Why the hate for complexity?

Derren

Adventurer
Maybe I am wrong but I have the impression that for some time now (a decade at least) there has been an ever increasing dislike for complexity and calls for ever simpler "rules light" systems.
D&D 5E is already much simpler than previous editions like 3E and 2E, yet people still look for even lighter systems up to a point that for large parts of the you are freeforming with no mechanics at all.
And even though 3E was once widely played it is now decried as a complex monster no one could have had fun with (hyperbole).

So I wonder where this hate for complexity comes from? Was it always there? Have people grown up, gotten jobs and dont have time/interest to learn rules anymore? Do they feel rules are constricting or that the granularity complex rules add like characters being differently competent in different skills instead of having one modifier for everything doesn't add anything to the game?
 

Bagpuss

Adventurer
Anecdotally in my youth I use to love playing games like Champions, Battletech, and others that had all sorts of complex systems for designing characters or 'mechs. AD&D 2nd Edition wasn't really that complex compared to 3rd Ed until they added the Skills and Powers options, which again I enjoyed playing with making custom classes and the like, but then I also had a lot of free time on my hands, and few of the distractions kids have nowadays.

As an adult I have a lot more commitments on my time and many more distractions for my free time. Even if I had the same free time I had as a kid, there are way more things I can do with it. There aren't just 3 channels on the TV, there is whatever I want to watch when I want to watch it. Even if I was a kid that enjoyed RPGs with my friends, I'm not sure I would want to spend hours working on a character for Champions when I could be playing a real superhero on a PS4.

I still have Champions, Battletech on my shelf, occasionally I think about getting them down, trying them with my kids or running a game with my friends, but the set up time in learning a new system just doesn't seem worth it. I have a hard enough time getting my kids to sit down for a straightforward board game, let alone something that will take hours to explain.

I've also found from playing at conventions you can get some pretty intensive RP experiences when the rules don't get in the way. A game you can sit down, teach and play within four hours is pretty good fun. It might not be suitable for long term campaign play hence I also like games with a bit more meat on their bones.

I don't hate those complex games, it's more I don't have the time or inclination to put the effort in needed to make them work, when a simpler game will fill that same need.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
There are a few different parts to "complexity".

You bring up AD&D 2nd Ed. It had a profusion of different ways to resolve issues, separate subsystems for so many different things, all that had to be looked up (or ignored, like weapon against armor types). Moving to a unified mechanic removes a load of complexity and speeds the game without watering down the system or removing choice at all.

But yes, there is a shift in design paradigms as the industry has matured. 3.x ed tried to be a simulation, where there were rules laid out for everything. What are the effects on your AC for being waist deep in water, etc. For a computer system, having all of these well defined to know when to apply them would be good - for most normal players it meant time spent referencing rules instead of actually playing them.

Another part of the complexity of 3.x was around character creation and advancement. With more players than DMs, books with player crunch sold well, and the business model wanted one a month. Combine this with the heavy use of prerequisites and the fact that multiclassing into Prestige Classes gave a lot more than staying in the core classes (except for some pure casters) it ended up that the level of complexity really favored building characters all the way up to 20th before starting play, referencing over a dozen books so they you wouldn't miss the requirements for feat X and have to wait 3 more levels, because that would push back getting into prestige class Y, which in part gave you a particular class skill so your max skill ranks would be enough to get into prestige class Z.

Combine that while players focus on only a single character and welcome complexity, since foes were build on the same system it put a very heavy prep load on the DM. And less DMs means less games.

4e moved from attempting to simulating realism to an approach where the mechanics focused first on proving a balanced game. Some would say too far, and combined with other design choices ended up causing a schism in the player base.

Having a system that is both friendly toward growing the hobby, plus one that gets out of the way to let us play instead of constantly trying to find and reference specific corner case rules, is where they went with 5e. It's a balanced compromise, and looking at the published numbers about what games are being played out there it has a lot more active games then the older systems so that seems the right business decision.

There are definitely people who miss the abundant meat for character creation that the one-book-per-month brought, but from a business plan perspective in earlier editions they have shared that only the core books were evergreen, keeping up regular sales. The other books, which cost as much to design, produce, get art, layout, edit, print and distribute, had an initial spike but then settled down at a much lower level. On the other hand the 5e model of fewer books coming out has kept them perennially selling well, as well as allowing more time for quality.

So, with an aging original player base who have less time, with greater growth of new players than earlier editions, and with a more stately publishing plan, lighter rules and streamlined play is where we are. There are plenty of other systems out there for those that enjoy other niches.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Technically complex games are very hard to write -- I can't imagine how to approach writing something like Pathfinder (or 3.x). Jason Bulmahn has superpowers, as far as I'm concerned. And something like HERO... yikes!

So naturally you'll see a lot more of them published. Also, lighter games like 5E are more suited for streaming and convention games, and streaming a big part of game marketing these days.

I'm not personally a fan of very light games, except as one-shots. For a campaign I find I like having the complexity to dive into with my character if I'm playing him for months. But different people like different things, and have more or less time and inclination.
 
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Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Maybe I am wrong but I have the impression that for some time now (a decade at least) there has been an ever increasing dislike for complexity and calls for ever simpler "rules light" systems.
D&D 5E is already much simpler than previous editions like 3E and 2E, yet people still look for even lighter systems up to a point that for large parts of the you are freeforming with no mechanics at all.
And even though 3E was once widely played it is now decried as a complex monster no one could have had fun with (hyperbole).

So I wonder where this hate for complexity comes from? Was it always there? Have people grown up, gotten jobs and dont have time/interest to learn rules anymore? Do they feel rules are constricting or that the granularity complex rules add like characters being differently competent in different skills instead of having one modifier for everything doesn't add anything to the game?
I've learned that complex rule system rarely add to the fun at the table. Oh they often add to the fun away from the table for those who love build tweaking and such, but tons of options and the resulting mods they create and require tracking add little to the quality of the game. Quite the opposite, it usually makes the flow of the game more choppy as we spend more time engaging the rules themselves rather than the scenario. IMO, YMMV.
 
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Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Pretty much that. After work, making dinner, walking the dog, and whatnot, I only have so much time left at night. When I was a kid, I had the time to learn and play systems like Battletech, Shadowrun, Palladium, Megatraveller and the like. The trend back then, too, was definitely towards more complicated game systems. Now, I much prefer simpler games.


It’s not that I hate complicated games, but that I just don’t have the time or brainspace. And I like to think that the time that would’ve been spent learning all those disparate systems is better spent learning how to be a better DM/GM.


Another barrier is that, if I were to run a more complicated game, I would have to bear the heavy lifting of knowing the rules and the book for months before everyone is up and running at the table. It’s hard to argue with everyone already knowing D&D 5e (mostly – there will always be players that just don’t seem to take the effort to learn how their abilities work, but I digress), or with a system that can be explained in about 15 minutes.


Have people grown up, gotten jobs and dont have time/interest to learn rules anymore?
 

Zhaleskra

Explorer
In my experience, on this and other RPG forums, it seems that many people confuse "complex rules" with "difficult system". Reading some online reviews of games I like, I get the impression that some people think "because complex rules are included you must use them all the time", though I do think in one review's case the reviewer's reading comprehension of the rules could use work. Again in my experience, "simple rules" doesn't always mean "easy system", some Lite systems make it quite hard to figure out how to do some things.

Boiled down to the bullets:
* Complex doesn't necessarily mean hard
* Simple doesn't necessarily mean easy

D&D 3.x and the d20 system in general did a lot of damage to learning new games over the years with their attitude of "d20 games are easy, all other games are necessarily harder" attitude. That said, I liked some d20 games, D&D included, but not every genre works well in d20, and when you've been a gamer for decades that kind of attitude puts some people off. This isn't meant as an attack, it's just my experience.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
Maybe I am wrong but I have the impression that for some time now (a decade at least) there has been an ever increasing dislike for complexity and calls for ever simpler "rules light" systems.
Well, that little bit of pretense and calling what other designers and players do 'badwrongfun' in technical language goes back nearly two decades, but the movement away from complexity has been going on for nearly thirty years now.

So, a bit of background. In the 80's, design in RPGs was wide open and we barely had language to talk about the issues of design. There was a lot of good design and a lot of bad design, but one very common complaint about D&D is that the design was bad because it wasn't 'realistic', and there was a general sense in much of the community that many if not all of the problems tables encountered in a game was do to a lack of 'realism'. Various systems of Traveller and GURPS might also be worth looking at, and a trip into the world of GULLIVER (a modification of GURPS) would also be worthwhile. This led to a fetishization of realism as a goal of game design, which can be seen in extremely complex games of the period - HERO, and Rolemaster might be a very good examples, though the pain points in that complexity come up at different points. Since the goal of RPGs started out as basically 'Simulation of the World', the attributes of a system which were considered very admirable in a system were that it would be universal (able to simulate everything) and realistic (able to produce a simulation that produced intuitive or 'correct' results).

In the early '90's, the difficulties of play with super-realistic systems and the fact that realism hadn't in fact solved all table issues, and indeed created some, combined with a second thrust of design that could be seen in games like Pendragon and Ars Magica, led to backing away from realism as the primary goal of design, and with that a backing away from the super-complex designs.

In the late 90's and early 00's, a forum called 'The Forge' began some very formal and highly influential discussions on the design of RPGs. I personally feel almost all of their conclusions were wrong and the community ultimately became very unhealthy, but it was very helpful in some ways because it began attacking the problem of RPG design in a rigorous way using a lot of technical language and often from perspectives that had never really been clearly voiced before. This was the so called 'Indy' RPG movement, and almost any buzzword that you'll hear in RPG design like 'rules light' or 'story first' or 'fail forward' comes out of those discussions. Most of it is, as I said, just a load of horse hockey pucks, but it's worth studying in the same way bad philosophy is worth studying to make you think. A few very good designs came out of that, probably the best of which is 'Dogs in the Vineyard', which is sort of a 'Rules Light' game and a good example of what you can do with one.

Ultimately, I think this 'hate' for complexity is similar to the hate of classes and hit points that you saw from certain sectors in the 80's, where champions of 'realism' would sneer at the design of D&D because it lacked 'realism' and classes and hit points were considered proof if D&D's inferior design. This sneering was in fact mostly honored only in the breech, in that most of the games out there people were actually playing still featured classes and hit points in some form or the other, if often disguised by different terminology. And certainly out in the world of computer games where complexity could be dealt with without the bookkeeping overhead that plagued it in table top games, designers were still most frequently reaching for hit points and classes to solve design problems. The realism movement had some influences on the larger design of games, but it never was the cure all solution some trumpeted it as.

The same is true of the ideas that were championed by the 'Indy' movement. Almost no one plays those games compared to very complex traditional games like 3.X and Pathfinder. The 'Indy' games have influenced design of popular games in various ways, and there has been a lot of buzzwords thrown around in a marketing sort of way but 'Rules Light' has some major issues.

One big problem a 'Rules Light' game has is simply financial. It's pretty much impossible to have a major 'Rules Light' success because most rules light games are supposed to have all the rules contained in a single usually short supplement. It's hard to make money off of that, and if your game is a success, then how do you capitalize on it? It's easy to capitalize on the success of a 'Rules Heavy' game simply by issuing more supplements and more subsystems but if you try to do that for a 'Rules Light' game then it very quickly becomes something other than 'Rules Light' (usually 'rules medium'). This is why I say somewhat tongue in cheek that, "There is no such thing as a successful Rules Light RPG". This evolution can I think be seen in various games run off the FUDGE engine, then later the FATE engine, then later various FATE + stuff extensions. The more successful the game the more complex it tends to be.

There are also a lot of 'Rules Light' games that are anything but. For example, the game Mouse Guard which you might nominally think of as a rules light game has something like 11 different factors that can modify an individual die roll, and that modification to the roll can happen in 3 different ways. The results are every bit as fiddly as D&D at its worst.

I have similar issues with a lot of Indy inspired ideas like 'story first', which I think if you examine its implementation, has to be the most misleading claim in RPG history in the sense that if you examine the process of play, most of the mechanics designed to implement that tend to put the rules first and the story second to an even greater extent than old school D&D play. They are implementing some interesting ideas, but maybe not the ones they think they are implementing. (I should probably write a long post on that since its been knocking around in my head ever since I made attempts to play Mouseguard.)

I wonder where this hate for complexity comes from? Was it always there? Have people grown up, gotten jobs and dont have time/interest to learn rules anymore? Do they feel rules are constricting or that the granularity complex rules add like characters being differently competent in different skills instead of having one modifier for everything doesn't add anything to the game?
So, there is one area where complexity is I think pretty much dead, but its not RPGs. Back in the day, there were simulation games like Star Fleet Battles and Car Wars which I played, that if you go back and read now are very much revealed to be pieces of computer software that run on a human brain. I think there is probably very little interest in games like that any more simply because you can achieve the same and even more engaging results by playing them out actually on a computer. The Hex tile war game at least at the level of complexity of some of the older monstrosities isn't completely dead, because grognards, but it doesn't hold nearly the place in nerddom that it once had. But RPGs are still somewhat immune to this because even something like Skyrim or Witcher III can't begin to hope to simulate a GM, and we are probably decades away (at least) from having computer RPGs that can generate content and simulate free and open interaction in the way a good GM can.

Complexity in RPGs is far from dead. 5e is somewhat more streamlined than 3e and requires somewhat less bloat than the 4e design, but it's hardly by any stretch a 'Rules Light' game. It's more organized in its layout than 1e, but its probably at least as complicated as 1e and more complicated than 2e D&D and it takes a lot of inspiration from the 3e and 4e designs. If you look at what people are actually playing, almost all of it is at minimum 'rules medium' and most of it is 'rules heavy'.

And I agree with Morrus's comment from earlier, that the thing a 'rules light' RPG does very well is a quick one shot. I don't believe that they well support long sustained play that is the hallmark of most tabletop RPGs very well if at all. The 'pretension' that I mentioned about the notion of 'rules light' is that the designers of rules light frequently think that they are offering up artisanal haute cuisine rules that obsolete all other offerings, when in fact what they are actually selling is 'fast food' rules. There is nothing at all wrong with 'fast food', and there are times when well made fast food is exactly what the situation calls for. It's just by no means is 'fast food' proof you are a better designer than someone writing heavier systems, and by no means do 'rules light' systems obsolete crunchier ones.
 
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Ratskinner

Adventurer
I'd agree with both [MENTION=20564]Blue[/MENTION] and [MENTION=1013]Flexor the Mighty![/MENTION]. I mean, when I was young, I got into game complexity a lot. But I think it was barking up the wrong tree from the goals of play for which I come to an rpg. I'm perfectly happy to play a complicated war or battle game like SFB, even. I think there's definitely a place for complicated rules for competitive environments. However, that's the long way around for a game that's trying to create an interesting story. (And not all gamers come to rpgs for that purpose, either.) And honestly, that's why I come to play an rpg.

I think, in a historical sense, a more fundamental problem is that traditional rules are not geared towards "story" at all, so much as they are geared toward a very loosely-drawn idea of "simulation" of a fantasy world.* So, this leads to "fudging" rolls and rules. I mean, you can't have the people who were prophesied to save the world in episode 1 get eaten by a randomly encountered Troll in episode 3....so, if I'm going to be fudging rolls, why have all these details in the first place?

That being said. A simple ruleset does not immediately engender a good story game. Most of the "rules light" games out there are just a stripped-down traditional rpg system with a bit of handwavium thrown in to make up for all the rules and lists of gear that they got rid of. Which, to be fair, IME is perfectly adequate to play a traditional rpg in the style I like. But it doesn't inherently position you for creating a good story. The PCs could still wander around aimlessly never closing plot loops, etc. I'm much more intriqued nowadays by games like Fiasco and Blades in the Dark, which cleanly focus on a particular type of story. And I wouldn't call Blades rules-light.

*and a very odd one at that, given some of the gamist premises of dungeon-crawling.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I would love a game that more accurately modeled medieval combat and weapons, and made combat full of mechanical options and choices...but every system like that I've tried was a chore to run and bogged down at the table. So I went back to an OD&D philosophy and system and things are fine.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I do agree that there is a strain of "complex = badwrongfun" which has been pervasive over the last few years. I wish it were easier for folks to accept that different people like different things, but I guess that's the nature of things.
 
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innerdude

Adventurer
In the 80's, design in RPGs was wide open and we barely had language to talk about the issues of design. There was a lot of good design and a lot of bad design, but one very common complaint about D&D is that the design was bad because it wasn't 'realistic', and there was a general sense in much of the community that many if not all of the problems tables encountered in a game was do to a lack of 'realism'. Various systems of Traveller and GURPS might also be worth looking at, and a trip into the world of GULLIVER (a modification of GURPS) would also be worthwhile. This led to a fetishization of realism as a goal of game design, which can be seen in extremely complex games of the period - HERO, and Rolemaster might be a very good examples, though the pain points in that complexity come up at different points. Since the goal of RPGs started out as basically 'Simulation of the World', the attributes of a system which were considered very admirable in a system were that it would be universal (able to simulate everything) and realistic (able to produce a simulation that produced intuitive or 'correct' results).
@Celebrim sums it up pretty well here, with the key idea being, why the need for complexity? What does the complexity actually positively accomplish either at or away from the game table?

Ostensibly the goal early on for creating more complex games was realism. The thought was that in order to more accurately "simulate" real-world processes and phenomena, you had to create rules systems that operated at a highly granular level.

The problem with doing this is that implementing that complexity at the table---making skill checks, running details combat scenarios---became so cumbersome that many players ended up rejecting the resulting play experience.

If "realism" really was the end-all, be-all to a quality RPG experience, then Rolemaster, GURPS, HERO, Runequest, etc., would have long ago gotten a much larger footprint into the TRPG "cultural identity," but they haven't.

What little experience I have with these types of systems is with GURPS, but I was always struck by the irony of the attitude many of the players had when I was in that particular group. They had this attitude that GURPS was the "One True Way," that anyone who didn't immediately recognize and embrace the awesomeness that was GURPS was essentially a moron. "It's so much more realistic," "You can literally do anything with it," "I don't get why ANYONE would still play D&D when GURPS is around; D&D is inferior in every way."

But after a few brief turns of popularity, 33 years after its release in 1986, GURPS is barely a niche player at this point. D&D, Pathfinder, Fate, Savage Worlds, Fantasy Flight Star Wars / Genesys are all objectively more popular and widely played based on sales numbers and play statistics on things like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds. I'd even argue that the combined OSR and Powered by the Apocalypse games are vastly more popular.

And why is that? Because for other than a microscopic fraction of the TRPG player base, the complexity of GURPS does not ultimately serve the purposes of play for participants.

So the question again is, why are you adding complexity? It's already been shown through decades of real-world experience that "complexity for the sake of realism" is a dead-end goal. So why else would you add complexity?

Are you wanting to just give players more options to muck about with away from the table? Because it's no denying that this was a huge draw for D&D 3.x / Pathfinder. But that again only plays into the needs of a small subset of gamers.

Are you, as @Celebrim noted, adding complexity because it makes a good marketing strategy? Because this was clearly the case with GURPS as well, where they literally have a supplement for every conceivable genre and historical period. And that's fine, but again, SOMEONE has to balance all that complexity against the costs for putting it to use in play.


(*Edit* As [MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION] mentions too, historically there was a strident section of RPG players at the time who firmly believed that adherence to realism as the ultimate goal would create dramatically better play experiences across the board. The reasoning being, most disagreements at the game table between players and GMs were around "how realistic" stuff should be, and that if GMs could just grasp "realism" better, that games would automatically improve in play. And we continue to see this impulse manifest itself, even now.)
 
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Zhaleskra

Explorer
I think at the core, the need for complexity is "Some players are nuts and bolts type people, others aren't". One True Wayism isn't limited to complexity as goal games, as evidenced by presenting an open game and immediately being asked "Is it d20 system?". 20 years ago, I was a One True Wayer for D&D.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
So the question again is, why are you adding complexity? It's already been shown through decades of real-world experience that "complexity for the sake of realism" is a dead-end goal. So why else would you add complexity?
Because I enjoy it.

Are you wanting to just give players more options to muck about with away from the table?
Absolutely! System mastery is its own fun for some. Tinkering is an enjoyable activity for many.

Because it's no denying that this was a huge draw for D&D 3.x / Pathfinder. But that again only plays into the needs of a small subset of gamers.
Well, I only need to worry about a small subset of gamers. Me and my friends!

(Or if I'm designing, as a small press publisher I don't need to sell millions of copies to make a living).
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I think a big reason why my group didn't grouse when I moved the system from more complex games ultimately Swords and Wizardry is that they don't mess with the game stuff outside game night for the most part, so the build tweaking loss wasn't a huge deal. Since 2k we went from 3.0>3.5>CC>1e+CC mashup>5e>S&W. And with 5e, well I was having to rework too much of it to make it even remotely challenging for my table that I said, screw this. Otherwise I'd probably still run it. I would just house rule the heck out of it, but why bother when S&W is doing what I want?
 

Gradine

Polymorphed Self
I have maybe two-and-a-half hours in which to play, every other week, with a group of up to seven players at a time.

We can get a heck of a lot more done in that time with a rules-light system than we can with something more complex.

The proliferation of rules-light games are a godsend for tables like mine. We wouldn't be able to play RPGs otherwise. They might not always have the longevity that a more complex RPG can bring to the table, but not every table needs that style of play anymore. 8-12 sessions can be a good length for a campaign.
 

Celebrim

Legend
[MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION] sums it up pretty well here, with the key idea being, why the need for complexity? What does the complexity actually positively accomplish either at or away from the game table?
That's an extraordinarily deep and useful question, and my way of answering it depends on me discussing what I think an RPG is, and what I think makes a good and successful RPG. My answers are radically different than the conventional ones The Forge offers, so bear with me.

So to begin with, I believe an RPG is a game of structured make believe story-telling that is composed of a collection of mini-games which simulate aspects of the genera of the story that is being told. An RPG is successful, if the different mini-games satisfy one or more of the potential aesthetics of play of the participants in a compelling way.

That may require some breakdown to fully get at what I'm saying, but from that definition we can I think immediately espy the utility of complexity. First, complexity is useful because more minigames means more different aesthetics of play that can be potentially satisfied by a game over the course of play, and the more different genera elements or conflicts we can resolve in a compelling way. Secondly, complexity is useful because it can add depth to those minigames, making them more compelling in terms of the opportunities the player will have for decision making, the emersion that the player will experience in the minigame, and the way that the minigame will act to both prompt and aid the imaginations of the participants. That is to say, by providing more structure and more details within a particular minigame, the more likely it is that the minigame can satisfy multiple aesthetics of play simultaneously.

Now I want to contrast this with two specific claims made by 'The Forge'. The first is that all correctly designed games only can satisfy at most one aesthetic of play (of which The Forge identified only three). And the second is that a system should be tightly designed as a single coherent game to satisfy that one aesthetic of play. These two claims lead one to think that the best possible RPG is one that is very simple and has a single unified system running through out it. But by contrast I'm suggesting that the best possible RPG is one that has disparate, non-unified but interacting subsystems that each work to accomplish different goals of play by the different participants in the game.

My idea here is that by catering to diverse experiences, not only are you attracting more different participants to the game, but you are preventing the participants from easily tiring of the ones perspective on play that a more tightly designed system would provide for. To go back to my earlier food analogy, a good rules light game might be something like 'Cane's Chicken Fingers', which offers a very limited menu selection of simply prepared convenient food. The problem with this approach is that while it satisfies your urge for fried chicken, when you assemble a crowd of people not only are you likely to have people that are tired of fried chicken or who are glutten intolerant, but you probably will not find a group that will want to go out for chicken fingers every week. Whereas a diner with a more diverse menu, might reasonably offer something for everyone and sufficient menu diversity that you do not easily tire of the food. There might be that one guy that likes cheeseburgers and always orders the cheeseburgers, but as long as the other participants in the party can order something else, everyone is happy.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So I wonder where this hate for complexity comes from?
"Hate" is a strong word. It suggests an emotional commitment that probably doesn't (or at least shouldn't) apply to a game mechanic.

Have people grown up, gotten jobs and dont have time/interest to learn rules anymore? Do they feel rules are constricting or that the granularity complex rules add like characters being differently competent in different skills instead of having one modifier for everything doesn't add anything to the game?
It isn't about *learning* the rules. It is about *using* the rules. When I was a kid, my free time was bountiful, and my life experience limited. I would spend tons of time on just about anything. Weekends and summers were long stretches of freedom to do whatever I pleased, a lot of which was gaming sessions, 8 hour stretches, twice a weekend, and multiple days a week in the summer...

Today, that just can't happen. Free time is limited, and to have the most full life, one must prioritize for the greatest joys. So, I have to ask myself, is *USING* the rules at least in the running to be the most fun part of the game? Do I (and more importantly my players) get a kick and have fun in the act of working the mechanics? The act of counting up the fiddly bits, looking up details, is that a thing we smile when we do?

If not, then the rules need to get out of the way for the things that are in the running. With my main group, I have a three hour session every other week. I *do not have time* for things in there that are a drag.
 

Jer

Adventurer
So I wonder where this hate for complexity comes from? Was it always there? Have people grown up, gotten jobs and dont have time/interest to learn rules anymore? Do they feel rules are constricting or that the granularity complex rules add like characters being differently competent in different skills instead of having one modifier for everything doesn't add anything to the game?
Speaking for myself - I teach a lot of novices how to play. And I play with a lot of casual gamers. So in my role as an RPG evangelist to complete noobs and people who won't remember the rules from week to week, having rules systems that are "just complex enough" is important. Too much complexity they get overwhelmed and it becomes "not fun". Too rules-lite and there isn't enough of a game for them to hang onto. As more companies are kind of thinking about bringing new players into the market - rather than just cannibalizing existing players to come play their game - I think they're keeping issues like that more at the fore than they might have a decade or so ago.

Another angle is that a lot of folks are coming into the game via actual play pod/vid casts. And in general the shows that have more narrative and less rules talk are more engaging for the audience. So there's been more exposure for games that play well for audiences, and that's driving the conversation in ways that it never would have been driven previously when the idea of people actually tuning in to watch a bunch of nerds sit around a table and play D&D would have been the punchline to a joke and not something that happens on a daily basis. (I still can't quite believe that it happens, tbh.)

And also - I think that it's hard to sell people on a new complex game these days. Because there are existing games out there that they're already playing, and learning a new complex rules set is more of a time cost than learning to play a lighter game. It's a big ask.
 

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