Thursday, February 28, 2013

What do people who love the game, hate about that game?

One thing I find interesting is what people dislike about the games they like.

It's usually very different than the common wisdom of what's wrong with the game.

Rolemaster is my best example of this. One of my friends goofs on it sometimes, knowing I played it. He calls it "chartmaster." "Hold on, there is a table for that." "I could do that, but I need to look it up on a table."

But in my experience people who play Rolemaster don't bitch about rolling on the critical hit tables. They don't groan about how un-fun having a special table for your weapon is. They don't moan about figuring out what -60% and lose both legs means. That's where the fun is. Rolling on the critical hit table was even better than finding out what was in that treasure chest the monster was guarding.

When we bitched about Rolemaster, it was having to do some of the chargen. It was being unable to get healed up after your first fight and then needing a new PC right away. It was about taking a long, long time to generate NPCs level by level. We didn't like the whole "roll to see if you learn spells." As much as the game was fun, the whole class-and-level-and-point-buy aspect was really time consuming. We liked the game, but not that aspect. The few times I attempted to re-start playing the game after we'd quit all halted during the process of trying to re-write chargen so it was a little easier and more balanced . . . not because of the tables.


It's a lot more interesting to me to know what the people who love the game hated about it. Sometimes what looks terrible on paper plays well and is a source of the fun. It's more instructive to know what doesn't work for the people who actually like the rest of the system.

So what game system do you love, and what's the part about it that sucks (contrary to the common wisdom), or what is said to suck about your game system of choice that actually doesn't (contrary to common wisdom)?

17 comments:

  1. Hate is a pretty strong word, but as a GURPS player, there are certain things that annoy me. GURPS Character Assistant is the big one. It's slow, crash-prone, and not particularly easy to use even when it's running right.

    Other things follow from the system's strengths: the genericness means that there's no standard setting, which means there's no common touchstone of experience for players. Because there are scores of skills, some of them are redundant. Because there are so many books, remembering where to find something can be difficult.

    Oh, but there is one thing I really do hate: the art. I hate, hate, hate the cheap, boring art Steve Jackson Games uses for GURPS. Always have. And I hate the practice of taking all the interior art and making a collage of it for the front cover. It's jarring to me that GURPS books are so well written and laid out, and yet the art comes across as barely even trying.

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    1. Said to suck about GURPS, but doesn't: that it's too math-heavy.

      I hear that all the time (more about Hero, but also GURPS) and in both cases it's just not what really drives actual players to distraction at all. We're all of us relatively good with arithmetic, and have calculators if we aren't all that hot at it. Once the characters are built, the amount of math you do above "twelve plus two, but minus another five..." is very limited indeed.

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    2. I wonder whether that's a way of breaking down games - "stuff you do before the game" vs "stuff you do during the game". GURPS3 vehicle design, which even I will admit asks for more mathematical competence than most games want to muster, doesn't make for a maths-heavy game; it just demands that at least one of the players/GM be up to the job beforehand.

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    3. One thing I don't like about GURPS that comes from its strengths is that it is so detailed and character oriented that large group play is nearly impossible. There's no easy way to handle 5 PCs, each a knight with a squire and a page and a 3 member lance. The GM's brain just shuts down when dealing with 5 PCs and 25 NPCs, even if most of the NPCs have the same stats.

      (Whereas something like Savage Worlds that is designed to handle entourages can handle a battle between 5 PCs and their 25 minions facing off against 100 zombies or nazis or whatever. But Savage Worlds has other things I dislike about it.)

      Oh, and GURPS Magic. I don't like the implementation of the standard magic system. It hasn't meaningfully changed since GURPS Fantasy (1st edition) and it hasn't been good since then, either.

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    4. GURPS really does heavily front-load things. Once you're playing it isn't terribly complex at all, and it's easy to simplify - all you have to do is NOT choose to turn all the options on, and actually follow the simplified versions of the rules that exist in Basic Set.

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  2. Yes, Rolemaster's levels really felt like a vermiform appendix - they weren't all that relevant to the game, but they came into things just enough to be tricky to split out. When I played a lot, we dumped the random spell acquisition - we house-ruled that you paid points up to what the rules said was (I think) a 50% chance of acqusition, and then automatically got the list block.

    These days GURPS is my main system. Most people seem to think of it as "too complex", and I think that's because much of the complexity is front-loaded into character generation; I run it frequently at conventions (as a Man in Black), and I've never had players who were overpowered by basic skill and damage rolls.

    On the other hand, the thing that always slows me down is grappling. Peter, Doug, you're welcome to laugh at me now, but the moment somebody grabs somebody else I let out a small groan and try to remember a chunk of rules that just never seems to stick in my memory for some reason. Same with damage modifiers for unexpected types of attack against unliving, diffuse, etc. I really need to put a grappling flowchart together - I've already done a big table for damage types.

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    1. Oh, yeah, the grappling rules. They're not a good fit to the rest of the combat system and they're too complex for the amount of detail they offer. In my game, I switched to using the alternate grappling rules from Pyramid 3/34. They're much more comprehensive and use a unified mechanic, but still they are not quite what I'm looking for. We'll see what Technical Grappling brings.

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    2. Hopefully people will like the new rules - because mostly, you'll say "Oh! I've seen THAT before." Sure, there are some tricks, such as what you do with the score that quantifies the quality of the grapple, but by and large, I've tried to rationalize the mechanics to make it more like regular GURPS.

      Ken's article is quite good as well - he rationalizes the mechanics the other way, with most everything being a Contest. He was my lead playtester, and he made his presence felt in the final draft.

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    3. This "quality of the grapple" score...did you abbreviate it as GQ? Because that would amuse me.

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    4. Heh. We did not use GQ, but I might have if it had been suggested at the time.

      We used CP.

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    5. Grappling can be kind of annoying, yes, although it never makes the list by non-GURPS fans.

      As for the Rolemaster levels, yeah, it's annoying. You need them, but mostly they set limits on your skills and give you bonuses that make the skills you chose less important in the long run. It was a pleasure to switch to GURPS. But I always loved how it put skill, strength, and defenses all into a single roll - so a strong guy could power down your defenses, or a skilled guy bypass them. It only got hairy when players would (in my games routinely) put everything into attack and hope they'd win before the bad guy's turn.

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  3. Does the game company count?

    Because there are a couple games put out by Mongoose Publishing that I really like - their take on Runeqeust (now called Legend) and Traveller. And in both instances, they suffer terribly for insufficient play-testing and woeful editing, which they very rarely acknowledge, even when the issues are obvious, and the fix straight-forward.

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    1. I don't see why game companies shouldn't.

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  4. Hm. I guess that there are three things I hate in MegaTraveller: first, the name, which is just… just terrible; second, all the damned errata (giving the game a well-deserved nickname of "MegaErrata"); finally, the Rebellion/Shattered Imperium setting. While I liked the idea of shaking up the universe at first, the way it was handled and the aftermath deeply undermined my interest in the Imperium setting in general. It should not have been so apocalyptic.

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    1. These reminders make me literally terrified of what we might find in T5 when it finally surfaces...

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    2. Well, at least we only have a very short time before we find out!

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  5. GURPS
    It's also often described as setup-heavy, but it's not true in my opinion. One could really just say "Forgotten Realms, 150+75 CP, TL 3, standard magic and racial templates from the Basic Set." But people feel compelled to customize everything. For me it's like creating a non-standard set of classes in D&D - it's an option that suits to minority.

    What I really find annoying is the way information is arranged in the Basic Set. I'm not sure if it even could be better written, or if it's impossible at this level of complexity. But It's sometimes very hard to find a rule using logic and reason. For example, if damage types are described under Innate Attack, why isn't Injury Tolerance also described in the 'Advantages' chapter? Oh, and damage types are also further described together with types of IT in 'Combat' chapter and by hit locations under the 'Special Combat' chapter. I also don't understand, why is Opportunity Fire under 'Tactical Combat' and not 'Special Ranged Combat.' It's a bit annoying. Though I love the simple language used.

    I don't like the lack of rules for interaction between character size and equipment (in Basic Set). But maybe it's only so important to me because I started roleplaying with D&D.

    And literally two pieces of neck armor at TL 3.


    D&D 3
    I'm not really annoyed (anymore) with classes and levels. The only thing that bugs me is the Fighter. Complete lack of character. Just hit, climb, swim and jump or ride. If you're taking any intellectual skill, you're punished by point effectiveness. And most of the people think that barbarians are dumb.

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