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Review What is the most complex TTRPG of all time?


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Ah. Well, I always got around that by choosing veterans with whom to game.
I feel you are still missing my point. IMO all the wonderful suppression fire rules or playing with veterans (about 3/4th of my main group served too) or anything else will not achieve realism if the game is predicated on some game-convenience-over-realism primary structure (such as take-turns initiative).
I admit it! My fun to work ratio has changed over the years from bachelor with beer in hand to career guy with a bunch of kids!

I am a shell of my former gamer self!
I think that it is a wonderful thing that people can put priority to the maintaining and so-called important things in life and still be able to do the things they find important to making life worth living. My father retired with exactly one of his early life hobbies (photography) intact and it was unfortunate to see him try to find new things to fill his time (although starting from zero in some new hobbies did net him some new younger friends).
 

Azuresun

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 …..”.

If you're going to recap the history of Synnibarr, you can't leave out Lord Midnight and his 72-headed chameleon hydra. Or how the entire game takes place on a hollowed-out Mars that was turned into a planet-size starship and had both an inner and outer world. Or how the playable species include Tree Demons, Batmen and Mutant Vampires. Or Blade, the God of Ninjas and Heavy Metal.

I'd probably never run it, but there's a wacked-out sincerity to Synnibarr that makes it utterly impossible to hate.
 

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.
The cognitive load of BWR/BWG is certainly heavy... but is it complex?
I argue not - because it's process based, and all the various options retain the same process. Conflicts beign a singular table of action interactions, and the opposing actions being rolled based upon the fiction state (for what skill) and the chosen actions (yours and your opponents) determining who rolls, and who is elligible to do damage (wounds or disposition).
The concept of disposition is not terribly rough, either: it's a damage track for non-combat based upon a stat and the roll of a skill suitable for the situation.

In terms of Mechanical Complexity, for BWR, the tables I needed:
Fight Actions crossreference (1p)
Duel of Wits actions crossreference (1p)
Range and Cover actions crossreference (1/2p)
Weapons Tables (1/2 p)
Skill Advancement table (1/4 p)
List of standard modifiers to a task (1/4 p)
List of talents and their effects. (1p)

That runs to abut 7pp. Adding the skill list and a few other useful bits pushed it to 9pp

For comparison, to run Dune 2d20, I'm up to 7p, including playtest material and all of char gen!

For T2K 4e, my "routine uses" are 4pp:
Crits (1p)
Small Arms Weapons list (1p)
Direct Fire small arms process (1/3p)
Actions list (5/9 p)
Melee process (1/9p)
Travel and Encounter process (2/6p)
Healing (1/6p)
Encounter types card list (1/2p) (only because I'm using standard cards, not the custom deck)

But the tables overall, excluding weapons lists and vehicles list, are some 14 pages.
I routinely need one or another table that's not in the "common use four pages" above, such as artillery procedure, mines, scavenging, etc... The scavenging rules alone take more than a page (1p is just the table of things found by searching. One roll per success).

Now, from a player perspective, BW has the players engage with the combat tables pretty directly. T2K doesn't. 2d20 has some engagement, but the players tables amount to a 3x5 card's worth.

In play, all three seem to me to be comparable complexity, but the objective measure (how much must I look up to run) puts BW well under either Dune or T2K 4E...
But, comparing what the players need...
In BW, all the tables I need for running save the traits are ones the players are expected to interact with, directly or indirectly; it's easiest to simply let them have them.
In Dune, the only ones needed are "how to build the dice pool" and "how to spend momentum"... all actions boil down to "move self, Move asset, Attack using asset, create an asset"
In T2K4, players need the actions lists (SA/FA), and the terrain effects. that fits nicely on one side of a page. Recovery rates can go on same page. It helps to have the direct fire and melee resolution processes, but they don't need it, as it's technically a GM action.

In T2K4, the mechanical weight is on the GM. Haivng the right tables either memorized or to hand speeds play.
In Dune, it's on the GM and players about equally.
In BWR, there is a shift of slightly more over to players than in the others listed... but, at the same time, BWR has a bunch of "shove this off on your players if you want the game to be playable" - calculating experience checks being the most obvious, and amonst the most tedious, such chore.

Dune hides its complexity - it's got a lot of non-called-out interactions... such as when is it better to attack the asset or its wielder? Is the action one of using the asset yourself as a wielder, or as a remote element reflecing your influence outside your presence? What does Trait X do at this moment? (That's one of 5 answers: Allows a normally impossible action, disallows a normally possible one, provide a -1 difficulty bonus, or a +1 difficulty penalty, or the bland "Nothing"...) It's complexity is that the GM and players are always negotiating the value of their assets in the current fiction. And with a much weaker mechanical state than BW, that means a lot more "playing the GM" than "playing the game"
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
The cognitive load of BWR/BWG is certainly heavy... but is it complex?
I argue not - because it's process based, and all the various options retain the same process. Conflicts beign a singular table of action interactions, and the opposing actions being rolled based upon the fiction state (for what skill) and the chosen actions (yours and your opponents) determining who rolls, and who is elligible to do damage (wounds or disposition).
The concept of disposition is not terribly rough, either: it's a damage track for non-combat based upon a stat and the roll of a skill suitable for the situation.

In terms of Mechanical Complexity, for BWR, the tables I needed:
Fight Actions crossreference (1p)
Duel of Wits actions crossreference (1p)
Range and Cover actions crossreference (1/2p)
Weapons Tables (1/2 p)
Skill Advancement table (1/4 p)
List of standard modifiers to a task (1/4 p)
List of talents and their effects. (1p)

That runs to abut 7pp. Adding the skill list and a few other useful bits pushed it to 9pp

For comparison, to run Dune 2d20, I'm up to 7p, including playtest material and all of char gen!

For T2K 4e, my "routine uses" are 4pp:
Crits (1p)
Small Arms Weapons list (1p)
Direct Fire small arms process (1/3p)
Actions list (5/9 p)
Melee process (1/9p)
Travel and Encounter process (2/6p)
Healing (1/6p)
Encounter types card list (1/2p) (only because I'm using standard cards, not the custom deck)

But the tables overall, excluding weapons lists and vehicles list, are some 14 pages.
I routinely need one or another table that's not in the "common use four pages" above, such as artillery procedure, mines, scavenging, etc... The scavenging rules alone take more than a page (1p is just the table of things found by searching. One roll per success).

Now, from a player perspective, BW has the players engage with the combat tables pretty directly. T2K doesn't. 2d20 has some engagement, but the players tables amount to a 3x5 card's worth.

In play, all three seem to me to be comparable complexity, but the objective measure (how much must I look up to run) puts BW well under either Dune or T2K 4E...
But, comparing what the players need...
In BW, all the tables I need for running save the traits are ones the players are expected to interact with, directly or indirectly; it's easiest to simply let them have them.
In Dune, the only ones needed are "how to build the dice pool" and "how to spend momentum"... all actions boil down to "move self, Move asset, Attack using asset, create an asset"
In T2K4, players need the actions lists (SA/FA), and the terrain effects. that fits nicely on one side of a page. Recovery rates can go on same page. It helps to have the direct fire and melee resolution processes, but they don't need it, as it's technically a GM action.

In T2K4, the mechanical weight is on the GM. Haivng the right tables either memorized or to hand speeds play.
In Dune, it's on the GM and players about equally.
In BWR, there is a shift of slightly more over to players than in the others listed... but, at the same time, BWR has a bunch of "shove this off on your players if you want the game to be playable" - calculating experience checks being the most obvious, and amonst the most tedious, such chore.

Dune hides its complexity - it's got a lot of non-called-out interactions... such as when is it better to attack the asset or its wielder? Is the action one of using the asset yourself as a wielder, or as a remote element reflecing your influence outside your presence? What does Trait X do at this moment? (That's one of 5 answers: Allows a normally impossible action, disallows a normally possible one, provide a -1 difficulty bonus, or a +1 difficulty penalty, or the bland "Nothing"...) It's complexity is that the GM and players are always negotiating the value of their assets in the current fiction. And with a much weaker mechanical state than BW, that means a lot more "playing the GM" than "playing the game"
Complex in terms of system returning a full play experience? Yes. BW is somewhat the opposite of other 'complex' games. The individual systems aren't really complex at all, but you do need to be able to work them all at once, and well, to really play the game. In some very important ways think that's more 'complex' that too many or badly written mechanics. This isn't to say that Dune is not also complex in the same way. I haven't read it yet, but I am very familiar with BW. I'll repeat though, iterating mechanics isn't complex, it's just unwieldy. And yes, I am on purpose taking the view contra here, just to make it easier to get this dissected quickly. Many of the games other people label as too complex I just label badly or incoherently written. Just my two cents of course, I know my opinion isn't the majority here,
 

Complex in terms of system returning a full play experience? Yes. BW is somewhat the opposite of other 'complex' games. The individual systems aren't really complex at all, but you do need to be able to work them all at once, and well, to really play the game. In some very important ways think that's more 'complex' that too many or badly written mechanics. This isn't to say that Dune is not also complex in the same way. I haven't read it yet, but I am very familiar with BW. I'll repeat though, iterating mechanics isn't complex, it's just unwieldy. And yes, I am on purpose taking the view contra here, just to make it easier to get this dissected quickly. Many of the games other people label as too complex I just label badly or incoherently written. Just my two cents of course, I know my opinion isn't the majority here,
Nice shift of goalposts there... changing from complex to hard to run...

I never found it hard to run. If you do, I'd posit that you don't actually grasp the game that well, because knowing what to use when is pretty straightforward... there's little subterfuge in the rules writing: if it's a meaningful fight, use Fight. If not, but the encounter brings bodily risk, use Bloody Versus. If it is social and about convincing others, use Duel of Wits. If it's anything else social, just use suitable opposed rolls.
And remember to teach players the rules of Artha and Advancement - and note that advancement past level 4 requires painful failures or spending artha..
The hardest part is the coming up with the various "if you fail..." statements.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Nice shift of goalposts there... changing from complex to hard to run...

I never found it hard to run. If you do, I'd posit that you don't actually grasp the game that well, because knowing what to use when is pretty straightforward... there's little subterfuge in the rules writing: if it's a meaningful fight, use Fight. If not, but the encounter brings bodily risk, use Bloody Versus. If it is social and about convincing others, use Duel of Wits. If it's anything else social, just use suitable opposed rolls.
And remember to teach players the rules of Artha and Advancement - and note that advancement past level 4 requires painful failures or spending artha..
The hardest part is the coming up with the various "if you fail..." statements.
Ok, first off, i have since the first post said exactly this, very differently than most. I haven't shifted a thing, you just didn't actually read my posts I suppose..

Second, I'm not indexing "hard to run" here. If thats what I was talking about I would have said that, but I didn't. To be fair its somewhat close, perhaps, to what I meant but only that. Rather than hard to run, I'm talking more about hard to grok, hard to understand, or even hard to master the complex interplay of systems at work.

Third, since you arent the grammar police and dont get to be precious about my use of 'complex' here, I don't really understand the point of your reply at all. I was up front about what I meant and how that was different from some other answer in the thread. Was there a cigent critique you were trying to make about BW being exactly the kind of game thw author says it is in the rules? Because Luke Crane describes his own game exactly the same way I have here.
 

Space Opera is the most complex game I've engaged with. A group of hardcore Rolemaster players spent an evening doing PC gen. We never actually played.

Space Opera char gen defeated us as well. On top of the formulas for attributes and derived stats, you basically worked out four to six years of training through a system that looked remarkably like a technical college course calendar, complete with prerequisites and alphanumeric naming system. I’d be willing to bet the author was a grad student or prof.
 

MGibster

Legend
This thread is conjuring memories from deep within the bowels of my mind. In the late 80s there was a game called Timelords. Character generation wasn't so complicated insofar as I can remember, but combat was ridiculous. According to Wikipedia, there were 26 areas of the body you could hit each with its own damage points and there were different types of damage such as blunt, crushing, cutting, burning, edged, etc. Who the hell needs blunt and crushing? And there were a lot of calculations you had to make during combat. The only thing I remember about Timelords, other than its complexity, is that you made characters based on yourself and you found you and your friends accidentally flitting about time.

They also had a post apocalyptic game called Warp World which used the same rules. I can't find any information on Warp World though. Warp World was weird. There was some sort of anti-technology effect on the world except it didn't work perfectly. So you might be in a part of the world where gunpowder wasn't supposed to work, but you could actually squeeze off a few shots before whatever anti-technology field existed would activate. It was an interesting premise at least.
 

Space Opera char gen defeated us as well. On top of the formulas for attributes and derived stats, you basically worked out four to six years of training through a system that looked remarkably like a technical college course calendar, complete with prerequisites and alphanumeric naming system. I’d be willing to bet the author was a grad student or prof.
I played that one quite a bit as well.
 





I've heard that FATAL is excessively complex, in addition to being in excessively poor taste
not really. It's pretty standard D20... plus detailed mechanics supporting the success rates and effects of sexual violence. intimate part sizes and tolerances.
Space Opera char gen defeated us as well. On top of the formulas for attributes and derived stats, you basically worked out four to six years of training through a system that looked remarkably like a technical college course calendar, complete with prerequisites and alphanumeric naming system. I’d be willing to bet the author was a grad student or prof.
It wasn't a fixed term; it was a process lifted from Traveller, but using 2 year terms. Phil McGregor confirmed that the char gen was inspired by Traveller, in a thread on RPGG. (And also that Starships & Spacemen was written to be a licensed Trek RPG, but they couldn't afford the license, so filed off the serials...) I've had characters generated to 20+ years in BRINT or BOSS...
 

Maletherin

Villager
This thread is conjuring memories from deep within the bowels of my mind. In the late 80s there was a game called Timelords. Character generation wasn't so complicated insofar as I can remember, but combat was ridiculous. According to Wikipedia, there were 26 areas of the body you could hit each with its own damage points and there were different types of damage such as blunt, crushing, cutting, burning, edged, etc. Who the hell needs blunt and crushing? And there were a lot of calculations you had to make during combat. The only thing I remember about Timelords, other than its complexity, is that you made characters based on yourself and you found you and your friends accidentally flitting about time.

They also had a post apocalyptic game called Warp World which used the same rules. I can't find any information on Warp World though. Warp World was weird. There was some sort of anti-technology effect on the world except it didn't work perfectly. So you might be in a part of the world where gunpowder wasn't supposed to work, but you could actually squeeze off a few shots before whatever anti-technology field existed would activate. It was an interesting premise at least.
I used to GM for a group using Warp World with my fantasy setting. It's complex, but I don't think it's the toughest game I've ran. Combat does slow things down and I don't like that much anymore. I want combat quick and out of the way.
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
I played GURPS 4th edition in 2009 and found it complex and confusing. After playing a character in the system for one full year I still did not understand it. :unsure:
 

Blue Orange

Adventurer
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 remember reading about that game--wasn't it possible to create a mage who couldn't cast spells, if you rolled the knowledge but not the ability?
 



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