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  1. - Top - End - #121
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Constructman View Post
    {Scrubbed}
    What. the. hell. man?
    Last edited by Roland St. Jude; 2019-06-04 at 09:57 AM.

  2. - Top - End - #122

    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    What. the. hell. man?
    {Scrubbed}
    Last edited by Roland St. Jude; 2019-06-04 at 09:59 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #123
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Spoiler: On the Tangent...
    Show

    On "narrative structure".

    On tropes and genre conventions.

    Spoiler: Explaining my disdain for postmodernism.
    Show

    On postmodernism, the dumpster fire of philosophy.

    PS, I'd call it a badge of honor and irony to be called a "puffed up sophist" by a postmodernist.




    As for why I like "simulationist" systems? Because I want the decisions and challenges facing the character on the system layer to be the same as those facing the character on the fiction layer, and I hate disconnects. I hate seeing the result of a roll and comparing it to what was going on in front of the character and getting that gut-level "what the hell, that makes no damn sense" reaction. I hate being kicked out of the moment for the character and made to stop and think about some other layer of stuff going on.

    And really, that's the not far from reason I hate narrative causality and tropes and genre conventions in general, because I'll be sitting there and suddenly realize that what's about to happen next won't be anything that makes sense for the situation at hand and what we know about the characters, but instead will be the utterly banal and transparent and predictable thing that the writer would think needs to happen next. Like when I'm watching a mystery and I can tell that the killer or the solution to the puzzle was made obvious by the "narrative structure" and "story beats" and blah blah blah about 10 minutes into the show.

    And that's my problem with the attempt to present D&D as "simulationist" -- because it's so damn good at producing those "what the hell?" moments, with outcomes from rolls that don't really reflect what's going on, with rules that produce comically strange results when taken at face value. I'm not in this thread to directly trash D&D, but if the assertion is made that D&D is really a "simmy" system, I'm going to tear that assertion down even if D&D itself gets caught in the flames.

    And if someone's only defense of the idea that D&D is simmy is "your standards are unrealistic and unattainable", I'm not sure they have a defense of the idea at all.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-06-03 at 11:39 PM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

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  4. - Top - End - #124
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    I don't think it can reasonably be disputed that D&D is not a simulationist system, unless what it is simulating is D&D itself, in which case every system is simulationist.
    Re: 100 Things to Beware of that Every DM Should Know

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    93. No matter what the character sheet say, there are only 3 PC alignments: Lawful Snotty, Neutral Greedy, and Chaotic Backstabbing.

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    If I might, it seems there are actually multiple axes of “simulation”, the difference between which is the cause of many a circular firing squad. I would suggest that it can actually be broken down to the following categories:

    Granularity: The precise accounting and tracking of everything from which ankle has armor on it, to just how many bullets are left in that magazine, to exactly how many miles a camel can go in the desert carrying 100kg without water. While some people may just love accounting, I suspect fans of this part of simulationism enjoy the fact that it places deliberate constraints on players to encourage prep work, planning, and avoidance of narrativium. You don’t fire on constant full auto because you will run out of ammo; you don’t trek across the desert on a whim, and the reason you buy greaves is not for s some obscure 5% change in the chance you’ll be hit, but because sharp metal meeting shins is bad. It feels like the player had to “earn” something.

    Of course, it’s also potentially incredibly dull to implement.

    Personal Capability: Fundamentally, we know that certain acts so exceed human capacity in scale that they are “unrealistic”. We know that no matter how bad ass you are, you are unlikely to survive being pincushioned with arrows, and you probably can’t convince Churchill to surrender Europe to the Soviets. In systems with magic, we know that if everyone could “snap fingers for lightning”, the world wouldn’t work as written, so simulationism for here means limiting Magic’s availability or practicality.

    Again, the sense here is that it isn’t letting the player “cheat”. If it’s hard, and “realistic” (you know, for professional delta force elves gone rogue to fight megacorps), you have to earn your win rather than have it handed to you. We like to feel like as a result the player has to be more clever, more creative, and make better decisions.

    Maybe a tiny never to be admitted part thinks that while our fat butts could never really be a sorcerer, there is pleasure in thinking we could at least think our way through a situation with more human constraints. Of course, the average gamer is about as likely to be turned a vampire as they are to wake up one day and be an MMA champion, but it’s a pleasant fiction.

    Cause and Effect World As a third axis, the world itself should behave in a rational and supportable manner. Well and good to have trans dimensional spirits, but let’s not forget economics, politics, ethnic hatred, and the like. Again, the joy comes in knowing you don’t get a Mary Sue pass - and that you will almost certainly have to think beyond “who can I fireball today” because a realistic world system is usually tied directly or implicitly to a realistic consequence system.

    Realism this is simply a measure of how much things act like they would in earth, minus the setting directed suspensions of disbelief. If you have a system where most firefights devolve into people hiding behind cover, hurling lead, panicking, and then spending the rest of the game without three fingers because they got hit once, you have “realism”. Likewise if that fireball crackling from the guys fingertips leaves a flaming and hideous corpse, or attempting to block a dragon claw with a shield ends with shattered arm bones.

    Sometimes we love this because it is the right medium for the story (can you imagine crossing Twilight’s gritty, plausible, post nuclear Europe with HP and instant healing?), but a lot of times it falls back to the real faithful points of simulationism. It doesn’t let you be a Sue. The implication then becomes that as a not-sue, the player must take a greater part in solving the issue, and not rely on a character sheet to do it for him.

    Of course, since many people WANT to be unstoppable heroes of the day, they tend to be less in favor of these.

    Of note, whether you are playing a realistic commando in a world perfect setting, or a dragonborn sorcerer in D&D, or simply trying to see if you can do better at invading Russia than Napoleon did, you are engaged in power fantasy. The question is how much, what kind, and how do you like your stories. (Well, unless you are Heinz Guderian’s ghost, in which case I guess you actually know about that last one).

  6. - Top - End - #126
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    I guess since things got a little bit heated, I should explain why I decided to namedrop D&D as a crunchy, simmy system.

    So first thing I want to clear up, I actually think the Gamist-Narrativist-Simulationist triangle thing is an arbitrary construct. Most people don't define their goals when designing an RPG in terms of "Hey, I'm going for a gamist-narrativist medley here," and very rarely are these goals actually at cross purposes. Remember, even GURPS suggests your character should be allowed to do something dramatic on death, and it has affordances for re-rolls and things like that not directly tied to modeling some ability or another. Those are pretty gamist constructs, yet GURPS doesn't shy from them despite being one of the most decisively sim systems of all. Logically, it follows that terms like "gamist" and "simulationist" are actually fuzzier than they look at an initial appraisal. What someone will find as transparently gamist won't jar another person's sense of verisimilitude at all, so they'll perceive the robust set of scenarios modeled as simulationist. But it's a useful set of terms to couch things in.When I made this thread, I knew in a broad sense what kind of crunch I liked. I didn't like crunch for the sake of crunch-- that's why I mention rules-lite systems like Microlite in the OP as something that really jives with me, because I like snappy gameplay and that's something a lot of crunchier systems are bad at delivering. I'm willing to put up with added clunkiness for the sake of good rules that add depth and value to a game system (in my eyes), though. And there are systems that, despite offering light rules and snappy resolutions, just don't do anything for me. THESE games are broadly understood to be narrativist-- they sell themselves in terms of making stories. FATE, FUDGE, PbtA games-- they all don't do it for me. Even Savage Worlds doesn't do it for me! They're all missing something-- for me. Even though they all obviously have a design elegance I'm drawn to, it's their lack that makes me stay away and has made me try to formulate a system that blends all the things I like. So I knew there were two ways I could ask for other people's input to try and pin down the je ne sais quoi in more strict terms-- make a thread about why narrativist games don't do it for people and try to pin down what's missing that way, or make a thread about what we appreciate in the systems that DO have that je ne sais quoi even if it comes at the expense of making the game a little chunky. I figured that a more positively-focused thread was the safer bet-- people would likely not feel as much of a need to defend their preferred system, and people who knew what they liked might have deeper insights than people who knew they didn't like something but maybe not why. So crunchy, simulationist games it was.

    I included DnD in that OP because multiple editions highlight certain kinds of rules that I like which I was trying to understand more about. For one, the race and class system, combined with (depending on the edition) feats and (always) skills, generates a vast array of character options that feel mechanically distinct from each other. That doesn't directly relate to simulationism, but it is recognizably connected to the feeling I get in building characters who can do wacky stuff in a system like GURPS which is closer to simulationist-in-strict sense, and it highlights the odd joy that can be found in deep rules. Additionally, DnD (and especially old school DnD and OSRs) provide a pile of rules for scenarios not quite bounded by just the more-gamist realm of character creation-- something akin to a physics engine that narrative games almost certainly lack. For example, there's rules for how easy it is to break down walls made of certain materials, or how much strength you need to bend iron bars. There's rules for how much stuff carts of different kinds can haul. Older-school editions (and OSRs) have rules for being a ruler or leader and for making keeps or the like. There's also generative rules for things like town construction. Rules on rules on rules, of all sorts, typically meant to model a world or a dungeon, that stand independent of the characters. There's even things like NPC classes, meant to model human beings that make certain places run. Harder sims like GURPS also have analogous rules-- rules for destroying materials, rules for carrying stuff on vehicles, rules for city types, rules for using wealth to build structures. And both DnD and GURPS have one big thing-- rules supplements. You want MORE rules, kid? Here. The former gives you more classes but has also included stuff like ancient rituals and new races and new factions and new character starting kits in the 5th edition. The latter loses its mind and lets you model the effects of a skeletonized frame on your battle rifle and gives you rules for constructing a trenchcoat out of para-aramid weave. And I find both kinds of content delicious.

    Even if DnD isn't simulationist because it doesn't simulate things well, it matches simulationist systems in its ambitions and areas of focus immediately outside of character creation/behavior. Even within the constraints of character creation and behavior, it still attempts to provide a rich rules grammar to describe what's going on, erring on the side of complexity rather than sparseness. It may stumble in its end results, depending on the tastes of the individual playing the game, but it follows the same broad arc and design tendency. For me, personally, DnD definitely counts as crunchy, though there are crunchier, and simulationist, though there are more rigorous simulations. But that doesn't matter, much; that's a subjective and arbitrary metric because how well it succeeds at simulating things is going to depend on individual tastes, because gamist-simulationist-narrativist paradigms are arbitrary to begin with. It follows the same arcs and design tendencies as more simulationist systems as opposed to the narrativist trend, though, and that makes it useful as an illustrative example.

    Anyways, this particular strand of conversation isn't quite off topic or unproductive (it's more that it's less productive than it could be, IMO), but it does highlight another thing that I like about crunchy and simulationist systems.

    Bad crunch (objectively or subjectively) is pretty immediately recognizable and often entertaining. Have you ever heard of a bad narrativist game? Can you really think of one? I mean, I'm sure they exist-- they must-- but it's harder to tell what works and what doesn't once you enter the qualitative realms of design. Meanwhile, almost all infamously bad RPGs are crunchy on some level. Even a nightmare like FATAL, which is objectionable because of the horrible, horrible things written in its pages... has bad crunch to boot. And you read the crunch, and you can tell RIGHT AWAY it sucks. World of Synnibar is a similar thing-- five hundred pages of self-referential insanity better suited for the Necronomicon than any games table. Something like deadEarth is practically built on how broken it is. RIFTS may have its fans, but you can tell (especially in the older editions) where the authors' ambition well outstripped the rules they made. But it's not limited to those things which are either obviously statistically jacked up, it's a consistent axiom for the subjective realm too; if there's rules you don't like in a crunchy system, you can tell right away you don't like them, either on first reading or during your first encounters in play. If you don't like what DnD does, there's immediate fun to be had in pointing out its quirks. Trying to pin down good crunch is, IMO, pretty difficult. Trying to pin down bad crunch? Could not be simpler and could not be more entertaining. This is neat if you have to houserule or patch something. If something's objectively borked, people can just use a resolution system from a different game. If everyone agrees on something not working for them, they can just modify it until it does. Some really modular systems already come out of the box with expectations that you'll tweak them to suit your needs.

  7. - Top - End - #127
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Hay guys! Is there still space to talk about what I enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs?

    Of the games I have played, only Aftermath and Shadowrun fit the bill. I think what I like about them, is your actions can have unintended, but logical, consequences. For instance, to use a bow in Aftermath, you must have a bracer on your arm. Makes sense, as real humans have to too. The bracer gives armor bonus, makes sense, as it is stiff. Somewhere, someone has avoided getting killed because of that. (Well, avoided getting hit, and assumed the hit would carry an infection, etc.) What are the odds? What a story to tell!

    In Shadowrun, my shaman sent her wind spirit on a mission and was immediately shot down. Street Sam ally picked me up and saw that my clothes were still perfect like a picture out of a fashion magazine, though he could see the blood under me and feel that I was wearing sweat-clothes. He couldn't apply first aid because my disguise magic was bound such that I didn't have to concentrate. The whole cluster**** was priceless. (wind spirit helped yay I picked the right action that make the enemy prioritize ending me for a reason)

    So it is that sense of verisimilitude that helps.

    I can make a bunch of links too!: Here is an interview with a writer of Dragonlance, in which she mentions that it was a first book a fan read in which a hero fires an arrow, and it misses. In this sense, D&D is more simulationist than some fantasy, but it is still far less so than aftermath. Here is a vlog from Tim Cask, first employee of TSR, saying HPs are not meat points.

    Ravnica and Eberron have world changing magic. Warhammer Fantasy has magic with such costs such that if you use it to solve hunger, then everyone you feed will go mad. If the disparity between power and setting seems to break versimilitude, consider, maybe those with power have dishonest motivations (that even the author doesn't know about). Also, I myself have played a gnome who gave away a magic item to save a village from starving. In Mage, I came so close to stopping death that an alternate timeline me tried to share a buggy singularity with everyone. If you want a setting that is stuck in a single, romanticized point in history to change, then the setting will disappoint you over and over. You feel free to introduce irrigation to Athas in your own game, though, if that's your bag.
    Last edited by Spriteless; 2019-06-03 at 10:31 PM.
    yo

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    If I might, it seems there are actually multiple axes of “simulation”, the difference between which is the cause of many a circular firing squad. I would suggest that it can actually be broken down to the following categories:

    Granularity: The precise accounting and tracking of everything from which ankle has armor on it, to just how many bullets are left in that magazine, to exactly how many miles a camel can go in the desert carrying 100kg without water. While some people may just love accounting, I suspect fans of this part of simulationism enjoy the fact that it places deliberate constraints on players to encourage prep work, planning, and avoidance of narrativium. You don’t fire on constant full auto because you will run out of ammo; you don’t trek across the desert on a whim, and the reason you buy greaves is not for s some obscure 5% change in the chance you’ll be hit, but because sharp metal meeting shins is bad. It feels like the player had to “earn” something.

    Of course, it’s also potentially incredibly dull to implement.

    Personal Capability: Fundamentally, we know that certain acts so exceed human capacity in scale that they are “unrealistic”. We know that no matter how bad ass you are, you are unlikely to survive being pincushioned with arrows, and you probably can’t convince Churchill to surrender Europe to the Soviets. In systems with magic, we know that if everyone could “snap fingers for lightning”, the world wouldn’t work as written, so simulationism for here means limiting Magic’s availability or practicality.

    Again, the sense here is that it isn’t letting the player “cheat”. If it’s hard, and “realistic” (you know, for professional delta force elves gone rogue to fight megacorps), you have to earn your win rather than have it handed to you. We like to feel like as a result the player has to be more clever, more creative, and make better decisions.

    Maybe a tiny never to be admitted part thinks that while our fat butts could never really be a sorcerer, there is pleasure in thinking we could at least think our way through a situation with more human constraints. Of course, the average gamer is about as likely to be turned a vampire as they are to wake up one day and be an MMA champion, but it’s a pleasant fiction.

    Cause and Effect World As a third axis, the world itself should behave in a rational and supportable manner. Well and good to have trans dimensional spirits, but let’s not forget economics, politics, ethnic hatred, and the like. Again, the joy comes in knowing you don’t get a Mary Sue pass - and that you will almost certainly have to think beyond “who can I fireball today” because a realistic world system is usually tied directly or implicitly to a realistic consequence system.

    Realism this is simply a measure of how much things act like they would in earth, minus the setting directed suspensions of disbelief. If you have a system where most firefights devolve into people hiding behind cover, hurling lead, panicking, and then spending the rest of the game without three fingers because they got hit once, you have “realism”. Likewise if that fireball crackling from the guys fingertips leaves a flaming and hideous corpse, or attempting to block a dragon claw with a shield ends with shattered arm bones.

    Sometimes we love this because it is the right medium for the story (can you imagine crossing Twilight’s gritty, plausible, post nuclear Europe with HP and instant healing?), but a lot of times it falls back to the real faithful points of simulationism. It doesn’t let you be a Sue. The implication then becomes that as a not-sue, the player must take a greater part in solving the issue, and not rely on a character sheet to do it for him.

    Of course, since many people WANT to be unstoppable heroes of the day, they tend to be less in favor of these.

    Of note, whether you are playing a realistic commando in a world perfect setting, or a dragonborn sorcerer in D&D, or simply trying to see if you can do better at invading Russia than Napoleon did, you are engaged in power fantasy. The question is how much, what kind, and how do you like your stories. (Well, unless you are Heinz Guderian’s ghost, in which case I guess you actually know about that last one).

    Add Consistency.

    Based purely on my own internal gut reaction to the three notions in question.

    "Sim"... if my character turns this dial X clicks, the result in the rules and the "fiction" will be X, or X+/-, each time, reliably.
    "Nar"... if my character turns this dial X clicks, the result can vary depending on what someone thinks will create the "best story".
    "Gam"... if my character turns the dial X clicks... someone will try to get me to wager on the outcome.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

  9. - Top - End - #129
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Tangent to tangent: Lindsay Ellis counterpoint to Film Crit Hulk ("Now, Hulk has written some great film journalism over the years, but on this, well, I pretty much disagree with most of his assertions")

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Beer View Post
    I don't think it can reasonably be disputed that D&D is not a simulationist system, unless what it is simulating is D&D itself, in which case every system is simulationist.
    It's modeling, or at least attempting to model, aspects of the real world that most games (even most tabletop games) either don't or can't. For me that's enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deffers View Post
    Even if DnD isn't simulationist because it doesn't simulate things well, it matches simulationist systems in its ambitions and areas of focus immediately outside of character creation/behavior. Even within the constraints of character creation and behavior, it still attempts to provide a rich rules grammar to describe what's going on, erring on the side of complexity rather than sparseness. It may stumble in its end results, depending on the tastes of the individual playing the game, but it follows the same broad arc and design tendency. For me, personally, DnD definitely counts as crunchy, though there are crunchier, and simulationist, though there are more rigorous simulations. But that doesn't matter, much; that's a subjective and arbitrary metric because how well it succeeds at simulating things is going to depend on individual tastes, because gamist-simulationist-narrativist paradigms are arbitrary to begin with. It follows the same arcs and design tendencies as more simulationist systems as opposed to the narrativist trend, though, and that makes it useful as an illustrative example.
    Indeed, and I'd add two more points:

    1) D&D is useful as a common language, because most of us are familiar with it (even if we don't play anymore, or barely ever did.) Especially 3rd edition, since a certain webcomic most of us (presumably) came here to see uses it.

    2) Even if the crunch of a particular aspect being simulated produces amusing or confounding results, I reiterate that that's easily fixable. Maybe I consider a Barbarian who can hold his breath for 4 whole minutes unaided to be unreasonablel; I can still use the rule for that situation as a starting point to land on something that feels better.
    Last edited by Psyren; 2019-06-04 at 01:06 AM.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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  10. - Top - End - #130
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Constructman View Post
    {Scrub the post, scrub the quote}
    I am not a mod. Please take this all as personal position and opinion, and certainly not telling others what to do (except as an avenue of greater respect from me).
    First of all, I'm not going to choose between puffed-up sophist and name-caller, as they are both things-I-expect-us-all-to-have-grown-out-by-high-school. There are plenty of people on these boards who are various strains of doing-things-I'd-be-more-impressed-if-they-didn't. There are people who are here just to argue. There are one-true-wayists. There are people who make unverifiable appeals to IRL expertise as their argumentation support. There are people who genuinely seem to think that their position regarding elfgames is a position of impressive moral greatness. There are people who seem to think that they are bastions of brilliance bringing truth and light to the rest of the unwashed masses.
    In that light, Max just seems like a bitter old crank (no idea if old is accurate, but we all know the 'old man yells at cloud' stereotype).
    Does he have clear axes to grind? Yes. Does he pick out D&D for selective obsession and derision well above its level of transgression compared to other games? Yes, clearly D&D ran over his puppy as a kid or somesuch. Does he throw around $10 words and phrases like their use has inherent weight? Sometimes. Is he arrogant and a sophist? uh... Honestly, if he wanted us all to think that he was a big damn deal, you'd think he'd do a heck of a lot different.

    {Scrub the post, scrub the quote}
    Some other guy on the internet mistakes a niche form of literary, artistic, and architectural critique as the downfall of civilization, references two of the most lazily written articles I've ever read as his proxy argument for why it is horrible, drags it into multiple gaming discussions (including where it has no relevance to the discussion at hand, and the initial one where everyone but him realized that he was being trolled by the OP), and you're worried about his opinion of you? Rise above that, man!

    The rest of his ideas about narrative structure and storytelling are a lot more well argued, and honestly those are the kinds of arguments I would think you would want to be debating if you are a literature study-type. Not agree with, mind you, but certainly these are the things you went back and forth with with your professors and classmates, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deffers View Post
    <all of it>
    Thank you for this! This is the kind of thing I wish I had time and focus to write!
    Last edited by Roland St. Jude; 2019-06-04 at 10:01 AM.

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by KineticDiplomat View Post
    If I might, it seems there are actually multiple axes of “simulation”, the difference between which is the cause of many a circular firing squad. I would suggest that it can actually be broken down to the following categories:
    That was insightful, thank you for posting.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie the Duck View Post
    Some other guy on the internet mistakes a niche form of literary, artistic, and architectural critique as the downfall of civilization
    Spoiler: On that tangent. thing...
    Show

    If it were just the first part, I wouldn't care, it would just be critics gazing at their own navels and demonstrating their own pompous foolishness to each other.

    But it's not. Instead of debating based on fact or engaging in the pursuit of fact, it has infested the social sciences and politics and philosophy in general with the toxic notion that there are no facts, just subjective perception and the manipulation of meaningless data. Postmodernism is nothing more and nothing less than solipsism writ large, and it's the crack through which the "post-truth" notions of the propoganda-state have oozed back into our society from the darkest days of the 20th century.

    Even on just its impact on the social sciences themselves...
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grievance_Studies_affair


    As for the rest... I appreciate the sense of fairness involved, but no need to stand up for me (even if it's backhanded).

    If low-minded attacks were going to hurt me or whatever, they'd have done it by now.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2019-06-04 at 10:18 AM.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Back on topic, I like crunchy systems because they give me more toys to play with. I can customize characters, use the ways the crunchy bits do suggest something about the underlying rules of the setting to make character concepts, and toy with fun and different ways to do things.

    I am comfortable with abstraction, but want there to be some clear idea of what it's abstracting and why. As we move to less crunchy systems, that abstraction becomes more personal, but I still try to tie it in for what my character is actually doing. BESM invites this kind of thing, and even requires it, because it's only asking you to pay for what your characters can do; how they do it is entirely irrelevant to the system, and thus something the designer of the character must invent. This can lead to frustration when theoretical thematics should impose limits that you didn't get a discount for, making you choose between breaking theme or nerfing yourself when you paid for more than you're getting, but that's the trade-off for a less crunchy system.

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Regarding the "Do the D&D novels match the D&D system?" question, I'd say that the novels certainly do reflect the rules, and where they don't it's an issue with the particular novels in question, not any sort of rules/setting disconnect. Firstly, regarding Dragonlance:

    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Segev
    Have you actually played low-to-mid-level D&D?
    Yes, starting around the time that the aforementioned original Dragonlance novels first came out, but well before I'd ever heard of them.

    What I recall was a sense that the original Dragonlance characters must not be getting much in the way of XP, because they never seemed to get past that "OMG we're in over our heads and we're all going to die and everything is falling apart" that a couple levels cured for PCs unless the DM was just an adversarial jerk bully DM.
    Actually, it's exactly as if the Dragonlance novels had a terrible and adversarial DM. The original modules required you to use pregens instead of custom characters, were railroaded to the Abyss and back, had mostly over-leveled encounters (the DL modules topped out at 10th level or so, but every NPC was higher-level, dragons came in groups of Nd6 at a time, and so forth), and just generally were a published version of that one DM who should really have written a book but instead decided to run you through his plot as a D&D campaign and you're going to sit back and follow the plot breadcrumbs, dammit.

    So it's no surprise that the tie-in books were kinda crap, and the setting/mechanics disconnects there are more due to Weis and Hickman being hacks than any issues with the rules.


    Regarding settings in general, I'm not sure where the idea that the novels portray a setting that's "a quasi-medieval mashup but not that fantastic for the most part" comes from. Dragonlance is high fantasy in the vein of LotR, Eberron is more magipunk/magitech, FR is fairly varied but mostly high-magic Renaissance on the Sword Coast, Dark Sun is even more post-apocalyptic than all the other post-apocalyptic settings...there's really nothing approaching Medieval, quasi-Medieval, or even Medieval-meets-X to be seen. Sure, you have swords and vaguely Catholic churches and hereditary monarchs, but the weapons range from late Roman to late Renaissance, the churches don't have anywhere near the social clout of Medieval Catholicism, and there's no feudal setup with vassals, fiefs, and/or landed knights in any setting I can think of.

    As far as particular novels go, I can't think of any that don't have at least two of (A) prominent groups of magic-using individuals who make daily life for the average person notably better (magewrights, Harpers), worse (Templars, Red Wizards), or at least different (Wizards of High Sorcery, Halruaan elders), (B) obviously-magical and/or -fantastic cities like Sharn, Waterdeep, Menzoberranzan, or the like, (C) common magic that impacts everyday life (Eberron's "wide magic" and dragomarked heirs running industries, Dark Sun's very common psionics, etc.), (D) implicit setting details that assume D&D's high magic/power levels in the background (universal literacy, very little threat from disease or contamination thanks to clerics, Authority Equals Asskicking, etc.), or (E) highly non-Medieval governmental structures from the more modern vassal-less monarchies of most FR and Eberron nations to the more magical Halruaan magical-teleconference oligarchy and Aereni undeadocracy. Even in the series that focus more on intrigue and city life than adventuring and dungeon delves, there are plenty of mentions and examples of the fantastic things in the world.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    I like a bit of simulation in my game because I like combat to be dangerous. Sometimes I also like a simulationist bent because I like the attrition aspect - that the party is being worn down over time. This sort of thing is good for dungeon crawls, for example. Other times however I don't want too much attrition - eg in a shadowrun game where you play per scene, the dungeon crawl type situation doesnt really exist.

    I think the main benefits of crunchiness are:

    (i) resolving actions is more certain: players understand how their actions will be resolved and can plan accordingly, rather than relying on a ruling.
    (ii) greater PC customisation

    For me there is definitely a balance to be struck. Too much crunch = too confusing, and combat gets too slow - too many modifiers etc. Lots of crunch also - usually - means the game is harder to improvise, which is a major setback imo.

    More than simulationist, or crunchy, my prefernce is typically (i) quick combat, (ii) that's dangerous, (iii) with lots of PC options, and (iv) decent mechanics framework so I can plan my actions reliably, and (v) easy improvisation by the GM when needed. Which I think for me tends to end up being "medium crunch" games are my sweet spot.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Psikerlord View Post
    For me there is definitely a balance to be struck. Too much crunch = too confusing, and combat gets too slow - too many modifiers etc.
    Hm. I hadn't been thinking about it this way. Sure, a crunchier game will *likely* have more modifiers, but I didn't see that as something that had to happen.

    Seems to me like excessive modifers is an example of an inefficiently crunchy game. Look at any guide to character creation in 3.5 and you'll probably find advice to avoid "situational modifiers." If you don't have the bonus frequently enough, you'll be likely to forget that you have them when they finally apply (and so you have effectively spent build resources for no benefit).

    So, in my mind, a crunchy game isn't about lots of modifiers, but in a highly technical and mechanical use of the modifiers it has.

    A counter example of something I'd say is decidedly NOT crunchy modifiers is Action Points (and their various equivalents, like 5e's Inspiration). It may be a modifier, but it's not a crunchy game element. It's just meta currency. You can *make* it more crunchy by making an in universe justification for it (like calling them Force Points in SWSE), but you still have to make their acquisition and use highly technical for it to become truly crunchy.

    I've always felt that the absolute best crunchy games, while possibly bulky, will be as streamlined as absolutely possible. Flawlessly technical, but reduced to a manageable set of data to track.

    And your fear that crunchy games leave less room for improvisation is somewhat unfounded. The perfect crunchy system wouldn't need improvisation because it would readily apply to any conceivable scenario. Though you're right that most attempts by real humans to make a crunchy game are very far from this ideal.
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    smile Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Deffers View Post
    Hey All,
    So, in the spirit of discovery-- what is it that you guys like about crunchy systems? It can be a specific element you feel you get in those systems that you don't get elsewhere. It can be a broader design tendency you recognize in those systems that doesn't exist in narrativist systems. Or it can just be something you adore from a specific crunchy rule system. I mean, there are people who unironically enjoy rifts. That has to be for a reason. If possible, let's try to focus on crunchy games, and keep narrativist/abstract system discussion more as references to refine what it is that we like about crunch. Ultimately, when you make a thread, barring a major derail, it really turns into what other people make of it, so I leave that ultimate determination to you. Let's enjoy and discuss, above all!
    I'd have to say it's this;

    Just enough boundaries to give you a framework of how the universe works, and enough rulebending/power of DM to allow for creatively broken choices.

    I don't do many campaigns, but I love the mix of roleplay and having untold power. You also tend to spend a lot of time fleshing out your character's goals and mannerisms; I suppose you begin to feel attached to the character, as if you are them. That connection to identity might be what you get out of it.

    Aside from that, I adore hearing broken character stories. Stories where someone creative enough bent the rules or used them to achieve untold power, or a DM that was very generous with the results of a Nat 20.

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Character Building. I have honestly not had a very large amount of experience playing D&D, though I have had some, but I have done a lot of character building and optimization just on my own time for no other purpose than to see how overpowered I can get them. This is much more satisfying in crunchier systems where there is more room to optimize, more room to customize, more room to align all the fiddly details like a combination of LEGO and Transformers coming together in my metaphorical hands. It gets all the better with Homebrew, which is also much easier with the complex systems that have actual room to make something new, although this has led to the realization with some of my more excessive homebrew-inclusive builds that they'd managed to turn melee combat into rocket tag as their HP hopelessly lagged behind the damage output of a single off-hand smack. That's only a minor detriment to the glee I get from seeing that damage output climb, seeing as the only DMs that have ever allowed the stuff I put into it have been PbP campaigns that peter out before the characters even finish hearing the first quest prompt, so I likely won't ever have to deal with that asymetry.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Another thing which can appeal is the fact that a crunchier game is more likely to be run with a "let the dice fall where they may" attitude from the GM.
    So failure do to poor rolling is more of an option, adding tension and meaning to rolls and sometimes forcing the party to innovate wildly.

    EG, the plan is to sneak in and steal the MacGuffin.
    Crunchy game, the thief rolls stealth, knowing if they fail. the character will probably have to flee and may die.When you make your stealth check you are grateful for every single bonus you grafted hard to get by choosing the right things (skills, magic, etc). Failure can badly derail the plot, maybe even lead to failure of the mission.
    If they think quickly and can still salvage the win, it feels like a real against-the-odds victory probably involving some lucky rolling.

    Narrative game - Failure would compactly derail the story. Players know that if this attempt fails, there will be consequences. But there's not much chance the actual mission will fail. The GM should allow another chance - maybe capture the thief who then has to try to escape from the dungeon while the rest of the party tries another approach.

    GMing style come into this a fair bit and there's elements of chicken and egg here.
    Also, I can appreciate both styles, so I'm not saying one's better, but the difference may be part of what the OP prefers.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Also, I've never been involved in a TPK in a non-crunchy game. I suspect this is another manifestation of "let the dice fall where they may" GMing being more likely in games with crunch
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Duff View Post
    EG, the plan is to sneak in and steal the MacGuffin.
    Crunchy game, the thief rolls stealth, knowing if they fail. the character will probably have to flee and may die.When you make your stealth check you are grateful for every single bonus you grafted hard to get by choosing the right things (skills, magic, etc). Failure can badly derail the plot, maybe even lead to failure of the mission.
    If they think quickly and can still salvage the win, it feels like a real against-the-odds victory probably involving some lucky rolling.

    Narrative game - Failure would compactly derail the story. Players know that if this attempt fails, there will be consequences. But there's not much chance the actual mission will fail. The GM should allow another chance - maybe capture the thief who then has to try to escape from the dungeon while the rest of the party tries another approach.
    My experience often entails the opposite; character creation tends to be a much, much more involved and time-consuming process in a crunchier game than it is in a narrativist one, so the GM of the crunchy game is a lot more likely to allow failure to have alternative outcomes besides the character(s) dying and their sheet(s) getting ripped up due to some unlucky rolls.

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Duff View Post
    Narrative game - Failure would compactly derail the story. Players know that if this attempt fails, there will be consequences. But there's not much chance the actual mission will fail. The GM should allow another chance - maybe capture the thief who then has to try to escape from the dungeon while the rest of the party tries another approach.
    Eh, maybe it's the groups I play with, but with narrative games while death is usually less of a thing (because, hey, you can't screw with dead characters any more), failure at various levels is usually more common than in "traditional" or "crunchy" games, not less.

    Narrative games, in general, have less of a planned story than other types of games, so there's nothing to derail.

    Where you really get "derailing" is in adventure-path style games, which tend to be a pre-designed story laid on top of a usually-fairly-traditional-or-crunchy game. Most of the popular narrative games explicitly advise against having a planned story.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    My experience often entails the opposite; character creation tends to be a much, much more involved and time-consuming process in a crunchier game than it is in a narrativist one, so the GM of the crunchy game is a lot more likely to allow failure to have alternative outcomes besides the character(s) dying and their sheet(s) getting ripped up due to some unlucky rolls.
    I dunno. I can't correlate chargen length with TPK rates.

    Traveller and Paranoia are both five minute character generation and I've seen TPKs in both. Traveller was played very 'the dice fall as they may' and trying to fight two actual warships at close range with a free trader that had a single laser was... suicidal. In Paranoia the players get a six pack of clones and are generally given R&D weapons that they don't have sufficient security clearance to read the user manuals of (because it's funny). Likewise in AD&D, running it pretty much straight, 1e chargen was short and there were TPKs.

    Then AD&D 2e + Skills & Powers, through to D&D 5e plus Pathfinder, Starfinder, and HERO system all have a pretty long process of character generation. I've only ever seen TPKs in D&D 3.5e, the others tend to get deus ex machina saved or the DM just waffles off and makes a weak excuse. Although in HERO it's actually pretty explicit that when all the heroes go down it's time for a jailbreak story arc. Several times in Shadowrun I've witnessed TPKs (I've actually missed out on two, one where I missed a session and they all died, the other where I said "Yeah, no. <char_name> goes somewhere else and gets drunk").

    What I do notice about crunchy systems, regardless of chargen, is that I know what my character can do. If I want or have a character that's an expert in something I can generally do that in a crunchy system. In something less crunchy I usually have to either convince the DM to pump up the character as an expert or hope I roll consistently well any time I want to try something in the character's area of 'expertise'. Although I did note that D&D 4e and Starfinder had a similar issue of having to roll high to be good at something, but that was because they use a sliding scale of target numbers that keeps increasing as the characters get more 'skilled', sort of the Truenamer problem writ across the entire system.
    Last edited by Telok; 2019-07-05 at 08:07 PM.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    What I do notice about crunchy systems, regardless of chargen, is that I know what my character can do. If I want or have a character that's an expert in something I can generally do that in a crunchy system. In something less crunchy I usually have to either convince the DM to pump up the character as an expert or hope I roll consistently well any time I want to try something in the character's area of 'expertise'.
    Yeap -- I'd rather my character's abilities rely as little as possible on my ability to convince the DM to that the character "just should have" this or that ability without any mechanical support, or my ability to evade actually having to roll.


    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Although I did note that D&D 4e and Starfinder had a similar issue of having to roll high to be good at something, but that was because they use a sliding scale of target numbers that keeps increasing as the characters get more 'skilled', sort of the Truenamer problem writ across the entire system.
    Ah yes, illusory progress / negated progress -- also the bane of many a video game, where everything scales exactly with the character, making the "progression" mainly a mirage.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    What I do notice about crunchy systems, regardless of chargen, is that I know what my character can do. If I want or have a character that's an expert in something I can generally do that in a crunchy system. In something less crunchy I usually have to either convince the DM to pump up the character as an expert or hope I roll consistently well any time I want to try something in the character's area of 'expertise'. Although I did note that D&D 4e and Starfinder had a similar issue of having to roll high to be good at something, but that was because they use a sliding scale of target numbers that keeps increasing as the characters get more 'skilled', sort of the Truenamer problem writ across the entire system.
    Wow, you nailed one of my biggest gripes with the 4E system in a single phrase...

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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    What I do notice about crunchy systems, regardless of chargen, is that I know what my character can do. If I want or have a character that's an expert in something I can generally do that in a crunchy system. In something less crunchy I usually have to either convince the DM to pump up the character as an expert or hope I roll consistently well any time I want to try something in the character's area of 'expertise'.
    Meh. Depends on the quality and readability of the crunch along with the quality and permissiveness of the DM.

    Crunch can be so dense as to be incomprehensible, leading you to overlook options because they are convoluted (I can't tell you how many times I've heard thoughts of using grappling in 3.5 shot down just because people got tired of trying to figure out how it applies in the situation).

    Crunch can also be more limiting than helpful. Granular skills tend to generate an awful lot of gatekeeping abilities. I have almost never used skill points put into forgery or appraise. Bluff and disguise (or straight invisibility) are much more commonly useful than Forgery and we usually don't care how much the treasure is worth, because we're looting it anyway. These skills could have easily been packaged into other skills to save on inefficient crunch.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Pleh View Post
    Granular skills tend to generate an awful lot of gatekeeping abilities.
    I don't find that it's having lots of skill options that gates off abilities, but more the pass/fail and task resolution paradigms that's used in a system.

    The Paranoia edition I run has easily 40+ skills plus player defined skills. But it's a d20 "roll under skill" with a margin of success/failure built in. The character gets a score in each of the six or so major categories (generally 5 to 15) and then chooses which individual skills they'll be better or worse at. Everyone effectively has all skills at some level and never at less than about a 25%ish success rate (unless you chose to be complete rubbish at something). Plus failing a check is never just 'nothing happens', but should always involve the situation snowballing like a Three Stooges comedy.

    Contrast that with D&D 3.p or 5e where there are things you can't do because you don't have a skill or proficency or some character option written on your sheet. You can't even attempt a forgery check without ranks, or a DC 21 check if you don't have bonuses. And those games don't build in the 'fail forward' or add a complication types of stuff, they might mention it once somewhere but it's not a native part of the game system.

    A lot of stat+skill dice pool systems also tend to avoid that sort of gating effect, although I have seen at least one where you couldn't make attempts at some things unless you had points in a skill. What I find to be much more restrictive is the d20 style of feats. Those almost always include some form of gating for character abilities. I think the d20 style feat paradigm combined with the rules style of narrow and explicit abilities with exceptions has a nasty tendency towards making characters unable to act unless they buy the ability to act with a limited resource. Which is what I think leads to both the magic/martial issues and air-breathing mermaid problems that those systems have.
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    Default Re: Let's talk about what we enjoy in crunchy, simulationist RPGs

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Traveller and Paranoia are both five minute character generation and I've seen TPKs in both.
    While you CAN make a character in 5 minutes in Pathfinder, realistically I've seen it take a lot longer; most PF games I've played have had a "session zero", the bulk of which is spent on this activity. This is especially true when you consider that most deaths or TPKs happen after first level, so the replacement characters now need to be created with multiple levels worth of feats, gear, spells etc across all the allowed splats for that campaign, and then the whole sheet audited for legality. And none of this takes into account the time needed to develop a backstory for the new character, incorporate them and their goals into the world, or even just explain how the surviving members of the party come across them.

    So I can't exactly blame a GM who would rather skip all that and simply say something like "you all just barely survive..."

    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    Although I did note that D&D 4e and Starfinder had a similar issue of having to roll high to be good at something, but that was because they use a sliding scale of target numbers that keeps increasing as the characters get more 'skilled', sort of the Truenamer problem writ across the entire system.
    Starfinder "scales" in the same sense that almost all games do, i.e. expecting high level characters do be doing high-level things. There are plenty of challenges that don't scale, e.g. hacking a random stooge's datapad probably becomes routine at some point, but by the time you can do it automatically the party has probably moved on to needing to hack something much more elaborate, like an entire corporation's data vault or security system. I wouldn't call it the Truenamer problem at all, whereby even your most entry level utterances stay difficult to use.
    Last edited by Psyren; 2019-07-06 at 02:23 PM.

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