What criticisms do you have for current or previously used systems?

What criticisms do you have for current or previously used systems?

  • (Combat) Combat too “ad hoc” or “hand wavy”

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • (Combat) Combat too slow/involved/complex

    Votes: 16 44.4%
  • (Combat) Inaccurate challenge ratings

    Votes: 12 33.3%
  • (Combat) Overly “cinematic” combat

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • (Combat) Overly “realistic” combat

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • (Combat) Overly combat focused

    Votes: 10 27.8%
  • (Combat) Overly tactical combat

    Votes: 8 22.2%
  • (Core Rules) Balance issues

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • (Core Rules) Dice system (dice pools, specialty dice, number of dice types used)

    Votes: 4 11.1%
  • (Core Rules) Excessive work required to build adventures

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • (Core Rules) Incongruent incentives for advancement

    Votes: 6 16.7%
  • (Core Rules) Insufficient risk/danger to PCs

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • (Core Rules) Lack of “fail forward” mechanic

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • (Core Rules) Lack of skill synergy

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • (Core Rules) Lack of subsystems for non-combat play

    Votes: 15 41.7%
  • (Core Rules) Lack of system for character personality, motivations, nature, goals (e.g. BIFT, Passio

    Votes: 4 11.1%
  • (Core Rules) Lacks horizontal character growth

    Votes: 10 27.8%
  • (Core Rules) Overly dangerous/deadly to PCs

    Votes: 7 19.4%
  • (Core Rules) Overly reliant on a DM/GM/referee

    Votes: 6 16.7%
  • (Core Rules) Overly reliant on modifiers/math

    Votes: 8 22.2%
  • (Core Rules) Roleplay too systemized

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • (Core Rules) Simplistic pass/fail mechanics

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • (Core Rules) Skill list overly big/long/specialized

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • (Core Rules) Starting PCs are too powerful

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • (Core Rules) Starting PCs not powerful enough

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • (Core Rules) System not scalable for different party sizes

    Votes: 7 19.4%
  • (Core Rules) Unclear roles and constraints between GM and players at the table

    Votes: 4 11.1%
  • (Core Rules) Unclear, inconsistent or overly involved subsystems (skills, spells, saving throws, mon

    Votes: 10 27.8%
  • (Dynamics) Lack of mechanics for pushing story narrative

    Votes: 7 19.4%
  • (Dynamics) Overemphasis on roleplay

    Votes: 1 2.8%
  • (Dynamics) Rules effects need to better represent other media (TV, film, books, comics)

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • (Dynamics) Rules effects overly represent other media (TV, film, books, comics)

    Votes: 1 2.8%
  • (Dynamics) Rules feel overly heavy/crunchy

    Votes: 9 25.0%
  • (Dynamics) Rules feel overly light/barebones

    Votes: 11 30.6%
  • (Dynamics) Style over substance

    Votes: 6 16.7%
  • (Dynamics) System doesn’t fit the setting well

    Votes: 8 22.2%
  • (Dynamics) System tended to result in GM as sole storyteller

    Votes: 4 11.1%
  • (Dynamics) Underemphasis on roleplay

    Votes: 6 16.7%
  • (Rulebook) Art, layout, editing, writing

    Votes: 7 19.4%
  • (Rulebook) Not enough advice for GMs creating their own adventures

    Votes: 8 22.2%
  • (Rulebook) Rule explanations are unclear

    Votes: 13 36.1%
  • (Rulebook) Rules are poorly organized/hard to find

    Votes: 20 55.6%
  • (Rulebook) Rules feel incomplete

    Votes: 12 33.3%
  • (Rulebook) System needs more content (subclasses, adventures, systems)

    Votes: 6 16.7%
  • (Social) Difficult to shift mindset from previous system(s)

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • (Social) Missed access to IP resources from other systems (iconic monsters, spells)

    Votes: 2 5.6%
  • (Social) Prefer GMless group story building

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • (Social) System fatigue

    Votes: 4 11.1%
  • Other (describe below):

    Votes: 3 8.3%
  • (Dynamics) Overemphasis on “story”

    Votes: 5 13.9%
  • (Dynamics) Overemphasis on “realism”

    Votes: 4 11.1%


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Another possible category might be something like:

"System breaks down with highly experienced characters"

That would cover the common complaints with high-level play in D&D as well as other games that don't rely on a leveling system, which can have issues as well as skills climb ever higher, horizontal growth swamps you in abilities and talents, etc.
That one could probably go as balance issues but might be able to call it out separately as "scaling issues with experienced PCs" Also may add an item for 'tends to result in railroading."
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I've narrowed the definition a bit:
1. I answered (and I checked alot) for systems that I've played at least a decent amount. There are plenty of systems that were non-starters for me/my group that would have checked so many more boxes to lose the signal in the noise. So the ones I checked are issues with systems that are otherwise playable.
2. I've been playing since the 80s. I evaluated against the state of the industry and my preferences at the time. For example, Hero System (nee' Champions) would be have clicks a bunch of "overly..." and too crunchy and too time consuming using my current sensibilities, which have changed over time and with circumstance. But back when we did 8-12 hour sessions and loved the crunch, it was amazing.

It's also hard to pick some. For example, balance is one of them. In games where character failure can be unfun for the players, like when combat-to-the-death is a common stake so players can lose their characters, balance is important. But in games where it's not, and spotlight isn't based on power, it's not a factor so it won't get in my way even if it's poor. My go to example is in Marvel Heroic Roleplay two players of Hawkeye and Thor can have a wonderful "guy's night out" with Loki adn others providing mischief, and both players have tons of fun - balance isn't a problem, even though there's no attempt to balance the power of Clint and Thor to each other.

BTW, this is a wonderful list, I don't want to be "that guy" to whine that it's missing something. Which, as we all know, traditionally means we're going to be "that guy". To me, there's one important category that's mostly missing - character creation/advancement. There's a few nods to in the list, but it's usually done very differently then the at-the-table rules during a session, and to me is quite important in actively supporting the archetypes and tropes of the game's genre.
 

To me, there's one important category that's mostly missing - character creation/advancement. There's a few nods to in the list, but it's usually done very differently then the at-the-table rules during a session, and to me is quite important in actively supporting the archetypes and tropes of the game's genre.
Thanks! For this item, do you mean an overly complex character creation/advancement process, or is this more a balance concern? There's a couple items on starting characters, power levels and on advancement/development.
 
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Interesting breakdown so far:

1. Rules are poorly organized/hard to find
2. Combat too slow/involved/complex
3. Rule explanations are unclear
4a. Rules feel overly heavy/crunchy
4b. Inaccurate challenge ratings (guidelines for combat encounter balance produce inaccurate results)
4c. Lack of subsystems for non-combat play
4d. Overly combat focused
4e. Overly tactical combat
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
I'm again a little unsure how narrowly to respond; is this intended for most recent system? I mean, I probably could check every box there on some system I've run or played at some point.

Edit: Ah, missed your low-hanging-fruit qualifier. I'll have to think about which one I've done more than dip a toe in that I've had the most complaints with.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Answering for D&D 5E and filled in more than half the options. 28/51.

All of the too heavy, too combat focused, poor balance, too powerful PCs, lacks risk, etc problems typical of the edition.
 


kenada

Legend
Supporter
I a list of several games in the other thread: post #4; but I only voted regarding WWN here. The poll is missing options, which I’ll elaborate below. I’m also going to cover my criticisms of my homebrew system after that. If you don’t care, I’ll provide a link to jump to the next post.
  • 5e: Honestly, this system just isn’t very exciting to me. I’d rather use B/X for hexcrawls, 4e for tactical combat, and 3e for my other D&D needs. I could houserule it to do what I want, but that takes more work, and I just don’t care about the system enough to bother. The only reason to do that would be to say I’m running 5e even though what I’m running isn’t like what other people are doing.
  • PF2: I don’t like skill actions. Even after running the system for over a year, I didn’t like that I couldn’t keep them all in my head and needed a reference to know what they did. I also didn’t like the guildelines for building monsters and traps. There’s too much granularity, and having to worry about trap DCs is annoying. I also found there wasn’t much of a PF2 community if you weren’t doing stuff like APs.
  • Stonetop: It didn’t work for me. Stonetop defines a lot of things as moves that other games put in their rules, violating the conceptual model that a move is triggered when the character does something in the fiction. I also really disliked the Lightbearer playbook. I don’t particularly like Dungeon World, so Stonetop felt like more DW but even worse. I eventually dropped out of that game.
  • Torchbearer 2e: The conflict rules are awful. They’re prone to stalemating if you the players don’t play aggressively, and the rock-paper-scissors dynamic is not very compelling. The rules seem to recognize stalemating as a problem because there is an optional rule to implement disposition (TB’s version of HP) decay in some conflicts, but the system needs it in all conflicts. TB2 also has one of the worst PDF ToCs I’ve ever used.
  • WWN: I found WWN difficult to run. I suspect many of the positive reviews never actually played the game because it becomes apparent quickly that stuff is missing, contradictory, or just hard to find in the book. I also disliked how thematically bland it is unless you use the Latter Earth setting stuff. That’s what eventually pushed me to do my own system. Still, it worked fine for a while.
Now it’s time for me to talk about my issues with my homebrew system. If you don’t care, here’s a link to the next post: jump to post #21.

Homebrew System Issues​

There are really two big things: organization and skill system. Since I’m the one creating the game, they’re both my fault.

Draft/Outline Issues​

My notes are scattered across several Scrivener documents, several PDFs of even older drafts, Discord conversations, and other notes. I need to pull all this stuff together into a new outline, but my energy has been low lately, so it’s hard. We still play, but sometimes I’m like: which version of the thing are we using? It slows down resolution and is annoying for me (though my players don’t seem to mind or care).

In the beginning, I tried to keep a master document in Affinity Publisher that I would edit. When I decided to step back and rework the foundation to remove the d20 stuff, I switched to outlining. That’s probably the right call, but I need to consolidate my notes better. I also have been meaning to step back and apply a bit more formalism (e.g., defining experiences and stuff like in the DDE paper), but energy has been a challenge there too.

Skill System Issues​

The skill system has gone through several iterations. The system started out as a hybrid of OSE and WWN before I changed it to do my own thing after the OGL mess last year. The skill system has experimented with different dice, different quantities of dice, and different ways of handling target numbers. I’m slowly converging on something I like that can handle conflict resolution in a nice way.

Sometimes I get an idea that seems like it will really solve things. We’ve tried a few times using adversarial rolls because it solves things like PvP and having NPCs act aggressively towards PCs, but it played like crap. The first attempt was just too janky. The second one was better, but the cognitive load on the GM is so high that it makes running horrible and stilted. It also requires the players to act like a referee (looking to foreground consequences), which I don’t think mine liked and probably wouldn’t scale. So I’m back to the drawing board.

The next thing we’re going to be testing is an attempt to drop the distinction between simple and complex conflicts. The idea is to have simple conflicts be a simple case of complex conflicts. If the progression mechanism isn’t completed, the GM would implement consequences foregrounded during the skill check procedure. For a simple conflict, the progression goal is small enough it can be achieved in one roll.

That lets me drop degrees of success as a mechanic in favor of unifying everything around the progression mechanism and structured responses. Even combat ends up being a variant of this process. While it has some additional structure (equip phase, rounds, action economy), HP serve as a progression mechanism, and the monster’s hitting you back is a very obvious consequence of not fully progressing.

Class System Issues​

Classes are intended to be very simple. They’re maybe a quarter of a page A5 at most: a paragraph, some mechanical ribbons, and that’s it. Casters pose some complications by needing spells. Some other class concepts are also suggestive of needing bigger move sets, but I don’t really want to go there. Currently, I have just the classes we need designed. I know I need to do a few more (bard, dancer, knight, magician), but see above re: energy. Dancer is probably the big one causing consternation because it’s tempting to have a move set, but that undermines my design goals elsewhere. What I want is classes to be simple and mostly about their relationship to the game/setting.
  • Barbarians reject the use of magic in a world where magic use is common and everyone (but them) has MP.
  • Clerics are bringers of religious authority. They are sent by churches to solve disputes and problems in communities.
  • Knights are members of a chivalric order, following a code of honor.
  • Thiefs help themselves to things that do not belong to them.
These are all things that can be sources of conflict. Maybe I just need to do the work to define all the classes this way, and I haven’t yet for dancers (or really bards) even though I’d like to have those classes include.

Event System Issues​

I have event rolls I make (e.g., during exploration and camp), but it’s ad hoc and not very well specified. I don’t want to have to create a bunch of charts of results (because I’m lazy). I just haven’t thought about this much even though it comes up all the time. It kind of works right now, but it’s definitely unprincipled in how I’m doing it, and that’s a gap I need to address.
 
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