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Author Topic: What's a Good Gamist Game?  (Read 6446 times)
Willow
Member

Posts: 224


« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2012, 03:14:13 PM »

I would say I find some of those points debatable whether or not they are present in D&D, and I'd say some are a matter of taste, some are a matter of play technique, but there are some issues in there I'll certainly agree with you.  (Stacking bonuses, battles lasting too long.)

Some of these issues can be resolved with house rules- personally 3d6 vs d20 is not a dealbreaker for me, but I think that's a swap that's easy to implement and falls within the realm of 'still undeniably D&D.'  Other forums have extensively thought how to speed up combats, and spicing them up so they don't all follow the same path is something that comes with practice.

However, let's face facts: crunchy game design, ones with lots of powers and bennies to pick from (whatever you name them) takes a lot of effort.  That's why the indie-community largely hasn't touched it: we don't have the resources.  (Some exceptions certainly exist, Burning Wheel being the most evident; but it's not a gamist design by any means.)  So it falls to the big companies to produce the crunchy designs, and these are rarely designed with a coherent focus.

There are a lot of games that can produce functional crunchy-bits gamist play: Exalted and Weapons of the Gods/Legends of the Wulin are probably my favorites in that regard, but they have their own system warts and weren't even designed to be played with the same gamist intensity that went into D&D 4th.  For the hard core crunchy gamist, they pretty much have to hack and drift, and that doesn't matter if you're starting with GURPS or HERO or D&D: the most recent version of D&D just gets you there faster.
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Ghostwheel
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2012, 03:23:49 PM »

Some of these issues can be resolved with house rules- personally 3d6 vs d20 is not a dealbreaker for me, but I think that's a swap that's easy to implement and falls within the realm of 'still undeniably D&D.'

That's the thing though--the RNG in 4e isn't tight enough that 3d6 would be possible with the scaling +1s. People can already fall off the RNG on a d20 with those stacking bonuses, making the RNG smaller and more weighted towards the middle would just exacerbate the problem, making it not only worse, but also noticeable much faster.

I'm actually going through the process of creating my own gamist RPG with the design goals that are evident throughout my post thus far in mind, but I was wondering if I was reinventing the wheel, and if there might be something out there already that I could use instead of doing all the work to make a good, balanced system (which is thus far still tons of work).
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Anders Gabrielsson
Member

Posts: 100


« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2012, 02:24:37 AM »

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.
I've seen most of these problems pointed out before, and some I have encountered myself. Some have easy solutions and some don't, and I don't think it's possible to solve all of them at once, but maybe enough of them can be removed or reduced enough that you can find 4E enjoyable.

I won't go through all of them but I'll try to hit the big ones.

Character feeling "samey" is a common complaint. I don't see it myself, but it's true that compared to 3.x the design space for the powers in 4E is tighter. (Personally I find this an advantage as it makes for fewer weird special cases to remember.) It's less of an issue with the classes introduced later (PHB2-3 and Essentials), I think, as they have more unique mechanics.

Are you using the monsters from the MM1 and MM2? There were some problems with the math there - too many hit points, sometimes too high defenses. The ones from MM3 and the Monster Vaults are vastly better in this regard, and generally more fun. (There are some fairly simple changes you can make to the earlier monsters, particularly solos, to make them less "huge bag of hp"-like.) A more radical variant I've seen proposed is to cut hp in half, either for just the monsters or for monsters and PCs both, or allowing a single hit to eliminate a monster that's been bloodied.

As for combats feeling like they follow the same pattern, using interesting environments is key. A fight that takes place mostly in darkness (apart from what light the PCs bring), or partly underwater, or in tight spaces all make for different combats. Yes, on the most abstracted level you'll still usually be using up your encounter powers before going to the at-wills (with Twin Strike Rangers being a clear exception), but once you have a few encounter powers that still leaves a number of permutations. With shorter battles this also becomes less of an issue.

There are a few items and feats that allow recharging of encounter powers, usually in specific situations.

I'm not sure which classes you feel are imbalanced when it comes to damage output vs other abilities. I think it's generally accepted that the archer Ranger does more damage than other strikers and the Fighter can be built to do a lot of damage, but in my experience there's nothing like the Fighter/Caster gap in 3.x.

Multiclassing is indeed weak if you're not using the hybrids from PHB3. I don't think it's fair to say that customizability within classes is lacking, though - again, compared to 3.x, anyone but a full caster will have more options, often many, many more.

There is some class/race synergy, but with the class-race combo feats from the various Power books and the alternative ability scores that were published... somewhere (Dragon, I think? I have a printout somewhere; I'm sure they can be found on the net.) there are more viable combinations than it may first seem.

The 15 minute workday has been discussed extensively, and several solutions have been proposed. One is restricting the access to extended rests; another is using a more gradual, encounter-based recovery mechanic.
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Marshall Burns
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Posts: 573

American Wizard


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« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2012, 06:09:45 AM »

Hi Ghostwheel,
This is just a placeholder post 'til I get off work, but I wanted to say that there's some things I'd like to discuss here. I'm working on a D&D-inspired game right now and, while the stuff you're looking for doesn't line up 100% with what I'm looking for, I'd like to compare notes. I'll be back!
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Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
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« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2012, 11:52:34 AM »

Moderating time!

Hey - stop with the D&D 4E chit-chat, already. That content needs to be restricted to what's immediately relevant to the discussion.

Seriously, there are hundreds of places on the internet where you can go to vent or enthuse about this-or-that feature of this-or-that iteration of role-playing that goes by that name. Bring this thread back to a focused topic.

Best, Ron
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Ghostwheel
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #20 on: May 01, 2012, 05:42:57 PM »

So Ron, does my last on-topic reply help at all? I'm still not sure if I'm reinventing the wheel or covering new ground, and if a wheel is already invented, I'd rather use that instead of going through the massive amounts of work needed to finish this system I've been working on.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2012, 06:08:09 PM »

Ghostwheel, has your PC ever died whilst playing 4e? Even then, did it default that resurrections were available? The only real way to lose (rather than just hit a speed bump) is a TPK, which you call very bad news. Even then if you make a new character at one level lower (or more so, at the same level), it's still little more than a speed bump.

Quote
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)
But really the average needs to result in a TPK? Otherwise all the manouvering for bonuses does not matter. If the average is set towards you winning, you can just ride the bell curve to victory, no manouvering required?

And as I said before, the length of these games distorts the idea of winning and losing. To go up a ladder in snakes and ladders does not mean you've won snakes and ladders. Each battle in D&D is really just a ladder (or regular die roll advancement) in a much larger, singular game session.

Quote
the possibility of losing permanently looming closer
What do you mean by this? What rules for PC death were you using?
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Ghostwheel
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #22 on: May 01, 2012, 06:27:53 PM »

Wait... are we still talking about 4e...? If so, it's on your head if the moderator doesn't like this... :-P

As for your questions...

Ghostwheel, has your PC ever died whilst playing 4e? Even then, did it default that resurrections were available? The only real way to lose (rather than just hit a speed bump) is a TPK, which you call very bad news. Even then if you make a new character at one level lower (or more so, at the same level), it's still little more than a speed bump.

My PC has never died while playing in 4e... mostly because they never even came close to dying, what with how powerful healing and buffs were, and only rarely did we need to spend a healing surge as long as the DM followed the encounter guidelines in the DMG. The DM (who was a bit newish to 4e as well in the one game I'm thinking of) finally got frustrated that everything was a cakewalk, and started throwing higher-level monsters at us which started to get to the point where we could barely hit things, and almost always got auto-hit, and the campaign soon ended after that.

Honestly, however, I don't see how that makes the slightest difference. The problems with 4e are far deeper than just how often you die (as I mentioned in my previous post), and to compound that, I don't like death being a speedbump. Making a new character is just as bad, since it disrupts the story and disconnects a player from something they're engaged and devoted to.

But really the average needs to result in a TPK? Otherwise all the manouvering for bonuses does not matter. If the average is set towards you winning, you can just ride the bell curve to victory, no manouvering required?

Wait... what are you talking about? I don't know if this is non sequiter, or if I'm misunderstanding you, or if English is a second language for you, but I don't understand what it is you're asking. The average should be set towards the middle, neither winning nor losing, so that tactics matter and tip the scale to one side, or very stupid mistakes can lead to loss. Obviously loss does not mean a TPK, and there are safety nets to ensure that small mistakes don't automatically result in a loss, but I don't really see where you're going with this...

What do you mean by this? What rules for PC death were you using?

Again, I don't like the "death is a speedbump" mentality, and prefer that players lose without dying if it can be finagled, or alternatively if they have to die (heroic sacrifice, jumped into lava, etc) that they can't just easily be brought back to life--that death matters.

And as I said before, the length of these games distorts the idea of winning and losing. To go up a ladder in snakes and ladders does not mean you've won snakes and ladders. Each battle in D&D is really just a ladder (or regular die roll advancement) in a much larger, singular game session.

Again... I'm just not seeing your point :-/ Could you clarify what you mean, and/or what your point is?
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2012, 07:55:47 PM »

Quote
Making a new character is just as bad, since it disrupts the story and disconnects a player from something they're engaged and devoted to.
Well, this might be pivotal to the discussion if in priority it's ahead of events like a character dying. Apart from character death, the mechanics of D&D really don't have any losing conditions built into them.

Quote
The average should be set towards the middle
I honestly don't believe with such a complicated system it can be perfectly set to the middle - it's either towards the middle but on the winning side, or towards the middle but on the TPK side. Really in gamist terms, the more it's set towards the TPK side, the more of a challenge/a thrown down gauntlet it is (the more tactics it takes to get bonuses to counteract that tipping), in a 'oh yeah, well, we can take that' way (or in the internet parlance 'Challenge accepted'). If it being set towards TPK as just not making any sense to you, then atleast in how I use the word 'gamism', gamism might be a secondary priority to you? And something else comes in at first priority? Probably to do with what you mention above in terms of the story and what the players are devoted to. That's my hypothesis, anyway. Doesn't mean it's an apt hypothesis.

Quote
Obviously loss does not mean a TPK, and there are safety nets to ensure that small mistakes don't automatically result in a loss
Quote
and prefer that players lose without dying if it can be finagled
Well, what is 'loss' or 'lose' when you say it? Could you describe what you mean by it a bit more?

My snakes and ladders example is there to show that going down a snake is not losing (in how I use the word), but because a single D&D game runs over multiple sessions, it distorts this and it appears players have 'lost' a session, when it's merely a snake.
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Ghostwheel
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #24 on: May 04, 2012, 05:53:39 PM »

Not perfectly--but as near as can be. That said, when there need to be tendencies, they need to be set in the PCs' favor so that they don't have a good chance of dying every fight.

And losses can be done in a myriad of ways. For example, if you're beaten by goblins or ogres, the party wakes up in jail cells, their enemy wanting to eat them soon, and from there they can make a daring escape. Or if they were beaten by an evil wizard, they might wake up in vats of arcane liquid ready to be experimented on. Or if they are beaten by a devil, the devil may force them to do it a favor rather than killing them. Or if they fail to kill the dragon, it might kidnap the princess, kill the king, and fly off.

So yeah, there are lots of ways to "lose" without actually having a TPK.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #25 on: May 05, 2012, 07:14:21 PM »

To get deeper into what you're looking for...
Quote
Not perfectly--but as near as can be. That said, when there need to be tendencies, they need to be set in the PCs' favor so that they don't have a good chance of dying every fight.
Why? Why can't it be set against the PC's (the players) favour, because they will use a number of tactics to grant mechanical bonuses that when added on, that slants the thing towards them winning? Which would also ensure that they don't have a good chance of dying every fight.

Do the other players in your group use tactics much?

Do you want it that you don't have to use tactics, you just can, if you wish, to maybe 'win more', so to speak?
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Miihkali
Registree

Posts: 1


« Reply #26 on: May 11, 2012, 10:39:10 PM »

Ghostwheel,

you might like Iron Heroes by Mike Mearls. It's a variant of 3rd edition D&D with a focus on making tactical, non-magical combat more interesting. All classes but one are different kinds of fighters, and the game is playable without any kind of magic, including magic items.

The quality of Iron Heroes is probably one of the reasons why Mearls got to be the lead developer of 4th edition D&D.

Do your adventures have time limits? Seems to me that gamist play with D&D does not function very well without strict, story-specific time limits. The resource management aspect suffers if you can just sleep after every battle. It's more fun if there are other ways to lose besides getting killed. (For example, your relatives keep dying of necro-plague because you couldn't find the cure in time.)

Mikko Lehtinen
(I'm not actually new here. It's just a long time since I last posted. I'd forgotten my password and my old email wasn't active anymore, so I had to create a new user.)
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The_Mormegil
Member

Posts: 3


« Reply #27 on: May 26, 2012, 11:13:09 PM »

Something I was thinking about, regarding this issue, is that the duration of conditions could be expanded in a much more tactical sense. What if instead of a fixed duration (one round per level, until the end of the round, until the end of the encounter) or a randomized duration (save ends) the default duration of a condition was "until termination", meaning roughly "until it makes sense for the condition to stop", or more operatively "until you do something to end it". This would be on the player side of things, of course. Player abilities would have fixed or random duration because the DM is a cheating bastard is not a perfectly impartial judge of events in all situations, and deciding whether or not monsters find a way to terminate their condition could lead to problems (or not, of course).

Tactics are all about choices, and this paradigm augments the meaning and impact of choices by forcing you to decide when to attempt to stop a condition and when to let it be. Also, it rewards intelligent and creative gameplay because terminating a condition in creative ways could cost less or have a greater chance of success. It is a bit DM-reliant, because it's very open-ended, but with good guidelines on what should constitute a termination attempt and how effective termination attempts should be, it would probably be ok for most groups. What do you think about it?

(also hello everyone ;) )
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