Situations that role-playing mechanics (almost) never handle well

Edgewise

Legendary Pubber
Joined
Sep 27, 2017
Messages
4,277
Reaction score
8,110
This is a thread for folks to list/describe real-life situations that are rarely, if ever, modeled by RPGs to their satisfaction.

Obviously, "satisfaction" is a subjective quality. Some people don't care too much about realism as long as the mechanics are fun. And there can be a lot of reasons why mechanics aren't satisfying. Maybe it's hard to capture the nuances of reality without overcomplicated rules. Sometimes it's the tension between Fun and Realism. And sometimes it's just some little thing that always nags at you because you, like most serious role-players, are a natural-born pedant (note: including myself here).

I'll list a few nits that keep coming up for me:
  • Armor: I've seen modifiers to-hit, and DR, and combinations of the two. None of those are particularly satisfying. These days I'm happiest with DR rolls. But then there's the question of weapon type vs. armor type, and simulating the kinds of attacks that make armor completely irrelevant. There's always an edge case that nags the hell out of me. And don't get me started on how I've never seen a system modify a PCs perception based on helmets.
  • Character progression: It's just never naturalistic. Some systems give you XP (or whatever the system calls them) for completing goals. More detailed systems give you XP for succeeding at a skill, applied specifically to that skill. And there are tons of permutations of all of these. But none of them really capture the interplay between training, practice and real-world experience. In the real world, different skills "level-up" at drastically different rates, and benefit from different kinds of learning.
  • Fatigue: The main problem with modeling fatigue is that it's absolutely never fun. It adds a boring layer of management, and often leads to "death spiral" situations. Most games only model fatigue in special circumstances where it might actually be interesting. Any game I've played that simulates fatigue realistically has ended up being...tiresome.
I could go on! But what are some of your personal bête noires? And are there the rare exceptions that get things right?
 
Most of what tends to nag at me revolves around the modeling of hand-to-hand combat, armed or not, particularly when it comes to players being able to make strategically creative moves. Things like deliberately making a clumsy overhead swing to draw an opponent's attention (and defensive moves) upwards just to provide a clear opening for something like a kick to the knee. I have yet to find that satisfactory mechanical midpoint where you have enough complexity to do interesting things without it slowing combat to a crawl. I can model it on the fly in when it comes to players attacking an NPC ("that makes sense, so you get a +2 to hit"), but doing the same in reverse (NPC attack on a PC) tends to make players mad. When push comes to shove, though, there isn't enough combat in most of my games to make it worth going with more complexity and slower rounds.
 
I haven't seen it in play yet, but the Mythras fatigue system seems pretty elegant, and is also capable of being used to handle blood loss, dehydration, exposure, asphyxiation, and numerous other ailments and afflictions etc ...

Typing that out also made me think of Rolemaster, which had a complex fatigue system I never used, but I actually wonder if you could roll fatigue into general hit point loss, given that hit points in RM already represent blood loss, shock, bruising and some forms of exhaustion, rather than serious individual injuries. It should be doable.

GURPS has a fairly detailed system of training for skill increases, and Mythras has a simple but functional one. I would say both systems go a fair way to covering skill increase via both use and training. Very slow advancement in Classic Traveller also works well with the assumption of low skill values and veteran PCs.

There was a time when I thought far too much about this sort of thing but, these days, I'm fairly relaxed, as long as a system is coherent and functional. Give me armour as AC or armour as DR or some combination; as long as it works, I'm probably going to be good with it.

All that said:

Other than 1st edition Twilight 2000, basically no game does beaten zones for automatic fire to my satisfaction. The T2000 2nd ed/TNE rules theoretically work too, but require buckets of d20s, which is impractical.
 
Last edited:
I think it’s hard for systems that use skills to capture:
  • The interplay between general aptitude (I.e., attributes) and training or practice in particular skills. They tend to re-inforce one another in reality; practicing skills increases general aptitude in a given area.
  • The lumping/splitting of skills and how knowledge of one will give some help in using or learning a related one. Given the nature of most rpgs, this most often comes up with combat skills, but it applies to others as well, like languages: knowing Latin would make French or Italian easier to parse or learn, but not Polish.
 
  • Character progression: It's just never naturalistic. Some systems give you XP (or whatever the system calls them) for completing goals. More detailed systems give you XP for succeeding at a skill, applied specifically to that skill. And there are tons of permutations of all of these. But none of them really capture the interplay between training, practice and real-world experience. In the real world, different skills "level-up" at drastically different rates, and benefit from different kinds of learning.

I have played games that did it well, the problem with most games is that want both advancement and events that pan out in short periods of time. I've run D&D campaigns which lasted weeks or months in game time and saw the characters go from level 1 to 10. This kind of ultra rapid advance can never feel organic even if most aren't as extreme as D&D. Games like Pendragon and Traveller can do it much better because they operate on a model that allows time. Ars Magica looks like it's pretty good at it too, but I've never managed to get a group together for that.

Personally, I think my ideal system would drop experience mechanics completely and allow characters to improve skills only by spending game months of time on them. Maybe with some kind of mechanic about skills degrading if not maintained.
 
  • Armor: I've seen modifiers to-hit, and DR, and combinations of the two. None of those are particularly satisfying. These days I'm happiest with DR rolls. But then there's the question of weapon type vs. armor type, and simulating the kinds of attacks that make armor completely irrelevant. There's always an edge case that nags the hell out of me. And don't get me started on how I've never seen a system modify a PCs perception based on helmets.
Stormbringer did, way back in the day, and it's not exactly uncommon in games that are somewhat crunchy.
 
Other than 1st edition Twilight 2000, basically no game does beaten zones for automatic fire to my satisfaction. The T2000 2nd ed/TNE rules theoretically work too, but require buckets of d20s, which is impractical.
Twilight:2000 2e used buckets of d6s (hit on a'1'), and evolved into the 'buckets of d20s' version TNE used. I'm a great fan of both.

GURPS has a rule for beaten zones that mostly works, and is possibly more realistic, but the way it works, when combined with GURPS' 1-second turn, does not work to my satisfaction.

As for my thing - None of the vehicle/spaceship/everything else design systems I've looked at do what I want. Some come close, but they all fall short. They're too fiddly, or they're not detailed enough, or they've got assumptions I don't want baked in and they fight me when I try to change them, or they 'describe' when I want to build, and so it goes.
 
Personally, I think my ideal system would drop experience mechanics completely and allow characters to improve skills only by spending game months of time on them. Maybe with some kind of mechanic about skills degrading if not maintained.
That’s what I decided to do for my G.I.Joe game I’ve been working on. Characters can only improve a couple skills every six months of game time and attributes can only increase a couple times over a career.
 
That’s what I decided to do for my G.I.Joe game I’ve been working on. Characters can only improve a couple skills every six months of game time and attributes can only increase a couple times over a career.
This approach works really well for games where the genre conventions and expectations give you nice long stretches of baked-in down time. It feels really out of place in some other games though, often D&D-adjacent ones, where the expectation of months of downtime isn't the same.
 
This is a thread for folks to list/describe real-life situations that are rarely, if ever, modeled by RPGs to their satisfaction.

Obviously, "satisfaction" is a subjective quality. Some people don't care too much about realism as long as the mechanics are fun. And there can be a lot of reasons why mechanics aren't satisfying. Maybe it's hard to capture the nuances of reality without overcomplicated rules. Sometimes it's the tension between Fun and Realism. And sometimes it's just some little thing that always nags at you because you, like most serious role-players, are a natural-born pedant (note: including myself here).

I'll list a few nits that keep coming up for me:
  • Armor: I've seen modifiers to-hit, and DR, and combinations of the two. None of those are particularly satisfying. These days I'm happiest with DR rolls. But then there's the question of weapon type vs. armor type, and simulating the kinds of attacks that make armor completely irrelevant. There's always an edge case that nags the hell out of me. And don't get me started on how I've never seen a system modify a PCs perception based on helmets.
WFRP has Perception penalties for helmets, but I don't think you guys, daredevils that you are, have ever worn helmets when I've run I've run it for you. In know I've run other systems that do it, but drawing a blank on them at the moment.
  • Character progression: It's just never naturalistic. Some systems give you XP (or whatever the system calls them) for completing goals. More detailed systems give you XP for succeeding at a skill, applied specifically to that skill. And there are tons of permutations of all of these. But none of them really capture the interplay between training, practice and real-world experience. In the real world, different skills "level-up" at drastically different rates, and benefit from different kinds of learning.
GURPS, at least back in the day when I ran it, assigned every skill a difficulty level, and the XP cost to advance it was based on that. That meant that learning to shoot was a lot cheaper than learning Nuclear Physics. It's good simulation, but it creates the game design issue that in a typical game you use your Shooting skill a dozen times a session, and Nuclear Physics maybe once a session if you are lucky.
  • Fatigue: The main problem with modeling fatigue is that it's absolutely never fun. It adds a boring layer of management, and often leads to "death spiral" situations. Most games only model fatigue in special circumstances where it might actually be interesting. Any game I've played that simulates fatigue realistically has ended up being...tiresome.
Yeah, I would really like to have a good Fatigue system, but I've encountered the same issues. Tiring an opponent out should be a valid tactic in combat, but as you say, it's never fun. Part of the issue is the round-by-round nature of RPG combat means a character taking a defensive stance to wear an over-eager attacker down would play out as round after round of nothing interesting happening.
Indeed, completing the thread on the first post is the kind of efficiency the pub needs!
We clearly need a tangent to keep the thread alive.
I think it’s hard for systems that use skills to capture:
  • The interplay between general aptitude (I.e., attributes) and training or practice in particular skills. They tend to re-inforce one another in reality; practicing skills increases general aptitude in a given area.
During the height of WoD games, I really came to hate the way attributes had the same mechanical weight as a skill.
  • The lumping/splitting of skills and how knowledge of one will give some help in using or learning a related one. Given the nature of most rpgs, this most often comes up with combat skills, but it applies to others as well, like languages: knowing Latin would make French or Italian easier to parse or learn, but not Polish.
I can remember there was a trend to have synergistic bonuses with skills. Having Skill A gave you a bonus to do x with Skill B. It was one of those ideas that seemed awesome when you read the rules, but would usually be forgotten at the table.
 
I have played games that did it well, the problem with most games is that want both advancement and events that pan out in short periods of time. I've run D&D campaigns which lasted weeks or months in game time and saw the characters go from level 1 to 10. This kind of ultra rapid advance can never feel organic even if most aren't as extreme as D&D. Games like Pendragon and Traveller can do it much better because they operate on a model that allows time. Ars Magica looks like it's pretty good at it too, but I've never managed to get a group together for that.

Personally, I think my ideal system would drop experience mechanics completely and allow characters to improve skills only by spending game months of time on them. Maybe with some kind of mechanic about skills degrading if not maintained.
D&D 3E is where this problem really got out of control, as it sped up character progression. On top of that, they gave characters more widgets when they leveled, which made it feel even more extreme.
 
I have played games that did it well, the problem with most games is that want both advancement and events that pan out in short periods of time. I've run D&D campaigns which lasted weeks or months in game time and saw the characters go from level 1 to 10. This kind of ultra rapid advance can never feel organic even if most aren't as extreme as D&D. Games like Pendragon and Traveller can do it much better because they operate on a model that allows time. Ars Magica looks like it's pretty good at it too, but I've never managed to get a group together for that.

Personally, I think my ideal system would drop experience mechanics completely and allow characters to improve skills only by spending game months of time on them. Maybe with some kind of mechanic about skills degrading if not maintained.

Counterpoint, a lot of adventuring skills, or any critical skills, are developed by testing them in a do-or-die situation, repeatedly. There is no substituting for experience. Simply training for long periods of time does not create a master at a skill.

For me, the system that almost never works is haggling. The systems tend to fall back on the PC's ability to patter, without regard to knowledge of prices, or the elasticity of the market for the thing itself, or the difference in time-frame between retail and wholesale, or networking.
 
Games like Pendragon and Traveller can do it much better because they operate on a model that allows time.
Yeah, I had Traveller in the back of my head as the exception when I wrote that point. I don't think this approach works for every game, unfortunately, because the whole progression thing can be a huge motivator for players, so there's a drive to gamify those mechanics.
Ars Magica looks like it's pretty good at it too, but I've never managed to get a group together for that.
I think that's going to go on my tombstone.
 
My issue with grappling is that any system that satisfies my personal level of interest and expertise will end up being hugely detailed and perhaps unplayable.
The funny thing is that with D&D, I've recently become persuaded that pinning someone with grappling can and should be handled by unarmed attacks with subdual damage. Since HP represent a kind of abstract "resistance to defeat," (1) they can stand-in to represent that situation, and (2) it's a little unfair if there's a mechanic to completely short-circuit that with a lucky roll.

But that approach really only works for D&D.
 
Counterpoint, a lot of adventuring skills, or any critical skills, are developed by testing them in a do-or-die situation, repeatedly. There is no substituting for experience. Simply training for long periods of time does not create a master at a skill.
I would argue that real-world skills require an interplay of training, practice and experience. For instance, certain tips and techniques in combat skills are unlikely to occur to you in the middle of a fight to the death. You're going to learn those in training, hone them with practice, and perfect them (in the sense of being able to make them work for you) in actual combat.
 
Other than 1st edition Twilight 2000, basically no game does beaten zones for automatic fire to my satisfaction. The T2000 2nd ed/TNE rules theoretically work too, but require buckets of d20s, which is impractical.
Automatic fire is definitely one of those mechanics I've rarely seen done right.

I was thinking about something related to this just the other day: I don't know if I've seen a game that properly represents the advantages of firing ranged weapons into groups of enemies. It should be easier to score a hit with less control over which target is actually struck.
 
The funny thing is that with D&D, I've recently become persuaded that pinning someone with grappling can and should be handled by unarmed attacks with subdual damage. Since HP represent a kind of abstract "resistance to defeat," (1) they can stand-in to represent that situation, and (2) it's a little unfair if there's a mechanic to completely short-circuit that with a lucky roll.

But that approach really only works for D&D.
Yeah. Generally systems that use HP don't handle submissions of any kind well without a little attention. I think the above work fine at the mook level mind you, and well, but I can't even imagine the tedium of two 10th level bear totem barbarians wrestling. It's the massive sacks of HP that sink grappling generally for D&D.
 
I don't think this approach works for every game, unfortunately, because the whole progression thing can be a huge motivator for players, so there's a drive to gamify those mechanics.

I feel like this has been an idea that is almost universally accepted in RPG design without actually being true - or, at least, I think it's an entirely unnecessary motivator. There's so much more to RPGs that it's simply not needed as a motivator and so often gets in the way of running a coherent game with high verisimilitude.
 
RPG rules sets are bad at simulating captivity and prison narratives. Stories about prisoners and prison breaks feature a slow gathering of observations over time, careful planning, and a very measured pace. Players of an RPG hate having their characters confined, and they get impatient with the removal of agency. They want to break out right now.
 
The funny thing is that with D&D, I've recently become persuaded that pinning someone with grappling can and should be handled by unarmed attacks with subdual damage. Since HP represent a kind of abstract "resistance to defeat," (1) they can stand-in to represent that situation, and (2) it's a little unfair if there's a mechanic to completely short-circuit that with a lucky roll.

But that approach really only works for D&D.
Douglas Cole figured out a system of control points for both the GURPS version and the Dungeon Grappling version. Of the two he like the Dungeon Grappling version better.

Instead of inflicting damage you inflict control. Increasing control means "bad things" happen to the target like being hindered, restrained, or incapacitated. Plus you can do certain things like inflict pain at varying levels of control.

GURPS Technical Grappling works with a skill based system like GURPS, Dungeon Grappling works with classic D&D (S&W), 5e or Pathfinder.
 
I feel like this has been an idea that is almost universally accepted in RPG design without actually being true - or, at least, I think it's an entirely unnecessary motivator. There's so much more to RPGs that it's simply not needed as a motivator and so often gets in the way of running a coherent game with high verisimilitude.
I think it all depends on the game. tbh I'm mainly referring to OSR D&D, which has the whole XP-for-GP thing. In this case, it encourages exploration where adventurers might otherwise be inclined to be overly cautious. A lot of people balk at XP-for-GP without understanding its purpose.

I think you're analysis is spot-on for more grounded games where PCs don't ascend to those kinds of mythical heights. With games like Traveller and Call of Cthulhu, it's not hard to imagine dispensing entirely with character progression.
 
Players of an RPG hate having their characters confined, and they get impatient with the removal of agency. They want to break out right now.
Such players would probably appreciate a Blades in the Dark treatment of those situations. It has good mechanics for complicated heists, schemes and plans, if you're into simulating the cinematic feeling of such scenarios without actually, you know, playing them out.
 
My own addition to the thread: Social situations in general, and seduction in particular:gunslinger:!
This is a thread for folks to list/describe real-life situations that are rarely, if ever, modeled by RPGs to their satisfaction.

Obviously, "satisfaction" is a subjective quality. Some people don't care too much about realism as long as the mechanics are fun. And there can be a lot of reasons why mechanics aren't satisfying. Maybe it's hard to capture the nuances of reality without overcomplicated rules. Sometimes it's the tension between Fun and Realism. And sometimes it's just some little thing that always nags at you because you, like most serious role-players, are a natural-born pedant (note: including myself here).
YESyesYESyesYES!!! Someone who understands me:gooselove:!

I'll list a few nits that keep coming up for me:
  • Armor: I've seen modifiers to-hit, and DR, and combinations of the two. None of those are particularly satisfying. These days I'm happiest with DR rolls. But then there's the question of weapon type vs. armor type, and simulating the kinds of attacks that make armor completely irrelevant. There's always an edge case that nags the hell out of me. And don't get me started on how I've never seen a system modify a PCs perception based on helmets.
Agreed. As stated in the thread, I think that random DR would wok best.
Also, GURPS, WFRP and Blade of the Iron Throne both modify perception based on choice of helmets, IIRC. And I impose the same in Mythras (don't even remember if it's there, it is in my games).

  • Fatigue: The main problem with modeling fatigue is that it's absolutely never fun. It adds a boring layer of management, and often leads to "death spiral" situations. Most games only model fatigue in special circumstances where it might actually be interesting. Any game I've played that simulates fatigue realistically has ended up being...tiresome.
Ain't it just natural? "To do it, do it", as they say in PbtA...:grin:


Grappling.




Just saying

Or if you want the D&D variant by the same author


View attachment 77871

My issue with grappling is that any system that satisfies my personal level of interest and expertise will end up being hugely detailed and perhaps unplayable. That's on me, obviously. Thanks for the links though, I may check the second one out (I don't GURPS).
If you haven't checked Dungeon Grappling, by all means, to so. I'd be rather interested in your opinion...:thumbsup:

During the height of WoD games, I really came to hate the way attributes had the same mechanical weight as a skill.
Yes. That's a big reason why I liked Atomic Highway so much!

I can remember there was a trend to have synergistic bonuses with skills. Having Skill A gave you a bonus to do x with Skill B. It was one of those ideas that seemed awesome when you read the rules, but would usually be forgotten at the table.
My Orcish Diplomancer didn't forget it! He had +21 to Diplomacy at 2nd level...:shade:

Counterpoint, a lot of adventuring skills, or any critical skills, are developed by testing them in a do-or-die situation, repeatedly. There is no substituting for experience. Simply training for long periods of time does not create a master at a skill.
Well, in do-or-suffer, at any rate...
For me, the system that almost never works is haggling. The systems tend to fall back on the PC's ability to patter, without regard to knowledge of prices, or the elasticity of the market for the thing itself, or the difference in time-frame between retail and wholesale, or networking.
Presumably, those should be things the PCs know, and haggling PCs merely use them better.
"By the health of my grandmother, I swear it is my final offer! 5SP!"
"You want my children to go hungry, you son of a leprous goat! I said one SP, I'm going to raise that to 2, but take it now, or three generations of your kin shall suffer for your sin of greed, asking 5 SP for the bar of scrap iron a raider probably gave you himself in order to save himself from the embarrassment of using it!"
"By the memory of my great-grandmother that no one alive have ever seen showing greed, this offer is shameless! At least 4 sp should be paid for this fine sword of exquisite craftmanship!"
And so it goes.

I would argue that real-world skills require an interplay of training, practice and experience. For instance, certain tips and techniques in combat skills are unlikely to occur to you in the middle of a fight to the death. You're going to learn those in training, hone them with practice, and perfect them (in the sense of being able to make them work for you) in actual combat.
Yes. I'd love to see a system that does the whole cycle of learning - practicing - testing - analyzing - reevaluating - and then going to learning again (for the areas you identified as deficient)...::honkhonk:

Automatic fire is definitely one of those mechanics I've rarely seen done right.

I was thinking about something related to this just the other day: I don't know if I've seen a game that properly represents the advantages of firing ranged weapons into groups of enemies. It should be easier to score a hit with less control over which target is actually struck.
Don't all games who require adjacent enemies to roll a lucky check to not be struck by a missed shot do that already?

Yeah. Generally systems that use HP don't handle submissions of any kind well without a little attention. I think the above work fine at the mook level mind you, and well, but I can't even imagine the tedium of two 10th level bear totem barbarians wrestling. It's the massive sacks of HP that sink grappling generally for D&D.

Unarmed combat in general between two such opponents will be very hard to bear.
And now you two have just re-stated my issue with D&D in general, which makes it hard to bear...:shade:
Ah well.
RPG rules sets are bad at simulating captivity and prison narratives. Stories about prisoners and prison breaks feature a slow gathering of observations over time, careful planning, and a very measured pace. Players of an RPG hate having their characters confined, and they get impatient with the removal of agency. They want to break out right now.
But is that a mechanics problem, or a player problem:tongue:?
 
I think it’s hard for systems that use skills to capture:
  • The interplay between general aptitude (I.e., attributes) and training or practice in particular skills. They tend to re-inforce one another in reality; practicing skills increases general aptitude in a given area.
  • The lumping/splitting of skills and how knowledge of one will give some help in using or learning a related one. Given the nature of most rpgs, this most often comes up with combat skills, but it applies to others as well, like languages: knowing Latin would make French or Italian easier to parse or learn, but not Polish.
This is somewhat covered by default skills, though that usually doesn't reduce the cost of increasing the related skills. I have seen instances where there is a discount on multiple related skills. Also some systems have general skills and specialization within those skills that somewhat addresses this. I have seen related languages charts, first for Hero.
 
My issue with grappling is that any system that satisfies my personal level of interest and expertise will end up being hugely detailed and perhaps unplayable. That's on me, obviously. Thanks for the links though, I may check the second one out (I don't GURPS).
Yea, grappling seems to especially demand detail in maneuvers.

I do appreciate Cold Iron at least has a workable grappling system even if it is abstract (well, OK, I prefer more abstract combat systems anyway...). OD&D had nothing, we never used the rules in AD&D, and RQ1 has nothing (a bit more in RQ2 but still not very usable). The challenge with Cold Iron's system that some would probably raise is that it's very rarely worth a PC trying to initiate grappling. The initiation works great for non-weapon using creatures, but exposes a weapon user because your weapons are useless for initiating grappling. That could probably be changed, but I'm always wary of tinkering too much with a game that works as a game.
 
Douglas Cole figured out a system of control points for both the GURPS version and the Dungeon Grappling version. Of the two he like the Dungeon Grappling version better.

Heh.

So, there are in fact THREE versions, so to speak, of the core system:

GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. Written in like 2012-2013 and published much later due to interference from the Ogre Kickstarter. My very first published book, it suffers - in retrospect - from me and my editors not really understanding how folks would approach it. It uses the same organization structure as GURPS Martial Arts in terms of what goes where, which means you get a LOT of advanced, very optional rules thrown at you in the first chapter. It PLAYS better than it reads, and it needs to be read 2-3 times to really get it. Well, first book.

Then came a short article in Tim Shorts' Manor #8 which applied the same principles to Swords & Wizardry content. It's short, to the point, and it works.

Dungeon Grappling was my first self-published book, crowdfunded and delivered on time. It presents the core concepts and some expansions on those for all of D&D5, S&W, and the Pathfinder RPG (1.0) in a single book. It still holds up.

Finally, once I got the license to publish third-party material for SJGames' Dungeon Fantasy RPG, I got permission to publish as a stand-alone a massively condensed and simplified version of Technical Grappling. I called it Fantastic Dungeon Grappling (using two of the three words in the DFRPG name). It benefitted from five or seven years of at-the-table play and a great deal more maturity in my own writing. It accomplishes more in eight pages than TG did in 50. Combined with a blog post by The Chaotic GM, it REALLY does all that Technical Grappling did.




Instead of inflicting damage you inflict control. Increasing control means "bad things" happen to the target like being hindered, restrained, or incapacitated. Plus you can do certain things like inflict pain at varying levels of control.

A few notes on this: control is considered in my mind a damage type. It's in the same "currency" of damage regardless of the system you play in, and is almost always compared to ST when such a stat exists (that makes the OSE/OSR application to monsters harder, but we muddle through).

You can either let the points do their passive thing (usually hit penalties, AC degradation), or use them as thresholds to enable "cool follow on moves," or spend them directly to do other fun things (like do direct damage, increase the damage of a blow, etc).

It requires fairly low bookkeeping relative to the utility it provides at the table.

GURPS Technical Grappling works with a skill based system like GURPS, Dungeon Grappling works with classic D&D (S&W), 5e or Pathfinder.
 
This is a thread for folks to list/describe real-life situations that are rarely, if ever, modeled by RPGs to their satisfaction.

Obviously, "satisfaction" is a subjective quality. Some people don't care too much about realism as long as the mechanics are fun. And there can be a lot of reasons why mechanics aren't satisfying. Maybe it's hard to capture the nuances of reality without overcomplicated rules. Sometimes it's the tension between Fun and Realism. And sometimes it's just some little thing that always nags at you because you, like most serious role-players, are a natural-born pedant (note: including myself here).

I'll list a few nits that keep coming up for me:
  • Armor: I've seen modifiers to-hit, and DR, and combinations of the two. None of those are particularly satisfying. These days I'm happiest with DR rolls. But then there's the question of weapon type vs. armor type, and simulating the kinds of attacks that make armor completely irrelevant. There's always an edge case that nags the hell out of me. And don't get me started on how I've never seen a system modify a PCs perception based on helmets.
Burning Wheel has some randomness in how armor works, and does account for different types of weapons to some extent.

RuneQuest has had helmet rules since the 1980s, though they were someone's add on, but I have perception penalties for helmets.

  • Character progression: It's just never naturalistic. Some systems give you XP (or whatever the system calls them) for completing goals. More detailed systems give you XP for succeeding at a skill, applied specifically to that skill. And there are tons of permutations of all of these. But none of them really capture the interplay between training, practice and real-world experience. In the real world, different skills "level-up" at drastically different rates, and benefit from different kinds of learning.
I think here the problem ultimately is just capturing all of that ends up being too fiddly. At least systems like RuneQuest allow advancing skills separately. And training cost does vary between skills. And a few skills either can't be improved by training or can only be improved by training.
  • Fatigue: The main problem with modeling fatigue is that it's absolutely never fun. It adds a boring layer of management, and often leads to "death spiral" situations. Most games only model fatigue in special circumstances where it might actually be interesting. Any game I've played that simulates fatigue realistically has ended up being...tiresome.
I could go on! But what are some of your personal bête noires? And are there the rare exceptions that get things right?
Yea, fatigue is tricky. I haven't engaged it yet, but I've adapted Exhaustion Levels from 5e to Cold Iron (which does have a fatigue system) to better handle the situations, but I acknowledge keeping track of fatigue in Cold Iron is a bit annoying (on the other hand, if you track the number of turns of combat, combat fatigue isn't THAT hard to track).
 
This approach works really well for games where the genre conventions and expectations give you nice long stretches of baked-in down time. It feels really out of place in some other games though, often D&D-adjacent ones, where the expectation of months of downtime isn't the same.
Yea, genre conventions definitely much with this. D&D's zero to hero pretty much requires fast progression. Advancement takes a long time in RQ, and I'm actually proposing shortening it because it just seems wrong for PCs to be down for a season or two after a good treasure haul.
 
I can remember there was a trend to have synergistic bonuses with skills. Having Skill A gave you a bonus to do x with Skill B. It was one of those ideas that seemed awesome when you read the rules, but would usually be forgotten at the table.
Burning Wheel has a nice system for skill synergy that isn't forgotten at the table. You can get an extra die or two (depending on how good the second skill is) for engaging a second skill in an attempt. It also allows other PCs to aid, and they don't need to use the same skill.
 
Best Selling RPGs - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Back
Top