Any crunchy RPG's out there anymore?


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While were you draw the lines is going to be pretty subjective, I don't think there's a lack of crunchy modern games, though they may not share as much mindspace as some earlier ones did (though I have to wonder if they're less well known than, say, Aftermath! or a lot of the other FGU staples). Besides Mythras and Pathfinder 2e, I was going to mention EABA, or even Morrus' WOIN. The latter might be medium crunch if one considers Fragged Empire medium (and while I'd agree there's some defensible differences in crunch level between Hero and GURPS, I'm not sure they're wide enough to call the latter medium crunch, but then, I'm not sure where I'd draw that line myself).
 

Lord Mhoram

Adventurer
armies erak, I have to ask - why would GURPS be in your heavy list but Hero System in your medium?
I would likely say even though at core these two are the same - I would consider Champions complete almost Medium, but 6E full core box heavy - in presentation if nothing else.
 


DrunkonDuty

he/him
Re. HERO and GURPS and the line (if any) between them in terms of crunch.

Up front I should say that I'm a big time HERO system fan, so assume I'm gonna show bias in its favour.

Folks over on the HERO boards always say that HERO's complexity is "front loaded." That once you've done character design it plays pretty smoothly. In my experience that is broadly accurate. What it doesn't say is that that axiom applies to campaign settings too; even published ones. So say you want to play generic high fantasy adventures in the HERO published setting The Turakian Age. The GM still has a lot of prep work to do going such as choosing limits to attack, defence, damage, spell power, etc. Unlike a level based system where power level is hard coded into the game, in HERO the GM has to work that stuff out themselves. And there's decidedly little guidance on how to go about doing that. A very frequent question posted on the HERO boards is "How do I tell what's too much/too little power?"

But once that is all done the game plays very smoothly. It runs well because HERO runs on an algorithm. There's not much need to look things up in play.

GURPS character design is more like picking feats for DND/Pathfinder in that there's a list of things to choose from. The problem I find is that each feat/power/spell in the list more or less runs on it's own rule; this can lead to complex interactions between the various feats (and even between the feats and the broader rules.) That in turn can then lead to frequent looking up of rules during play which of course leads to slower play, possible inconsistent GM rulings, yada yada yada.

So in conclusion:

I think GURPS plays more easily than mid+ level DnD/Pathfinder, but HERO plays more easily than any of them.

Character design is easier in GURPS because the player, especially a new player, can simply pick things from a list. Hell, most gamers of my acquaintance, me included, think that that's fun. Character design in HERO is harder as it requires an understanding of an algorithm that looks pretty damn impenetrable to a new player.

Cheers.
 

corwyn77

Explorer
While I am a GURPS fan-boy through and through, I don't like it for supers. If Champions was the only supers game out there, I would use it for supers and anything requiring ultra-tech/vehicles and GURPS for everything else. I consider GURPS and Hero both to be medium complexity and both pretty front-loaded.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Re. HERO and GURPS and the line (if any) between them in terms of crunch.

Up front I should say that I'm a big time HERO system fan, so assume I'm gonna show bias in its favour.

Folks over on the HERO boards always say that HERO's complexity is "front loaded." That once you've done character design it plays pretty smoothly. In my experience that is broadly accurate. What it doesn't say is that that axiom applies to campaign settings too; even published ones. So say you want to play generic high fantasy adventures in the HERO published setting The Turakian Age. The GM still has a lot of prep work to do going such as choosing limits to attack, defence, damage, spell power, etc. Unlike a level based system where power level is hard coded into the game, in HERO the GM has to work that stuff out themselves. And there's decidedly little guidance on how to go about doing that. A very frequent question posted on the HERO boards is "How do I tell what's too much/too little power?"

But once that is all done the game plays very smoothly. It runs well because HERO runs on an algorithm. There's not much need to look things up in play.

<snip>

Character design is easier in GURPS because the player, especially a new player, can simply pick things from a list. Hell, most gamers of my acquaintance, me included, think that that's fun. Character design in HERO is harder as it requires an understanding of an algorithm that looks pretty damn impenetrable to a new player.
Having also played GURPS, Champions, Pathfinder, and D&D - I'm not sure I agree. Champions, may front load a lot of complexity, but it still has a lot of complexity in play as well. I feel that a lot of experienced Champions players downplay that complexity. Basic attacks like an energy blast or a punch may be pretty simple to handle, but even then you may be dealing with adjustments to combat values, picking whether or not to use your full dice, paying the END cost based on how many you actually used, calculating the STUN damage and the BODY damage (in 2 separate ways), applying defenses (potentially multiple ones), comparing the resulting damage vs CON. And that's without dealing with different sorts of attacks like killing attacks, entangling attacks, mental illusions, etc, figuring out how often you can turn a hex-side based on your flight speed, dividing up active points in a character's multipower, and doing it all on the speed chart.
There may be less looking things up, in a sense, but in order to avoid that, you're packing the character sheet with a lot of stuff to support that algorithmic approach to paying the game.
 

Having also played GURPS, Champions, Pathfinder, and D&D - I'm not sure I agree. Champions, may front load a lot of complexity, but it still has a lot of complexity in play as well. I feel that a lot of experienced Champions players downplay that complexity. Basic attacks like an energy blast or a punch may be pretty simple to handle, but even then you may be dealing with adjustments to combat values, picking whether or not to use your full dice, paying the END cost based on how many you actually used, calculating the STUN damage and the BODY damage (in 2 separate ways), applying defenses (potentially multiple ones), comparing the resulting damage vs CON. And that's without dealing with different sorts of attacks like killing attacks, entangling attacks, mental illusions, etc, figuring out how often you can turn a hex-side based on your flight speed, dividing up active points in a character's multipower, and doing it all on the speed chart.
There may be less looking things up, in a sense, but in order to avoid that, you're packing the character sheet with a lot of stuff to support that algorithmic approach to paying the game.

I'd say that's somewhat fair, though some of that is far less present in heroic scale games where a more limited set of powers (if any) are in play.

But that said, one of the virtues of Hero is there's a lot of mechanically meaningful decision-making in combat, and to some extent you just don't get to do that without some degree of complexity. Whether that's worthwhile is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.

It also, of course, depends on what people are talking about when they are describing "simplicity"; I think even with the things you describe its not hard for a simple Hero character to be pretty comparable to most non-Old School D&D variations in regard to complexity in play, and it requires a relatively complex Hero character to exceed the complexity of playing a spellcaster of any real level in those. Yet I'll see people talk about Hero as "complex" while they're cheerfully playing, say, Pathfinder 1e.
 

DrunkonDuty

he/him
Having also played GURPS, Champions, Pathfinder, and D&D - I'm not sure I agree. Champions, may front load a lot of complexity, but it still has a lot of complexity in play as well. I feel that a lot of experienced Champions players downplay that complexity. Basic attacks like an energy blast or a punch may be pretty simple to handle, but even then you may be dealing with adjustments to combat values, picking whether or not to use your full dice, paying the END cost based on how many you actually used, calculating the STUN damage and the BODY damage (in 2 separate ways), applying defenses (potentially multiple ones), comparing the resulting damage vs CON. And that's without dealing with different sorts of attacks like killing attacks, entangling attacks, mental illusions, etc, figuring out how often you can turn a hex-side based on your flight speed, dividing up active points in a character's multipower, and doing it all on the speed chart.
There may be less looking things up, in a sense, but in order to avoid that, you're packing the character sheet with a lot of stuff to support that algorithmic approach to paying the game.

You're not wrong.

But I still find all that easier than high level D20 games. I mean, you still do several of those things you've listed in any DnD game. A couple of examples:

Adjusting combat values. This happens in all game systems that include a combat system. HERO does it much easier than DnD as there's no need to track whether adjustments are morale, luck, sacred, etc.
Applying defences: happens in DnD whenever energy resistance and DR come into play.


I agree that having (effectively) 4 different ways to do damage is a pain. Certainly it's one of the things new players have trouble with and something that slows down damage calculations regardless of player experience. "Wait while I count how many sixes and ones I rolled." lol. Oddly players have no trouble tracking two types of damage on their characters (at least in my experience.)

But once you have the basics down you can apply that knowledge to the other parts very easily. Mental Illusions (also Telepathy and Mind Control) are just roll to hit, apply defences, apply damage. The same as basic attacks. Only difference is that instead of reducing the target's STUN you do something like mind control, read their thoughts, or trap them in a hallucination. Entangles work more like killing attacks but don't count STUN; Drains work like basic attacks; Flash attacks work like basic attacks but don't count BOD damage.

I agree tracking END is an added level of complexity; but it can at least be done after the player has finished their turn so as not to slow play.

<I'll just note here that Thomas Shey has replied while I've been working on my response and said a few things that I was intending to put into this response.>

One thing I do want to specifically address is the Speed Chart. I love the speed chart. At heart it's just initiative tracking. And if all you use it for is to track initiative then it's no more complex than any other initiative system. But as a player you can hold actions/interrupt actions in ways that give a really nice sense of the back and forth of cinematic combat. Is using it this way complex? Yes. But its' complexity is born out of the way a player wishes to use it, not from the thing itself. I love that.


EDIT: I described Flash attacks incorrectly above. They work like basic attacks but you count ONLY the BOD. mea culpa and all that.
 
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One thing I do want to specifically address is the Speed Chart. I love the speed chart. At heart it's just initiative tracking. And if all you use it for is to track initiative then it's no more complex than any other initiative system. But as a player you can hold actions/interrupt actions in ways that give a really nice sense of the back and forth of cinematic combat. Is using it this way complex? Yes. But its' complexity is born out of the way a player wishes to use it, not from the thing itself. I love that.

Yeah, I think people overreact to the speed chart, honestly. I'll go on record as saying that its easier to manage in play than any game that rerolls initiative every round at the least.

(There can be some issues in Hero with decision paralysis once you have a reasonable number of options, but I found in the middle of the big part of my Hero running career that if you just tell people they're Holding when they dither, and don't get fussy about the triggering action but just let them Dex off to interrupt if they want to, that makes a lot of the problem with that go away).
 

It always amazes me when people have decided that basic math (addition and subtraction) is crunchy or complicated. I don't know if it makes me a snob to NOT want to play with people who fear basic math especially when most phones (even older flip phones) have a calculator on them.

Again, maybe it's not fair of me to say or think this but it's a huge pet peeve of mine when people complain about Pathfinder or Champions as crunchy games.

Maybe we should clarify, Is it crunchy because of the number options or is it because of the math?

My aversion to math is not that an RPG has ever thrown a math problem at me that I couldn't easily solve at the game table, it's that:

A) Time spent on math is not time spent on anything in the game that I take enjoyment out of. Whether or not there is a calculator on my phone, at the point where somebody gets a calculator out we are no longer playing a game, we are doing accounting. To me the optimal level of math for a game is the amount where I look at two basic numbers and just know the answer as someone reasonably good at math, and anything beyond that is a tax on my time that needs justifying. It might be justified, but it also might just be a sign of system bloat.

B) There is usually going to be someone at the table for whom math is at least kind of stressful. Yes, they probably can actually handle whatever math the game is throwing at them, but that does not mean they can actually enjoy an experience that involves doing it on the spot while the table waits for them.

Give me a table of people who genuinely like crunch and a game that actually makes it worthwhile and I'll gladly delve into the crunch. But if crunch really is in decline in the hobby I would consider that a positive move towards inclusiveness and possibly a sign of tighter game design.
 

aramis erak

Legend
armies erak, I have to ask - why would GURPS be in your heavy list but Hero System in your medium?
Hero is, mechanically, much simpler, despite the similar page count. The actual meat of the system for use outside supers or magic settings is much less involved than similar for GURPS.

The level of math and optimizations are about the same.

GURPS ads and disads are less consistent in mechanics. Hero's disads are far fewer overall than GURPS core alone, let alone GURPS as a line. Hero SYstem also has more consistent mechanics across disads, and, coupled to the open ended nature of them, make them easier to run and to use as a player.

GURPS has over 100 skills in core. Hero has about 30-50.

GURPS also tends to be "Buy the cause" while Hero is "Buy the effect then label it appropriately"... Both EABA and CORPS are also buy the effect.

GURPS can be run Rules Medium... but the default isn't going to be based upon grabbing the basic set and using the rules as presented.
 

DrunkonDuty

he/him
Give me a table of people who genuinely like crunch and a game that actually makes it worthwhile and I'll gladly delve into the crunch. But if crunch really is in decline in the hobby I would consider that a positive move towards inclusiveness and possibly a sign of tighter game design.

I agree that less mathy systems are going to be more inclusive. But I disagree that they're a sign of tighter game design. I think that level of mathiness and tightness are separate things.
 

Argyle King

Legend
I think it's worth mentioning that crunch and complexity aren't always synonymous.

I find that GURPS has the ability to be crunchy. But I also often find it to be more intuitive than games which claim to be easier and lighter.

It's a modular system, so the level of crunch can be dialed up or down.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Exalted Third Edition is probably my favorite crunch heavy game. It has extremely an extremely dynamic combat system that requires players to handle a variety of resources (Initiative, Health Levels, Essence Motes). It captures the feel of slow motion wuxia/shonen anime combat better than any game I have come across. It also has a set of social mechanics that really do a good job of modeling tense social exchanges where both parties want something from each other.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
It always amazes me when people have decided that basic math (addition and subtraction) is crunchy or complicated. I don't know if it makes me a snob to NOT want to play with people who fear basic math especially when most phones (even older flip phones) have a calculator on them.

Again, maybe it's not fair of me to say or think this but it's a huge pet peeve of mine when people complain about Pathfinder or Champions as crunchy games.

Maybe we should clarify, Is it crunchy because of the number options or is it because of the math?
The calculations isn't a problem, but amount of things you need to keep in RAM is.

But more importantly, I don't think that excessive crunch actually adds anything to the game, even from simulationist point of view -- I can't say that GURPS Martial Arts is particularly realistic, at least when it comes to MAs I'm familiar with: BJJ and Muay-Thai.

I agree that less mathy systems are going to be more inclusive. But I disagree that they're a sign of tighter game design. I think that level of mathiness and tightness are separate things.
I'd say that reducing mathiness is a sign of understanding the constraints of the medium.

Like, the only case where I would design a system with math heavier than comparing two numbers (and maaybe adding single-digits numbers together) is if I also make a solid automatization tools, like dedicated VTT or a companion app.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
Some other crunchy games...

Eclipse Phase 1e. You need to use spreadsheats to make characters.

Western. Still not available in English, though they have sent out stuff to backers as beta-material.
 

Some systems are not too crunchy, but can easily become so. For example, I played in a sci-fi campaign using FATE, with the fairly minimal BULLDOGS settings. If I wanted to buy and use use a piece of tech, all I had to do was roll the relevant two skills against a standard difficultly

Now I’m about to start a Mindjammer FATE campaign in a very similar universe, but with rules, that, if applied to the fullest, would include needing to check
  • difference in tech level between my ability and the target items
  • if gravity is an issue and my accustomed gravity is not the one in play, adjusting for that
  • For purchasing, I’d check availability against the culture of the system and the tech level
  • I’d also need to check for government type
and I’m probably missing some more checks. I’ve run Rolemaster campaigns and been in other high-crunch systems, but if you are looking for science fiction high-crunch, I think FATE MINDJAMMER will take it as far as you want
 

aramis erak

Legend
Some systems are not too crunchy, but can easily become so. For example, I played in a sci-fi campaign using FATE, with the fairly minimal BULLDOGS settings. If I wanted to buy and use use a piece of tech, all I had to do was roll the relevant two skills against a standard difficultly

[snip]
and I’m probably missing some more checks. I’ve run Rolemaster campaigns and been in other high-crunch systems, but if you are looking for science fiction high-crunch, I think FATE MINDJAMMER will take it as far as you want
The irony? Rolemaster is fairly simple, but massively crunchy. The majority of complexity is the sheer number of tables and the many, many optional rules; the tables are easy to use, and all player rolls are percentiles, so from a player perspective, Rolemaster's dead simple. Full of picayune little details one needs to track (hits taken, hits delivered, crits taken, crits delivered, distance travelled, and about 10 other factors to find your XP gains...).
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
Some systems are not too crunchy, but can easily become so. For example, I played in a sci-fi campaign using FATE, with the fairly minimal BULLDOGS settings. If I wanted to buy and use use a piece of tech, all I had to do was roll the relevant two skills against a standard difficultly

Now I’m about to start a Mindjammer FATE campaign in a very similar universe, but with rules, that, if applied to the fullest, would include needing to check
  • difference in tech level between my ability and the target items
  • if gravity is an issue and my accustomed gravity is not the one in play, adjusting for that
  • For purchasing, I’d check availability against the culture of the system and the tech level
  • I’d also need to check for government type
and I’m probably missing some more checks. I’ve run Rolemaster campaigns and been in other high-crunch systems, but if you are looking for science fiction high-crunch, I think FATE MINDJAMMER will take it as far as you want
Yup. Mindjammer is extremely crunchy and complicated for being a FATE-system.
 

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