How much math should RPGs require?

Thomas Shey

Legend
I think I'd have to answer that I don't consider any of the level of math I learned particularly problematic for use in downtime (i.e. character generation and advancement). Note there are people in high school who have higher level math than I do.

(Its a somewhat valid point that a game aimed at, say, 10 your olds may require a lower bar, but if its aimed at adults...)
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
This is a (pipe) dream goal of mine - ability goes down as health goes down. It might require maths, but it doesn't need to. This sounds like it could be more of a bookkeeping problem than too-much-math problem.
Adjustment of dice pools and/or pip reductions could be a way to accomplish that. Any of the following

for each level of fatigue, trade one normal die for the pool with a "fatigued die"; example, for FitD pick up a different coloured d6 and count 1-4 as "bad outcome" on that die, instead of 1-3, or for an example of a milder variant, fatigued dice cannot count toward a crit​
for each level of fatigue, one pip becomes "fatigued"; for example, for d20, 13 becomes "fatigued" meaning a success with the die showing 13 becomes a partial-success or failure (if not using partial successes)​
for a PbtA example, pick up a d5 and d6 instead of 2d6​

I think dice pools offer the most natural way to manage this at the table. All the work is on the design side figuring out the dice! Systems like Burning Wheel already have something in this direction (black shade dice succeed on 4+, white shade on 2+, normal is 3+). I have been experimenting in 5e homebrew with a d20 variant whereby rolls showing 13-19 are partials if they succeed (rather than the DMG system, which I find awkward to implement at the table due to the way target numbers - aka DCs - move about.)
 

aramis erak

Legend
I Systems like Burning Wheel already have something in this direction (black shade dice succeed on 4+, white shade on 2+, normal is 3+). I have been experimenting in 5e homebrew with a d20 variant whereby rolls showing 13-19 are partials if they succeed (rather than the DMG system, which I find awkward to implement at the table due to the way target numbers - aka DCs - move about.)
Black is the normal die, not grey. Black is 4+, Grey is 3+, and White is 2+. If you spend a fate artha, 6's get another die of same shade.
Shifting a skill from one to another is a huge effort; in char gen, it's doable, but very costly.
my 3 campaigns never saw a white skill, and only one character had any grey, and only one skill at that - spear.
My Burning Empire campaign had two characters starting with grey skills, of the 6 majors. But we only ran one phase. My writeup on it on the BW boards got a comment from Chris Moeller that I'd nailed the setting feel... I hadn't been sure, since so little was presented. But I happen to have had the right influences (Stargate, Traveller, WH40K) and let the rules create the rest...
 

The Soloist

Adventurer
This is a (pipe) dream goal of mine - ability goes down as health goes down. It might require maths, but it doesn't need to. This sounds like it could be more of a bookkeeping problem than too-much-math problem.
After playing two sessions of DQ2e this summer, I decided if I was ever to play it again I would use an Excel-programmed character sheet that does the work for me when I enter the values.

IIRC, DQ2e was:
Weapon's Base % chance to hit + Attacker's % Manual Dexterity - Defender's % Agility - % Melee or % Ranger Modifiers. Lower Fatigue diminishes your chances to strike but also makes the target easier to hit if he is fatigued.

The resulting damage goes either to Fatigue if the hit is average or below or to Endurance (HPs) if above average. For a superior hit 5% or less (that can vary) you also roll on the grievous injury table. You can lose a hand, have a deadly gut wound, etc, etc.

The designer of the game wrote it was a great simulation of combat but it took too long to resolve, for an RPG.

Personally, I think it's great if you want to do gladiator combats in an arena. SPI published Arena of Death which was used as an intro to DQ.
 

Committed Hero

Adventurer
This is a (pipe) dream goal of mine - ability goes down as health goes down. It might require maths, but it doesn't need to. This sounds like it could be more of a bookkeeping problem than too-much-math problem.

I think the original Top Secret was supposed to operate in this fashion. I can't say for sure, since we never did it. I prefer the Die Hard method of gaming, where declining hit points are cosmetic until death.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Black is the normal die, not grey. Black is 4+, Grey is 3+, and White is 2+. If you spend a fate artha, 6's get another die of same shade.
Shifting a skill from one to another is a huge effort; in char gen, it's doable, but very costly.
my 3 campaigns never saw a white skill, and only one character had any grey, and only one skill at that - spear.
My Burning Empire campaign had two characters starting with grey skills, of the 6 majors. But we only ran one phase. My writeup on it on the BW boards got a comment from Chris Moeller that I'd nailed the setting feel... I hadn't been sure, since so little was presented. But I happen to have had the right influences (Stargate, Traveller, WH40K) and let the rules create the rest...
Right, black is the standard die! I managed to confuse explaining my concept with outlining what the BW design was doing.

Per my concept, you would be picking up one worse die - black say, instead of grey - for your pool, for each level of fatigue. One could imagine a brown die (or whatever colour one prefers) that succeeds on 5+. Representing a hindering injury, say. TB2's +/-S and +/-D manages it pretty well. It's easy to see the suitability of dice pools for adding nuance while minimising calculation.
 

Per my concept, you would be picking up one worse die - black say, instead of grey - for your pool, for each level of fatigue. One could imagine a brown die (or whatever colour one prefers) that succeeds on 5+. Representing a hindering injury, say. TB2's +/-S and +/-D manages it pretty well. It's easy to see the suitability of dice pools for adding nuance while minimising calculation.

I view such mechanics as a way of maximizing the amount of math, not minimizing it. The difference is that you're trading out more addition/subtraction/multiplication for statistics.

Dice pools are a mode of play where the probabilities can change very quickly, resulting in rapid and constant recalculations of the odds whenever the pool changes. It may feel easier, but players who can keep up with the math will have a significant statistical advantage over players that just "wing it" and go by gut instinct.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
I view such mechanics as a way of maximizing the amount of math, not minimizing it. The difference is that you're trading out more addition/subtraction/multiplication for statistics.

Dice pools are a mode of play where the probabilities can change very quickly, resulting in rapid and constant recalculations of the odds whenever the pool changes. It may feel easier, but players who can keep up with the math will have a significant statistical advantage over players that just "wing it" and go by guy instinct.
I'm thinking more about the transfer of burden to the designer. So it becomes the designer's problem to understand the odds. That said, it's certainly observable that players who want to know the odds end up doing more work. Thus less suitable for modes of play where knowing your odds precisely matters to the group. A linear system like a d20 is better there, although I've noticed folk still sometimes not quite appreciating how the impact of a bonus or advantage changes depending on your position on the line.

There's an element too, of designing an interpretable system. By which I mean, setting things up so that what feels like a large buff, really is a large buff in terms of appearances in sessions of play (compared with a smaller buff, or a debuff.)
 
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This is a (pipe) dream goal of mine - ability goes down as health goes down. It might require maths, but it doesn't need to. This sounds like it could be more of a bookkeeping problem than too-much-math problem.
I recall (it's 2 decades ago, so hopefully this is at least roughly accurate) that Rolemaster applied penalties to pretty much every roll if you were injured. Some were based on criticals (e.g. if you have a broken leg, -50 to actions requiring legs), but others were just based on hit points. AFAIR, If you were below 50% hit points, you were -10 to actions (RM uses a percentile scale, so -2 in d20 language)

That was somewhat annoying as a melee combatant, but it was way worse for spell casters. If you had no negatives, you didn't have to check for spell failure, but as soon as you did, you had to roll to see if your fireball literally blew up in your face. It was genuinely worrying to cast elemental attack spells (because OF COURSE RM had a different spell failure table for each class of spell) when you were injured.

In fact I still recall one optimist player, whose character had a spinal injury (-50 I believe) plus low hits telling me "it's OK, so long as I roll high I should be able to block the door with stone". He did not roll high.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I recall (it's 2 decades ago, so hopefully this is at least roughly accurate) that Rolemaster applied penalties to pretty much every roll if you were injured. Some were based on criticals (e.g. if you have a broken leg, -50 to actions requiring legs), but others were just based on hit points. AFAIR, If you were below 50% hit points, you were -10 to actions (RM uses a percentile scale, so -2 in d20 language)

That was somewhat annoying as a melee combatant, but it was way worse for spell casters. If you had no negatives, you didn't have to check for spell failure, but as soon as you did, you had to roll to see if your fireball literally blew up in your face. It was genuinely worrying to cast elemental attack spells (because OF COURSE RM had a different spell failure table for each class of spell) when you were injured.

In fact I still recall one optimist player, whose character had a spinal injury (-50 I believe) plus low hits telling me "it's OK, so long as I roll high I should be able to block the door with stone". He did not roll high.
Hit points and hit points/round both provide modifiers always.
Criticals are usually conditional, tho' severe ones can be to all actions.
And E66 crits always are humorously horrific...
Crits usually are what take characters down, not HP losses... but HP losses can end one, too.
 

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