Game Design Sins

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AsenRG

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My go-to is Jorune. You get the setting, you're a starter adventurer. The default is to start your Tothis but you're not pressured into it. It's just assumed. You could do the entire game without getting a single mark on your challis. (how about that for jargon). (I'd add that the BPN system in SLA Industries has a similar function although that's really just about the money for ammo. And I've lost my love for Nightfall).
Yeah, this.

I mean there's nothing wrong with hacking the new Blade Runner to allow less binary choices. And nothing wrong I guess with being Cornish brigands in Pendragon.
Well, that's hacking the game to do something it wasn't meant to. Can you do that? Sure, I have. But lately, I prefer starting with a game that's closer...if I realize in time I'm changing it too much.
And if I don't, I end up running...oh wait, my current Celtic Myth/Hollow Earth/Ninja Turtles/Delta Green (powered by DG) mix is the perfect example, isn't it:tongue:?

I think personally I like a defined raisin d'etre - and that's why D&D has never really interested me. I'm literally an "adventurer". And that's a thing. And the economy is based around this? Well, okayyyyyy.
Yeah, that's part of it for me as well.

The newer micro games (and I'm actually including the 300+-page monsters I've found while researching the "light and narratively focused" PBTA definitely seem to be micro-specific on the niche you're meant to play. Like very little wiggle room.
:thumbsup:

I lean the other way. I find it much more useful when a provides a compelling "this is that the party does" concept rather than the travelguide style "there this kindgom here and that kingdom there" write up. Whether I intend to play or run a game, the key part of the pitch that will sell me on or off is not "you are in Ancient Rome/terraformed Mars/modern day Cleveland", it's "you play occult investigators/bungling gang of thieves/superpowered rebels hunted by the state".
Sure, that's just a different preference - and I do sometimes indluge in it as well. But usually I don't, and even when I do, it ends up veering aside. Like my "noir investigators" game where the whole party never threw a punch or shot a gun. Wait, maybe there was one occasion. Oh, and we were using A Dirty World.
But bottom line, it turns out the game designers simply can't please us both, right:grin:?

Yeah, one of the biggest issues I have with a lot of settings is when they go off on the details about this land I'm supposed to care about, but don't tell me what I'm supposed to do with it in terms of "WTF is this setting about".
A setting is never "about" anything. If it is, it's not a setting, it's a premise for a narrative game...:shade:

Which, admittedly, is how I see settings focused around a single activity (dungeoncrawling included).
And I don't mean that in a railroady sort of way, but rather give me some campaign ideas or adventure seeds of what sort of stuff gets done in this place, what is the focus or "point" of it.
That, on the other hand, is perfectly reasonable and I welcome it - but please, don't make it all "this is what your game is going to be about, say crime, so here are the ideas... and they all pertain to crime". Leave that stuff for the "Cops" supplement.

Overwhelming with a bunch of details about this land that isn't even a known IP from an established franchise is just gonna make me go crosseyed, cuz I have no frame of reference for it.
In such cases I find it useful to start from the bottom up: this is how people in the setting live. Conflicts are resolved in these ways. These areas have potential for conflict, see the previous point.
 

PolarBlues

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Sure, that's just a different preference - and I do sometimes indluge in it as well. But usually I don't, and even when I do, it ends up veering aside. Like my "noir investigators" game where the whole party never threw a punch or shot a gun. Wait, maybe there was one occasion. Oh, and we were using A Dirty World.
But bottom line, it turns out the game designers simply can't please us both, right:grin:?

Absolutely it is all about preferences. I personally feel more comfortable in a game where we the player characters are all Ghostbusters, Avengers (or closest own-brand substitute) or members of the Rebel Alliance. The allows the players to create characters that have a common purpose and fit the premise and the GM to focus the prep on conflicts that will be relevant to the characters. More to the point, it makes it very easy for me to tell if it's the sort of the game I'm interested in playing or running.

If the pitch is "17 century France" or just "vampries" you are going to need a session 0 to get everyone on the same page. Or you need to create the sort of character that will just go with the flow without questioning things too much. The latter is kind of my default character archetype for games I play in which the premise seems a bit fuzzy.

I call that character archetype "Aquaman" based on the Brave and the Bold cartoons Aquaman. He's heroic, excitable but not too bright. He can along with whatever crazy plot hook the party get involved in without worrying too much about the "why".

RMNxuem.jpeg


PS: I will that a number of players in my group prefer playing the random people brought together by circumstances sort of games. I think they find it more liberating and easier to make more distinctive characters. Preferences.
 
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Agemegos

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Depending on GM fiat to resolve everything. Sure, the GM will have to resolve things sometimes. Ideally you've got a core mechanic that's robust and flexible enough to handle most anything with a skill roll. But look, if your game can't function without GM fiat handling everything all the time your game is incomplete and badly designed.

My model of RPGs is that GM fiat is the normal mode of play, and that the rules are to cover for or assist with situations in which the GM feels "I don't know what ought to happen. My senses of simulation, drama, and what would be an engaging challenge do not give definite answers, and I think the players deserve to face a fair gamble." I turn to the rules only when fiat fails me. For them to say "use fiat" is useless. If my fiat were up to the job I wouldn't have cracked the rules.

Other game-design sins:

  • not believing in mathematics;

  • not performing a blind playtest.
 

BedrockBrendan

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That graph doesn't look elegant but it doesn't look horrible. For all intensive purposes the next larger die has about better or equal odds than a smaller die.

I have seen variations of this graph a lot over the years. We have a math guy in our group and he threw something like this together (if I recall, he was actually surprised that it wasn't worse and in the end didn't think it was that big a deal). Obviously a d6 has a better chance of exploding than a d12 and that creates wrinkles in the probability curve, but it isn't something that I've ever really been able to sense during play much. Besides, occasional break for a lower die isn't so bad in a pulpy game. Overall I quite like the system. I don't run it myself, but like when other people run it. Also something just fun about using the different dice in that way.

Another thing with Savage Worlds, it is the polar opposite of the GURPS end of the gaming spectrum. If you are playing or running a Savage Worlds game, you're not there for perfect probability curves and math. Nor are you there for a perfect simulation of reality. It is about the pulp adventure.
 

AsenRG

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The larger dice also have a better chance of beating the TN by 4 and getting a raise. That makes a big difference.
Also, the problem only manifests at certain TNs and certain dice, IIRC.
 

ffilz

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Also, the problem only manifests at certain TNs and certain dice, IIRC.
That's why for open ended, I'm in love with Cold Iron's normal distribution... "perfect" smooth curve (though someone did point out that standard rounding actually causes some funny glitches where the deltas from 50% go 6%, 6%, 5%, 6%, 4%, 5%, 3%... A manual re-work of the table might make it go 6% 6%, 6%, 5%, 5%, 4%, 3% but I'm not sure that's worth it. It's much less an issue that the bumps other open ended systems have.
 

TristramEvans

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Just thought of another Game Design no-no:

When your mechanic is "roll dice vs Target Numbers" and the only guidence GMs get for setting the TN looks like this:

5 Hard
8 Difficult
13 Stressful
21 Complicated
34 Very Hard
55 Super Hard
89 Impossible
 

Fenris-77

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I like the approach HoL took, which was just add very's each of which equaled an additional -2 or whatever. So something was Far, Very Far, Very Very Far, and so on.

The list above is brutal though. :dead:
 

David Johansen

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Just thought of another Game Design no-no:

When your mechanic is "roll dice vs Target Numbers" and the only guidence GMs get for setting the TN looks like this:

5 Hard
8 Difficult
13 Stressful
21 Complicated
34 Very Hard
55 Super Hard
89 Impossible
father forgive me for I have sinned...and sinned...and sinned...
 

Agemegos

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Just thought of another Game Design no-no:

When your mechanic is "roll dice vs Target Numbers" and the only guidence GMs get for setting the TN looks like this:

5 Hard
8 Difficult
13 Stressful
21 Complicated
34 Very Hard
55 Super Hard
89 Impossible
I thought of one too: don't use word scales that are just numbers in disguise. Unfamiliar terms make things harder, not easier.

  • If players have to make comparisons as to whether one result is better than another, make sure that all the words in your word scale are actually ranked in their ordinary meanings. I don't know and don't care to learn (for instance) whether "literally good" is better than "very good", whether "excellent" is better than "superlative", or whether you consider "fair" to be better than "mediocre" or worse.
  • If players have to perform operations equivalent to arithmetic, such as "one step better", use numbers. I do not care to learn how many synonyms you crammed in between "good" and "excellent".
Ideally, use numbers. They are simpler.
 

Taelin

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Just thought of another Game Design no-no:

When your mechanic is "roll dice vs Target Numbers" and the only guidence GMs get for setting the TN looks like this:

5 Hard
8 Difficult
13 Stressful
21 Complicated
34 Very Hard
55 Super Hard
89 Impossible
Is the complaint the use of adjectives per se instead of say percentile chance of success?

or is it use of adjectives which are not sufficiently clear as representative of that underlying chance?
 

TristramEvans

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Is the complaint the use of adjectives per se instead of say percentile chance of success?

or is it use of adjectives which are not sufficiently clear as representative of that underlying chance?

The latter - arbitrary adjective sequence attached to a string of random numbers (in my example they aren't actually random, but that's just my OCD)

Granted this was more an issue in the 90s - or, at least I think, but that may just be because I read way more RPGs in the 90s
 

David Johansen

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In Rolemaster the adjectives label the columns on the Moving Maneuver Table, they also provide the modifiers for the Static Maneuver Table.
 

Fenris-77

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So a difficulty table that makes more sense:

Cake
Stale Cake
Bit of a bitch
Swearing under your breath
Swearing but not under your breath
Screaming obscenities
Throwing gnomes in a fit of incandescent rage
Deity level shenanigans
Fuck off for even asking about it
 

Agemegos

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Once upon a time a friend and I devised a scale of difficulty and degree of success consisting of five impressionist painters, Turner, and Jackson Pollock.

”Gaugin + 4dF. You need van Gogh or better to succeed.”

We were drunk. And there was an Impressionist exhibition at the NGoA.
 
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Fenris-77

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Once upon a time a friend and I devised a scale of difficulty and degree of success consisting of five impressionist painters, Turner, and Jackson Pollock.

”Gaugin + 4dF. You need van Gogh or better to succeed.”

We were drunk.
"How far away is he?"
"Goya"
"Fuck it, I'm taking the shot..."

(I realize that Goya isn't an impressionist.)
 

Haiku Elvis

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Absolutely it is all about preferences. I personally feel more comfortable in a game where we the player characters are all Ghostbusters, Avengers (or closest own-brand substitute) or members of the Rebel Alliance. The allows the players to create characters that have a common purpose and fit the premise and the GM to focus the prep on conflicts that will be relevant to the characters. More to the point, it makes it very easy for me to tell if it's the sort of the game I'm interested in playing or running.

If the pitch is "17 century France" or just "vampries" you are going to need a session 0 to get everyone on the same page. Or you need to create the sort of character that will just go with the flow without questioning things too much. The latter is kind of my default character archetype for games I play in which the premise seems a bit fuzzy.

I call that character archetype "Aquaman" based on the Brave and the Bold cartoons Aquaman. He's heroic, excitable but not too bright. He can along with whatever crazy plot hook the party get involved in without worrying too much about the "why".

RMNxuem.jpeg


PS: I will that a number of players in my group prefer playing the random people brought together by circumstances sort of games. I think they find it more liberating and easier to make more distinctive characters. Preferences.

I have an enduring love for Batman: the Brave and Bold. What a wonderful show. The episode with the Music Meister (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) is magnificent.
The Brave and the Bold does not get the love it deserves. I think Brave and the Bold Aquaman is indeed the best Aquaman.

Outrageous!
 

SJB

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That's why for open ended, I'm in love with Cold Iron's normal distribution... "perfect" smooth curve (though someone did point out that standard rounding actually causes some funny glitches where the deltas from 50% go 6%, 6%, 5%, 6%, 4%, 5%, 3%... A manual re-work of the table might make it go 6% 6%, 6%, 5%, 5%, 4%, 3% but I'm not sure that's worth it. It's much less an issue that the bumps other open ended systems have.
This is your 250th post on Cold Iron! Is there anywhere to view the system?
 

ffilz

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This is your 250th post on Cold Iron! Is there anywhere to view the system?
Here is my overview document with links to lots of good stuff:

 

SJB

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Thank you. I’m guessing that MIT guys looked at RPGs of the 1980s, palmed their foreheads and sniggered, “game designers are innumerate”. Also glad for confirmation that this Cold Iron is not the one about fairies featured on DTRPG.
 

ffilz

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Thank you. I’m guessing that MIT guys looked at RPGs of the 1980s, palmed their foreheads and sniggered, “game designers are innumerate”. Also glad for confirmation that this Cold Iron is not the one about fairies featured on DTRPG.
Cold Iron came out of RPI not MIT... And yea, I've heard of the other Cold Iron.
 

Acmegamer

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Here is my overview document with links to lots of good stuff:

Interesting, sounds like it has a dodge/parry system from what I read in your overview section. Also spell points! <Beam> No freaking Vancian magic system.
 

ffilz

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Interesting, sounds like it has a dodge/parry system from what I read in your overview section. Also spell points! <Beam> No freaking Vancian magic system.
Yes, there is dodge and parry, but they are passive numbers (like DCV in Hero). Parry is usually better than dodge, at least against the 1dt opponent, it's less against 2nd opponent, and then you dodge. 2nd dodge is worse (unless you are only dodging, then you get 2 dodge at full, 2 worse).

One of the things I love is the spell system. The spell points and spell selection work very well together, and work well with the combat system. And the whole thing wraps up well with magic items, though it doesn't support some of the more unusual D&D-like magic items, on the other hand I HAVE sometimes brought in D&D type magic items - if you pick ones that don't interact (much) with the combat system, they can work fine.
 

StonesThree

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Has the thread touched on mechanics that only exist to patch flaws in other mechanics?

Thinking of CoC 7th editions luck point mechanics. Or its rules for "pushing" the roll. I mean, if the failure rate on skill checks is so high and its breaking too many adventures then maybe just fix the skill system? No? No? You are going to give me another set of points to track instead? Cool. Cool.
 

BedrockBrendan

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Has the thread touched on mechanics that only exist to patch flaws in other mechanics?

Thinking of CoC 7th editions luck point mechanics. Or its rules for "pushing" the roll. I mean, if the failure rate on skill checks is so high and its breaking too many adventures then maybe just fix the skill system? No? No? You are going to give me another set of points to track instead? Cool. Cool.

I haven't played 7th editions, but games with bennies or luck points, I think the point isn't to patch low success rates. A game like Savage Worlds the success rates seem fine for most circumstances. The point seems more giving players a better chance at crucial moments because that is more cinematic (they are pools you usually draw on when it counts). If you raise the general success rate, the rest of the game would play differently too and that might not be ideal.
 
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