On playing new game systems

aramis erak

Adventurer
It’s usually way easier than learning to drive a car. I’d say by an order of magnitude.
It’s much more difficult over here.
Much of the US doesn't even require a class to get a driving license. Just pass the bloody test, get some number of hours of supervised driving (by a parent or other licensed adult usually is all that's required for "supervision"), and pass the practical factor road test.

That said, I've found some systems totally opaque... I had to have Luke Crane explain Apocalypse World's approach to rolls to me, because "To do it, do it" is nonsensical unless you grasp the mindset. Once I grasped that, the system seemed pretty clear. And very much not to my tastes setting-wise.

The hardest switch is when the game requires one to approach some element from a poorly explicated mindset.

Other mechanical elements that have tripped up people:
  • Metacurrency
  • Abstraction
  • Dice tricks
    • roll x keep y,
    • use 2 dice to generate a 2-3 place number: d100, d66, d60, d50
    • Roll, halve, and round-up: d3, d5
    • dice shifts
    • counting successes
    • Two totals for the same dice
      • Champions "count the body" - two results: normal is sum of all faces. Body is 1 per die showing 2-5, 2 per 6, and none for 1.
      • ORE's height vs width
  • Different dice than prior game
    • using dice other than d6's
    • using dice other than d10's (probably started with WoD or L5R)
  • No damage rolls vs Damage rolls.
  • shift to symbolic dice. (Going back to the days of WEG's Batman)
  • Changes in use of specific attribute names. (Such as splitting Agility vs Dexterity, for a player where they are conjoined into either term.)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Others have answered but... archetypal D&D style prep is about stats and maps - populating a space with things for the PCs to interact with. It is not about events.

Invokes and compels are about what happens in the space once play begins.
Yes...? I mean, I'm one of the "others" that have answered this way. My post was in response to a poster that disagreed with this characterization, so I was asking how they did that, ie play FATE with D&D tight prep, as that's not my understanding of how FATE works.
 

Greg K

Adventurer
(Edited: I moved part of my original post to a new thread)

There are a lot of games that I want to try. However, there are games that I will not try. Here are the reasons that I will not try a system.
  • The mechanics just don't click for me despite my admiration for the system (FATE Core/ FATE Accelerated)
  • Using proprietary symbolic dice or cards that require interpretation for narrative effects.
  • A non-D&D game using D&D class/level with D&D AC for armor, and both hit points and/or skills that automatically increase with level- More so, if it uses the D&D magic system of dividing spells by spell level. Outside of D&D it does not work for me- especially for licensed products, modern settings, or future settings.
  • roll under stat systems
  • too abstract of a combat system such as the entire combat resolved by a single roll
  • in general, a combat system in which the difficulty is not directly opposed by the opponent's skill or ability..
  • in most instances, too small a skill list and/or over-consolidated skills. My ideal list is 24-30 skills .
    For some genres, I can also deal with far fewer or even no skills- Ghostbusters or Toon for example. Also If a game has 18-20 skills, I don't mind splitting a few and adding a few others if I enjoy the rest of the system
  • using attribute rolls to resolve everything with no options to reflect skill or training.
  • character resource splat book syndrome (FFG Star Wars, D&D 4e): I have been through this enough with D&D 3e, White Wolf, and to a lesser degree AD&D 2e
  • using JENGA towers (for starters, I have nerve/tendon damage in the arm that I would use and a slight vision issue). Also no using dominoes or pure resource allocation (e.g., Marvel Universe RPG using stones).
  • one-shots outside of a convention demo. In general, I don't like one shots. I like campaigns that are going to go on for several months if not years . I'd be happy to try two or three session test (stopping after the first if nobody is enjoying the system).
I am sure that there are additional reasons that I will not try a game.
 
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Greg K

Adventurer
  • shift to symbolic dice. (Going back to the days of WEG's Batman)
In general, I don't like proprietary symbolic dice. WEG's DC Universe dice is one of the few instances that didn't bother me except for trying to track down a set at a reasonable price. As long as one the success chart, a d6 was very easy to use (my issue was the system using additional tables to resolve lifting and movement The lifting and movement charts (along with how movement powers were handled) was unnecessary and way too granular).

Fudge Dice are another instance in which I am fine with specialty dice.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
As seen by my list at the bottom, I am willing to try a lot of systems. However, there are some systems that I don't want to try for various reasons.
  • The mechanics just don't click for me despite my admiration for the system (FATE Core/ FATE Accelerated)
  • using proprietary symbolic dice or cards that require interpretation for narrative effects.
  • A non-D&D game using D&D class/level with D&D AC for armor, and both hit points and/or skills that automatically increase with level- Moreso, if it uses the D&D magic system. Outside of D&D it does not work form- especially for licensed products, modern settings, or future settings.
  • roll under stat systems
  • too abstract of a combat system/ the entire combat resolved by a single roll
  • in general, a combat system in which the difficulty is directly unopposed by the opponent's skill or ability. It can be adding the opponent's skill to the base difficulty or subtracting it from my total before comparing it to the difficulty.
  • in most instances, too small a skill list and/or over consolidated skills. My ideal list is 24-30 skills . I do make exceptions if I like the rest of the system and the list needs a little about tweaking. For example, when I had planned to run Cinematic Unisystem, I had to expand the skill list by splitting a few skills and introduce a couple of others. For some genres, I can also deal with far fewer or even no skills- Toon for example.
  • using attribute rolls with nothing else to reflect skill training. I don't care if the system is roll an extra die or reduce difficulty because you have the Acrobatic trait. However, see above for some exceptions.
  • character resource splat book syndrome (FFG Star Wars, D&D 4e): I have been through this enough with D&D 3e, White Wolf, and to a lesser degree AD&D 2e
  • using things like JENGA towers or dominoes.
  • one-shots outside of a convention demo. In general, I don't like one shots. I like campaigns that are going to go on for several months or not years.
  • Currently, time/scheduling with friends, a few members of my gaming group moving cross-country, and other life/personal issues (e.g. going back to school in the evening/online courses) have resulted in my not gaming for over a year.
I am sure that there are more reasons that I will not try a game.
Yikes!
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
I'm curious how you ran FATE with a tight prep like D&D. Not disbelieving, just curious because that's not how I understand the system at all. How do you allow player invokes or DM compels drive the story if it's already mapped?
I think you switched terms there -- I run most games with a lot of prep, but react to what the players do so they have high agency. I think you're confusing "prep" with "already mapped story".

In a Fate mystery I carefully prep the murder scene, the suspects and properties of the environment. I'll create organizations and buildings, sets of contacts and a historical timeline. I'll also create a "timeline of what will happen next if nothing changes"

When the players interact with the system, I will replace prepared elements with elements that the players describe. If the players attempt to describe something that will invalidate the premise of the game, I will let them know that it's not possible.

The only difference between Fate and D&D is that in Fate, they can pay a Fate chip to modify details, whereas in D&D the narrative elements are freeform, so the difference is this:

FATE Player: I'd like to have been working in the wine cellar the previous day -- do you need a chip for that?
FATE GM: actually no, I'm afraid that wouldn't work
FATE Player: <I have now acquired a little bit of meta-knowledge>

D&D Player: I'd like to have been working in the wine cellar the previous day -- since I have profession:laborer, is that OK?
D&D GM: actually no, I'm afraid that wouldn't work
D&D Player: <I have now acquired a little bit of meta-knowledge>

Fate players are, in my experience, more likely to make bigger changes, but my D&D players do it all the time to; they its don't have rules for it and have to do it freeform.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
An example from my current Fate game: I adapted a D&D-like module, so it should be a great example!

A lamia was abducting people and hypnotizing them, making them participate in debauched rituals and then either using them as thralls or killing them. I had a solid timeline on when people had disappeared, a subplot with a wannabe-sorcerer who had found out the info and used it to blackmail a friend of the PCs, who was, at time of play start, just enthralled.

The module had set scenes:
1) meet father of friend and join the search
2) gather info from 3-4 locations
3) one of them gets kidnapped but escapes
4) hunt down blackmailer and handle him
5) (optional) go to one of the Lamia's parties
6) break into lamia's house and destroy her source of power

So I prepped all the main characters, giving them aspects and skills. Also the main areas and buildings. The module had its scripted version of past events and what would happen next, so that was done for me.

That's the prep part.

In play, the players made narrative changes to find a witness and also to entirely avoid scene #3. They skipped scene #5 completely. One of the narrative changes they used involved the creation of a London street gang that is now a major part fo the campaign.

So:
  • The dungeon was stocked ahead of play
  • The GM created very little in the moment
  • There was a mapped plot, but it was defined as provisional
  • Due to both narrative control and player actions, the mapped story changed
I pretty much so the same thing in CoC, Gumshoe, D&D, 13A Deadlands Classic and all the other systems I run -- the systems differentiate mostly in whether the provisional plots are changed mostly due to dice rolls, player agency, or narrative control.

Hope that helps!
 

Greg K

Adventurer
As a super simple example, Dread does suspense really, really well.
The use of Jenga in Dread, does not work for those of us with certain physical disabilities. I have nerve and tendon damage in my dominant arm (as well as the shoulder blade) and a slight vision problem within arms reach. It is going to be uncomfortable and unfun as I try to steadily pull out the piece.

Now, beyond, that I just like resolution to be influenced by my characters skills and abilities.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
An example from my current Fate game: I adapted a D&D-like module, so it should be a great example!

A lamia was abducting people and hypnotizing them, making them participate in debauched rituals and then either using them as thralls or killing them. I had a solid timeline on when people had disappeared, a subplot with a wannabe-sorcerer who had found out the info and used it to blackmail a friend of the PCs, who was, at time of play start, just enthralled.

The module had set scenes:
1) meet father of friend and join the search
2) gather info from 3-4 locations
3) one of them gets kidnapped but escapes
4) hunt down blackmailer and handle him
5) (optional) go to one of the Lamia's parties
6) break into lamia's house and destroy her source of power

So I prepped all the main characters, giving them aspects and skills. Also the main areas and buildings. The module had its scripted version of past events and what would happen next, so that was done for me.

That's the prep part.

In play, the players made narrative changes to find a witness and also to entirely avoid scene #3. They skipped scene #5 completely. One of the narrative changes they used involved the creation of a London street gang that is now a major part fo the campaign.

So:
  • The dungeon was stocked ahead of play
  • The GM created very little in the moment
  • There was a mapped plot, but it was defined as provisional
  • Due to both narrative control and player actions, the mapped story changed
I pretty much so the same thing in CoC, Gumshoe, D&D, 13A Deadlands Classic and all the other systems I run -- the systems differentiate mostly in whether the provisional plots are changed mostly due to dice rolls, player agency, or narrative control.

Hope that helps!
Thanks. How did compels or invokes work in this example?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I think you switched terms there -- I run most games with a lot of prep, but react to what the players do so they have high agency. I think you're confusing "prep" with "already mapped story".
Not really. Take a D&D dungeon. The location of the monsters, what they are, the traps, the treasure, the layout, the secret doors, etc., are all set in advance. These don't change. Play may skip or trivialize some of these set encounters, but the fiction is largely set in advance.
In a Fate mystery I carefully prep the murder scene, the suspects and properties of the environment. I'll create organizations and buildings, sets of contacts and a historical timeline. I'll also create a "timeline of what will happen next if nothing changes"

When the players interact with the system, I will replace prepared elements with elements that the players describe. If the players attempt to describe something that will invalidate the premise of the game, I will let them know that it's not possible.

The only difference between Fate and D&D is that in Fate, they can pay a Fate chip to modify details, whereas in D&D the narrative elements are freeform, so the difference is this:

FATE Player: I'd like to have been working in the wine cellar the previous day -- do you need a chip for that?
FATE GM: actually no, I'm afraid that wouldn't work
FATE Player: <I have now acquired a little bit of meta-knowledge>

D&D Player: I'd like to have been working in the wine cellar the previous day -- since I have profession:laborer, is that OK?
D&D GM: actually no, I'm afraid that wouldn't work
D&D Player: <I have now acquired a little bit of meta-knowledge>

Fate players are, in my experience, more likely to make bigger changes, but my D&D players do it all the time to; they its don't have rules for it and have to do it freeform.
Yeah, it does seem that you tightly prep your FATE games. That's cool, I'm happy it works for you. It just seems at odds with how I understand FATE and it's design to be far more 'in the moment' for play, in that the fiction is mostly created in response to play rather than largely mapped ahead of time. That's how compels work, for me, as opportunities to see where the game goes rather than moving around the predefined fiction a bit.

Again, thanks for the feedback, it's good to see a game in a different light.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not really. Take a D&D dungeon. The location of the monsters, what they are, the traps, the treasure, the layout, the secret doors, etc., are all set in advance. These don't change. Play may skip or trivialize some of these set encounters, but the fiction is largely set in advance.
I wouldn't call locations and monsters, "the fiction". They are setting and characters. The fiction is what results when the players interact with the elements.

If your play is such that you know "players enter every room, kill all the monsters, go to the next room" is what is probably going to happen, because that's how your players roll, then you substantially know the fiction beforehand. But, if you don't know if they players are going to kill the orcs, recruit them to be their brute squad, or just swap recipes with them... the fiction really isn't set beforehand.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I wouldn't call locations and monsters, "the fiction". They are setting and characters. The fiction is what results when the players interact with the elements.

If your play is such that you know "players enter every room, kill all the monsters, go to the next room" is what is probably going to happen, because that's how your players roll, then you substantially know the fiction beforehand. But, if you don't know if they players are going to kill the orcs, recruit them to be their brute squad, or just swap recipes with them... the fiction really isn't set beforehand.
Well, I disagree that this is a useful definition of fiction. It's more a definition to allow you to say that D&D creates fiction in the moment just like, say, Blades in the Dark when there's very, very different things happening.

The heavy prep of D&D constrains what parts of fiction will generate in play. And that's not bad, I'm a huge fan of D&D and mostly run 5e. So, I clearly don't have a problem with prep defining play. If I don't prep 5e, though, I'm in a world where the game doesn't assist me. I can ad-lib, but the mechanics of the game aren't set up to allow for this, with binary success and atomic task resolution being the default. The game plays best if you draw up a map and stock some monsters and have a plot to engage (even if it's a sandboxy one). Blades cannot play like this -- you're have a very bad time trying to prep a Blades game, almost at all. Almost everything in Blades is created as needed in play -- there's very little pre-play fictional creation outside of the setting itself (which is pretty loose).

FATE occupies a ground inbetween the almost no-prep Blades and the prep-heavy D&D. It's a game where you should loosely prep some things, but that prep is still pretty high level (aspects, tags, a theme, some NPCs, etc.) and not a D&D style map and populate, or an adventure style plot outline. This is because FATE allows for mechanics that do facilitate following the play and creating in the moment, if not as strongly as Blades in the Dark (my most familiar game of this sort, not suggesting others aren't).

So, I think it's very valid to point out the amount of fiction created prior to play, in prep, and call that fiction. Otherwise, we're left discussion fiction as what occurs in play, and prepped story as not-fiction, even when it shows up in play.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
I'll gladly try new systems and settings. Having played tons of different games through the ages...

However there are some systems that do require LOTS of work to learn. Either because they have character creation-parts that are very complex (Eclipse Phase 1e for example), or you need to know lots about the setting to even be able to make a character (Shadowrun, Legend of the 5 Rings). And then we have lots of systems with very bad examples of how the rules work.

Some games rquire a totally new mindset of the players when playing it. so you really need to convey that when playing it.

Quickstart-rules are often helpful, but they also need to be made in such a way that you can then easily convert the quickstart character to full characters if you choose to continue playing.
 

GrahamWills

Adventurer
Ovinomancer said:
It just seems at odds with how I understand FATE and it's design to be far more 'in the moment' for play, in that the fiction is mostly created in response to play rather than largely mapped ahead of time.

...

Thanks. How did compels or invokes work in this example?
I've played a fair amount of Fate at conventions, and I am actually struggling to recall any of them being no-prep games. Or even light-prep. They had very clearly prepped locations, NPCs and situations. I am looking at my Fate world books, and they are pretty much full of prepped characters, items, locations and so on.

Looking for an example, here is an addendum written by Jason Morningstar for use with Fight Fire: https://www.evilhat.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Station-Ten.pdf. I think it's pretty typical of Fate prep. The pre-mapped information includes all locations and people (organizations, gear and other world information is in the source book) as well as detailed challenges and expected outcomes. Here's a sample paragraph (unedited):

"Khadija was checking on stock levels when she got light headed, tripped and fell. Without active SCBA, anyone entering the basement will similarly get light headed and dizzy, develop a bitter taste in their mouth, and possibly fall. A CO2 tank had been installed only hours before, a detail no one will think to mention until after the fact. It is leaking CO2 and there is only 15% oxygen down there. The building should be hastily evacuated and ventilated, and Khadija Pendleton needs to go to the hospital. She will refuse and try to run her restaurant. Gerome Meeks will offer to lock the basement door, but the show must go on, 100 customers, a lunch rush. EMS is delayed by another call—they are understaffed and have a 30 minute ETA"

Note how this describes not only the plot in fairly high levels of details, but also character motivations, what the players need to do, character reactions to possible player actions, and a general future timeline.

I've played a lot of systems at conventions, and overall I'd say Fate is pretty much middle of the pack as far as "in-the-moment" preparation. Top of the list is likely Toon, with Powered By the Apocalypse games also very strong on improvisational playing.

What Fate makes easier is the ability for players to modify story elements. For Jason's sample scenes, a player might spend a Fate point to be a friend of Khadija, and so get a bonus to persuade her to go to hospital (modifying the plot) but if they tried to spend a fate Point to say "EMS happens to be right outside" I'd tell them that is not possible as the scene has the existing aspect "EMS is delayed by another call" which I would then write on a piece of paper and add to the scene as a newly-discovered aspect.

As far as invokes and compels are concerned, I might compel someone to forget to activate their SCBA or have an ex-boyfriend be eating there and cause a fuss, or anything that does not contradict the described situation or expected responses. My players can happily invoke anything they like that similarly does not contradict the story, but if they do want to, then I'll allow it if it makes a better story (e.g. being a friend of Khadija) and not if it doesn't ("EMS is nearby" -- scene over, done).

Note that this is exactly the same as I'd do in D&D. If a player said "I have profession:chef, can I be a friend of Khadija?" I'd say "sure" and give a +4 circumstance bonus to persuasion checks. If they said "The town description says they have a doctor in this area, is he nearby?" I'd say "no, sorry, he is delayed by another call".

Hope that helps.
 

lordabdul

Explorer
It's not, really, though. Not compared to, say, driving a car or cooking a meal, or the many other things people do each day.
I'm replying late, but yes, I totally agree, it's fairly easy for me to pick up a new system too, and it feels like it should be for almost everybody. But I was just communicating about what my experience was of other people at my table(s). Maybe half of them would get it quickly, while the other half is still asking basic questions 3 sessions later ("do I need to roll over or under, again? gosh I can't get used to it!"). I have no idea why.
 
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lordabdul

Explorer
roll under stat systems
Funny I was just making a reference to that in my previous post above. I have no idea why so many people have problems with "roll under" resolution systems... Is it because they grew up playing D&D and have a "beat the score" reflex ingrained? For me it's weird, it would be like refusing to play card games or board games that have a system where you need the least number of points to win, which is fairly common...

...although I was just researching this a bit and made some interesting discovery: Rummy, for instance, is commonly scored in France (where it's called "Rami") by adding up the points of all the cards you have remaining at the end, and so this is very much a "lowest score wins" game. I looked up the American version and it looks like the scoring is completely different (at least according to the Wikipedia page), and instead you score the cards that you put down and subtract the cards you have left in your hands... making it a "highest score wins" game! Is there some weird cultural bias at play here, and some countries just don't have a tradition of more varied scoring and resolution systems? How is Rummy played in the UK for instance?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Funny I was just making a reference to that in my previous post above. I have no idea why so many people have problems with "roll under" resolution systems... Is it because they grew up playing D&D and have a "beat the score" reflex ingrained? For me it's weird, it would be like refusing to play card games or board games that have a system where you need the least number of points to win, which is fairly common...

...although I was just researching this a bit and made some interesting discovery: Rummy, for instance, is commonly scored in France (where it's called "Rami") by adding up the points of all the cards you have remaining at the end, and so this is very much a "lowest score wins" game. I looked up the American version and it looks like the scoring is completely different (at least according to the Wikipedia page), and instead you score the cards that you put down and subtract the cards you have left in your hands... making it a "highest score wins" game! Is there some weird cultural bias at play here, and some countries just don't have a tradition of more varied scoring and resolution systems? How is Rummy played in the UK for instance?
D&D used to be roll under on some things.

Rolling higher is just easier for whatever reason.
 

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