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Author Topic: Rulings, not Rules  (Read 2865 times)
Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #30 on: January 16, 2017, 10:26:32 PM »

I think your idea of mathematical integrity is a good one for describing the difference between us. I basically don't care about mathematical integrity so long as the system is fast, usable, unobtrusive, has a surface illusion of verisimilitude, and doesn't provoke complaints from players. But I can understand why you do care without directly sharing in the feeling.

Sparkletwist, how do you feel about something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess' Skill system?

The skills are: Architecture, Bushcraft, Climbing, Languages, Open Doors, Search, Sleight of Hand, Sneak Attack, Stealth, and Tinkering. Everyone begins with a 1 in 6 chance of doing these things, and abilities help, so Strength helps with open doors, for instance. For skills like Climbing, it's assumed most people can climb a regular rope or wall with handholds without rolling, rolling is only for "walls and other sheer surfaces without obvious handholds." A similar philosophy applies to other skills. Only Specialists, the Rogue equivalent, can improve their skills at all.

Here's what a sample skill looks like:

Stealth

Stealth  allows  a  character  to  sneak  around  and hide. In order to use the Stealth skill, those that the character wishes to hide from must not already be aware of the character’s presence, and there must be somewhere to hide. Stealth is not invisibility! For example, if the character hears enemies coming down a bare hallway, he would not be able to simply hide because of the lack of available cover. In a room with furniture, the character would be able to use Stealth to hide, but if someone were to conduct a search of the room, the character would be found. If a  character  attacks  after  successfully  using Stealth, that attack is always considered to be a Surprise attack, even if the enemy is already engaged in battle.

You can read the rules here.

So here, we don't have DCs at all. Difficulty is flattened, and so are character abilities. Only the skill-monkey gets better at skills.

My guess would be that this would seem hopelessly vague to you, and the lack of incremental possibilities thing would be exacerbated, but I'm curious. Is this far worse even than 5th edition?

EDIT: I'll also add that I totally agree with you that Pathfinder or something like it is indeed better at verisimilitude than 5th edition. There might be some cases where the Pathfinder RAW has weird, immersion-breaking implications (the infamous bag of rats strategy comes to mind) that 5th edition's vagueness might conceivably avoid, but usually I do think the granularity of Pathfinder is a virtue insofar as verisimilitude is concerned, and this is why I stuck with it for a long time. In practice for me, 5th edition essentially trades a bit of verisimilitude and consistency for simplicity, speed, and a description-heavy approach that inclines itself to "saying yes" a bit more and rolling less.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2017, 10:42:09 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #31 on: January 16, 2017, 10:45:42 PM »

So, unless you're a specialist, an action either has a 100% chance of succeeding (because it's a thing you can just do) or you only have a 16.7% chance, at all, ever? Or a 0% chance if the DM decides that it's just not a thing you can do, I guess, but it's not like you're going to be rolling a die unless it's pure desperation time anyway. Or there's no consequences at all of failure but then why are you even rolling.

So... yeah. You're right. I dislike it and find it far worse than even 5th edition. tongue
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #32 on: January 16, 2017, 11:30:17 PM »

I figured yeah.

I mean it's also a game filled with save-or-die effects and level drain and "gotcha" effects and a very nasty dungeon design philosophy. I like it a lot  tongue. But I figured we'd have a more productive conversation about 5th, so I used that in examples instead.
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« Reply #33 on: January 19, 2017, 07:57:56 PM »

Ok, so i've been meaning to ask this for a long time, and since Steerpike brought it up in the LotFP thread, I thought I'd just bring it here. How do you two differ with your game design philosophies? I'm mainly asking, because I don't know what mine is yet.
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« Reply #34 on: January 19, 2017, 08:27:51 PM »

Well, I'll talk mostly about myself, because I don't presume to speak for Steerpike.

My game design philosophy is basically based around the idea that the crunch is the "engine" that drives the world, so it has to have logical inputs and produce logical outcomes. I like elegant mathematics and I like systems that aren't readily exploitable. I have somewhat of a preference for rules-light over rules-heavy system, but in favor of abstracted but still relatively comprehensive rules rather than simply leaving blank spaces. I feel the role of the GM is to create the world and play as the NPCs, so as GM I prefer to "automate" most of the determinations about the nuts and bolts of how things happen. I dislike large amounts of GM fiat, both as GM and as a player, because I am also a big advocate of player agency.
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« Reply #35 on: January 19, 2017, 09:59:47 PM »

I think that sparkletwist and my differences are actually smaller than they seem given the amount we rant at one another. We've both played in one another's games and had a good time doing so. Indeed, sparkletwist's character Dagny in Fimbulvinter is one of the absolute highlights of the game, and I like to think I've done a reasonably good job of DMing to let sparkletwist have fun with the character. I've had very good fun in some of her games as well, like when playing Morwen in her drow game, or a ghoul sniper in her Sixguns & Cyclopean Horrors one-off.

I'm not even sure I'd go so far as to attribute to myself a fully coherent gaming philosophy, but what I do have are a bunch of tastes. There are some elements of these things that could very roughly be described in relation to the so-called "OSR" or Old School Renaissance, but there's a lot of old school stuff I really dont like at all, and plenty of new games that I do really like, so I wouldn't use that label for myself, at least without a lot of reservations and caveats. But that said, some of the things I like in games:

- I tend to emphasize description and communication over dice-rolling. I see most events in the game-world as transpiring due to a collaborative conversation between players and the DM. I don't like DMs who railroad players or make totally arbitrary decisions. I think the most important thing players and DMs can do at the table is listen carefully to one another.

- I like a gaming style which emphasizes freedom for the characters - the players should feel encouraged to go anywhere, approach problems from any angle they like, have their own goals, and make their own story. I like organic, character-driven and location-driven stories that touch on bigger plots rather than pre-scripted story-paths or narratives.

- Usually, however, I also like games where the characters themselves aren't super-powerful and where the possibility of character death, mutilation, cursing, mutation, or other negative outcomes is high, as a consequence of interactions with the game-world rather than a player's choice to alter the character. So, like, if a trap gouges out someone's eyes, that's not a thing the player "wanted" to happen because they fancied playing an eyeless character, it's a consequence of events.

- For long-term campaigns I prefer a style where the players have freedom primarily over their characters' actions rather than the reshaping the setting or NPC behaviour through outside-of-character mechanics. They can affect the world in big ways, but through their characters.

- I prefer practical, easy-to-remember rules that aren't overly complicated and are open to hacking or house-ruling or ad-hoc use. I like rules that "get the job done" or that can be adapted on the fly, and which feel reasonably fair, transparent, and intuitive to players. Ideally, players should be able to just say what their characters do, and then I tell them what to roll, and the game is still perfectly playable.

- At the same time, I like rules that are relatively unobtrusive and which interfere minimally with verisimilitude and immersion, since I like feeling like the imaginary world being explored has an air of reality or plausibility to it. I don't need rules that create a super-granular, accurate simulation, but I also don't like rules that feel super "gamey." Some is OK, but too much becomes immersion-breaking.

- The players in my regular face-to-face gaming group really like solving puzzles and mysteries, scheming, planning complicated heists or attacks, and messing with odd things they find. They like exploration and wandering, and they like it when they walk into a bar in the game world and I already have a list of drinks ready for them to choose from, or when they turn down an alleyway and find an encounter they didn't expect. They like maps and handouts and secrets and awkwardly funny situations and weird monsters. They are not huge fans of long, drawn-out combats and care less about history or lore than I do. With one notable exception they don't care much about character optimization and generally find it stressful and/or pointless, but they like being able to do cool things like cast interesting spells or use unusual items.

EDIT: For a very rough description of what an "old school" style entails, check out "A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming." I don't agree with everything in it 100% (like, I don't mind the idea of Perception checks, for example, and there are lots of things about OD&D rules that just suck) but I share many of its broad sentiments.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 11:48:34 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #36 on: January 20, 2017, 02:22:38 PM »

Steerpike

I think that sparkletwist and my differences are actually smaller than they seem given the amount we rant at one another.
Very true. Or at least we're just not so set in our ways that we can't have fun with whatever... I actually agree with a lot of elements on Steerpike's list, for example.

Steerpike

I also like games where the characters themselves aren't super-powerful and where the possibility of character death, mutilation, cursing, mutation, or other negative outcomes is high, as a consequence of interactions with the game-world rather than a player's choice to alter the character.
This one is perhaps my strongest point of disagreement. I definitely like games where characters aren't super-powerful, but I also believe that players should have ownership over their characters, and that includes having a degree of control over what misfortunes the character has to endure. The game is ultimately for fun and some people just don't find certain things fun for whatever reason; I'm not going to play a game where I consistently feel marginalized, frustrated, or squicked out. As such I completely agree with Steerpike's first point about communication and I feel it should extend to this sort of thing as well. I like Fate's consequence mechanic in that it encourages the GM and the player to collaboratively determine what sort of trauma befalls a character that must take a consequence.

Steerpike

For a very rough description of what an "old school" style entails, check out "A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming." I don't agree with everything in it 100% (like, I don't mind the idea of Perception checks, for example, and there are lots of things about OD&D rules that just suck) but I share many of its broad sentiments.
For reading material, I'd also recommend http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/3924/roleplaying-games/rules-vs-rulings as a sort of "retort" to that. Just like Steerpike, I don't agree with everything in it 100% but I share many of its broad sentiments.
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #37 on: January 20, 2017, 03:26:00 PM »

sparkletwist

This one is perhaps my strongest point of disagreement. I definitely like games where characters aren't super-powerful, but I also believe that players should have ownership over their characters, and that includes having a degree of control over what misfortunes the character has to endure. The game is ultimately for fun and some people just don't find certain things fun for whatever reason; I'm not going to play a game where I consistently feel marginalized, frustrated, or squicked out. As such I completely agree with Steerpike's first point about communication and I feel it should extend to this sort of thing as well. I like Fate's consequence mechanic in that it encourages the GM and the player to collaboratively determine what sort of trauma befalls a character that must take a consequence.

Yeah, I think this is a very good distinction. Usually in my games there are one of two broad principles in play:

(1) Everyone has agreed ahead of time that horrible things are potentially possible consequences and are OK with it. So everyone knows we're playing LotFP and there are save-or-die effects or things that will make you deformed or whatever, and this is part of the fun, but I don't need to secure individual "consent" for each horror as it happens in the game.

OR

(2) I may do horrible things to characters, but virtually everything is reversible, either through magical remedy or even time travel. This is true in my Hex game, set in a big magical city, where unexpected and unpleasant things happen to my players all the time, but they can pretty much fix any of them with enough time/magic/ingenuity.
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