If it's "crunch" that you want, where do you want it and why?

cavetroll

Explorer
This is a great thread

I think this is mostly where I want my crunch. I want weapon choices to make a significant difference, and sometimes to make a huge difference - i.e. X weapon is especially good against Y armor. Similarly, I want armor choices to make a difference. I want a meaty amount detail in that part of a rules set. I think I am heavily influenced by getting my hands on a copy of Palladium's Compendium of Weapons, Armor, and Castles at a tender age.

I also like a lot of skills, a subskills system, or the like, with lots of languages, and reading & writing mostly separate from speaking.
Weapons, armor of course. Skills sure. Languages what? What do you mean? Like you want to be able to pick lots of monsters languages? Specialize in writing medusa? I dont get it, how would you use it much?
 

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aramis erak

Legend
My favored crunch elements...
social conflict
trade rules for any sf game with privately owned ships...
space travel
Ship design for space games with privately owned ships.

I don't mind mildly crunchy combat - 5E isn't quite crunchy enough in most ways, but it is close. Alien, T2K 4E, MegaTraveller are all right in my zone.

I liked Rolemaster, and have run it; it was fun; with rules in PDF, it should be MUCH easier to run, but I've not got players who can handle the Char Gen... I may try with Against the Darkmaster...
 

The semantic loading isn't going to be the same for others; reliance upon shared semantic loading is a crutch of its own which, if you lean upon it too often, will cause your fall...

Honestly that's a flaw with any word usage; semantic loading just tends to be a particularly sharp-edged case.
 

kenada

Legend
I don't know, I think people learn their attitude toward things like this when they enter the hobby and learn the rules various games, and its modified over time by other factors in their life or the culture of play they surround themselves with, like I don't think 'complexity essentialism' where players have a preset viewpoint on ease of use or sense of empowerment necessarily holds water. I think tolerance for complexity is largely taught, although its source can be outside the hobby itself (which is why some people bounced off DND editions before 5e and some people didn't.)
This must be why my players really like 3e-style customization so much. We played it (and Pathfinder) for almost two decades, and they played AD&D before that. When we tried WWN, they loved the inclusion of foci. I’m having to include feats in my homebrew system because that’s a thing they just really seem to like.
 

This must be why my players really like 3e-style customization so much. We played it (and Pathfinder) for almost two decades, and they played AD&D before that. When we tried WWN, they loved the inclusion of foci. I’m having to include feats in my homebrew system because that’s a thing they just really seem to like.

Well, honestly, having more customization was one of the things that haunted D&D for a lot of its early lifespan, and one of the biggest reasons I saw people abandon it (the other was the degree of abstraction getting to them); not everyone cared about that but enough did that the skills-and-feats elements of 3e were what brought people back who'd ignored it for years.
 

This must be why my players really like 3e-style customization so much. We played it (and Pathfinder) for almost two decades, and they played AD&D before that. When we tried WWN, they loved the inclusion of foci. I’m having to include feats in my homebrew system because that’s a thing they just really seem to like.
Honestly, a substantial portion of the hobby really likes having mechanical levers for personalization, I think its because the game effects of those elements reinforce the 'texture' of the narrative they allude to, or the texture of the narrative the player creates. It also provides a way for the player to engage with the hobby on their own time, when they would like to be able to enjoy it, rather than just at the table itself.

One of my players and I were literally sitting around in discord last night discussing possible builds and wrapping our brain around how mech skills work in lancer to understand what it means to create a build in that system. We also had a discussion about different ways of succeeding in Pathfinder 2e encounters (specifically comparing the feeling of 'small ball' style getting runs on the board with miss effects on spells vs. the feeling of wanting to land a 'grand slam' with a spell, and how that intersects with the core system math). We talk about builds, or character concepts, a lot, we do have a good time at the table, but it'd be knocking off a lot of fun to not have the ability to talk shop about the system and stuff as well.
 

payn

Legend
trade rules for any sf game with privately owned ships...
I thought id like this. Though, in one of my earlier Traveller campaigns the players ran from adventure because it was too dangerous. Instead they wanted to just trade goods and make money paying their ship mortgage. It was not a very exciting game.
 

I thought id like this. Though, in one of my earlier Traveller campaigns the players ran from adventure because it was too dangerous. Instead they wanted to just trade goods and make money paying their ship mortgage. It was not a very exciting game.

Its one of those things that can give a good shape to a particular type of SF game, but its also easy for it to turn into one or two players making all the meaningful decisions and everyone else just making some die rolls once in a while. There's a tradition of how to make that still exciting, but it involves forcing situations onto the players they have to deal with just to continue the trade process (there was a whole series Andre Norton did more or less based on that) and some people who expect an SF game of that sort to be a sandbox get soggy about that.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I thought id like this. Though, in one of my earlier Traveller campaigns the players ran from adventure because it was too dangerous. Instead they wanted to just trade goods and make money paying their ship mortgage. It was not a very exciting game.
That's where things going sideways, in the Firefly manner, is the way to run a Traveller merchant game. None of mine have been boring.
Same is true for a transport ship game in Alien. And in Space Opera. And in Spacemaster. And in any other game with ships and trade. The universeisn't there to make them rich, it's there to challenge them hard while the try to get rich.
 

payn

Legend
That's where things going sideways, in the Firefly manner, is the way to run a Traveller merchant game. None of mine have been boring.
Same is true for a transport ship game in Alien. And in Space Opera. And in Spacemaster. And in any other game with ships and trade. The universeisn't there to make them rich, it's there to challenge them hard while the try to get rich.
Yeap, as some folks have been posting, GM dropping a jack in the box is something you need to be careful about. I was being way to indirect about adventures. I mean, the PCs knew about every opportunity, it just wasn't rewarding enough and too risky apparently. I learned that for me as a Referee that the standard pay your mortgage campaign doesn't work for my GM style.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
I prefer most crunch to be front-loaded (relegated to character gen and other pre-play portions of the game), although I do like some tactical choice during combat.
 

Yeap, as some folks have been posting, GM dropping a jack in the box is something you need to be careful about. I was being way to indirect about adventures. I mean, the PCs knew about every opportunity, it just wasn't rewarding enough and too risky apparently. I learned that for me as a Referee that the standard pay your mortgage campaign doesn't work for my GM style.

Players have a tendency to be risk-averse at the best of times in many cases, and when you put the cost-to-benefit too much in the forefront, its easy for them to always chose the most low-risk options, no matter how dull they are.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Yeap, as some folks have been posting, GM dropping a jack in the box is something you need to be careful about. I was being way to indirect about adventures. I mean, the PCs knew about every opportunity, it just wasn't rewarding enough and too risky apparently. I learned that for me as a Referee that the standard pay your mortgage campaign doesn't work for my GM style.
That's not quite what I was suggesting. You don't leave adventures for them to find; trouble finds them and they have to adapt. Pirates, Stowaways, wanted passengers, missing freight, coercion into criminality, paperwork hassles, corrupt officials, etc.

Not to mention that freight (shipping things for others, rather than buy low sell high) alone should be just barely breakeven.

Simply put: Things don't go smooth. The rough patches are an adventure themselves. The operation itself should be a minor ongoing element.

Alien, for example, has a sandboxish approach. Generate the cargo mission, random encounters, barely achievable maintenance requirements... one of the better bad situations was a PC didn't de-stress enough and snapped.... major psychosis level snapped. Wouldn't have been a big problem for the others if it hadn't been the best engineer.... they had to coax and coerce the engineer out of the ventilation system.... which took several days. Which also risked late delivery fees, etc.

Trade is a MacGuffin, most of the time. It's there to provide a backbone.
 

payn

Legend
That's not quite what I was suggesting. You don't leave adventures for them to find; trouble finds them and they have to adapt. Pirates, Stowaways, wanted passengers, missing freight, coercion into criminality, paperwork hassles, corrupt officials, etc.

Not to mention that freight (shipping things for others, rather than buy low sell high) alone should be just barely breakeven.

Simply put: Things don't go smooth. The rough patches are an adventure themselves. The operation itself should be a minor ongoing element.

Alien, for example, has a sandboxish approach. Generate the cargo mission, random encounters, barely achievable maintenance requirements... one of the better bad situations was a PC didn't de-stress enough and snapped.... major psychosis level snapped. Wouldn't have been a big problem for the others if it hadn't been the best engineer.... they had to coax and coerce the engineer out of the ventilation system.... which took several days. Which also risked late delivery fees, etc.

Trade is a MacGuffin, most of the time. It's there to provide a backbone.
I get ya. I dont tend to do small one shot adventure type stuff that well. What I do well is massive conspiracies that the PCs must engage with one way or another, but they usually have plenty of agency. Im trying to work on that more episodic a hitch in the normal giddy up type of game style.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I get ya. I dont tend to do small one shot adventure type stuff that well. What I do well is massive conspiracies that the PCs must engage with one way or another, but they usually have plenty of agency. Im trying to work on that more episodic a hitch in the normal giddy up type of game style.
Trade related conspiracies:
Dockworkers/stevadores guild.
Yardworkers guild
Megacorporate hired privateers.
Rebels mislabeling cargos...

All of those are potential long term stories that can create one-shot interactions galore.
If the dockworkers guild is striking at certain ports, the adventure is finding people to unload your cargo and move it to the warehouse. Or a guildworker notes that your ship unloaded across a picket line a few systems back, according to leaked logs... and they make life hell.
When megacorps go to war, it's by proxies... but anyone not flagged by the employer and going to certain ports is targeted for protection money... almost enough, but not quite, to make the run a loss... unless something goes wrong.

Another thing that helps in running a trade game is a table of things that can go wrong.
Maneuver drives: Misaligned. Overheating to shutdown. Timing off, making maneuvers sloppy. partial outage makes maneuver drop in acceleration.
Life support: CO2 scrubber failure. O2 tank leak. Funky smell. "It ain't dead, Jim" (microbial or macrobiotic inhabiting the systems). Slow toxins. Pressure leak. Pressure sensor failure resulting in incorrect pressures (and possibly bends and/or oxygen toxicity).

Make a list of the systems that are installed, to your comfortable level of detail. Then come up with 3 to 10 things that can go wrong with each. And what the fix is. And how hard it is to diagnose. Set the maintenance needs so that a minor mishap (cost increases due to inefficiency and/or small non-vital spares to fix non-lethal problems) is likely every 2-3 sessions.

Another tool, stolen from FFG Star Wars: everyone has a background obligation that crops up randomly. When it does, Bad Squat Happens. Such as last week's wed session, Grishkal's Imperial Bounty obligation triggered. So, a bounty hunter shows up looking to ace them. (Worse, it's not doing it for reward; it's actually an imperial owned IG-100 Magnagard...) The entire session was dealing with it directly. They mindwiped it... with a major complication (4 threat)... this week, they tried to cash in on it, player failed, and the mindwipe mishap finally manifest... as it killed an impie during a customs boarding. Their cargo - a single passenger - participated in all the fights against it.
They're all wanted by the Empire, but not at a high bounty. Yet. They're hoping to hand off the remains as a semi-functional unit to Teemo the Hutt....

This is where the crunch of the system becomes a useful tool.
the problem comes when you stop asking "how are you justifying that in character?" and just go straight to the modifiers and mechanistics. And, for some, even then, it's not a problem.

Not everyone plays RPGs as storygames. For some, they're boardgames at character scale. And that's OK when everyone at the table is good with it. I'm more towards the middle of the two.
 

That's not quite what I was suggesting. You don't leave adventures for them to find; trouble finds them and they have to adapt. Pirates, Stowaways, wanted passengers, missing freight, coercion into criminality, paperwork hassles, corrupt officials, etc.

That's pretty much the approach those Andre Norton novels I mentioned took. But like I said, at least some of the people who've traditionally played that way back in the Traveler days would have read that as being railroading and been pretty soggy about it.

Not to mention that freight (shipping things for others, rather than buy low sell high) alone should be just barely breakeven.

In my experience, you'd get a mix of the two, so there was (assuming the players were on their game and the GM wasn't actively stonewalling) progression, but pretty gradual.
 

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