Another interesting video + Resolution



Hey there guys!

So, I’ve been meaning to make a Topic about this because I’ve been itching for a conversation on the subject… but I’m not too sure how to go about it because it is quite hard to start somewhere.

Here’s another of the many video and articles talking about some aspect of the game that ick me. Not because he isn’t right… but he isn’t wrong either. The AngryGM has mentionned this in an article, I’ll link it later if I can find it again. But, here’s what I think we should rediscover: the basics.

Why do we use dice to resolve actions in TRPGs? Why do we not use cards, custom cards or sticks or whatever? Why do we need attributes to add bonuses and why are there so many of them? Like… the big question: WHY?

I feel like this conversation has deserving of some attention for some time now, as we throw random discussions about random elements all the time without, it seems to me, knowledge as to why we do or do not need certain things or add-ons and… well, it’s hard to explain 'cause I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on and my vocabulary on the subject isn’t quite complete. I also don’t speak English very naturally so have mercy on me! :pray:

I hope this all make sense and, I would like to make this thread into a big discussion on the subject. Or maybe one of those many subject: let’s start with resolution, maybe? Just post your opinion, let’s brainstorm and debate: why do we use it, why do we need it, what are the many interesting ways that its been done and what do they bring to the game? Are you guys interested in this?

Dying: Just One Type of Crisis

“Why” is a really big topic for game design, but the simplest answer is that we want to abstract elements of reality and gamify them. How people represent elements of reality in a game are completely dependent on their interpretation or desired representation of the abstraction. That’s a lot of talk, so let’s use an example: combat. You can design combat an unlimited amount of ways around any core abstraction of combat you like such as endurance, strength of attack, timing, or even building combinations. When designing, to reach the most people, we need to use simple ideas that are easily accessible so the most people can understand the abstraction as easily as possible. In ICRPG and many d20 systems the core is accuracy of attack: roll a d20 plus any modifiers to see if you hit. That’s easily understood and reliably relatable.

But, I’ve been practicing civilian combatives for years, and even have run organizations and clubs, so maybe my abstraction of combat might include nuance such as defensive weapon concepts like “pass/jam/check” or timing related elements such as “baiting/defanging the snake” etc. Those concepts aren’t readily explained or understood, so they need more nuance of rules to express for others to understand them and quantify them, so they would only be fun for people who really, REALLY like crunchy combat systems. Those don’t sound fun to me at all, personally, haha, but those are possible abstractions based on my combat training.

As far as HP goes, I love HP. When represented as Vitality it represents my character’s ability to fight on. When the HP reaches 0 I can’t go on anymore. Games like D&D try to say that’s what HP represents, but then why are we tying Constitution to it, which represents a character’s physical fortitude? Why not Wisdom for willpower to fight through? HP is simply the abstraction of your character’s ability to fight on.

Also, as someone who is currently playing a system that uses Wounds and Conditions to represent a player’s “vitality” instead of HP: I friggin hate it (Savage Worlds, if you’re wondering). When unwounded, my players are fighting at their best and take chances, play bravely, and do cool stuff! But as soon as someone takes damage they are immediately penalized in some way or another for being wounded, normally in a negative penalty to their rolls, speed, or something else. They enter a state in which they’re afraid to enter the fray because of their penalties. The wound system has effectively created a Poor-Get-Poorer negative feedback loop. Wounds are an abstraction of your physical condition, which might be more realistic, but you effectively can only play at your best if you’re uninjured.

I’ll give an example of how that hurt my last game session. Mind you, they wanted to play a system that had more rules that would quantify more of their progression and ability. That alone has hurt our creative ability at the table. But I digress (I’ll be going back to ICRPG asap).

One of my players got shot in the gut, real bad. Half the party got captured and taken to a makeshift prison with no supplies and no way to heal up within the ruleset available to them. They got into a stealth/combat encounter throughout the floor, and the character who got shot was rolling a -3 to all of his rolls from his wound level (target is 4 for the system), speed reduced to a single space/turn, and his strength was reduced a die type from his level of wounds. He spent the night not being able to take any actions because he was afraid he would bleed out from exerting himself. He had a great time roleplaying, but that’s independent from the mechanics. Seriously, he was in a bloody heap curled up in a corner to avoid being seen.

Compare that to a character who only had 1 or 2 HP left: he still could have gotten up and skulked around, risking his livelihood, all while still being so fragile he could die in a hit. Instead, the mechanics of the wound system in place made him afraid to do anything rather than make big, risky plays to turn their situation around.

When designers think about mechanics we really have to look at the target audience and think about what experience we want to give them. A designer should know a player experiences a game in this order: aesthetics, dynamics, mechanics. So, designers start with making mechanics which ultimately changes the aesthetics (player experience). If you want to reach a specific audience, your mechanical iterations should move towards dynamics that will create pleasing aesthetics for them. That is exactly why there are so many different RPGs out there and why they’re needed.

Geez, I could nerd out on game design and continually be right or wrong and still have a great time.


Well, I do enjoy game design. I believe our ability to run games is intimately tied to our ability to design as Runehammer has shown us. Or me, at least. I was struggling a lot with making combat interesting before I watched his videos. To me, pushing my miniature up to a monster and roll a die every round to know if I hit him is utterly boring. I liked the Deadly Detour because players had to move around, use cover and figure out how to get to the end of the dungeon moreso than fight the monsters…

The reason I think this conversation is important is because I see all those conversations about mechanics and nobody ever seems to get it right while not having entierely bad opinions in themselves: we always want more stuff and that’s good. And some mechanics, like wounds & conditions as you’ve mentionned, are not integrated too well or we don’t think enough about the consequences of their addition.

I’ve been designing board games since I was young without ever thinking too much about it until I started playing video games heavily and was criticising stuff to learn what I disliked and what I liked and why. But now that I play D&D, I see the conversations split up in so many ways and with so many interpretations that I feel we aren’t even on the same page anymore. And I think it’s important we all understand the basics together to have meaningful conversations!

So, yeah, turning abstract elements and gamify them. That seems to be a good base. But why do we gamify these elements over others? D&D’s pillars are about exploration, socialization and combat and yet, we only gamify combat. Why is that?

And while I understand AC & Hit Points are abstract themselves, the fact that D&D comes from a wargame ick me a bit: there must be some things that we can do better to represent individual characters better than a game about mass combat, right?


Combat is the most exciting part for most, but I agree. I’m hacking a ton of stuff to make little games from them because I think combat is only one way to play and often pigeon-holes game play. Some would find my hacks to be superfluous and detracting from the “action” of playing, but everyone likes to play different ways. Heck, I’ve even made a fishing minigame with progression opportunities because my players like to “level up” in as many different ways as possible.

Look for opportunities to turn actions into a game and you’ll find a way. Iterate until it’s fun!


Oooo wow!!! Huge topic, really hard to talk about in text, or even in person. The best attempt I now about to create a common language is

I found it worth the read, until I realized I still could not use the common language to communicate with anyone.

Levels AC, and HP are there because they are simple. HP was used to represent soldiers of a unit.
AC how hard that unit was to damage.
Levels where How experienced the unit was, to maneuver or notice things, or do special things.

In many ways HP is terrible. But alternatives get complex. ShadowRun 2nd (and most other editions) had 10 hp mental and 10hp physical. Every loss of 2 added difficulties to your rolls. (How I remember it…it’s probably a bit more nuanced…)

So, you had HP…but it wasn’t the same. You and your enemies where less effective when damaged.

Trade off…with everything else, a round of combat can take 4 times as long.

ICRPG exposes the frame of a classic D20 (D&D 3ed edition) system for all to see. It’s enough to play any genre. Add nuance to fit your genre and feel.

You want to change the structure (AC, HP, stat roll) and it’s easy…but you start adding complexity or removing flexibility.

Are these systems antiquated…totally. So is playing with dice, cards, or tokens…but it scratches an itch.

edit added
Design a game of role playing exploration, how do we create conflict?
By adding conflict you add drama.
Combat is the easiest fruit to pick for contained drama.
But it doesn’t need to be what we play.
In some post somewhere on here there was mention of social conflicts.
We can totally make a game about saving at risk animals in an urban setting. But the sense of risk and reward will not match my 6 month old 20 session Barbadian fighting off the hydra while his party saves the dragon prince of Somelandia.

But it might.


Without getting into any details, I’ll state the fundamental truth about any game, be it an RPG or otherwise.

The game is arbitrary and the rules are arbitrary.

Anything else is arguing about particular rules and details and that is entirely subjective. Some rules and some mechanics are better for some people, some are not. Now, some things are objectively more complicated or simpler and we can talk about these but any preference regarding complex or simple is also subjective.

So, there are rules and there are people arguing about those rules.

This doesn’t mean that there can be a better design for some purpose like creating fluid rules for exploration or social interaction but ultimately everything is subjective.

Those who ‘win’, like D&D’s D20, win due to marketing, historical reasons and other factors which are seldom related to the mechanics of the system (though not completely independent).

I would pick Savage Worlds over D&D any day but I would never pick it over ICRPG.


Ouch, I disagree with a bit of what you said: I don’t think that things are entirely subjective. Preference does not dictate talent. A good argument against relativism or subjectivity is asking two simple questions:’‘Is Dany’s drawing better than Marc?’’ While matching a beautifully painted picture of a man vs. a stick figure, and then asking:’‘Is Marc’s drawing better than Dany’s?’’ And, well, Dany’s stick figure might do the trick to tell a story quickly but Marc’s painting has actual skill put into it like proportions, depth of field (or view, whatever)… you know what I’m talking about.

Like some mechanics, just as we talked about before on this thread and another one: some mechanics like ShadowRun’s -2 to rolls for every HP lost definitely represents a thing, but it doesn’t encourage people to play or to be ‘‘play’’. By play, I mean: taking risks and engaging with the encounter!

Yes, the rules are arbitrary, but some are definitely better than other. Some rules are there to guide players through abstract situations, sure, while others are more subjective because they are there for the tone of the game. ShadowRun’s -2 to rolls for every HP lost is probably there to give an incentive for the players to start a fight rather than wait to get shot by a sniper! That rule would fit well in a western, too. But it becomes subjective because it depends on the context, not really personal preference, at this point.

So, I can’t agree with you on that, but conflict & drama are the core of more than narrative games. Some people might think it is limited to that, but think about the best fights you’ve had? They probably had lows and ups as the battle raged on. Too high or too low and people say it is swingy or something. But if they hit the right beats, we get pretty cool stories to tell! I think Day9 made a video on the subject. Battles are stories. He was talking about fights in RTSes where players would build armies and, by doing that, would make the tension remain low. Then the armies would seek positions against one another and the tension would rise up until the big clash… then evaporate as they returned to base and the players would expand and build more army to get to the next engagement.


I understand and agree with you but I still stand by what I said.

Why? Because I can find many people on this planet who will think Dany’s stick figure is better than Marc’s elaborate painting. Because “better” is subjective like most of other comparisons people use. Why would any sane person think like that? Like I said in my previous post it can be that this person may have the drawing skills that are only capable of drawing stick figures and he considers it the highest form of art. Maybe the stick drawing reminds him of her long deceased child. Maybe he says he likes silly stick figures just to annoy artists. Who knows.

Depth of field, proportions etc. now these we can talk about and debate objectively, which is super nice but these objective qualities won’t make a drawing “better” than another in the eyes of each and every person. We, as designers, painters and whatnot can say that x is objectively better than y and therefore we should prefer x but for the laymen these hold no real value.


I understand your position. But if we go by that then this is the end of the conversation. And while I appreciate the skill people put in hacking rules and making up mini-games to make TRPGs better… there is a definitive discussion to be had from the basics, to understand what is good and what isn’t, to compare, to build up and to understand why everything works so well together. Yes, they are arbitrary. But if we leave it at: Joe likes X and Ana likes Y because they’re different, then everything is for naught. But if we believe that Joe and Ana, both laymen, might not know exactly why they like option X or Y or because of a tone they prefer rather than the rules themselves, then we can study this! Make better games for it, and understand why so many people prefer X over Y.

Y might be bad… but with an adjustment or the right context it becomes good!
And that’s what this whole conversation is about. Why do we use dice, why do we need tags, Aspects, attributes and what other way have we seen those things being utilized so we can design the best stuff possible. It won’t be perfect and some people will definitely stick to their guns and defend a clunky game or enjoy THAC0 merely for nostalgia’s sake, but at the end of the day, progress will have been made and we’ll be better for it.


Again, I agree fully.

Like I said, these discussions are valuable to designers, so we should continue talking about them but we should not have the expectation to change anyone’s opinion in any way, at least not right away. Opinions do change mind you, but they take time and multiple iterations and implementations. The only thing that matters is our own understanding of the problems we face, or we think we face. Then we can start building solutions towards those problems.

Otherwise there would be no point in discussing anything.

Why we use dice is a deep topic but again, history plays a role here but there is a reason for this history. Dice are very easy to use, very easy to store, tactile to handle, tactile to chuck etc. Anything a dice can do, a deck of cards can do too but dice are more comfortable. These are the first things that come to my mind.

As for the other questions… Their answers are way harder.


I don’t plan on changing minds, really, it’s just that I feel we lost an important connection with the basics. The base helps us build forward. I’m not talking just about nostalgia, but the gears that make up games we love. Then we can compare, switch things, understand why we have rules for this or for that and not for that other thing way over there.

Perhaps I am digging too deep into this, but I find it important before we can move on to other discussions. If we have the base, now we have building blocks to discuss the other things that are more subjective. So we know the purpose they serve, the tone they project and their utility.

And TRPGs are a bit more complicated than other regular board games since the rules aren’t ‘‘guides’’ to victory. Not anymore, anyway, since old-school TRPGs definitely had end games in mind…


I would argue such a base for TTRPG does not exist. The base for Amber is different then for PBTA then for DnD then for FATE then for DREAD then for Zombie World. You can put things in general “groups”, like “DnD alikes” and then examine the rules in these types of games and how they compare and can try to find a base there. Talking about it in the generic I find impossible to do. For example the video mentions hit points, alas there are games that don’t have those. So discussing HP in the context of FATE would be very different then for DnD. I love mechanical deconstruction and discussion a lot though!


Agreed. Perhaps we should start with D&D, then. Since it was the ‘‘first’’ TRPG.
And from there, we’ll get some ideas of the mechanics for the games that followed for sure!


It helps to have a common language when talking about the gears and levers of a design. If we don’t, we cannot
be efficient in a collaborative discussion.

As to subjective…it’s all subjective, but that doesn’t help get things done.
An asteroid pressing reset on the earth is objective, if it’s good, bad, sucks for some, is subjective.

As to SR not encouraging conflicts…subjective, but it did encourage spreading the pain. A huge fault in typical HP based games, the target is just as effective with 220 hp as with 1. SR addressed that elegantly in my subjective take.

I’m just as likely to play SR second ~fifth edition as I am D&D 1st ~ third. It would depend on who is at the table.


I should also point out, that SR was a dice pool system, so it was adding and subtracting to target numbers and or to the number of dice you rolled, not as hard as say -4 to all your rolls in ICRPG would be when you lost 8 hit points.

With a few changes to soak damage instead of the armor class system, and this can fit well into ICRPG.


Can you get into more details as to how it addressed your subjective take, please? I’m not sure I understand very well!

And how would soaking damage instead of the armour class system fit better with the subtracting of target numbers or number of dice rolled in ICRPG, if I understood that well?


Will be a few hours before I can reply…but I’ll edit this post.
edit: reply is now below


Game design is such a big subject that it’s a field of study in college. It’s huge. It’s also very new, and void of uniformity from game design documents all the way to nomenclature. The subject of game design is too large to create a fruitful conversation without a tight scope, constraints, agreed narrow subject, or even goal for design and iteration.

I’d be down to talk design aspects or implementation any time, but to address design as a whole across spectrums is really hard to do. Especially since there isn’t industry standard jargon beyond the most basic elements of game design. People keep reinventing the wheel with new words to call old things and it’s very confusing without context, haha.


Subjective Is based on tastes and opinion. So for game design it’s all subjective.
Then I used the extreme example of an asteroid crashing into the earth and making it a giant snow ball for a few thousand years would be objective. But the opinion of it being good or bad is subjective.

Now if we are talking my

So in most HP systems as long as a creature has 1 hit point, it can still have full access to all abilities and powers as if that creature was at full HP. So even when a creature is beat to 0.0001% of its healthy level HP it can unleash its most powerful all consuming agile spectacular attack…and move at full speed…

There are a few exceptions, but the concept that something that is a hairs breath from death…can do its most physically demanding maneuvers with equal facility as when at full health detracts from the game.

That it detracts is subjective. But most will agree there might be a better way.

SR had a complex exchange of number of successes attacking vs number of successes from the defender. Then once number of winning successes are calculated you add that to the set damage of your weapon vs the soak capacity of the target, and then the target rolls to lessen that damage with body.

So two even swordsman would do the equivalent of 4 to 8 exchanges of blows in a round of combat. And if all rolls where average, they would probably last 4 or 5 rounds before a winner survives…but if one rolled better than average and the other rolled a bit worse than average it might be done in half a round. (Those using swords in SR usually go more than 2 times a round in SR, and in SR2 the defender in melee was equally as capable of winning the exchange and damaging the attacker. )

Breakdown of melee in SR 2 based on my memory.

  1. Attacker and defender roll based on skills and whatever else might be applicable.
  2. The one with most successes calculated damage inflicted.
  3. Based on armor, the person taking damage calculated damage the armor did not absorb.
  4. Person taking damage rolled body to see how much was a glancing blow.
  5. Final damage tabulated and noted.

Mind you, at any point Karma or a power could be used to re-roll or offset some effect…so it might be 8 steps before marking damage.

And each of these guys might go as many as 4 or 5 times in a round…it truly is a game of shrinking resources, and since melee means both go, you could have 10 exchanges in a round and both of them took no damage…but typically first to bleed was the first to die.

Again I really loved the system…but takes too dam long.

3 roll minimum per exchange. Plus complex calculations to finalize damage…later SR editions cleaned up a lot, but lost flavor. I debate between 3rd and second being my favorite, with 5th being the only one I’d get into a game session on today.

All subjective as hell except the amount of rolling that might take place in a round…image 5 players, going an average of 2.5 times a round, and then each having 3 rolls to calculate an exchange.

37 rolls a round. Not including area effect insanity. And 20 calculation points.

ICRPG is typically 2 rolls per action and set effectiveness…not much to calculate.

5 players vs 5 enemies is 20 rolls and set effect done.
Rolls take less time than calculations. So in ICRPG a round is done, in less time than it takes to calculate effect in SR2.
I subjectively prefer the speed of resolution to the granularity of action SR2 has…but objectively ICRPG is a faster game by design.


In regards to the topic of the video, I share the same problems with XP bloat that the creator of the video expresses. For this reason my ICRPG, D&D/Pathfinder, Dungeon World beautiful hybrid/hack game I run has a MUCH more compressed HP system. I also have a randomizer that allows for some blows to kill instantly, it’s part of the Treats I use in each room/combat encounter. When the narrative requires an instant or near instant death like the ones he described in the video, that’s what I do, maybe allowing a save that allows them to retain 1 HP, again if the narrative fits.

I am in my late 40s and I have found that games are A LOT more fun when the rules bend with the story, not the other way around. ICRPG was a revelation for me. It and Dungeon World made me feel like I had permission from other gamers/designers, to really just use the rules I want and modify whatever I wished without feeling like I’m cheating.