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Subject: RPG mechanics rss

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Asmor wrote:
cosine wrote:
RPG players are, in general, not interested in playing mechanical games. They are looking for narrative, either direct or emergent.


This is patently false. If RPG players weren't interested at all in mechanics, we wouldn't have RPG systems. You can roleplay just fine with no rules or resolution mechanics. In fact, that was my first experience roleplaying! In middle school, we basically played D&D but just made everything up entirely.

"Bang! I gotcha!"

"No ya didn't!"

This is why we need resolution mechanics.
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h1ro wrote:
I'm guessing that fantasy is way more popular than SF but short of setting specific rules, what differences are there in game mechanics or theory?

That's entirely a matter of taste.

You'd be perfectly justified in using the exact same system for both F and SF. Take BRP, for example, file off the serial numbers and pencil in "pilot spacecraft" for "drive chariot", and you're good to go.

On the other hand, F and SF often deal with different themes, which can be addressed by different mechanics. For example, William mentioned the press-your-luck element of D&D, which fits the sword and sorcery genre it was designed to emulate like a glove. (High fantasy, which D&D embraced later on? Not so much.) Is that something you want to emphasize in your SF game? Perhaps not.
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charek wrote:
RPGs in general are poor GAMEs. RPG players in general favor rules which fall somewhere around simulationist or narrative, and the only situations that are easily adapted to game-ification are combat scenarios. As a result, RPGs with good GAME rules are generally combat-focused such as DnD.

Why?

We always think of combat when we talk about gamism in RPGs (not that I go in for the GNS model, mind), but a whodunit, for example, lends itself far more easily to "game-ification" than any combat scenario, in no small part thanks to a clear victory condition.
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PandoraCaitiff wrote:

Don't bother with GNS. It's an outdated model, and most of the people that write about it didn't understand it
No, everything which followed the original definition from the Author was redefining the terms.

The original GNS presented in the System Matters Essay, which I found in the back of Sorcerer and only later online, is a perfectly valid model.

All the bull the doc tried to hang on those terms by redefinition later are a different model entirely.

In other words, the original version is neither out of date nor wrong, but the directions it lead the original author are incompatible with it... and IMO, also less useful, less insightful, built upon selective data acquisition (which invalidates it), and a whole heap of echo-chamber effect (which magnifies the data acquisition issue hugely).
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aramis wrote:
The original GNS presented in the System Matters Essay, which I found in the back of Sorcerer and only later online, is a perfectly valid model.


Aramis

Is this the original essay?

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That's the one.
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PandoraCaitiff wrote:
Don't bother with GNS. It's an outdated model, and most of the people that write about it didn't understand it


First Intentions is a better explanation. I heard about it from Runeslinger of Casting Shadows blog, and self-titled youtube channel. It might have started here: https://youtu.be/GSiU6LPIi68?list=PLZfuKgeD5fl4GGWY53k1R3xaY...
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h1ro wrote:
aramis wrote:
The original GNS presented in the System Matters Essay, which I found in the back of Sorcerer and only later online, is a perfectly valid model.


Aramis

Is this the original essay?

I believe so, but don't have my copy of sorcerer to check. This one seems to be shorter, so it may be the original with Sorcerer being slightly expanded...

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The most innovative writers don't think "we need a rule X to apply in situation Y" - instead, it's "assuming we want situation Y, what rule X gives us the best Y the most often?" The former mindset is behind a lot of universal & simulationist games, in which authors try to anticipate everything a group might come across. Those are fine for many players, but they demand complexity to cover as much as possible. The latter mindset sacrifices comprehensive coverage in favor of generating whatever the author considers important - but can do so in a much simpler fashion.

Look at classes - a lot of 80s games had them, primarily because D&D did. After all, D&D worked. It was successful and fun. Why waste time reinventing the wheel?

The next generation, raised on the World of Darkness, saw no real need for them. Outside of d20 they all but vanished, mocked by players who moved on to new systems.

And today - look at the games Powered by the Apocalypse. Classes all over! If you read one, it tells you just what the authors think a class should be doing, and hits those beats over and over. Even templates are a sort of mini-class, alerting players to what a character of a given type needs to excel.

***

Regarding GNS theory, it's a good way to classify a game, but I don't think it evaluates a game well. I don't think you can evaluate a game well without knowing what its designer wants a game to do. And if a designer can't articulate that, it tells you something else about the game.
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committed hero wrote:
The most innovative writers don't think "we need a rule X to apply in situation Y" - instead, it's "assuming we want situation Y, what rule X gives us the best Y the most often?" The former mindset is behind a lot of universal & simulationist games, in which authors try to anticipate everything a group might come across. Those are fine for many players, but they demand complexity to cover as much as possible. The latter mindset sacrifices comprehensive coverage in favor of generating whatever the author considers important - but can do so in a much simpler fashion.

Look at classes - a lot of 80s games had them, primarily because D&D did. After all, D&D worked. It was successful and fun. Why waste time reinventing the wheel?

The next generation, raised on the World of Darkness, saw no real need for them. Outside of d20 they all but vanished, mocked by players who moved on to new systems.

And today - look at the games Powered by the Apocalypse. Classes all over! If you read one, it tells you just what the authors think a class should be doing, and hits those beats over and over. Even templates are a sort of mini-class, alerting players to what a character of a given type needs to excel.

***

Regarding GNS theory, it's a good way to classify a game, but I don't think it evaluates a game well. I don't think you can evaluate a game well without knowing what its designer wants a game to do. And if a designer can't articulate that, it tells you something else about the game.


You skipped a few generations.

AD&D was already out, and the games we tended to migrate away from AD&D towards were games like Palladium Fantasy, Traveller, Chaosium's BRP engine games, Star Frontiers, Rolemaster, etc...

Skill driven, but usually not yet mono-mechanic. Classes determine skills available, skills taken determine competence for some, and pure skill based for others.

WWG wasn't until the 90's, and was yet another generation. With a very different style of play dominant - mono-mechanic games, the rise of "Valuing Player Input"...
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aramis wrote:
You skipped a few generations.

AD&D was already out, and the games we tended to migrate away from AD&D towards were games like Palladium Fantasy, Traveller, Chaosium's BRP engine games, Star Frontiers, Rolemaster, etc...

Skill driven, but usually not yet mono-mechanic. Classes determine skills available, skills taken determine competence for some, and pure skill based for others.


I'd say these are all siblings in one generation (of your list, I didn't play Rolemaster, and I played TMNT instead of Palladium Fantasy). No classes in any of these, for example, and attributes only because D&D had them - and, like D&D, they largely influenced things other than skill rolls.
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E Decker wrote:
charek wrote:
RPGs in general are poor GAMEs. RPG players in general favor rules which fall somewhere around simulationist or narrative, and the only situations that are easily adapted to game-ification are combat scenarios. As a result, RPGs with good GAME rules are generally combat-focused such as DnD.

Why?

We always think of combat when we talk about gamism in RPGs (not that I go in for the GNS model, mind), but a whodunit, for example, lends itself far more easily to "game-ification" than any combat scenario, in no small part thanks to a clear victory condition.


Whodunnit style games are in fact one of the next largest play-styles in RPG behind combat oriented gameplay. Gumshoe, A Dirty World, and others have it as a main focus, while Call of Cthulhu and others generally support it through skill rolls. I would argue that game-ifying a whodunit is more difficult than combat, largely because their are so many preexisting examples of combat games to draw from, and fewer whodunit games.
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committed hero wrote:
aramis wrote:
You skipped a few generations.

AD&D was already out, and the games we tended to migrate away from AD&D towards were games like Palladium Fantasy, Traveller, Chaosium's BRP engine games, Star Frontiers, Rolemaster, etc...

Skill driven, but usually not yet mono-mechanic. Classes determine skills available, skills taken determine competence for some, and pure skill based for others.


I'd say these are all siblings in one generation (of your list, I didn't play Rolemaster, and I played TMNT instead of Palladium Fantasy). No classes in any of these, for example, and attributes only because D&D had them - and, like D&D, they largely influenced things other than skill rolls.
TMNT is non-representative of Palladium; if it's the only Palladium game you've read/played, you don't know enought to comment on Plaaladium as a whole All theothers (except Recon) are class based skill selection.

Rolemaster, Spacemaster, MERP, Cyberspace: Class determines skill costs. Skills and attributes alone determine success in play... but skill levels are a function of character level in a manner similar to D&D3.x

Star Frontiers has classes, which determine skill costs. No class levels.

Traveller Careers are functionally classes. Some Refs used terms in career

BRP is classless, but character gen in RuneQuest is not. No ongoing impact after generation...
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I think the reason RPG's struggle with this mechanical vs. not mechanical argument, with neither side entirely correct, is because there is no competition. Some RPG's are incredibly complex, with all kinds of numbers and equations at work. Others don't have any of that.

The same goes for board games - some are Twilight Imperium, some are Dominion.

The difference is that when youre playing against someone, the mechanics are binding. In a RPG, it doesn't matter how complex the grappling system might be, it can still can feel like playing chess by yourself. This is obfuscated by the setting and theme we dress the RPG's up in.

People say its about interesting choices. In an RPG, the interesting part of deciding between trying to fast-talk a guard or intimidating him lies in the narration of events - not the skill check, which is usually resolved in identical ways. Which is fine, unless it isn't.
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aramis wrote:
Rolemaster, Spacemaster, MERP, Cyberspace: Class determines skill costs. Skills and attributes alone determine success in play... but skill levels are a function of character level in a manner similar to D&D3.x

Star Frontiers has classes, which determine skill costs. No class levels.

Traveller Careers are functionally classes. Some Refs used terms in career

BRP is classless, but character gen in RuneQuest is not. No ongoing impact after generation...


I think your definition of class is a little loose wrt a lot of these examples, but YMMV. I don't recall classes at all in Star Frontiers.
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committed hero wrote:
aramis wrote:
Rolemaster, Spacemaster, MERP, Cyberspace: Class determines skill costs. Skills and attributes alone determine success in play... but skill levels are a function of character level in a manner similar to D&D3.x

Star Frontiers has classes, which determine skill costs. No class levels.

Traveller Careers are functionally classes. Some Refs used terms in career

BRP is classless, but character gen in RuneQuest is not. No ongoing impact after generation...


I think your definition of class is a little loose wrt a lot of these examples, but YMMV. I don't recall classes at all in Star Frontiers.


SF has 3 "Primary Skill Areas" (namely, Military, Technological, and Biosocial); you have to choose one as your career at chargen. All skills are classified into one of those three categories. You get a discount on buying skills in your PSA.

I would not consider that a class. Literally all it gets you is the skill discount.
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dysjunct wrote:
committed hero wrote:
aramis wrote:
Rolemaster, Spacemaster, MERP, Cyberspace: Class determines skill costs. Skills and attributes alone determine success in play... but skill levels are a function of character level in a manner similar to D&D3.x

Star Frontiers has classes, which determine skill costs. No class levels.

Traveller Careers are functionally classes. Some Refs used terms in career

BRP is classless, but character gen in RuneQuest is not. No ongoing impact after generation...


I think your definition of class is a little loose wrt a lot of these examples, but YMMV. I don't recall classes at all in Star Frontiers.


SF has 3 "Primary Skill Areas" (namely, Military, Technological, and Biosocial); you have to choose one as your career at chargen. All skills are classified into one of those three categories. You get a discount on buying skills in your PSA.

I would not consider that a class. Literally all it gets you is the skill discount.
Rolemaster classes provide the exact same kind of benefit. Skill costs by class, or by PSA, same thing.
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aramis wrote:
dysjunct wrote:
I would not consider that a class. Literally all it gets you is the skill discount.


Rolemaster classes provide the exact same kind of benefit. Skill costs by class, or by PSA, same thing.


I wouldn't consider that a class either. If you or the designers do, we will have to agree to disagree.
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dysjunct wrote:
I wouldn't consider that a class either. If you or the designers do, we will have to agree to disagree.


Not using the word "class" on the character sheets was the big clue to me! A lot of the examples are backgrounds, as they do nothing with respect to the character's forward path.
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committed hero wrote:
dysjunct wrote:
I wouldn't consider that a class either. If you or the designers do, we will have to agree to disagree.


Not using the word "class" on the character sheets was the big clue to me! A lot of the examples are backgrounds, as they do nothing with respect to the character's forward path.
In both Star Frontiers and Rolemaster/Spacemaster, the price list is set by the initial choice, and remains set, period. It affects all future skill purchases as well as initial ones. They're at different points along the continuum, tho'.

Rolemaster uses "Profession" on the sheets and in the books. Rolemaster is level driven; XP convert to Dev Points only at level breaks. All other abilities are either spells or skills, and all spell lists and all skills are available to all "professions"... but the cost difference is notable... for a fighter, Spell List Acquisition is 20 points per 5% chance, max one 5% per level, of (typically) 20-30 or so for PCs, while favored weapon group is 1 point for 1 skill rank this level, and 5 more for a second; for a Magician, 1 point per 5%, no limit per level, and 9 points for a maximum 1 rank of favored weapon group...

Meanwhile, in Star Frontiers... PSA cost differences are profound - skills inside your PSA are half the cost they are for the other PSAs. While the system has no character levels, the PSA selection forever shapes the characters experience costs to raise given skills. Also, given the EXTREMELY short skill list (13 in SFAD; 4 more added in SFKH)... the effect is pretty strong.

In both cases, they affect the character's "forward path" by making the costs different all the way through the character's life.
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Also in older Rolemaster Base Spell Lists were restricted by Profession. So not *everything* was a matter of spending more dp, some of your character's future was determined by Profession choice.
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aramis wrote:
Meanwhile, in Star Frontiers... PSA cost differences are profound - skills inside your PSA are half the cost they are for the other PSAs. While the system has no character levels, the PSA selection forever shapes the characters experience costs to raise given skills. Also, given the EXTREMELY short skill list (13 in SFAD; 4 more added in SFKH)... the effect is pretty strong.

In both cases, they affect the character's "forward path" by making the costs different all the way through the character's life.


This is an accurate description that illustrates why calling this a "class" system is a huge stretch. You could have two characters of different "classes" who end up with identical abilities. For example:

- Character #1 selects the Military PSA, chooses his mandatory military skill, and for his free skill chooses a technological one.

- Character #2 has identical stats to character #1, but chose the the Technological PSA. She starts with the same two skills as character #1.

These characters are identical even though they're from different "classes." If Character #2 gains XP at a faster rate than #1 (shows up to more game sessions, maybe) then she could continue to be statistically identical to #1, by investing XP into military skills even though it isn't efficient.

Contrast that to a true class system like D&D. A cleric will never have the same abilities as a thief, etc. They're heroic archetypes, not otherwise-identical characters that got bribed to buy certain skills.

If you're going to call a skill discount a "class," you might as well say that GURPS is a class-based system because you can buy advantages that increase your social class.
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IndyOfComo wrote:
Also in older Rolemaster Base Spell Lists were restricted by Profession. So not *everything* was a matter of spending more dp, some of your character's future was determined by Profession choice.

It just makes the (insanely) more expensive to other professions.
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dysjunct wrote:
aramis wrote:
Meanwhile, in Star Frontiers... PSA cost differences are profound - skills inside your PSA are half the cost they are for the other PSAs. While the system has no character levels, the PSA selection forever shapes the characters experience costs to raise given skills. Also, given the EXTREMELY short skill list (13 in SFAD; 4 more added in SFKH)... the effect is pretty strong.

In both cases, they affect the character's "forward path" by making the costs different all the way through the character's life.


This is an accurate description that illustrates why calling this a "class" system is a huge stretch. You could have two characters of different "classes" who end up with identical abilities. For example:

- Character #1 selects the Military PSA, chooses his mandatory military skill, and for his free skill chooses a technological one.

- Character #2 has identical stats to character #1, but chose the the Technological PSA. She starts with the same two skills as character #1.

These characters are identical even though they're from different "classes." If Character #2 gains XP at a faster rate than #1 (shows up to more game sessions, maybe) then she could continue to be statistically identical to #1, by investing XP into military skills even though it isn't efficient.

Contrast that to a true class system like D&D. A cleric will never have the same abilities as a thief, etc. They're heroic archetypes, not otherwise-identical characters that got bribed to buy certain skills.


When the choice of profession in RM makes some skills easy for A and insanely hard for B, that's definitely the same effect as D&D.

All the skills in SFAD are X for one PSA, and 2X for the others. while it's possible to go outside one's PSA, it is a major discouragement for the more expensive levels. Psychology matters. I've not played a whole lot of SFAD, but what I have, it's obvious who is in which PSA from their choice of skills... Given the low number of skills, each with subskills, it feels like a 13 class system where everyone is multi-classed, more than a skill driven one.

Quote:
If you're going to call a skill discount a "class," you might as well say that GURPS is a class-based system because you can buy advantages that increase your social class.

Logic fail there... Social Class is not the basis for RPG classes.

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aramis wrote:
dysjunct wrote:
If you're going to call a skill discount a "class," you might as well say that GURPS is a class-based system because you can buy advantages that increase your social class.


Logic fail there... Social Class is not the basis for RPG classes.


That's the point. Superficial and trivial similarity doesn't qualify for inclusion in a set.

Edit: but since we clearly have different definitions of what a character class is, there is not much point in discussing further, unless someone wants to offer a formal definition to analyze.
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