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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default The purpose of the rules

    I'm designing my RPG ruleset, version 28. In the process of streamlining it I removed all the rules, reducing it to the essential rule: "player says what their PC does, if the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice. The Master has to say what the DC is and eventual situational modifiers to the roll, the player can change his action before rolling."
    The character sheet is supposed to have just a bunch of skills expressed by a dice, from D4 to D12. Only the players are supposed to roll.

    Now I should add some rule, but I'm having some trouble justifying their purpose. For example I can add items and tools that give a bonus to appropriate rolls. But this can be done also by the Master, by giving modifiers to the roll.
    I can make rules for HP or wounds, but again the Master can handle this by saying what happens to the player.
    Probably you are thinking: this way the Master can do anything he wants. Which is true, but the obvious counterpoint is that the same is true even if we add more rules.
    For example the players are trained fighters, but random thugs wipe the floor with them. This can happen with my system, if the Master sets absurd DC for hitting the thugs or avoiding being hit. But it can happen even in the most complex system (like GURPS or Pathfinder) if the Master makes thugs with ridiculously high stats. In both cases there is a disconnection between the setting and the rules of the game. Or the Master is just an *******.
    The latter is not a problem that can be solved by the game, so let's think about the first. Are rules required to see what happen in fiction ? Do we need a rule to know what happens if a car crashes into a wall at 100 km/h or if someone is hit by a bullet in the stomach ? I doubt it. Group storytelling was always a thing and people didn't need rules. So what I'm trying to do by adding such rules ?

    Notice that I'm not talking about metaphysical rules like plot point. I'm only thinking about the physical engine that is supposed to match the physics of the setting. I'm also not interested in "gamist" rules.
    I just want a system for simulating the actions of some dudes in a setting of choice.
    What rules would you add and what is your reasoning for adding them ?

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    I think a problem you might run into is when player and GM expectations mismatch. A player thinks he's doing something totally reasonable, the GM thinks he's doing something ridiculously hard, and then no one can agree on what the DC should actually be. A warning sign is also that the system gives the GM the power to (very easily) go "Wow that's a stupid derailing idea, DC 500".

    I don't think either of these problems are game breaking, but they are something to keep an eye on.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    What rules would you add and what is your reasoning for adding them ?
    What's the focus on the game? As a fairly generalized statement I'd add more rules to the game focus, such that the simulation (which looks to be what these rules are specifically for) is a little more detailed there.

    Beyond that, there's a few really broad categories that can be modeled. You've got a really basic rule for PCs attempting to do things. What about rules for the condition the PCs are in, and things that change that condition? What about rules for acknowledging the general state of the fiction? What about rules for character creation?

    There are very minimalist systems which can work just fine (Risus, Wushu, Roll for Shoes, Prose Descriptive Qualities). Heck, I've made a couple (Titled, The Iron Fist of New Atlantis). There's also heavier systems made for reasons other than just limiting GM power, which have their heavier rules for a reason.

    As for the question of needing rules to determine what happens in the fiction, that's exactly what your core rule is. When in the course of the fiction a character attempts a task they might fail the player rolls a die against a number. If they roll over the number the character succeeds, if they roll under the number the character fails. That's a rule that affects the fiction right there.

    Those heavier systems I mentioned? Often their added rules are there to affect the fiction in more subtle ways. What if you wanted a pass-fail mechanic that also could cause effects beyond just the character succeeding or failing? You might use something like the Glitch system in Shadowrun, or the die mechanic in Genesys. What if you want to model the characters getting slowly worn down by a hostile environment in a bunch of ways? You might see the status effects from Mouseguard, or Torchbearer. What if you want the rules to reflect a bunch of detailed research that individual GMs probably haven't conducted? Enter GURPS.

    Then there's the matter of balancing different tasks needed to GM. There's effectively a spectrum of judgement calls to rules memorization, with rules that prevent having to routinely make the same judgement calls over and over again counting for more than rules that only crop up occasionally but still have a mechanical load. Everywhere on this spectrum is fine; completely freeform RPG with no mechanics works just fine, as do RPG-like boardgames like Gloomhaven. You don't need to have rules, but you also don't need not to have rules. This suggests that the entire question of what rules are necessary is a bit of a waste of time for practical design. Instead, think about whether specific rules add more than the mechanical load of dealing with them removes, in the context of your design goals.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    OK, tiny thing that is annoying me, master is a title that can be applied to multiple people, therefore is not a proper noun and (unless I have forgotten my English) should not be capitalized.

    Second, my general rule is "does this resolve a situation with an uncertain outcome?" With added notes that is of a type of situation that will come up in the game and is not covered, satisfactorily, by other rules. For instance an attack may or may not connect, so we use rules to figure out how likely it is and then randomize the result. Random events answer: "So we travel all day, what do we see?"

    They also codify other aspects of the game, like how good of a musician a character is or that having gecko toes lets you walk on walls, but not ceilings. The latter is more important if you really shift from the norm.

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    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    I think a problem you might run into is when player and GM expectations mismatch. A player thinks he's doing something totally reasonable, the GM thinks he's doing something ridiculously hard, and then no one can agree on what the DC should actually be. A warning sign is also that the system gives the GM the power to (very easily) go "Wow that's a stupid derailing idea, DC 500".

    I don't think either of these problems are game breaking, but they are something to keep an eye on.
    I think that both GM and players should know the setting, to reduce the amount of mismatches and enable both to motivate their position. In fact while I'm liking more and more light rulesets, I'm leaning to the other side for setting guides. Which could be considered rules handbooks in disguise, but the difference would be that you consult them only when you need (a disagreement has risen) instead of "I need to do X, how does it translate in rules term ?".



    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    What's the focus on the game? As a fairly generalized statement I'd add more rules to the game focus, such that the simulation (which looks to be what these rules are specifically for) is a little more detailed there.

    Beyond that, there's a few really broad categories that can be modeled. You've got a really basic rule for PCs attempting to do things. What about rules for the condition the PCs are in, and things that change that condition? What about rules for acknowledging the general state of the fiction? What about rules for character creation?
    I would say that the general focus of the game is playing groups of people accustomed to action and danger. Pirates in the Caribbeans, gunslingers in the Old West, gang members in a modern urban setting, space marines in the future... so the first thing I would think of are combat rules. But then I think: why should I made rules that detail weapons ? I know how they work. If I have a doubt I can inform myself from a variety of sources. If I want to have a non realistic experience I can tweak what I want (for example mooks always miss the heroes). I guess having detailed rules can help in setting a discussion, but wouldn't a coin toss do the same ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    As for the question of needing rules to determine what happens in the fiction, that's exactly what your core rule is. When in the course of the fiction a character attempts a task they might fail the player rolls a die against a number. If they roll over the number the character succeeds, if they roll under the number the character fails. That's a rule that affects the fiction right there.
    That's very true. Could it be reduced even more ? Is the dice roll necessary ? I guess is fun to have some things decided randomly. Luck can maybe be considered the third party, other than the GM and the players.
    So we can have a system that work this way: players and master play the group storytelling game, they can decide to leave some decisions to fate. They decide what the odds are, so they should be satisfied of the result.
    In this system I can see that removing the random roll would remove something. But would have some rule that say "in this situation the odds of the roll are fixed, you can't decide them" improve the game ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knaight View Post
    Those heavier systems I mentioned? Often their added rules are there to affect the fiction in more subtle ways. What if you wanted a pass-fail mechanic that also could cause effects beyond just the character succeeding or failing? You might use something like the Glitch system in Shadowrun, or the die mechanic in Genesys. What if you want to model the characters getting slowly worn down by a hostile environment in a bunch of ways? You might see the status effects from Mouseguard, or Torchbearer. What if you want the rules to reflect a bunch of detailed research that individual GMs probably haven't conducted? Enter GURPS.
    For pass-fail mechanic you intend fail-forward ? If that's the case I generally like it, but it's more of a "methaphisycal" rule that I don't want to touch for now. Also is it something that can be done without need of a detailed rule ? For example in the ultra minimalist system above the players and the maser just have to decide that the random roll outcomes aren't success and failure, but success and success with a cost.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    I'm designing my RPG ruleset, version 28. In the process of streamlining it I removed all the rules, reducing it to the essential rule: "player says what their PC does, if the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice.
    And there's your first mistake, IMO. You should have started with asking yourself: why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve?

    FATE tries to mimic the pacing of adventure movies, DnD 3.5 or GURPS trie to be simulations, Planet Mercenary wants to make it easy to tell a funny story and Call of Cthulhu desires to scare you. All of these have mechanics that are very much dictated by this primary goal.

    Next step is to look at your dice system - it's pretty bad for simulationist system, since an expert has the output of a complete novice far too much. Something like FATE gets away with it because it only rolls skills against significant opposition - if your knight wants to kill a civilian, he does it without rolling for damage.

    Another problem is that your rule is insufficient as a basis of a system, since it only takes one character into account. What if there are two people fighting, or if someone is trying to actively stop someone else from doing a thing? Better way to phrase it would perhaps be that a roll tells you how well you did at an activity, but that removes the binary nature of it, which may or may not be a good thing.

    Once you have all of this fixed, next step will come out of what you're trying to do. If your RPG is supposed to be wuxia, then differences between the weapon types aren't as important as between the styles, and you should definitely have more rules about them since they're what defines the genre your RPG is supposed to simulate. If you're going for Game of Thrones like political intrigue, then all you need for combat is no, light and heavy armor and some basic weapon types, but your rules for social interactions will need to be fairly robust. Witcher-like down to earth medieval fantasy with low magic will need some more work on the weapon and armor side, and also a magic system since a lot of players will want to play around with it.
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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    If 3.5 is trying to be a "simulation", what is it trying to "simulate"?

    By any concept of "simulation" I'd use, if that was really the goal, then that system was a total utter monumental disaster and outright epic failure.

    (And yeah, I know that's really harsh, but I just don't get how the notion of 3.x or any other edition of D&D/d20 as "simulationist" ever got started -- and there was a time when saying "I prefer a more simmy system" would get the condescendingly delivered "then why don't you go back to D&D" response, which is just mind-boggling.)
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-28 at 12:50 PM.
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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    For pass-fail mechanic you intend fail-forward ? If that's the case I generally like it, but it's more of a "methaphisycal" rule that I don't want to touch for now. Also is it something that can be done without need of a detailed rule ? For example in the ultra minimalist system above the players and the maser just have to decide that the random roll outcomes aren't success and failure, but success and success with a cost.
    There were a few different mechanical examples there, most of which had a bit more range than just replacing failure with success with a cost.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    The purpose of rules is to provide structure to a game. The knowledge that such and such a thing will happen in such and such a way.

    On the player side, they provide preliminary guidance about what is and isn't possible for a character, so that you can make plans without having to ask how such-and-such a thing will work every time. On the GM side, they provide a template to work from so you can concentrate on non-mechanical parts of the game, instead of constantly having to re-invent the wheel. Too many rules can make GMing difficult by boxing you in and limiting your options, but too few rules can make GMing difficult by forcing you to write mechanics at the same time you're trying to control NPCs and describe an environment and all the other stuff. The tipping point is subjective, and the spectrum runs all the way from total free-form games to RPG-y board games like Arkham Horror, but... that's why rules are there.
    Last edited by Grod_The_Giant; 2017-12-28 at 12:51 PM.
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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Removing all rules from a game would effectively remove all player agency. They don't know what they can and can't do, they don't know the odds of success and consequences of failure, they don't know even know the results of success. They have no knowledge and can therefore make no informed decisions. That is the same as blindly swinging in the dark, which is worse than being 100% railroaded because at least then you know what's going on.

    One inevitable problem I see with having "the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice" rule is the lack of consistency, even if you don't mean to you WILL absolutely make inconsistent decisions or at the very least decisions that feel inconsistent for the players. Frankly this is going to be absolute hell for them. This might work only in a hopeless horror game.

    The bare minimum purpose of rules is to avoid the above.
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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    If 3.5 is trying to be a "simulation", what is it trying to "simulate"?

    By any concept of "simulation" I'd use, if that was really the goal, then that system was a total utter monumental disaster and outright epic failure.

    (And yeah, I know that's really harsh, but I just don't get how the notion of 3.x or any other edition of D&D/d20 as "simulationist" ever got started -- and there was a time when saying "I prefer a more simmy system" would get the condescendingly delivered "then why don't you go back to D&D" response, which is just mind-boggling.)
    Side effect of the influence of OD&D/assorted early editions, I think, which had a tendency to get really really randomly detailed about certain things (20 different kinds of very slightly different polearms, the infamous 'Random harlot' table, the modifiers of different kinds of weapon attacks versus different kinds of armors, really fine-grained encumbrance rules with an optional version for encumbrance by how annoying something is to lug around instead of just by how much it weighs.) Gives the illusion of simulation if you don't pay too much attention to how huge major parts of the rest of the system (like what HP actually is and how they're recovered, non-combat skills, and combat rounds) are incredibly abstracted and not really trying to simulate much of anything in particular. D&D has never been a really simulation-focused game, on the whole - it's a fairly abstracted game with a few areas where somebody with a geek-on for a certain topic wrote unnecessarily detailed rules to simulate something they cared about.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    Removing all rules from a game would effectively remove all player agency. They don't know what they can and can't do, they don't know the odds of success and consequences of failure, they don't know even know the results of success. They have no knowledge and can therefore make no informed decisions. That is the same as blindly swinging in the dark, which is worse than being 100% railroaded because at least then you know what's going on.

    One inevitable problem I see with having "the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice" rule is the lack of consistency, even if you don't mean to you WILL absolutely make inconsistent decisions or at the very least decisions that feel inconsistent for the players. Frankly this is going to be absolute hell for them. This might work only in a hopeless horror game.

    The bare minimum purpose of rules is to avoid the above.
    This.

    I've played freeform "systems" before and the inevitable result is a complete lack of structure, players unsure of what they can/should do, and GMs having the pressure of needing to wing EVERYTHING all the time pushing down on them the whole game.

    The purpose of rules is to give at least a vague sense of what every person's role at the table is and what the expectations of the system are.

    Quite frankly an RPG system as vague as you describe is not a system, or a game, and is barely a tool. It is merely an extremely vague and simplistic conflict resolution tool for a freeform roleplaying group.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Part of the purpose is to "map" all the elements into a common framework of reference just to understand their relative capabilities, odds of or degree of success/failure, etc. As others have said, to give an idea of what characters are and aren't capable of -- but also get all the players (GM included) on the same page as to how likely/unlikely things are. This is why I cringe whenever someone says that the system and setting don't need to be in sync, and that the rules are just there to enable the "fun". If the "fiction"-derived expectations and outcomes, and the rules-derived expectations and outcomes, are out of alignments, it causes dissonance and discord.

    If the "fiction" (setting, characters, etc) says that people should be able to jump over a one-foot-tall stone fence without any real effort, but the rules say they can't, or have a 50% chance of failure, that's a problem. If the rules say people can jump 10' straight up reliably, but the "fiction" doesn't reflect that, it's ALSO a problem.
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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    The point of rules is to provide shared expectations. If we sit down to tell a story, we probably won't agree about everything. Maybe you think a Fire Demon is strong enough to take three lightning bolts, but I think it would go down in two. Maybe you think the King is persuaded by an argument while I don't. The rules exist to give consistent answers to those questions. You define how tough a Fire Demon is and how much damage a lightning bolt does, and you can use that to resolve our conflict. You write up some rules for persuading people, and we apply those to the king.

    Your rule doesn't do this, instead ending up as a weird version of Munchausen. Only one player can challenge, and they can set the odds of challenges. Those changes don't seem like positives over Munchausen.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    On Freeform: My early role-playing experience was actually entirely in free-form. And it can work, you just have to make up the missing system knowledge with setting knowledge. From what technology and/or magic is available in the setting, to an idea of the tone and the power of the protagonists.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    The game master doesn't need rules to tell her to do what she wants. She can already do what she wants. She needs resolution mechanics which actually do something other than "Choose what percentage chance you want players to have of succeeding."

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    From the GM's point of view, adding a rule to the game is a way to remove doubt from a certain aspect of how things could go, and thereby direct what se sorts of things are plannable and what sorts of things are not. As a byproduct of rendering some things certain, rules also tend to channel planning into themselves - that is to say, if you have a lot of rules that make it possible to figure out who will win a fight with some guards, but no way to know for certain whether someone can successfully sneak past those guards, players will tend to fight the guards rather than sneak past them.

    That makes rules a very powerful tool for determining what kind of stuff happens during game. If you want a politically focused game or a combat focused game or something that's all about alchemy, giving the focal element special rules and making everything else more hazy will encourage play to flow through that particular game element.

    You can also use the certainty of a rule to counterbalance the haziness of very unclear, abstract, or difficult concepts, and make it possible for players to more easily engage with things that they don't yet have mastery of. For example, if you're running a game about politics and blackmail, players may not have a good idea how one goes about obtaining blackmail material, what sort of position is strong enough to support a political push and what kinds of risks will just get them arrested or killed, etc. If you build a system around it which quantifies those aspects and provides guarantees, even if they're a bit gamey, it can give enough stability that players will engage with the dynamics rather than just avoiding them out of fear of being worse off for trying.

    A simpler example might be something like bribery. If you as the GM just play a guard, players won't know whether your guards are extremely honorable and will arrest someone at the merest suggestion of a bribe, or very shady and are expecting a bribe, or even how much a particular guard thinks a reasonable bribe is. So you could make a rule, for example: 'in order to determine if a bribe will be successful, you can make a Streetwise check; if your check succeeds, you know if a given character will accept a given bribe; if it fails, you don't know and can't check again'. Now, players will be more likely to engage with bribery interactions because they have some explicit ability to assess or control the risk. And that means that, over time, they'll also get a better idea for the future of the circumstances in which you consider a bribe to be a reasonable approach, so that eventually they won't even need (that) piece of mechanics anymore.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    I'm designing my RPG ruleset, version 28. In the process of streamlining it I removed all the rules, reducing it to the essential rule: "player says what their PC does, if the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice. The Master has to say what the DC is and eventual situational modifiers to the roll, the player can change his action before rolling."
    The character sheet is supposed to have just a bunch of skills expressed by a dice, from D4 to D12. Only the players are supposed to roll.

    Now I should add some rule, but I'm having some trouble justifying their purpose. For example I can add items and tools that give a bonus to appropriate rolls. But this can be done also by the Master, by giving modifiers to the roll.
    I can make rules for HP or wounds, but again the Master can handle this by saying what happens to the player.
    Probably you are thinking: this way the Master can do anything he wants. Which is true, but the obvious counterpoint is that the same is true even if we add more rules.
    For example the players are trained fighters, but random thugs wipe the floor with them. This can happen with my system, if the Master sets absurd DC for hitting the thugs or avoiding being hit. But it can happen even in the most complex system (like GURPS or Pathfinder) if the Master makes thugs with ridiculously high stats. In both cases there is a disconnection between the setting and the rules of the game. Or the Master is just an *******.
    The latter is not a problem that can be solved by the game, so let's think about the first. Are rules required to see what happen in fiction ? Do we need a rule to know what happens if a car crashes into a wall at 100 km/h or if someone is hit by a bullet in the stomach ? I doubt it. Group storytelling was always a thing and people didn't need rules. So what I'm trying to do by adding such rules ?

    Notice that I'm not talking about metaphysical rules like plot point. I'm only thinking about the physical engine that is supposed to match the physics of the setting. I'm also not interested in "gamist" rules.
    I just want a system for simulating the actions of some dudes in a setting of choice.
    What rules would you add and what is your reasoning for adding them ?
    There are only 3 rules in RPG's. If somebody thinks there are more they can happily correct me.

    1) What role the players take. Usually one is the GM who controls everything but the PC's and then there are players that control only their PC's
    2) The capabilities and limitations of the PC's.
    3) Task/Conflict resolution

    Most rules are just expand upon this.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    There are only 3 rules in RPG's. If somebody thinks there are more they can happily correct me.

    1) What role the players take. Usually one is the GM who controls everything but the PC's and then there are players that control only their PC's
    2) The capabilities and limitations of the PC's.
    3) Task/Conflict resolution

    Most rules are just expand upon this.
    Many RPGs give the capabilities and limitations of NPCs too. And in the second instance, while it's technically true that pretty much everything can be reduced to why things happen, what things happen and whether things happen, that's somewhat reductionist.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    Many RPGs give the capabilities and limitations of NPCs too. And in the second instance, while it's technically true that pretty much everything can be reduced to why things happen, what things happen and whether things happen, that's somewhat reductionist.
    Ok then I'll expand upon this

    1) What role the players take.

    By assigning roles and giving the players clear limitations what they have control over. I have played GM-less games or everybody is GM and has GMing powers to some degree. Traditionally there is one GM and he has control over evertything but the PC's. As he has control over NPC's he dictates their capabilities and limitations and there is nothing to stop him from adjusting this during play so this isn't a limitation in reality, just an artificial limitation.


    2) The capabilities and limitations of the PC's.

    This dictates what the PC's can and cannot do. Without this the players can just declare that their PC's can fly or shoot lasers out of their ass. This can be as broad or vague as you want, represented by numbers or just sentences. For example "Fightiness 5 out of 10" or "My character is an Ex navy seal and know everything an ex navy seal should know"



    3) Task/Conflict resolution

    How you are going to resolve tasks or conflicts. This could be as simple as that the player decide if his character is capable of solving the task or the Game Master adjucates everything on a whim. Or you can roll a die, high succeeds or low fails. Or you could dives a more elaborate mechanic.



    For an example of system that follows a minimalistic approach I recommend TWERPS.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    The purpose of rules is to provide structure to a game. The knowledge that such and such a thing will happen in such and such a way.

    On the player side, they provide preliminary guidance about what is and isn't possible for a character, so that you can make plans without having to ask how such-and-such a thing will work every time. On the GM side, they provide a template to work from so you can concentrate on non-mechanical parts of the game, instead of constantly having to re-invent the wheel. Too many rules can make GMing difficult by boxing you in and limiting your options, but too few rules can make GMing difficult by forcing you to write mechanics at the same time you're trying to control NPCs and describe an environment and all the other stuff. The tipping point is subjective, and the spectrum runs all the way from total free-form games to RPG-y board games like Arkham Horror, but... that's why rules are there.
    I'm not sure I understand you there. How is the GM forced to write mechanics ? From my point of view he is just applying the mechanics of the setting.
    Can you make an example ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    Removing all rules from a game would effectively remove all player agency. They don't know what they can and can't do, they don't know the odds of success and consequences of failure, they don't know even know the results of success. They have no knowledge and can therefore make no informed decisions. That is the same as blindly swinging in the dark, which is worse than being 100% railroaded because at least then you know what's going on.

    One inevitable problem I see with having "the Master think the outcome is dubious he calls for a roll vs a DC of his choice" rule is the lack of consistency, even if you don't mean to you WILL absolutely make inconsistent decisions or at the very least decisions that feel inconsistent for the players. Frankly this is going to be absolute hell for them. This might work only in a hopeless horror game.

    The bare minimum purpose of rules is to avoid the above.
    In my experience the players have no problem in questioning the decisions of the GM. And while the GM has the last word and it's possible to have inconsistent decisions, the same it's true if you have detailed rules.
    "Hey GM, I'm a great sniper, the DC for hitting that target is ridicolous" is not different from "Who the hell wrote these rules ? The best sniper has trouble hitting a man sitting immobile at 200m ?" which would result in rule change, thus we are at the starting point. By cristallizing stuff with rules you are sure there will be situations where fiction and rules are inconsistent. Altough maybe its better to have mismatches between rules and player expectations, instead that between players ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Part of the purpose is to "map" all the elements into a common framework of reference just to understand their relative capabilities, odds of or degree of success/failure, etc. As others have said, to give an idea of what characters are and aren't capable of -- but also get all the players (GM included) on the same page as to how likely/unlikely things are. This is why I cringe whenever someone says that the system and setting don't need to be in sync, and that the rules are just there to enable the "fun". If the "fiction"-derived expectations and outcomes, and the rules-derived expectations and outcomes, are out of alignments, it causes dissonance and discord.

    If the "fiction" (setting, characters, etc) says that people should be able to jump over a one-foot-tall stone fence without any real effort, but the rules say they can't, or have a 50% chance of failure, that's a problem. If the rules say people can jump 10' straight up reliably, but the "fiction" doesn't reflect that, it's ALSO a problem.
    As I said before both the players and the GM should know the setting. If the fiction says that people can jump over the one meter fence, they can, no need for a rule that say so. In Star Wars people can jump over that fence, but only Jedi can jump 10 meters straight. In the case of settings that don't have an established fiction (like D&D settings) you would need a big setting guide.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    The point of rules is to provide shared expectations. If we sit down to tell a story, we probably won't agree about everything. Maybe you think a Fire Demon is strong enough to take three lightning bolts, but I think it would go down in two. Maybe you think the King is persuaded by an argument while I don't. The rules exist to give consistent answers to those questions. You define how tough a Fire Demon is and how much damage a lightning bolt does, and you can use that to resolve our conflict. You write up some rules for persuading people, and we apply those to the king.

    Your rule doesn't do this, instead ending up as a weird version of Munchausen. Only one player can challenge, and they can set the odds of challenges. Those changes don't seem like positives over Munchausen.
    And again I say we should know the setting. What is a Fire Demon ? What is a lightning bolt ? Reading the D&D handbook I must say I don't know. I just have a bunch of HP and damage dices. What do these represent ? What happen when the lightning bolt strikes the Fire Demon ? Following the rules I just know that at some point the Fire Demon dies. Somehow. We can't have shared expectations because there is no shared setting.
    If instead we play in a realistic setting we can have shared expectations. If we play in a know setting we can have shared expectations.

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    From the GM's point of view, adding a rule to the game is a way to remove doubt from a certain aspect of how things could go, and thereby direct what se sorts of things are plannable and what sorts of things are not. As a byproduct of rendering some things certain, rules also tend to channel planning into themselves - that is to say, if you have a lot of rules that make it possible to figure out who will win a fight with some guards, but no way to know for certain whether someone can successfully sneak past those guards, players will tend to fight the guards rather than sneak past them.

    That makes rules a very powerful tool for determining what kind of stuff happens during game. If you want a politically focused game or a combat focused game or something that's all about alchemy, giving the focal element special rules and making everything else more hazy will encourage play to flow through that particular game element.

    You can also use the certainty of a rule to counterbalance the haziness of very unclear, abstract, or difficult concepts, and make it possible for players to more easily engage with things that they don't yet have mastery of. For example, if you're running a game about politics and blackmail, players may not have a good idea how one goes about obtaining blackmail material, what sort of position is strong enough to support a political push and what kinds of risks will just get them arrested or killed, etc. If you build a system around it which quantifies those aspects and provides guarantees, even if they're a bit gamey, it can give enough stability that players will engage with the dynamics rather than just avoiding them out of fear of being worse off for trying.
    My first tought is: why would people play a game about something they don't know ? If they are interested, why don't they study the argument ? Or the most probable case is that some players know the matter and others don't, but in this case shouldn't the more experienced ones help the others ?
    This reminds me that I've done political games without rules for politics. For example we once made a post apocalyptic campaign. It wasn't supposed to be a political game and there were no rules for politics. But at some point the players decided to take on a town that was in state of anarchy. They succeded and founded a government. I (the GM) proposed them different form of government and other solutions, warning them about probable outcomes of each. I did this both directly and via NPC. When they become accostumed to ruling they started doing their own things, and again I warned them about the obvious outcomes of such actions.
    Being interested in the argument it wasn't tiresome for me to think about the consequences of all that stuff.
    Later they made the power grid for the city. One of the players knows way more than me about the argument, so he corrected my wrong assumptions and we made a sensible power grid. Following his teachings I modified the plot hooks regarding the electricity matter. Had the game provided rules for energy I would probably have said "too complicated, let's do something else" and if I had used them the player would have said "those rules suck, it should be this way..."
    Last edited by BlacKnight; 2017-12-29 at 06:01 AM.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    My first tought is: why would people play a game about something they don't know ? If they are interested, why don't they study the argument ? Or the most probable case is that some players know the matter and others don't, but in this case shouldn't the more experienced ones help the others ?
    This reminds me that I've done political games without rules for politics. For example we once made a post apocalyptic campaign. It wasn't supposed to be a political game and there were no rules for politics. But at some point the players decided to take on a town that was in state of anarchy. They succeded and founded a government. I (the GM) proposed them different form of government and other solutions, warning them about probable outcomes of each. I did this both directly and via NPC. When they become accostumed to ruling they started doing their own things, and again I warned them about the obvious outcomes of such actions.
    Being interested in the argument it wasn't tiresome for me to think about the consequences of all that stuff.
    Later they made the power grid for the city. One of the players knows way more than me about the argument, so he corrected my wrong assumptions and we made a sensible power grid. Following his teachings I modified the plot hooks regarding the electricity matter. Had the game provided rules for energy I would probably have said "too complicated, let's do something else" and if I had used them the player would have said "those rules suck, it should be this way..."
    By engaging with it in the context of a game, it becomes much easier to experiment, make mistakes, and ultimately learn. If you want real life experience with e.g. crime and bribery, well, thats fairly difficult to obtain safely. You can study it or read books or stories, but there's a gap of getting the feeling for what actually making those decisions yourself is like. Games give you a means to get closer to that.

    As to whether you can just have an experienced person lead the others through it, yes, but only kinda. That situation is essentially one where one person at the table acts as a teacher and others are students. However, just having the students ask random questions or propose random things and have the teacher say 'yeah sure' or 'this is what happens' or 'no, thats a bad idea' isn't the most effective way to communicate knowledge. It's flexible, but on its own its not very good. By making the teacher (game designer) spend some time to express the most important elements of their understanding in explicit form (e.g. write rules that they believe cover the highlights), its much faster for others to absorb. Part of it is that once you have that explicit knowledge, you can explore the consequences on your own or work things out without having to interact over every single element.

    There's also the aspect where, if you come to a surprising conclusion on your own its often easier to accept than if you just have to take it for granted when someone tells it to you. So if e.g. the way that negotiations in a political system work doesn't fit a player's mental image of politics from the outside, having a system where the political dynamics emerge from lower level rules can allow that person to grasp the reason why things end up that way on their own (which would otherwise often lead to a back and forth over what 'makes sense'). It's much the same way that breaking an argument into a number of smaller components where agreement can be reached about each component individually is an effective way to resolve confusion surrounding disagreements - it makes the 'why' of things explicit.

    All of this basically makes it easier and faster to learn compared to just free-forming things. None of it is strictly essential to learning new concepts or skills, but if used well it can improve the experience of learning quite a lot.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    I'm not sure I understand you there. How is the GM forced to write mechanics ? From my point of view he is just applying the mechanics of the setting.
    Can you make an example ?
    Ooh, I do love examples!

    In 5th edition D&D, about 80% of the skill system flat out doesn't exist. Unlike in 3.5, there's no set DC for climbing a rope, climbing a rough wall, climbing a tree, or climbing anything much else. This means that in 5th, any time a player wants to climb something, you have to make up the rule that Wizards of the Coast didn't.

    In your game, it's even worse, because you have no rules except "The DM makes something up". But the DM doesn't need rules to tell them to make something up, because they can already make something up. The DM needs an actual rule set to help define what happens, and how likely it is to happen.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    Ooh, I do love examples!

    In 5th edition D&D, about 80% of the skill system flat out doesn't exist. Unlike in 3.5, there's no set DC for climbing a rope, climbing a rough wall, climbing a tree, or climbing anything much else. This means that in 5th, any time a player wants to climb something, you have to make up the rule that Wizards of the Coast didn't.
    Using a judgement call to define one variable that's plugged into a rules set is not making up a rule by any reasonable definition, and not defining specific difficulties for everything has been practically standard for decades now (with D&D being a holdout).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    In your game, it's even worse, because you have no rules except "The DM makes something up". But the DM doesn't need rules to tell them to make something up, because they can already make something up. The DM needs an actual rule set to help define what happens, and how likely it is to happen.
    There's other rules, most notably that there's mechanical codification of character abilities (skills are rated in dice size), and mechanical codification of how a check works (roll the die, if you get over a variable difficulty you succeed). Those rules provide a framework for the DM to make something up in.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    As a general observation, I've found that the most frustrating and unfun part of variable "difficulty target" systems is that many of them are so aggravatingly vague and obtuse about what reasonable target numbers are for various tasks and situations.

    It gets even more frustrating when the die pool is also all over the place.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-29 at 02:34 PM.
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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    As a general observation, I've found that the most frustrating and unfun part of variable "difficulty target" systems is that many of them are so aggravatingly vague and obtuse about what reasonable target numbers are for various tasks and situations.
    Yeah, this. If 5e at least had a framework for you to make things up in - rather than the DM having to decide what kind of arcana check should be difficult and what kind of arcana check should be easy (without, obviously, having any knowledge of how hard "Arcana" is from real-life experience) - such as spending about a page on example DCs for the kind of thing each skill could do and how hard it is, then I would have more truck with it. At the moment, it's "Here are some skills, make the DCs up." There are a couple of DCs that are made specific, but they're made specific outside of the skill section (like the heal check in the death and dying section is specified to be DC 15 IIRC).

    Imagine if the rest of the game were like that. Spells could be one sentence long ("Fireball launches a pea-sized bead of magic into an area, which then explodes in a blast of flame") and then the DM could make up what they do and how hard they are to aim/resist/whatever. Monsters could be very similar ("Vampires have the ability to turn into a cloud of mist (which they do automatically if they would otherwise be defeated) or a bat. They have the ability to bite creatures, turning them into vampires, or to charm people by looking into their eyes, but otherwise fight with their fists. Their resistance and regenerative abilities are legendary, but they are weak to sunlight, running water, wooden stakes and personal property." Now time for the DM to make up what happens in combat...). "DM go figure" isn't a roleplaying game: it's freeform with a DM. And 5e players deserved more from their skill system than freeform with a DM because Wizards couldn't be bothered to write a table of example DCs.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    The purpose of rules is to define the game. The one rule in the original post isn't sufficient for that. Or rather, it uses a couple of loaded terms from RPG jargon to communicate additional rules which are otherwise nowhere to be seen.

    So before adding new rules, I'd suggest laying those out. Starting with: What is a "player character" and what is a player supposed to do with such a thing?
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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    By engaging with it in the context of a game, it becomes much easier to experiment, make mistakes, and ultimately learn. If you want real life experience with e.g. crime and bribery, well, thats fairly difficult to obtain safely. You can study it or read books or stories, but there's a gap of getting the feeling for what actually making those decisions yourself is like. Games give you a means to get closer to that.

    As to whether you can just have an experienced person lead the others through it, yes, but only kinda. That situation is essentially one where one person at the table acts as a teacher and others are students. However, just having the students ask random questions or propose random things and have the teacher say 'yeah sure' or 'this is what happens' or 'no, thats a bad idea' isn't the most effective way to communicate knowledge. It's flexible, but on its own its not very good. By making the teacher (game designer) spend some time to express the most important elements of their understanding in explicit form (e.g. write rules that they believe cover the highlights), its much faster for others to absorb. Part of it is that once you have that explicit knowledge, you can explore the consequences on your own or work things out without having to interact over every single element.

    There's also the aspect where, if you come to a surprising conclusion on your own its often easier to accept than if you just have to take it for granted when someone tells it to you. So if e.g. the way that negotiations in a political system work doesn't fit a player's mental image of politics from the outside, having a system where the political dynamics emerge from lower level rules can allow that person to grasp the reason why things end up that way on their own (which would otherwise often lead to a back and forth over what 'makes sense'). It's much the same way that breaking an argument into a number of smaller components where agreement can be reached about each component individually is an effective way to resolve confusion surrounding disagreements - it makes the 'why' of things explicit.

    All of this basically makes it easier and faster to learn compared to just free-forming things. None of it is strictly essential to learning new concepts or skills, but if used well it can improve the experience of learning quite a lot.
    I have to say that I agree with your point. If a player wants to experiment with a system it's better to have rules he can work on alone. Playing wargames is a different thing than just reading stuff, even if often you notice inconsistencies because the games are not perfect as simulation.
    But there can be different situations. For example the player has no interest in studying the rules alone, he just wants to play the game. In that case the application of the rules would fell on the GM, which could already know the matter. Would the rules help him ?
    Or all the players could be experienced. In this case would the rules actually add something, or would they just be an hindrance ?
    I mean: if the rules are a system for learning what should you do once you have learned the matter ? Keep them, expand them or get rid of them ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    As a general observation, I've found that the most frustrating and unfun part of variable "difficulty target" systems is that many of them are so aggravatingly vague and obtuse about what reasonable target numbers are for various tasks and situations.

    It gets even more frustrating when the die pool is also all over the place.
    What is a system that you think does DC well ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    Yeah, this. If 5e at least had a framework for you to make things up in - rather than the DM having to decide what kind of arcana check should be difficult and what kind of arcana check should be easy (without, obviously, having any knowledge of how hard "Arcana" is from real-life experience) - such as spending about a page on example DCs for the kind of thing each skill could do and how hard it is, then I would have more truck with it. At the moment, it's "Here are some skills, make the DCs up." There are a couple of DCs that are made specific, but they're made specific outside of the skill section (like the heal check in the death and dying section is specified to be DC 15 IIRC).
    And I say it again: we should know the setting. What is an arcana check ? Nobody knows. Having fixed DC would change nothing, you are just rolling dices without knowing what is actually happening.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    Imagine if the rest of the game were like that. Spells could be one sentence long ("Fireball launches a pea-sized bead of magic into an area, which then explodes in a blast of flame") and then the DM could make up what they do and how hard they are to aim/resist/whatever. Monsters could be very similar ("Vampires have the ability to turn into a cloud of mist (which they do automatically if they would otherwise be defeated) or a bat. They have the ability to bite creatures, turning them into vampires, or to charm people by looking into their eyes, but otherwise fight with their fists. Their resistance and regenerative abilities are legendary, but they are weak to sunlight, running water, wooden stakes and personal property." Now time for the DM to make up what happens in combat...). "DM go figure" isn't a roleplaying game: it's freeform with a DM. And 5e players deserved more from their skill system than freeform with a DM because Wizards couldn't be bothered to write a table of example DCs.
    Maybe you missed when I said that if are using a fictional setting you need sources ? They could be setting guides or books, movies and other media. Are they rules in disguise ? In a sense yes, but it's not different from the myriad of rules from the real world like gravity, electromagnetic waves, the human body functioning... that for some reason get rarely fixed in rules. Maybe because they are obvious and everybody know them ? (I mean they know their effects on everyday life, not that everybody has a degree in everything...)
    If rules are just the knowledge about the setting like you seem to imply does it means that a real world setting would need no rules or very minimal rules ?

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    And I say it again: we should know the setting. What is an arcana check ? Nobody knows. Having fixed DC would change nothing, you are just rolling dices without knowing what is actually happening.



    Maybe you missed when I said that if are using a fictional setting you need sources ? They could be setting guides or books, movies and other media. Are they rules in disguise ? In a sense yes, but it's not different from the myriad of rules from the real world like gravity, electromagnetic waves, the human body functioning... that for some reason get rarely fixed in rules. Maybe because they are obvious and everybody know them ? (I mean they know their effects on everyday life, not that everybody has a degree in everything...)
    If rules are just the knowledge about the setting like you seem to imply does it means that a real world setting would need no rules or very minimal rules ?
    No, rules are, well, rules. They aren't "The knowledge about the setting." Sure, rules are what tell you how hard knowledge checks are ("10+creature's HD" in 3.5 and "Bugger off, I'm not going to tell you" in 5e), and the rules also tell you what exactly an arcana or knowledge (arcana) check is in case you're not sure what knowing about arcane things means. But they're also what tells you how hard hitting things is ("Creature's AC" both times) and what you need to do to find out if you reach the DC or AC.

    You can have "The DM makes up some random crap vaguely consistent with how they remembered or misremembered the material that inspired the setting" as a rule, but it's pretty hollow.
    Last edited by Jormengand; 2017-12-30 at 09:45 AM.

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    Default Re: The purpose of the rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    No, rules are, well, rules. They aren't "The knowledge about the setting." Sure, rules are what tell you how hard knowledge checks are ("10+creature's HD" in 3.5 and "Bugger off, I'm not going to tell you" in 5e), and the rules also tell you what exactly an arcana or knowledge (arcana) check is in case you're not sure what knowing about arcane things means. But they're also what tells you how hard hitting things is ("Creature's AC" both times) and what you need to do to find out if you reach the DC or AC.

    You can have "The DM makes up some random crap vaguely consistent with how they remembered or misremembered the material that inspired the setting" as a rule, but it's pretty hollow.
    Indeed, the rules are supposed to help form framework of shared expectations.

    I find the notion that "knowing about the setting" alone will reliably be enough to establish shared expectations to the degree necessary to have a game in that setting, and to eliminate the need for the framework... rather dubious.


    Quote Originally Posted by BlacKnight View Post
    As I said before both the players and the GM should know the setting. If the fiction says that people can jump over the one meter fence, they can, no need for a rule that say so. In Star Wars people can jump over that fence, but only Jedi can jump 10 meters straight. In the case of settings that don't have an established fiction (like D&D settings) you would need a big setting guide.
    If people can easily jump over a one meter fence, the rules need to reflect that by making it easy for the average person to jump over a one meter fence. That's part of the scale of "jumping over stuff" that the rule needs to incorporate if you have a rule for jumping over things. The GM is always free to waive the rule in favor of automatic success, but that given that someone might be below average when it comes to jumping, or facing extra-difficult circumstances (in a downpour and the ground is muddy, carrying a heavy burden, being chased by goblins, whatever), and a resolution required, the rules needs to include that part of the possible spectrum.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2017-12-30 at 10:11 AM.
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