On completely artificial restrictions

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
Alternative title: "Well, it makes sense" makes no sense

This is a continuation of my musings on "disconnected mechanics" in another thread, but you don't have to dig that stuff up. Maybe I'm talking about completely obvious things, but the last few months I feel like my whole paradigm is cracking and I'm seeing everything about the hobby in a new light.

So.

By "artificial restrictions" I mean rules that make no sense from the "in-fiction" point of view. E.g.: you can only move on a square grid and can't move diagonally; you can hold either a flashlight or a gun; etc. Well, what I'm gonna talk about applies to allowances (permissions?) that make no sense as well (like being able to carry a whole arsenal... somewhere and pull out any weapon in a split second), but restrictions are easier to reason about. I'm an Easterner, we don't do all this "freedom" stuff here.

Capital G gamers often frown upon being forbidden from doing things a real person in the game world would be able to do, and doubly so in TTRPGs. Long story short: it's a damn mistake. If this restriction was there for a design reason (and, most of the time, it was), when removed, things get worse. I have heavy doubts that ID software couldn't ducktape a flashlight to guns in DooM 3, and when they finally did, well... The original version of DooM 3 is a much better game than BFG edition, precisely because it forces you to constantly choose between being able to see and being able to shoot. The lack of total, unrestricted freedom isn't a result of technological limitation. Games are defined by the rules, and all the cool, fun gameplay happens in the negative space between restrictions.

I think there's a lot of value to be derived from embracing the gaminess of games, especially in TTRPGs. I've had much, much more fun with 5E combat when I've ran a bunch of silly experiments with restricting movement and actions, that I've ever had with it on the either side of the screen -- and that enjoyment translated into other aspects of the process (like, y'know, characters, story, all that) that weren't even in the focus.

Experiment #1: characters (both PCs and NPCs) can only move like a queen in chess. Ranged attacks, similarly, can only be made if the target is on the same line horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The only way to move in a more complex way is to move then dash in other direction.

It made positioning much more important, allowing some massivebrain plays that would be completely pointless if every character could equally threaten a whole radius around them, thus making even simple combat encounters that would otherwise boil down to "I HIT HIM WITH MY SWORD" more engaging.

Experiment #2: there's a deck of cards, each representing a possible action in the base game (attack, dash, cast a spell, drink potion, etc.). When the initiative is rolled, everyone draws 3, and refills to 3 at the start of each their turn. At the end of the turn any number of cards can be discarded. When the deck is exhausted, the discard pile is reshuffled. If you play a card, you make an action written on it, otherwise you can only make a single attack (regardless of multiattack stuff) or dodge.

It was less cool than #1, but maybe that was because the cards themselves kinda sucked. It still added another layer of mindgames to the process, where everyone is mentally keeping track of opponent's cards.

Both resulted in more engaging combat with surprises (that weren't completely random) and some friendly trash-talking, which resulted in players taking more risks and being generally more excited, and that excitement spilled over to non-combat breather scenes. Cool plays and stupid blunders added to characterization of the, well, characters, and made at least me care about them a tad more.

So... Next time you decide to make a ruling because the existing rules make no sense, try to think about it from a more detached perspective.
 
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I get where you're coming from on this, but it's easy to end up in a place which is very anti-immersive, and anti-RP if you have a lot of completely artificial restrictions of the kind you describe.

and all the cool, fun gameplay happens in the negative space between restrictions.

Does it? All of it?

That's an hell of an extreme claim not remotely supported by the rest of your post.

A small amount definitely does, but "all"? That's not even hyperbole, that's a very specific claim.

I think the best supporting evidence for your argument is probably 4E's combat, but even that only worked because Page 42 let you work around completely artificial restrictions at times. It feels more like what you're arguing for is an elaborate boardgame like Gloomhaven rather than an RPG, which necessarily is going to have times when the fiction means that the rules must give way.

I've had much, much more fun with 5E combat when I've ran a bunch of silly experiments with restricting movement and actions, that I've ever had with it on the either side of the screen -- and that enjoyment translated into other aspects of the process (like, y'know, characters, story, all that) that weren't even in the focus.

A detailed account of this should have been your post. That's what's interesting here, not the vague and unsupported assertions you're making. What restrictions, how did they benefit, etc?
 

MGibster

Legend
he original version of DooM 3 is a much better game than BFG edition, precisely because it forces you to constantly choose between being able to see and being able to shoot. The lack of total, unrestricted freedom isn't a result of technological limitation. Games are defined by the rules, and all the cool, fun gameplay happens in the negative space between restrictions.
I'm going to disagree vehemently with you here. They made it harder for me to shoot in what is arguably the first name in first person shooter franchises. I'm there to shoot, don't make it harder for me to do what I came here to do in. It was a terrible decision, it made the game less fun, and that decision deserves every ounce (that's an imperial gram for my overseas friends) of derision it received. The fact that there is a simple solution to using a flashlight and gun in the dark just made the whole thing insultingly stupid.

That said, I do find merit in your overall thesis. To a point. If it doesn't make some sort of logical sense then I'm going to balk if prevented from doing something my character should logically be able to accomplish.
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
I get where you're coming from on this, but it's easy to end up in a place which is very anti-immersive, and anti-RP if you have a lot of completely artificial restrictions of the kind you describe.
Maybe, but you won't, if you don't just mash a bunch of mechanics together.

Does it? All of it?

That's an hell of an extreme claim not remotely supported by the rest of your post.
I think it's pretty self-evident, especially in the context of TTRPGs.

The "baseline" form of a roleplaying game, slovesochka, freeform roleplaying, negotiated imagination, whatever you may decide to call it, allows for absolute freedom. Anything can be achieved there. A ruleset can only subtract from that absolute freedom, and by doing so, creates a space where players can interact with each other with intentionality, plan, strategize, engage with the game.

I think the best supporting evidence for your argument is probably 4E's combat, but even that only worked because Page 42 let you work around completely artificial restrictions at times.
Beyond combat, some, especially storytelling-oriented, games place completely artifical restrictions on what can and cannot be done.

Ten Candles pretty explicitly state that there's nothing the PCs can do to survive or die before the game ends, and that is a large part of what makes Ten Candles work.

Alice is Missing forbids PCs from ever meeting up in-person, a game of Reflections must end in a duel, and I'm sure there are more examples, but those popped into my mind immediately.

Returning to combat, in games that have a dedicated combat sub-system, it's, for all intents and purposes, a separate minigame, and I think that minigame being fun is pretty important. I have a pretty limited experience with 4E, but I've played Strike! praised for its tactical gameplay, and I can't say I've ever had an experience with a dedicated combat system that didn't degenerate into a single algorithm with minor variations within two or three sessions.

A detailed account of this should have been your post. That's what's interesting here, not the vague and unsupported assertions you're making. What restrictions, how did they benefit, etc?
There's not really that much to talk about, but....

All of those were played with 2 players, each controlling 2 PCs to the total party of 4.

Experiment #1: characters (both PCs and NPCs) can only move like a queen in chess. Ranged attacks, similarly, can only be made if the target is on the same line horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The only way to move in a more complex way is to move then dash in other direction.

It made positioning much more important, allowing some massivebrain plays that would be completely pointless if every character could equally threaten a whole radius around them, thus making even simple combat encounters that would otherwise boil down to "I HIT HIM WITH MY SWORD" more engaging.

Experiment #2: there's a deck of cards, each representing a possible action in the base game (attack, dash, cast a spell, drink potion, etc.). When the initiative is rolled, everyone draws 3, and refills to 3 at the start of each their turn. At the end of the turn any number of cards can be discarded. When the deck is exhausted, the discard pile is reshuffled. If you play a card, you make an action written on it, otherwise you can only make a single attack (regardless of multiattack stuff) or dodge.

It was less cool than #1, but maybe that was because the cards themselves kinda sucked. It still added another layer of mindgames to the process, where everyone is mentally keeping track of opponent's cards.

Both resulted in more engaging combat with surprises (that weren't completely random) and some friendly trash-talking, which resulted in players taking more risks and being generally more excited, and that excitement spilled over to non-combat breather scenes. Cool plays and stupid blunders added to characterization of the, well, characters, and made at least me care about them a tad more.
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
I'm going to disagree vehemently with you here. They made it harder for me to shoot in what is arguably the first name in first person shooter franchises. I'm there to shoot, don't make it harder for me to do what I came here to do in. It was a terrible decision, it made the game less fun, and that decision deserves every ounce (that's an imperial gram for my overseas friends) of derision it received. The fact that there is a simple solution to using a flashlight and gun in the dark just made the whole thing insultingly stupid.
While I do agree that DooM 3 is a bad shooter, I think it's a pretty solid first-person horror, while DooM 3: BFG edition is still a mediocre shooter and pretty bad horror on top of that.
 

While I do agree that DooM 3 is a bad shooter, I think it's a pretty solid first-person horror
I would strongly disagree. It's absolutely terrible at both. It's not even horrifying because everything is so predictable in a Doom-type way. You're not like, scared or tense or anxious like you might be in Dead Space or the like, you're just like "lol". Will discuss your other points later - not ignoring them.
 


niklinna

učim hrvatski
These are some very cool ideas! Clearly more about game as such than verisimilitude, but I bet there's a goodly amount of space where the two can overlap (and as you've shown, they don't have to, at least for some people). But just making the experiments is sure to stoke creativity in other ways. I've been playing Torg Eternity for a while, and they made something approaching an attempt at this where their initiative cards add a benefit or restriction to the action each round, but something about it just falls flat. Maybe I will get some ideas how to make that actually fun.

Reminds me of when I played Myth: The Fallen Lords, back in the day. You couldn't alter the gameplay as such (no modding), but I made it a personal goal to finish each mission with absolutely no casualties, once I realized it might be possible due to a particular type of enemy unit that exploded in a LARGE radius when killed. I would spend hours running all over the map to herd the enemies into tight clusters and set my archers at the splodey guys. It was an intensely fun challenge.
 

niklinna

učim hrvatski
Haha mixing chess w/dnd
Brilliant, isn't it? Chess developed as it did for reasons, to simulate the type of thinking needed to command battles, without necessarily modeling it in any realistic way. You have units with different capabilities; how do you use them together effectively?

D&D attempts to model battles only somewhat more realistically than chess, so why not play with the parameters and limits to action, and see what type of strategic/tactical thinking emerges?

Also I love the term "massivebrain play"!

Edit: Fixed a typo.
 
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dragoner

KosmicRPG.com
Brilliant, isn't it? Chess developed as it did for reasons, to simulate the type of thinking needed to command battles, without necessarily modeling it in any realistic way. You have units with different capabilities; how do you use them together effectively?

D&D attempt to model battles only somewhat more realistically than chess, so why not play with the parameters and limits to action, and see what type of strategic/tactical thinking emerges?

Also love the term "massivebrain play"!
I love chess, learned it as a kid in school, then was in chess league where I also learned war games, and finally dnd, or traveller.

As per the op, parameters are good for defining the game, even with "everything all at once" Rifts it needed to be curated. Myself, I prefer a competent character, not over powered, though also someone that someone wants to play and not be caught out by random chargen.
 

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