Principles kind of pops the hood of ttrpgs and reveals all of the interesting moving parts we typically ignore in favor of hard numbers. It's really something, seeing the engine at work underneath your weekly sessions, and when I first realized it threw me for quite the loop. The core of tabletop games is the Conversation, really - the interplay of the players and the GM as they narrate the events of the game. Seeing things from that perspective was really helpful to me, and I stand by the notion that Apocalypse World's MCing chapter is probably the best advice for running games you're ever going to find.

Though I would like to say that, as wack as Ron Edward's take about D&D causing 'brain damage' is, I do think that D&D does its players a disservice by conditioning them to believe that so many issues - arguments over confusing and sometimes contradictory rules, players pulling out their phones or handhelds during sessions, PvP that ends with hurt feelings, that-guy player behavior, murderhobos, wacky natural 20 stories, bards who seduce every monster they find, drawn-out battles that eat four hours of playtime, spending entire sessions planning only for something to go wrong in the first five minutes, spending hours of your time prepping bosses that get killed anticlimactically in the first round, getting screwed over in combat because you failed a saving throw and now you have to sit out for two rounds, total party kills, etc - are something inherent to tabletop roleplaying games. They aren't. Those issues are a clear symptom of using a system to do something it wasn't designed for. That is to say, using a system intended for tactical skirmishing wargames to tell their high fantasy stories of heroic adventure and intrigue. D&D is, at its core, not built to tell those stories, and now that I've played games actually designed to tell those kinds of stories (Fellowship, Mouseguard, Tianxia) I never want to go back.

That is, unless I want to sit down and have some fun coming up with neat character builds or playing out tactical grid-based combat. Then I play D&D. But you couldn't get me to run or play in a high fantasy heroic adventure story using D&D even if you had me dangling over a balcony.

Lord Raziere
2021-08-09, 06:32 AM
I'll throw in my voice - Sorcerer is super great. It's the oldest ttrpg I've found that really gets into the meat of what makes ttrpgs fun. Apocalypse World is something of a successor to Sorcerer, as its introduction of GM moves and Principles kind of pops the hood of ttrpgs and reveals all of the interesting moving parts we typically ignore in favor of hard numbers. It's really something, seeing the engine at work underneath your weekly sessions, and when I first realized it threw me for quite the loop. The core of tabletop games is the Conversation, really - the interplay of the players and the GM as they narrate the events of the game. Seeing things from that perspective was really helpful to me, and I stand by the notion that Apocalypse World's MCing chapter is probably the best advice for running games you're ever going to find.

Though I would like to say that, as wack as Ron Edward's take about D&D causing 'brain damage' is, I do think that D&D does its players a disservice by conditioning them to believe that so many issues - arguments over confusing and sometimes contradictory rules, players pulling out their phones or handhelds during sessions, PvP that ends with hurt feelings, that-guy player behavior, murderhobos, wacky natural 20 stories, bards who seduce every monster they find, drawn-out battles that eat four hours of playtime, spending entire sessions planning only for something to go wrong in the first five minutes, spending hours of your time prepping bosses that get killed anticlimactically in the first round, getting screwed over in combat because you failed a saving throw and now you have to sit out for two rounds, total party kills, etc - are something inherent to tabletop roleplaying games. They aren't. Those issues are a clear symptom of using a system to do something it wasn't designed for. That is to say, using a system intended for tactical skirmishing wargames to tell their high fantasy stories of heroic adventure and intrigue. D&D is, at its core, not built to tell those stories, and now that I've played games actually designed to tell those kinds of stories (Fellowship, Mouseguard, Tianxia) I never want to go back.

That is, unless I want to sit down and have some fun coming up with neat character builds or playing out tactical grid-based combat. Then I play D&D. But you couldn't get me to run or play in a high fantasy heroic adventure story using D&D even if you had me dangling over a balcony.

Same. DnD in terms of TTRPG's well this meme says it best:
https://images-ext-1.discordapp.net/external/kyxU9TYxnWo2n6RNGB4AMeZJPtmtL3Pm1SaSaF_rAGA/https/media.discordapp.net/attachments/396806074461585411/873591117105483817/unknown-4.png?width=734&height=630

Sure DnD is a TTRPG, its great for those who don't want a story or whatever and just want to mess around with roleplaying in whatever direction the dice and weird collections of characters goes. its basically more valuable for its absurdity than its actual intent which is basically a gold mine for our current internet culture of irreverent ironic humor. the reason you find more webcomics about DnD mechanics and none about Fate or whatever, is because its a system works perfectly for making jokes by simply making a player fail a roll for absurd results. PC + Nat 1 = Instant hilarity.

this doesn't work in a more narrative system where how you fail doesn't even interrupt the flow of events, because of the entire concept of failing forward either allows something to happen, or allows to succeed at a cost. there is no time to point and laugh at the absurd failure because the failure leads to guards coming to get you which have the key to door when you beat them and combat is much shorter anyways. now narrative systems aren't for everyone sure.

like if your playing DnD to get that high fantasy story of heroic adventure, all the more power to you. you can do that. its just a good story you care about is a high emotional investment, and DnD with its constant dangers of bad rolls, traps and so on is better suited to low emotional investment characters, characters you can point and laugh at when they fail or look foolish or die. and a narrative system is better suited if you want a high emotional investment to pay off.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-09, 07:35 AM
While I can't say I personally have experience with it, I've always heard good things about Sorcerer. OK, thanks.

It's a pretty bog standard "art-house" and "minimalist" system, that ironically gives the GM a huge amount of power -- often through the vague or undefined nature of terms and of rules -- in contrast to many of the "storygames" it gets lumped in with due to the context of its origin and originator. OK.

The big thing I have taken away is reward mechanics. I am using XP for gold in my current game, which has gotten some interesting results. First, it has created large amounts of money for my party to have on hand which they have started using for long term projects. Second, parley has been used more since combat has no inherent reward. The big one is that the players decide their progression, balancing new equipment, levels, and world building(one character is funding a cult & and other is establishing a workshop).
How you give out XP can drastically effect a game. Yes! How the reward system is set up incentivizes play quite a bit. (Video game creators have been messing around with that for years, successfully). By the way, parley as a tool is a very old school thing(well, in my experience anyway. YMMV from table to table).

The core of tabletop games is the Conversation, really - the interplay of the players and the GM as they narrate the events of the game. Seeing things from that perspective was really helpful to me, and I stand by the notion that Apocalypse World's MCing chapter is probably the best advice for running games you're ever going to find. Interesting. Dave Wesley (whom Arneson credits with teaching him about how to referee a style of game that would become RPGs) would not call his games role playing games. He referred to them as collaborative story telling or collaborative narration. (From the recent film project "The Secrets of Blackmoor")

Your over the top expression of distaste for D&D is noted; that kind of bias makes your review less helpful than a neutral one would have been. What experience do you have with classic Traveller?

Aha, interesting bit of trend setting by RE there.

Ron Edwards and Sorcerer won the second Diana Jones Award for "excellence in gaming" in 2002
Unfortunately, there is no chance I'll ever play that game; my wife has some strong opinions on RPGs, and a game based on demon summoning is not going to pass muster with her.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-09, 09:51 AM
OKUnfortunately, there is no chance I'll ever play that game; my wife has some strong opinions on RPGs, and a game based on demon summoning is not going to pass muster with her.

It's a shame. My experience with Unknown Armies is that once you give players access to dark and dangerous powers and don't judge them on them the game becomes a lot more morally grey, but a lot more fun. Although I also heavily enjoy playing around with demons, it would be my preferred side to run a In Nomine game for.

As for reward mechanics, yeah removing the inherent reward for combat really deincentivises it. It's interesting seeing what games recommend giving character enhancement for (as opposed to potentially temporary gear upgrades).

Xervous
2021-08-09, 10:14 AM
As for reward mechanics, yeah removing the inherent reward for combat really deincentivises it. It's interesting seeing what games recommend giving character enhancement for (as opposed to potentially temporary gear upgrades).

Having all kinds of headaches with expectations led me to the simple arrangement for my system playtest. Character progression as the events call for it. Zero assumptions about gear and wealth, though it is notable that players can innately obtain most basic competencies they’d otherwise have to rely on gear for in other systems, narrative or crunch heavy.

End result? The players query ever so rarely about character point handouts but usually only after it feels like an arc has ended. Otherwise their actions and choices are focused on interacting with the world rather than chasing certain scenes for mechanical reasons. I like my fiddly bits in between sessions, but so long as they don’t chew up time in session ‘updating’ we’re not worrying about John finally getting his +2 cloak, Carol chasing another IC argument to find some RP exp, or Bob reading all the books in the cultist hideout to sate/cash in on his flaw.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-09, 11:15 AM
Having all kinds of headaches with expectations led me to the simple arrangement for my system playtest. Character progression as the events call for it. Zero assumptions about gear and wealth, though it is notable that players can innately obtain most basic competencies they’d otherwise have to rely on gear for in other systems, narrative or crunch heavy.

End result? The players query ever so rarely about character point handouts but usually only after it feels like an arc has ended. Otherwise their actions and choices are focused on interacting with the world rather than chasing certain scenes for mechanical reasons. I like my fiddly bits in between sessions, but so long as they don’t chew up time in session ‘updating’ we’re not worrying about John finally getting his +2 cloak, Carol chasing another IC argument to find some RP exp, or Bob reading all the books in the cultist hideout to sate/cash in on his flaw.

Honestly, I've gotten 95% of that value (and I agree there's value here) by moving to a fixed advancement schedule (leveling once every X sessions) with gear stuff happening mostly in downtime between "arc segments" (although that's kinda muted due to 5e's lack of reliance on necessary gear). No mechanical changes needed, really.

The fixed schedule is like milestones, but with less book-keeping and more transparency to the players. No chasing fights. Sessions with combat are rewarded the same as sessions without; talking through things is just as effective (or more) than fighting through things.

kyoryu
2021-08-09, 11:28 AM
I wish it still existed to link to, there was a whole thread on this on another forum that was eaten by one of their database implosions.

It featured several advocates of PbtA games, and conflict resolution, pushing the things I described above, with statements I recall (or close enough to paraphrase) such as:

- "You're not rolling to search the room, you're rolling to find the hidden thing that might be in the room -- and whether it is, is based on your roll."

- "Whether the thing is there is determined by the roll, it's not established before -- anything else is bad, because either they search until they find it and so there's no roll, or it was never there so you're wasting their time and leading them on."

- "Only roll when it matters, even if this means telegraphing information to the players that their characters don't have access to".

- "Task resolution is just bad GMing, because the GM can just keep forcing rolls until the players fail."

Those are the sorts of places and conversations I get that impression from. And of course going back through all the twisty turns to Usenet.

So, yeah, combinging "do I find it" and "is it there" into a single roll can happen. I pointed that out. That's the "the GM hasn't decided if it's there or not, but it's plausible that it is" scenario. You know, the one where more traditionally, the GM would do separate rolls for each? Yeah, AW (and a lot of "narrative games") collapse that into a single roll. Nothing is going to happen that wouldn't happen in a traditional system, the only difference is how many dice rolls. The only thing it violates is a strong assumption of "the dice roll must ONLY mean how well the character did."

Same with the "use a single roll instead of multiples." Can you avoid the issues with task resolution? Of course. Is it really easy to fall into them? Yup. Does collapsing them into one roll make it more clear what the probabilities are, even to the GM? Yup. Can that help avoid situations where the GM accidentally creates an impossible/trivial check where they didn't intend to? Yup.

And do some people go overboard when talking about it, making it seem like people using task resolution are inherently doing it wrong and are bad people? BETTER BELIEVE IT.

I've learned that there are jerks in every group, though, and have learned to ignore them. Because there's good people in almost every group, too. They're just usually quieter, especially if you're not in the group.


It’s a little harder to directly translate anything you learn working with Lisp back into Pascal, though.
<snip>


Did we just become like best friends? I'm the dude that wrote https://bookofhanz.com/, btw.

Jakinbandw
2021-08-09, 12:48 PM
Did we just become like best friends? I'm the dude that wrote https://bookofhanz.com/, btw.

I love the book of hanz!

I'll say that while I love FATE I despise pbta. I've played masks twice, as well as some other variations, with multiple gms.

What I hate most is the idea of the spotlight. Rather than presenting a situation and leaving it up to the players to figure out how to resolve it, before a players turn the gm gives them a lead in. This means that there is no planning no taking action, just reacting to whatever the gm throws at you, and you only have one way to affect the situation based on your build (that the gm will tend to play into).

I'm playing a character that can shield others? Oh look, as the turn moves to me through gm tells me some kids are about to get crushed by boulders, what should I do?

And then play moves on to some one else, and my plans and ideas to improve our overall situation are completely wasted, so why should I even bother paying attention? The GM doesn't need me, they can just roll 2d6+X on their own time. I'm here to play not to be railroaded in combat.

I would actually hate pbta less if it just got rid of all tense situations that rely on the spotlight. Ugh! I'd rather roll and fail, then to be presented with interesting problems that are dangled in my face, but that I'm not allowed to resolve.

kyoryu
2021-08-09, 04:56 PM
I love the book of hanz!

I'll say that while I love FATE I despise pbta. I've played masks twice, as well as some other variations, with multiple gms.

What I hate most is the idea of the spotlight. Rather than presenting a situation and leaving it up to the players to figure out how to resolve it, before a players turn the gm gives them a lead in. This means that there is no planning no taking action, just reacting to whatever the gm throws at you, and you only have one way to affect the situation based on your build (that the gm will tend to play into).

I'm playing a character that can shield others? Oh look, as the turn moves to me through gm tells me some kids are about to get crushed by boulders, what should I do?

And then play moves on to some one else, and my plans and ideas to improve our overall situation are completely wasted, so why should I even bother paying attention? The GM doesn't need me, they can just roll 2d6+X on their own time. I'm here to play not to be railroaded in combat.

I would actually hate pbta less if it just got rid of all tense situations that rely on the spotlight. Ugh! I'd rather roll and fail, then to be presented with interesting problems that are dangled in my face, but that I'm not allowed to resolve.

That sounds like a really bad PbtA GM :/ Sorry you had to go through that.

Some of the best GM moves in PbtA games boil down to "announce future badness". IOW, "here's why the situation is garbage" without attaching immediate danger to it.

And if the GM is just handing you situations that obviously and clearly map to exactly one move, they've taken choice out of the game, so why are you playing?

Sorry you had that experience.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-09, 09:20 PM
That sounds like a really bad PbtA GM :/ Sorry you had to go through that.

Some of the best GM moves in PbtA games boil down to "announce future badness". IOW, "here's why the situation is garbage" without attaching immediate danger to it.

And if the GM is just handing you situations that obviously and clearly map to exactly one move, they've taken choice out of the game, so why are you playing?

Sorry you had that experience.

Yeah, even I wouldn't blame PbtA for that, I can't believe that's how the game is written or presented or intended to be played.

Theoboldi
2021-08-10, 10:45 AM
Oh sure, I tried to make it clear in my post that I was talking about a correlation, not a causation. It's why I brought up Das Schwarze Auge, even though it's essentially the German D&D (in terms of rough genre and success, not in terms of rules) it's the only other gsame which sprang to mind.
Point taken, and I'm glad we can agree on that much.




Note the quotes around 'rules light', I'd consider most such systems rules medium. I plonk Fae into the rules medum category. But yes, easier to learn but harder to master is probably true for lighter systems.

But I stand by my stance that an exception-based ruleset is harder to learn.

Although one of the reasons I'd go for Barebones Fantasy is because there are games in other genres which use the same ruleset (Covert Ops=spy fiction, Frontier Space=space opera,Art of Wuxia=take a wild guess, Sigil & Shadow=urban fantasy with a dash of horror). So not only is there plenty of stuff to pinch it also means that the second game can easily be in another genre.
I see! Though I'd personally put FAE on the very line of Rules Light to Rules Medium, I was in this case thinking of both it and systems like Risus, Lasers and Feelings, or Freeform Universal. The kind that can be summarized in just one or a few pages.

I think I'll agree to disagree about exception-based rulesets, but only insofar as I believe that it heavily depends on the person and group they are in. Even though I myself once again actually do prefer rulesets that are not exception-based. The latest one I've been eyeing is a free, light generic system called Tricube Tales. It does a lot of things I like, and isn't too narrative for my tastes. If I wasn't already knee deep in homebrewing something of my own I'd be right on it.

I'll have to check out Barebones Fantasy, though. I always love finding a good light system, as I am still looking for the exact perfect ones to run the more out there ideas I've had. And if nothing else, being able to steal a mechanic or two lets me get closer to homebrewing exactly the system I need.



Though I would like to say that, as wack as Ron Edward's take about D&D causing 'brain damage' is, I do think that D&D does its players a disservice by conditioning them to believe that so many issues - arguments over confusing and sometimes contradictory rules, players pulling out their phones or handhelds during sessions, PvP that ends with hurt feelings, that-guy player behavior, murderhobos, wacky natural 20 stories, bards who seduce every monster they find, drawn-out battles that eat four hours of playtime, spending entire sessions planning only for something to go wrong in the first five minutes, spending hours of your time prepping bosses that get killed anticlimactically in the first round, getting screwed over in combat because you failed a saving throw and now you have to sit out for two rounds, total party kills, etc - are something inherent to tabletop roleplaying games. They aren't. Those issues are a clear symptom of using a system to do something it wasn't designed for. That is to say, using a system intended for tactical skirmishing wargames to tell their high fantasy stories of heroic adventure and intrigue. D&D is, at its core, not built to tell those stories, and now that I've played games actually designed to tell those kinds of stories (Fellowship, Mouseguard, Tianxia) I never want to go back.

You just named a bunch of things you didn't like about D&D, its culture, and bad players that could apply to any game, most of which had nothing to do with the actual argument that you proceeded to made. I could go over the individual ones, and some do make a bit more sense than the others, but when for the most part the first half of that paragraph and the second do not relate at all, I see no value in getting lost in the details.

Go ahead and enjoy the games you do, but don't build up some insane strawman of what D&D is for the sake of tearing it down for others. :smallconfused:



Did we just become like best friends? I'm the dude that wrote https://bookofhanz.com/, btw.

Hold up, that was you? Colour me impressed, that book's a pretty valuable and in-depth tool.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-10, 02:01 PM
Point taken, and I'm glad we can agree on that much.

It is good when agreement happens on the internet.


I see! Though I'd personally put FAE on the very line of Rules Light to Rules Medium, I was in this case thinking of both it and systems like Risus, Lasers and Feelings, or Freeform Universal. The kind that can be summarized in just one or a few pages.

I think I'll agree to disagree about exception-based rulesets, but only insofar as I believe that it heavily depends on the person and group they are in. Even though I myself once again actually do prefer rulesets that are not exception-based. The latest one I've been eyeing is a free, light generic system called Tricube Tales. It does a lot of things I like, and isn't too narrative for my tastes. If I wasn't already knee deep in homebrewing something of my own I'd be right on it.

I'll have to check out Barebones Fantasy, though. I always love finding a good light system, as I am still looking for the exact perfect ones to run the more out there ideas I've had. And if nothing else, being able to steal a mechanic or two lets me get closer to homebrewing exactly the system I need.

Oh yeah, L&F is my go-to example of what rules-light actually means (and why I treat D&D5e as rules-heavy). It's kind of a meaningless term in these discussions, we'll all draw the lines in a different place and rarely tell each other where that is.

You are entitled to your opinion, but I'll note that I've personally found that the more consistency there is the easier players pick up the core mechanics. But that might be my uni group consisting entirely of physicsists and engineers, we found systems easy to understand.

On Barebones Fantasy, I will note that in a lot of ways it's D&D with all the cruft cut out (less than twenty spells, for example). So if that doesn't float your boat feel free to skip it and even other d00 Lite games. Also important to note that it's roll under percentiles and most of the games use Profession As Skill. But I like it, it cuts down on all the cruft and fits character creation, basic ules, and combat in less than 50 pages (and players only need 0). It might not be rules light to you, but I find that it is to me.

Talakeal
2021-08-10, 02:58 PM
Same. DnD in terms of TTRPG's well this meme says it best:
https://images-ext-1.discordapp.net/external/kyxU9TYxnWo2n6RNGB4AMeZJPtmtL3Pm1SaSaF_rAGA/https/media.discordapp.net/attachments/396806074461585411/873591117105483817/unknown-4.png?width=734&height=630

Sure DnD is a TTRPG, its great for those who don't want a story or whatever and just want to mess around with roleplaying in whatever direction the dice and weird collections of characters goes. its basically more valuable for its absurdity than its actual intent which is basically a gold mine for our current internet culture of irreverent ironic humor. the reason you find more webcomics about DnD mechanics and none about Fate or whatever, is because its a system works perfectly for making jokes by simply making a player fail a roll for absurd results. PC + Nat 1 = Instant hilarity.

this doesn't work in a more narrative system where how you fail doesn't even interrupt the flow of events, because of the entire concept of failing forward either allows something to happen, or allows to succeed at a cost. there is no time to point and laugh at the absurd failure because the failure leads to guards coming to get you which have the key to door when you beat them and combat is much shorter anyways. now narrative systems aren't for everyone sure.

like if your playing DnD to get that high fantasy story of heroic adventure, all the more power to you. you can do that. its just a good story you care about is a high emotional investment, and DnD with its constant dangers of bad rolls, traps and so on is better suited to low emotional investment characters, characters you can point and laugh at when they fail or look foolish or die. and a narrative system is better suited if you want a high emotional investment to pay off.

Different tastes I suppose.

Personally I find the exact opposite to be the case, emotional investment is much easier if I feel like I am in a consistent world with realistic risks and consequences rather than being an actor in a pre-structured story, and the frequent switching between author stance and actor stance many such games require is also very jarring to my immersion, especially if the system allows players to compel or control other people's characters.

I think that the reason D&D makes good memes, aside from its obvious popularity, is that it has very structured archetypes which, while constraining in play, are a lot easier to make references to and jokes about as everyone knows what you are talking about.

Lord Raziere
2021-08-10, 03:09 PM
Different tastes I suppose.

Personally I find the exact opposite to be the case, emotional investment is much easier if I feel like I am in a consistent world with realistic risks and consequences rather than being an actor in a pre-structured story, and the frequent switching between author stance and actor stance many such games require is also very jarring to my immersion, especially if the system allows players to compel or control other people's characters.

I think that the reason D&D makes good memes, aside from its obvious popularity, is that it has very structured archetypes which, while constraining in play, are a lot easier to make references to and jokes about as everyone knows what you are talking about.

You mistake my words. Its not about whether the emotional investment is easier to get into. its about whether its a safe investment.

in DnD, if you have something in mind for a character and they die? well funs over. its not something I want to deal with. and DnD has a lot of things to screw over you having those sorts of things.

in Fate, the compels you talk about are something you accept or deny at your choice, and you get a reward out of it- a fate point if you accept, and I recall compels only coming from the GM. like the entire point is "you can have this bad thing that will cause more interesting things to happen and in return you get this fate point to use later to help yourself", now this isn't very appealing when your full on fate points, you got them to spare, but when your getting low.....might be time to accept some compels to build them up so you can spend them when you need them. like when your about to die or something.

Theoboldi
2021-08-10, 03:25 PM
You are entitled to your opinion, but I'll note that I've personally found that the more consistency there is the easier players pick up the core mechanics. But that might be my uni group consisting entirely of physicsists and engineers, we found systems easy to understand.

I actually do also agree with this, but it's a bit of a separate matter whether a game is light or heavy and how much consistency there is between its mechanics.

Even if they are to some degree related. The heavier a system is and the more things it explicitely covers, the more the different mechanics will start to differentiate after all.

And then there's the matter of how intuitive those differences are and how internally consistent subsystems are, and that's a topic way too big for my lazy butt to go into for now. :P


On Barebones Fantasy, I will note that in a lot of ways it's D&D with all the cruft cut out (less than twenty spells, for example). So if that doesn't float your boat feel free to skip it and even other d00 Lite games. Also important to note that it's roll under percentiles and most of the games use Profession As Skill. But I like it, it cuts down on all the cruft and fits character creation, basic ules, and combat in less than 50 pages (and players only need 0). It might not be rules light to you, but I find that it is to me.

Heh, I don't care to judge either way. Maybe I'll check out Covert Ops instead, though. I do not yet have a specific system for spy stories that I like, compared to the many fantasy ones.....

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-10, 03:45 PM
I actually do also agree with this, but it's a bit of a separate matter whether a game is light or heavy and how much consistency there is between its mechanics.

Even if they are to some degree related. The heavier a system is and the more things it explicitely covers, the more the different mechanics will start to differentiate after all.

And then there's the matter of how intuitive those differences are and how internally consistent subsystems are, and that's a topic way too big for my lazy butt to go into for now. :P

I have views on mechanics creep, suffice to say I'm one of those people willing to use one set of casting mechanics for magic, psionics, and weird science if they work well enough.

As for rules heaviness and mechanical consistency, I've personally noticed a correlation. It's not a causation, I think it's just rules light tends to mean a shorter book, which means less rules, which means less chances to rules to break from the paradigm. I have seen incredibly consistent rules-heavy games, so it's definitely not a given in either direction.


Heh, I don't care to judge either way. Maybe I'll check out Covert Ops instead, though. I do not yet have a specific system for spy stories that I like, compared to the many fantasy ones.....

Oh, sure, just warning because I'll admit that the game isn't for everybody. Honestly if you're looking into d00 Lite pick up whichever one you want, they don't vary that much.

CarpeGuitarrem
2021-08-10, 03:50 PM
Swords Without Master taught me that a game didn't have to focus on success vs failure to be fun or interesting, and that dice could govern things like tone instead of denoting ability.

Monsterhearts taught me that a game could focus on the PCs being at each other's throats, telling a story from that drama.

Risus taught me that character attributes didn't have to be concrete skills or physical abilities, they could be anything!

Wushu Open taught me that I didn't need the permission of a good die roll to do cool stuff, but could lean on that die result to tell me the consequences of my cool action.

Golden Sky Stories taught me that low stakes stories could be powerful and fulfilling.

Apocalypse World taught me that I didn't have to plan a story, I could just prep situation. And, the framing of the facilitator as an MC instead of a Master of the game or the world was groundbreaking because of the completely different type of responsibility involved.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-10, 04:06 PM
Golden Sky Stories taught me that low stakes stories could be powerful and fulfilling.

Heh, never played the game, but I had the same sort of epiphany at uni. Although slightly more importantly...

Unknown Armies 3e taught me that characters are the core of the game. Not nations or powerful factions, but individual characters, their wants, and their limits. A faction that doesn't provide a character is minor and that PCs can be defined as much by their place of work or their family as by their magic and skills.

Telwar
2021-08-10, 04:18 PM
Shadowrun 2e in college taught me about death spirals* and that using nice cheap words was preferable to expensive hospital bills. Even if those nice cheap words are "I seek hard cover."

* - I'm almost positive we weren't supposed to apply wound penalties to damage resistance rolls. But the GM had us do that. This meant that avoiding damage was entirely the point. This meant that Speed (initiative) was life, and made me understand WW1 naval combat better, among other things.

Amber taught me that an incompetent GM** is a true nightmare. Also, that a system that requires you to be really into a setting is going to run into problems if the players couldn't give a diarrhetic crap about the setting. I found out later that the game continued and was enjoyed by an almost entirely new group of players with a new GM.

** Amusingly, the Amber GM was the Shadowrun GM, too.

Easy e
2021-08-11, 10:02 AM
After playing a lot of D&D, Shadowrun and Legend of the 5 Rings taught me that fighting is bad M'kay. Try to avoid it whenever possible.

Witty Username
2021-08-11, 09:07 PM
You mistake my words. Its not about whether the emotional investment is easier to get into. its about whether its a safe investment.

in DnD, if you have something in mind for a character and they die? well funs over. its not something I want to deal with. and DnD has a lot of things to screw over you having those sorts of things.

in Fate, the compels you talk about are something you accept or deny at your choice, and you get a reward out of it- a fate point if you accept, and I recall compels only coming from the GM. like the entire point is "you can have this bad thing that will cause more interesting things to happen and in return you get this fate point to use later to help yourself", now this isn't very appealing when your full on fate points, you got them to spare, but when your getting low.....might be time to accept some compels to build them up so you can spend them when you need them. like when your about to die or something.

So is character death an opt in thing in Fate? I think Scion does that something like that, it is by arbitration, there no set rules for character death but a player or game master can decide if a player character dying is fitting for the situation or narrative after they are knocked out.

Kymme
2021-08-12, 02:09 AM
So is character death an opt in thing in Fate? I think Scion does that something like that, it is by arbitration, there no set rules for character death but a player or game master can decide if a player character dying is fitting for the situation or narrative after they are knocked out.

In Fate: Core and in Tianxia (the versions of Fate I've played) death is totally opt-in. In the majority of conflicts death isn't even on the table, as the stakes are typically grounded in the big emotions and personal goals of the people involved, rather than who makes it out of any given conflict alive. My go-to is that a character should only die if/when that character's player wants them to. Otherwise, it should be completely off the table.

I think one of my favorite things about Fate is the modular nature of its conflict resolution system, where a 'fight' could be anything from a back-alley brawl to reading a scroll full of forbidden knowledge to climbing a perilous mountain to navigating a complicated bureaucracy to adventuring across unexplored wilderness. It all uses the same robust system.

kyoryu
2021-08-12, 04:33 PM
So is character death an opt in thing in Fate? I think Scion does that something like that, it is by arbitration, there no set rules for character death but a player or game master can decide if a player character dying is fitting for the situation or narrative after they are knocked out.

Not really.

When someone is Taken Out, their fate is up to the player/GM that took them out. By convention, that is mostly non-lethal except in particularly dire circumstances. However, there is no rule preventing death in that case. Just most Fate games feel that non-lethal consequences are more interesting. So it's opt-in on the part of the attacker

It is generally considered good form to let players know that you're going to go for the lethal Take Outs.

Players also have the option of Conceding fights - running away, surrendering, etc. In that case, they have some ability to avoid teh worst consequences. However if they fail to do that and are Taken Out, they, by the book, have no input.

Also, any time that logic dictates you're dead, you're dead. You screw up politically enough that you end up with your head in a guillotine? You ded. Jump into a vat of lava? Ded. Do shots of poison for kicks? Ded.

SimonMoon6
2021-08-13, 11:27 AM
Here are some of my experiences:

Amber taught me that I really do like dice being used in conflict resolution situations. For a long time, I had kind of hated how combat in a lot of games is just "roll dice until you win" but then Amber told me "Okay, what if there are no dice at all? Not ever?"

I had planned to run a game of Amber and had gotten as far as getting the players to make characters using the fun character creation system (where the players "bid" to see who gets to be the best at certain stats and each time, the GM tells the players that *this* stat is the most important stat). But I realized that I never wanted to run the game. The GM has to describe what happens in combat or any other conflict resolution situation, but without dice to show what's happening. So, the winner will always be the person with the better stat, but the GM has to spend time describing stuff like "Oh, you parry and thrust and then thrust and parry, while your opponent does stuff, like, I don't know, parrying and thrusting. And then you win because you're better."

I just don't want to have to do that. It's much easier just to have dice tell the tale of what happened in combat.

Tons of other game... but I'll cite GURPS or Call of Cthulhu because they were some of the early games I was exposed to... showed me that games don't have to be done the D&D way. Like, instead of focusing on having a character who can kill in various ways (or help others kill, the way a cleric does), you could just have a character who's good at skills. And that might be *more* important than killing people. Just being a skills-master could be crucial to the team's success. And maybe the story in the game ends up not having anybody kill anybody. This is so alien to the D&D mindset that it's almost unimaginable. Like, if a rogue (without backstab/sneak attack) or a bard were the important Tier One characters in a game... that's crazy, right? When reading 3rd edition D&D for the first time, I was initially lured in by a brand new skill system and talk in the DMG (I think) about how players might "defeat" an opponent by using diplomacy or sneaking past them instead of killing them and getting the same XP either way... but that ended up not being something that happened in reality as too many people I knew were still in the D&D mindset of "you only get rewards for killing people" and also the skill system wasn't good enough to make this work (like, Diplomacy on NPCs doesn't accomplish everything that we might want it to do, nor do tough NPCs get the appropriate defenses against low level Diplomancers).

But also, pretty much everything D&D does... is something that's very limiting and unnecessary. Classes? Don't need 'em, don't want 'em (okay, Call of Cthulhu has something similar to classes though not nearly as rigid, but most games don't need classes of any kind). And weird things like "alignment" or "super inflated hit points for PCs" are just things that don't have to exist.

And superhero games show that not only do people not have to be pigeon-holed into a class, the PCs can have wildly different abilities and it's all okay because nobody (for the most part) is going to be an out of control D&D wizard who can do *everything*. Superhero games let a PC do a few things *very* well, but that's it. And that's much easier for a GM to deal with. Superheroes might seem incredibly unbalanced because of the incredible feats that they can accomplish, but they can't do everything. And that's so much better than the D&D wizard idea of a PC that can do everything.

One of my pet peeves is that because wizards can do anything, high level opponents have to have defenses against *everything*. So, there's this thing called Spell Resistance or Magic Resistance (back in the day). And so, the opponents can ignore *everything* a wizard can do because otherwise, the wizard just wins instantly. So, then wizards take abilities to deal with Spell Resistance so they can win. But even when spell resistance works to stop the wizard, it doesn't have any real narrative feel other than "you can't beat this guy with any of your stuff because he's better than you". But in a superhero game, if a player has powerful fire powers, the opponent can simply be immune or resistant to fire and that seems more fair to me because it doesn't cover everything. Maybe the fire guy also has some minor other ability (like cutting off the opponent's air supply by using fire to burn up the oxygen) and then the opponent isn't resistant to that because he's not immune to *everything*, just fire, so the PC can still do something. But it's not just Spell Resistance, it's all the other "wizards lose now" things that the game employs, like Anti-Magic Fields or golems. They just turn off a character class because it's too powerful; why not just not have a character class be that powerful?

kyoryu
2021-08-13, 11:37 AM
Here are some of my experiences:

Amber taught me that I really do like dice being used in conflict resolution situations. For a long time, I had kind of hated how combat in a lot of games is just "roll dice until you win" but then Amber told me "Okay, what if there are no dice at all? Not ever?"

I had planned to run a game of Amber and had gotten as far as getting the players to make characters using the fun character creation system (where the players "bid" to see who gets to be the best at certain stats and each time, the GM tells the players that *this* stat is the most important stat). But I realized that I never wanted to run the game. The GM has to describe what happens in combat or any other conflict resolution situation, but without dice to show what's happening. So, the winner will always be the person with the better stat, but the GM has to spend time describing stuff like "Oh, you parry and thrust and then thrust and parry, while your opponent does stuff, like, I don't know, parrying and thrusting. And then you win because you're better."

I just don't want to have to do that. It's much easier just to have dice tell the tale of what happened in combat.


That's not how Amber is supposed to work.

The higher stat will win, all other things being equal. The "game", then, is figuring out how to either use a stat you're better at, or making things not equal.

That doesn't take away from your point, of course. But that's a really poor example of how Amber is supposed to be run.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-13, 12:58 PM
You mistake my words. Its not about whether the emotional investment is easier to get into. its about whether its a safe investment.

in DnD, if you have something in mind for a character and they die? well funs over. its not something I want to deal with. and DnD has a lot of things to screw over you having those sorts of things.
As to the bold, that isn't necessarily the case. Fun's not over if you want to keep playing.
Roll up a new character.
Problem solved.

I discovered early in D&D play that overidentifying with a single character caused a real let down if the PC died, so I stopped doing that. I also learned to make spares.

Nowadays, even though the current edition is a lot less lethal, I always have another PC about 80% created at any given time, so if a PC dies I've got a back up ready to go on very short notice. In one case, I retired one character and we brought in the next one for other reasons (two clerics in the party).

I have a DM currently who had us make two to start with, just in case we got in over our heads and lost a PC or two.

Dead PC does not equal game over. This isn't Diablo II / III in hardcore mode.

kyoryu
2021-08-13, 01:13 PM
As to the bold, that isn't necessarily the case. Fun's not over if you want to keep playing.
Roll up a new character.
Problem solved.

I discovered early in D&D play that overidentifying with a single character caused a real let down if the PC died, so I stopped doing that. I also learned to make spares.

Nowadays, even though the current edition is a lot less lethal, I always have another PC about 80% created at any given time, so if a PC dies I've got a back up ready to go on very short notice. In one case, I retired one character and we brought in the next one for other reasons (two clerics in the party).

I have a DM currently who had us make two to start with, just in case we got in over our heads and lost a PC or two.

Dead PC does not equal game over. This isn't Diablo II / III in hardcore mode.

There's different game structures. In some, there's supposed to be investment in a character, and their story, and everything around them.

In others, it makes sense to have spares (the OG style was all about having a stable of characters you'd choose from).

They're all valid styles. What works for one doesn't work for others. And... that's where a lot of the issues come from, in that early D&D was evolved around a certain game structure which is no longer dominant, but a lot of design decisions that centered on that remain, and many have become sacred cows.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-13, 02:54 PM
There's different game structures. There certainly are. Traveller (the original) which I have noted previously in this thread has a different take on chargen and on having back ups handy, in our experience. Avoiding a lot of lethal situations was how we found the team stayed together better. Games with level advancement models often induce a level of investment that I have seen turn unhealthy (in some cases - separate topic, for a lot of reasons).

Willie the Duck
2021-08-13, 02:56 PM
There certainly are. Traveller (the original) which I have noted previously in this thread has a different take on chargen and on having back ups handy, in our experience. Avoiding a lot of lethal situations was how we found the team stayed together better. Games with level advancement models often induce a level of investment that I have seen turn unhealthy (in some cases - separate topic, for a lot of reasons).

Also on the concept of character advancement.

Talakeal
2021-08-13, 05:09 PM
You mistake my words. Its not about whether the emotional investment is easier to get into. its about whether its a safe investment.

in DnD, if you have something in mind for a character and they die? well funs over. its not something I want to deal with. and DnD has a lot of things to screw over you having those sorts of things.

in Fate, the compels you talk about are something you accept or deny at your choice, and you get a reward out of it- a fate point if you accept, and I recall compels only coming from the GM. like the entire point is "you can have this bad thing that will cause more interesting things to happen and in return you get this fate point to use later to help yourself", now this isn't very appealing when your full on fate points, you got them to spare, but when your getting low.....might be time to accept some compels to build them up so you can spend them when you need them. like when your about to die or something.

Ok. Gotcha. That’s a much sadder situation.

I mean that in earnest, not as an insult. That’s a tough one.

137ben
2021-08-13, 11:37 PM
Disclaimer: I haven't read the whole thread, I am just responding to the OP.

Word Mill's Mythic Roleplaying (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/16173/Mythic-Role-Playing?term=mythic+role) completely reshaped my understanding of what the roles of "GM" and "Player" mean in RPGs.

Witty Username
2021-08-14, 09:57 PM
I feel like character death, and permanent effects help maintain tension. Success, failure and choice benefit from that tension. Also, the death of your character and the creation of a new one can lead to interesting group experiences. That being said, the game tends to grip me more than the character, so losing the character feels like less of an issue if I got good gaming out of it.

kyoryu
2021-08-14, 10:06 PM
I feel like character death, and permanent effects help maintain tension. Success, failure and choice benefit from that tension. Also, the death of your character and the creation of a new one can lead to interesting group experiences. That being said, the game tends to grip me more than the character, so losing the character feels like less of an issue if I got good gaming out of it.

I think you need to have consequences.

I find, in most cases, story level consequences are just as interesting if not more so, and can more easily be a constant threat.

Witty Username
2021-08-14, 10:39 PM
I think you need to have consequences.

I find, in most cases, story level consequences are just as interesting if not more so, and can more easily be a constant threat.

Fair enough, but personally I find it easier to have story level consequences when danger is present. I will admit this is more action game thinking (er, action may be the wrong word. Adventure, horor, murder mystery type stuff. Physical conflict I suppose).

Zuras
2021-08-15, 12:50 AM
I think you need to have consequences.

I find, in most cases, story level consequences are just as interesting if not more so, and can more easily be a constant threat.


My personal experience may be skewed because I play primarily at “open” tables at the FLGS, but my primary reaction to character death was to remember the players whose actions got my character killed and avoid ever playing with them at a table with a “killer DM”.

The possibility of failure is required to make success meaningful, but in my experience it works better done some other way than character mortality.

SimonMoon6
2021-08-15, 06:35 PM
That reminds me of my first long term 1st edition AD&D campaign. At one point, all of the PCs had acquired some low level NPC followers. One of the very real threats was the deaths of these beloved NPCs. One of the more reckless players quickly had almost all of his followers die, while a more cautious player kept his alive until they were ready to "graduate" to their own adventures.

So, there were consequences and they involved death, just not the deaths of the PCs themselves.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-16, 12:17 PM
So, yeah, combinging "do I find it" and "is it there" into a single roll can happen. I pointed that out. That's the "the GM hasn't decided if it's there or not, but it's plausible that it is" scenario. You know, the one where more traditionally, the GM would do separate rolls for each? Yeah, AW (and a lot of "narrative games") collapse that into a single roll. Nothing is going to happen that wouldn't happen in a traditional system, the only difference is how many dice rolls. The only thing it violates is a strong assumption of "the dice roll must ONLY mean how well the character did."

Same with the "use a single roll instead of multiples." Can you avoid the issues with task resolution? Of course. Is it really easy to fall into them? Yup. Does collapsing them into one roll make it more clear what the probabilities are, even to the GM? Yup. Can that help avoid situations where the GM accidentally creates an impossible/trivial check where they didn't intend to? Yup.

And do some people go overboard when talking about it, making it seem like people using task resolution are inherently doing it wrong and are bad people? BETTER BELIEVE IT.

I've learned that there are jerks in every group, though, and have learned to ignore them. Because there's good people in almost every group, too. They're just usually quieter, especially if you're not in the group.


The thing is, they weren't presenting it as options, or tools, or what works best for them. They were presenting it as "If you don't run this way, you are a bad GM and probably a bad person".

Not "Hey you can combine these rolls"... but "you should combine these rolls, and the result should determine whether something is there, rather than the GM predetermining, and a GM who predetermines is probably a bad GM".

So beyond not liking what I've seen in reviews, previews, and free versions of AW, the most vocal advocates and the author (Baker) have really not made me think it's a scene I want to dip any further into.




Did we just become like best friends? I'm the dude that wrote https://bookofhanz.com/, btw.


I read through the Book.

Very well written, very informative, nothing but positive feedback on it as an explanation of an approach and system.

And also a very good summary of what I do not want from my RPG experience.
- Cinematic/story emulation.
- Going past "fiction layer first" to story first.
- Treating characters, setting, and events as "narrative elements".
- Lack of inherent scale -- the same stats, rolls, results, etc mean (potentially widely) different things depending on the cinematic/story being emulated.
- Heavy focus on "opportunity cost" and "escalating consequences".
- Conflict treated as "a test of commitment to one's goals" rather than a contest of abilities.

The section labelled "The Not-So-Hidden Logic of Paying to Invoke Aspects" pretty much sums up what I don't want, not from my gaming, and not even from my actual fiction. I don't want things to be contrived around what "suits the story"... I don't want Nanoc's abilities to vary based on which enemy he's fighting, and I don't want slipping on the ice to "of course" come at a "dramatic" or "key" moment. It's utterly predictable and feels contrived to me.

I've found I enjoy less and less fiction over the years, and at some point I even started putting books down and never finishing them... and in part that's because it became clear that most of the writers were, intentionally or not, writing from the same playbook, based on ideas of "what makes a good story", how pacing and escalation of stakes and so forth "should" happen. The last thing I need is for more of that to creep into my gaming.


I am not mad, but I am a bit exasperated. Every time I say something like "Cool, glad you enjoy that, different things for different people, but Fate is not a game for me and here's why..." someone (not just you) insists that my concerns are not really reflective of how Fate works or what Fate does... and now I read this explanation of Fate, and yes, it's doing exactly what I don't want my games to do.

(Again, I am not saying you're doing it wrong, I'm saying it's entirely wrong for me.)


And the use of "fiction" brings us to another issue in these discussions... I've been told that "fiction layer" is a good term for what I want to emphasize in games, that idea that the "fictional reality" is the territory, and the rules are the map, and that internal consistence, coherence, and verisimilitude are what matter to me. But here we have "fiction" being used in a way that reflects pacing, escalation, stakes, story beats, and other narrative elements, that are actively detrimental to what I want out of a game.

It almost feels like there is no word in the English language for what I really look for, and that it's always going to take paragraphs of exposition to differentiate it.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-16, 01:17 PM
It almost feels like there is no word in the English language for what I really look for, and that it's always going to take paragraphs of exposition to differentiate it. Degree of difficulty is increased by those on the receiving end {often} needing or wanting a TLDR or jargon term to encapsulate your complex thought. {further rant will not be indulged in}

Arkanist
2021-08-16, 09:40 PM
Ironically, what's being discussed that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way about Apocalypse World is something that, in Masks, I found very influential with respect to how I think about RPGs.

Namely, that games can have a point. D&D is something of an adventure fantasy swiss army knife, it gives you the pieces but how you assemble them into an adventure is something very much up to you (unless you're using a premade scenario). In some cases, I quite enjoy this: building a city in Vampire: the Masquerade and setting up intrigue dominos for the players to knock down in an organic way can be very fun.

But just like how there's an appeal to games with a broader focus in their design, PbtA games tend to be very tight and laser-focused: they're trying to give you a certain experience. They can be extremely versatile, but they also know what kind of game they want to be, they're working towards very specific tone and themes, and all the mechanics are ideally in service of that.

Nowadays, when I think about game design, I think of it that way: how is it in service of facilitating the kind of game I want to play? How do the mechanics encourage you to get in the right mindset to do what you're trying to do?

Witty Username
2021-08-16, 09:41 PM
My personal experience may be skewed because I play primarily at “open” tables at the FLGS, but my primary reaction to character death was to remember the players whose actions got my character killed and avoid ever playing with them at a table with a “killer DM”.

The possibility of failure is required to make success meaningful, but in my experience it works better done some other way than character mortality.

In my mind, being a group game helps. Losing a character is a loss but the party keeps going. I do agree that 5e does a poor job with other kinds of failure since long term complications are almost non-existent, there aren't degrees of failure really, outside of loot opportunities maybe. I have been wanting to experiment a bit with the gritty realism rules for that reason.

kyoryu
2021-08-17, 09:48 AM
The thing is, they weren't presenting it as options, or tools, or what works best for them. They were presenting it as "If you don't run this way, you are a bad GM and probably a bad person".

Not "Hey you can combine these rolls"... but "you should combine these rolls, and the result should determine whether something is there, rather than the GM predetermining, and a GM who predetermines is probably a bad GM".

Those people are jerks.


So beyond not liking what I've seen in reviews, previews, and free versions of AW, the most vocal advocates and the author (Baker) have really not made me think it's a scene I want to dip any further into.

Fair, but I think you're conflating tech and areas where the tech is commonly used.


I read through the Book.

Very well written, very informative, nothing but positive feedback on it as an explanation of an approach and system.

And also a very good summary of what I do not want from my RPG experience.
- Cinematic/story emulation.
- Going past "fiction layer first" to story first.
- Treating characters, setting, and events as "narrative elements".
- Lack of inherent scale -- the same stats, rolls, results, etc mean (potentially widely) different things depending on the cinematic/story being emulated.
- Heavy focus on "opportunity cost" and "escalating consequences".
- Conflict treated as "a test of commitment to one's goals" rather than a contest of abilities.

... and I think, again, the issue is that you seem to be assigning meaning to certain things that I don't think is intended.

Some of those are valid, and I get. Some of those I'm not sure why they're issues. And some of them seem to miss the mark on what I understand.

Like, for one, I consider "story first" to mean primarily "don't do what makes sense, do what makes a good story." And I'd say I don't really run games that way, of any stripe.


The section labelled "The Not-So-Hidden Logic of Paying to Invoke Aspects" pretty much sums up what I don't want, not from my gaming, and not even from my actual fiction. I don't want things to be contrived around what "suits the story"... I don't want Nanoc's abilities to vary based on which enemy he's fighting, and I don't want slipping on the ice to "of course" come at a "dramatic" or "key" moment. It's utterly predictable and feels contrived to me.

Nanoc's abilities don't change. His strength and how it helps him fight better is basically reflected in his Fight score. The setup/payoff thing exists in pretty much all fiction. Sometimes it's done ham-handedly, for sure.


I am not mad, but I am a bit exasperated. Every time I say something like "Cool, glad you enjoy that, different things for different people, but Fate is not a game for me and here's why..." someone (not just you) insists that my concerns are not really reflective of how Fate works or what Fate does... and now I read this explanation of Fate, and yes, it's doing exactly what I don't want my games to do.

Oh, I'm pretty sure Fate's not the right system for you. I also do think you're making assumptions or readings about it that are inaccurate. That doesn't mean that Fate's the right system for you, though. And I think you're reading too much into non-core bits of tech like "Conflict resolution" (which I still don't have a good definition for, the best I've found is "stating what you're trying to achieve") that are unnecessary.

And, of course, as you point out, there's a lot of poison from the GNS well, and that doesn't help matters.


And the use of "fiction" brings us to another issue in these discussions... I've been told that "fiction layer" is a good term for what I want to emphasize in games, that idea that the "fictional reality" is the territory, and the rules are the map, and that internal consistence, coherence, and verisimilitude are what matter to me. But here we have "fiction" being used in a way that reflects pacing, escalation, stakes, story beats, and other narrative elements, that are actively detrimental to what I want out of a game.

Yeah. It's sometimes used to mean different things, and that sucks.


It almost feels like there is no word in the English language for what I really look for, and that it's always going to take paragraphs of exposition to differentiate it.

Nah, I get what you're going for, mostly.

I do still think it'd be interesting to run a Fate one-shot for you some time, just to see how you'd react to it in play. I still don't think it'd be fully your jam, but I think you might find it's less distasteful than you think.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-17, 11:18 AM
Oh, I'm pretty sure Fate's not the right system for you. I also do think you're making assumptions or readings about it that are inaccurate. That doesn't mean that Fate's the right system for you, though. And I think you're reading too much into non-core bits of tech like "Conflict resolution" (which I still don't have a good definition for, the best I've found is "stating what you're trying to achieve") that are unnecessary.



This section very much reads as "story first" to me...
(Emphasis added.)



"Fate Core, as far as I can see, tries to emulate fiction. That doesn’t just mean “a physical simulation of fictional worlds”. That means the flow and structure of fiction. That means that when we look at how a game of Fate ‘should’ flow, our reference point should be ‘does this play out like a book, or a movie?’ rather than ‘does this work like how it would work in the physical world’?

A slippery, ice-covered surface, in fiction, doesn’t mean that every description or shot of people on it involves them slipping and sliding around. That’s boring. What it probably means is that at some key moment, somebody will slip because of the surface creating some dramatic moment. And that’s what Fate tries to emulate—how the dramatic elements work together, not the actual effects of fighting on a slippery surface. It follows the rules of fiction regardless of realism, not reality—even ‘cinematic’ reality."



The most extreme definition of "conflict resolution" I've seen, from that lost forum thread I mentioned, was as follows (paraphrasing):

"Your conflict isn't with the guard you're trying to sneak past, or the wall you're trying to climb, or the locked door you're trying to pick -- it's with the lord of the castle. You don't roll to sneak past the guard, and then climb the wall, and then pick the lock -- your goal is to reach the lord's chambers, so you roll against the lord to reach the chambers."

More broadly, it's "What are you actually trying to accomplish? Roll for that, not for the steps." Occasionally includes admonishment that rolling for the steps is the GM trying to make you fail.

This is why I associate Conflict Resolution with Disassociated Mechanics.

And also why I associate Conflict Resolution with Narrative Mechanics -- which usually involve rolling for scenes or part of scenes rather than discrete actions.

Kymme
2021-08-17, 02:40 PM
I read that whole article about Dissociated Mechanics and something struck me. The underpinnings of systems like D&D are filled with Dissociated Mechanics. Hit points, ability scores, attack and damage rolls, most of the strictly mechanical stuff you find on character sheets, etc, are all things that don't really exist in the game world. They're arbitrary numbers and math used to resolve actions in the game world, and the whole time you're calculating your to-hit bonus and counting up damage dice you're not actually 'in the game,' you're doing something totally unrelated. Abstraction seems to be the place where most 'Dissociated Mechanics' are born.

A neat example of an Associated Mechanic is the Conditions in Masks: A New Generation. Masks is a superhero game where characters can just be completely invincible, or ghosts, or be a nascent universe in the body of a dorky teenager. Using hit points to represent the durability and disposition of player characters wouldn't make any sense. So instead the game models your characters emotional state through a series of five Conditions (Angry, Afraid, Hopeless, Insecure, and Guilty) you can accrue and, when you can't take any more, your character leaves the scene through some means the player decides - getting knocked out, temporarily discorporated, dunked through the earth's mantle, fleeing, etc. Each Condition also penalizes your use of certain moves or actions - having a Condition marked impairs you in an often major way. The use of Conditions helps to keep players grounded in the game world, and helps them always be aware of their character's current mental state. The game is about playing teenagers, so they're often pretty moody. Conditions can come and go, and each one comes with its own special way to clear it - mostly by acting like a moody teenage superhero. It's a really cool way to drive play.

In a similar vein, Conditions also appear in Avatar Legends (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magpiegames/avatar-legends-the-roleplaying-game), a ttrpg that's being Kickstarted right now. I've yet to play it, but it's made by the same people who made Masks, so I have high hopes.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-17, 03:05 PM
I read that whole article about Dissociated Mechanics and something struck me. The underpinnings of systems like D&D are filled with Dissociated Mechanics. Hit points, ability scores, attack and damage rolls, most of the strictly mechanical stuff you find on character sheets, etc, are all things that don't really exist in the game world. They're arbitrary numbers and math used to resolve actions in the game world, and the whole time you're calculating your to-hit bonus and counting up damage dice you're not actually 'in the game,' you're doing something totally unrelated. Abstraction seems to be the place where most 'Dissociated Mechanics' are born.

A neat example of an Associated Mechanic is the Conditions in Masks: A New Generation. Masks is a superhero game where characters can just be completely invincible, or ghosts, or be a nascent universe in the body of a dorky teenager. Using hit points to represent the durability and disposition of player characters wouldn't make any sense. So instead the game models your characters emotional state through a series of five Conditions (Angry, Afraid, Hopeless, Insecure, and Guilty) you can accrue and, when you can't take any more, your character leaves the scene through some means the player decides - getting knocked out, temporarily discorporated, dunked through the earth's mantle, fleeing, etc. Each Condition also penalizes your use of certain moves or actions - having a Condition marked impairs you in an often major way. The use of Conditions helps to keep players grounded in the game world, and helps them always be aware of their character's current mental state. The game is about playing teenagers, so they're often pretty moody. Conditions can come and go, and each one comes with its own special way to clear it - mostly by acting like a moody teenage superhero. It's a really cool way to drive play.

In a similar vein, Conditions also appear in Avatar Legends (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magpiegames/avatar-legends-the-roleplaying-game), a ttrpg that's being Kickstarted right now. I've yet to play it, but it's made by the same people who made Masks, so I have high hopes.

I wouldn't really consider PbtA rules overall "associated".

Just having to do math or having a numerical model of something in the game setting or in the character's capabilities doesn't make an ability "disassociated".

The prime example of "disassociated" mechanics in D&D would be "once per long rest" Fighter abilities -- there's no reason a Fighter shouldn't be able to use that maneuver repeatedly... but for "balance" reasons it can only be used once per combat, or once between short rests, or whatever.




A SIMPLE DEFINITION

An associated mechanic is one which has a connection to the game world. A dissociated mechanic is one which is disconnected from the game world.

The easiest way to perceive the difference is to look at the player’s decision-making process when using the mechanic: If the player’s decision can be directly equated to a decision made by the character, then the mechanic is associated. If it cannot be directly equated, then it is dissociated.

For example, consider a football game in which a character has the One-Handed Catch ability: Once per game they can make an amazing one-handed catch, granting them a +4 bonus to that catch attempt.

The mechanic is dissociated because the decision made by the player cannot be equated to a decision made by the character. No player, after making an amazing one-handed catch, thinks to themselves, “Wow! I won’t be able to do that again until the next game!” Nor do they think to themselves, “I better not try to catch this ball one-handed, because if I do I won’t be able to make any more one-handed catches today.”

On the other hand, when a player decides to cast a fireball spell that decision is directly equated to the character’s decision to cast a fireball. (The character, like the player, knows that they have only prepared a single fireball spell. So the decision to expend that limited resource – and the consequences for doing so – are understood by both character and player.)

METAGAMED AND ABSTRACTED

Dissociated mechanics can also be thought of as mechanics for which the characters have no functional explanations.

But this generalization can be misleading when taken too literally. All mechanics are both metagamed and abstracted: They exist outside of the character’s world and they are only rough approximations of that world.

For example, the destructive power of a fireball is defined by the number of d6’s you roll for damage; and the number of d6’s you roll is determined by the caster level of the wizard casting the spell.

If you asked a character about d6’s of damage or caster levels, they’d obviously have no idea what you were talking about. But the character could tell you what a fireball is and that casters of greater skill can create more intense flames during the casting of the spell.

The player understands the metagamed and abstracted mechanic (d6’s and caster levels), but that understanding is directly associated with the character’s understanding of the game world (burning flames and skilled casters).

EXPLAINING IT ALL AWAY

On a similar note, there is a misconception that a mechanic isn’t dissociated as long as you can explain what happened in the game world as a result.

The argument goes like this: “Although I’m using the One-Handed Catch ability, all the character knows is that they made a really great one-handed catch. The character isn’t confused by what happened, so it’s not dissociated.”

What the argument misses is that the dissociation already happened in the first sentence. The explanation you provide after the fact doesn’t remove it.

To put it another way: The One-Handed Catch ability is a mechanical manipulation with no corresponding reality in the game world whatsoever. You might have a very good improv session that is vaguely based on the dissociated mechanics you’re using, but there has been a fundamental disconnect between the game and the world. You could just as easily be playing a game of Chess while improvising a vaguely related story about a royal coup starring your character named Rook.

Razade
2021-08-17, 05:50 PM
I wouldn't really consider PbtA rules overall "associated".

One big thing is that PbtA games aren't really a thing. One game that considers itself PbtA and another can look totally different. It's not an engine, it's not a system. I wouldn't, and Vincent Baker has said much the same, even hazard to say there are common elements on the mechanical side. PbtA is a design concept. Godsend, a PbtA game, doesn't have Labels or dice rolls at all so the often times included Fail Forward mechanic doesn't exist. City of Mists does have fail forward but it also doesn't have Labels. It also doesn't have Conditions (Neither does Godsend) or a Harm track. City of Mist and Godsend have their own health systems that are 100% different than any other game that identifies itself as PbtA. Show me a PbtA rule and I'll introduce you to two games claiming to be PbtA that outright don't include it.

So saying "PbtA rules" really...doesn't say much? Games that are under the PbtA umbrella and their rules are dependent heavily on the games they're a part of. There are no generic PbtA rules, not even the Simple World hack which just sorta...outlines how Apocalypse World is built and gives advice how to make a game like AW. But "PbtA" games have come such a long way from AW. Even Baker has gone back to look at other games under his label and remade AW with more modern PbtA design concepts.

Saying that, I'm with Kymme. Masks, and Avatar but they're made by the same people and use largely the exact same rules with some of the names filed off and others scribbled in place, are pretty much "associated". There isn't a rule or mechanic in Masks that isn't dependent on another rule or mechanic. It's quite circular from start to finish with only a few things really...maybe...violating that if you take RAW and not RAI rulings. They're incredibly few though.

Kymme
2021-08-17, 06:05 PM
It's really hard to talk about PbtA games in the general sense because they really aren't a monolith. That's why I prefer to talk about the specific Powered by the Apocalypse games I like, like Masks and Fellowship.

Razade is 100% correct. The only mechanic in Masks that I'd say isn't 'associated' is the advancement system and... I dunno, that's pretty much it. Like, basically every mechanic in the game represents something 'real' in the fiction, and to the player characters. Influence is a mechanic that literally just means 'you value what this person has to say,' Conditions model your character's emotional state, Labels model your character's self-identity, playbook moves are little modules that help adjudicate certain scenarios or actions that are particularly important to that character (for instance, the Protege playbook has a move that represents when you seek out your mentor for advice, and the Delinquent has a move that kicks in whenever you attempt to trick or mislead somebody). Everything is pretty thoroughly ingrained.

Razade
2021-08-17, 06:30 PM
It's really hard to talk about PbtA games in the general sense because they really aren't a monolith. That's why I prefer to talk about the specific Powered by the Apocalypse games I like, like Masks and Fellowship.

Razade is 100% correct. The only mechanic in Masks that I'd say isn't 'associated' is the advancement system and... I dunno, that's pretty much it. Like, basically every mechanic in the game represents something 'real' in the fiction, and to the player characters. Influence is a mechanic that literally just means 'you value what this person has to say,' Conditions model your character's emotional state, Labels model your character's self-identity, playbook moves are little modules that help adjudicate certain scenarios or actions that are particularly important to that character (for instance, the Protege playbook has a move that represents when you seek out your mentor for advice, and the Delinquent has a move that kicks in whenever you attempt to trick or mislead somebody). Everything is pretty thoroughly ingrained.

The Advancement system feeds into the other mechanics but giving you more/interesting things to do. Especially those that give you access to other Playbook's extras. I've written 35 playbooks and a ton of content for Masks at this point. The rules, even when you subvert them, are easy because how interconnected everything is together.

kyoryu
2021-08-18, 01:10 PM
I wouldn't really consider PbtA rules overall "associated".

Just having to do math or having a numerical model of something in the game setting or in the character's capabilities doesn't make an ability "disassociated".

The prime example of "disassociated" mechanics in D&D would be "once per long rest" Fighter abilities -- there's no reason a Fighter shouldn't be able to use that maneuver repeatedly... but for "balance" reasons it can only be used once per combat, or once between short rests, or whatever.



And yet, I don't find those abilities disassociated at all. They map reasonably well to my experiences playing sports. They also map well to that of what high-level athletes have experienced (specifically, an Olympic fencer made a comment that it mapped well).

In sports, you simply do not operate at the same capacity all of the time. This is a mainstay of "martial" classes, but it doesn't actually map well. You've got your base level of performance, and then you've got the stuff you pull out less frequently, because it's exhausting, stretches things uncomfortably, etc.

Dailies and encounter powers model this reasonably well. Not perfectly, but reasonably. Sure, you could probably do a better modeling job with some kind of fatigue point system or the like, but that's also a lot more bookkeeping.

But, yeah. There is a reason that fighters can't use a particular move repeatedly. That's an actual thing that actually happens.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-18, 01:34 PM
And yet, I don't find those abilities disassociated at all. They map reasonably well to my experiences playing sports. They also map well to that of what high-level athletes have experienced (specifically, an Olympic fencer made a comment that it mapped well).

In sports, you simply do not operate at the same capacity all of the time. This is a mainstay of "martial" classes, but it doesn't actually map well. You've got your base level of performance, and then you've got the stuff you pull out less frequently, because it's exhausting, stretches things uncomfortably, etc.

Dailies and encounter powers model this reasonably well. Not perfectly, but reasonably. Sure, you could probably do a better modeling job with some kind of fatigue point system or the like, but that's also a lot more bookkeeping.

But, yeah. There is a reason that fighters can't use a particular move repeatedly. That's an actual thing that actually happens.

Especially when you throw in abilities above the normal flow. Take the 5e Battlemaster's Trip Attack maneuver. Anyone can attempt to trip by sacrificing an attack; that's a basic rule. You can do that as much as you want. Only the Battlemaster can try to trip while dealing better than normal weapon damage.

To me, the appropriate setting model for this (and things like Rage, Second Wind, etc) is that fantastic individuals have some form of internal pool of energy. They can use this energy to go above the norm (for the setting), but not an unlimited number of times without rest.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-18, 06:44 PM
I mean, if we had decent Fatigue rules (so not the D&D 5e ones) I'd be more than willing to run Fighter abilities off a Fatigue track. Spellcasters too actually, bit that's more so we could simplify bookkeeping for fishes.

The idea that you have a baseline level of performance, but you can push past that and be extraordinary for a short time at the risk of lower overall performance makes sense to me. Encounter and Daily abilities are a fine way to model that, but so would be a Fatigue track (with maybe some extra '-0' slots for high physical stats).

At the same time, I like the idea of a 13th Age Flexible Attacks system to represent the fact that in a battle not all options are viable at any point, and the idea of tying what is to the attack roll appeals to me. But I think I'd have such abilities separate from the 'above peak performance' ones, this is just you being really good at recognising and exploiting openings.

Although at the end of the day, I'll just settle for characters not massively varying in complexity based on concept. And while I used to think that meant I wanted more complex Fighters, I think I actually want simpler magicians.

Cluedrew
2021-08-18, 07:28 PM
Also how you spend that complexity. I know systems with a tenth the complexity of D&D that seem to achieve half the variety it has. I don't have a way to measure either that but that's the way it feels. The ideal would be every choice has a notable impact on a character and although that is generally impossible to get right every time, you can try to avoid little fiddly changes. Like a situational +1 on a d20, that situation basically always has to be live for that to matter.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-18, 08:47 PM
I mean, if we had decent Fatigue rules (so not the D&D 5e ones) I'd be more than willing to run Fighter abilities off a Fatigue track. Spellcasters too actually, bit that's more so we could simplify bookkeeping for fishes.

The idea that you have a baseline level of performance, but you can push past that and be extraordinary for a short time at the risk of lower overall performance makes sense to me. Encounter and Daily abilities are a fine way to model that, but so would be a Fatigue track (with maybe some extra '-0' slots for high physical stats).

At the same time, I like the idea of a 13th Age Flexible Attacks system to represent the fact that in a battle not all options are viable at any point, and the idea of tying what is to the attack roll appeals to me. But I think I'd have such abilities separate from the 'above peak performance' ones, this is just you being really good at recognising and exploiting openings.

Although at the end of the day, I'll just settle for characters not massively varying in complexity based on concept. And while I used to think that meant I wanted more complex Fighters, I think I actually want simpler magicians.

A fatigue track would be a lot more Associated (and believable) than the "X use per Y variable reset" setups.

SimonMoon6
2021-08-18, 09:05 PM
Also, I'd just like to mention Tales of Maj'Eyal. Technically, it's a computer game not a standard pen-and-paper RPG. Based on the structure of a rogue-like game, it became so much more than that. I think it illustrates how it would be possible to have both mundane and magical classes having equally useful abilities, while still having substantially different abilities nonetheless.

kyoryu
2021-08-19, 07:58 AM
A fatigue track would be a lot more Associated (and believable) than the "X use per Y variable reset" setups.

Sure, it's an imperfect way to model it.

But is it really any worse than hit points?

I think one of the issues with it is that it just cribs the setup from mages, without even giving an explanation. IOW, it's effectively removing an explanation. That's a huge presentation issue, and 4e was rife with those.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-19, 09:04 AM
Sure, it's an imperfect way to model it.

But is it really any worse than hit points?

I think one of the issues with it is that it just cribs the setup from mages, without even giving an explanation. IOW, it's effectively removing an explanation. That's a huge presentation issue, and 4e was rife with those.


Hit Points in general, or D&D's hyperscaling HP? Specific to the latter, no, it's not worse.

And yeah, 4E was kinda the height of "rules as rules, the fluff is an afterthought".

But then, despite the focus of the Alexandrian articles, "game-first" and "story-first" have "disassociation" in common, rather than being something that sets them apart.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-19, 11:55 AM
Hit Points in general, or D&D's hyperscaling HP? They weren't always hyperscaling. :smallwink: (See the tables in AD&D 1e level adv for an example).

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-19, 12:12 PM
Sure, it's an imperfect way to model it.

But is it really any worse than hit points?

I think one of the issues with it is that it just cribs the setup from mages, without even giving an explanation. IOW, it's effectively removing an explanation. That's a huge presentation issue, and 4e was rife with those.

I think to many people 'hp' also gets a grandfather clause due to being in the earliest editions of the earliest games (including 0e) whereas x/day Fighter abilities only really entered the main rules of a popular game with D&D 4e (the big example of limiting warriors before then that I know of, RuneQuest, used a Fatigue track).

But yeah, 4e had an issue with contextless mechanics. It cold have done a lot more to make limited powers feel right on 'mundanes'.

kyoryu
2021-08-19, 07:22 PM
I think to many people 'hp' also gets a grandfather clause due to being in the earliest editions of the earliest games (including 0e) whereas x/day Fighter abilities only really entered the main rules of a popular game with D&D 4e (the big example of limiting warriors before then that I know of, RuneQuest, used a Fatigue track).

But yeah, 4e had an issue with contextless mechanics. It cold have done a lot more to make limited powers feel right on 'mundanes'.

Yup. 4e killed a lot of sacred cows, and a lot of weird stuff in D&D is unexamined because it's D&D and ThAt'S hOw ThInGs ShOuLd WoRk. It's all been internalized not only to the point where people don't notice it, but to the point where it's expected.

4e was also the king of contextless mechanics. It also could have used a GIANT presentation pass, and a pass on mechanics to get everyone off of the same ability use scheme would have been delightful. In no way is it a perfect game, but the presentation is a HUGE part of it.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-20, 07:31 AM
Yup. 4e killed a lot of sacred cows, and a lot of weird stuff in D&D is unexamined because it's D&D and ThAt'S hOw ThInGs ShOuLd WoRk. It's all been internalized not only to the point where people don't notice it, but to the point where it's expected.

The sad thing is, it doesn't even need to be recent D&D for people to just some that's how it is. The number of times I've seen 'I'm making a fantasy system, so I've got wizards working like this, sorcerers working like this, warlocks working like this, druids working like this...'

Not to say it can't be justified, but it's nearly always just because it's D&D. Are the druids there because we're playing a game primarily based on sources that feature druids? If not then why are they taking up space?

Witch reminds me, I need to decide if I want summoning mechanics in my fantasy RPG.


4e was also the king of contextless mechanics. It also could have used a GIANT presentation pass, and a pass on mechanics to get everyone off of the same ability use scheme would have been delightful. In no way is it a perfect game, but the presentation is a HUGE part of it.

4e just needed more time and to not rush supplemented out of the door. It could have worked putting everybody on AEDU, but the designers put no effort into justifying it or making it feel right.

Xervous
2021-08-20, 07:39 AM
Witch reminds me, I need to decide if I want summoning mechanics in my fantasy RPG.


Now that I think about it, the most reasonable place to ground summoning mechanics might just be the same place as followers/hirelings/etc.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-20, 07:42 AM
Witch reminds me, I need to decide if I want summoning mechanics in my fantasy RPG. I'd prefer, on a personal taste basis, that all summoning be restricted to ritual spells. YMMV.

lacco36
2021-08-20, 07:58 AM
I'd prefer, on a personal taste basis, that all summoning be restricted to ritual spells. YMMV.

My personal preferences are similar, at least for anything bigger/stronger than a cat/rat/bat and lasting more than few moments.

I mean, summoning a small birdie that will fly and repeat a message to your companions or pick a small item for you? A spell.

Summoning a demon, iridescent great snake or rhinoceros to fight in your stead, crush through few walls or to be ridden on to battle? Ritual.

Morgaln
2021-08-20, 08:01 AM
Witch reminds me, I need to decide if I want summoning mechanics in my fantasy RPG.



I don't usually make fun of typos, but I now imagine Nanny Ogg sitting in your kitchen, drinking something made mostly of apples and asking you whether there will be summoning mechanics in your RPG...

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-20, 09:03 AM
Now that I think about it, the most reasonable place to ground summoning mechanics might just be the same place as followers/hirelings/etc.

That's not unreasonable. I might not put the roles for summoning in the exact same place, but I'll include a note that such creatures use the same Loyalty mechanics as mundane henchmen (i.e. demons can just leave if they're not paid and tested well).


I'd prefer, on a personal taste basis, that all summoning be restricted to ritual spells. YMMV.

For what it's worth I wasn't considering short term summons as in D&D's Summon Monster spells, but more rituals to call a demon to bargain with. Summoning takes time, and then you have to spend even more time brokering a deal or binding it to your will. Don't try binding demons of any significant rank, they tend to get annoyed at the mere attempt.

Actually, a Talent representing a permanently bound lesser demon wouldn't go amiss. Something similar to the Familiar talent, but a bit more restrictive.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-20, 09:10 AM
Summoning a demon, iridescent great snake or rhinoceros to fight in your stead, crush through few walls or to be ridden on to battle? Ritual. Yeah. I am with you, regardless of how much fun it is to summon two dire wolves and then ride them into battle on the next turn. :smallbiggrin::smallbiggrin:

kyoryu
2021-08-20, 09:17 AM
That's not unreasonable. I might not put the roles for summoning in the exact same place, but I'll include a note that such creatures use the same Loyalty mechanics as mundane henchmen (i.e. demons can just leave if they're not paid and tested well).

But boy oh boy is the expected payment different.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-20, 09:18 AM
I'd prefer, on a personal taste basis, that all summoning be restricted to ritual spells. YMMV.

Same here -- certain effects IMO shouldn't be the equivalent of firing a gun in combat.

Eldan
2021-08-20, 09:26 AM
FATE was +/- the first system I played after D&D, or at least the first system that wasn't strongly D&D-derrived. It's basically so different it has nothing in common, and it opened up entirely new worlds for me.

One big thing is the idea that players can shape the world and story outside of just things that their character can do. I had already played pretty narrative/roleplaying heavy games before, but the idea that a player can just ask something like "Can I spend a fate point to make it so that I run into someone I know from my backstory in the bar?" or "Can I spend a fate point so that there's an unlocked door into the building?" was huge for me.

Hm. What else. Unknown Armies (especially the new edition) convinced me that you can make an RPG with mechanics around mental illness that actually work?

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-20, 10:15 AM
But boy oh boy is the expected payment different.

If you can't cough up an immortal soul revert month what business do you have dealing with demons?


Same here -- certain effects IMO shouldn't be the equivalent of firing a gun in combat.

Yeah.

Although admittedly on my first read through of Barebones Fantasy my first reaction to the Summon spell was 'why would I ever cast this in combat'. Summons last 2d10 turns in combat but if cast outside of combat the spell lasts for 2d10 hours, and sadly you can only cast the spell once a day.


Hm. What else. Unknown Armies (especially the new edition) convinced me that you can make an RPG with mechanics around mental illness that actually work?

To be fair, the mental illness portion was good but not great in 1e and 2e. The difference between Hardened and Failed notches is great, as was tracking five separate kinds of trauma, but I think lining the Shock Guages to your basic chances of success was the masterstroke.

The entire game became about sacrificing the ordinary to get what you want, and sanity is just one part of that. You have to walk the fine line between being able to function and being resistant to trauma, and the mechanics now push you into not being a functional member of society the more detached you get.

Plus the game outright encourages unhealthy obsessions. You will not stop my adept from stealing that shipment of alligator corpses just to make a new dress.

SimonMoon6
2021-08-20, 12:17 PM
Are the druids there because we're playing a game primarily based on sources that feature druids? If not then why are they taking up space?

That reminds me of my theoretical redesign of D&D which would remove druids as a class, but still have them playable as a cleric with the animal and plant domains. In this redesign, clerics would only be able to cast spells based on their domain choices (but the list might not be quite so limited as the current domain spell list) and the special abilities that they would gain from their domains would be more dramatic, such as the Animal domain granting wildshape (and possibly more stuff too). This would tend to make it so that the chosen domains (and therefore the chosen deities) would have a bigger impact on what kind of abilities a cleric has. A cleric of a war deity probably would not be casting any healing spells ever. And also, weapon and armor proficiencies would be abilities granted (or not) by domains, so not every priest is going to pile on plate mail, but a cleric of a war god might.

(Also, wizards would all be specialists, only able to cast spells from their specialty and maybe "universal" spells too. The spell list would be juggled around to make this work better and there would be specialties other than just "schools" such as "fire".)


FATE was +/- the first system I played after D&D, or at least the first system that wasn't strongly D&D-derrived. It's basically so different it has nothing in common, and it opened up entirely new worlds for me.

One big thing is the idea that players can shape the world and story outside of just things that their character can do. I had already played pretty narrative/roleplaying heavy games before, but the idea that a player can just ask something like "Can I spend a fate point to make it so that I run into someone I know from my backstory in the bar?" or "Can I spend a fate point so that there's an unlocked door into the building?" was huge for me.

That reminds me of a rule from the DC Heroes RPG. In that game, it is possible to spend Hero Points to have something at hand, such as finding a beaker of acid in a chemistry lab. However, in my games, that rule never really got used much. I'm not sure that the players were very aware of that rule and there are so many other ways to spend Hero Points (you use them in combat and use them as experience points to improve your character) already that the players aren't looking for more.

Morgaln
2021-08-20, 12:35 PM
That reminds me of my theoretical redesign of D&D which would remove druids as a class, but still have them playable as a cleric with the animal and plant domains. In this redesign, clerics would only be able to cast spells based on their domain choices (but the list might not be quite so limited as the current domain spell list) and the special abilities that they would gain from their domains would be more dramatic, such as the Animal domain granting wildshape (and possibly more stuff too). This would tend to make it so that the chosen domains (and therefore the chosen deities) would have a bigger impact on what kind of abilities a cleric has. A cleric of a war deity probably would not be casting any healing spells ever. And also, weapon and armor proficiencies would be abilities granted (or not) by domains, so not every priest is going to pile on plate mail, but a cleric of a war god might.

(Also, wizards would all be specialists, only able to cast spells from their specialty and maybe "universal" spells too. The spell list would be juggled around to make this work better and there would be specialties other than just "schools" such as "fire".)



That reminds me of a rule from the DC Heroes RPG. In that game, it is possible to spend Hero Points to have something at hand, such as finding a beaker of acid in a chemistry lab. However, in my games, that rule never really got used much. I'm not sure that the players were very aware of that rule and there are so many other ways to spend Hero Points (you use them in combat and use them as experience points to improve your character) already that the players aren't looking for more.

You might want to look into an old AD&D supplement called Legend&Lore, if you don't know it already. It does almost exactly what you are describing for priests of a number of (real world) deities.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-20, 12:47 PM
Down with druids!

Like, I like them in Keltia. They fit in Keltia. It's based on sources that actually feature druids as characters (including the earliest versions of certain folklore). They fit, and they have a clear place in the world. They're not just there for the sake of it.

Weirdly I think they also work in AD&D2e (I am not going to comment on 1e or 0e). They're just an example of how to tailor Priests to a specific religion, and have an established place in the world (if a vague one). I might grumble about the use of the name, but the class works for what it's meant for.

Honestly, you don't want me to redesign D&D. But I also go out of my way to avoid playing it if possible, these days I'd much rather run fantasy games with Barebones Fantasy or my (still very incomplete) homebrew system. But the druid and warlock would be first on the chopping block, both mainly folded into the Cleric (who here becomes a pact-maker, whether with gods, eldritch entities, internal beings, or nature itself).

Theoboldi
2021-08-20, 12:59 PM
Down with druids!

Like, I like them in Keltia. They fit in Keltia. It's based on sources that actually feature druids as characters (including the earliest versions of certain folklore). They fit, and they have a clear place in the world. They're not just there for the sake of it.

Weirdly I think they also work in AD&D2e (I am not going to comment on 1e or 0e). They're just an example of how to tailor Priests to a specific religion, and have an established place in the world (if a vague one). I might grumble about the use of the name, but the class works for what it's meant for.

Honestly, you don't want me to redesign D&D. But I also go out of my way to avoid playing it if possible, these days I'd much rather run fantasy games with Barebones Fantasy or my (still very incomplete) homebrew system. But the druid and warlock would be first on the chopping block, both mainly folded into the Cleric (who here becomes a pact-maker, whether with gods, eldritch entities, internal beings, or nature itself).

Druids are a pretty good example of a common RPG phenomenon. If you design an element for your game that is world-specific, but also really cool, players will want to use it as is even if they have to shoehorn it into the settings they are actually playing in.

D&D with its class and race bloat has always had that most commonly, but it's also the reason many Ironsworn games suddenly involved a whole lot more dungeons after an awesome supplement for dungeon exploration came out for that system. :smalltongue:

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-20, 01:33 PM
Down with druids! :smallmad: I was the first guy in our group of OD&D players to try a druid. Druids have been morphed a lot since then. They fit OK at the time, and in AD&D.
But I'd be just as happy to get rid of the Nature domain in D&D 5e and make that sub class the only place you get a druid in 5e. Retool and refit Nature domain (and what, heavy armor for nature domain? What the heck?) With that in mind, move quite a bit of druid into bard ... oh well, much redesign to hand here ...

Witty Username
2021-08-20, 08:03 PM
I view mental illness mechanics with suspicion. On the one hand, games like Call of Chultuhu wouldn't feel right without the Sanity stuff, and they do well representing Lovecraftian horror specifically. On the other hand, the idea of particular stats affecting mental well-being(stuff like intelligence or willpower, or morality) can get dicey pretty quickly. Mostly because from what I understand what can effect mental health is pretty complicated and somewhat difficult to predict.

Telok
2021-08-21, 12:35 AM
Something I recently recalled, d&d 4e taught me (and pazio starfinder reminded me) that sufficently disassociated npcs & monsters can screw up a dms world building.

In a 4e game we went from fighting gnolls (warriors in plate, two handed swords, casters that could levitate hills & build teleport gates, giant hyenas, demons) at 5th to 7th level, to fighting primitive goblins (clubs, bone armor, stone arrows, normal wolves) at 10th level. It was... weird, to say the least... that normal goblins and normal wolves with clubs & hide armor were tougher than demons & plate wearing gnolls & giant rabid hyenas. I know it was just an artifact of the monster building & math, but was pretty whacked out in play.

4e especially went pretty hard in on the trope of turning npcs who fought on your side into pathetic losers too.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-21, 05:12 AM
I view mental illness mechanics with suspicion. On the one hand, games like Call of Chultuhu wouldn't feel right without the Sanity stuff, and they do well representing Lovecraftian horror specifically. On the other hand, the idea of particular stats affecting mental well-being(stuff like intelligence or willpower, or morality) can get dicey pretty quickly. Mostly because from what I understand what can effect mental health is pretty complicated and somewhat difficult to predict.

So focusing on Unknown Armies 3e.

Unknown Armies focuses on trauma and obsession. Other aspects of mental health don't really come into it. Obsession is modelled in two ways, first everybody has an Obsession linked to one of their Identities which gives them unlimited rerolls and flip-flops with that identity. Secondly one of the two main varieties of magick requires you to be so obsessed with something you come up with a paradox and bend reality to your will.

Trauma is a bit more complicated. Call of Cthulhu this isn't, UA didn't just track one type of trauma. You have five Shock Guages (Isolation, Self, Unnatural, Violence), each split into two tracks: Hardened and Failed notches. Failed Notches are your standard sanity meter, the more you have the more you're meant to roleplay being damaged. Hardened notches are different, they represent growing detached and become resistant to trauma. If an event's severity is equal to port kits than your Hardened notches you can just ignored it. If it's severity is higher you roll the relevant Ability or an Identity that protects that Shock Guage, failure gets you a Failed notch, success gets you a Hardened notch.

Each set of Hardened notches is linked to two Abilities. One is the Upbeat Ability, which begins at 60% and losses 5% for every notch you gain (this is all on the sheet). The other is your Downbeat Ability, which begins at 20% and gains 5% per much. That means that for everything that you don't have an Identity covering you'll find that you get less Annie to be a functioning member of society as you start resorting to lies and manipulation over honest connections (note that must returning soldiers probably don't have most of their Violence notches filled).

It all comes together and works, and it works because it's only looking at two aspects through a simplified lens. Long term mental health conditions, things like depression and anxiety, and anything else to do with mental health? The books don't care about it because they're not designed to.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-21, 01:52 PM
Something I recently recalled, d&d 4e taught me (and pazio starfinder reminded me) that sufficently disassociated npcs & monsters can screw up a dms world building.

In a 4e game we went from fighting gnolls (warriors in plate, two handed swords, casters that could levitate hills & build teleport gates, giant hyenas, demons) at 5th to 7th level, to fighting primitive goblins (clubs, bone armor, stone arrows, normal wolves) at 10th level. It was... weird, to say the least... that normal goblins and normal wolves with clubs & hide armor were tougher than demons & plate wearing gnolls & giant rabid hyenas. I know it was just an artifact of the monster building & math, but was pretty whacked out in play.

4e especially went pretty hard in on the trope of turning npcs who fought on your side into pathetic losers too.

Yeah, TTRPG version of the loathsome "cutscene awesome" or "face turn decay" tropes, where the same exact characters or powers are far less effective once allied with or controlled by the characters.

In TTRPGs, often caused by asymmetric mechanics on a PC vs NPC, or other, split.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-21, 02:55 PM
Druids are a pretty good example of a common RPG phenomenon. If you design an element for your game that is world-specific, but also really cool, players will want to use it as is even if they have to shoehorn it into the settings they are actually playing in.

D&D with its class and race bloat has always had that most commonly, but it's also the reason many Ironsworn games suddenly involved a whole lot more dungeons after an awesome supplement for dungeon exploration came out for that system. :smalltongue:

Oh yeah. As I said, in certain contexts I love druids, I'd love to play one in Keltia or the like. But I'll agree the problem is people taking something cool from one setting and using it in another without understanding what made it work.


:smallmad: I was the first guy in our group of OD&D players to try a druid. Druids have been morphed a lot since then. They fit OK at the time, and in AD&D.
But I'd be just as happy to get rid of the Nature domain in D&D 5e and make that sub class the only place you get a druid in 5e. Retool and refit Nature domain (and what, heavy armor for nature domain? What the heck?) With that in mind, move quite a bit of druid into bard ... oh well, much redesign to hand here ...

Again, my issue isn't with Druids as such, although I'd love to see them properly folded into the Cleric. It's how the Druid is treated as essential that annoys me (and honestly druids are just an example). It's actually the 'wizard/sorcerer/warlock' split I see the most often being regurgitated without understanding why.

For the Record I'd nix the Druid, move it's spellcasting stuff into other classes, and then go through the spell lists and remove spells like Alter Self and Polymorph. Because I'd replace the Druid with a dedicated shapeshifter class.

Actually, if I was writing 6e I'd also be tempted to make psionics core. But the Metamorph class comes first.


Yeah, TTRPG version of the loathsome "cutscene awesome" or "face turn decay" tropes, where the same exact characters or powers are far less effective once allied with or controlled by the characters.

In TTRPGs, often caused by asymmetric mechanics on a PC vs NPC, or other, split.

I find that PC/NPC transparency is best discarded in two situations:
-A bit part where 'skilled/unskilled' is all you need. I don't need to know everything about Jeff the Shopkeep, just that the has 66% in haggling and 20% in Resisting Armed Robbers'
-When it's used to reduce enemy resources to mitigate them not facing encounters after this

The first is just not filling in an entire sheet for an NPC you made up on the spot, the second just needs a note like 'reduce all enemy spell slots/whatever to roughly a third of what PCs get',

Eldan
2021-08-21, 03:04 PM
I view mental illness mechanics with suspicion. On the one hand, games like Call of Chultuhu wouldn't feel right without the Sanity stuff, and they do well representing Lovecraftian horror specifically. On the other hand, the idea of particular stats affecting mental well-being(stuff like intelligence or willpower, or morality) can get dicey pretty quickly. Mostly because from what I understand what can effect mental health is pretty complicated and somewhat difficult to predict.

You might want to have a look at Unknown Armies, then, because it's exactly... not that. Personally, I hate basic sanity meters. Unknown armies instead has five sanity meters, that are also your ownly stats. They have names like "Self" and "Violence" and "Social" and represent how traumatized your character is by certain things. For example, the stat "Violence" is invoked when you act violently, when violence is done to you, or when you witness violence. Depending on whether you have never been exposed to violence, have become hardened to violence or traumatized by it, it becomes easier or harder to be violent yourself and to witness violence without taking more trauma. It also takes away your empathy and makes you violent, though.

Theoboldi
2021-08-21, 03:39 PM
Oh yeah. As I said, in certain contexts I love druids, I'd love to play one in Keltia or the like. But I'll agree the problem is people taking something cool from one setting and using it in another without understanding what made it work.

Honestly, I'm not sure I'd fully say it's a problem, hence me using the more neutral term 'phenomenom', since it can have both negative (out of place elements that feel tacked on) and positive (exploring ideas that would have stayed unexplored otherwise, cool reinventions of existing material) results.

But beyond that, I do believe we are fully in agreement on this, especially in how certain D&D class constructs are treated as essential even across D&D settings.



Actually, if I was writing 6e I'd also be tempted to make psionics core.

You have my vote, then. :smallwink:

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-21, 03:44 PM
Actually, if I was writing 6e I'd also be tempted to make psionics core. But the Metamorph class comes first.


Psionics is one of those things that needs to be included from the jump if it's going to be included at all.

Especially in a system where each little "thing" is believed to "need" its own special subsystem and mechanics.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-21, 04:09 PM
Honestly, I'm not sure I'd fully say it's a problem, hence me using the more neutral term 'phenomenom', since it can have both negative (out of place elements that feel tacked on) and positive (exploring ideas that would have stayed unexplored otherwise, cool reinventions of existing material) results.

But beyond that, I do believe we are fully in agreement on this, especially in how certain D&D class constructs are treated as essential even across D&D settings.

Sure, there can be very good repurposing if setting specific material. so I guess problem is too strong. But yes, we are essentially in agreement.


You have my vote, then. :smallwink:

I'm still a bit unsure how I'd handle the Psychic* class, I'd either keep it closer to how magic users work or go for a 'at-will basic powers, spend SR recharge points to strengthen them'. But I think pdionics and especially PC-useable psionics deserve to be better integrated and feel 'core'.

Plus I just like psychics and really want to play one.

* I think using 'psychic' fits in better and puts people in the right frame of mind.

Yuki Akuma
2021-08-21, 04:15 PM
You might want to have a look at Unknown Armies, then, because it's exactly... not that. Personally, I hate basic sanity meters. Unknown armies instead has five sanity meters, that are also your ownly stats. They have names like "Self" and "Violence" and "Social" and represent how traumatized your character is by certain things. For example, the stat "Violence" is invoked when you act violently, when violence is done to you, or when you witness violence. Depending on whether you have never been exposed to violence, have become hardened to violence or traumatized by it, it becomes easier or harder to be violent yourself and to witness violence without taking more trauma. It also takes away your empathy and makes you violent, though.

To expand from this, the five Shock Gauges (Violence, Self, Isolation, Helplessness and Unnatural) have both Failed and Hardened notches.

When you fail a shock roll, you gain a failed notch, which doesn't really do anything mechanical on its own. If you succeed a shock roll, you gain a Hardened notch, which lowers one core skill by 5% and raises another by 5%, and makes you harder to shock with that sort of stressor. If you gain 5 failed notches in one meter, you go insane in some way related to that stress - you might get PTSD, or depression, or hallucinations, or whatever. If you gain 9 hardened notches in one meter, or 25 total hardened notches, you become detached and uncaring about people (and also lose the ability to use Avatar magic).

Failed and hardened notches can both be erased using therapy.

For example, say I have 3 Hardened notches in the Violence gauge. This means my Connect skill is rated at 45%, and my Struggle skill is rated at 30%. If someone stabs me (Violence 2), well, that sucks, but it doesn't really shake me that much - I've had this happen to me before, or something similar, so I don't roll a Violence check.

Meanwhile, if that stabbing results in a fight and I kill the other guy (Violence 5), I will have to roll a shock check - I may be used to getting beaten, but killing people isn't something I'm prepared for! If I fail, I gain a failed notch in Violence, getting one step closer to breaking down completely. If I succeed, I gain another hardened notch in Violence, totalling 4, which shifts my Connect down to 40% and my Struggle up to 35% - my experience with killing a man has made me lose some of my ability to connect with people, but made me better at hurting people.

The other four Shock Gauges key off of other things - Self gets stressed when I act in a way contrary to my self perception; Isolation gets stressed if I don't interact with people for a long time; Helplessness gets stressed if I find myself in situations where I can't do anything; and Unnatural gets stressed when I'm reminded that the world makes no ****ing sense and magic and ghosts and fairies and **** are real.


I love the way Unknown Armies 3e ties together your character's psychology and their basic abilities. There are also Identities that can cover for other abilities (if I'm a karate master, my Struggle would be pretty high, even if I've never been in a real fight where someone has died), but anything your Identities don't cover is covered by your psychology.

Witty Username
2021-08-21, 11:37 PM
Unknown Armies. Alright, I will take a look at that one.

Eldan
2021-08-22, 06:03 AM
Just a general warning that it has all the trigger warnings, though.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-22, 06:16 AM
Just a general warning that it has all the trigger warnings, though.

Yeah, Unknown Armies is a game about human horror. Third edition is pretty up front about the fact that you're almost certainly not good people and that nobody else in the Occult Underground is, and at the end of the day everything is caused by the actions of humans.

It's pretty much my favourite game because of that, but it does mean that there's a lot of triggering stuff in there.

Also, beware that it can be political in places, including some of the default factions.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-23, 08:55 AM
Because I'd replace the Druid with a dedicated shapeshifter class. The moon druid. :smallbiggrin: in D&D 5e, but as far as I am concerned, doppelgangers do no belong as PCs. :smalltongue: But perhaps that's a matter of taste.

Actually, if I was writing 6e I'd also be tempted to make psionics core. Which takes us back to "do we really need three systems of magic?" It's a design question worth asking. (Interestingly, there's a guy (see Delta's hot spot) who has removed clerics from the OD&D game and it works. One system of magic is perhaps a better design parameter).

Psionics is one of those things that needs to be included from the jump if it's going to be included at all. yep.

SimonMoon6
2021-08-23, 01:47 PM
Which takes us back to "do we really need three systems of magic?"

I've never really thought of cleric magic as being a different "system". I mean, whether cleric, druid, or wizard/sorcerer, it all comes out the same. You cast a spell on your list of spells which overlaps the other lists of spells. Spells are cast in exactly the same way (with V, S, M, F, and/or DF components). Spells are countered in exactly the same regardless of what list they're on. It's all just the same stuff. The source of the magic might be different but that's all; that's really just fluff anyway. Classes just give different spell lists and different "add on" abilities, like "do you have to memorize spells or cast spontaneously" or "here, have some domain spells", but that's all that they do differently, really. (And I remember back in the day of the four main spell-casting classes being magic-user, illusionist, cleric, and druid.)

Psionics tends to feel different because there's no real crossover with spells. Psions don't cast polymorph; they "manifest" a power called "metamorphosis". Again, that's mainly just fluff except for the lack of interaction with spells. Psions don't use spells like everyone else. Their powers don't go into wands, scrolls, or potions; they go into items that are exactly the same but called something different. And so forth.

Obviously, ideally, it would all be handled like Spheres of Power, where the powers/spells you can use are completely disconnected from your "tradition" of how you cast spells.

Telwar
2021-08-23, 02:04 PM
For Psionics 6e, my hope* is that they basically bundle the extra details needed into spell descriptions, like PSP costs in addition to slot level, manifestation, etc. You can still have some psionic powers that have no magic spell match, and vice versa, but there's a lot of crossover potential.

* - which will be dashed, quite expertly, no doubt.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-23, 02:06 PM
For Psionics 6e, my hope* {snip}
* - which will be dashed, quite expertly, no doubt. Based on the history to date, yes it will with the caveat that I have no familiarity with 4e psionics, and I'll guess it worked OK?

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-23, 03:45 PM
The moon druid. :smallbiggrin:

Still has too much spellcasting for my tastes.


Which takes us back to "do we really need three systems of magic?"

If they're well designed and sufficiently distinct, yes.

D&D 5e has maybe two kinds of magic mechanically: one way for Warlocks, and another for everybody else. While spell lists differ the underlying mechanics are the same.

Although I might nix the Wizard and Sorcerer before the Cleric. Actually dropping the classes tto jusy Barbarian/Cleric/Fighter/Rogue/Warlock might be fun.

But compare that to Unknown Armies which has 2.5-3 kinds of magick. Avatars just act in accordance with their Archetype and get four mostly at0-will powers (some are more limited, and Godwalkers get a DIY fifth channel), Adepts charge up their mojo and then cast spells within their theme and then you have rituals (which anybidy can do, but Adepts and Avatars do better), Gutter Magick (using symbology to strong arm fate), and other weird stuff that doesn't fit into the above methods. Each way feels different in play, and says different things about your character.

Plus several of those Avatar powers are just fun.

But Unknown Armies is also a very different game. Multiple magic systems can also be done very poorly.

I have no problems with Barebones Fantasy only having one magic system (which Clerics get partial access to). It works. But if i have no issue with psionics working just as magic does, I'd be fine if a player wanted to rename the Spellcaster skill Psychic and nab a spell from another d00 Lite game I woudln't care, and actually wish Telepathy and Mind Reading were on the list anyway. This is much more my annoyance at people who think psionics 'don't fit in fantasy'

My elven mindshaper begs to differ.

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-23, 03:47 PM
I've long wondered if a rework of D&D magic could separate source and methodology.

That is, what determines what system a character uses as a caster is based on their approach, not on where the power comes from. And the power could come from more than one place for the same method -- internal, planar, divine, pacts with entities, forcefully bound entities, etc, or a mix of sources.

So the sorcerer becomes a freeform caster, the wizard becomes an academic caster, the monk becomes a meditative caster with lots of physical effects, the warlock becomes a wildcard, or whatever.

NichG
2021-08-23, 04:02 PM
D&D is already far past this threshold, but if you want to have something where anyone could reasonably and consistently answer interpretive questions like 'can someone invent a spell that does X, and what would it take?' or 'what effects are impossible for Y to bring about?' or 'what is the cost for sustaining an effect Z indefinitely, and what could be different ways of paying that cost?' or things like that, then having tight coupling between the different elements of what makes up a caster is better than making everything mix-and-match modular. E.g. its harder to reason about Gandalf's magic in LotR than about Harry Potter magic (one is 'any effect but there is some kind of either self-imposed or practical limit to scope, which might vary with time and tide', the other is at least 'anything that has a fake latin phrase that sounds like it'), and harder to reason about Harry Potter magic than something like allomancy which has much tighter integration between what are the powers, where they come from, how are they brought about, etc.

In some sense, one of the biggest things divine magic brings to D&D is to say 'its very hard for arcane magic to heal, and there should always be some sort of cost or awkwardness or round-about explicit borrowing of someone else's power whenever it does'.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-23, 04:03 PM
I've long wondered if a rework of D&D magic could separate source and methodology.

Hmmm....

I think if we changed the spellcasting classes to just say what they g=do you might be able to make that work. I'd probably go for something like Academic (wizard), Pact (Cleric/Warlock), and Wellspring (Sorcerer/Psychic) as the sources. Although I do like the idea of Enlightened magic.

You'd be tearing the whole system down and rebuilding it from scratch. but the two latest editions have done that anyway. I'd probably prefer this theoretical 6e magic system to the way it works in 5e.

Telwar
2021-08-23, 04:13 PM
Based on the history to date, yes it will with the caveat that I have no familiarity with 4e psionics, and I'll guess it worked OK?

4e Psionics actually worked decently. They integrated with the AEDU format as almost entirely at-will, with power points spent to boost them as an encounter power equivalent (and then you had separate daily powers) The main issue was that the effects for the paragon- and epic-tier powers really weren't that much better than the heroic tier, but cost a lot more, which meant there was a disincentive to use those higher level powers when you could get like 85-90% of the effect a lot more often. That wasn't usually an issue with the other AEDU classes/power sources, those you did typically want to upgrade.

And frankly 3.5 psionics was probably my favorite version ever...but again, it came in later when there was more developed system expertise.

Amidus Drexel
2021-08-24, 07:37 AM
RE: subsystems - I actually really like games that have a variety of subsystems in general (it's nice when they're well-done, too). Different organizations of powers and resolution mechanics make different kinds of powers feel different at char-gen and at the table. Unified mechanics for are clean and pretty, but it gets a little stale when a large portion of the game's mechanics are basically the same.

D&D 3.5 (the system I'm most familiar with) hits both sides of that coin pretty hard, too. Magic (and magic-adjacent) subsystems? It has those in spades - and a lot of them are really interesting, too. Combat is a well-supported, wonderfully complex challenge for players, and even has its own sub-subsystems (grappling!). A crafting system exists, even though it's pretty bare-bones. On the other hand, most non-combat challenges are meant to be resolved purely with roleplaying, or with one (or more) d20+modifier rolls, and not much else. There's no "chase scene" subsystem (though one of the supplemental books did at least briefly mention this one), "stealth" subsystem (beyond "noticed or not"), or "social combat/persuasion" subsystem (there are rules for being a lawyer in Hell, though it is just 3 skill checks).

----

Not a ttrpg, but the board game Root captures a lot of what I want from a game in this regard. It's an asymmetric faction-based strategy game, and each faction plays very differently. Some are combat-heavy and focused on expansion; some are passive but more difficult to disrupt; some are very mobile but unable to effectively capture and hold territory; some are weak but mercantile, with incentives to get other players to trade with them.

There are some unified rules for the game (what counts as ruling a clearing, what happens when you craft an item, combat resolution), but certain factions can and do break some of those rules (or add exceptions under certain circumstances). Everything else is totally different from faction to faction - from how those factions gain victory points (what they care about), to how they generate and spend resources, and even how they interact with other factions.

The downside, of course, is that having one (or more) subsystems per faction makes learning how to play the game a lot slower. You effectively need to learn the rules 4 times the first time you sit down to play - once for your own faction, and once for each of your opponents - and you usually can't watch what they're doing to learn how your own actions work.

----

That carries over to ttrpgs with a lot of subsystems - the more rules there are, the more everyone has to learn to participate (obviously). Fewer shared mechanics between players means the learning curve is steeper for each player, too.

Willie the Duck
2021-08-24, 09:38 AM
And frankly 3.5 psionics was probably my favorite version ever...but again, it came in later when there was more developed system expertise.
3.5 psionics worked very well because they were, in practice (and yes with enough caveats that I can understand someone flat out disagreeing), the same basic system as magic, but with some of the more problematic spells omitted or rebuilt. 'Spells' were paid for from a universal pool rather than slots/spell level, but otherwise psions were mechanically almost the same as sorcerers. Other than the case of the DM ruling against magic-psionic transparency would leave anything built with core-only books wouldn't have a Dispel Psionics option, there wasn't much downside inflicted by it coming to the game late. Mind you, the worldbuilding aspect for the premade campaign settings was still there, and other than Dark Sun, most game worlds never really did much with where psionics were a big thing or the like, iconic psionic NPCs, etc.


RE: subsystems - I actually really like games that have a variety of subsystems in general (it's nice when they're well-done, too). Different organizations of powers and resolution mechanics make different kinds of powers feel different at char-gen and at the table. Unified mechanics for are clean and pretty, but it gets a little stale when a large portion of the game's mechanics are basically the same.

D&D 3.5 (the system I'm most familiar with) hits both sides of that coin pretty hard, too. Magic (and magic-adjacent) subsystems? It has those in spades - and a lot of them are really interesting, too. Combat is a well-supported, wonderfully complex challenge for players, and even has its own sub-subsystems (grappling!). A crafting system exists, even though it's pretty bare-bones. On the other hand, most non-combat challenges are meant to be resolved purely with roleplaying, or with one (or more) d20+modifier rolls, and not much else. There's no "chase scene" subsystem (though one of the supplemental books did at least briefly mention this one), "stealth" subsystem (beyond "noticed or not"), or "social combat/persuasion" subsystem (there are rules for being a lawyer in Hell, though it is just 3 skill checks).

3e reminds me of lots of late 80s-90s trad games like GURPS or similar. There are lots of charts and tables and specific DC allocation and rules for physical objects and interaction with them (you know exactly how much you can lift, drag, or throw, there are rules for hacking through a wooden door, you know the penalty that moderate wind or dim lighting conditions or one or both you and target moving will have on you hitting a target with a thrown object). Likewise, lots of rules for giving your characters (or NPCs) real world abilities such as crafting and knowledge and professional skills (so you can make a character who devotes some resources to being a cook instead of simply more combat or dungeoneering abilities, etc.). However, once you run into situations that those things can't solve*, or skill situations where Boolean success/failure related to direct physical health or location or lifting capacity or crafting speed aren't the relevant qualities, the systems tend to not have much to say**. Social rules and Chases are common examples, but skills like psychology or profession: cook or similar work equally well -- mostly the rules at best will be 'make a check' or 'make a contested check' with possibly degree of success adding some nuance to the outcome.
*or solve in a pretty unrewarding way, like a 3e chase where PC and opponent both determine (via Con score and maybe endurance feats) how long they can keep going, do a pure duration x speed calculation, and determine whether any speed difference would mean that the chaser would catch the chasee before that point.
**GURPS and the like tend to have add-on supplements which cover these, which are fine and all, but it still speaks to a specific mindset that trad games seemed to have

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-24, 10:42 AM
3.5 psionics worked very well because they were, in practice (and yes with enough caveats that I can understand someone flat out disagreeing), the same basic system as magic, but with some of the more problematic spells omitted or rebuilt. 'Spells' were paid for from a universal pool rather than slots/spell level, but otherwise psions were mechanically almost the same as sorcerers. Other than the case of the DM ruling against magic-psionic transparency would leave anything built with core-only books wouldn't have a Dispel Psionics option, there wasn't much downside inflicted by it coming to the game late. Mind you, the worldbuilding aspect for the premade campaign settings was still there, and other than Dark Sun, most game worlds never really did much with where psionics were a big thing or the like, iconic psionic NPCs, etc.


The lack of smooth interaction between magic and psionics is one of the repeated issues, and one of the symptoms of the lack of original integration of psionics in each edition.

But then, that lack of original integration of concepts, of thinking ahead to leave space for new concepts and mechanics, is a broader issue with both D&D editions and other game systems.

IE, the introduction of crafting rules, counter-magic, etc in supplemental books for L5R 4ed, that clearly were not taken into consideration AT ALL when the original rules were written.

Zombimode
2021-08-24, 02:30 PM
The lack of smooth interaction between magic and psionics is one of the repeated issues

Thats a strange thing to say. What interaction between magic* and psionics do you think is not smooth?

*I take you mean arcane and divine magic here. Because by all accounts psionics in 3.5 IS a form of magic.

tyckspoon
2021-08-24, 02:38 PM
Thats a strange thing to say. What interaction between magic* and psionics do you think is not smooth?

*I take you mean arcane and divine magic here. Because by all accounts psionics in 3.5 IS a form of magic.

If you treat psionics as magic in different clothes, it works very smoothly. But then you have.. well, magic in different clothes. Which, mechanically, is a tried and tested solution - 3.5 has tons of 'magic in different clothes' subsystems, and they pretty much all work. It is a problem if you want the play experience of a Psion, or a Shadowcaster, or any of the other "this totally isn't just a themed Wizard, honestly" classes to feel different to the base Wizard, tho. Because then you have to sort out mechanical distinctions that support that, and 3.5 does not like that much. For better or worse the game is built around magic working the way Wizards and Clerics use it and doing it any other way starts to run into a variety of oddities and potential balancing issues.

Willie the Duck
2021-08-24, 02:55 PM
I believe 3.5 outright stated that the DM would have to decide how much psionics "was" magic and whether things like Detect ____ and Dispel _____ would cross-cooperate, with a statement that there would be consequences if there was no such transparency. I guess, 'they mention an option that could cause disorder' could be a valid critique, it is worthwhile to note that there aren't many permanent effects which the inability to dispel them would be a significant issue (if there were a bunch of permanent psionic curses, such that a psionic-free party would be just-plain boned for not having a psion, this would be more of an issue). Third edition had a few situations where 'I just got a new expansion, and it completely invalidates your plans/the challenge of your adventure/etc.,' but I don't think psionics was a major hitter there.

I'd put 2nd edition as the height of tack-on-ness. Psionics had a whole bunch of mental link and psionic combat rules which turned every round of combat into a nightmare where you figured out what was going on with the normal combat, then read the rules on psion vs. psion (/psionic monster) combat, plus possibly having to figure out what happened if you used said abilities on a non-psionicist/psionic monster. It was not pretty (which was too bad, as it The Complete Psionicist Handbook was the first time they actually made the psionics thematic and inviting).


If you treat psionics as magic in different clothes, it works very smoothly. But then you have.. well, magic in different clothes. Which, mechanically, is a tried and tested solution - 3.5 has tons of 'magic in different clothes' subsystems, and they pretty much all work. It is a problem if you want the play experience of a Psion, or a Shadowcaster, or any of the other "this totally isn't just a themed Wizard, honestly" classes to feel different to the base Wizard, tho. Because then you have to sort out mechanical distinctions that support that, and 3.5 does not like that much. For better or worse the game is built around magic working the way Wizards and Clerics use it and doing it any other way starts to run into a variety of oddities and potential balancing issues.

And yeah, when you do use a wildly different system, it really helps to have to have them planned out ahead of time, with the cross-interactions figured out. Although, let's be honest, plenty of game systems had the sub-system/alt-interaction mode planned from the start and it still be a problem. I'm thinking any of the various cyberpunk-genre games where hacking or web-dwelling is pretty much that think one player does while everyone else grabs drinks.

Witty Username
2021-08-24, 08:42 PM
Which takes us back to "do we really need three systems of magic?" It's a design question worth asking. (Interestingly, there's a guy (see Delta's hot spot) who has removed clerics from the OD&D game and it works. One system of magic is perhaps a better design parameter).
yep.

I would see it as four.
Prepared casting
Spells known spontaneous casting
Pact magic
-hypothetical psionics (probably a points system)

Warlocks are a good example of a weird class with its own system that has gone over well. So I could see a psionics class working with the same amount of design attention.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-26, 09:25 AM
I would see it as four.
Prepared casting
Spells known spontaneous casting
Pact magic
-hypothetical psionics (probably a points system)

Warlocks are a good example of a weird class with its own system that has gone over well. So I could see a psionics class working with the same amount of design attention. I disagre that those are separate systems. Warlock's magic system is the same as a wizard's. They use arcane spells and cantrips. Their spell regeneration and acquisition method is what is different.

I will meet you half way, though, in that the idea of prepared versus spontaneous being significantly different thematic approaches to magic. And now we get to the concept phase: is magic inherently external or internal to the caster?

Psionics and spontaneous, and ki for a 5e monk in D&D, lean toward "internal to the caster" while Prepared (the charged capacitor model) leans more toward 'external to the caster'

Max_Killjoy
2021-08-26, 09:42 AM
I disagre that those are separate systems. Warlock's magic system is the same as a wizard's. They use arcane spells and cantrips. Their spell regeneration and acquisition method is what is different.

I will meet you half way, though, in that the idea of prepared versus spontaneous being significantly different thematic approaches to magic. And now we get to the concept phase: is magic inherently external or internal to the caster?

Psionics and spontaneous, and ki for a 5e monk in D&D, lean toward "internal to the caster" while Prepared (the charged capacitor model) leans more toward 'external to the caster'

Divine Magic would be external, right?

Mark Hall
2021-08-26, 10:52 AM
Personally, I like different magic systems so long as they are different. A lot of AD&D magic is the same, or only slightly different.

For example, priests and wizards both memorize spells exactly the same way. The difference is that wizards have to seek out and learn spells, while priests have a large list they can choose from. Psionics is different because it uses points, and requires activation rolls.

If you look at new Hackmaster, though, clerics and mages are really different. Mages still learn spells, while clerics have a set list. But clerics prepare 1 spell per level per day (with some bonuses for wisdom), and can cast only those that day, and only in those numbers, and each for a fixed effect, regardless of your level (though the target sometimes matters; anointed followers of a given deity get benefits). Mages prepare 1 spell per level per day, plus Apprentice and Journeyman spells, but they can cast those in any combination, enhance them by spending more spell points, and cast any spell they know at double the base spell point cost. This results in the two classes feeling very different, even if they wind up casting the same spell (many clerics have certain mage spells on their list).

When I made new systems for Hackmaster? I make sure they're different. Shamans work on reaction rolls. Sorcerers can do anything, but have a skill check (and possibly cause themselves damage). It enhances the feel that they are different classes, not just slight variations on a theme.

KorvinStarmast
2021-08-26, 11:12 AM
Divine Magic would be external, right?
I am not sure.
Prepared divine spells would be, but something like a 3.5e Favored Soul or the 5e Divine Sorcerer it might be internal. (More so if the character is an aasmiar ...)

Eldan
2021-08-27, 05:03 AM
I mean, I honestly never understood what exactly is meaningfully different about a psion compared to an arcane caster. So, their power comes from their own mind instead of external forces that are just shaped by the wizard, sure. But in the end, how is that actually different? They both need discipline and to study their powers and the effects they create are very similar. It's not like the psion can damage their mind by casting too much, or the wizard cut off from the external power field (at least not in ways a psion can't also be, i.e. antimagic field.)

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-27, 07:05 AM
It's not like the psion can damage their mind by casting too much, or the wizard cut off from the external power field (at least not in ways a psion can't also be, i.e. antimagic field.)

Actually, those would be cool ways to differentiate them. Use something like the GURPS mana rules for magic: you're only really caring about None, Not Enough, Enough, Plenty. Then make psionics'abilities at-will but charge HP or Ability Score points to empower them (maybe give a small buffer).

It's not impossible to make magic and psionics'abilities meaningfully different and yet roughly balanced. However it is a lot of work, which I suspect is why the best-received version of D&D psychics are so close to magic.

Mark Hall
2021-08-27, 11:14 AM
I mean, I honestly never understood what exactly is meaningfully different about a psion compared to an arcane caster. So, their power comes from their own mind instead of external forces that are just shaped by the wizard, sure. But in the end, how is that actually different? They both need discipline and to study their powers and the effects they create are very similar. It's not like the psion can damage their mind by casting too much, or the wizard cut off from the external power field (at least not in ways a psion can't also be, i.e. antimagic field.)

So, I actually laid some of this out for Hackmaster, when I was creating a bunch of different systems of magic for them. There are, IMO, three things that make an alternate system of powers work:

0) Are they good, playable rules, neither so powerful as to be necessary, or so weak as to be useless or fluff?
1) Mechanical uniqueness. Does this magic feel like its own thing, or just another name for the same stuff?
2) Mechanical integration. Do these mechanics work with the rest of the system?
3) World integration: Does this have a place in the game world?

0, of course, is just decent game design. If psionics completely destroys all other magic systems, then it's too powerful. If it sucks, then it's too weak, and no one will play it (except folks who want the challenge). An example here might be the 3e adept, which was intentionally built weak... but people didn't really opt for the adept if they could be a wizard or cleric, because those characters were better at doing what the adept did.

1 and 2 can be very hard to balance; the standard D&D mage and cleric, for example, only really differentiate in how one acquires spells (learning from a book v. list from your deity), which leads to a certain sameness of magic... they don't have mechanical uniqueness. Then you throw in the warlock, who has just a few spell slots, always casts at maximum level, and mostly runs off special powers and cantrips. These feel unique, even if they're using pretty much the same spells.

3.5's psionics was, IMO, sufficiently different, without being so different that the mechanics were difficult to follow... you "manifest your power", spend a set number of points, and improve it by spending more points, up to a max of your level, if you want. Simple, straightforward, but different than either mage or cleric. 2e psionics straddled a line... their use was similar to the existing proficiency system (roll d20 under a number, higher is better), but unique from the other magic systems, but the frequent double-jeopardy of power scores and saves made them a bit questionable, and psionics didn't integrate into the system in other ways... it was difficult to integrate psionic combat into games where you didn't have both psionic opponents and psionic characters, and many psychics could not participate actively in psionic combat (since they didn't have any psychic attack powers).

Point 3 can be a hard one if you don't design with psionics in mind... how does this fit into the world? In 2e, most world were not designed with psionics in mind... they're an afterthought in the Realms, with little said about them. Greyhawk is, I believe, similar. Dragonlance outright forbids them, as does Birthright. Dark Sun went whole-hog on including them, though, built the world from the ground up to include psionics, so psionics works there, because it's supposed to work there. It still has its mechanical problems, of course, but it works because the world allows it to work.

I think those four are necessary to integrate a new magic system. If you don't have all four, your new magic system will fail.

Cluedrew
2021-08-28, 08:23 AM
I actually think "1) Mechanical Uniqueness" is actually a bit less significant than people might think. Or put a different way, you can get a lot done with a little uniqueness. My favourite example is Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares from Spirit Island which has a special rules where it can never do any damage (it gets converted to other effects). I think having a good expressive framework, that allows you to create changes that feel more significant without having to redo as many rules.

Of course I have no magic formula for this, nor a way to actually measure anything involved. But I think creating whole new frameworks for things should be a larger change than you need. And smaller rules changes are easier to pick-up than a complete rework.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-28, 09:38 AM
I actually think "1) Mechanical Uniqueness" is actually a bit less significant than people might think. Or put a different way, you can get a lot done with a little uniqueness. My favourite example is Bringer of Dreams and Nightmares from Spirit Island which has a special rules where it can never do any damage (it gets converted to other effects). I think having a good expressive framework, that allows you to create changes that feel more significant without having to redo as many rules.

Of course I have no magic formula for this, nor a way to actually measure anything involved. But I think creating whole new frameworks for things should be a larger change than you need. And smaller rules changes are easier to pick-up than a complete rework.

I mean, Arcane and Divine magic in D&D should probably have more differences than different spell lists, but that's been the tend for at least the last three editions. But at the same time that's not an inherent issue.

Although maybe the best place to put differences is in the secondary effects. Pull a Barebones Fantasy, say 'major miracles work as spells, but you can only pick from this sublist, but you also get this set of powers'.

Psionics might not the sweet spot on being too similar to feel different but too different to feel like it's using the same rules. You still have a list of 'spells' you can do and resources you have to spend too do them that primarily recharge by not being conscious, but instead of slots it's points! So different! I'm not even sure there's many people were in 3e+ psionics that do things magic came, and some of the powers have exactly the same rules text.

The name might also be a problem, witch is easily solvable. We have Arcane and Divine magic, now we also have Psychic magic. Didn't 4e do this? Maybe instead of making the Monk a Psionics'abilities class it should have made the Psion a Ki(/Chi) class.

Eldan
2021-08-28, 11:47 AM
It's been a long, long dream of mine to one day sit down and rewrite the divine rules from the ground up. In my mind, they'd work a lot more like binding or warlocks (in the fluff).
Mechanically, I would have seen it as the cleric getting some kind of (mostly roleplaying) taboo for the day in exchange for a power. Something like "not touching dead bodies", "must wash three times a day", "may not lie" or "must donate 10% of their income to charity". (Those being good/lawful ones. Evil ones would be interesting to come up with as well.)
Like a binder, you'd choose which ones you commit to at certain ritual times, and they each come with an array of powers.

Telok
2021-08-28, 12:01 PM
For 3.5 D&D clerics what I came up with was ditching the cleric class and using a modified favored soul. They picked a god and got 4/5 of that gods domains as spells known and powers. There were a couple domains you had to add basic turn undead to. Turned the stupid wings into a "pick one of your domains, you are now immune to those spells if you want to be, decided at the time of effect".

No more generic & athiest clerics, nice downgrade in the power cap and an upgrade to the favored soul power level.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-28, 12:07 PM
It's been a long, long dream of mine to one day sit down and rewrite the divine rules from the ground up. In my mind, they'd work a lot more like binding or warlocks (in the fluff).
Mechanically, I would have seen it as the cleric getting some kind of (mostly roleplaying) taboo for the day in exchange for a power. Something like "not touching dead bodies", "must wash three times a day", "may not lie" or "must donate 10% of their income to charity". (Those being good/lawful ones. Evil ones would be interesting to come up with as well.)
Like a binder, you'd choose which ones you commit to at certain ritual times, and they each come with an array of powers.

Hello, I'm getting Wu Jen flashbacks.

In all seriousness, sounds like a fun way to build them. I'd go more for a sacrificing angle (no payment no magic). Although id also focus on a more morally neutral variety of God.


I like the way the Cultist in Low Fastest Gaming work. So things to get Favour, if you have Favour you can spend it to do miracles safely, if you don't spend fair make a check to see if your god takes offence. You only get one slot per level, but all your miracles are theoretically balanced.

Divine Rebukes are equivalent to mages (who use D&D Sorcerer style casting) miscasting, but had a certain way to avoid it (spend your Favour), and Favour is relatively easy to get. It mostly limits using Blessings in quick succession, as Favour is a state rather than a resource (your can only have it or not have it).

Mark Hall
2021-08-28, 03:24 PM
It's been a long, long dream of mine to one day sit down and rewrite the divine rules from the ground up. In my mind, they'd work a lot more like binding or warlocks (in the fluff).
Mechanically, I would have seen it as the cleric getting some kind of (mostly roleplaying) taboo for the day in exchange for a power. Something like "not touching dead bodies", "must wash three times a day", "may not lie" or "must donate 10% of their income to charity". (Those being good/lawful ones. Evil ones would be interesting to come up with as well.)
Like a binder, you'd choose which ones you commit to at certain ritual times, and they each come with an array of powers.

My position is that warlocks work really well as a priest of a very low-powered deity. The God can't give you much, but they can give you their all.

Like Telok, I also liked the idea of clerics not having a set list of cleric spells, but just a bunch of domains... I might have the Magic, Healing, and Rune domains. Maybe at 5th level I can add Fire or Nature.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-28, 03:36 PM
My position is that warlocks work really well as a priest of a very low-powered deity. The God can't give you much, but they can give you their all.


I actually run almost all my "priests" as effectively warlocks. Whether of gods (who can also empower clerics, but that's a more involved, higher-trust process) or of ascendants (who can't empower clerics, but have freer rein in the mortal plane) or of demons or of devils or even of fey--the vast majority of NPC "priests" are actually warlocks. Part of the initiation/training is being taught those scraps of knowledge. Except with even fewer spells known--most have one or two at most. Most of their "miracles" are asking for divine intervention, which comes at the god's (or ascendant's) will.

Actual clerics are rare, and are called for specific purposes directly by the god in question. They stand outside the hierarchies (generally) and are often at odds with them. They're all crusaders, militants, defenders, or otherwise martial types, chosen to fight on the god's behalf, but given extreme latitude in how they exercise the power delegated to them. They don't pray for their spells; they are delegated authority at the same source as the god's source (effectively given limited access to the universal OS in the god's name and on his power budget).

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-28, 04:24 PM
My position is that warlocks work really well as a priest of a very low-powered deity. The God can't give you much, but they can give you their all.

Like Telok, I also liked the idea of clerics not having a set list of cleric spells, but just a bunch of domains... I might have the Magic, Healing, and Rune domains. Maybe at 5th level I can add Fire or Nature.

I'd honestly just combine Warlocks and Clerics together. A note powerful deity can provide more power, but they're also likely spreading that power over more followers to have greater influence, so I don't see the need to have multiple grades (which is what levels/skill totals are for anyway).

Also yes, divine caster spells not having a centralised list but being more specific to the fruity I always fun. I've got a good number of games that do that through a variety of methods, but it does tend to tie your game down more setting-wise. The alternative is to go the Domains/Spheres/Purviews route, which also works.

Honestly, at the end of the day I'd love to start work on a fantasy game that completely drops 'arcane' magic and focuses entirely on the divine/pact side. You want magic you'd better find yourself a patron and better not displease you. It's very much not what the fantasy game I'm trying to write does, but that games been essentially shelved because I kept wanting to change how the basis of the magic rules work.

Mark Hall
2021-08-28, 04:44 PM
Honestly, at the end of the day I'd love to start work on a fantasy game that completely drops 'arcane' magic and focuses entirely on the divine/pact side. You want magic you'd better find yourself a patron and better not displease you. It's very much not what the fantasy game I'm trying to write does, but that games been essentially shelved because I kept wanting to change how the basis of the magic rules work.

Funnily enough, that's a fairly common conception of magic throughout history... not studying books and chanting formulas to create magic ex nihilo, or tap into an existing natural force, but connecting to some supernatural being who does the spell you want done.

In a way, that's also what Dragonlance does. While you've got some rogue wizards, the vast majority are in the equivalent of broad clerical orders, devoted to one of three gods of magic.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-28, 05:44 PM
Funnily enough, that's a fairly common conception of magic throughout history... not studying books and chanting formulas to create magic ex nihilo, or tap into an existing natural force, but connecting to some supernatural being who does the spell you want done.

In a way, that's also what Dragonlance does. While you've got some rogue wizards, the vast majority are in the equivalent of broad clerical orders, devoted to one of three gods of magic.

That is a consideration. I'm personally finding myself drawn more towards divine magic, animist magic, and alchemy/enchaqnting in games for similar reasons. Plus ritualists. It just feels better to me partially because of such connections.

I don't want the mighty wizard in their tower, I want the village magician who wards off disease and brings fortune, the sinister cultist summoning demons, the revered priest asking their god to heal wounds, and the desparate souls who bargained their afterlife away for a chance to change the world./ Plus ideally I'd like all of them to be playable.

Cluedrew
2021-08-29, 08:59 AM
Ah yes, the wizard in their tower doing research into the mystic secrets of the universe. Unfortunately for the concept of D&D they had to talk them out of the tower and put them into the field. Then people realised they didn't really want to do research so they cut that out. Flavour wise the wizard is interchangeable with an unsalted cracker. They are however much crunchier when you bit them.

Another thing I learned from other systems, you can give them flavour to magic users so they aren't a simple dispenser of whatever effect the player wants. Actually the flavour also helps with giving them a mechanical focus as well, although I suppose a mechanical focus gives a bit of flavour too. Its one big happy circle D&D style spell casting just opted out of. (Or so it feels to me, I know some people like it but I just don't get it.)

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-29, 12:28 PM
Ah yes, the wizard in their tower doing research into the mystic secrets of the universe. Unfortunately for the concept of D&D they had to talk them out of the tower and put them into the field. Then people realised they didn't really want to do research so they cut that out. Flavour wise the wizard is interchangeable with an unsalted cracker. They are however much crunchier when you bit them.

Another thing I learned from other systems, you can give them flavour to magic users so they aren't a simple dispenser of whatever effect the player wants. Actually the flavour also helps with giving them a mechanical focus as well, although I suppose a mechanical focus gives a bit of flavour too. Its one big happy circle D&D style spell casting just opted out of. (Or so it feels to me, I know some people like it but I just don't get it.)

To be fair, I've seen some other systems with magicians asfluffless as modern D&D's. They just tend to be so without all the fluff as D&D has.

It seems to me that in many games magic might be closer to paying local spirits energy for them to do something for you. This would be really fun to expand on, but by going the way of material components or have angry spirits lash out on critically failed spellcasting rolls (creating relatively harmless environmental affects). Then you could have big, powerful spirits able to empower mortals and let them do some magic stuff without dealing with local spirits.

Kymme
2021-08-29, 02:44 PM
Ah yes, the wizard in their tower doing research into the mystic secrets of the universe. Unfortunately for the concept of D&D they had to talk them out of the tower and put them into the field. Then people realised they didn't really want to do research so they cut that out. Flavour wise the wizard is interchangeable with an unsalted cracker. They are however much crunchier when you bit them.

Ars Magica is a game that puts the wizard back into the tower, researching magic and exploring the secrets of the universe. It's a great example of a system that takes the burden of adjudicating research on its shoulders, with an incredible amount of crunch about how magical researching and experimentation and making new spells works. It's also has, surprise of surprises for me, rules for writing magical tomes of obscure lore that other people can read and gain experience points from. You can play a character who holds political clout by being so damn good at writing books that people will do anything to own a copy. It's a really fun game!

ahyangyi
2021-08-29, 05:20 PM
I've long wondered if a rework of D&D magic could separate source and methodology.

That is, what determines what system a character uses as a caster is based on their approach, not on where the power comes from. And the power could come from more than one place for the same method -- internal, planar, divine, pacts with entities, forcefully bound entities, etc, or a mix of sources.

So the sorcerer becomes a freeform caster, the wizard becomes an academic caster, the monk becomes a meditative caster with lots of physical effects, the warlock becomes a wildcard, or whatever.

There's Pathfinder 2e for you, where Sorcerers and Witches are no longer always Arcane casters -- they can belong to any spellcasting tradition depending on the Sorcerer's bloodline or the Witch's patron.

NichG
2021-08-29, 07:58 PM
Ah yes, the wizard in their tower doing research into the mystic secrets of the universe. Unfortunately for the concept of D&D they had to talk them out of the tower and put them into the field. Then people realised they didn't really want to do research so they cut that out. Flavour wise the wizard is interchangeable with an unsalted cracker. They are however much crunchier when you bit them.

Another thing I learned from other systems, you can give them flavour to magic users so they aren't a simple dispenser of whatever effect the player wants. Actually the flavour also helps with giving them a mechanical focus as well, although I suppose a mechanical focus gives a bit of flavour too. Its one big happy circle D&D style spell casting just opted out of. (Or so it feels to me, I know some people like it but I just don't get it.)

One of the tricky things I've found is to get flavour while still making the result feel universal in scope enough to feel like it really deserves to represent a fundamental force of nature or even a replacement for all the fundamental forces of nature one would normally expect. That universality doesn't necessarily have to be at a single character's fingertips from the get-go, but somehow (for me) the limited things characters can do at a given point of time should feel connected to each-other. Something like 7th Sea for example has a bunch of different kinds of magic, one per nation, and a given character can really only access one of them or maybe have weak access to two, because it's hereditary. But that also makes it feel arbitrary to me, just as much as 'magic can immediately do anything you can name' feels arbitrary to me on the other side.

I think the core of the 'wizard in the tower' fantasy for me is something like 'there's a lot of stuff out there that could be possible, and you can spend mental effort and time and study to pursue any of it or any combination of it, so your limits are limits of dedication not limits of locked-in choices or prior relationships'. D&D wizards hit that at least a bit because even if you never get another point of experience again, you can in principle go from an illusion-focused character to one who decides to become obsessed with necromancy mid-career, and that can be driven by in-character effort rather than via metagame progression mechanics.

I suppose a more extreme version of that archetype would be a system where the ability to express magic is accessed not through any kind of build points, skills, or stats, but is purely driven by access to information and tools. Something where e.g. any random person who stumbles upon the accessories and instructions to the Ritual of Ashk-Ente could potentially manage to summon Death. But if you wanted to make a new ritual or adapt one or something like that, then that might rely on build attributes. A character might internalize some magical effects through particular rituals or preparations, and maybe those preparations would be necessary in order to safely perform large workings or use combat magic or something, but in principle you could take an untrained commoner and put them through that entire sequence and get the same result.

Cluedrew
2021-08-29, 09:29 PM
To Anonymouswizard: D&D certainly doesn't have a monopoly on wizard crackers. I don't know what the tricks are exactly to make a magic feel flavourful, but I've definitely seen it done. Actually assembling a list of those tricks would probably be a good thread topic in its own right.

To Kymme: Yes, I agree, Ars Magica is the system that decided to lean into the tower as opposed to out of it. I think there is just a mismatch between the type of story D&D wanted to tell (about going through a dungeon to fight a dragon) and the wizard archetype it used.

To NichG: That's definitely also a problem. The best implementation of that I played shifted the burden from skills (some skills were still required) to equipment. In one scene I was the group's only "healer" but someone else wanted to do healing so I just handed them one of my healing foci. My character was also the only one who could uncover non-standard spells, again no particular ability to use them as every PC had that level of training, but I was the only one to pick up the research skills to go through a library full of strange rituals and find a useful one. Inventing new spells was possible in lore but I believe there were no rules for it as the PCs were assumed to not have the time or resources for it.

Satinavian
2021-08-30, 03:04 AM
I think the core of the 'wizard in the tower' fantasy for me is something like 'there's a lot of stuff out there that could be possible, and you can spend mental effort and time and study to pursue any of it or any combination of it, so your limits are limits of dedication not limits of locked-in choices or prior relationships'. D&D wizards hit that at least a bit because even if you never get another point of experience again, you can in principle go from an illusion-focused character to one who decides to become obsessed with necromancy mid-career, and that can be driven by in-character effort rather than via metagame progression mechanics.

I suppose a more extreme version of that archetype would be a system where the ability to express magic is accessed not through any kind of build points, skills, or stats, but is purely driven by access to information and tools. Something where e.g. any random person who stumbles upon the accessories and instructions to the Ritual of Ashk-Ente could potentially manage to summon Death. But if you wanted to make a new ritual or adapt one or something like that, then that might rely on build attributes. A character might internalize some magical effects through particular rituals or preparations, and maybe those preparations would be necessary in order to safely perform large workings or use combat magic or something, but in principle you could take an untrained commoner and put them through that entire sequence and get the same result.
I don't see any reason why "learning new things and as a result getting more versatile/powerful" should not cost build points/xp. I mean, learning languages, crafts, improving knowledge skills etc. is fundamentally the same thing and no one questions their link to build mechanics.

The problem is more what you get xp/build points for and how in some systems that does not match with the reclusive researcher studying and getting stronger.

That whole "getting new spells mostly outside of the levelling process" has always been one of the main problems with D&D wizards and their balancing.

Vahnavoi
2021-08-30, 03:45 AM
There's more than one way to skin the cat. Not every in-game activity and avenue of progress needs to be reduced to the same kind of abstract math puzzle.

I'll use language as a contrasting example, because it's perhaps the most obvious one and sees actual pedagogic use around the world: instead of using build points to up a variable to abstractly model a character's linguistic skill, a game master can present real foreign language materials to the players and have them learn the language to progress in the game. An even more common version is codebreaking where instead of rolling a die or having "Decipher Script" skill (or whatever) above N, you actually have to find the code key and apply it to decipher a message.

In the same vein, if you wanted to have, say, runic magic in a game, you could actually design a set of runic symbols to present to your players and then leave it up to them to figure out which combination does what.

Been there, done that.

NichG
2021-08-30, 04:07 AM
I don't see any reason why "learning new things and as a result getting more versatile/powerful" should not cost build points/xp. I mean, learning languages, crafts, improving knowledge skills etc. is fundamentally the same thing and no one questions their link to build mechanics.

The problem is more what you get xp/build points for and how in some systems that does not match with the reclusive researcher studying and getting stronger.

That whole "getting new spells mostly outside of the levelling process" has always been one of the main problems with D&D wizards and their balancing.

I tend to go the other way when I'm DM-ing, and give out free bonus skill advances in things which characters spend significant amounts of in-character time pursuing, independent of their XP/leveling. I also tend to think of balance over all as a bit of a sacred cow - better to be fun and have a good feel and feedback to investment of interest than to be well-balanced. Having a player be able to say 'I want my character to use this opportunity of visiting the great library to really shore up his lacking history knowledge' and get something out of that choice (as opposed to 'that just means you spend a few skill points on History next level') is worth the imbalance. So I'd rather all characters have those options and just embrace that where characters will end up will be an organic consequence of their journey, than take those options away from all characters in the name of balance.

In general, I have a very limited view of when escalating and effort-conditional leveling systems where getting the next quantity of build resources requires more XP/higher challenges/or comes up against an ultimate ceiling such as a maximum level are appropriate. For me, the fact that someone has become a superlative warrior shouldn't stop them from picking up minimum competency at some new hobby. Modular point systems are a bit better about this, and ones where you can train skills by doing are less dissonant to me but generally have enough book-keeping or meta-game stuff that I consider it a sub-par solution.

VoxRationis
2021-08-30, 04:49 AM
Regarding the initial question: the Mythras system turned out to be everything I wanted in a D&D game when I was in high school: a customizable series of magic systems intentionally mean to create a diverse series of different (and thematically focused) magical traditions, an armor system that applies well to more use cases than 16th century Europe, and a levelless, flat-HP system that makes experienced characters vulnerable to ambushes or superior numbers (and therefore means that experienced archmages are less durable than soldiers out of basic training, which makes a certain sense, but wasn't reflected in D&D). That same system, in which combatants have both active and passive defenses, also allows for Link or Conan to show up, in the sense that there are use cases wherein a skilled fighter can survive front-line combat, provided they avoid the above pitfalls.

So the system didn't so much open my eyes to new possibilities such as it opened my eyes to the fact that there were better ways of seeking what I had sought in RPGs for some time.

Telok
2021-08-30, 06:41 AM
I don't see any reason why "learning new things and as a result getting more versatile/powerful" should not cost build points/xp. I mean, learning languages, crafts, improving knowledge skills etc. is fundamentally the same thing and no one questions their link to build mechanics.


Not true in all systems. Traveller and Call of Cthulhu do training by downtime. D&D 5e does languages and tool proficiency by downtime + money. I think Champions had it somewhere as an optional rule, mostly for gaining familiarity (8- on 3d6) instead of full skill (11-).


I'm sure there are others but its 4am here.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 06:55 AM
To Anonymouswizard: D&D certainly doesn't have a monopoly on wizard crackers. I don't know what the tricks are exactly to make a magic feel flavourful, but I've definitely seen it done. Actually assembling a list of those tricks would probably be a good thread topic in its own right.

The trick really is 'decide on flavour and have rules reinforce that flavour'. D&D did so that, but a lot of those rules differences have been diluted over the editions (and were never massively strong to begin with).


I don't see any reason why "learning new things and as a result getting more versatile/powerful" should not cost build points/xp. I mean, learning languages, crafts, improving knowledge skills etc. is fundamentally the same thing and no one questions their link to build mechanics.

The problem is more what you get xp/build points for and how in some systems that does not match with the reclusive researcher studying and getting stronger.

That whole "getting new spells mostly outside of the levelling process" has always been one of the main problems with D&D wizards and their balancing.

Agreed. The game gives you a way to get better (Character Points or Levels in most cases), I don't see why one archetype should be able to sidestep that. (If course, houseruling in additional Advance by Training rules that everybody can benefit from is different.)

Games I've played which try to tie advancement to anyone tend to have a lot more bookkeeping. But there's nothing wrong with giving XP in a way that supports the wizard in the tower. The only people I know IRK who have played Ars Magica ignored the troupe play rules and decided that the wizards locked away from the world researching was more interesting than slaying dragons or engaging in politics. There was a lot of fighting over access to papers.

ahyangyi
2021-08-30, 07:10 AM
Agreed. The game gives you a way to get better (Character Points or Levels in most cases), I don't see why one archetype should be able to sidestep that. (If course, houseruling in additional Advance by Training rules that everybody can benefit from is different.)

Yeah, one guy getting stuff for free while another guy getting stuff at the price of XP does not sound right.

However, they also mentioned money, which I think is a fair trade. Money is more flexible than XP but is otherwise just another tool the GM uses to pace the game and character progression.

(Obviously a third currency would be downtime, but that'll be terribly story-specific)

And we can also look at it another way: if the said ability is mostly a story element, thematically it's the wizard who learns it but mechanically it's just important that the party has access to it, then perhaps the ability being free is also OK?

Vahnavoi
2021-08-30, 08:08 AM
Not paying XP or other points for a thing is not the same as getting it for free.

Telwar
2021-08-30, 08:39 AM
Shadowrun (and 3.5) made a lot more sense once I realized that cash was a parallel XP track used for character upgrades.

Xervous
2021-08-30, 08:55 AM
Shadowrun (and 3.5) made a lot more sense once I realized that cash was a parallel XP track used for character upgrades.

Shadowrun presenting BP and priority systems first, leaving karmagen for splatbooks to introduce was the biggest head scratcher of multiple editions.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 09:33 AM
Okay, yes, charging money for new spells is in theory equivalent to charging money for new swords. Although in experience wizards more rarely lose their spellbooks (although anybody listing equipment is rare).


Shadowrun (and 3.5) made a lot more sense once I realized that cash was a parallel XP track used for character upgrades.

I think Shadowrun tends to be a little bit more explicit, with early editions having an explicit Nuyen to Karma exchange rate and later editions pointing out that better paid runs should give less karma.

Many systems in fact combine the two tracks together by asking for players to pay for equipment via Character Points. I also like the idea that any kind of basic, mundane, 'this will let you avoid improvised tool penalties' items for skills that you have are something that you get off replace without cost whenever there's downtime. It certainly helps reduce the number of daggers my characters tend to carry (although they're still as hidden as ever).

Really the problem with the wizard is that they can increase their mystical per via money, while other casters with limited spells cannot (e.g. the Bard, Sorcerer, and Warlock). I'm leaving casters who draw from their full list because too me that's a slightly different issue, but to me it doesn't feel right that the wizard can spend money and time to learn a spell but a Warlock cannot make a sacrifice to their patron in exchange for more power without leveling up

Mark Hall
2021-08-30, 09:39 AM
So, one reason I feel that D&D wizards and clerics wind up being so flavorless is that they were designed to be the only classes of their type.

Wizards were the only pointy-hat-explodey casters.
Clerics were the only armor-and-club-and-healy casters.

But as the game grew and changed, these became less sustainable as concepts, because "I can do all magic" becomes harder when you want to get more specialized.

ahyangyi
2021-08-30, 09:48 AM
So, one reason I feel that D&D wizards and clerics wind up being so flavorless is that they were designed to be the only classes of their type.

Wizards were the only pointy-hat-explodey casters.
Clerics were the only armor-and-club-and-healy casters.

But as the game grew and changed, these became less sustainable as concepts, because "I can do all magic" becomes harder when you want to get more specialized.

Yep, I always feel that the "classic" D&D classes are a mixture of obviously bottom-up ones (fighter & rogues & wizard & to a lesser extent, clerics) and obviously top-down ones (monk & druid).

Which is why a fighter can do anything as long as it's bashing someone, and a wizard can do anything as long as it's magical, but a monk and a druid always come up with weird taboos and preferences and in-world details (such as the Druidic language and the weird selection of Monk Weapons). Which is why a nature cleric is almost a druid and an unarmed fighter is almost a monk, but not the other way around.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 10:09 AM
So, one reason I feel that D&D wizards and clerics wind up being so flavorless is that they were designed to be the only classes of their type.

Wizards were the only pointy-hat-explodey casters.
Clerics were the only armor-and-club-and-healy casters.

But as the game grew and changed, these became less sustainable as concepts, because "I can do all magic" becomes harder when you want to get more specialized.

I think it was still fine back in 2e. It was made kind of explicit that the Cleric was the 'broad, general, I am not designing a priest just for this religion' option and that all wizards were Mages, just now or less specialised. I can't say for how long that continued for outside of the PhB, but I believe that for Mages customisation tended to be kits on top of the class while Priests varied more wildly.

Honestly, I think 6e needs to have a look at the classes and either throw some of them out our give the Cleric and Wizard more of an Identity. The Cleric is halfway there in 5e with Domains bring as influential as they are, so you could really lean into the 'voice of their god' aspect and go the 'pick X domains route, these determine your spell list'. I'm not sure how I'd rescue the wizard, native move them more towards rituals and utility magic, play a lot of them having to work hard for what other casters get. Maybe give wizards a small set of spells they can cast quickly and then allow them to pinch other spells occasionally with the limitation that they must be cast as rituals (a more limited version of what Guild Mages can do in The Dark Eye, but not as prohibitively difficult).

I think wizards can get get a lot of flavour of we go for more of a 'dabbler in everything' approach. Emphasise the struggle and the difficulty wizards have in working magic compared to the Cleric declaring the will of their god or the Sorcerer throwing fire with a word and a thought.

NichG
2021-08-30, 02:45 PM
Agreed. The game gives you a way to get better (Character Points or Levels in most cases), I don't see why one archetype should be able to sidestep that. (If course, houseruling in additional Advance by Training rules that everybody can benefit from is different.)


I mean, in the same post I mentioned detaching magic access from class. So everyone would be able to e.g. seek out the last copy of the Dread Apocalypse spell from the epicenter of the 100 mile wastes if they wanted to become a country-eradicating supervillain, not just the person with Wizard on their sheet. The person invested in Spellcraft skill would be the one who could alter that spell to exclude the 10ft radius around the caster.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 03:26 PM
I mean, in the same post I mentioned detaching magic access from class. So everyone would be able to e.g. seek out the last copy of the Dread Apocalypse spell from the epicenter of the 100 mile wastes if they wanted to become a country-eradicating supervillain, not just the person with Wizard on their sheet. The person invested in Spellcraft skill would be the one who could alter that spell to exclude the 10ft radius around the caster.

Note the use of Archetype in my post, I was specifically system agnostic. Classless systems are vastly more common in my experience anyway, meaning the person who invested in the Spellcraft(/magic/whatever) skill is the wizard by default.

Which is the same issue with most 'give noncasters magic' attempts on D&D, they tend to run of the skills mundane characters don't have and casters do (particularly Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft). Which is the problem in your example, characters who don't cast spells very rarely invest in Spellcraft or other magical skills. But that's besides the point, which was of the wizard can spend time and money to improve his magical skills than the knight should be able to spend time and money to improve his sword skills (or riding skills, or whatever).

Now to be fair, a lot of published systems that allow casters to learn new spells generally do charge for them, it's generally along the lines of 'find the spell and then learn how to cast it'. Stone even let you use the notes you'd use to learn it to cast out, just slower and not as well (because you haven't practiced with it yet).

But even if Jeff the Peasant can cast the Train of Flaming Chickens spell, they're unlikely to be able to make use of it.

But as I said, I have no problem with any kind of improvement by doing/training/researching rules, as long as they don't favour one archetype. And learning a new spell is an increase in competency, so the mundanes had better be able to get some kind of increase.

NichG
2021-08-30, 04:05 PM
Note the use of Archetype in my post, I was specifically system agnostic. Classless systems are vastly more common in my experience anyway, meaning the person who invested in the Spellcraft(/magic/whatever) skill is the wizard by default.

Which is the same issue with most 'give noncasters magic' attempts on D&D, they tend to run of the skills mundane characters don't have and casters do (particularly Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft). Which is the problem in your example, characters who don't cast spells very rarely invest in Spellcraft or other magical skills. But that's besides the point, which was of the wizard can spend time and money to improve his magical skills than the knight should be able to spend time and money to improve his sword skills (or riding skills, or whatever).

Now to be fair, a lot of published systems that allow casters to learn new spells generally do charge for them, it's generally along the lines of 'find the spell and then learn how to cast it'. Stone even let you use the notes you'd use to learn it to cast out, just slower and not as well (because you haven't practiced with it yet).

But even if Jeff the Peasant can cast the Train of Flaming Chickens spell, they're unlikely to be able to make use of it.

But as I said, I have no problem with any kind of improvement by doing/training/researching rules, as long as they don't favour one archetype. And learning a new spell is an increase in competency, so the mundanes had better be able to get some kind of increase.

I suppose in this view, there is no such thing as a 'mundane archetype', and it wouldn't encourage thinking of things as split between magic-based and non-magic-based characters.

It's like, everyone can use potions, so you don't talk about making things fair for the non-potion-users. In this view, spells would just be gear.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 04:38 PM
I suppose in this view, there is no such thing as a 'mundane archetype', and it wouldn't encourage thinking of things as split between magic-based and non-magic-based characters.

It's like, everyone can use potions, so you don't talk about making things fair for the non-potion-users. In this view, spells would just be gear.

Witch is fair, while ice never played it the premise of Exalted has intrigued me often. It's just not the kind of game I'm used it.

I will agree that both balance and archetype protection are generally held to be overly sacred. But I maintain that no player should be left out just because they refuse to use one particular aspect of the system.

Of course, if said spells are as easily taken away as swords and armour my objections completely disappear. So to give it it's credit, D&D does at least still limit wizards who lose their spellbook(s), and backup spellbooks aren't relatively cheaper than other backup equipment (and until magic items cover into play are actually significantly more expensive).

Sadly 5e also away one of the limits on purchasing spells: there's not really much else to spend your money on if using the treasure tables. In 3.X every extra spell came out of your magic items budget, the same with rituals in 4e (with a little excess to your WBL that you're meant to spend on consumables).

High magic just isn't my natural setting for games, and I deal with it much worse than high technology. A knock spell makes me nervous where a sonic screwdriver doesn't.

NichG
2021-08-30, 05:02 PM
Witch is fair, while ice never played it the premise of Exalted has intrigued me often. It's just not the kind of game I'm used it.

I will agree that both balance and archetype protection are generally held to be overly sacred. But I maintain that no player should be left out just because they refuse to use one particular aspect of the system.


I think that doesn't follow, at least not without including GM adaptation as part of the solution. What mechanism is there in D&D for a player to completely opt out of having to think about saving throws or AC or hitpoints? And even if someone says 'you know, I don't like combat, I don't want to suffer for not making my character combat-capable', then it takes some active adaptation on the part of the GM to make a game appropriate for them.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 05:11 PM
I think that doesn't follow, at least not without including GM adaptation as part of the solution. What mechanism is there in D&D for a player to completely opt out of having to think about saving throws or AC or hitpoints? And even if someone says 'you know, I don't like combat, I don't want to suffer for not making my character combat-capable', then it takes some active adaptation on the part of the GM to make a game appropriate for them.

Sorry, I should have used 'subsystem'. Good catch.

And yes, that should include combat. A player should be able to play a complete noncombatant if they wish. Although I'll admit that D&D completely fails on that count (more of I only looked D&D I might care).

NichG
2021-08-30, 05:25 PM
Sorry, I should have used 'subsystem'. Good catch.

And yes, that should include combat. A player should be able to play a complete noncombatant if they wish. Although I'll admit that D&D completely fails on that count (more of I only looked D&D I might care).

I'd really put that on the GM and not the system, because if you try to do that at the system level you're left with only very generic non-specific stuff that isn't very inspiring and doesn't really create possibilities (because, if it were to create a possibility, it also has to make it so that someone rejecting that possibility is still in the same place as someone who accepts it, which sort of makes the possibility meaningless). You lose out on the possibility of instrumental goals or 'doing things in order to be able to do things', because you have to make those things achievable by someone who isn't willing to do any of the intermediary steps along the path to being able to achieve them.

So I'd rather a system say 'here are a lot of things you could do or benefit from, and they all would let you do things that would otherwise be impossible for people who don't partake, and those are your tools for achieving your goals'. Then if someone wants to not partake of any of those options, the GM can say 'already, lets discuss what goals would be appropriate for characters under those limits'. Which might include starting a family or opening a successful cheese shop or surviving being conscripted by pirates who were too drunk to realize they got the right person, but might not at that scope include things like ruling a country or defeating a dragon or becoming a deity. But if the system is expansive like that, those goals remain possible for groups which don't e.g. have a distaste for magic.

And if you're running a game where one person wants to become the Lord of Death and another wants to grow turnips, that's hard, but its not the kind of hard that a system can really save you from - as a group you're going to need to have a serious discussion about how those concepts go together regardless of what you're playing. But there is absurdist fiction like that, so it's surely possible, and perhaps you end up with a game where one player has only Tier 10 Spells and none of the cantrips, and keeps trying to help the other player grow turnips with tools that can't actually be dialed down to the power level appropriate for the job, while the other player has close human and community contacts and tries to teach the would-be Lord of Death to care for people again or something like that. But working with the group to craft that makes a lot more sense to me than trying to ask for a system where the turnip-grower will just happen to be balanced against the death deity because they were in the same party for the same length of time and so e.g. they have the same character level.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 06:01 PM
Okay, I have been phrasing it poorly. No a game system does not need to literally support everything (although GURPS does try).

But if a character decides to focus on one subsystem, say turnip farming (or more typically food procurement if there's any related system), and not engage with another, for example spellcasting, they should not get less advancement opportunities.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-30, 06:26 PM
Sadly 5e also away one of the limits on purchasing spells: there's not really much else to spend your money on if using the treasure tables. In 3.X every extra spell came out of your magic items budget, the same with rituals in 4e (with a little excess to your WBL that you're meant to spend on consumables).


Except that, by default, scrolls are magic items and can't be bought except by DM fiat. There are optional rules that enable that...but with heavy doses of randomness (and very very poor availability for anything beyond about spell level 3) and time cost. The minimum time is a week to get one attempt to buy, and unless you roll really well on a Charisma (Persuasion) check, you get random items available, and the costs for higher-level scrolls are exorbitant.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 06:45 PM
Except that, by default, scrolls are magic items and can't be bought except by DM fiat. There are optional rules that enable that...but with heavy doses of randomness (and very very poor availability for anything beyond about spell level 3) and time cost. The minimum time is a week to get one attempt to buy, and unless you roll really well on a Charisma (Persuasion) check, you get random items available, and the costs for higher-level scrolls are exorbitant.

I mean, assuming you don't have access to a library full of grimoires. Which any wizard player with half a brain is using their Bond to justify. Doesn't help if you're travelling around a lot, But once you hit level 9 and unlock Teleport you can just pop over to it during downtime.

Sure, opportunity and rarity are still limiting factors. But assuming you can sidestep that (which is admittedly very game dependent) then there's no real limiting factor.

Not that 3.X wizards close to WBL couldn't get all the magic items they needed and still have a good amount to spend on spells.

Honestly, this is starting to feel like a weird thing to argue to me, mainly because I can't decide if we should treat spells as inherent abilities off equipment. They're one thing to the wizard and a different thing to everybody else, and every single other game I've played has treated them as inherent abilities.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-30, 07:13 PM
I mean, assuming you don't have access to a library full of grimoires. Which any wizard player with half a brain is using their Bond to justify. Doesn't help if you're travelling around a lot, But once you hit level 9 and unlock Teleport you can just pop over to it during downtime.

Sure, opportunity and rarity are still limiting factors. But assuming you can sidestep that (which is admittedly very game dependent) then there's no real limiting factor.

Not that 3.X wizards close to WBL couldn't get all the magic items they needed and still have a good amount to spend on spells.

Honestly, this is starting to feel like a weird thing to argue to me, mainly because I can't decide if we should treat spells as inherent abilities off equipment. They're one thing to the wizard and a different thing to everybody else, and every single other game I've played has treated them as inherent abilities.

If a single spell scroll is a magic item, then a library full of grimoires available for use isn't just a regular magic item, it's an entire campaign worth of magic items. Having access to such a thing is entirely DM fiat, not anything you can expect to ever have. The number of spellbooks you find is entirely up to the DM with huge variance (ie 0 - all the spells). Most settings don't have publicly-accessible mage libraries; the default is that wizards are incredibly jealous of their spells and don't share. Which means you're having to kill people (or rob them) for their books...which critically depends on how many wizards are around. Which is 100% both setting and DM dependent.

NichG
2021-08-30, 08:03 PM
Okay, I have been phrasing it poorly. No a game system does not need to literally support everything (although GURPS does try).

But if a character decides to focus on one subsystem, say turnip farming (or more typically food procurement if there's any related system), and not engage with another, for example spellcasting, they should not get less advancement opportunities.

I guess, at least for a system that's trying to capture what I enjoy about D&D wizards and progression CRPGs and things like that, that what I'd want is for the opportunities for advancement to be proportional to the number of subsystems that you choose to engage with, but perhaps what you choose to do can involve taking or not taking those opportunities. E.g. if the Lord of the Dead picks up turnip farming as a hobby, they won't lose out on opportunities to be better at turnip farming or opportunities to be better at advanced necromancy. But they might have to choose, not because of anything baked into the system but just because of how things play out, whether they're going to go to the Red Moon Transmigration where they can collect bushels of lost souls or whether they're going to grow the world's largest turnip for an annual turnip competition happening around the same time.

And if they figure out a way to use advanced necromancy to be a better turnip farmer than the best dedicated turnip-farming-only character could be, I think that's fine too.

Maybe another way to put it is, for the kind of game that I'd most enjoy as a player, all forms of advancement should be in-character concepts which characters can make part of their plans and intentions, and advancement would always and only happen as a result of characters pursuing it to at least some degree, not just through passive gain. There could absolutely be many different paths of advancement - earning wealth, getting political power, learning ancient lore which lets you warp reality, whatever. But I'd want characters to not be locked out of one path because they chose another, nor should characters advance on a path without actually taking actions to advance. And if some methods let someone advance more efficiently than someone using other methods, that's fine too. And if advancement isn't locked to the character who earns it but can be shared or granted, even to extreme extents, that's also something I'd enjoy playing. So e.g. if someone wants to increase their Strength by doing deadlifts for a year during downtime, that's great! If someone wants to shortcut that by experimenting on owlbears to make a mutagenic serum, that's also fine! If the second guy gives the serum to the first guy and he gets double the gains, even better!

I try to DM things where that sort of thing is possible, but generally I find that I do need to have some passive advancement for group social dynamics reasons - for example I have players who won't do things to advance their own interests because they worry other players won't find that interesting (even if at the end of the day, that provides something for the group to do when there isn't actually a good alternative on the table without me having some external pressure force things). But if I'm describing the kind of game which best encapsulates this idea I like, it probably shouldn't have any passive advancement at all.

Telok
2021-08-30, 08:04 PM
Which is 100% both setting and DM dependent.

So, if I'm understanding correctly, you mean that D&D has no wizard magic problems if the DM basically makes the spellbook near meaningless because the wizard gets their level-up spell picks and maybe some other spell or two the DM specifically wants them to have, while at the same time parsing & interpreting the spell rules to make magic as weak and video-game-mechanical as possible. Ya?

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 08:52 PM
If a single spell scroll is a magic item, then a library full of grimoires available for use isn't just a regular magic item, it's an entire campaign worth of magic items. Having access to such a thing is entirely DM fiat, not anything you can expect to ever have. The number of spellbooks you find is entirely up to the DM with huge variance (ie 0 - all the spells). Most settings don't have publicly-accessible mage libraries; the default is that wizards are incredibly jealous of their spells and don't share. Which means you're having to kill people (or rob them) for their books...which critically depends on how many wizards are around. Which is 100% both setting and DM dependent.

And wizards just pop out of thin air with their starting spellbook I guess, because they never have a matter who trained them and owns a small library of magical tomes. Who they still visit every now and then for tea, and occasionally advice or to ask if they can peruse the books.

While justifying access to every spell in the game is hard, it shouldn't be too difficult to justify access to any relatively low level spell just by being on good terms with a few wizards. If wizards really are that jealous of their magic then how did anybody convince a wizard to reach them without essentially a small fortune in rare items or materials? Convincing a wizard to let you copy a spell from their book (where they can see you) should be expensive, but it really should be possible.

The most logical situation I can see for this not being the case, rival orders of wizards essentially competing with each other, means that a wizard in good standing should be able to access their order's library relatively easily (and a member not in good standing has bigger problems, like making sure they don't lose membership and get hunted down for possessing the order's knowledge).

PhoenixPhyre
2021-08-30, 08:56 PM
So, if I'm understanding correctly, you mean that D&D has no wizard magic problems if the DM basically makes the spellbook near meaningless because the wizard gets their level-up spell picks and maybe some other spell or two the DM specifically wants them to have, while at the same time parsing & interpreting the spell rules to make magic as weak and video-game-mechanical as possible. Ya?

You mean...ribbons are ribbons? Because that's what the 5e spellbook is. A (set of) ribbon features. They're plenty powerful with 2/level of their choice, and spell scrolls aren't exactly super rare (mostly) as treasure. But no, you don't get to cherry-pick your best spells and expect them to be handed to you on a plate, including all the ones you get for free. And then you also don't get to read magic as loosely as possible while reading non-magic as narrowly as "realistic". Sure, if you dump all the normal printed restrictions because "annoying", you have problems. That's why there are restrictions.

If rules are rules, the rules that are printed are the ones that govern. It's a governing principle of 5e--no hidden rules. A spell's power depends exactly and only on what's written, not on what you can wheedle out of the DM by crabbed readings or badly-remembered high-school physics (that doesn't apply).

And I'll be the first to accept the fact that the D&D wizard is, was, and always has been the worst designed class. No meaningful thematics, only power. And power that's really easy to slip outside of the bounds of what's acceptable, because they're one of the few classes that just flat gets more powerful when new books are published. Monster books? More polymorph/summon targets. Books with spells in them? Always have way more wizard spells than anyone else. Broken spells? They're all on the wizard list. Spell-list-as-only-real-class-features is horrible design in an archetype (ie class) based game. Because it's an open invitation to just cherry-picking the optimal ones without regard to archetype or theme, and "omnipotent master of the universe" doesn't exactly play well with other classes. And that's all the class fantasy wizards ever have had.


And wizards just pop out of thin air with their starting spellbook I guess, because they never have a matter who trained them and owns a small library of magical tomes. Who they still visit every now and then for tea, and occasionally advice or to ask if they can peruse the books.

While justifying access to every spell in the game is hard, it shouldn't be too difficult to justify access to any relatively low level spell just by being on good terms with a few wizards. If wizards really are that jealous of their magic then how did anybody convince a wizard to reach them without essentially a small fortune in rare items or materials? Convincing a wizard to let you copy a spell from their book (where they can see you) should be expensive, but it really should be possible.

The most logical situation I can see for this not being the case, rival orders of wizards essentially competing with each other, means that a wizard in good standing should be able to access their order's library relatively easily (and a member not in good standing has bigger problems, like making sure they don't lose membership and get hunted down for possessing the order's knowledge).

So what you're saying is that they have this hidden class feature (access to an order's library) that no one ever bothered to write down? Then a paladin has access to his entire order and can call up the troops (including clerics, etc) at will. And barbarians have their entire tribe. And monks their entire monastery. Etc. That's "power via backstory", which never flies at any reasonable table. That's like saying "I'm a noble, so I have the entire kingdom's wealth!" Or Mr Henderson.

Your starting spellbook represents the sum of what you got from your mentor (because most wizards aren't part of grand orders necessarily). Who likely wasn't all that powerful either, and has already given you all the spells you can learn. And even if you were, a level 1 wizard is barely out of apprenticeship. Not someone who has access to the order's library at will. Other than that, you get what you earn during play. Sure, you might make friends with a wizard who might let you copy some spells as a favor (ie "quest" reward/perk of doing the work to make friends with him), but that's in play and dependent on what happens there. Not something you can or should assume. And he's going to give your buddies equivalent perks.

Each spell learned is a magic item, and should be treated as such for loot distribution purposes. Not a hidden perk you get for taking the wizard class. No hidden rules.

Cluedrew
2021-08-30, 09:11 PM
What is a ribbon feature?

Witty Username
2021-08-30, 09:14 PM
I mean if you have issues with the wizard you can square one them by burning their book, it's just made of paper.
Items can be gained, items can be lost.

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-30, 09:14 PM
That's "power via backstory", which never flies at any reasonable table.

We clearly have different definitions of 'reasonable tables'. While a Paladin might not be able to rouse the entire order whenever they wish they might miss than easily get some benefits from being a member, a new sword, a steady supply of information and potions, being treated with a higher standard level of trust by authority figures, outer various other things.

Then when an orcish army is invading the order actually believes the Paladin and arrive in a prompt manner to help drive them off.

Lord Raziere
2021-08-30, 09:23 PM
We clearly have different definitions of 'reasonable tables'. While a Paladin might not be able to rouse the entire order whenever they wish they might miss than easily get some benefits from being a member, a new sword, a steady supply of information and potions, being treated with a higher standard level of trust by authority figures, outer various other things.

Then when an orcish army is invading the order actually believes the Paladin and arrive in a prompt manner to help drive them off.

Yeah I can think of a few rpg systems where the nature of your backstory and the connections to the world and thus benefits it gives are explicitly stated and required in character creation, which is an area that DnD is unfortunately light on even in 5e. like if your playing Dragon-Blooded in Exalted, those background merits are very important to spend on specifically the relationship you have with the power structures you come from. can't be a proper Zuko hunting down a Solar Aang without Resources for a ship, the right amount of Command to have soldiers to operate it, four dots for martial arts and knowing Fire Dragon Style, and of course dots reserved for freaking five dot mentor/ally for a Dragon-Blooded uncle....

Anonymouswizard
2021-08-31, 05:37 AM
Yeah I can think of a few rpg systems where the nature of your backstory and the connections to the world and thus benefits it gives are explicitly stated and required in character creation, which is an area that DnD is unfortunately light on even in 5e. like if your playing Dragon-Blooded in Exalted, those background merits are very important to spend on specific the relationship you have with the power structures you come from. can't be a proper Zuko hunting down a Solar Aang without Resources for a ship, the right amount of Command to have soldiers to operate it, four dots for martial arts and knowing Fire Dragon Style, and of course dots reserved for freaking five dot mentor/ally for a Dragon-Blooded uncle....

Yeah, I really, really dislike the wandering nobody. Even if your home village was burnt to ashes your character is almost certainly going to have done kind of tie to the setting. If you actively don't have ties to the setting there has to be a reason for it.

Of course these ties matter much less if you're off to a new location in the TARDIS every few sessions. But not every game moves so far so quickly.

Theoboldi
2021-08-31, 06:41 AM
Yeah, I really, really dislike the wandering nobody. Even if your home village was burnt to ashes your character is almost certainly going to have done kind of tie to the setting. If you actively don't have ties to the setting there has to be a reason for it.

Of course these ties matter much less if you're off to a new location in the TARDIS every few sessions. But not every game moves so far so quickly.

The big issue with it is that in a traditional adventuring and challenge-based context, the impact of various backgrounds can be severely imbalanced. It's something I've actually experienced first hand, in a D&D game I was apart of.

Essentially, some backgrounds, unless there is some careful balancing done between what skills and what contacts they provide, will afford infinitely more utility and power than others. Which can have unfortunate effects on the social dynamic of a party.

In the game that I was apart of, we were trying to save a nearby city from an approaching army of goblinoids they did not know about. One of the party members had a military background, which tied her more closely to the campaign at hand than the former peasant chef or the scholarly warlock I played. The information and contacts provided to her by her background solved multiple situations for us, and made her overall so valuable and capable that she ended up making almost all decisions for the party.

It was one of the big reasons that game fell so utterly apart, eventually. I think Phoenix is actually somewhat on the right track with what he is saying, though he overstates it a little. Backgrounds, for any given game (At least in the adventuring context.) should be closely balanced and not just let you get around some basic system and setting assumptions. Even if I myself prefer to keep them freeform and just keep a closer eye on their balance, I think there is absolutely value in pricing different backgrounds differently in crunchier systems, like the ones Raziere pointed out.

I'll admit I also feel self-conscious about my upcoming campaign of wandering nobodies now, though. :smalltongue:

Vahnavoi
2021-08-31, 06:54 AM
In order for power-by-backstory to be an exploit, the game master first has to do a newbie mistake and allow for arbitrary backstories in flat defiance or ignorance of other rules.

For example, if you play by the actual rules for new characters in most versions of D&D, you begin as young adult 1st level journeyman of your class with no retainers and a few hundred gold pieces to your name. Any other resources you need to pay for from those gold pieces or use your established ability scores and skills to acquire them during play. That's it. Any parents, relatives, brothers-in-arms etc. are non-player characters under the dungeon master's control and the normal character creation procress gives a player no control over them and no access to their resources.

A new character isn't a venerable war veteran with two dozen fanatically loyal war buddies nor are they a noble scion with a benevolent and infinitely wealthy family. The normal character creation rules do not spit out such characters and if a dungeon master has approved a backstory with such elements, they have goofed up.

For contrast, there are other systems that build a character from ground up and the rules outright tell you who your family are, what contacts you made growing up, how to bring them to play and what resources you can squeeze out of them. Quite often, the simplest answer is: the other player characters are the available family membets and contacts and there are no others left. :smalltongue:

Willie the Duck
2021-08-31, 06:59 AM
What is a ribbon feature?

One that is acknowledged to be relatively unimportant, predominantly existing to fit theme, rather than because anyone expects it to be valuable in a given system/campaign.

Telok
2021-08-31, 07:05 AM
What is a ribbon feature?

It's the bow on a present. It looks nice but doesn't really have any function for the object it's attached to. A feature of "you can wear heavy armor for long periods without penalty" in a game with no rules penalizing you for wearing heavy armor all the time would be a ribbon.

I think I just find the "nerf magic by strict rulings" objectionable because I've always been on the receiving end where it's really just a fig leaf for "I don't like people playing casters so I'll weasel word and rules lawyer your spells to not work". It never seems to apply to casters who are just blasters & heal-bots, probably because D&D simple-hp-depletion style combat is easy to understand and adjust while stuff like non-combat divinations & enchantments isn't. And it really does mostly seem to be a late/post D&D 3.x thing, possibly related to lifting the restrictions D&D casters faced and the proliferation of caster classes & spells.

Vahnavoi
2021-08-31, 07:13 AM
Bah. In first edition AD&D, the dungeon master's rules outright said to rule out or destroy troublesome magic items, spells etc.. Why bother rules lawyering, when you're outright empowered to say "the game's becoming a chore to run because you have this spellbook, so it gets eaten by grue and you have to start from scratch next session"? :smalltongue:

Theoboldi
2021-08-31, 07:24 AM
What is a ribbon feature?


One that is acknowledged to be relatively unimportant, predominantly existing to fit theme, rather than because anyone expects it to be valuable in a given system/campaign.

For instance, in 5e, a dragon-blooded sorcerer starts out with two bonuses from having dragon ancestry.

1: He has a higher unarmored AC and more from his draconic scales and toughness. This is a consistently useful feature that will apply in just about every adventure.

2: He has a bonus on charisma checks when interacting with dragons. Though potent, it will rarely come up. It's given in addition to the actually consistent feature because it makes sense for the character to have and will feel very thematically appropriate on the few occasions it does come up. This is the ribbon feature.