How much math should RPGs require?

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I'm reading a post that talks about levelling up/skill up/what have you, and seeing some algebra involved: at level x-1 you need x experience points to do (some cool thing). Now, this process is probably written out in plain language or found in a table, so there's no actual Solve For X required. But it raises the question...

How much math skill can an RPG expect from its players?

The lowest level is, what, compare high/low? Or identify numbers (did I roll a 6 or not)?
Then you get notorious addition and its dark sibling, subtraction. Hit points love these guys.
Multiply: critical times 2! Divide: energy resistance!
Exponents I have not seen, but it seems like something for a warmech game or mass warfare.
And then there's algebra. This is ripe for GM-designed puzzles, but do the rules ever call for algebra? Is it too much? For example, should a character's carrying capacity x equal her heart score times 5? What if the number of appearing goblins x should equal the current hit points of the party members y divided by 10?

For reference, Modos 2 uses compare high/low (e.g. contests and damage), addition (e.g. add hero point roll to contest), subtraction (protection from damage), and division (use half of the highest roll). The one place where I see algebra is possibly my least favorite part of the game: with the Bonus Action perk, you gain bonus actions x equal to your normal attribute less 11, then divided by four (round down). Evidently, I lean toward 5th grade levels of math expectations, because now I'd rather use a Bonus Action perk that just says: "you gain a bonus action if you are 5th level. You can take this perk again to gain additional bonus actions after levels 9, 13, and 17."
 

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What is your audience? I have vastly different answers if the game is for ages 8+, 12+, or kinda assume adults. Likewise, even though the average adult person can handle basic math like multiplying fractions or the like, a significant number of casual gamers may not have any interest in doing so as a leisure activity.
 





Addition and subtraction of single digit numbers is as complex as it should get.
I tend to agree, and would even argue that math is best limited to even only addition, comparison and/or counting.
It's less that more complex operations are not possible (ok, my ability to solve differential equations is probably really too low these days), but rather that the pay-off is rarely big enough to justify the increased effort.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Any maths that starts to get in the way of the flow of the game is « too much maths ». Even in small increments, adding something like 14d6 starts to be a slog, occasionally fun for the « wow so many dice! » factor but tiresome when used regularly. High-level D&D is often « too much maths » for me.

In my experience, any multiplier larger than x2 or /2 (with exception of x10 or /10) slows the game down significantly.

Purely psychologically speaking, more complex maths are more palatable in settings expecting characters to be capable of complex maths, like hard sci-fi games. Calculating and mapping movement on a 2D surface using deltaV and such is about the most complex it ever gonna get, and I’ll even enjoy it in a hard sci-fi game. In Star Wars-like setting where my ship slows down to a halt when I run out of fuel, I prefer to leave the maths to a minimum, like my fantasy.
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Addition and subtraction of single digit numbers is as complex as it should get.
So you're in the "double damage means roll twice" camp? Should wizards get to reshape their areas of effect, and thus, calculate the square footage of their spells?

Any maths that starts to get in the way of the flow of the game is « too much maths ». Even in small increments, adding something like 14d6 starts to be a slog, occasionally fun for the « wow so many dice! » factor but tiresome when used regularly. High-level D&D is often « too much maths » for me.
Truth, but with cell trackers phones, there's a lot that counts as a small increment. And if players are already on their phones (D&D Beyond, motivational art, Insta) it's not any more immersion -breaking to bring up the calculator app.

Purely psychologically speaking, more complex maths are more palatable in settings expecting characters to be capable of complex maths, like hard sci-fi games. Calculating and mapping movement on a 2D surface using deltaV and such is about the most complex it ever gonna get, and I’ll even enjoy it in a hard sci-fi game. In Star Wars-like setting where my ship slows down to a halt when I run out of fuel, I prefer to leave the maths to a minimum, like my fantasy.
I like this aspect. If the game is going to be nerdy (versus dorky?) then some real-life nerdiness is fair too. Sort of like using playing cards for a wild west game, right?

I feel like the title of this thread is a trick. You're trying to trick me into counting (i.e. doing math) in order to come up with a number for how much math should be in a game. I'm on to you, mister.
I'm a GM. It's always a trick. But so far, my vote is for easy RPG maths, and more role-playing.
 

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