Single mechanics that hurt an otherwise good game

Ratskinner

Adventurer
So, inspired by the Single mechanics from an RPG you love thread.

Is there a game you've played or run that was really good...except for that one mechanic (or perhaps a design decision) that grated on you?






Single mechanics from an RPG you love
 

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Off the top of my head, D&D 5E is severely hampered by the abundance of healing, which necessitates a constant stream of encounters to try and whittle away HP that is just going to regenerate after any rest.

AD&D 2E had this annoying rule that you were always hit on a natural 20, even if the attack would not otherwise be successful. This was exacerbated by an optional rule that a roll of 20 also dealt double damage.

I'm sure I can think of more. Mostly, I'm pretty good at spotting those rules while reading the book, and I either house rule it away or choose to not play that game. FATE is a great example of a game with one bad mechanic (fate points) that renders the whole game unplayable, so I just choose to not play it.
 

ccs

41st lv DM
4e: If it weren't for the universal AEDU power structure 4e would've been a better game.

BECMI: There not being any separation between race & class.
Fighter = human
Cleric = human
Thief = human
Magic-User = human
Elf, Dwarf, & Halfling = Elf, Dwarf, & Halfling.....
After about a year, seperating race/class was our 1st actual house rule.
Eventually we found 1e & that helped alot.

1e: 1e is still my favorite edition but that doesn't mean I love all of it's race/class restrictions for the non-humans.
If an NPC can be a class, so can you in our 1e.

3.x/PF: The critical hit confirmation system.

5e: Non-LG Paladins.

All editions of D&D: Psionics.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
The d20. It undermines player choices, character builds, and DM arbitration with the swinginess and range of results. It is also a very poor mechanic to build off for other mechanics, particularly as the core of an entire game system. It is an archaic feature of an old game that has been adhered to for so long it prevents any chance for the system to evolve and continue to run the same treadmill with the same inherited flaws. It evokes a lot of houseruling and alternate methods to compensate or replace it altogether. But you know, sacred cows and stuff.
 


A

amerigoV

Guest
For most systems - Grappling. Its like a catch in the NFL (or football in general) - we all know what it is, but its hard to mechanically define without breaking out the book.
 

Gradine

Final Form (she/they)
2nd Edition: Race/class restrictions

3.5: Monster creation. Having to build every creature like a PC was such a freaking hassle...

4e: Skill Challenges and Rituals. Skill Challenges were (kind of) fixed eventually, and Rituals work much better in 5e, but together these kind of reinforced how much non-combat gameplay was treated as an afterthought.

5e: Feat implementation. I appreciate that it had to done the way that it was in order to make them optional, but a lot of them are really interesting, if not character-defining, and it's nearly impossible to use them without house-ruling or playing variant human.

Star Wars D20: Dark Side points. They really did not want anyone playing an evil character or even anything remotely approaching shades of grey. Especially not a force user.

AGE: 3 Classes. It worked really well for the video game; but for a TT RPG it really feels extremely limiting. If there were a greater range of options within each class that would be something else, but as it is...
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
These are based on the state of the game at the time - for example I wouldn't ding AD&D for not having a unified resolution mechanic.

D&D versions
(This is subjective, some may disagree or have a workaround.)

5e: Large number of encounters expected to balance long-rest recovery mechanics.

4e: Too many distinct choices for mid and high level characters slows down combat across the board.

3.x: Design decision of prerequisite chains requiring planning out characters many levels in advance.

AD&D 2ed: Racial level limits would hard stop existing character advancement for some existing characters, which was a deal breaker when it happened.

Other RPGs

Star Wars d6 (WEG): Force users were so much more powerful then non-Force users

Deadlands (original): Six-shooters, while iconic, were so much less powerful then rifles that they weren't useful.

Rolemaster: Too many table look ups slowed play.

Mechwarrior (1986): Mech combat ability and everything else ability came from the same pools, so some characters were fantastic in mechs and useless elsewhere, and vice-versa. So neither side of play was satisfying to all.

Hero System (1989): Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. In this case it was taking a system designed for vast flexibility for superheros (Champions) and using that as a universal system including gear-based and "hero-to-zero" play which weren't it's strong points at the time.

Amber Diceless: Hard to add players after campaign start because of whole-party bidding process character creation.

Warhammer Fantasy: High Toughness broke the damage balance between characters.

Dresden Files (2010): Thamaturgy was too subjective and complicated. (Actually, taking a streamlined but flexible system like FATE and trying to mechanically model all of the options in the Dresden Files books may have been the more overarching design flaw. FATE and high mechanical simulation is not the right match.)

13th Age: Overloads the ritual magic system to make up for very limited out-of-combat spell selection.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
7th Sea 1st edition: Roll Trait + Knack, Keep Trait. It causes two massive issues.

1: Because you Kept your Trait number in dice... a character with higher "universal" ability was almost always going to succeed in things that even the most trained person in the world would not. So a PC with a 3 Finesse and 2 Dancing (5K3) going up against the most trained dancer in the world with 2 Finesse and 5 Dancing (7K2) will beat that person more often than not. Which narrative-wise makes little sense... especially when connected to point 2.

2: The XP cost to raise Traits were not so much higher than raising individual knacks that it was always more economically sound to spend all XP raising traits... because traits would apply and be Kept dice for every single check involving that trait, whereas knacks were single skills and only be Unkept dice on a check that involved it. So in my experience, no PC would spend the cost to raise a single knack (2 x the new level in XP) when they could raise the applicable trait (5 x the new level in XP) and have it apply to EVERY check that involved that trait.

The solution of course would be to reverse the kept-unkept pair... Roll Knack + Trait, Keep Knack. That way a character's training in a particular knack always made you better at it than just being naturally strong, dextrous, smart etc.
 

Aldarc

Legend
AGE: 3 Classes. It worked really well for the video game; but for a TT RPG it really feels extremely limiting. If there were a greater range of options within each class that would be something else, but as it is...
Fantasy Age Companion released yesterday.
 


5ekyu

Hero
Hmmm...

Most systems to me had flaws (internal inconsistencies) that went beyond the "need to change this to better fit setting" issues.

I would say the biggest flaw in 5e that actually affects play is the long and short rest. Specifically the decision to make classes balance in play mix and match between short and long rest so that some classes are very keyed power wise to how often long rests happen while others are intentionally hinged on short rests.

Because a design goal of 5e is focused on new players, taking a large chunk of that balance and hinging it on DM scripting considerations is just plain poor planning and inconsistent.

It also adds a level of complexity for even experienced GMs and scripting for balance in play.

They should have IMO went with all classes being mostly LR focused (traditional) or mostly SR focused to syreamline a lot of encounter design and campaign design concerns.

For IIRC Serenity/Cortex and now it seems Star Trek Adventures, the "flows like rain" plot points mechanic really fails with me. (Momentum in STA) The idea is they built a meta-game) mechanic into the basic scene and skill operation with the expectation that it is a major part of the resolution system. The problem I have is it drives the actual play too far away from character vs scene "in game" processes to hinge very,much on the plot point economy. Saw it in Serenity and you can watch just one episode of Shield of Tomorrow and see how much the momentum economy gets screen time in resolution and dialog between players during scenes. It feels to me that it diminishes the attention paid to the "my character is good at that" towards "can we afford to spend mo" as well as making the "yay" or "reward" for an exceptional result be more about the extra momentum gained and mostly eclipse the actual gains from the task in game in scene.

These are of course somewhat subjective but at least for the 5E rest balance classes it seems to clash with design intentions.
 

Aldarc

Legend
That is excellent news to hear; thank you!
Technically the pdf is already available if you pre-order. It contains no new classes, but there are new races, new talents, new specializations, new spells for old arcana, new arcana, and expanding GM options for Fantasy Age play.
 

CubicsRube

Hero
Supporter
With 5e? Most spells. Particularly those overriding mundane skills.

Why climb when you can levitate, or jump when you can fly? Etc.

Its not so much the spells, but that they are autosuccesses. Id prefer them if they enhanced natural abilities, or if they had failure chances, even if they were small. E.g, you had to succeed a simple dex check in order to fly if you wanted to do a difficult maneuver.

I realise i may be of a minority opinion on the above.

Otherwise for me it comes down to unnecessary complexity, i.e, complexity that doesn't add any value but increases the mental load of playing the game, a la feat taxes and long feat chains in pathfinder.
 

Rod Staffwand

aka Ermlaspur Flormbator
Dungeon Crawl Classic's funky dice. d5? d7? d27? Nope. Get over yourselves.

Actually, any game that goes with an outlandish die mechanic or resolution system just for the sake of being different.
 

J.M

Explorer
With 5e? Most spells. Particularly those overriding mundane skills.

Why climb when you can levitate, or jump when you can fly? Etc.

Its not so much the spells, but that they are autosuccesses. Id prefer them if they enhanced natural abilities, or if they had failure chances, even if they were small. E.g, you had to succeed a simple dex check in order to fly if you wanted to do a difficult maneuver.

I realise i may be of a minority opinion on the above.

Otherwise for me it comes down to unnecessary complexity, i.e, complexity that doesn't add any value but increases the mental load of playing the game, a la feat taxes and long feat chains in pathfinder.


The last one is a big one for me. Designers don’t pay enough attention to the cumulative mental load of their systems. So you’ll find games with a bunch of mechanics that look cool when taken in isolation, but when you put everything together the system as a whole becomes unwieldy in play.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
To echo one or two above, and add a few more (all regarding D&D):

1-2e - race-class level restrictions. Unnecessary. If you can be a class (and I've no issue with some races being unable to be some classes at all e.g. Dwarven Magic Users) you should be able to advance as far as your abilities can take you.

1-2e - psionics. One of those things that looks like a good idea in theory but is nearly impossible to functionally put in to the game without breaking things. (subsequent editions haven't done much better)

All editions - spell pre-memorization. The 3e Sorcerer mechanics got it right - you have the slot, you have the spell, so cast away. IMO all casters should use something like this.

All editions - multiclassing. Each edition has tried something different, none yet has come close to achieving the goal of making mixed-class characters workable without opening the door to optimizers/powergamers and-or jack-of-all-trades characters who don't need a party.

All editions: Bards. 1e made them a prestige class - bad idea. Since then they've been made just another type of caster, and it doesn't work. Better to give them their own set of casting mechanics based on sonic energy rather than magic, to make them different.

All editions: dying and near-death mechanics. Before 5e there really aren't any - you're fully functional at 1 h.p. and dead (or unconscious) at 0. There's no in-between state where you're wounded but still sort-of able to function; this would really need some sort of wound-vitality system which D&D has so far resolutely refused to implement even though to do so would be very easy. 5e has death saves etc. but the implementation still has a host of problems.

3-4-5e - "shoehorning". This is my own term, roughly defined as "Taking a (usually new) mechanic that is useful in some situations and then stuffing (or shoehorning) it into far too many other situations across the game's design where it's not so useful". In 3e the d20 was shoehorned; in 4e it was AEDU, in 5e it's dis/advantage. There's nothing wrong with having different things in the game use different mechanics!

4-5e - hit point recovery is too easy. This includes both healing-at-distance during combat (and by non healers!) and overly generous rest rates afterwards.

Note that most* of the above are quite fixable by a kitbash-happy DM; but it's all work that shouldn't have to be done. :)

* - multiclassing and Bards are IME the glaring exceptions.

Lanefan
 

CubicsRube

Hero
Supporter
[MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION] - one of the things that appealed to me about shadow of the demon lord is when you learn a spell you get x number of castings per long rest of that spell. No prep, no "if only i had chosen this spell in the morning". If you're in combat and youve only got utility spells left, its on you to make it work
 

MarkB

Legend
All editions: dying and near-death mechanics. Before 5e there really aren't any - you're fully functional at 1 h.p. and dead (or unconscious) at 0. There's no in-between state where you're wounded but still sort-of able to function; this would really need some sort of wound-vitality system which D&D has so far resolutely refused to implement even though to do so would be very easy. 5e has death saves etc. but the implementation still has a host of problems.

4e went some distance in this direction, with the Bloodied condition, and certain game-mechanics that were tied to it. There just weren't a lot of them.

Star Wars Saga Edition had a condition track that served the purpose reasonably well, with cumulative penalties. It strongly resembled 5e's Exhaustion track, so that might be one direction to take a Wounds system.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
4e went some distance in this direction, with the Bloodied condition, and certain game-mechanics that were tied to it. There just weren't a lot of them.
Yes - I forgot about bloodied; which does at least wave in the general direction of what I'm talking about. Thanks!

Star Wars Saga Edition had a condition track that served the purpose reasonably well, with cumulative penalties. It strongly resembled 5e's Exhaustion track, so that might be one direction to take a Wounds system.
SWSE also had a wound-vitality system, didn't it?
 

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