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    Default The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    I am not talking about things you think are just poorly written or you simply don't like, but about aspects of certain RPGs that had very bad impacts on roleplaying games as a whole for decades to come. Everyone would agree that FATAL is nothing but bad descisions, but it's really only good for the occasional laugh and its impact on game design and groups was pretty much nonexistant.

    Alignment (Dungeons & Dragons)
    I consider this to be the biggest problem child of RPGs, ever! Alignment doesn't really add anything to the campaign, but an unbelivable amount of endless and in the end pointless discussions about whether a certain action would be evil or not, and if a lawful character would do certain things or not. That all descriptions of alignment in the official D&D rulebooks are ambigous and regularly contradicting each other doesn't make things any better, but there really was no point to have them in the game in the first place. This caused nothing but trouble and will probably stay with us another 40 years.

    Calling the GM "Storyteller" (World of Darkness/Storyteller)
    neonchameleon mentioned this one. And I very much agree with it. Calling the gamemaster Storyteller and the rules system Storyteller-system sets up completely false expectations of what a GM does and how a game should be structured. It basically says "I tell the story (and you listen)", which is the opposite of what RPGs are designed for. (Though given how Metaplot-focused oWoD appears to have been, that might not have been an accident by the designers.)

    Any other things you would nominate?

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    I nominate the issue The Giant had with Gygax, Arneson, and company having trouble locating a reliable thesaurus.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    I agree on those, and think that WoD would have worked better referring to the GM as the "Director", so the PCs are the script writers, taking the idea they've been given and writing the plot, with the GM tailoring the presentation to fit the themes.

    I'd argue that the worst decision I've seen is building systems around tactical combat, because nine times out of ten the games I've played have been around a table large enough for a screen, character sheets and dice, and a bunch of glasses from when people decided to get a drink. When the rules expect or require me to break out miniatures for the game to work as intended I find that the rulings over who was standing where and so wasn't hit by the fireball, while with a more abstract system I can still say "J is the sergeant, R is the guardsman with a lasgun, A is the guardsman with a grenade launcher, S is the guardsman with a vox-caster, lord Evildark is the space marine and the bodyguards are goblins" and draw out a map on graph paper.

    Although I don't mind a ruleset saying "here are some extra rules for tactical combat".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    I nominate the issue The Giant had with Gygax, Arneson, and company having trouble locating a reliable thesaurus.
    The first RPG book I ever read was the 1e AD&D PHB. In it, there is a discussion about this. The authors (Gygax probably was the one who wrote the passage) had considered renaming "levels (as applied to characters" to "ranks," "levels (as applied to spells)" to "orders" or "circles," and often did use "floors" instead of "levels" for dungeons.

    They chose not to change the first two instances because they noticed that, even when they tried to, others they talked to slipped into the old nomenclature, and they figured that players of AD&D would be smart enough to figure out from context what kind of "level" is meant.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Rolemaster

    Nothing in particular, just the whole bloody thing. The tables, the base setting (who in the Nine Hells comes up with 25-hour days, 10 day weeks and 4-month years?), the (lack) of organization, the inherent feeling of no player agency, etc.
    Last edited by Silus; 2015-02-09 at 09:09 AM.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    But did that cause trouble down the line beyond the game not being very good?

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    But did that cause trouble down the line beyond the game not being very good?
    I would say that the over reliance on tables paved the way for excessive things like critical fail charts and stepping away from creative interpretations for critical hits.

    The organization issue isn't really an issue with more modern games as everything is nearly ordered by chapter with a somewhat logical methodology for what goes where.

    The lack of player agency, I think, is a combination of the terrible skill system and how the DM runs things, which has gotten better (at least the skill stuff in the D&D and PF type things).
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    The Initiative Pass system in Shadowrun has always been my nemesis since the dawn of time. While avoiding combat should be encouraged given the usual profession of the runners, if a fight does break out then I generally see everyone fall into one of two categories:
    • Those with multiple IPs.
    • Those rolling up new characters.


    I generally just roll with it, and most players I've gamed with don't mind it, but the action economy really builds a gap between those with extra IPs and those without.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Here's a big one to make lots of people angry:

    20-level character classes and feat chains (Dungeons & Dragons, d20)
    The d20 system is a huge advancement over AD&D. So many things now make so much more sense and the whole math is so much better. But there is one huge flaw that slipped into the d20 system, which is so fundamental that it affected pretty much every game based on it. Which were quite a lot and together probably held most of the entire RPG market for years.
    The 20-level character classes go back to something that had already been in AD&D. Clerics got their highest level spells at level 16 and magic-users at level 18. The system is called d20, so 20th level seems like a logical cutting off point for the maximum level. Which isn't so bad by itself, but combined with the ideas for feats that have other feats as prerequisites, I would call it nothing short of disastrous. The result of this is, that many character concept really only work once the character reaches 8th or 10th level. And as a result, lots of players don't create characters that are fun to play at 1st level, but come up with concept based around things that will be available to them at 15th level and beyond. And the vast majority of characters being played never reaches even 5th level. Most play takes place in the 1st to 3rd level range. All this obsession with character builds comes from this simple fact that you have to plan out a character over 15 levels if you want to be able to do one thing somewhere in the distant and unlikely future. You can't just make a character that is fun at 1st and 2nd level, because that might wreck and cripple the character for the rest of his career.
    And it gets worse. With BAB, saves, AC, hp and so on growing very rapidly with each level, any type of enemy only makes sense in an encounter for a very narrow level range. First you fight rats and goblins, advance to goblins and orcs, upgrade to orcs and ogres, and so on. You can't fight full size dragons or giants until you are at least 8th or 10th level, and unfortunately, most parties never get there. As a result, players get stuck with fighting goblins and rats over and over while most creatures never get to show up at all.
    WotC adressed this with 5th edition, but it took them 15 years to get there. And Pathfinder is still suffering from it.

    And shadowrun reminds me of another one:

    Hacking or Spiritwalking Subsystems (Shadowrun and other)
    Who ever thought it was a great idea to create subsystems which send one or two characters basically to another world to have their own private adventures and battles all by themselves while the rest of the group waits until it's done?
    Last edited by Yora; 2015-02-09 at 10:14 AM.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    In Star Wars Saga Edition any and all instances of using the Force are skill checks. No matter if you attack, defend, heal, phase through walls, you roll "use the Force" skill. The problem is, skills are ridiculously easy to optimize in this game, you can even do it completly unintentionally. You can have Use the Force at 13 ranks as early as level one. Thus the jedi - especially during the early levels, where most of the games will take place - are the closest thing to a god the game has.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    And it gets worse. With BAB, saves, AC, hp and so on growing very rapidly with each level, any type of enemy only makes sense in an encounter for a very narrow level range. First you fight rats and goblins, advance to goblins and orcs, upgrade to orcs and ogres, and so on. You can't fight full size dragons or giants until you are at least 8th or 10th level, and unfortunately, most parties never get there. As a result, players get stuck with fighting goblins and rats over and over while most creatures never get to show up at all.
    I see that as one of the biggest advantages of the system and "bounded accuracy" of 5E, or whatever else other systems call it, as something I deeply dislike. Why?

    Because it enables a lot of different playstyles. D&D is many games in one, more so than in most other systems I know. One can build a character to fight rats and goblins, but one can also build a character to fight dragons. Both are possible in the same system. Verisimilitude is also kept, because the dragon is strong enough to believably represent what it means to be a dragon. Without that, you get into those weird issues where, as I've heard from 5th, a dragon can't get through a wooden door most of the time since the strength check is too difficult.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by DigoDragon View Post
    The Initiative Pass system in Shadowrun has always been my nemesis since the dawn of time. While avoiding combat should be encouraged given the usual profession of the runners, if a fight does break out then I generally see everyone fall into one of two categories:
    • Those with multiple IPs.
    • Those rolling up new characters.


    I generally just roll with it, and most players I've gamed with don't mind it, but the action economy really builds a gap between those with extra IPs and those without.
    Hmmmm, can we fix this? Maybe using the following system (5e as that's the only version I've played):
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    • Characters taking actions in an initiative pass act in decreasing order of initiative score.
    • All characters roll initiative dice. You act in a number of initiative passes equal to 1+hits. You act in ever initiative pass until your number of passes reaches 0.
    • For better balance implants and powers that give +attribute and +initiative dice only give the initiative dice. An extra pass every third turn is powerful in itself.
    • On initiative passes where you don't act you can reduce your initiative score to take defensive actions except for full defense. Initiative score cannot go below 0.

    This makes your initiative score more important, as no matter how fast you are, someone who reacts quickly has a chance to take you down, or at least apply a penalty to your attacks, and then dodge/parry in later initiative passes.


    I don't think the idea is bad, just the execution.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zelphas View Post
    So here I am, trapped in my laboratory, trying to create a Mechabeast that's powerful enough to take down the howling horde outside my door, but also won't join them once it realizes what I've done...twentieth time's the charm, right?
    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Raziere View Post
    How about a Jovian Uplift stuck in a Case morph? it makes so little sense.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Silus View Post
    The tables
    I thought you meant wooden tables, where Tabletops got their name from...

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora
    And the vast majority of characters being played never reaches even 5th level. Most play takes place in the 1st to 3rd level range.
    I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    I would like to nominate XP for Killing. This tends to apply most to later D&D and it's derivatives but plenty of RPGs assign XP values to monsters and the natural inclination to the players (and the GM) is to translate this to XP received for killing it. This even carried over to CRPGs as the primary advancement system. Early D&D used XP for gold and other systems like Dungeon World or Mouseguard/Burning Wheel use XP for (failed) actions, and those systems both in my mind encourage a much different and much more interesting game.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    I've already put in "GM as Storyteller" - but I'd like to nominate another two (although really they are the same thing).

    1: The Obscure Death Rule from Dragonlance
    2: GM advice to fudge rolls (of which both 2e and Storyteller were guilty).

    Telling the GM to change the course of events after they'd been resolved by the dice - in other words ensuring the actions of the PCs don't matter.

    And on the same note: Metaplot. Of the sort where the PCs are witnesses to the world changing.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    My previous post got eaten, but I'd like to nominate the standards of table of contents, indices, and general organization. RPGs seem to range from pretty bad to terrible in all of those categories, and the standard industry organization was established early.
    I would really like to see a game made by Obryn, Kurald Galain, and Knaight from these forums.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by neonchameleon View Post

    And on the same note: Metaplot. Of the sort where the PCs are witnesses to the world changing.
    I don't understand; would you prefer a setting where nothing happened that wasn't directly the PCs' responsibility, where none of the NPCs had an interior life?
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.
    It's a bitter-sweet amusement to me. I've run many D&D 3.5 campaigns where players have passed 5th level. One campaign took the players from 1st all the way to around level 23. On the flip side, I have yet to be a PC in a 3.5 game where I had a character pass 4th level. I don't know the validity of the statement that games don't last past 5th, but it seems true in my case if I'm not running it.


    Quote Originally Posted by neonchameleon View Post
    2: GM advice to fudge rolls (of which both 2e and Storyteller were guilty).
    Telling the GM to change the course of events after they'd been resolved by the dice - in other words ensuring the actions of the PCs don't matter.
    I admit that I fudge dice rolls, but I defend it in that I will fudge them to make the situation more fun for the players. Or to cut them a little break if everyone is rolling really really terrible.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    I don't understand; would you prefer a setting where nothing happened that wasn't directly the PCs' responsibility, where none of the NPCs had an interior life?
    No. Things can happen with the PCs, or with the PCs not there. It's all the adventures that have the PCs chasing round and acting as spectators to the NPCs who get the job done. And it's the way that the metaplot locks in which way the world goes irrespective of the actions of the PCs.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amphetryon View Post
    I'd really, really like to see the research that went into this assertion, and the methodology behind that research, as I've seen the claim more than once.
    I'll second this as the assertion goes against everything I've seen in my years of playing DnD
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Man. I can't choose just one..
    Batllemat. Dice pools. D20. Feats... Prestige classes and power 'trees'. I'm sure I'm forgetting something.
    Ah yes... Fate points.
    Last edited by VincentTakeda; 2015-02-09 at 12:29 PM.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by neonchameleon View Post
    2: GM advice to fudge rolls
    This would be my choice. I used to think that cheating to create what I thought was a better story was okay, but then I realized that allowing that story to form naturally from the system, the players and the GM is so much more worthwhile for everyone involved. There are so many games out there that you're bound to find one that creates exactly the kinds of stories you want to tell without cheating.
    Last edited by Comet; 2015-02-09 at 12:39 PM.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Fudging dice to make things go how you want it to and ignoring the attempts of players to go into other directions with the adventure doesn't have to be the only reason to do it. The best use of fudging is not to negate player descision, but to enable them even though a random die roll would have wrecked it. Avoiding total party kill because your 10d6 fireball rolled an unbelievable 58 and saying it was only 44 is in no way ensuring that player actions don't matter.
    Quote Originally Posted by 1337 b4k4 View Post
    I would like to nominate XP for Killing. This tends to apply most to later D&D and it's derivatives but plenty of RPGs assign XP values to monsters and the natural inclination to the players (and the GM) is to translate this to XP received for killing it. This even carried over to CRPGs as the primary advancement system. Early D&D used XP for gold and other systems like Dungeon World or Mouseguard/Burning Wheel use XP for (failed) actions, and those systems both in my mind encourage a much different and much more interesting game.
    Oh yes. This one is so big that almost nobody ever thinks about it. This is way worse than anything else mentioned here.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Ah yes. For all of its faults, another reason I'm still happily playing palladium.. xp for clever ideas, daring actions clever or not, big xp for putting your life on the line to save others... The kind of characters you see are greatly influenced by the types of activities you reward.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    And it gets worse. With BAB, saves, AC, hp and so on growing very rapidly with each level, any type of enemy only makes sense in an encounter for a very narrow level range. First you fight rats and goblins, advance to goblins and orcs, upgrade to orcs and ogres, and so on. You can't fight full size dragons or giants until you are at least 8th or 10th level, and unfortunately, most parties never get there. As a result, players get stuck with fighting goblins and rats over and over while most creatures never get to show up at all.
    WotC adressed this with 5th edition, but it took them 15 years to get there. And Pathfinder is still suffering from it.
    Meh, I had the party fight a dragon at level 1 in 4e, because I decided right from the start that the party were Big Damn Heroes. It was probably the most intense, perfectly balanced encounter I've ever run, too.

    But I'll agree with the level 20 issue, but for a different reason: How many times do people really take 20 levels of the same class? All those capstones that never see play, or only see play for a single adventure. A complete waste. I figured that, in 3.5 at least, classes should have been 10 levels long, and then you were expected to multiclass or PrC out. This is something 4e fixed with Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies, at least.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    XP as a reward for player behaviour. It creates an atmosphere of competition and the potential for resentment, but probably more importantly it creates uneven pacing and balance for the party. Fixed rates, advancement at narratively appropriate points and weird schemes like Chuubo's where XP gain is the heart of the system are all better methods than treating it as a reward.

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Fudging dice to make things go how you want it to and ignoring the attempts of players to go into other directions with the adventure doesn't have to be the only reason to do it. The best use of fudging is not to negate player descision, but to enable them even though a random die roll would have wrecked it. Avoiding total party kill because your 10d6 fireball rolled an unbelievable 58 and saying it was only 44 is in no way ensuring that player actions don't matter.
    Yes, that makes its own kind of sense. Then again, if the game is negating player decisions in places you don't want it to, you could either modify the game or get a new one that is, for example, less severe with its fireballs. Or just tell the players you're just telling them a story without random chance. It's the whole ritual of pretending to roll dice without actually following them that I find frustrating. If you don't find surprises in certain situations interesting, play a game that doesn't involve surprises in those situations.
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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    I stand by fudging even in a game like D&D. But how often do you actually "have to"? Probably something like 1 in 200 rolls or more likely 1 in 1000. I don't think that's a reason to discard the whole game system

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    Default Re: The most far-reaching bad descisions in RPG design?

    I'd like to nominate TORG, for integrating cards as a core part of gameplay. It is literally impossible to play that game without the deck of cards supplied, and if you lose a few, your game gets lopsided if it's still playable at all.

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