Layer of abstraction


Hello folks!

You see how ICRPG reduce all the distance to CLOSE / NEAR / FAR / VERY FAR ?
To me it’s adding a layer of abstraction.

  1. What layer of abstraction to you like to add to your game or do you find well design in a game ?
  2. Is there a layer of abstraction you’d like to see ?
  3. Which layer of abstraction was too much for your taste ?
  4. Any other point on the topic really


The single room Target Number is one of my favorite abstractions. It takes all the individual bits of data about each monster, the overall importance of an encounter, and more and presents a single number to beat. It’s great, because players know that when the target goes up things are getting tough, but it keeps gameplay moving fast without having to manage AC for a bunch of different monsters in a scene.


I like descriptive tags that have no set mechanics as an abstraction of making something different without saddling player or GM is more mechanics. I’m also a big fan of how Dungeon World abstracts ammo, basically turning every quiver/bolt case/clip into three points the player can spend to turn near misses into hits. I like to allow players to spend them to add damage dice, or perform special moves, like cutting through a door with a laser, or hitting multiple targets with an automatic weapon.


Hands down, I would say the most useful abstraction ICRPG employs at the table is HARD/EASY. No other feature of the ruleset is as streamlined, as versatile, or as intuitive to players and gamemasters alike. HARD/EASY preserves the flow of the in-game narrative as the GM’s go-to state change in response to player actions or environmental evolution without the need for matrices, fancy math, or interpretive rules-lawyering.

It’s not HARD to understand why we love it; in fact, it’s EASY.


This, for me, not so much. We are willing to maintain a detailed count to 20 as a PC beats down a gnoll or an oaken door with :black_heart::black_heart:, but keeping a tally of a PC archer’s arrows is too much? I disagree. As a specific example, DW’s use of its multi-step “ammo” tag is the subject of a variety of discussion and tutorial threads on Reddit and elsewhere, which to me suggests it’s not as universally useful as a streamlining game abstraction as some might suggest.

Many here will say tracking individual arrows, bolts, sling stones, or bullets is too tedious, but I think the choice to eschew the count really flattens the game play of combat encounters and takes away built-in opportunities for excitement and player engagement.

The PC archer with the Speed Quiver, merrily Legolas-ing along on a string of high modified DEX rolls, is a force with which to be reckoned—and that’s fun almost to the point of being boring because of it—but start counting arrows, and suddenly that ability has new dimension. If she’s down to two arrows, does she peg the two orc mooks at CLOSE range in front of her, or shoot over one of them with her last arrow at the BBEG who’s at FAR range and getting away, forestalling his escape but leaving one orc with the opportunity for melee on the next turn. After she exhausts her arrows, does she sacrifice her next turn to scrounge D6 of her own missiles recycled from the fallen foes at her feet, or press on and hope there’s a downed orc bowman ahead with a full quiver? Saturday serials never had so much cliffhanging melodrama…

Simple resource management does not have to put drag on the game. For a lot of us—especially the grognards—it is the game.

And don’t even get me started on what I think about not counting ammunition for automatic firearms

(Re-engaging Lurk Mode…)


In 34 years of gameplay, I’ve never encountered a dramatic moment that involved counting ammo. The closest it came was an archer build character angled the DM for a magical endless quiver, but we all get to play the way we want to, and if you feel like playing this way might lead to some dramatic moment, enjoy.


The Room Rating for me. This in addition to the EASY/HARD is what sold me on ICRPG. I honestly just can’t keep track of all the stats,AC, conditions and so on, so any way to relive that a bit is always a HUGE selling point in my book.

The scaling dice for weapons and such was also nice but that was more for flavor. I don’t want to have to use a rapier just because its “best for my class” if I’d rather have my character use a cutlass or an ax.


(In 43 years of gameplay, I have. Many times. I am not saying that streamlining ranged combat with infinite (or abstracted) ammo is wrong; conversely, I’m just proffering some reasonable evidence to support the idea that counting ammunition isn’t pointless. Regardless, I agree with your bottom line 100%, and I thank you for granting me the latitude to present my minority opinion here.)

(This Lurk Mode button doesn’t work at all:wink:)

ETA: I find it humorously ironic that so many think that counting 20 arrows in a quiver is too much work, but every player of Master Edition I’ve ever spoken to tracks 20 nat 20s for Mastery rewards religiously and with uttermost precision…


Hero coin - if it qualifies.
Although I’d say that the previously mentioned things all work in tandem with the coins as a ‘system’, it’s as though someone designed it.

Bean counting, nah mate, none of that thankyouplease.


(All good. Personally, I just strongly dislike the alternative, which is treating guns like spells.)


I like Hankerin’s method he shows in his latest youtube video: Monsters don’t have individual bonuses any more, but simply roll a d20+dX (X being d4 to, I guess, d12) according to their tier. It’s pretty simple to come up with a formula. Mine is this:

(Hearts x 2) + 2 = the sides of the die you roll, plus a d20

So a monster with 2 hearts rolls d20 + d(2x2+2) = d20+d6 for all tasks.

This is similar to Tunnels&Trolls’ genius Monster Rating.


So what do you do when you want to portray a monster with X hearts that is strong and tough (STR, CON) but not intelligent or agile (INT, DEX)? Or a monster who is stalwart with keen senses (CHA, WIS) but none of those aforementioned things?


I adjust the numbers on the fly.


Then why have any scheme for creature encounters at all? Wouldn’t that be easiest?


Structure is important. Knowing when to break it, as well.


Agreed. And that knowledge comes from experience. We are both fortunate enough to have some, allowing us to exercise that flexibility when it benefits the game.

I think much has to do with our goals in defining monster stats. Maybe you feel this is only a semantic difference, but when I hear you say “simply roll D20+DX according to tier” amended with “I adjust the numbers on the fly,” what I infer is that you really do have stats (at least approximate ones, conscious or otherwise) that differentiate your creatures, but you don’t bother to write them down. You don’t need to, if they are just notes for you to riff off of during a fast-flowing free-wheeling game session.

And that is totally cool.

Conversely, if you are creating a creature to share with others or to define it within a specific RPG context, I think it’s a perfectly sound option to define and use a few simple specific stat bonuses, hardly taxing on the brain for a few encounters in a session of gaming. It’s a mechanical alternative to provide nuance to a monster encounter that can still be adjusted on the fly to suit any GM who wants to tweak it (even by reverting to your default method), but it also lends reasonable structure and support to someone still developing those skills who wants to replicate reliably the same creature encounter you developed originally, with or without the benefit of flavor guidelines that require additional intuition.

I think this thread spawned a useful discussion, if only in its strong support for the idea that everyone has to find a comfortable level of abstraction within the game, and that there are always trade-offs when such choices are made.