• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

What's the Next Great Leap Forward in RPG Mechanics?

tomBitonti

Adventurer
The issue I see with tracking dice rolls and their results automatically in the app is that it:

1) Requires the app to know rules - including your house rules. So, the app is game-specific, and each game out there would need its own app, which for small games is exorbitant.

2) Drives the game to rules, and disincentivizes making rulings, which are basically house rules you have to implement *right then*. This is fine on paper, as you can count on the humans to implement it, but currently still a pain in electronic format.

This can be handled with an appropriate interface:

Dice roles, and sharing the results thereof, ought to be trivial to handle.

The interface can be designed to present values (DC 17 Reflex; 5d6 Fire; +2 Reflex) in fields which are available to objects.

Then:

GM: Creates a "Goal" object and applies it to a box with (DC 17 Reflex). The Goal object is shared to three of the players.

GM: "Incomining fireball! Roll reflex saves!"

Player: Applies the DC 17 D20 target to their +2 Reflex modifier box (only the +2 modifier matters; the player knows to apply the target to this box, but an automatic association might be made by including "Reflex" as the goal type).

Software: Uses the +2 modifier and the D20 goal mechanic to generate a "14 + 2 == 16" result. Uses the DC17 goal and determines that the goal was not reached. The completed goal object is shared back to the GM.

Software: Since the target was shared with all players, waits for all target results to be shared back. The results show two failures and one success, with details available for inspection.

GM: Ah, two successes, one failure. (Narrates that one of the players almost but didn't quite avoid the fire.)

GM: Takes the Collected Target Results object and applies it to a "5d6 Fire" damage box. A result object is created with "5d6 Fire" and a roll of 14 is obtained.

GM: Shares the collected target results object back to the players.

And so on.

The description is a bit busy, but that's to highlight the details of what is happening.

Key is that very little rules interpretation is done. The knowledge of what to do is managed by the GM and players. The system is setup to provide lots of generic boxes and to allow sharing of "Goal" objects. (Probably, "Goal" is not the only type of object available to the system.)

Thx!

TomB
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
And so on.

The description is a bit busy, but that's to highlight the details of what is happening.

Key is that very little rules interpretation is done. The knowledge of what to do is managed by the GM and players. The system is setup to provide lots of generic boxes and to allow sharing of "Goal" objects. (Probably, "Goal" is not the only type of object available to the system.)

Yes. But, unless I'm playing remotely, how am I *gaining*, over use of paper?

"But it is on a computer!" is not itself a selling point. If the computer does not provide functionality, convenience, or speed that the manual process doesn't, then there's no point in using (or even developing) the application.
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
I look forward to when someone comes up with a handy, elegant app platform to integrate tablets and phones into a shared game.

Each player has a character sheet on their phone, which can be read and navigated with only one or two taps or swipes. They're all linked to the GM's tablet, where he can queue up monster stats during game prep, then track conditions and HP in game. There'd be an option for native RNG (random number generation) that works in-app, or you could roll dice and manually note damage and healing and such.

Not quite a 'great leap forward,' but certainly handy for offloading some of the mental process to digital devices so the players and GM can devote more thought to story, description, and roleplaying.

This.

Current tablet technology could easily handle this. We've had shared desktop technology for more than 20 years. There is a huge untapped potential in the current app space.

There are tides to overcome: Microtransaction based app developers chasing easy dollars. In the Apple space: Too many restrictions on app developers.

Thx!

TomB
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
You can do that while adopting positive aspects of board games: good first play experiences, playability, balance/fairness, relative ease to learn, and, in looking at one of the recent innovations in boardgaming, cooperative boardgames (like Pandemic, for instance) and applying it to D&D: not needing a DM, or, at least, being much easier to DM or have the potential to spread DMing duties among more than one player.... That'd be a dramatic innovation, if adopted (again, it's already been done, but either by actual board games, or by obscure RPGs).

There are other worth examples: Arkham Horror or Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Or you could consider Warhammer Quest modded for multiple players.

Or, as an interesting comparison, use of a referee to create the "fog of battle". There is a huge aspect of the GM being present solely to hide from players situation details until they are properly visible to the players. That carries between RPGs and board games very well.

Thx!

TomB
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
Yes. But, unless I'm playing remotely, how am I *gaining*, over use of paper?

"But it is on a computer!" is not itself a selling point. If the computer does not provide functionality, convenience, or speed that the manual process doesn't, then there's no point in using (or even developing) the application.

I have this same reaction: For the example that I presented, the mechanics are not so very complicated that the computer is providing any benefit. The complexity of a player doing the lookup and rolling themself is about equal to the complexity of dragging the result widget across the screen.

From seeing very basic implementations of this, the use of a tablet pulls the player out of meat space, leading to a loss of a core part of the RPG experience, which is human-to-human interaction. And, having the computer do some of this stuff (especially rolling dice, which is fun!) is a major kill-joy.

But, the need for rules interpretation isn't what stands in the way of building an application. That was the point that I was addressing.

There is a value when the complexity starts getting high (Bless and Haste and Heroes Feast and ...). For the DM, when there are lots of NPCs, having a computer assist begins to be worthwhile.

One mini-app which would be useful would be NPC, Monster, and Magic Item compendiums, with pictures and character appropriate text descriptions attached, which could could be dragged to the shared play environment for players to look at at there convenience on their own device. I would love to have a database with all of the cool pictures from the many Pathfinder publications.

One of my GM's has done this himself, building a big database of cool character pictures which he collected from the web. As preparation, he finds good images for important NPCs, then shows us those during play. Today, that is limited to him showing or handing us his tablet. A better way to collect and thare the images would be very helpful.

Thx!
TomB
 
Last edited:

innerdude

Legend
But if "realism" isn't the ultimate panacea of RPGs---meaning we're not searching for more "realistic," "logical" output results from the game's mechanical inputs---what are we looking for in the future?

I don't think any of us would MIND so much if we COULD get more "realistic" outputs without there being extra overhead in resolution . . . but at what cost? For example, I play a lot of Lord of the Rings cooperative card game. And though it can give a "vibe" or "feel" occasionally of "being in the action," it's nowhere close to approaching the level of granularity of an RPG. The mechanics are several levels above an RPG in abstraction, even if the "core" of the game has some mild resemblance to an RPG --- you have "characters" with basic "stats" which control their ability to affect the game.

I guess my question is, is it possible to consider multiple levels of abstraction---from 30,000 foot view to minute granularity---in the same game? At what discrepancies? How would this look in terms of game design and in play?
 

pemerton

Legend
But if "realism" isn't the ultimate panacea of RPGs---meaning we're not searching for more "realistic," "logical" output results from the game's mechanical inputs---what are we looking for in the future?

I don't think any of us would MIND so much if we COULD get more "realistic" outputs without there being extra overhead in resolution
Realism is not, as such, a priority for me. I especially don't want "realistic" encounter generation. But I'm also not all that keen on "realistic" action resolution.

is it possible to consider multiple levels of abstraction---from 30,000 foot view to minute granularity---in the same game? At what discrepancies? How would this look in terms of game design and in play?
Are you still looking for realism?

Burning Wheel has mechanics to resolve melee heartbeat-by-heartbeat, or to resolve it in a simple set of opposed rolls, or to use a single check to resolve a whole month's riding with a caravan and fighting of bandits so as to earn money as a mercenary. The first of these is fairly granular and gritty - perhaps also, therefore, "realistic".

HeroWars/Quest can do much the same without requiring the same baroque mechanical subsystems as BW because of its resolution mechanics being overall more abstract.

Are these examples of the sort of thing you're looking for?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
But if "realism" isn't the ultimate panacea of RPGs---meaning we're not searching for more "realistic," "logical" output results from the game's mechanical inputs---what are we looking for in the future?

Note that "realistic" and "logical" are by no means equivalent. You can have entirely logical outputs that are not "realistic". I mean, in a world with magic, what is logical for the world is not what a person in this would would call "realistic", because magic isn't *real*.

So, that's a question for you - do you care about "realism" - the game mimics the real world (in which case, Conan can go home, because his survival is unrealistic, and Raistlin can just go cry in a corner), or do you want logical, self-consistent results?
 

innerdude

Legend
Note that "realistic" and "logical" are by no means equivalent. You can have entirely logical outputs that are not "realistic" ....

So, that's a question for you - do you care about "realism" . . . or do you want logical, self-consistent results?

Well, the obvious answer is "logical, self-consistent results" but I'm not entirely sure logical self-consistency is entirely at odds with "realism" per se.

Magic, for instance --- if you postulate magic to functionally operate as some kind of controlled interaction between the matter-to-energy or energy-to-matter spectrum of physics, it's entirely "realistic." Heck, if we could build a Super Big Cool Machine right now that could turn energy into matter, would it be any different than "magic"? Thus, if some guy waving bat poop in the air and chanting strange words can do the exact same thing as Super Big Cool Machine, it's all good--it's the same behind-the-scenes "process" of matter and energy transformation.

Obviously I'm being a bit pedantic here. :p

Of course, this does go a bit back to the whole idea of "process sim" that's been brought up so many times in other places around here. Are we trying to create mechanics that model discrete process outputs, and if so how "high up" are we abstracting them? If you're not doing discrete process output, what are you modeling?

Having played a tiny bit of HeroQuest Revised, and read through several iterations of Fate, I can see how absent "process sim" modeling, the easiest transition is to skip straight to "fictional modeling" mode. If you're modeling a "world" where you hero is directly "fictionally positioned" as having certain traits, powers, abilities, etc., you're not trying to model any discrete process, you're trying to model what that fictionally positioned entity does within the world and to themselves.

But even then, is attribute-based fictional positioning wholly decoupled from process sim? The consistency of the formula (Declared attribute --> Can affect game world through declared attribute) still has to hold even without process sim.

But is there nothing in between? Maybe not. Maybe in terms of RPG mechanics, it really is a binary---either a mechanic has to be structured as a "process sim," meaning it's directly modeling some kind of direct, inherent-in-the-world's-physics process, or it's modeling a way of modifying the fiction directly. Is there any kind of third option?
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I suspect that, whatever the next "big thing" in RPG technology* is, it's going to challenge or re-define a generally-accepted dichotomy, or something basic, something that's gone unquestioned and unmodified for years. For example, I don't think the Next Big Thing is going to have much to do with the "rolled stats vs. modifiers" debate: there have been many different approaches to that, and few other than the Traditional D&D Way (you have stats, which are relatively large numbers but used relatively rarely, and you have modifiers, which are smaller and calculated from stats) and the Modern Streamlined Way (Stats *are* Modifiers and no calculation is required) have gained any meaningful traction. On the other hand, something like Unity challenging the concept of distinct "turns," while preserving the accounting of time, could be the watershed moment where the impulse behind "popcorn initiative" (and other alternate initiative systems) finally finds a third way between the rigidity-and-utility of "standard" initiative turn order and the fluidity-but-indefinability of freeform/"when it makes sense" play.

I also doubt that it will be computational technology that makes the difference. Although we are more able than ever before to create games in a purely digital environment, little to nothing has come of it in terms of RPG development. 4e D&D tried to catch lightning in a bottle with internet-based services, but a variety of internal and external problems killed that before it could really happen. Even where it arguably succeeded, a lot of people were still real dang skeptical.

Predicting this sort of thing is nearly impossible though. It would be like asking, in 2010, what people thought the next big thing in video gaming was going to be. If you'd said that it would be a LEGO-like crafting simulator with explosive mobile cactus enemies, you'd have been laughed at--although I can't find the specific video now, I know the people at Extra Credits have explicitly called it out. We'll have an easier time--though not much of one--figuring out where such an innovation won't arise.

*it is, after all, a form of technology: it's just one that, up until the past decade or so, has almost exclusively relied on physical implements manipulated by human hands.
 

Remove ads

Top