Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Links & Thoughts - 4/30/21

- I love my day job, which I rarely talk about here. It's been very busy (a good thing in my field) and I meet some new and interesting people. That's killed a lot of time to write good, solid, long posts. But it did mean I got to meet an old-school Tai Chi instructor, which would have been even more useful 15 years ago when I was writing GURPS Martial Arts with Kromm.

- Book writing continues.

- So does playing Battletech a bit every day. I think I jumped onto a "Priority" campaign too early, as I've won those battles but gotten mauled a couple times doing them . . . and now I'm sitting around twiddling my thumbs trying to get my mechs repaired and pilots healed so I can fight. But still enjoyable.

- I had to throw in a pedantic GURPS note on Lich Van Winkle's latest post. Thinking on "point creep" further, I'd note that in GURPS 4e, a number of items were re-costed down, a number of abilities point-costed up to make up for a disproportionate value, and things otherwise rejiggered. But generally, the big change was the value of 1 point is mostly lower because it gets you a bit less ability (generally) and the cool stuff costs more (generally.)

But I'll probably stand and die on the hill of saying that GURPS isn't inconsistent with "roll high" and "roll low." It just seperates bell-curve tables where extremes beat the average (criticals, random hit location), roll to succeed low (to hit, skill rolls, stat checks, etc.), and rolls for effect and duration (higher is better, unless you're the one being affected I suppose). It's a clear and consistent breakdown, but people who bullet-point GURPS down to "3d6 roll low" set up these "inconsistencies" to point out. It's merely inconsistent with that statement, not with GURPS.

- I find adventure prep the least rewarding thing I do. There are times I want to play really old school games because the adventure prep is easier. But then I look at xp systems, race-as-class, 1/10th of a pound gold coins, weird encumbrance systems, and so on and realize I play GURPS for a reason, and then get on with writing up things for it. Heh.

- This seems obvious, but it's worth saying. I once got exciting to play someone's GURPS game, but then it turned out to be nothing like advertised. Same with some other games. I played Vampire: Dark Ages once because I was excited by the looser Vampire rules of the era, and a chance to play some weird evil fantasy. Then it quickly became a very standard Vampire game . . . and I got bored instantly because I didn't like that era. Ditto with a lot of games. Hey, word to the wise - don't bait and switch me, even if the "surprise!" is "totally awesome!" I signed up for the outside of the box, and I expect it to show what's inside.

- I like this post on David C. Sutherland.


  1. Thanks for your comment on Lich Van Winkle's post. I was trying to think of a way to mention that but felt like what I was saying was too condescending. You did a better job than I was going to.

    On AD&D's complexity, which you mentioned there, I think that the issue has never been about the complexity of the game. It's how much of that complexity is compelled to be player-facing. From the beginning, AD&D pushes most of its complexity on the Referee. Players sit down for the first time, roll some dice, make some decisions from very limited sets, the Referee tells them some things to write down, they do some shopping, and they have a character. GURPS requires that a player has some facility with the game system, has some idea of the game setting—at least enough to have an idea of what character they want to play—and enough of a sense of the other players to not step too hard on each others' toes. Templates go a long way to helping out here, of course, but it's still an issue. The result, though, is that players have more control over what sort of character they are going to play.

    When it comes time to fight in AD&D, someone rolls initiative, then it's mostly just "I roll to hit, you roll to hit". In GURPS, players have to have at least a basic idea of how combat works in order to be able to do anything, but then they have more decisions under their control and therefore more input into how combat goes.

    In the end, I think you're right. The two games are about the same in terms of complexity. The difference is how much of that complexity is pushed onto the players in order to give the players more control over their situation, which makes GURPS seem more complex from a new player perspective.

    Hm, someone might find value in writing a "How to be a GURPS GM" on introducing new players to the game.

    1. "GURPS requires that a player has some facility with the game system, has some idea of the game setting—at least enough to have an idea of what character they want to play—and enough of a sense of the other players to not step too hard on each others' toes."

      This is the case no matter system you're talking about though. And here is where the GM steps in.

      In AD&D, if a Player doesn't understand that a Wizard has a limited number of spells //per day//, and they fail to account for that in buying equipment (don't buy a ranged or melee weapon), they are going to find they have a very short 'work day' and they mostly try to stay out of the way while "everyone else commences having fun".

      Ditto with GURPS, a Player rolls in thinking a DF Cleric is a decent secondary "line fighter" is in for a rude surprise unless they've planned for that by upping ST and DX out the gate or focus on self-buffing spells.

      This is where ye olde Session 0 needs to come in. Unless the GM knows the Players know what they're doing, always run a char-gen session so you can guide the newby Players through the pangs of making characters.

    2. I'd say that AD&D front-loads a fair amount of complexity. A player needs to understand a lot to play unless someone helps them make their character and waves off a lot as "don't worry about that now." That can be in any game system, but then you need to say it for all of the ones your comparing.

      AD&D's front-loading of stats, % strength, race class limits, race level limits, racial abilities with varying implementation (% vs. d6 mostly), class abilities with varying implementation, spell learning that is different by class, a weird encumbrance system that's not fully explained until another book, weapon damage vs. size, weapon speed, weapon vs. armor type . . . and that's off the top of my head, and it's all player facing. You might be need all of them for your guy, and you might play with a GM not using them, but you need the GM to simplify it down for you. The core systems of GURPS are less complex than the core systems of AD&D, and there are less systems in GURPS. And I say that as someone who loves and still occasionally runs AD&D.

    3. In my first game of AD&D, my first session with any roleplaying adventure game, I had no idea what I was doing. I rolled some dice when they told me and wrote numbers in the spaces they told me to write them. I picked a "magic-user" because I thought it sounded cool to be able to use magic. I had no idea what to spend money on, so I asked the DM if I could hire some guys to help me out (still my best decision in any game ever). My character was 1st level in a party of higher level other characters. We played Tomb of Horrors. My character was the only one to make it out alive, thanks to his large number of troops keeping him from having to get his own hands dirty.

      I had zero idea what I was doing, in fact I had misunderstood what I was being asked to play (I thought they were talking about a board game from the time called "Dungeon Dice" right up until I sat down to play). But I had an effective character and I had fun playing. I was able to make meaningful decisions, but also had the irrelevant ones taken out of my control (encumbrance is one of those irrelevancies, as are the specifics of weapon stats, the details of how to memorize spells—I got to pick one from my list and the rest wasn't important in that first adventure—the details of class abilities, nonhuman races, or even the details of what the stats mean and how combat works; all of those are things that can be learned later, maybe when they matter or maybe just piece by piece as they become interesting). On the other hand, I had little control over what type of character I could play (I couldn't be a Monk, for example, even if I had known what one was), which is where GURPS is far superior. GURPS allows, but also requires, decisions at every turn. What to do to make your character, what to do in combat, what to do in some amount of detail everywhere. AD&D removes many of those decisions, or at least makes them unimportant to the fundamental business of sitting down and playing. Again, each is good, but in different ways.

    4. I still stand by what I say - that's the GM shielding you from player-facing complexity in AD&D. I've done exactly the same with GURPS. That you can shield a person from complexity and allow them to make meaningful decisions without having to make so many, and have more understanding of the system as they make them, doesn't change whether that complexity is there or not.

    5. I think comparing with AD&D is a little unfair. It's the shining example of bad design and even though it was the highlight of the era for many players the real comparison is Basic D&D (which actually outsold AD&D). Nearly everything you complain about in terms of complexity (player or GM facing) is not present. At the core of the game the player chooses his template from a list of seven, attacks and saving throws are on a d20 and roll high, ability scores are a small table standard of standard modifiers (-3 to +3), and class features and mechanics are clearly laid out in the class (template) description which is 1-2 pages long. The DM can ask a new player what he wants to play, hand out that page explaining the class features to the new player, and the section to create a character explains the concepts, procedure, and even a bit about combat rolls in 4.5 pages (easily condensed into one page by editing the explanations and examples down). That's everything a player needs. Of course the player doesn't have as much mechanical influence on the game as in GURPS (either in character customization or combat manuevers).

    6. The original post I linked to compares GURPS to Basic D&D.

      And what does "fair" have to do with it? I shouldn't compare GURPS's complexity to AD&D because AD&D is such a mess that anything will look better? That's equally a comparison, just not as detailed of a comparison.


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