Friday, 17 April 2015

Simple Systems equals Simple Games?

Remember when Diablo Introduced Prefix & Suffix Magical Effects to us?, changing the ceoncept of a "+1 Magic Weapon" to 30 different kinds of +1? Giants sword of slaying? Spiders Hammer of Light? This is my TL:DR, The More complex your game system is, the more players can do with it, when they understand it, But understanding it should not be the pre-requisite to playing, just to GMing.

 Simple Systems equals Simple Games

I want to preface this, this is more like a warm up topic for the different styles of GMing, Designing and Playing, so I'd appreciate comments to hone the concept further for the next blog.

Remember HeroQuest? 4 stats. Attack Die, defend Die , Mind & Body. Now in my early days of gamesmastering, I could not fathom how to use those other than the 2 types of hero.. the Fighter or the Wizard. Sure the weapons listed range & damage, and there was a movement score in there somewhere because it was a board game.. but that was all.. Fighter or Wizard (The Elf was a fighter with range).

Now.. years later, I'm sure I could run entire adventures with just those Attributes, because I've matured & experiences alot of life.. does your character want to steal something? hmm, lets see, natural attack die (not weapon) vs defend die (exclude armour), pass his 'mind' score to see if the shopkeeper noticed.. why? because a strong minded, alert, wise, character would know to be watching, while a weak minded fool would be lazy & bored..

So its very possible to play any system, with a good imagination. yet it leaves you with problems:

What if you don't have a good imagination? I think we've all read about the 2nd level hero who was free-falling with a dragon and used the fall momentum to puncture the dragons skull, insta-killing him, so he levelled up to 7th giving him enough HP to survive the fall, or the 20th level Paladin who fell from a 100m cliff and not only survived, but brushed off the 100 points of damage and waded into battle. GMs who don't have the confidence to say whether its right or wrong, because it might spoil the 'flow' of a game, or lack of knowledge to make a good call on the situation.. 

What if your understanding of reality isn't as good as your players, and their 'proof' spoils your plot and ruins the game session? This one was closer to home for me for many years, I wasn't well read on biology or physics or maths as a child, trying to GM my group resulted in many of my 'traps' failing, or me having to use (cringe) "because its magic!". This is most likely the whole reason DungeonWorld is so in depth, based so much on reality first, before magic has its effects, and why it has so many Attributes & Statistics.  
Hero Quest + house Rules.. 

What about duplicatable? Try to reproduce it? So a different GM might come up with a different approach for dealing with the Shop theft, maybe a house rule would be added for a 'stealth' score. This doesn't matter if you only play your game at your house, and recognise that different GMs will produce different results.

But, Ignoring Rules Lawyers, Most people want coherency and 
duplicatable results. If I play at your house with the 'pass the natural attack' rule, I'll want to put all level up bonuses into my natural attack.. but at someone elses' house, I'd need to use their 'stealth' score. not only are my characters able to port over from game to game, but I have to learn a whole different set of thinking to play.. the same game. 

I've had it myself, I'm playing at a friends house, and they allow some rule that flanking allows the attack of opportunity, so now I can make more than a few attacks in the same round.. with the right conditions, I could make 16 attacks against 4 opponents, in the same round.. impossibrew!

Knowing the rules match the game, you can 'join' any game, with a fair understanding of what you have as choices, to what to do, what can you do, what is impossible and what the GM will allow

If every house has a completely different set of rules, you'd soon discover you can only play with one set of friends.. and Convention gaming? right out!

"right everyone joining table #17, you need to include rules addendum 12, 13, 18, 21, half of 27b but nothing from 5th edition, we'll run an errata session in an hour, and see you back here in 3 hours to play!"

McDonalds Burgers are created with some pretty complex set of rules, every single burger has to follow the same rules, country to country, to ensure that the consumer gets the exact same burger in any and every store. yet the customer, has no clue about those rules, its just the same burger.

So For me, Complex might be Complex for the GM, but simple for the player. 
A Complex way to represent a set of bonuses a Skill could have...But Simple in its final result

I think the Gamer Industry goes through a pendulum swing, too complex, not complex enough.. D&D has hit the extremes a bit from time to time, taking note from the market, Rolemaster, Tunnels and Trolls, Talisman, there are many variants. Right now the market seems to be in "simplification" mode. Numinera, Fate, Apocolypse World, for a Mature market, with decent, imaginative GMs, who can 'fudge' the system to get what they want, in a way that players respect and trust.. it works.. no denying it.

Yet I worry about the GMs without the back support, brand new to the world of roleplay, making decisions which put off their players, or get put off by the system for its lack of ability. Because at the end of the day, If I can only be a Fighter or a Wizard, I'm going to leave the system soon enough, because I don't know any better.

But.. as my Next Blog is more about.. How many variants are there truly? is it fair to say that no system can be a catch-all system? How many kinds of systems should their be? Real vs Unreal, Simple vs Complex? are there any more parameters? Would it be easier for a DM/GM to begin his session invites with "Hey guys, running a Sandbox Multi-Plot Fantasy of D&D, who wants in?" or would it be better if the games defined themselves as "Sandbox Multi-Plot Fantasy" so the market knows what they're getting into before buying the game?

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