What's a Good Gamist Game?

Started by Ghostwheel, April 24, 2012, 02:26:03 AM

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Sorry if this is in the wrong forum, but had a question for the people who frequent this board... I'm a first-time poster, so please be gentle :-)

I've been looking around, and haven't found a good gamist RPG. I'm looking for something with tactical combat, where you can make on-the-fly decisions that change the outcome of the combat/specific rounds in meaningful ways, while still being challenging. I've tried various incarnations of D&D (3.5, PF, 4e), and the closest that's come is if you had D&D 3.5 focused on Tome of Battle. A primarily encounter-centered resource management system is a big part of what I'm looking for, as well as a strong and balanced encounter system that allows you to quickly and easily create encounters for the players with a good idea of how challenging that encounter will be all the while staying on the RNG. I far prefered ToB over D&D 4e due to the ability to regain encounter powers (maneuver) without having to spam one's at-wills, and having to decide if one should use a power, regain the use of powers, or save powers for later, all the while staying within the action economy. That cerebral type of gameplay is very attractive to myself and the friends I play with, but unfortunately the encounters 3.5 brings to bear are atrocious, both in the way they challenge a party and how difficult the system asserts they should be.

So is there an RPG system like that? Where players can feel awesome and as though their tactics matter, and where they have multiple options that they can use, and perhaps reuse depending on the situation?


Not sure if it's good, but it is sure as gamist as can be: Rune RPG ( http://www.atlas-games.com/rune/ )
Based on the Rune hack-n-slash PC-game. Also, it has vikings.

David Artman

Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages

Ron Edwards

To those who've replied: Please don't reply to initial posts that do not include actual play content.

Hi Ghostweel (it's OK, I'm being gentle with you),

You're being very clear about what you're looking for, which I appreciate. It would help immensely if you were to describe one of your experiences with one of the atrocious encounters characteristic of D&D 3.5. What that will tell us is what you find atrocious, which is to say, we will be able to provide suggestions that match your preferences.

Best, Ron


Thanks for the responses!

So some the problems that I have with D&D 3.5 include... (I'm sure a few more will come to mind if I spend some more time thinking on this.)
Monsters that are rated at a certain CR and fail to actually be at that CR. (Dragons, for example. Another is a beholder--what's a warblade going to do against all those rays?)
Monsters that have abilities that far outpace the kinds of abilities PCs have, and can thus easily dominate them. (Beholder, mind flayer, etc. Remember, the kind of party I'm envisioning is one made mostly out of ToB-type characters.)
The encounter system being based around a single monster of the characters' level. (In order to have the same number of creatures as PCs, one has to have pitifully weak monsters if you base encounters around the "building encounters" table in the DMG).

I much prefer the 4e encounter paradigm, and think that they had a lot of good ideas and design philosophies... but failed in the implementation, especially as far as the PCs go (still having lots of one's resources tied to a per-day mechanic, not having ways to recharge encounter powers, being reduced to spamming at-wills after blowing through encounter powers, etc).

Callan S.

Sometimes I think the duration of an RPG multiplies the effect of it's warts.

Like say you play a boardgame that lasts for an hour and it has some things that bug you. Now what if the boardgame lasted for 6 hours? That'd multiply what bugged you by six!

Now take an RPG. Some of the dread flaws - well, are they that bad, or is it because you plan on playing this for three years? Thus multiplying the bug by a butt load! Never mind if you want the much vaunted 'forever' campaign!

How long do you intend to play a campaign for? Or how long do you estimate it'd go for?


I think a campaign would probably take around 6-9 months depending on whether the DM would want to continue DMing and the players enjoy the game, and on average sessions go around 6-8 hours or so.


So... there's nothing out there? :-/

Moreno R.

Quote from: Ghostwheel on April 27, 2012, 07:22:28 AM
So... there's nothing out there? :-/

Hi Ghostwheel!

The problem, as I see it, is that you ask for a D&D "done better", not for something really different from D&D. All the problems you listed are about balancing encounters or something like that, for example: where other gamist games have no encounters at all.

I don't really know any good gamist game that is simply a "D&D done better". First, because I suspect that D&D has become so complicated and complex that can't really made to work very well without a lot of effort, and second, because the world is full of D&D clones, hacks and variants.  Most of the people who post here at the forge prefer to design very different games, more personal and original.

My question now is: do you really want to play only a "D&D done better" because you tried a lot of different games and discovered that D&D is really the one you want to play, or you defaulted to it because it' the one everybody play?

In the first case I can't really help you, my knowledge of recent editions of D&D is negligible (I stopped playing D&D with AD&D2), in the second case it could be important to understand what you really like about D&D, and try to find different games that have more of it. But I am not talking about specific rules: if you say to me "I like the CR rules" you are talking arab to me. No other game has CR rules, there is no game to suggest with CR rules, what would be useful is a description of what you like in the act of playing (Conan would answer "to kill my enemies and hear the lamentations of their women", for example, not "I like the roll to hit rules")

Depending on the answer, it's possible that you are not searching for a gamist game after all (it's one of the reasons to talk in terms of actual play and not theory jargon when talking about these things)

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)


Hrmmm, it's a little hard for me to speak in those terms since I'm not completely familiar with them, but I'll try my best.

I enjoy the feeling of being powerful, of, as Conan says, killing my enemies and hearing the lamentations of their women. But I also like resource management and multiple options, each with their own advantages and drawbacks, where I can feel as though my cunning and decisions make a difference in a way that isn't necessarily immediately obvious. I like the tactical aspect, where you position just right to get a bonus and deny your enemy their bonus, where you can do all kinds of things to eke out another numerical bonus out of combat, and defeat your enemy not only because you did well from a logistical sense (building a character sheet) but also due to the exact actions you took in combat that allowed you to do awesome things.

Does that help at all? Or is there something obvious I should address that I missed?

Ron Edwards


I think you're answering really well. At the risk of making our replies seem like an endless interrogation, I'll have a much better idea of your preferences with one last question:

In what way are you OK with losing?

Or slightly differently, what ways to lose are not fun?

As an example, when I'm playing in the way you described in the last post, I'm OK with losing due to a statistically unlikely but possible dice outcome. If it's clear to me and everyone that I made the right decision at the right time, for the best chance, and then the dice went ahead and said, "high chance isn't always going to happen," then I might curse blasphemously and appeal to heaven to witness this horrible betrayal by the dice ... but you know, I get the credit for playing well, and we all accept that it doesn't always work out.

I'm not OK with losing because someone else had the perfect combination of options which yielded no such chance of losing on their part. I despise combo-lockdowns that not even a good roll can beat. Nor am I OK with losing because someone else had the option to introduce something utterly and completely absent in the fiction up until that moment.

I've found that there are people with the opposite preferences from mine - they live for the moment when their carefully-crafted combo proves literally unbeatable, or they take pleasure in being able to manipulate the fiction one step ahead of their opponents. In a game where a bad roll can upset their plans, these people say "That sucks!" in a very different way than I might, upon that event - I'm groaning but laughing, ready to say "That's life," whereas they had literally no fun and at best are ready to step away from the game.

So I'd really prefer Tunnels & Trolls whereas the other players I'm thinking of would prefer ... well, I don't know, someone else can provide an example for them.

You don't have to map your preferences directly in comparison to mine. I provided the above descriptions to show you how I'd answer my questions, and you can use whatever variables or details of play you'd like.

Best, Ron


3d6 over d20

Sorry about not replying sooner, had a hectic weekend.

As far as the examples you gave are concerned, I'm fine with "losing" to the dice even when I did everything wrong occasionally. I'm a great believer that statistically the average will eventually come out, and it just means that if the system is tight enough and works well mathematically that it won't result in something that leads to Very Bad News (like a TPK or something similar). That's actually why I prefer 3d6 over the traditional d20--small bonuses that come from tactics make a much bigger impact there because the RNG is so much smaller, tighter, and weighted towards the middle.

And yes, I also dislike lockdown--that's one of the things I dislike about 3.5, the power of wizards and similar spellcasters to decide the outcome of an encounter through a single action that effectively locks down enemies (blind being an example of something that's effectively lockdown). I'm fine with the last part though, losing because someone else has an option, as long as the option was decided beforehand and is part of the balanced game. (A martial artist who was horribly weak in the past going super saiyan or something because it was included as part of his class or whatever I could work with, for example.)

One way that I enjoy losing is temporarily. I love winning by the skin of my teeth, knowing in the end that it was because of my choices and tactics that I won, because I played intelligently and it lead to a good outcome. I love that rush of adrenaline as I see the possibility of losing permanently looming closer, but pulling out the win not because of DM fiat or pure random chance, but because I weighed the dice more in my favor due to my choices. I enjoy having a flow to the battle, where first one side has the advantage and then the other, the battle shifting from one side to the other. Fights like that are very fun for me, even if I'm temporarily losing half the time.

However, feeling useless and/or locked down isn't fun. Winning without any sort of challenge isn't fun either, and even though I'd won, I'd feel like it had been a loss. Permanently dying (losing?) isn't fun either, since in that case I'd lose all the time, effort, and attachment I'd developed towards a character--though automatically ressurecting or the like should stay in video games in my opinion, and doesn't feel like it fits well in the realm of RPGs (or it takes away some of the thrill and risk).

Anything else I could add to give you a better feel for the game I'm searching for?


Quote from: Ghostwheel on April 30, 2012, 10:05:56 PM
3d6 over d20
Whoops, that was supposed to be a note to get my thoughts in order and give me a reminder of how to structure my post, but I can't see an edit button with which to remove it... :-/


Ghostwheel, I have a very strong passion for gamist play, and my game of choice in this regard is 4th Edition D&D.  (At one point I was running two games a week and playing in one.)  I'd also be interested in hearing what you felt D&D 4th failed at implementing.  However, some of the things you mention disliking, such as status locks from spells, are highly minimized in 4th edition.

I'm personally of the opinion that we haven't really begun to master gamist rpg design; it's something everyone knows how to do, but no one really knows how to do well.  D&D is the cutting edge of gamist play with lots of crunchy bits.  All the other good gamist designs I know are based on much more streamlined systems, such as Agon and Beast Hunters.


Some of my problems with D&D 4e:

  • Abilities feel very standardized from what I've played (I've only been in 4-5 games thus far, though one or two only lasted a few sessions), so people feel very similar.
  • Battles feel like they last too long. Battles in my opinion should last 4-8 rounds, it feels like they last 10-20 rounds in 4e which can easily lead to boredom.
  • Battles seem to follow the same template almost every time. First few rounds you use encounter powers, after that you spam your at-wills until the end of the battle, which gets boring.
  • Tied to the last one, it's impossible to regain powers with actions (or some other way) to create tactical options with more depth.
  • The RNG is still based around a d20, so even if you get an advantage like moving just into position to get combat advantage, for many characters it doesn't make a difference.
  • Damage-wise, some characters feel much more powerful than others, even when they're supposed to A. fill the same role, and B. the less-damaging characters lack anything extra (like a status effect) to make them better.
  • Newbie traps still exist, things that look cool but are in fact a waste of resources which newbies take and don't make them any better.
  • There are many monsters that don't have a specific defense which is low enough to make much of a difference on a d20 RNG.
  • Lack of customizability of classes and multiclassing.
  • Scaling ability scores to the point where defenses can fall off the RNG on one side or another.
  • Lack of resource management which creates a lack of options in risk vs. reward
  • There being enough small bonuses that you can rack up in various ways that lead to falling off the RNG.
  • Races still shoehorn classes into them if you want to be viable.
  • The 15-minute workday still being present in 2 aspects - daily powers, and healing surges. Once someone begins to run out of either, they call a halt to rest.

Hrmmm... that's all I can think of off the top of my head. Like I said, I very much like many of their design principles, but the way they implemented/executed them just completely turned me off to the system for the most part.