Ignoring the role-playing aspect and thinking simply about numbers systems, what kind of system do you prefer when it comes to numbers? Do you like the crunchy, numbers-intensive style or do you prefer making numbers more superfluous overall, more of a background concern than anything concrete?
I think that comes down to which type of game I’m playing. If I’m playing a war simulation game, (think Warhammer 40K) then it’s a foregone conclusion there’s going to be too many rules, drilling down into layers and layers of how things are worded, and multiple page turns or trips to the appendix just to try to resolve a single attack or effect. And that, if I expect it, is very fun. There’s something to be said for that structure; there’s something scientific about it that tells you exactly how to think so you can learn and start to know what your strategy in any given situation ought to be.
On the other hand, if we’re talking high fantasy or, heaven help us, something more dorky and cartoony than that, I’d almost want every ability, skill check, whatever you have to roll on, to be DM’s discretion with a handful of modifiers that are all nicely lined up in the same place. The reason being, the point of those games is not to simulate a strictly laid out scenario, but to simulate being the character and adopting their philosophy and psychology in fantastical circumstances. If you notice the game and the mechanics too much when you’re making those decisions, you don’t really get to embrace those characters and have those fun (and hilariously cringy) conversations being the characters in the game, explaining how they think, seeing their mistakes and loving them for their quirks and goofiness or how they can get dead serious and unexpectedly dependable when it really matters, at times in the face of certain death. In other words, you want the rules to be really simple to understand and resolve so you can find out what happens next as quickly as possible.
While it’s fashionable on the internet these days to dog on D&D 3.0 / 3.5, that system was extremely efficient at allowing you to do that. (Unless you were playing Barbarian or some obscure Wizard or Priest prestige class, expanded rules race, etc.) That’s probably why it was massively popular at a time when tabletops were already starting to go out of style. I think 4.0 somewhat embraced this philosophy as well, though I’m less familiar with it.
I grew up playing an awful lot of tabletop RPGs (way too much if you ask my mum). There were no computers back then…
We played many different systems, but very little, if any at all, D&D, that we considered far too rigid and numbers-heavy. I think it isa lot less popular in France than in anglo-saxon countries, or maybe it is just me and my friends being weird.
MiddleEarth, Call of Cthulu, Reve de Dragons (the best ever, but probably only available in French), a lot of Vampires, several other obscure ones.
I always considered numbers to be a very minor support to the story. The lighter the system, the better. I introduced a few people to RPGs by just sitting with them and telling them a kind of “interactive story”, an RPG session with no paper or dice or anything at all, just talking.
Usually we would use dice and character sheets, but we were most of the time ignoring or heavily tweaking the rules if it fitted the narrative.
I liked it best when numbers played more of a support role to the story. And then, I preferred a Vampire: The Masquerade style (dice vs dice) vs DnD (dice vs arbitrary or hardcoded), so it felt more like I attack and You defend. As opposed to I attack, and your armor resists.
I also thought Rifts/Robotech (can’t remember the parent system…Palladium maybe(?)) was interesting. It was % based off your expertise level in a skill/mastery (1-100), with modifiers based on the difficulty of the action.
Vampire: The Masquerade was a great system, both in character creation and in gameplay. Very light, easy to use and flexible.
( Or Werewolves, but we all know vampires are cooler.)
Yeah, our sessions were very heavy on role-play (nothing too kinky… although we had some pretty attractive females in the group… also were LARPers), and just a little bit of dice, just for the combat portions. So much fun.
Best ‘tabletop’ RPG session I ever had was when our regular DnD DM justhas us empty our pockets on the table and says, “you wake up one day in a strange land, with only the things on the table in front of you. what do you do next?” Then, we had an 18 hour, marathon, impromptu gaming session based on absolutely nothing but all of our creativity. It was classic.
From 1979 until around 1986 I was a fanatical AD&D gamer. Even continued to run games while I was in the service when we’d be in garrison.
In 87’ I got hooked on WFRP. To this day, tonally that is probably the most influential a game system has ever been on my gaming.
In 2000 I picked up with 3e DnD and actually got on board and wrote a number of published supplements for Necromancy Games and Atlas Game in the first few years of 3e.
By the time 5e had come out I’d pretty much jettisoned DnD and was looking around for games that were less ‘computer gaming’ influenced.
Now, my table top games are more likely indie games like Symbaroum, Fate Condensed, Tiny GM and others.
I never use published worlds. The worlds and environment are always set in my long-running Teluria campaign world.
To bring this more on point to the original question. The reason why this has happened has been a lot of debate between my long time ttrpg friends. I realized about four or five years ago that everything that we loved about AD&D (1e to the youngsters) wasn’t the mechanics. It was the fact that even though in some ways it was mechanically ‘wonky’ it put a LOT of incentivizing into the players and definitely the DM to make shit up as you went.
What began to happen in ttrpgs over the years, and with the rise of computer games, was that they tried to balance and take out the inspiration. They attempted try to ‘define’ and formulate everything so nothing was ‘unanswered’ and everything could be answered in the rules. This has continued to the extent where real agency for your characters and agency for the DM telling the story has mostly atrophied.
So most ttrpgs I play nowadays will be the ones that don’t have an iron fist on balance and really, really emphasize and support the DM/GM doing anything and everything to make the story interesting. I firmly believe if a rule is in the way of doing this, I’m going to toss that rule.
When it comes to computer aRPGs though, I’m not like this because it’s not possible to have it be that ‘free-form’ primarily because of how the industry works and how the pool of people playing is way bigger than the 5 or 6 at my table.
Yeah, I lost interest around the time they started with the “you know all spells, and have X spell points to use when casting”. I think that was when Dark Sun came out? I can’t be certain. But our group used to play with hybrid rules, mainly from 2nd and 3rd editions. Anything that came later, we’d scavenge, and shoe horn into the old rules. I think our DM even used some D&D (not AD&D) points-based ruleset for creating Artifacts that was interesting.
BG3 is coming, Caius…
Not as free as a tabletop session, obviously, but Larian is doing a stellar job at giving this freedom of action feeling.
Sadly, I own it hand have played a good 30-40 hours in the open beta BUT, like many, many computer games, it gives me motion sickness do to the camera angle and screen movement. So I’ve actually stopped playing it because I could only play like an hour at a time before I’d have to stop and go lie down. It really sucks, but it’s been the case ever since 1st peson/3 person perspective games came on the market. I can’t play any of them.
And I really liked what I got to play. Loved the old BG1 and 2. So was looking forward to it.
I missed out on AD&D but I’ve always been really fond of the materials from that system. The artwork and some of the expansion material like the Psionic manual were legendary to those of us who came along too late to enjoy it firsthand. I was really young but a lot of my older friends were playing AD&D. To this day I’ve considered bugging some of my buddies and trying to run a session or two just to see what it would’ve been like. Alas, we’re all too spread out at this point, and I’m not sure several of them would have the time.
You guys were really lucky you got to experience it back then. If I ever get into making gaming content like I’d like to, I’m going to take a lot of inspiration from that era of tabletops and fantasy novels.
Grew up on dungeons and dragons 3.0/3.5
So for me, I dont really care about the rules so much as long as they give the player lots of options.
DnD 4/5 are okay, but they make every adventurer feel generic. Everyone can make a entertaining enough backstory, but what really makes the game interesting is having lots of options to multiclass and spread your abilities out.
I am also a huge fan of GURPs for that reason. You can make all sorts of whacky characters that can then be fun to explore a more narrative reason they got the way they are.
I dont like it when the rules are too hand wavy because it sorta defeats the purpose of playing a game. At that point you are basically just roleplaying. These are roleplaying games just rping on a forum is a different experience and not really what im looking for.
Numbers without additional content = math. There is nothing more cold then this .
You say that like its a bad thing.
Regular people find individuals who half their personality is math a little robotic or awkward.
…Regular people do, anyway.
Let’s put it this way… math and me is a story of neverending missunderstandings.
Well, if you’re going to get its name wrong, that’s never a good start.
Yeah it’s “Mac and me.” Same quality.
If the Mac’s are served with cheese I’m into a whole other mess . I guess all the offtopic stuff answersthe question about the importance of stone cold numbers as well?
I want to thank everyone for their replies. I haven’t had time to read them yet, having just gotten the time to make this post, but I appreciate the input. I’ll make personal replies tonight or tomorrow.