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Review What is the most complex TTRPG of all time?

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
It's certainly not rules light! But I don't think it's as complex as RM.
I wasn't actually specifically indexing rules light as the key measure of complexity, although most people in the thread do seem to be doing so. I mentioned BW more because of the cognitive load of meshing the various systems (the spokes and rim to use their terms) into functional gameplay, on both sides of the screen really. BW certainly can and does collapse back to basic principles in a moment of doubt, much in the same way as PbtA games do, but it is also a game that explicitly references system mastery as a goal of play and a game that, perhaps more than any other I'm aware of, rewards increasing system mastery with increasingly positive play experiences. Anyway, that's my two cents.
 

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Tantavalist

Explorer
There's a lot of mentions of Leading Edge Games products- Pheonix Command and the "Simpler" derivatives like Living Steel and Aliens. But there were more games released than that. I owned a copy of "Bram Stoker's Dracula", the licensed RPG of the 90s movie of the same name. It was a Victorian version of Hunter: the Vigil or Night's Black Agents, only it used the same "Simplified" version of the Pheonix Command rules as Aliens.

This worked exactly as well as you might expect. Combat was just as long, drawn out and torturous as in the other LEG games but you then had vampire powers thrown in. How this was handled seemed to boil down to the same process as the other games exactly as if attacking a human- after which you looked at the vampire modifiers and stated "but because this is a vampire your attack does nothing".

LEG also produced another licensed RPG based on the movie "The Lawnmower Man". It uses the same system. I haven't owned it so I can't comment on how it played but between my experience with Aliens and Dracula I suspect it's not great. That- and as anyone who remembers the movie must agree, the concept doesn't seem to lend itself well to a long-term RPG campaign.


Back in the 80s/90s there seemed to be a lot of small-press games where people tried to "Fix" RPGs by making them super-realistic, especially when it came to guns. Even when they succeeded the result was generally not worth the effort. Pheonix Command is the most famous and most complex, but I have to mention the BTRC game TimeLords and Fringeworthy by Tri Tac Games as examples of this that I've owned. Both actually had decent campaign concepts that I've run successfully with different systems; and both had most of the rulebook crammed with detailed rules and tables that were physically painful to try and run at the table.


Although... Given we're now on the other side of the millennium, I have to wonder what Pheonix Command and the like would play like if someone just set up an app for a VTT to do all the calculations. Maybe if the maths and tables were automated the realism might start to feel worth it?
 

Sword's Path: Glory. It literally used higher math equations routinely.

I used Phoenix Command and Rolemaster for decades. Loved them.
 

pogre

Legend
Millennium's End, has to be in the running. You lay a template over a silhouette of the target in various poses. Then roll your attack the value on the percentile dice tells you where the bullet impacts on like one large number of locations. You then look the location up and see how far the bullet penetrates and that can tell you if you shatter a bone, or hit a vital organ, that leads to various bleeding or disabilities.

Combat was crazy complex, but I loved the simplicity of the skills system. In our campaigns if the adventure got to combat things had gone very wrong anyway. Just the blood loss rules alone were dizzying. Still, I have a soft spot for the game - we had a blast playing it.
 

Combat was crazy complex, but I loved the simplicity of the skills system. In our campaigns if the adventure got to combat things had gone very wrong anyway. Just the blood loss rules alone were dizzying. Still, I have a soft spot for the game - we had a blast playing it.
Yeah, ME was awesome! And the fan support was solid. Had it come out in this pdf era, I think we would have seen a game that was much more polished and would continue to be developed.

They just don't write innovative games like that anymore.
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
The Morrow Project was needlessly complicated. Every part of the body had hit points, and a randomness to the attack location. I remember we were playtesting the latest edition around 2007. After creating characters, which took hours, we started playing. I remember thinking, "why are we doing this?" Then the DM asked if we wanted to keep going. I think he could sense the room. So we played Twilight 2000 instead, and it was a thousand times less complicated.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Millennium's End, has to be in the running. You lay a template over a silhouette of the target in various poses. Then roll your attack the value on the percentile dice tells you where the bullet impacts on like one large number of locations. You then look the location up and see how far the bullet penetrates and that can tell you if you shatter a bone, or hit a vital organ, that leads to various bleeding or disabilities.
As ungainly as those silhouette overlays were, I always admired the idea for a "realistic" modern game. In theory those overlays would account for a bunch of factors at once: hit location, of course, but also cover (if the shot hits where the silhouette would have an intervening wall, car door, etc. you deal with that material first), the relative size of the target (they provided a silhouette of a guard dog running at you, which seemed ingenious and scary, since it was instantly obvious why it's hard to take out a charging doberman), and the risky business of aiming for a location, instead of for center mass, since the player could choose where to center the overlay, but would have to roll very well to get a bullseye.

Obviously in practice they were a nightmare, and you'd have to not only have a ton of silhouettes at the ready, but also probably generate more. But I don't know... For a campaign where you might only get into a gunfight every four sessions, and where those shootouts should be scary but also have a tactical flavor, like making it perfectly clear why you really want cover, why you stay low while moving, why no one actually aims for the head in real life, something about it was cool.

That said, I never tried using those overlays for any other game, so obviously I didn't love them that much.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Combat was crazy complex, but I loved the simplicity of the skills system. In our campaigns if the adventure got to combat things had gone very wrong anyway. Just the blood loss rules alone were dizzying. Still, I have a soft spot for the game - we had a blast playing it.
Yeah if I remember right you'd be like, Aha! I got hit in the shoulder. I'll be fine! And then find out you're not only out of the fight but minutes away from fatally bleeding out. A lot of games talk about combat being scary enough that you want to avoid it, but Millennium's End certainly lived up to that threat.
 

Ulfgeir

Hero
As ungainly as those silhouette overlays were, I always admired the idea for a "realistic" modern game. In theory those overlays would account for a bunch of factors at once: hit location, of course, but also cover (if the shot hits where the silhouette would have an intervening wall, car door, etc. you deal with that material first), the relative size of the target (they provided a silhouette of a guard dog running at you, which seemed ingenious and scary, since it was instantly obvious why it's hard to take out a charging doberman), and the risky business of aiming for a location, instead of for center mass, since the player could choose where to center the overlay, but would have to roll very well to get a bullseye.

Obviously in practice they were a nightmare, and you'd have to not only have a ton of silhouettes at the ready, but also probably generate more. But I don't know... For a campaign where you might only get into a gunfight every four sessions, and where those shootouts should be scary but also have a tactical flavor, like making it perfectly clear why you really want cover, why you stay low while moving, why no one actually aims for the head in real life, something about it was cool.

That said, I never tried using those overlays for any other game, so obviously I didn't love them that much.
They have a similar silhouettte-system from the Swedish game Western.
 

Champions had math heavy character creation. Math during play was simple addition and subtraction.

Champions/Hero System is pretty complex in character creation, and then you have Kill damage and Stun damage, based on the values on the dice you roll in actual play, but really past character creation it isn't that complex.
Unless you used Variable Power Pools, in which case you could be doing character creation-style calculations mid game (or even mid-turn). Mind you, the books included a bunch of admonitions about not setting yourself up for that kind of headache and that the GM should moderate what is and isn't allowed based on how it would effect gameplay, but I think if we're doing a pure, contextless complexity comparison, that probably needs to be included.


Millennium's End, has to be in the running. You lay a template over a silhouette of the target in various poses. Then roll your attack the value on the percentile dice tells you where the bullet impacts on like one large number of locations. You then look the location up and see how far the bullet penetrates and that can tell you if you shatter a bone, or hit a vital organ, that leads to various bleeding or disabilities.

As ungainly as those silhouette overlays were, I always admired the idea for a "realistic" modern game. In theory those overlays would account for a bunch of factors at once: hit location, of course, but also cover (if the shot hits where the silhouette would have an intervening wall, car door, etc. you deal with that material first), the relative size of the target (they provided a silhouette of a guard dog running at you, which seemed ingenious and scary, since it was instantly obvious why it's hard to take out a charging doberman), and the risky business of aiming for a location, instead of for center mass, since the player could choose where to center the overlay, but would have to roll very well to get a bullseye.

Obviously in practice they were a nightmare, and you'd have to not only have a ton of silhouettes at the ready, but also probably generate more. But I don't know... For a campaign where you might only get into a gunfight every four sessions, and where those shootouts should be scary but also have a tactical flavor, like making it perfectly clear why you really want cover, why you stay low while moving, why no one actually aims for the head in real life, something about it was cool.

That said, I never tried using those overlays for any other game, so obviously I didn't love them that much.

I always considered things like this something akin to making sure you had included pi out to 12 digits while ignoring that another variable limited the accuracy of your results to 3 sig figs. If you don't address how a game might be doing the wonky 'everyone takes their turn and then freezes while those on the next initiative beat acts' model most TTRPGs use, or have automatic weapons used exclusively to shoot massively-multiple shots at an opponent (instead of as suppressive fire, as it is often used IRL), then all the silhouettes and internal organ charts in the world aren't going to make a game combat system more "realistic." Inventive resolution mechanics, absolutely; realistic, no.
 

Arilyn

Hero
Avalon Hill released a game decades ago called Powers and Perils. They had great plans for the game to rise to the top. Don't know if it's the most complex rpg ever but it was very fiddly and hard to grasp. Didn't last long.
 

I always considered things like this something akin to making sure you had included pi out to 12 digits while ignoring that another variable limited the accuracy of your results to 3 sig figs. If you don't address how a game might be doing the wonky 'everyone takes their turn and then freezes while those on the next initiative beat acts' model most TTRPGs use, or have automatic weapons used exclusively to shoot massively-multiple shots at an opponent (instead of as suppressive fire, as it is often used IRL), then all the silhouettes and internal organ charts in the world aren't going to make a game combat system more "realistic." Inventive resolution mechanics, absolutely; realistic, no.
Ah, but ME had wonderful suppression fire rules.

But ME focused on CQB, where short, aimed bursts are the norm.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
I haven't read it, but from what I have heard, Synnibar is unreasonably complex.
That one is batshit insane “and then there were eight wars and billions of people were killed. And then the Travellers arrived and there was decades of peace and the Spider-People built the Ultimate Uridium and challenged the Night-Men for supremacy of the …..”.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Unless you used Variable Power Pools, in which case you could be doing character creation-style calculations mid game (or even mid-turn). Mind you, the books included a bunch of admonitions about not setting yourself up for that kind of headache and that the GM should moderate what is and isn't allowed based on how it would effect gameplay, but I think if we're doing a pure, contextless complexity comparison, that probably needs to be included.
True, but to be complete it VPPs were labelled with a Stop sign to have a discussion with the GM before even being allowed by default.

Many VPPs had limitations like "only change in lab" or "only change in armory" or other to stop it from happening on the fly. A player with a VPP could (and in my experience did) have a lot of pre-built powers to simulate specific weapons or gadget so could off load much of that to outside the session.

With the stop sign, the GM could also only allow cases that they estimated wouldn't slow play at the table.

So yes, there was one power, not allowed without DM approval, that could allow more ad-hoc character building, and while it could often be worked out between sessions, it was not impossible to have to do it at the table.

By all means say it for completeness sake. But that's not part of the general play math; it's an by-approval-only outlier.
 

Ah, but ME had wonderful suppression fire rules.

But ME focused on CQB, where short, aimed bursts are the norm.
Okay, well good for it. I don't know that specific system. I am taking in generality of the pitfalls that games which seek to attempt "realism" can run into -- all the fine tuning on X, Y, or Z can run headlong into another gamist assumption (initiative, gun usage which may or may not emulate real world usage, percentile/D20/3D6 dice resolution, what-have-you) which completely wipe away the intended realism.
True, but to be complete it VPPs were labelled with a Stop sign to have a discussion with the GM before even being allowed by default.

Many VPPs had limitations like "only change in lab" or "only change in armory" or other to stop it from happening on the fly. A player with a VPP could (and in my experience did) have a lot of pre-built powers to simulate specific weapons or gadget so could off load much of that to outside the session.

With the stop sign, the GM could also only allow cases that they estimated wouldn't slow play at the table.

So yes, there was one power, not allowed without DM approval, that could allow more ad-hoc character building, and while it could often be worked out between sessions, it was not impossible to have to do it at the table.

By all means say it for completeness sake. But that's not part of the general play math; it's an by-approval-only outlier.
I brought that up right in the part you quoted. I am arguing that the stop sign mechanism does not stop a complex ruleset from qualifying as complex in a pure complexity comparison, regardless of how it gameplay at the table might end up being. I don't know anyone that used the GURPS 3e: Vehicles rulebook to create the complex malarkey for which it is noted, but that doesn't mean it isn't a complex game system.
 

Okay, well good for it. I don't know that specific system. I am taking in generality of the pitfalls that games which seek to attempt "realism" can run into -- all the fine tuning on X, Y, or Z can run headlong into another gamist assumption (initiative, gun usage which may or may not emulate real world usage, percentile/D20/3D6 dice resolution, what-have-you) which completely wipe away the intended realism.
Ah. Well, I always got around that by choosing veterans with whom to game.
 

John Dallman

Adventurer
That one is batshit insane “and then there were eight wars and billions of people were killed. And then the Travellers arrived and there was decades of peace and the Spider-People built the Ultimate Uridium and challenged the Night-Men for supremacy of the …..”.
That was pretty much where CthulhuTech lost me. Just tried to cram too much in.
 

Phoenix Command (and the simplified Living Steel) were the point when I finally realized that simulation couldn't be the holy grail.



I am thinking of a game that you would have to be a rocket scientist

The designer of Phoenix Command went to on to work for NASA's JPL. Does that count?
I remember playing this in high school and firing an m60 in game.

the whole time we played resolved a firefight. I shot snd m60 and if memory served each shot calculates separately with modifiers for how many shots came before it.

I got shot and died.

do not recall any significant roleplaying on character. It was more her is a compound u gotta take it…

D&D is enough for me. So is combat commander. You can keep squad leader…
 



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