RPPR Episode 102: Rules Fetish

News: The No Soul Left Behind Kickstarter is HERE. Buy Caleb’s book! The Morph Recognition Guide is out, featuring some of my material from Transhuman. We’re coming to Gencon and we’ll our RPPR meetup on Thursday night. Details here. Raillery is still putting out silly Payday 2 videos (mostly).

Synopsis: Tom was on vacation, so Caleb and I got together to record an episode. This time, we talk about the complexity of rules in RPGs, specifically at the point where they are too cumbersome to improve the quality of the game. Do we really need vehicle collision rules or grenade scatter tables? Of course, Phoenix Command, Synnibarr, and other…interesting games are discussed as well. We also have shout outs and an anecdote!

Shout Outs

  • Sword and Mythos: An excellent sword and sorcery and Cthulhu Mythos anthology
  • Mice and Mystics:A co-op adventure board game about mice trying to save the king from a mystic evil.
  • Pervert’s Guide to Ideology: Zizek discusses Marxism and critiques pop culture from a leftist perspective. On Netflix! Then go to the gym.
  • Year Walk: A creepy and fascinating iOS and PC adventure game based on Scandinavian folklore.
  • Delta Green: Tales from Failed Anatomies: An anthology of stories written by Dennis Detwiller set in the Delta Green setting. Highly recommended!
  • Many Wars Ago: World War 1 was fucked. In Italy, it was more fucked than in other countries. Watch this movie to see why and then be depressed.
  • The Rover: The apocalypse is bad, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to steal Guy Pierce’s car.

Music: Future Club by Perturbator

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  1. Oh wow, yeah it’s also on Amazon for like 30 bucks or so: http://www.amazon.com/Bullwinkle-Rocky-Role-Playing-Party/dp/B000JKOS2C

    Also to help back the shopping fetish in games, my live group has a tradition with my campaigns where character creation is one part setting up the skills and stats, and like 2 hours of it shopping… they get all there stuff before even thinking up a name for there character.

  2. Speaking of economics in video games, there is some economics in mount and blade warband. I used to keep price notes. But a fun game you can build a massive fortune if you ignore the fighting.

  3. The car crash example got me thinking about an example from my current game.
    In Wild Talents, a character was hit by a car. The game ground to a halt, as I scrambled to look up the rules for car specific impacts. It took maybe 5 or 10 minutes (including distractions). The result was appropriately cinematic and awesome enough to make up for the delay.
    I freely admit my bias (coming from a background in Palladium games), but I think the result justifies delays in most cases. There is a strong case of diminishing returns though.

  4. FYI, as best as I know, the correct pronunciation of Zizek’s name I’ve heard is something like “Slavoy” (rhymes with Savoy) Zhizhek, with the “Zh” sounds pronounced like the J in the French name Jean.
    Or, actually, you can hear it on his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavoj_%C5%BDi%C5%BEek

    And cool shout out to him!

  5. I loved this episode because it touches on one of my favorite topics in thinking about gaming.

    Ross mentioned RPG’s wargames roots in the episode. Besides RPG’s, I play a lot of miniatures and cardboard-and-counter wargames. I noticed, within wargaming, there is the same push-back against minutiae-as-simulation. There is a school of thought that “realism” is not as important as playability. There are also designers who see the obsession with minutiae (water consumption via boiling pasta) as actually moving away from the goal of simulation.

    For example, there were (and still are) miniature wargames rules in the style of Phoenix Command where there is a huge obsession with weapons. However, a company called Ambush Alley Games which published a set of rules called Force on Force that ignores all the individual qualities of small arms (rifles, machine guns, etc.) They claim that, in consulting with combat veterans, they found that the differences among different types of firearms to be a non-factor in combat when compared to the degree of training and experience of their users.

    So, in case it is any comfort, even many wargamers see this obsession with rules minutiae as a road to the great un-fun.

  6. Yeah, when you do the next run of Base Raiders the character creation survival guide has to go in the book itself.

  7. No Soul Left Behind: My body… My body and wallet are ready.

    Oh. Masks of Nyarlathotep is going to be in Trail of Cthulhu…? :\ I’m sure it will still be fun. 😉

  8. I was so thrilled to hear the lethal chloroform in A Very Thorough Murder and about it coming up in Final Revelation! it’s one thing if PCs have an incapacitating superpower, but a lot of real-life drama has unfolded because it’s basically impossible to render people unconscious without risking permanent harm, and it seems like it’s somewhat detracting from the richness of a narrative to do away with that in the same way shrugging off bullets would.

    I can actually understand having “practical numbers” laid out for an EP station–not because I’d ever actually use them in -play,- but just because space settings, particularly of the realistic/hard scifi kind, are so weird and unlike anything any of us have ever really seen that having an anchored point of reference to share seems useful. “oh, so it takes a whole half hour to get from point A to point B because of microgravity and congested hallways, but only five minutes to get from B to C even though it’s more distant because they have a freefall slingshot?” kinda thing. one of my minor problems with EP is that I often have trouble visualizing exactly what specific habs are actually like, or imagining what life on those habs is like. probably because I’ve only read the corebook, and not even that cover to cover.

    I was backer number thrEeeEee on No Soul, I’ll pry hafta up my donation at some point, $15 seems absurdly low for, what, 40-50 hours of radio magic handed out for free and a book into the bargain?

  9. Great discussion. I particularly enjoyed the parts about capitalism/consumerism and the meta-gaming fetish. I think it may have been Caleb that posed a question on Twitter a short time ago asking what an “indie” game actually is. Maybe an “indie” game rejects the meta-engine of capitalist behavior? Where are our academics!? This can be a book, dammit! A master’s thesis!? A DISSERTATION! PUBLISH OR PERISH, SUCKA’S!

    As far as games that suffer from a rules fetish, I think the latest versions of Shadowrun definitely suffer from this. The base mechanics are still okay, so I know how to roll dice in the game. . . but I have absolutely NO IDEA how to play the game anymore. NONE. Firing a stupid gun is an exercise in the order of operations (F.O.I.L THIS, CHUMMER). Not only are there rules for EVERYTHING, but the amount of options DEMANDED to create your character is absurd. I tried to play in a campaign recently as a “face” character, but I honestly was not sure what to make of my character when I was done. Just take a look at a character sheet . . there is WAY too much information on it. 🙁 As a GM, there is absolutely no way I would be able to even keep track of the characters without a crazy excel program or an app that keeps track of this information for me. I wouldn’t even try. It’s a shame too, because the book itself is beautifully done, and the work on the fiction and world-building is top notch.

    But the game sux. And I used to really enjoy Shadowrun when I was an awkward, youth role-player. 🙁

    I will just take this moment to pimp my friend Lester Smith’s newest game system, the d6xd6 CORE RPG (www.corerpg.com). It definitely does not suffer from rules fetish. Nor does it suffer from some of the issues of Fate Accelerated and Fate Core (i.e. it CAN do horror remarkably quite well). Numenera is also really good at being rules-trim (not light), even though it uses a D20 (but it is NOT a D20 system. . .if that makes sense).

  10. Also, Zizek is pronounced “Zhoo-Zhek,” according to an old professor of mine that met him. Knowing Zizek, he was probably lying.

    Mice & Mystics is a GREAT game. Glad to see it get a shout-out.

  11. Author

    Ah, thanks. Innsmouth Free Press changed their website. I updated the link.

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