Why Do You Hate An RPG System?

Reynard

Legend
I don't want to gum up the Dishonored thread with this tangent, but the fact that so many people expressed a revulsion for the 2d20 system got me thinking how I don't hate any system I can think of off the top of my head. There are some i prefer not to play, but no game makes me feel like the developers shot my dog (or favorite sci-fi franchise, as the case may be).

So if you HATE a system, why? Explain it to me.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
There are two reason I have for hating systems:

1) The system doesn't do what it says on the tin. In other words, the mechanics and the game description do not correlate. Old World of Darkness products had this problem, for example. To run an adventure the way it was "supposed" to go required the GM to ignore the provided mechanics and apply enough force to push the square block through the round hole.

2) The system is built around terrible and insupportable premises. The classic in this camp is of course, F.A.T.A.L.
 
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Nagol

Unimportant
I don't hate 2d20. I gave the rules a thorough going-over during the Star Trek beta and was seriously underwhelmed. From memory, the advancement system mostly sucked, Threat/momentum was an interesting, but mechanically flawed design. And like almost every RPG, it fails to handle hierarchy and organisational values/rules at all -- which I think are pretty integral to the whole military organization / ship assignment part of Trek.
 

Arilyn

Hero
I've never hated a system either. There's so many good games out there right now that if I don't like something I move on.

It could stem from disappointment, especially if a certain system is grabbing up a lot of licences you like..
Sometimes hatred seems to be directed at systems that go against a person's gaming philosophy. So games like Fate can be subjected to this, as well as D&D.

In the old days, you could buy a shiny new game that looks cool and then discover it is broken and practically unplayable. This problem doesn't seem to exist anymore. I can't think of any recently published games that were objectively broken.
 

Reynard

Legend
There are two reason I have for hating systems:

1) The system doesn't do what it says on the tin. In other words, the mechanics and the game description do not correlate. Old World of Darkness products had this problem, for example. To run an adventure the way it was "supposed" to go required the GM to ignore the provided mechanics and apply enough force to push the square block through the round hole.

2) The system is built around terrible and insupportable premises. The classic in this camp is of course, F.A.T.A.L.
1) I totally understand this, and even agree with the system you presented by way of example. Although I think Vampire is the only real offender in that regard. And I can see why people might have that reaction to 5E if they were looking for, say, the 1E playstyle or something like tabletop Game of Thrones.

2) Yeah. Thanks for dredging up those memories. Ugh.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I hate any game that claims to be an RPG, while simultaneously operating by rules that are inherently antithetical to role-playing.

FATE is the classic example. In order to play FATE, you need to engage with the meta-currency of fate points, or else you won't be able to sway the narrative when you need to. The rules encourage you to get in trouble early on; not because it's the smart thing to do, or even necessarily because it's what your character would realistically do, but because you want the fate points. You're supposed to make decisions on behalf of your character, by taking into consideration that this is a game which operates on principles that are unknown to the character. It's pure meta-gaming.

From what I recall, based on an earlier thread about Conan, the 2d20 system works on similar principles. The GM is supposed to actively antagonize you, and you're supposed to make decisions by accounting for a meta-currency which enables them to do so. You aren't allowed to actually think like your character at any point, or else DOOM will bury you.

I'm not even saying that I hate those games as games (although I still wouldn't play them under any circumstances). I just hate that they pretend to be about role-playing, while simultaneously undermining any sort of in-character decision making. It's highly disingenuous of them.
 

Reynard

Legend
I hate any game that claims to be an RPG, while simultaneously operating by rules that are inherently antithetical to role-playing.

FATE is the classic example. In order to play FATE, you need to engage with the meta-currency of fate points, or else you won't be able to sway the narrative when you need to. The rules encourage you to get in trouble early on; not because it's the smart thing to do, or even necessarily because it's what your character would realistically do, but because you want the fate points. You're supposed to make decisions on behalf of your character, by taking into consideration that this is a game which operates on principles that are unknown to the character. It's pure meta-gaming.

From what I recall, based on an earlier thread about Conan, the 2d20 system works on similar principles. The GM is supposed to actively antagonize you, and you're supposed to make decisions by accounting for a meta-currency which enables them to do so. You aren't allowed to actually think like your character at any point, or else DOOM will bury you.

I'm not even saying that I hate those games as games (although I still wouldn't play them under any circumstances). I just hate that they pretend to be about role-playing, while simultaneously undermining any sort of in-character decision making. It's highly disingenuous of them.
Role playing means taking on a role and acting in the way that you imagine said role would act. In both of the examples you cited, you are supposed to choose a role that would in fact engage in the activities that work with the metacurrency system. That's why you have Trouble in FATE games, for example. There are similar mechanisms in, say, Champions where you buy a bunch of Disads, but no mechanism that actually encourages you to play the role of the character possessing those Disads.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
1) if it does things in ways I find counterintuitive or unnecessarily complicated

2) if it uses confusing and/or complicated language and terminology. I’m a lawyer, I don’t appreciate RPG systems that read like legal codes, especially since most game designers and players don’t use language that way on a regular basis

3) if it’s a revision, it changes so much that I find it difficult or impossible to create analogues of the characters I made in previous editions. Note- I’m not talking about mechanical backwards compatibility, but being able to make PCs that feel & play similarly to those from before
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Role playing means taking on a role and acting in the way that you imagine said role would act. In both of the examples you cited, you are supposed to choose a role that would in fact engage in the activities that work with the metacurrency system. That's why you have Trouble in FATE games, for example. There are similar mechanisms in, say, Champions where you buy a bunch of Disads, but no mechanism that actually encourages you to play the role of the character possessing those Disads.
I'm not familiar with how Champions does its Disadvantages, but in GURPS, it's covered by a random roll to see whether you succumb (with the value of the Disadvantage scaling with the difficulty of the roll). So if you're playing a typical fantasy thief, you might have a compulsion to steal valuable objects, and overcoming that compulsion requires rolling 6 or under on 3d6. Both the player and the character are entirely in the same headspace, that stealing this valuable object right now would be a bad thing, because of the inevitable trouble which it will bring. But they may not be able to help themself, which is what the roll represents.

FATE literally says that you should steal that thing, and invite the accompanying trouble, because you want the fate point. That means either 1) You're making an in-character decision based on out-of-character knowledge, which is the definition of meta-gaming as it is commonly used; or 2) Your game world actually does work on narrative causality, and everyone knows this. Neither option great for role-playing, unless you're in Discworld.

I'm only saying this because you asked why I hate these systems. I don't know if you were unaware of how many people hate the concept of meta-currency, or why, but I hope I've explained the position sufficiently. In any case, I will now disengage with this thread, for my own safety.
 

Celebrim

Legend
The systems I detest are:

1) Mechwarrior - Doesn't handle scale well, and really needs to. Too lethal to really serve to support the fiction it wants to support.
2) RIFTS - So, so, so many reasons, including the worst handling of scale of any system.
3) Storyteller - Wants to be a rules light Nar game based on character introspection. Hasn't a clue how to do that and actively thwarts its own ambitions. In practice, it's a system best enjoyed by ruthless power gamers.
4) FATE - Wants to be rules light Nar game based on character growth and development. Hasn't a clue how to support that and actively thwarts its own ambitions. In practice, it's a system best enjoyed by ruthless power gamers.
5) Mouseguard - Wants to be a rules light game. Is in practice more fiddly than D&D.

I really don't want to put Mouseguard on that list as there are elements of the design that I really like and I really want to run Mousegaurd but oh wow are there so many things about it that are terrible, and after some playing around with it's just so much work to save the system that I can't see me ever investing in it.

I've heard bad things about a ton of systems that sound like really reasonable criticism but without first hand knowledge I don't want to dis anything.

As for category #2, I'm not going to invite more discord than I have already to list the systems I'd put in category #2 alongside the usual suspects that deservedly come up.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm not familiar with how Champions does its Disadvantages, but in GURPS, it's covered by a random roll to see whether you succumb (with the value of the Disadvantage scaling with the difficulty of the roll). So if you're playing a typical fantasy thief, you might have a compulsion to steal valuable objects, and overcoming that compulsion requires rolling 6 or under on 3d6. Both the player and the character are entirely in the same headspace, that stealing this valuable object right now would be a bad thing, because of the inevitable trouble which it will bring. But they may not be able to help themself, which is what the roll represents.

FATE literally says that you should steal that thing, and invite the accompanying trouble, because you want the fate point. That means either 1) You're making an in-character decision based on out-of-character knowledge, which is the definition of meta-gaming as it is commonly used; or 2) Your game world actually does work on narrative causality, and everyone knows this. Neither option great for role-playing, unless you're in Discworld.

I'm only saying this because you asked why I hate these systems. I don't know if you were unaware of how many people hate the concept of meta-currency, or why, but I hope I've explained the position sufficiently. In any case, I will now disengage with this thread, for my own safety.
You are demanding complete immersion as a prerequisite for "role playing" and, well, it isn't.
 

Celebrim

Legend
You are demanding complete immersion as a prerequisite for "role playing" and, well, it isn't.
I don't think Saelorn is. I think she is only making the narrow claim that a system should not give a an incentive for making a particular choice if it wants to promote role-playing, since having a mechanical incentive to make a particular choice tends to discourage playing a character.

There are equivalent examples in other media. For example, while I consider the original Mass Effect one of the greatest cRPGs in history (possibly even the greatest), one valid complaint you can make against it is the Alignment system only rewards always taking either the Noble choice or the Rebel choice, and tells you ahead of time how your choice is characterized. If you want to get the best result, you have to strictly adhere to making 95% of your choices one way or the other, or else you can't maximize your social skills. This creates disincentive to play your character in the way you would like or according to how you think your character would behave in this situation and instead rewards you for playing an simplistic character whose every impulse in every situation is predictable.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
I'm not familiar with how Champions does its Disadvantages, but in GURPS, it's covered by a random roll to see whether you succumb (with the value of the Disadvantage scaling with the difficulty of the roll). So if you're playing a typical fantasy thief, you might have a compulsion to steal valuable objects, and overcoming that compulsion requires rolling 6 or under on 3d6. Both the player and the character are entirely in the same headspace, that stealing this valuable object right now would be a bad thing, because of the inevitable trouble which it will bring. But they may not be able to help themself, which is what the roll represents.

FATE literally says that you should steal that thing, and invite the accompanying trouble, because you want the fate point. That means either 1) You're making an in-character decision based on out-of-character knowledge, which is the definition of meta-gaming as it is commonly used; or 2) Your game world actually does work on narrative causality, and everyone knows this. Neither option great for role-playing, unless you're in Discworld.
But the RPG world does work on narrative causality whether its GURPS or FATE or DnD the decisions made by the Players get a reaction from the GM - who narrates the consequences.

Fate incentivises players to Roleplay their characters and not just leave the decision to rolling a dice
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
Palladium and RIFTS - OMG
Rolemaster had too many tables
4e DnD - eek
ADnD - classes are too restrictive:)
 

Reynard

Legend
I don't think Saelorn is. I think she is only making the narrow claim that a system should not give a an incentive for making a particular choice if it wants to promote role-playing, since having a mechanical incentive to make a particular choice tends to discourage playing a character.

There are equivalent examples in other media. For example, while I consider the original Mass Effect one of the greatest cPGs in history (possibly even the greatest), one valid complaint you can make against it is the Alignment system only rewards always taking either the Noble choice or the Rebel choice, and tells you ahead of time how your choice is characterized. If you want to get the best result, you have to strictly adhere to making 95% of your choices one way or the other, or else you can't maximize your social skills. This creates disincentive to play your character in the way you would like or according to how you think your character would behave in this situation and instead rewards you for playing an simplistic character whose every impulse in every situation is predictable.
I am not sure a CRPG with inherently limited choices has much bearing on the situation.

Be that as it may,games that mechanically incentivise maintaining a consistent role actually improve role-playing IMO. Role playing doesn't mean "do whatever you would do." it means "do what the character would do." In a game like FATE (and there are lots of other examples) you are supposed to decide what role you want to play, build that character and then play that role. If you were on stage in an improv show, you would be expected to maintain your role even if you wouldn't do what your role would do. Same thing here. Since most gamers are not actors, having mechanical incentives just keeps that behavior at the forefront.

I can't count the number of times some player has made a decision based on their gut morality or preferences that was completely at odds with the game, the genre or their previously established character. Just because you have the freedom to do whatever doesn't mean that whatever choices you make are "in character."

Now, all that said, in practice I don't worry so much. I don't mind if people role-play in third person. I don't mind if they basically play themselves. I don't mind if they play a 2 dimensional character. If they are having fun and not ruining the fun for everyone else at the table, all is good. But I totally disagree with the notion that games with mechanical narrative elements somehow inhibit role-playing.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
So if you HATE a system, why? Explain it to me.
I'm not sure I hate any particular system (exception granted for silly things like FATAL). However, there are few things that irk me no end, and yet seem horribly common.

1) Advertising your system as some kind of "story" engine....when its really just another bog-standard combat/skirmish system with some RP wrapping (i.e. a standard rpg). Or really, just missing the mark entirely on your genre or promises. Which, sadly, is just about so common that its painful anymore. And its not that I even hate that kind of thing. Heck, I'm happy to play a wargame or skirmish game....just tell me that's what it is upfront.

2) lists...lists....lists.... weapons, spells, 50+skills/feats/tweaks. I'm old enough to be pretty done with it. In the end, the differences between most of the items on these lists are minor, and maybe matter within the combat (and usually nothing else) statistics/math of the system. Yet, players are always looking for those tiny bonuses, etc. I mean, really, if there's a narrative difference, either make it matter or shut up.

3) Going along with #1. Mechanics that don't deliver what they're supposed to, especially if they create incoherent narrative. Things like Fate points and aspects don't bother me at all, because they at least do what they say they will.* But rules that create nonsense or incoherent narrative just curdle my blood. The generics of the traditional HP/damage are the worst offender for me (although some games and editions have taken steps to ameliorate it). I'm really done with "combats" that are glorified accounting exercises with die randomizers.

Just to throw out an example. We are currently playing a Boot Hill 3e game. And I'm no expert on the system, so I don't even know if we are playing it correctly (I'm not the GM), but.... The damage/wounding mechanics are a vast improvement over just a pile of HP. However, the movement/initiative rules seem almost designed to ensure that perfectly sensible combat actions and positions are just about impossible to achieve.

*Which, I think, is just another way of saying "stance" (Actor vs Author vs Pawn) is not so important to me as the nature of the story/narrative that gets created. Board game, war/skirmish, rpg...its all the same to me.
 

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