Monday, September 19, 2011

Moe's Scale of RPG Hardness

I've always been a fan of talc.
Over the last year, I think I've played a larger variety of role playing games, with a bigger mix of people, that I have in any other year during my gaming life - especially as a player - not just a DM.  It's gotten me thinking about a lot of facets of gaming - and about what I like in a game.  One of the things I keep on coming back to is Roll vs. Role playing.

I'm still on the fence about a lot of it, from a player's point of view, but it seems to me you could map a lot of it out on a continuum, like Moh's Mineral Hardness scale.  People have probably already done it - and I just haven't seen it - or didn't pay attention at the time.  On one side would be having everything in a game be determined by the results of dice rolls versus skills.  The other is where everything is decided by GM fiat.  Everywhere in the middle would fall actaul real games that existed in reality.

As a players, it's pretty neat to create a character that can yell there way out of combat.  Playing one, ont he other hand, feels kind of weird when you do you best yelling every - then roll your die and hope the other creature is intimidated.  

On the GM's side, the use of skill rolls is nice in that it gives an out - the GM doesn't have to bow to social pressure in making everything run away from a character who yells all the time.  Those rules give some comfort in how to handle it, I guess.

But it all seems strange to me, when you step aside from the social interaction and toss a die. 

Anyway, this little post is really quite half baked as I am still trying to wrap my head about how I feel about certain styles of play.  Feel free to comment down below, as I'd love to see some discussion about it - from many different viewpoints.

- Ark


  1. I'd add two more sources of authority in a game: the rules as written, so far as they provide a mechanistic rather than dice-based solution; and input from the players. Both of those reduce the need for the DM to use fiat.

  2. I think it's possible to have a game based on fewer die rolls. For example,

    Trap and secret door detection is based on observing things in the game environment: holes in the walls, pressure plates, etc. Searching for these things takes time and makes you more likely to be surprised, which is the trade-off for doing it. Trap deactivation or bypassing is based on using tools you have to avoid it or set it off or screw up the trigger (10' pole, iron spikes and hammer, etc).

    Combat is handled through choice of maneuvers, secretly everyone chooses and then everyone reveals. The results of the maneuvers are based on static rules rather than dice. Maybe a Trap maneuver is really successful against a Desperate Attack maneuver.

    Social negotiation is handled through actually asking the NPC things, and the DM decides based on your PC's stats / race / appearance / alignment how the NPC responds. Maybe you need to reassure the NPC that you are friendly to his cause, that you will compensate him somehow, whatever.

    This all assumes that there are statistics in the background. Otherwise you're just playing a complex version of Cops and Robbers, which is fine if you enjoy that but it's not what most people think of as a tabletop RPG.

    Also there are games out there where the player has input on te game world, spending scarce resources that allow him to change things like whether a secret door is there etc. Other input comes from the DM.

  3. "This all assumes that there are statistics in the background. Otherwise you're just playing a complex version of Cops and Robbers, which is fine if you enjoy that but it's not what most people think of as a tabletop RPG."

    This is very important to my enjoyment of the game. All of the "role" playing in the world is fine and fun and part of the experience for me, but if the underlying game is not sound enough to play or is too often circumvented for the sake of a pre-conceived narrative or for the sake of so-called "fun", than the game won't last for me. In fact, I wouldn't even call it a game anymore. we talk a lot about player agency when describing how we play this game. DM agency is assumed to be there, and I believe the dice have agency as well. I spilled a lot virtual ink explaining my thoughts on this about a year back starting here, if you're inclined to read it:

    A link at the bottom leads to you more, related posts.