log in or register to remove this ad

 

Sorry - I think the point was missed...

RyanD

First Post
Excellent and interesting thread about my comments on Mike Mearls' blog.

Unfortunately, I think my point was missed. I'd like to clarify.

Rather than being a specific critique of "rules lite" systems, my point was that the roleplaying game concept as a whole suffers from many problems that make it less fun than it could/should be to play. In fact, I will specifically critique D20: It is nowhere close to being as "fun" as it should be.

Any time spent observing any large number of play groups (especially groups that are ad hoc rather than consistent) reveals that most RPG sessions are filled with "non fun" events.

We persist in being fans of the format because it is "better" than totally unstructured roleplaying. The point, after all, is to have a "game" and games require rules and structure. Making the "game" more fun should be a stated objective of every person who is working in the field of RPG design.

Ancedotally, we have some leads on what could make the format "more fun".

We know that certain GMs consistently run games that are "more fun" than average. Studying those GMs and trying to reduce what they do to a reproducible system that could be used by others is a potentially fruitful line of research.

We know that when a group plays together over a long period of time without significant personel changes that the overall group "fun level" appears to increase for some groups (but not for others!). Finding out what the successful groups are doing (and learning why the unsuccessful groups are failing) and trying to reduce those things to a system that could be reproduced would be fruitful.

We know that different people seek different kinds of rewards in their RPG experiences. Careful market research revealed 5 major psychographic profiles in the RPG community.
(http://www.seankreynolds.com/rpgfiles/gaming/BreakdownOfRPGPlayers.html).

Learning how to identify what kind of person each player in a group is, and ensuring that elements of each game session appeal to each player's needs is likely to make the game "more fun" overall.

These are just some of the obvious strategies that could be used to improve the RPG experience. The question for us as consumers is: when will we start demanding that claims like "more fun to play" are backed up with quantitative data, rather than designer opinion? Will we reward companies who make an effort to make their games "more fun" or will we reward companies who make an effort to make their games different?

What I do not think is helpful is sustaining the conventional wisdom that says "rules lite games are more fun to play". This statement arises from a chain of logical reasoning: Rules make games complex. The more complex a game is, the harder it will be to play. Therefore, reducing the number of rules should make a game easier to play. The easier a game is to play, the more fun the game becomes. Thus, rules lite games are more fun.

There are several flaws in this chain of logic. The first is that complexity may not be related to ease of use. A very complex game that is presented efficiently and is designed to promote quick and effective resolution of in-game questions may be easier to actually use than a game with far fewer rules, but poorer presentation or gaps in the rules coverage. The second is the assumption that "fun" and "easy to play" are related. A lot of data suggests that one of the things many RPG players are seeking is "complexity that increases over time". That is, part of the fun-factor in the RPG concept is related to mastery of a complex topic. Take away the complexity, and for many people, you take away the fun.

3E was engineered to be more fun. That is, we identified areas of 2E that we thought were making the game less fun, tested those things to see if our theory was right, and when we were confident we were right, we worked to fix the problem, then we tested the solution to see if it worked. This process, in varying degrees of formalism, was applied to virtually the entire 3E system. Some areas were fixed because there was general consensus that they needed to be fixed and no testing was done. Other areas were fixed not because a designer felt they needed to be fixed, but because during market research we discovered a problem otherwise unknown to the conventional wisdom. And there are some things we think should have been fixed, but weren't, because the fix would have created such a disruption vs. the pre-existing 1E/2E network that the fix itself may have limited the number of people willing to upgrade.

3.5E was a continuation of that effort. 3E play revealed further problems - some overlooked from 1E/2E and some caused unintentionally by 3E innovations. The culture of "engineering" at WotC is very strong - and the desire to work to fix those problems became so powerful that the decision to revise the game was made. Very little of the differences between 3E and 3.5E are asthetic. Virtually all of them relate to designers trying to make the game "more fun".

And all that engineering made only a very small dent in the problem. 3E/3.5E is not the end state - it is the first step. Many, many more steps need to be taken. The danger of not taking those steps is that the RPG format risks losing its network value to MMORPGs. The RPG "hobby" can withstand a lot more attrition than the RPG "industry" can - so if you care about the ability of people to make a living designing RPGs, you have to care about how well those people are tackling the problem of making the RPG more fun than the MMORPG format. I believe you should care, but your mileage may vary.

This is not a problem related to D20. It is an endemic, systemic problem that appears across virtually all RPGs. If you gathered a large number of RPG designers in a room and posed the question "are RPGs less fun than they should be", I suspect that you'd have close to unanimity that the statement was true. Regardless of which RPG you choose to focus on.

That is the point I was making in the first place.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Psion

Adventurer
Well I can't dispute too much of what you say here. I, of anyone, am the sort of person who appreciates the depth of detail that complex systems afford.

The statement I think you were principally being tackled for, I think, was the test in which you claim that there was no difference in resolution time for rules heavy and rules light games. Now, not knowing exactly which games you were thinking of, it's hard for me to sit here and say "that's impossible", but I -- as I imagine many people did -- inserted "placeholders" there. In my case, I imagined a test of Rolemaster versus WEG SW. And, of course, the results of this non-general though experiment made your test sound dubious. There is NO WAY that making a WEG SW character is not faster.
 

Gentlegamer

First Post
No, the point made was that based on your exacting study of "rules lite" RGPs, you concluded that the only reason some people like them (and think they are simpler and better) is that they desperately want it to be true, and not because of their own experience with RPGs, personality, or general gaming preferences.
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
RyanD said:
We know that certain GMs consistently run games that are "more fun" than average. Studying those GMs and trying to reduce what they do to a reproducible system that could be used by others is a potentially fruitful line of research.
:uhoh: So, is this the hint that explains PirateCat's long absense?

:D
Gentlegamer said:
No, the point made was that based on your exacting study of "rules lite" RGPs, you concluded that the only reason some people like them (and think they are simpler and better) is that they desperately want it to be true, and not because of their own experience with RPGs, personality, or general gaming preferences.
C'mon, GG. I think the man knows better what his point was than you do. If he says it's one thing, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
 

Anabstercorian

First Post
Lord knows, I've been there. I've been at fault, and I've been a victim. (I'm lookin' at you, Greg.) The moments where you just slide in to your character are few and far between, and if you guys consciously set out to create a system where that happened more often, kudos! If that's your design philosophy, I could feel comfortable buying 4e sight unseen.

Not so much for your splatbooks, though, you're not fooling anyone there. :D
 

Gentlegamer

First Post
Joshua Dyal said:
C'mon, GG. I think the man knows better what his point was than you do. If he says it's one thing, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Or, he wishes to retract his statement we were all responding to since it is obvious to all that it is absurd.

RyanD is on a quest to "debunk" the idea that "less rules" is "more fun." Obviously, there are different types of RPG gamers with different tastes, expectations, and experiences that inform whether they like "less" or "more" rules and what constitutes "more fun." Dancey wants to "empirically" come up with a definition of "more fun" for RPGs that can be used to market RPGs by defining away the premise of other RPGs as having been proven "less fun."

Obviously, this is my interpretation of his remarks.
 

RyanD

First Post
Psion said:
I think you were principally being tackled for, I think, was the test in which you claim that there was no difference in resolution time for rules heavy and rules light games.
I don't think it would be much help to "name names" at this late date. That was work I was involved in pre-3e, and I could not give you a complete list of games we tested as the memories are now hazy. I will say that we did test most of the games on the sales charts at the time.

With regard to the product testing: I spent many long hours watching those play groups, who were derived from many different sources with many different levels of skill and experience. And I came away from the experience very frustrated with the feeling that people did in fact want a "more fun" game experience that they were not getting from D&D at the time - thus the interest in "rules lite" RPG systems. The real eye-opener was the difference between how much time people thought the rules lite games were saving them, vs. how much time those games actually did save vs. a 1E/2E baseline. (As with many things in the RPG field, when we actually quantified the "conventional wisdom" then tested it, it turned out to be wrong - and sometimes 180 degrees opposite of the truth). And when we surveyed many of those players who did express a preference for a rules lite game, we found a high degree of supressed frustration with the rules lite formats that were available - frustration at what they perceived as the arbitrary nature of the experience and the "limits" imposed by the lack of clear rules for various in-game activities they wanted to simulate.

A lot of people complained that 1E/2E systems didn't work or weren't clear, or weren't well enough organized to be found "in the heat of the moment" - and we got a lot of feedback from people saying "if D&D were fixed, I'd prefer it to [Game X]" (where Game X was any number of competitive RPG systems they were currently playing instead of D&D). So rather than trying to take that stuff out of 3E, we decided to try and make it actually work as intended. Maybe there's too much in 3E that is unnecessarily complex (the attack of opportunity system wins my vote), but at least the rules as written do actually work, and are reasonably well organized.

As with much of the market research undertaken in that era, we certainly weren't pefect in our methods, as we were inventing the whole concept of applied RPG market research as we moved forward. On the other hand, I believe that in general it was very useful, and did get to many of the underlying issues facing the genre. And I know it was much more rigorous and carefully performed than most people give it credit for - especially those who see only the "tip of the iceberg" in comments on blogs, and haven't read the whole 500+ page report produced by the effort.
 

Desdichado

Adventurer
Gentlegamer said:
Or, he wishes to retract his statement we were all responding to since it is obvious to all that it is absurd.

RyanD is on a quest to "debunk" the idea that "less rules" is "more fun." Obviously, there are different types of RPG gamers with different tastes, expectations, and experiences that inform whether they like "less" or "more" rules and what constitutes "more fun." Dancey wants to "empirically" come up with a definition of "more fun" for RPGs that can be used to market RPGs by defining away the premise of other RPGs as having been proven "less fun."

Obviously, this is my interpretation of his remarks.
Oh, c'mon. Neither of his statements said anything of the type, and it was not "obvious to all that [what he said] was absurd" -- or did you not read the replies that came from other than the rules lite choir in that thread?

It seems much more likely that you are on some question to debunk ...something... than that he is.
 

RyanD said:
We know that certain GMs consistently run games that are "more fun" than average. Studying those GMs and trying to reduce what they do to a reproducible system that could be used by others is a potentially fruitful line of research.
But, hang on, how much of the difference is down to the abilities of the GM in question which, consequently, can't really be replicated in a manner that can be performed by every GM?

For example, a GM with a really good head for numbers is likely to run a faster (and probably more enjoyable) combat scene than a GM who lacks that same head for numbers. Likewise, a GM of a particular personality type may be able to make lightning-fast rules judgements, and have them stick, where a different GM cannot. In either case, changing the rules system is unlikely to make any great difference.

Additionally, there's more to an RPG than just the four-hour play session. There's also the issue of preparation time. If adding complexity to the game can be seen to improve the fun of the session, but has a cost of increasing the prep time exponentially, such that only really dedicated GMs can bear to run unique home-brew campaigns, is it really a worthwhile trade-off?
 

RyanD

First Post
Gentlegamer said:
No, the point made was that based on your exacting study of "rules lite" RGPs, you concluded that the only reason some people like them (and think they are simpler and better) is that they desperately want it to be true
Don't you think that's a true statement?

I mean, don't you think that there are a number of RPG players who were dissatisfied with D&D, who were casting about for something "Better", who latched on to the obvious candidate pushed by the industry (rules lite) and who convinced themselves that those games were better, because doing so made them feel that some progress was being made in addressing their needs? Even if, under controlled conditions, it turned out not to be true?

Have you not experienced the phenomenon of people believing something must be true, even when it is not - even when some evidence in their own experience suggests it is not true?

Do rules lite games make for better gaming experiences for some players? Yes, they obviously do. I am not saying that they do not. I am saying that when we studied the subject, we found that they did not save time, or reduce arguments. That is, that the "rules liteness" of the game was not what was raising or lowering the "fun factor" - that the "fun factor" was being influenced by other effects that overwhelmed the impact of the rules complexity level. Factors like the skill of the GM, the interest level of the other participants, the genre, the pacing of the scenario, or non-game factors like out-of-game social issues.

But it is hard for an individual to influence those factors. It is much easier to fall back on the system itself, and vest belief in the power of the system to make the game more fun - even when that belief becomes irrational.
 

EricNoah

Adventurer
It's been very revealing to read parts of the other thread; I'd no idea that such a D&D vs. C&C battle was a-brewing. In some ways it seems quite silly, but in other ways it really gets down to the core issues of the various reasons people play RPGs, what aspects of the hobby they consider to be the "fun" bits and what they consider to be the "not fun" bits.

Ryan, would you agree that part of 3E's "mission" was to put the players more in the driver's seat (hand off more power to the players and less to the GM)? Would you agree that one of the chief arguments in the rules heavy vs. rules lite "war" is also the issue of GM power vs. player power (perceived or actual)?
 

fredramsey

First Post
Oh, please.

Let's be reminded, in his own words:

My opinion is that most people think "rules lite" games are simpler and better because they desperately want them to be, not because they are.

How can anyone, in good conscious, not take that as an insulting statement? Desperately? Just because the statement was not directed at your preference (reverse the wording to be: "My opinion is that most people think "rules heavy" games are simpler and better because they desperately want them to be, not because they are.") does not mean it was not ill-conceived and insulting. With wording like that, why should he receive any credibilty on the subject? And we're supposed to consider his opinion elevated and well-reasoned?

Man.

Joshua Dyal said:
Oh, c'mon. Neither of his statements said anything of the type, and it was not "obvious to all that [what he said] was absurd" -- or did you not read the replies that came from other than the rules lite choir in that thread?

It seems much more likely that you are on some question to debunk ...something... than that he is.
 


DaveMage

Slumbering in Tsar
fredramsey said:
Oh, please.

Let's be reminded, in his own words:

My opinion is that most people think "rules lite" games are simpler and better because they desperately want them to be, not because they are.

How can anyone, in good conscious, not take that as an insulting statement? Desperately? Just because the statement was not directed at your preference (reverse the wording to be: "My opinion is that most people think "rules heavy" games are simpler and better because they desperately want them to be, not because they are.") does not mean it was not ill-conceived and insulting. With wording like that, why should he receive any credibilty on the subject? And we're supposed to consider his opinion elevated and well-reasoned?

Man.
I don't take them as insulting. He's not saying *all* people, he's saying *most* people. And I think the *desparately* comment has to do with the fact that 2E users were so dissatisfied with their experience, that they desparately craved a better experience.

I don't find that insulting at all. In fact, I saw it in my 2E game group. There were two players in my group whose resentment for their 2E experience kept building and building, so finally they didn't want to play D&D anymore, and they had our group try other games, such as Rolemaster and Feng Shui. Other than those two people, everyone else in the group was dissatisfied with those games. After our main group stopped playing them, they did too, though they continually let the rest of us know that they enjoyed those other games more.
 


Ozmar

First Post
fredramsey said:
Oh, please.

Let's be reminded, in his own words:

My opinion is that most people think "rules lite" games are simpler and better because they desperately want them to be, not because they are.

How can anyone, in good conscious, not take that as an insulting statement? Desperately? Just because the statement was not directed at your preference (reverse the wording to be: "My opinion is that most people think "rules heavy" games are simpler and better because they desperately want them to be, not because they are.") does not mean it was not ill-conceived and insulting. With wording like that, why should he receive any credibilty on the subject? And we're supposed to consider his opinion elevated and well-reasoned?

Man.
I consider his opinion to be pretty well-reasoned. But maybe that's because I read his entire argument rather than focusing on one or two ill-chosen words?

Methinks you're choosing to feel insulted over a very slight provocation. A thicker skin does wonders to the blood pressure.

And Ryan Dancy's thoughts on game development and theory seem, to me, to be very well-considered and developed. He clearly spends a lot of time thinking about these things, and I, for one, appreciate reading his conclusions.

Ozmar the Dancy Fan
 

Gentlegamer

First Post
RyanD said:
Don't you think that's a true statement?

I mean, don't you think that there are a number of RPG players who were dissatisfied with D&D, who were casting about for something "Better", who latched on to the obvious candidate pushed by the industry (rules lite)
Did game companies engage in marketing? Of course. I don't recall a big push for "rules lite" back then. What I remember was the White Wolf mentality of amature dramatics infecting many players' sense of what to expect from a RPG, and on that basis, grew dissatisfied with AD&D.
Have you not experienced the phenomenon of people believing something must be true, even when it is not - even when some evidence in their own experience suggests it is not true?
Yes. Lots of gamers that should know better think that d20 is newer edition of D&D when it is in fact a different game altogether.
It is much easier to fall back on the system itself, and vest belief in the power of the system to make the game more fun - even when that belief becomes irrational.
So . . . AD&D shouldn't have been to blame, the players just needed to shape up. I agree.
 

T. Foster

First Post
Hi Ryan,

IMO the true dichotomy isn't so much between rules-lite/rules-heavy (which are subjective terms, anyway) but rather between rules-opaque and rules-transparent, especially from the players' perspective. Does the player state what he's doing in 'real world' terms and leave the actual mechanical resolution of those actions mostly or entirely up to GM (regardless of whether the GM is then using a 'rules-lite' or 'rules-heavy' mechanism), or does the player think and state his actions specifically in terms of the rules (which again can be done whether those rules are 'lite' or 'heavy')?

3E seems (at least in my personal experience) to have shifted significantly towards the latter approach (by encouraging players to keep track of their own modifiers and synergies and feat effects and such, not to mention the entire concept of 'character builds'), which at least from my perspective is unfortunate, because I greatly prefer the former approach whether I'm playing a so-called rules-lite or rules-heavy game. While 3E can be played in a rules-transparent manner, I suppose, this doesn't seem to have really been the intent (based on, for instance, putting almost all of the core task resolution rules in the PH, as opposed to the model of the 1E PH which described most of the actual resolution rules (i.e. combat) in 'narrative' terms and confined the actual 'crunch' almost exclusively to the DMG) and isn't an approach that I suspect would naturally occur to most novice players/GMs from reading the 3E rulebooks.

Was this difference in preferences something you saw in your research (my anecdotal experience is that younger players and dedicated hobbyists tend to prefer more rules-opacity (they want to see how the numbers work -- that's 'part of the fun' to them) while older and more casual players tend to prefer more rules-transparency (they don't so much care how the GM is making his rulings, they just want the story/challenge/exploration (i.e. what they consider to be 'the fun part') to continue)? If so, how did you rectify it with the fact that the 3E design seems to favor the former approach so markedly over the latter?
 
Last edited:

Zaukrie

Adventurer
Ryan, thanks for chirping in. As someone that analyzes things at work, I can attest to how often the "obvious" is not really true. Not having participcated in your work I can't judge it's ability to be predictive, but I admire anyone that is striving to make this hobby more fun. I have no idea how to do that, so I'm glad someone is/was at least trying.
 

mcrow

First Post
I think I get Ryan's point now.

He is just saying that in his observations less rules does not ALWAYS mean that they are more fun. In fact most players like the crunchy bits of the d20 system and they make the game more fun becuase they give the player more control of the game.


I don't think he means that "lite" games are not fun or can't be fun. I know for a fact that there are a lot of people that hate d20 for the same reason people hated the Yankees during thier world series years. Some people just hate the top dog for being on the top.


I don't agree with some of it but I see where he's coming from now.
 

Most Liked Threads

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top