Yeah! The problem I’ve been hit with on the head is when playing with a group that wants to follow every single rule of the book… fortunately I freed myself from that group (or they freed themselves of me, haha!) and now I am with a more relax group with whom I ran the Deadly Détour. It was a great game and people really don’t mind bending the rules to make the game fun. I am so grateful for this group!
What the video appears to be advocating is pretty much exactly what the PBTA and OSR communities keep saying. The OSR community says the DM needs the freedom to making Rulings that are above the rules in situations where the rules don’t make sense. The PBTA community says that the narrative position is the ultimate decider where the story goes before any of the Moves are engaged. In both cases, things like Hit Points and Armor Class assume that a combatant is acting at the top of their physical ability down to the last point, but a knife placed into the throat of a helpless victim is fatal, no attack roll, no damage role.
Yep. I reached this conclusion thanks to ICRPG & Dungeon World. I use the Timers and Treats as my opportunities for big hits in combat from time to time.
Interesting topic. I’ll share my obvious, unoriginal opinion
To look at the stick man/well-drawn man example, maybe we could make a strong argument for which objectively took more skill. But as to what people will ENJOY more, I think this is totally subjective and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people enjoyed the stick man more.
I think what this reflects in TTRPG is that the quality of mechanics can only be measured in relation to what the group is looking for.
Once this is established (ie. the AIM) then we can get technical.
The SR example at first glance sounds too punishing to me. But when I put it in the context of a heist, where combat is usually a small part of the game, and often means something has gone wrong, then the rolling/HP system makes way more sense. It encourages us to play like cat burglars or masterminds rather than barbarians.
That all said, I think the best possible system is a flexible one in combination with a group of Trust. As has been said, if a player goes for a ninja throat slice, anything less than death is unsatisfying.
Well, at the end of the day, relativism, subjectivity and whatever are just ideologies that are based on philosophy rather than science. So, while I’m sure they’re interesting conversations in their own rights, they don’t help us determine the source of all these mechanics and the effects they have on the game.
What I believe is that most complaints nowadays about TRPGs from the TRPG community are valid. But, at the same time, I believe that a simple system that allows balanced ruling like the bigger systems is possible, if we have the good base. And that base is what I want to discover. Multi-setting or not, I’d love to find some old Gary Gygax interviews and see what he said about D&D and how he came to create it and all that. That’d be really enlightening and I think it would be the best way to start a conversation!
Sorry, but, at this point, I just think that this whole subjective/objective discussion has taken over moreso than the actual thing we’re here to talk about: RPGs! Woo!
Not that I appreciate your opinion, on the contrary, I’m glad this got a lot of attention and yours too.
But that’s the thing, subjectivity is at the heart of RPGs! (I can feel you pulling your beard hair :P)
We have players on one end of the spectrum that love bean counting, realism and don’t mind spending the whole session in one room, and on the other end we have players that choose role play/story over everything and only need mechanics to push the story (ie. Flipping a coin would be just as fine). The complaints of TTRPG’s will be as varied as those tastes. As will the solutions of course!
But ok, I think I see what you are trying to get at. Reduce RPG to its base parts, right? I’ll try kick start it:
- Tension… What’s around the corner?
- Roll of the dice! That gambling thrill
- Character progression. Levels, items, story, etc
- Shared imagination -> the magic of rpg
Chiming in, just to add this part that helps me see both Forest and Trees in these kinds of “game design betterness” conversations. And also because it shows maybe more clearly what I think @Khan was getting at with “arbitrary” ((which is a guaranteed trigger word for people who lean toward Simulationist play, Doncha know?))
When you say one game design or rule is better (or worse) than another, you must always include “better to whom and for what purpose?” Unless your goal is to have a sitcom style conversation of misunderstandings and cross-purposes, at least.
Picking your “To whom and for what purpose” is completely arbitrary at the very beginning purely about preference… but once it has been chosen as the frame, it’s now defining and creates the constraints necessary for meaningful thought processes. It’s almost always a “better” concept trying to jump out of its proper frame and into the current frame that leads to frustrated communication and painfully heartbroken game designs.
Here’s the thing. We can take this discussion all the way back to: what is a game?, and people will still disagree.
If you Google that phrase, you get these words:
“a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”
Since we’re not talking about sports, I think we can safely shorten that definition to:
“a form of play, played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”
And since we generally don’t decide outcomes in TTRPGs based on personal feats of skill or strength (though, I’d LOVE to see log tossing as a way to decide outcomes), then we can shorten the base definition of our hobby to:
“a form of play, played according to rules, and decided by luck.”
So, to me, the key elements of our hobby are:
- It’s play.
- There are rules.
- Outcomes are decided by luck or chance.
That being said, there are some people out there who do not use elements two and three. For example, that guy who has run a 30 year D&D game who almost never rolls dice. To me, that’s not even a “game” under the definition above; its just a collaborative shared story-telling experience. I mean, just imagine a “game” where everything is just decided by your adding new parts to the story, with no rolling (cough, cough, Fiasco). I consider that insanity, but for those folks who LOVE that type of Play (element one), they will vehemently defend their way of doing things and wonder why we’re crazily deciding outcomes with dice.
So, my point is this: you aren’t going to find a common base, because you can’t even find consensus on the basic elements of what constitutes a game.
Moreover, even if you get commonality on the basic elements of TTRPGs (play, rules, and outcomes decided by chance), then each of those elements will have wildly different meanings for people. The forks upon forks of differences start happening fast.
With the play element, you’ll get into simulationists versus narrativists versus gamists; low fantasy versus high fantasy; fantasy versus Sci-fi versus giant Mechs versus cowboys; etc.
With the rules elements, OMG. There are a million zillion ways to try to simulate reality and reduce the world into a set of rules. Gary Gygax started with naval combat, and instituted “armor class” based on the class of ships. He pulled that convention into his early D&D rules. That nomenclature continues to persist for armored fighters all these years later for some reason, but there are other ways to handle “armor.” And then even in this category, some people want lots of rules and some people want very few. Some people want to add and subtract hit points, whereas others want a sliding injury scale.
And with regard to outcomes decided by luck or chance, there lots of ways to do this also. The most common (and, I’d argue, easiest way) is rolling dice, but plenty of people use cards. Theoretically, you could use pick-up sticks. If you can safely lift the blue one, you get to go this turn. And never mind the fact that there are tons of ways to use just dice to determine outcomes.
When you take all of the potential differences in the ways to play a game, then there’s simply no coming to a common base in terms of RPGs.
You can study D&D, for example, but just look at all the iterations of it through the years and all of the present day differences and arguments over old-school versus 5e versus, gasp, 4e, or even 3e and all the pathfinder variants.
I think you’ll find that the commonalities are as “universal” as: some people like chocolate, some like vanilla, and some like peanut butter chunky pecan. That is to say, there is no commonality when it comes to preference, as that varies wildly from person to person. My wife hates mayonnaise. I love it. Depending on which one of us you ask, the other is an abomination.
So, play with hit points. Don’t play with hit points. Play with a few. Play with a lot. Just enjoy what you like. And if you’re a game designer, just know that you’ll never appease everyone, so I think you’ll be happier coming up with something you like. Trust me, there will be others who appreciate what you appreciate.
Just know that if you don’t roll dice, and if you don’t play the way Alex likes to play, you’re wrong.
Also, I don’t put stock in anything Cody has to say. Our hobby needs authentic communicators on these topics and not used-car-salesman sensationalism designed to generate views on YouTube.
See? I’ll be over here enjoying Vanilla with a slight chocolate drizzle.
It’s funny my experience in coming into D&D sort of followed Gary Gygax’s path. I build ships in bottles, I love a good sea adventure so I started in naval combat games. For the most part they are incredibly tedious chess games. They have lots of rules and charts, sooo many charts. You wonder where Gary got it from. Thing is though its accurate. They account for so many aspects of the battle it reflects closely to real life. Naval games were used in early WWII to figure out real life German sub tactics, that’s how accurate they can be.
Well my kids weren’t having all this chart business so I switched to D&D. Thats where I learned the trade off dynamic in games. D&D is faster paced, less charts less rules but also less accurate. This is an important trade off in game design. Do you want more speed of play or more accuracy in the experience? Every table is different. It’s why some tables track supplies and others don’t. This is why I have liked ICRPG so much. The system encourages you to find the trade off that works for you.
Interesting, I was going to post with a very similar opinion. IMO it comes down to simulation vs abstraction. To me DnD has always suffered from a bit of a multiple personality disorder, attributable in part to its “Chainmail” genealogy. Some rules were clearly simulation in nature, while others were abstractions, and they were (are?) mixed in odd ways, resulting in contradiction and complexity. To me, DnD was never meant to be a simulation, any more than “Catan” is intended to be a civilization sim.
This is why I have always embraced house rules, and why I believe ICRPG resonated with so many. It’s a consistent abstract set of rules. And, I’ve never been a rules purist (I’ve always disliked DnD magic rules). Being slavishly loyal to the rules seems needlessly dogmatic to me, and the risk is that you end up playing the game for the sake of rules themselves as much as anything else.
Just one noobs opinion.
Hear hear. I much prefer substance over form, any day (rule of cool versus RAW). For me, it’s all about the shared story and far less about the ministerial minutiae. That being said, there PLENTY of folks who disagree with me. But, back to the OP’s quest for a uniform consensus, good luck finding any rule or preference that can’t be rejected by someone for some reason.
I never asked for a consensus!
But instead of exploring the origins of the hobby to create a frame for the conversation people got into useless philosophy that, so far, has led nowhere. Sorry, but this whole thread is very frustrating to me.
You’re asking us if we can agree on a base for this conversation. And I am saying at its root, people can’t even agree on what constitutes a GAME, much less any styles of play, rules, mechanics, or ways to decide outcomes. The number of WHYs out there are as varied as, “I just prefer rolling one red and one blue die.”
When I first started playing RPGs, one of the first games I ever played was DC superheroes. It used the Mayfair Exponential Gaming System (MEGS), which involved rolling two ten-sided dice and comparing the result to a chart. The system was useful because it allowed comic book characters of varying power levels to fight one another. Batman could fight Superman and hold out, at least for a little while. But why aren’t we using MEGS now? Probably because we don’t like breaking immersion to look up results on a chart. Or, at least, that’s my preference. There’s probably some joker out there who swears by it, even today. DC superheroes? Joker? Anyone?
Anyway, for me, the gears are:
- Play - which also involves RP and a meaningful story, but is more gamist;
- Rules - which are light, open, and allow a DM to make flexible rulings in the moment;
- Outcomes based on chance - which are decided by rolling dice, preferably a D20 in a roll over (meet or beat) target system.
Now, let’s just take one of those. Rolling a D20. Why that mechanic? Probably because Palladium had a D20 system in place long before it was ever popular, and I played enough TMNT, Robotech, and Rifts that when WoTC adopted the Roll20 system and never looked back for D&D, it was a simple shift for me, even though it pissed me off at the time (“They’re ruining D&D I cried”). Except, they didn’t. And, that monetary juggernaut has been in place for so long now, I don’t see it being dethroned any time. It’s just too popular. Besides, it makes resolving outcomes super fast with a simple target number. But that’s all personal preference. Some folks will chime in to say they agree. Some will disagree. There will be no consensus, and so there won’t be a common base on mechanics. Why roll over? Because I can’t stand roll under. But lots of folks don’t mind it.
You feel we lost an important connection to the basics (your words). The gears that make up the games we love (again, your words). Which basics? MEGS? Rolling D6s in GURPS? Having Mental Affinity and Mental Prowess in Rifts? Thac0 in D&D? Those were all basics for me. Those are all gears in games I loved. But I’m not using any of those gears today. Why? It’s all personal preference. All of it.
That being said, if you still don’t think you’re getting the response you want, how about you model the type of response you’re looking for, and I can adjust from there.
Well, I did mention attribute scores, resolution, etc.
And the base is somewhat D&D 1st Edition since, well, it did a lot of the leg work for the game to become popular in the first place. So, let’s go with that. Then again, we’d have to listen to what Gary has to say and I can’t find any interviews on YouTube and we’d have to read the whole original booklets to have a starting point…
The wall of text above just confuses me, this is getting way more complicated than a simple exploration of the basics. Just seeing what else is out there and what they bring to the table was plenty enough for me.
Tiny remark: I’d tentatively argue Skill is involved. Perhaps “co-operation/creativity/strategy” is a better word. Yes, ultimately the dice is the decider (but stat allocation, choice of an “easier” action/route, item builds, helping, etc, increases your odds). But smart play/co-operation can play a huge roll (teehee). We all know those deadly encounters that demanded our group work together and use our smarts/creativity, rather than “I go smash!”
On note of connecting to the “basics”
As a late comer into TTRPGs, I must say DnD 1e does not interest me much. I do like the deadliness and mood of it, but mechanics-wise - it seems weird and clunky. Likewise with 3E, incredible that they found a rule for practically everything, and it makes sense! But damn, that does not look like a fun game to play unless you and your table have the ability to remember all those rules and a lot of patience!
Now of course, if there was no other RPG or I had played them in their time, I’m sure I’d love them.
Seems to me the core “gears” have carried over into most roleplaying games, and they ARE the connection to the foundational ones. Those being (to repeat Alex :D):
(1) role play and narrative based play
(2) augmented dice (or luck) to decide outcomes
(3) rule systems that always invites home-brewing for specific table and asserts the current GM is the ultimate ruler - not the book! (I think this is a very famous Gygax quote from the end of 1e) (This is what the video in the OP is basically about)
Strategy and cooperation are only involved when the fight isn’t Tank & Spank.
Defo! In my limited RPG experience there should rarely be tank and spank fights, unless:
- It’s a quick, spontaneous fight (eg. With the bank clerk) - theatre of the mind, lots of fun narration and lines
- The enemies aren’t the true threat “it’s a trap!”
- It’s a tank and spank with something better than them at tank and spank
But undoubtedly the majority of combat over all RPG sessions is tank and spank, which changes the game SO much (IMO). Which shows the real unique thing about RPGs, that even the same system with the same adventure/campaign will be drastically different depending on the group. The THIRD principle strikes again
Eh, I played with a couple of groups and… well, I dunno if its just GMs in my region but the fights are all mostly Tank & Spank with very few people understanding when I ask for variety or try to explain: some of them assume I just want skill challenges or “video game” combat… Sigh…