System Mastery and Younger Gamers

Doug McCrae

Legend
My objection to making the greater emphasis of system mastery on the character creation phase of rpgs rather than the play phase is that the build phase is typically a very rare part of the game. If you make a bad deck in magic or the like, you just need to adjust it for the next game. If you make a bad character, you're stuck with a bad character for a long time.
Yes, I agree. Not everyone plays that way, but in a lot of groups I've been in you keep playing the same PC from the start of a campaign until the end. That makes extreme power disparities, for those who care about such things, particularly irksome.
 

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Ourph

First Post
The problem I see here, is that in order for the system mastery to be rewarded... the GM has to make sure those situations where B & C are more effective come up enough times to justify the amount of system mastery it took to realize the difference.

Of course it could also go the other way, where the GM only introduces situations where B & C are sub-par... this just doesn't seem like a viable solution to get someone interested enough to figure it all out.
In the option/versatility type games, the underlying system is usually constructed to make sure every situation has SOME combination of factors that can be tweaked to eek out an advantage. It's not a DM choice, it's built into the combat, skill or metagame resolution systems.

To your final paragraph... I will say again, the reward for finding these combos has to be great enough to justify the necessary work in figuring it out. Another downside is that if it is group based, like in 4e, the other players may not be interested in trying to figure out, or going along with your plan to combine X, Y & Z.
I agree that this type of reward system may not appeal to everyone, just as different players have different desires for system mastery. I think there is a distinction to be made between players who are interested in system mastery for the reward of becoming more powerful and players who are interested in system mastery for the reward of "solving the puzzle" of selecting the best set of options. The former group will obviously be affected greatly by the magnitude of the reward, while the latter group can be satisfied with mildly better performance as long as the difference between skillful play and inexperienced play is noticeable. For the latter group the payoff isn't in the magnitude of the effect on the game, it's in the satisfaction of navigating the available choices "correctly" (i.e. exhibiting skillful play).

At any rate, I (as an older player) enjoy certain types of system mastery in a game, so I don't think there is an obvious old/young dichotomy on this issue.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
What kind of rpg game do we have left if both tactics and builds are totally deemphasized or not relevant?
Any game in which characters are randomly rolled, or picked from a limited number of classes and there aren't many combat tactics. AD&D, Rifts, Tunnels & Trolls, Call of Cthulhu and most other Chaosium games, Paranoia, WEG Star Wars.

Admittedly, I wouldn't say tactics are totally de-emphasised in these games, but they are fairly minor. Call of Cthulhu even allows you a build, but it's not like 3e builds. Hmm, archaeology or botany?
 
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Doug McCrae

Legend
Further regarding Jill, the good roleplayer but non-gearhead, the other way things can go, and I think most often do in a group where there are both gearheads and non-gearheads, is that a high level of system mastery is not required.

Jill's PC doesn't die, she just muddles thru combat, not contributing all that much, but likewise not dying, because this is primarily a relaxed, social game* not a 'Win at all costs' game. Quite likely the GM influences outcomes using a variety of techniques. If Jill's PC does die then she gets raised.

*Also known as a rpg that the wives can play.
 

Nifft

Penguin Herder
Any game in which characters are randomly rolled, or picked from a limited number of classes and there aren't many combat tactics. AD&D, Rifts, Tunnels & Trolls, Call of Cthulhu and most other Chaosium games, Paranoia, WEG Star Wars.

Admittedly, I wouldn't say tactics are totally de-emphasised in these games, but they are fairly minor.
The way we played (A and pre-A)D&D, tactics were greatly rewarded. Caltrops, bags of flower, 10 ft. poles, and hemp rope were all very handy. Sometimes even in combat.

PARANOIA seems to reward rhetorical tactics rather than combat positioning. You are certainly playing a strategy game, but it's a political intrigue survivor rather than a superhero wargame.

- - -

Anyway, as to why combat tactics should be rewarded more than build strategy: because it's easier to change combat tactics, so learning stuff is more easily rewarded. "Builds" are more static, so if you make a bad choice, that means you have to suffer the effects of that bad choice for a whole level... or if the bad choice was in your stats, you have to suffer the effects of that bad choice forever.

Cheers, -- N
 

Diamond Cross

Banned
Banned
The way we played (A and pre-A)D&D, tactics were greatly rewarded. Caltrops, bags of flower, 10 ft. poles, and hemp rope were all very handy. Sometimes even in combat.

PARANOIA seems to reward rhetorical tactics rather than combat positioning. You are certainly playing a strategy game, but it's a political intrigue survivor rather than a superhero wargame.

- - -

Anyway, as to why combat tactics should be rewarded more than build strategy: because it's easier to change combat tactics, so learning stuff is more easily rewarded. "Builds" are more static, so if you make a bad choice, that means you have to suffer the effects of that bad choice for a whole level... or if the bad choice was in your stats, you have to suffer the effects of that bad choice forever.

Cheers, -- N


Ahem, that's flour. While both can be used for romance, you only use one for baking.
 


Okay, first let me state upfront that I don't have any data or proof or anything... and most of this is just thoughts and conjecture from observing my son and nephews play games ( videogames, ccg, roleplaying, board and SW miniatures)... but I'm starting to think system mastery might be something the younger generation enjoys and maybe even craves in games.

Yup.

Similarly, the belief that rules-lite games are ideal for new players is generally false. It may be narrowly true if the new players are being introduced to the game via experienced players. But if you've got a group of completely new players (which is how I and many people I know learned to roleplay), then a crunchy rulebook that can reliably answer the question "what am I supposed to do?" for both the GM and the players is invaluable.

More generally, every popular game in the history of mankind has featured "less-obvious-yet-superior" choices.

And, personally, I find the entire concept of "any possible character build should be exactly as effective as any other character build" to be ludicrous, even when it isn't carried to the extreme of "in any situation". Justin Alexander is a bit more diplomatic about it than I am, but he explains the problem with this "logic" in detail.
 

Didn't older players need system mastery too? A 1hp wizard doesn't get to level 2 in a dungeon where everything is trying to kill you unless you know what you're doing.
 

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