What Is "Unnecessary Complexity" to You?

dragoner

solisrpg.com
Things like power points on spacecraft in Traveller, where you get chernobyl 3000 megawatt computers, it only works as inhibition, and does nothing else, totally not realistic. Things such as that.
 

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I second these and would add spell descriptions. I dont want 30 pages of prewritten spells, all with varying levels of usefulness from garbage to gotta have. Give me a chart of various spell features and let the player decide how to combine them into unique spell effects, or just eldritch blast. Make it easy to use but hard to master.
Now that I think about it, same thing for feats that modify melee or ranged attacks. 1st level you get a 2 point attack or spell. 1 point for die of damage, one point for added element. Or 2 one point attacks maybe? Not sure about the logistics, but 30 pages of scripted attacks is both boring and pointlessly complex to keep track of.

This is why I comment that you can have games that have a lot of complexity in some areas but aren't exception-driven being easier for some people to keep track of. The problem in the D&D-sphere is that ship sailed right at the creation of the game system.
 

We should have both - use the common keyword but also repeat the text in the monster statblock. That way the DMs who do remember can skip the repeated description, while those who don't have the text handy.

That's case where clarity and controlling pagecount are very much at war with each other.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
We should have both - use the common keyword but also repeat the text in the monster statblock. That way the DMs who do remember can skip the repeated description, while those who don't have the text handy.
So every spell that inflicts a condition should list out the effects of the condition? Ugh.

Also, that's a very errata-unfriendly thing to do if a keywork ever has to change. To make up an example, if an RPG added in psionics and allowed them to be used while Paralyzed. Change on one master sheet, or one master sheet and dozens of spells and monsters? Including some 3rd party.
 

delericho

Legend
So every spell that inflicts a condition should list out the effects of the condition? Ugh.

Yeah, they need to be sensible about these things. The example given was "undead traits", which was a random grab-bag of unrelated stuff. The other particularly egregious case is monsters with spellcasting and spell-like abilities, where huge amounts of their power is tucked away in a handful of random names. But a spell that accesses a very simple condition description can probably manage without the repeat.

Edit: Have changed 'you' to 'they' in the above. My apologies to @Blue if I gave the impression I thought you weren't being sensible - not my intent, but on reading it back I can see I phrased it poorly.

Also, that's a very errata-unfriendly thing to do if a keywork ever has to change. To make up an example, if an RPG added in psionics and allowed them to be used while Paralyzed. Change on one master sheet, or one master sheet and dozens of spells and monsters? Including some 3rd party.
Well, in an exception-based game like D&D, you'd expect to handle an exceptional case like that by putting the relevant text (this can be used while paralysed) in the psionics rules.

However, to address the point more widely, if they're faced with a change that's going to cascade like that, it needs to wait for the edition change. And, honestly, anything that stops them thinking they can patch printed books as if they were software is a good thing - of the many things I disliked about 4e, the constantly creeping errata was the very worst... and 5e is increasingly going the same way, IMO.
 
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delericho

Legend
Actually, in light of my previous post, there's something I'd like to add to my general "unnecessary complexity" list: errata.

As a rule of thumb, if your errata runs to more than 1% of the page count of the book you're fixing, it probably means you've made a mess of writing the thing. If you need to patch the same thing twice (that is, provide errata for your errata), that almost certainly means it's unnecessarily complex. And as soon as your "errata" moves beyond fixing errors and to revising good rules, you're adding unnecessary complexity - it should almost certainly wait for the next edition.

There are exceptions to all of the above, of course. And, of course, it's all IMO only.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I can agree with that, I don't know how many times I had to put up with Paizo completely rewriting how stuff in books works because someone broke the balance of their public play.
 

Actually, in light of my previous post, there's something I'd like to add to my general "unnecessary complexity" list: errata.

As a rule of thumb, if your errata runs to more than 1% of the page count of the book you're fixing, it probably means you've made a mess of writing the thing. If you need to patch the same thing twice (that is, provide errata for your errata), that almost certainly means it's unnecessarily complex. And as soon as your "errata" moves beyond fixing errors and to revising good rules, you're adding unnecessary complexity - it should almost certainly wait for the next edition.

There are exceptions to all of the above, of course. And, of course, it's all IMO only.
Didn't 3.5 have this problem with polymorph and wild shape? Constantly trying to balance it? Isn't it why we got the Rules Compendium?
 

delericho

Legend
Didn't 3.5 have this problem with polymorph and wild shape? Constantly trying to balance it? Isn't it why we got the Rules Compendium?
I'm not sure if that was the motivation for the RC, but they certainly had several attempts at fixing shapeshifting. Definitely one of my go-to examples of how not to do things.
 

However, to address the point more widely, if they're faced with a change that's going to cascade like that, it needs to wait for the edition change. And, honestly, anything that stops them thinking they can patch printed books as if they were software is a good thing - of the many things I disliked about 4e, the constantly creeping errata was the very worst... and 5e is increasingly going the same way, IMO.

That's an almost inevitable problem with exception-based designs; there are all kinds of distinct parts, and at least some of them are going to show they create problems, sometimes serious ones over time. I agree that trying to keep track of ongoing errata is nightmarish, but I'm not sure "we'll just leave this broken thing be because its too hard to fix" is an improvement.
 

Actually, in light of my previous post, there's something I'd like to add to my general "unnecessary complexity" list: errata.

As a rule of thumb, if your errata runs to more than 1% of the page count of the book you're fixing, it probably means you've made a mess of writing the thing. If you need to patch the same thing twice (that is, provide errata for your errata), that almost certainly means it's unnecessarily complex. And as soon as your "errata" moves beyond fixing errors and to revising good rules, you're adding unnecessary complexity - it should almost certainly wait for the next edition.

There are exceptions to all of the above, of course. And, of course, it's all IMO only.

Unless you've got a big playtesting budget, its all too easy for a game with lots of moving parts to show problems in various places you never saw during initial design. I honestly suspect that if you kept the complexity of games down to the point that wasn't a potential issue for most game companies, you'd have to wipe out half the market once you got away from WOTC (who may screw up just as often, but can afford said big playtesting budget).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Hidden descriptions. "The monster is undead and has all the undead traits." Then you look up undead traits to see immune to cold, negative energy, poison, charm, sleep, etc. Just put all of that in the monster description so I don't have to look it up for every undead creature every fight. Or every plant, or demon, or whatever. How am I supposed to remember this stuff?
This is the only one of your list that really irks me. Put the info where it's needed, and if this means some occasional duplication then so be it.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
There's two distinct kinds: Complex tactics and complex mechanics.

Complex mechanics are obvious. They're when you have to use integration-by-parts or a Fourier transform to know how much damage your punch did.

Complex tactics are when the actual play has a lot of overhead. Like, you want to simply attack but in order to do that, you must select whether you're using your attack, defense, or counter dice then you must determine which damage type you will do, then you must determine a valid position, then you must Yada Yada.

They might seem similar, but in the former, the complexity doesn't matter at all and won't be missed by anyone at all. The latter has meaningful complexity but eventually it stacks up to the point where it becomes difficult to manage.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The next is when something is designed in a way that corners me when I try to modify it, I felt like 5e could be this way, in reality, due to things like the anti-granularity of advantage making it hard to add things, or the way classes are designed around rests per day, changing one thing always feels like it breaks something else.
Agreed.

Problem is, numerous people in this thread have already stated how much they value unified or univrsal mechanics. And the headache there is that universal mechanics are light-years harder to kitbash without breaking other things than are discrete subsystems.

Guess we can't have it both ways. :)
 

Retreater

Legend
Agreed.

Problem is, numerous people in this thread have already stated how much they value unified or univrsal mechanics. And the headache there is that universal mechanics are light-years harder to kitbash without breaking other things than are discrete subsystems.

Guess we can't have it both ways. :)
We can have it as many ways as there are RPG systems and as many GMs willing to adapt them to their needs. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So every spell that inflicts a condition should list out the effects of the condition? Ugh.

Also, that's a very errata-unfriendly thing to do if a keywork ever has to change. To make up an example, if an RPG added in psionics and allowed them to be used while Paralyzed. Change on one master sheet, or one master sheet and dozens of spells and monsters? Including some 3rd party.
And that right there is one of the biggest strikes against the whole idea of keywords.

Lack of flexibility is another. If for example you want two monsters that can each paralyze characters but in highly different ways (say, one via fear and one via muscle immobilizing) then using a "Paralyzed" keyword or condition for both is just going to cause headaches - or make one of the monsters not work like it should.
 

And that right there is one of the biggest strikes against the whole idea of keywords.

Lack of flexibility is another. If for example you want two monsters that can each paralyze characters but in highly different ways (say, one via fear and one via muscle immobilizing) then using a "Paralyzed" keyword or condition for both is just going to cause headaches - or make one of the monsters not work like it should.

I don't see why having a keyword would prevent them from, say, targeting different saves, which is all your description strikes me as requiring. If it goes much beyond that, I'd argue its not really the same condition and shouldn't have the same keyword.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't see why having a keyword would prevent them from, say, targeting different saves, which is all your description strikes me as requiring. If it goes much beyond that, I'd argue its not really the same condition and shouldn't have the same keyword.
Which means, in effect, that in common parlance being paralyzed is not the same as being paralyzed. I really try to avoid this kind of confusion; and the best way to do so is to write out what "paralyzed" really means in each case.

An example: Hold Person spell = paralyzed due to muscle immobility; Ghoul Touch = paralyzed due to fear. Even though the end result is exactlythe same - the target is paralyzed - these are quite different, for example someone with a device or ability that grants fearlessness will be affected by one but not the other.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
That reminds me of an argument I had back in 2e. I had a Ring of Free Action, which specifically stated I was immune to paralysis. I got poisoned, and the effect was paralysis. I simply went, oh well, I'm immune, and the DM had a fit. "I can understand why you'd be immune to magic paralysis, but this is a POISON." "Which does....what?" "Paralyzes you." "Which I'm immune to."

He refused to budge and later told me he was going to have to remove the Ring from his game (and the spell it was based on) as it was "too confusing". I guess that goes to show that sometimes more complexity is needed, you can't just say "magic prevents you from anything that would stop you from moving under you own power, hur dur hur" all stop.
 

Which means, in effect, that in common parlance being paralyzed is not the same as being paralyzed. I really try to avoid this kind of confusion; and the best way to do so is to write out what "paralyzed" really means in each case.

Having two different kinds of things you're referring to as "paralyzed" causes confusion, too. I don't see having a distinct term is any worse than that.
 

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