How many Tools do you Need?

Hussar

Legend
Lizard posted an interesting point (I thought)

Lizard said:
It says "Here are all the mechanics you will ever need. Here's when you should use them, and when you shouldn't."

I'd rather have a kit of 100 tools than just a hammer, even if all I need *at the moment* is a hammer.

Is this a good way to design games though? Do we really need mechanics that cover 99% of the situations, when we can design simpler mechanics that cover 90% of the situations? How much more complexity do we add in order to cover that last 9%?

What do you think?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Hussar said:
Lizard posted an interesting point (I thought)



Is this a good way to design games though? Do we really need mechanics that cover 99% of the situations, when we can design simpler mechanics that cover 90% of the situations? How much more complexity do we add in order to cover that last 9%?

What do you think?

I'm with BRP or Unisystem Lite on this. Give me the basic skeleton, one flexible enough I can adapt it as necessary, and I am happy. Give me too much and it is cumbersome and it imposes on my freedom of action. The best game systems get out of the way.
 

The Little Raven

First Post
Hussar said:
Is this a good way to design games though?

If I'm building a car, I just need automotive tools and equipment. There's no point in being able to lathe chair legs when I'm not a carpenter, despite any genocidal extraterrestrials showing up and requiring me to lathe a rocking chair for their spaceship's observation deck.
 

Professor Phobos said:
I'm with BRP or Unisystem Lite on this. Give me the basic skeleton, one flexible enough I can adapt it as necessary, and I am happy. Give me too much and it is cumbersome and it imposes on my freedom of action. The best game systems get out of the way.

I think it's possible to take this philosophy too far. I've played all sorts of games, and I tend to find that those that try to be too generic, to be all things to all people, get overly boring, overly complex, or both.

I'd much prefer a game that does one thing, and does it well, than one that tries to be a toolbox good for all uses. I firmly believe that a game that tries to do everything will never do anything as well as a game that's focused.

For D&D? I'd much rather a game that does heroic fantasy well than one that tries to provide a generic toolbox that happens to be fantasy-focused.

I loved 3E, don't get me wrong. But I found it the least flavorful and inspiring of all the editions, and I believe that's partly--not entirely, but partly--because it tried to make itself too broad. When I pick up D&D, I want a fantasy game that also provides tools, not a fantasy toolkit that can also be used as a game.
 

Mouseferatu said:
I think it's possible to take this philosophy too far. I've played all sorts of games, and I tend to find that those that try to be too generic, to be all things to all people, get overly boring, overly complex, or both.

I don't mind boring systems, personally. I really only mind systems that require a lot of attention to detail. But I agree, I also like a good dedicated system. I find BRP does my gritty "realism" (Hah!) about as well as anything else, Unisystem Lite for all my mid-range cinematic needs, REIGN for fantasy, World of Darkness for WoD purposes, Unknown Armies and GUMSHOE...I like a lot of systems, but they're all simple. I'd say that Storytelling is about the most complex and demanding I can tolerate.
 

VannATLC

First Post
Real tools are a bad analogy.

Better analogies are programming languages, because that is what a gaming ruleset *is*

Do you want a tool that you can build other tools with? Or do you want a toolset that is complex, internally interlinked, and very difficult to modify, but covers 98% of the possibilities?
 

LostSoul

Adventurer
I think a game should be designed to deliver a certain play experience.

It needs whatever mechanics are necessary in order to deliver that experience.
 

Professor Phobos said:
I don't mind boring systems, personally. I really only mind systems that require a lot of attention to detail.

Ah, I see. Yeah, those two often, but not always, go together.

Part of the problem, for me, is that a boring system--or a system that's too generic--often lead to boring and/or generic prose. And I'm a religious adherent to the notion that an RPG book's purpose must be to inspire the imagination at least as much as it is to convey the rules of the game.

If I come away from a sourcebook without it having sparked my imagination, I consider that book a failure no matter how solid the mechanics might be. And I believe, as well, that bad flavor is still better than no flavor, since even the worst favor can still be inspiring.

Obviously, no game can make up for a lack of imagination on the part of the players--but it must aid that imagination, not ignore or rely on it.
 

The above, BTW, is why I consider Worlds and Monsters a solid and worthwhile purchase, even though it doesn't preview a single mechanic. The descriptions of the planes, combined with the artwork, inspired a veritable flood of campaign and plot ideas.

And it's why I consider Libris Mortis the weakest of the various monster-specific 3E books; even though it was 100% mechanically sound and useful, I found it far less inspiring, in terms of the imagination, than Lords of Madness or either Fiendish Codex.
 

SSquirrel

Explorer
Mouseferatu said:
The above, BTW, is why I consider Worlds and Monsters a solid and worthwhile purchase, even though it doesn't preview a single mechanic. The descriptions of the planes, combined with the artwork, inspired a veritable flood of campaign and plot ideas.

And it's why I consider Libris Mortis the weakest of the various monster-specific 3E books; even though it was 100% mechanically sound and useful, I found it far less inspiring, in terms of the imagination, than Lords of Madness or either Fiendish Codex.

Hell Ari, I bought the 2 preview books for 2 reasons, a)I love behind the scenes kinda stuff..it's why I skip so many single disc movies in favor of their double or quad disc versions heh, b)to see where it is they're taking this game I've played for 20 years and c)to know WTF people are talking about when they refer to side panel 2 on page 37 blah blah. Better arguing on ENWorld FTW!!

Edit:In the words of Bupu, "2! 2! No more than 2!"
 

Imban

First Post
Hussar said:
Is this a good way to design games though? Do we really need mechanics that cover 99% of the situations, when we can design simpler mechanics that cover 90% of the situations? How much more complexity do we add in order to cover that last 9%?

What do you think?

I'm of the opinion that it is, but I've never had to deal with the realities of word count and much prefer online media where it's not a big deal that something is 10 lines long as opposed to 14. For print media, the realities of word count often cause that last 9% to be sacrificed - for White Wolf, they frequently choose to forfeit closing rules loopholes that lead to stupidly broken things, and for 4e D&D, they seem to be choosing to forfeit closing rules loopholes that lead to outcomes that seem absurd in the game world.

(Which is part of why I plan on creating my own unholy hybrid of 3e and 4e for my group's personal use, because I don't have to be enslaved to word count and can cover 8 of that last 9%, hopefully making the game better suited to what my group expects out of an RPG without ratcheting up the complexity too much.

For an example, I think 3e Dispel Magic was an abomination, but 4e's is so narrow as to not be worthy of the term Dispel Magic as it stands. The new Mirror Image is likewise greatly simplified, but also comes across as incredibly dumb.)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Mouseferatu said:
The above, BTW, is why I consider Worlds and Monsters a solid and worthwhile purchase, even though it doesn't preview a single mechanic. The descriptions of the planes, combined with the artwork, inspired a veritable flood of campaign and plot ideas.
Agreed, and that's exactly why I bought it.

That said, I've found that spending the last 25+ years turning the basic hammer-and-saw of 1e into a well-rounded toolkit has taught me one thing: sooner or later, you're gonna need every tool you've ever heard of and a few you haven't, so might as well have 'em handy for when that day comes; the only thing better than a full toolbox is a bigger full toolbox. :) That's the main reason I don't want to switch editions to 3e or 4e or any other e: they don't provide the tools I need to build the game I'd want to run, and I don't have the patience to start the process of refilling my toolbox all over again.

Lanefan
 

med stud

First Post
If your choice is between 10 tools that can handle 90% of all situations or 50 tools that can handle 100% of all situations, I go with 10 tools. To take the analogy further, moving around all the 40 extra tools is more cumbersome than what you may get from them.

To move back to RPG books: If you have a book that is 300 pages long, you can use 100 pages for rules and 200 pages for fluff and powers, the 100 pages of rules covering 90% of all situations. You could also have 200 pages of rules that covers 99% of all situations, with 100 pages for fluff and powers. I consider that a waste of space and it puts a workload on me, as a DM, to come up with powers that otherwise could be described.

Since no rules, no matter how big, can cover every situation that comes up, you need the frameworks for making on the spot rulings anyway, no matter how detailed the rules are. So in both my examples, you need to dedicate pages for improvised rules. In that case, I'm OK with more corner cases since it frees up pages for interesting applications of the rules from the ones who made them, since they are better at it than almost everyone else anyway.
 

Frostmarrow

First Post
Imban said:
For an example, I think 3e Dispel Magic was an abomination, but 4e's is so narrow as to not be worthy of the term Dispel Magic as it stands. The new Mirror Image is likewise greatly simplified, but also comes across as incredibly dumb.)

Somehow we will have to learn to read the data first and apply fantastic imagination to it, before describing it to our players. Instead of the other way around; trying to come up with mechanics on the fly isn't all that easy either.
 

FireLance

Legend
med stud said:
If your choice is between 10 tools that can handle 90% of all situations or 50 tools that can handle 100% of all situations, I go with 10 tools. To take the analogy further, moving around all the 40 extra tools is more cumbersome than what you may get from them.
I get where you're coming from, but I'd take a slightly different approach. In 4e terms, I want those 10 tools to be my at-will and encounter powers, good guidelines on winging it as my dailies, and the other 40 tools as my rituals. In other words, I want to be able to handle 90% of situations without consulting the books, good guidelines on how to handle the situations that the 10 rules don't cover if they crop up unexpectedly and I don't want to check the books, and good rules for how to handle the situations if I do manage to anticipate them and am able to prepare beforehand.
 

Imban

First Post
Frostmarrow said:
Somehow we will have to learn to read the data first and apply fantastic imagination to it, before describing it to our players. Instead of the other way around; trying to come up with mechanics on the fly isn't all that easy either.

Er, what? I read the data on what the ability does, had no real need to apply imagination as it was obvious what it did and did not do, and presented it to my players. It was obvious what it did and didn't do from a quick glance at the rules. It was more obvious, if that was necessary to absolutely anyone, after what it didn't do was laboriously pounded out as a new, glorious design intent in the article it was posted in. A potential bug with it, which I didn't immediately consider when I read the power and which I'll have to see the rules to verify, was expounded as a feature by the article.

So, uh, yeah. What?
 

Imban

First Post
med stud said:
If your choice is between 10 tools that can handle 90% of all situations or 50 tools that can handle 100% of all situations, I go with 10 tools. To take the analogy further, moving around all the 40 extra tools is more cumbersome than what you may get from them.

I looked at the questions more this way.

In a normal situation, 4e Cleave's wording is absolutely fine. This covers 90% of all situations.

There are still 10% of situations where Fighters are using Cleave, as written, to attack through impenetrable barriers (cleaving to the opposite side of a Gelatinous Cube, for instance) or across impassable terrain. It would take another line or two of text to fix that, which can be significant when one is publishing a book but is essentially insignificant in terms of added complexity (heck, I imagine I'll have a far harder time figuring out a proper phrasing for a rule that stops that than the difficulty it'll add in play) and when one's rules modifications are being written for online use.
 

ThirdWizard

First Post
VannATLC said:
Better analogies are programming languages, because that is what a gaming ruleset *is*

Do you want a tool that you can build other tools with? Or do you want a toolset that is complex, internally interlinked, and very difficult to modify, but covers 98% of the possibilities?

DOWN WITH COMMON LISP!!!
 

med stud

First Post
Imban said:
I looked at the questions more this way.

In a normal situation, 4e Cleave's wording is absolutely fine. This covers 90% of all situations.

There are still 10% of situations where Fighters are using Cleave, as written, to attack through impenetrable barriers (cleaving to the opposite side of a Gelatinous Cube, for instance) or across impassable terrain. It would take another line or two of text to fix that, which can be significant when one is publishing a book but is essentially insignificant in terms of added complexity (heck, I imagine I'll have a far harder time figuring out a proper phrasing for a rule that stops that than the difficulty it'll add in play) and when one's rules modifications are being written for online use.
I agree to a certain extent; I agree with a clarification that you can't cleave at someone that is outside of your reach, but I don't want clarifications that you can't attack the rats you brought along when cleaving or something like that. I would like the rules to trust that the reader has some common sense.
 


An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top