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kpmcdona

New RQ - Designer Notes Part Two

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I'm not so sure about this bit:

"The RuneQuest percentage skills character sheet elegantly serves non-combat roleplaying through these two important design rules:

  • RPG Design Rule a: "If it's not in the rules, it's not in the gameplay." [ie, player knows it's not an important thing to think about]
  • RPG Design Rule b: "If, in a scenario crisis, a player can't find problem-solving tools on their character sheet, they won't look elsewhere for them." [ie, When players are flummoxed, they look to their character sheets for inspiration. And they won't be inspired to use any tool they don't find there.]"

That sounds like the 'design philosophy' behind Pathfinder.

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"Design Rule a" sounds particularly interesting to me having just read a bunch of OSR discussion about how players should not really consider the rules at all when coming up with ways to solve problems. Basically, come up with the solution first and then figure out how to resolve it using the rules.

I am not sure that we are reading it the way that Jeff intended, though. I think he is going somewhere more general -  the character sheet tells you what the game is about. If there is lots of detail about fighting on it then it is reasonable to assume the game is about fighting. If 'Philosophy of Mind' is not on the character sheet, then the game is probably not about exploring the mysteries of consciousness. :) 

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4 hours ago, kpmcdona said:

"Design Rule a" sounds particularly interesting to me having just read a bunch of OSR discussion about how players should not really consider the rules at all when coming up with ways to solve problems. Basically, come up with the solution first and then figure out how to resolve it using the rules.

That's something I really appreciate about the OSR games... there is no attempt to have a 'rule for everything' and to instead rely on the imaginative space... and have the GM make a ruling if necessary.

This seems to point the opposite direction and it's not a direction I want to go.

4 hours ago, kpmcdona said:

I am not sure that we are reading it the way that Jeff intended, though. I think he is going somewhere more general -  the character sheet tells you what the game is about. If there is lots of detail about fighting on it then it is reasonable to assume the game is about fighting. If 'Philosophy of Mind' is not on the character sheet, then the game is probably not about exploring the mysteries of consciousness. :) 


I've never gotten along with the idea that just because the most detailed rules in a rulebook (or on a character sheet) are about combat that that means the game is ABOUT combat. It's just a part of the game that requires detailed rules... whereas discussions of the 'Philosophy of the Mind' might not... we could just talk that out, in character... but would rather not go at each other wielding steak knives to depict a street fight.

When I first sat down to play Magic World with some kids I know I didn't put character sheets in front of them, because I thought it would free them up to ignore the rules and behave as their characters. Later on, as they learned the rules I introduced the sheets. All seemed to go quite well and they're still playing.

Edited by Simlasa

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4 hours ago, kpmcdona said:

"Design Rule a" sounds particularly interesting to me having just read a bunch of OSR discussion about how players should not really consider the rules at all when coming up with ways to solve problems. Basically, come up with the solution first and then figure out how to resolve it using the rules.

I am not sure that we are reading it the way that Jeff intended, though. I think he is going somewhere more general -  the character sheet tells you what the game is about. If there is lots of detail about fighting on it then it is reasonable to assume the game is about fighting. If 'Philosophy of Mind' is not on the character sheet, then the game is probably not about exploring the mysteries of consciousness. :) 

I dare say it might even be more basic than that, for both DRa and DRb. 

The phenomena of book flipping slows a game down and can pull people out of immersion. It is a common issue with modern D&D unless you have an eidetic memory. So this may talking about having fewer charts, fewer reasons to go back to the rule book. This could increase the pace of play, which is an issue for some. It could also be speaking to a simplicity of design. That there are no hidden equations waiting for you or that you need to remember or even dig for. I do not know how feasible that is given the granularity of RQ, but it does not seem to be an impossible task.

It is also pretty old school, which seems to be the direction they are headed. 

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"If it's not in the rules, it's not in the gameplay" sounds a bit ominous, but I hope they mean the game part of RQ.  For example, take the Apocalypse World games.  They have four page character sheets -- most of it explanatory text -- and a highly structured idea of Moves as points where the game rules cut in.  There's one possible reading in which only Moves matter, and everything in the game reduces to Moves.  However, Monster of the Week emphasizes an opposite reading: players describe what they want to do, and the GM decides whether its a Move requiring dice and formal procedures or a narrative action that just happens.

I think Jeff Richard is, a bit clumsily, reiterating the design philosophy of the RuneQuest family of games: everything you need to know is on your character sheet.  The character sheet doesn't constrain what you can do, but when the GM calls for a die roll or some other rules-related check the answer is right in front of you ... not buried in the rule book somewhere (*cough*attacks of opportunity*cough*, *cough*grappling*cough*).

Also, regarding this:

35 minutes ago, Simlasa said:

I've never gotten along with the idea that just because the most detailed rules in a rulebook (or on a character sheet) are about combat that that means the game is ABOUT combat.

That's true up to a point, but there are a few games, notably the fourth edition of a well known one, where the imbalance between combat and everything else, and the stark separation between "combat mode" and "role-playing mode", was so great one could argue that it really was a game about combat, with the storytelling parts either hand-waved entirely or presented in an overly simplistic win-or-lose dice rolling contest.

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42 minutes ago, fmitchell said:

That's true up to a point, but there are a few games, notably the fourth edition of a well known one, where the imbalance between combat and everything else, and the stark separation between "combat mode" and "role-playing mode", was so great one could argue that it really was a game about combat, with the storytelling parts either hand-waved entirely or presented in an overly simplistic win-or-lose dice rolling contest.

Yeah, I experienced that one first-hand. Playing with a group where it came across as a skirmish miniatures wargame... and another group where it played the same as any other version of THAT game (we didn't even use minis). As usual, the people at the table had more influence on play than the system being used.

I just mean that there are some things that really do require some detailed rules be in place and others that don't. I suppose there are SOME people who will read a rulebook and assume that, since there is no 'speak with barmaid' skill, they should not attempt to speak with the barmaid... but hey! there are rules for swords... let's hit her with a sword! (I know it's not a trendy opinion, but I don't want/need rules to speak with the barmaid).

Edited by Simlasa
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8 hours ago, Simlasa said:

I'm not so sure about this bit:

"The RuneQuest percentage skills character sheet elegantly serves non-combat roleplaying through these two important design rules:

  • RPG Design Rule a: "If it's not in the rules, it's not in the gameplay." [ie, player knows it's not an important thing to think about]
  • RPG Design Rule b: "If, in a scenario crisis, a player can't find problem-solving tools on their character sheet, they won't look elsewhere for them." [ie, When players are flummoxed, they look to their character sheets for inspiration. And they won't be inspired to use any tool they don't find there.]"

That sounds like the 'design philosophy' behind Pathfinder.

 

That got a worried reaction from me as well. However, the next paragraph after your quote makes me think that what they mean is that everything the player needs is right there on the sheet. At least that is what I am hoping.

 

5 hours ago, kpmcdona said:

"Design Rule a" sounds particularly interesting to me having just read a bunch of OSR discussion about how players should not really consider the rules at all when coming up with ways to solve problems. Basically, come up with the solution first and then figure out how to resolve it using the rules.

I am not sure that we are reading it the way that Jeff intended, though. I think he is going somewhere more general -  the character sheet tells you what the game is about. If there is lots of detail about fighting on it then it is reasonable to assume the game is about fighting. If 'Philosophy of Mind' is not on the character sheet, then the game is probably not about exploring the mysteries of consciousness. :) 

That's similar to what I am thinking, but you are seeing it as little more thematic, while I am thinking more of practical actions the players make. 

1 hour ago, Simlasa said:

I've never gotten along with the idea that just because the most detailed rules in a rulebook (or on a character sheet) are about combat that that means the game is ABOUT combat.

I'm with you there. Rules should take up as much page count as it takes to adequately cover them. <i>Call of Cthulhu</i> spends more time on combat than social interaction rules. Anyone that has played knows you spend a lot more time talking to people than fighting them, yet combat social interaction have exactly as much space dedicated to them is an needed. It would be harmful to bloat the social interaction rules or to pare back the combat ruler to meet a quota based on time spent on each activity in play. Combat would become abstract and vague while detailed social rules would choke out a lot of the roleplaying. 

To give another classic game example. Traveller usually dedicates a solid amount of space to ship design. Nobody expects you are going to spend an equivalent amount of space on designing ships every session. It's just that on those occasions when they are needed, the kind of people that design ships want some meaty rules for them. 

It is important to make sure that rules are present for things that are important to the game. It's also good to look at your game and ask if you need to throw out some rules that have very little to do with the subject matter. Obsessing on the exact page count of these rules is less helpful. 

Yeah, this has nothing to do with the topic of the thread. I just have a need to stomp on this idea any time I see it. 

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31 minutes ago, Simlasa said:

I just mean that there are some things that really do require some detailed rules be in place and others that don't. I suppose there are SOME people who will read a rulebook and assume that, since there is no 'speak with barmaid' skill, they should not attempt to speak with the barmaid... but hey! there are rules for swords... let's hit her with a sword! (I know it's not a trendy opinion, but I don't want/need rules to speak with the barmaid).

But they are same rules or they should be. You can parry a social attack, dodge it, or it can get through and wear you down. So you do not really need rules for speakin with the barmaid as long as the system supports it organically. Some people are just not good at Medieval improv and need the dice to help them along. I am not sure there is a right or better answer though. 

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14 minutes ago, ReignDragonSMH said:

But they are same rules or they should be. You can parry a social attack, dodge it, or it can get through and wear you down. So you do not really need rules for speakin with the barmaid as long as the system supports it organically. Some people are just not good at Medieval improv and need the dice to help them along. I am not sure there is a right or better answer though. 

In my opinion, first and foremost, for social situations you HAVE to talk it out. It's undesireable, to me, to reduce all interactions to a series of dice rolls, that's some other sort of game. Somewhere in there someone can make a roll against APP or an applicable skill (really, if your APP and/or skill is high there might be no need to roll), but if you're there to roleplay then play the role. We are able to talk to each other, in character, that can happen at the table. A sword fight cannot. So I really don't see social situations requiring the same sort of rules detail.

Edited by Simlasa
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1 minute ago, ReignDragonSMH said:

But they are same rules or they should be. You can parry a social attack, dodge it, or it can get through and wear you down. So you do not really need rules for speakin with the barmaid as long as the system supports it organically. Some people are just not good at Medieval improv and need the dice to help them along. I am not sure there is a right or better answer though. 

I'm always a little wary of getting into "social combat". I'm cool with Fast Talk roll and whatnot, but once you get into social attacks, parry and hit points, it often veers into abstraction. The problem for me is that if the player can add detail to those rolls to make it interesting, they can probably do even better just roleplaying the scene. Also, that player who isn't comfortable with improv will be happy to blow through the social scene with a quick skill roll. 

Way back when I was in high school, one of my best friends absolutely hated to get into roleplaying dialogue. He was just very self-conscious about it. He wasn't actually a bad roleplayer. His characters had reasonable motivations and acted upon them. We quickly hit on the magic of third person. 

He would never give actual dialogue, but instead wold narrate what his character was asking the NPC about. It didn't even really drag down the game. It would be like a scene in a Hammett book where the detective simply narrates what that he got information from the tobacconist rather than writing the dialogue out. The third person trick has been useful with shy gamers ever since. 

And once again, I have drifted away from the topic of the thread. This is why I shouldn't come here right after the bar. 

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2 minutes ago, Simlasa said:

We are able to talk to each other, in character, that can happen at the table. A sword fight cannot

That is a fair point, the RP should not be lost or mitigated because of rules. OTOH I also don't believe players should be punished because they personally have poor interactive skills. Some kind of balance seems to be just good game design in my head. Even if its just two paragraphs about the subject.

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5 minutes ago, ReignDragonSMH said:

That is a fair point, the RP should not be lost or mitigated because of rules. OTOH I also don't believe players should be punished because they personally have poor interactive skills. Some kind of balance seems to be just good game design in my head. Even if its just two paragraphs about the subject.

No, I don't want to punish anyone... but I kindasorta expect people to take part, best they're able. I'm not expecting any great oratory... just make an argument/statement/seductive invitation, in character AND, if applicable and interesting, roll against some stat. What I'm against is turning a visit to the queen into some long complex mechanical sequence where everyone focuses more on their character sheets than the free-form verbal expression of their characters.

Edited by Simlasa
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3 minutes ago, Baulderstone said:

I'm always a little wary of getting into "social combat"

Yeah, I admit it was an extreme example. Some designs I am working on encourage going into rounds for social stuff if its getting too chaotic. But actual social combat would only work in a game where it was of prime importance.  If everything is a roll we may as well be playing Advanced Squad Leader: Glorantha. 

 

And the bar is the best time to come to forums :)

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I wish I could take credit for those two Design Rules, but they came straight from the Oracle that is Uncle Ken. I think there's a bit of overthinking going on here - these rules come from Ken's observations over 40 years of tabletop and computer game design. They are rules of player behavior that need to be design rules - because whatever your rules say, this is what your players will do with them.

If there is something that you as a designer thinks is important for gameplay put it on the character sheet somehow. If it isn't there, most players won't use it. RuneQuest has traditionally been very well-designed in this regard. If you need to know how to handle a situation, you look down the character sheet until you find an applicable skill. If you don't find an applicable skill, you are hosed. If you want to hit or parry with a weapon, you look at the character sheet until you find the relevant entry, which also tells you the damage it causes and how much damage it blocks. And so on.

If you introduce social skills, like passions, or want to have Runes be in play, then put it on the character sheet. If community is important, make sure that is on the character as more than just a "of Apple Lane" entry. Give it a number, a tool, a hook. Then players will do something with it.

Now this all real basic stuff, but Ken, Chris, and I all find it very useful to always keep in mind at the beginning of the process. What is going to be the "tool" that the players have in front of them? How are they going to know that something is significant? Make sure you know your result (ie what the heck are you trying to do?) before you start making rules and mechanics. And then think about how it gets expressed to the player in the single most important tool they have - the character sheet.

Jeff

 

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12 hours ago, Simlasa said:

RPG Design Rule a: "If it's not in the rules, it's not in the gameplay." [ie, player knows it's not an important thing to think about]

  • RPG Design Rule b: "If, in a scenario crisis, a player can't find problem-solving tools on their character sheet, they won't look elsewhere for them." [ie, When players are flummoxed, they look to their character sheets for inspiration. And they won't be inspired to use any tool they don't find there.]"

That sounds like the 'design philosophy' behind Pathfinder.

Well, Pathfinder is a solid game! But I doubt they want the new RQ to be that complex. And those design principles don't seem to me very Pathfindery.

When you play PF players and GMs are supposed to know a lot of complex rules that are NOT guessable from  the character sheet AND there is not much in Pathfinder rules that helps you figure out the place of your character in the game world or support immersive role-play. There are some well done "flavor" rules but a lot of rules are mechanical stuff to play the minigame of character optimization.

 

 

  

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3 hours ago, Jeff said:

 

If there is something that you as a designer thinks is important for gameplay put it on the character sheet somehow.

This. I wholeheartedly agree. 

One thing I have never understood about the OSR thing is the worship of badly designed character sheets. RuneQuest was a breakthrough game in that respect.

In my view this goes together with a monster design principle on the GM's side: If a monster can do something, put it in the monster stat block! Pathfinder is very stressful for the GM because you have to look up dozens of spells and little rules to run the critters. In contrast, D&D4 monsters were very well designed in view of the limited goals of a combat-heavy tactical rpg.  You don't have to look up anything outside the stat block.

Admittedly, RuneQuest was the first game were monsters were built like characters and were wholly customizable - something tha was later embraced by D&D3 and then Pathfinder. It will be nice not to loose this specificity of RQ. But a compromise is possible: monster write-ups could contain short improvisation notes for the narrator about 1-2 typical things that a typical individual will do, without any need of looking up spells. That is especially useful for sandbox games and improvisation.

Edited by smiorgan

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38 minutes ago, smiorgan said:

Well, Pathfinder is a solid game! But I doubt they want the new RQ to be that complex. And those design principles don't seem to me very Pathfindery.

I wasn't intending to insult Pathfinder (I play it every week) but it does seem to have a notion of needing a rule to cover most any game eventuality and put it on the CS... which then becomes a menu of what you can do (and often creates a mindset that if it's not on the CS then it's not an option).

Some folks might find that comfortable but it's not my taste. I generally lean toward the OSR 'rulings not rules' thing, which is fairly simple with an intuitive system like BRP.

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Actually RQ already does this through the skill system. If you want to do something, you look for an ability that covers it (or default to a raw characteristic). Where the skill is complex (like melee combat or Demoralizing someone), you require additional rules to handle the complexity, but in most circumstances, the ability description more or less covers it. Additionally complexity concerning resources or ability improvement also gets rules coverage (do I get Rune spells back? When do I get magic points/temporary POW back? etc). Important game concepts (what is a cult and why do I care about it?) gets rule coverage.

I think we are in agreement, just approaching it from opposite ends.  

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6 hours ago, Jeff said:

If you need to know how to handle a situation, you look down the character sheet until you find an applicable skill. If you don't find an applicable skill, you are hosed.

That is exactly what I dislike about the Design Rules from the post.  I don't want my players to look at their character sheet and say, "Hmm...  Which of these buttons can I press now?"  I want them to look inside and say, "Hmm...  If I were my character in this situation, what would I do?"  It looks to me like what you (and the post) are describing is what The Cool Kids are calling "mechanics-first" gaming these days, while I favor what they call "fiction-first".  "Find a mechanic to use, then describe an action to rationalize it" vs. "describe what you want to do, then figure out what (if any) mechanic applies".

And, yes, I'm one of those dirty hippie GMs whose players don't always have character sheets at all and aren't required to learn the game's rules.  I prefer that they think in terms of game mechanics as little as possible during play.

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4 hours ago, Simlasa said:

I wasn't intending to insult Pathfinder (I play it every week) but it does seem to have a notion of needing a rule to cover most any game eventuality and put it on the CS... which then becomes a menu of what you can do (and often creates a mindset that if it's not on the CS then it's not an option).

I've never actually played Pathfinder, but I have run and played it's near identical cousin D&D 3. I found that mentality was largely created by Feat proliferation. It wasn't too bad when just the core books existed, but as more books and more issues of Dragon came out actions you had a lot actions Feats that described them. While D&D 3 added actual skill, which seemed a step in the direction of having more freedom, the Feats hemmed in what you could do with skills. 

On top of that, D&D 3 had much more limited character growth. You were only going to get one Feat every third level, and there were only 20 levels. The accelerated growth in 3E also meant that you would hit that 20 level wall in two years or less if you played once a week. Too make it worse, there was the whole thing with Prestige Classes, which pushed you into deciding your future Feats during character generation to meet their prerequisites rather than letting your character be shaped by their experiences during play. 

I can still remember making my first 3E character and hitting the sad realization that I knew every step of development my character would take over his career. 

Compare that to RuneQuest, where you may lack a skill to perform an action, but if you can find a bag of treasure and trainer, you can pick up a new skill in a new field without it limiting you in your other endeavors. 

While I am not the biggest fan of using your character sheet as a menu to decide what to do, at least in RuneQuest, the menu options are a lot looser, and you are a lot less constrained in what you can add to the menu. 

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9 hours ago, ReignDragonSMH said:

Yeah, I admit it was an extreme example. Some designs I am working on encourage going into rounds for social stuff if its getting too chaotic. But actual social combat would only work in a game where it was of prime importance.  If everything is a roll we may as well be playing Advanced Squad Leader: Glorantha. 

Just to add to my thoughts, I think there are places where more detailed social rules can be helpful. Maybe the PCs have two weeks to sway a council election. A PC might be trying subtly drop a slanderous rumor about the Princess into conversations with as many people at the Ball as they can. These are situations where actually playing out every step in real time could get redundant and boring. 

In these cases, the detailed rules are saving time rather than slowing things down. Canvassing a whole neighborhood over the course of a day would feel shallow if you put it down to a single roll, but you certainly don't want roll for every door they knock on, or worse, play a conversation with everyone in the neighborhood. 

I like social combat better on a macro scale rather than on a personal scale. 

I'm also a big fan of Robin Laws DramaSystem from the game Hillfolk. The mechanics in that exist to really set up the roleplaying, then almost entirely drop away while you are playing a scene. However, it is far from the system for people who need a die roll to make up for not being comfortable playing people with high social skills. 

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All I know is, I have a lot of players who have a great time roleplaying and make memorable characters, but there is inevitably a time when they haven't the slightest clue what to say and fall flat on their faces, whereas their silk tongued trickster, polished politician, barbarian warlord, whatever, wouldn't be having such difficulties and so I just make them roll for it and keep the game moving.

And we've all encountered that situation I'm sure.

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