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Subject: How complex can a BG's rules be? rss

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Aus MoMo
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Hi,
I'm attempting to convert my paper RPG system into a BG (high fantasy, co-op, dungeon crawler).

My RPG was, as far as RPGs go, quite complex. So far so good, but I am constantly asking myself "is this too complex?".

Can I please have some general thoughts on this? I've not decided who my target audience is yet - I might be "forced" only market to adult/experienced BGers.

Can I also please have some feedback on the *complexity* of my initiative system?

Initiative;
Characters have an initiative score between 1 and 20. Higher the faster.
Characters have a number of actions they can perform per round, based mainly on their level. Ranges between 1 and 4.

At the start of combat, all combatants roll d6 and add their Init.
Your first action is performed on this modified Init Score.
For all subsequent actions IN THE SAME ROUND your Init is reduced by 4.
(example; 1st action == Init 19, 2nd == 15, 3rd == 11)

KISS: You cannot delay etc. You must take an action, or forfeit that particular action.

Ties are determined by
1. # of actions taken so far, lowest goes first (ie someone's 1st action will go before someone's 2nd action)
2. original/raw Init Score
3. roll a dice

In a Lv1 Warrior vs Lv1 Orc combat this is nice and easy. 1 attack each, taking it in turns. Init is simple.

In a mass combat, though, it gets messy! 4 top level characters, vs 6 high level nasties, and there might be 40 (forty!) actions per round.

I have an Initiative board. Numbered 1 to 26 (Init+d6, plus later actions). Players place numbered chits (1 to 4, for each action) on the board at the correct Inits. Same for enemies. Tie breaks are then worked out, and the chits re-ordered. As an action is taken, flip the chit. Someone dies? Remove their chits.
Once all actions in a round have been performed, you start a new round. Unflip all the chits whilst keeping their ordered positions.

I've played tested it, but for now will not mention the results of play testing - I don't want to inject bias.

thanks




 
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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That small portion of your game seems reasonable enough and not that avant-garde. Of course I'd have to use the rules in the context of your whole game (see the pieces/tokens/etc.) to give you full feedback.
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Johnathan Morton
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I think the challenge is going to be how do you visual show these things to the player. The easier it is to look at a card and identify all these rules/statuses the more accessible it will be. Making it appear less complex.
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M M
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No. Just no.
 
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Jamie Vantries
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Mat628 wrote:
No. Just no.

Agreed. That's way too convoluted for something as minor as initiative.
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George P.E., PMP, DM
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Some war games are extremely complex, but their market share is very small. Basically it's only the hard-core war-gaming fans who actually want the complexity and days to play a game.
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That sounds pretty similar to the initiative system of the Shadowrun RPG. Shadowrun has been around and popular for quite a while, so it's safe to say that there is a sizable subset of gamers who like such a system. Of course Shadowrun is also notorious for sessions with big battles where the gamemaster has rolled the edges off his dice.

Personally, I find it hard to judge without context. For instance, when we talk about combat in Shadowrun, we're usually talking about extremely volatile close-quarter gunfights, which is a case where it seems to make sense that reflexes and initiative play a prominent role and consequently are conveyed via a rather sophisticated mechanic. After all, in Shadowrun a high initiative is probably the most important asset of a warrior (because it doesn't matter if the other guy can shoot more precise if he doesn't get to fire his gun in the first place). Also, under this premise, the "there might be 40 actions per round" problem doesn't really arise because by the time the first ten actions are done, one of the two sides will be dead.

If the same system was used in a medieval setting where knights in armor swing heavy swords at each other, it might make less sense to spend so much time on reflexes because strength and stamina play a bigger role.
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Olaf Slomp
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I'm an experienced board gamer. I have even played games like Warhammer quite a bit in the past. But if you're going to throw a game at me which takes half a page of rules to explain a normally simple concept like inititiave, then I will surely pass.
I'm afraid the target audience for such a game will be very small.
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Nicholas Vitek
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Shadowrun has had a number of initiative systems. Three at least were similar to this one.

Example 1: Init goes from highest to lowest. When an action is taken, subtract 10 instantly from your init. Go when your init number comes up always.

Init + Init Dice = Initiative
10 + 4d6 gives you an initiative between 14 and 34. Lets say you get 19.
15 + 3d6 gives you an initiative between 18 and 33. Lets say I get 33.

Init 33: I take an action
Init 23: I take an action
Init 19: You take an action
Init 13: I take an action
Init 9: You take an action.
Init 3: I take an action.

Super fast characters get the drop on people before they react. Speed Kings are King. Only really matters on the first round of combat. But the first round of combat goes something like:
Free Action: Quick Draw with correct build. Speak Word for Anchored Spell from wizard/shaman buddy. Cool magic stuff happens.
Simple Action: Burst w/ APDS customized SMG + Dual Wield Burst w/ APDS customized SMG at same target. Spend Karma Pool to reroll, take out target (mage/shaman).
Simple Action #2: Target a second character. Burst w/ APDS customzied SMG + Dual Wield Burst w/ APDS customized SMG at same target. Spend Karma Pool to reroll, take out target (mage/shaman).
Init goes down 10 and you're still up.
Free Action: Move into cover. Speak pre-arranged service word for buddy's elemental/spirit to have it attack a 3rd person, non mage.
Simple Action #1: Target a 4th character, preferably the next person in Init Order. Repeat Shooting. Kill 4th target.
Simple Action #2: Target a 5th character, preferably the next person in init Order. Repeat shooting. Kill 5th target.
Init goes down 10 and its yoru turn again since you've killed the other fastest enemy.
You've now used 3+3+3+3 = 12 rounds out of both of your SMGs, but its customized and had a round in chamber, so now you're looking at a clip size of 18-24 so you can keep shooting. Or, Grenade, Grenade as your two simple actions. Or whatever you want just keep targeting the enemy's fastest people first.


Type 2:
Same exact thing, but with a twist. Go Highest to Lowest. Once everyone goes, subtract 10 from everyone and do it again.

Init 33: I take an action.
Init 19: You take an action
Reduce
Init 23: I take an action.
Init 9: You take an action.
Reduce
Init 13: I take an action
Init -1: You do not take an action.
Reduce
Init 3: I take an action.

Super Fast Characters take their extra actions after everyone else has taken even number of actions. Speed Kings are still king but you see more "damage soak" in order to last until their action burst.

Example 3: Hazy on this one, but if I recall it was something like: Init = When you go and Init Passes = # of actions.
I have Init 15, 4 Init Passes
You have Init 10, 2 Init Passes.

Init 15: I go
Init 10: You go
Reduce Init Passes
Init 15: I go
Init 10: You go
Reduce Init Passes
Init 15: I go
Reduce Init Passes
Init 15: I go
Reduce Init Passes
Round ends

Speed Kings are like example 2, but a lot less mathy.
 
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Aus MoMo
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Olafslomp wrote:
But if you're going to throw a game at me which takes half a page of rules to explain a normally simple concept like inititiave, then I will surely pass.


That "half a page" had plenty of fluff in there.

The above rules, without fluff, read;

Initiative Version 1
At the start of combat each combatant rolls D6 and adds it to their Initiative Score. This is their “Modified Initiative” for this combat.
Combatants take turns to act, starting with whomever has the highest Modified Initiative.
If a combatant is allowed multiple actions in a round of combat, then each action (after the first) suffers a -4 cumulative penalty to the Modified Initiative (i.e. 2nd action is at -4 to Modified Initiative, 3rd action is at -8, 4th action is at -12).
Ties in Modified Initiative are broken in this order;
1. Action Order. Someone taking their 1st action will go before someone taking their 2nd action (etc).
2. Unmodified Initiative
3. Roll a dice

I am certainly happy to limit my market to players who can handle this complexity.

If forced to dumb it down more, I can remove the delayed multiple actions (ie all attacks at once). It would then read;

Initiative Version 2
At the start of combat each combatant rolls D6 and adds it to their Initiative Score. This is their “Modified Initiative” for this combat.
Combatants take turns to act, starting with whomever has the highest Modified Initiative.
If you have multiple actions you perform them all when it is your turn to act.
If two more combatants have the same Modified Initiative, then whomever has the highest UNMODIFIED Initiative goes first (if this is also a tie, then roll a dice to see who acts first).



I don't mind version 2, but it places a greater value on Initiative. My play testing makes me think it's TOO powerful. The delayed subsequent actions feel a lot fairer.
 
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Mark Jackson
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Having an init board with tons of numbered chits that you have to constantly flip over and reorder sounds like the domain of an extremely niche hardcore war game. Nothing wrong with that, but your are going to be drastically limiting your audience with stuff like that. I guess really you have to figure out what you're gaining with all that complexity, and if you think it's worth it.
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Aus MoMo
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Ah_Pook wrote:
Having an init board with tons of numbered chits that you have to constantly flip over and reorder sounds like the domain of an extremely niche hardcore war game. Nothing wrong with that, but your are going to be drastically limiting your audience with stuff like that. I guess really you have to figure out what you're gaining with all that complexity, and if you think it's worth it.


The board is just an aid. Use it or don't.
For simple 1v1, low level, it's not needed.
For end game combat, it (or something else) is needed (due to multiple attacks and multiple combatants).

I'm not sure at what point in game the Init board goes from being not needed to needed. Happy to say "half the combats need it".

If I do away with "delayed, subsequent attacks" it becomes simpler. Heck, I could even drop the D6 (but then Initiative becomes unbalanced IMO).

But that would still leave us with 10 (4 chars vs 6 nasties) Inits to mentally order (and tie-break).

Perhaps I could do;
1. completely unmodified Inits (no d6, no cumulative -4)
2. everyone performs 1st action (highest to lowest)
3. then in same order, 2nd actions
3. then in same order, 3rd actions
4. then in same order, 4th actions
5. Start a new round









 
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Aus MoMo
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Nich wrote:
Shadowrun has had a number of initiative systems. Three at least were similar to this one.
long post snipped


Thanks for your post. Very interesting. I'll take some time to digest it. Tar

 
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You playtested this as mentioned in your OP. If you are getting the same responses from the people on this forum as from the playtesters themselves, you may want to rethink your system. If you are getting different feedback from playtesting and this forum, you may want to think about and consider what the difference is.

Lastly, you may want to test this with someone who is not familiar with the system at all (e.g. someone who has not played your RPG system). Explain the initiative, set up an encounter, give them the rulebook and then watch them play it the way they understood it. Now the extremely difficult part. Do not answer any questions after you've set them up and they have all the information you think they need. This will teach you a lot about your system.

When doing this, I would also suggest timing the encounter and counting how many times they made a mistake and counting how many times they referenced the rulebook. Warning: You won't be able to use the same tester in the same way again.

Listen to your playtesters--especially if they are the target audience.
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ausmomo wrote:

I am certainly happy to limit my market to players who can handle this complexity.

If forced to dumb it down more, I can remove the delayed multiple actions (ie all attacks at once). It would then read;

This comes off as a bit hostile.

The proper way to look at it is not if your potential players are able to handle the complexity. But are they willing to. And not many will be. At least not most of the ones who hang out on BGG other than war gamers. Games have been on a long trend towards simplicity. You're talking about a process that would involve 40 determinations and actions in a turn. I'm sorry. That's just stupid. Why should I put that sort of investment into it and not just play something else?
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Aus MoMo
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Mat628 wrote:
ausmomo wrote:

I am certainly happy to limit my market to players who can handle this complexity.

If forced to dumb it down more, I can remove the delayed multiple actions (ie all attacks at once). It would then read;

This comes off as a bit hostile.


No hostility was meant on my part. That's language I'm happy to use developer-to-developer. I'd not use it developer-to-customer!

Mat628 wrote:
You're talking about a process that would involve 40 determinations and actions in a turn. snip


Well, that is the most epic combat the game can handle. 4 top level chars vs 6 top level monsters, 4 actions each.

What do I remove?
Are multiple characters ok?
Are multiple monsters ok?

Are multiple attacks ok? Perhaps I could do something here. Limit it to 3. Or 2. Or even 1. "10 chars x 4 actions X 1 round" is the same as "10 chars X 1 action x 4 rounds", though. Both are still 40 actions.

But my game has a mechanism of "you can only do certain actions once per round" (such as cast spells, activate items). I don't want to a dragon to be able to breath fire every time a warrior gets to swing a sword. So reducing actions per round and rewording things won't make much of a difference. The words will be different, but for balance the combat will play out the same way.

Initiative IS a problem though, which is why I started this thread. The feedback has been very helpful.

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Nicholas Vitek
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So, RPGs vs Board Games, Light vs Heavy.

RPGs lately are going more Story, less Rules for the most part. See Fate, Kingdom, etc. Very Rules light, power in the players hands for collaberative story telling vs Rules Heavy to assist in driving theme RPGs of the 80s and 90s.

I personally like both, just depends on what we're in the mood for. I love me an exploration rule heavy game. I love the give and take of Fate points in the rule light game.

Board Games are the same way, but instead of light, you can really say streamlined and stripped of "exceptions" which you used to see in war games of the past (The game plays like this, unless you decide to cross the Delaware and then we need to read Special Rule 3.1.1.5.b for Frostbitten soldiers).

Ideally, if you want a rule heavy game, you want the individual rules to be simple and to follow common logic.

Success Tests are always #d6, TN 5 or 6. Count successes = The extent of the success. With that simple declaration, Init is: Roll Init success test, go in order of most to least successes. Oh, you have a Feat/Power that makes you faster, you can either Add Dice (1/3 success per die) or add straight to Init Successes (#d6 <TN5> + Mod).
Oh, you want VS combat, Melee Skill Success Test (Count # of successes) and Opponent Rolls Melee Skill Success Test. Whoever has the most successes wounds the other.
Oh, you want to jump that chasm, Roll Athletics Skill Success Test, you need 5 successes (its 5 meters wide Super Star).
Oh, you're activating Heroic Power now for that jump, still Roll Athletics Skill Success Test, but Heroic Power lets you reroll non-successes.
Oh, you're trying to poison someone's drink during a company party, Roll Sleight of Hands. People "on the look out" get to roll Perception Success Test and need a number of successes equal to or greater than the number of successes you rolled (or greater if you want to tip towards the "attacker"). Anyone who gets more sees what you're doing.
Oh, you want to custom build that pistol with the personalized grip and the scope and the underbarrel camera, that's a total of 18 Advancing Successes needed. You can roll once a day. You need 3 successes per day just to keep the project moving without issues. Every success less than 3 per day results in wasted material or extra successes needed. Any successes over 3 goes towards the Advancing Successes. Presto, more rule heavy, same basic system.

With a simple declaration of how "rules work" in your game, you can get as indepth as you want but not lose your player's ability to comprehend how to do a task. What you don't want is something that uses different concepts for the rules.

Initiative requires 1d20 + Init - Wounds.
Attacking is #d6 vs TN of 5.
Defending is #d6 vs a TN of 5.
But working on vehicles is roll 5d20 with a TN being the vehicles difficulty and each success allows you to roll 1d6+Skill to get points towards success.

Overall, if you want a rule heavy game, streamline your mechanics and make the rules very heavy but flowable.
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Herc du Preez
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Board games should be designed with their target audience in mind. As an example: If you want the audience to be RPGrs that don't have time for their regular RPG then a boardgame version must give the same feeling as their regular RPG but in a fraction of the time. Or it does away with the need for the GM. Why would they play this game over their regular RPG?

Board games should be more streamlined than an overly complex RPG. Note that I didn't say less complex. The trick here is to leverage off the tools a boardgame provides to make tasks in the game quick and intuitive. As an initiative example why not use a circular track.
Step 1: roll initiative and place tokens on track at required positions
Step 2: those furthest up the track go first and after they have gone they move 4 spaces backwards down the track.
Step 3: repeat going around the track until combat is over.

Don't want 2 characters at the same positions? If they would be placed at the same position move the 2nd one further down the track to the next open position. Though this only works if combats are not too large and there are enough spaces around the track.

My 2c
 
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Alex Houghton
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Your initiative system is unique in that it lets much faster characters do potentially multiple actions before others get to do even one, while still letting them "take turns" with similarly-fast characters. That's interesting, and I'm going to assume that you want to keep that.

In a lot of cases though, one round will just play out like multiple traditional initiative rounds, but with a bunch of unnecessary leg-work.

I think what you have is okay for an rpg, but for a boardgame, where less legwork is preferred (as people here have already said), you may want to simplify it in some way.
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Michael Brettell
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If the game was 1 on 1 combat, I think that sounds interesting and not too complex. One character can get in a couple of quick attacks before another one gets in one heavy one. Cool.

In mass combat, with 10 different characters to keep track of, it sounds too fiddly.

Which are you mainly planning on modelling? How much difference does your system really make in those battles? Is there a way to simplify it to give a similar result? For example - Base Initiative determines turn order; if you exceed by more than a certain amount, you get one extra attack at the start.

Rolling the die sounds superfluous to me, and adds extra time.

Also the tie-breaker sounds more complex for the number of times you'd need it. Maybe have one determining factor (like base Init), then player closest to 'first player', or something.
 
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Justin
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This doesn't seem to bad to me as long as there is an easy way to keep track. How does this sound?

You could have an initiative track that goes from 1-26. If I have initiative 12 and roll a 4, I'd place a marker on space 16. If i have a total of 3 actions, I'd also place a marker on spaces 12 and 8. Have everyone do this simultaneously, then just go down the track from high to low and pick up the marker as you perform an action. You can settle ties once for the entire action round, or as they arise.
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Carl Hanson
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The initiative system doesn't seem to me too complicate, especially if you include an initiative board to help track multiple actions and if initiative is an important piece of the game. If turn order doesn't matter that much, then this is just wasted complexity. The thing to remember, is that every player has a limit to how much brain power they can process at a given moment so you have to be conscious when you add complexity to places like initiative because you may gave to carve it out somewhere else to make it fun to play.

Descent chose to put that complexity in the damage/armor system and keep things to one action a round. This could be an interesting counter point to that decision, but where will you make the sacrifices to make up for it? And how will you design the rest of the game to make initiative matter enough to justify this complexity?

ausmomo wrote:
My RPG was, as far as RPGs go, quite complex. So far so good, but I am constantly asking myself "is this too complex?".


This sentence worries me a little. How complex are we talking here? If we are talking complex compared to something like Fate, then things should be doable. However, if you are trying to make a board game that compares to something like Pathfinder in complexity then you may be in trouble.
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WyantJM wrote:
This doesn't seem to bad to me as long as there is an easy way to keep track. How does this sound?

You could have an initiative track that goes from 1-26. If I have initiative 12 and roll a 4, I'd place a marker on space 16. If i have a total of 3 actions, I'd also place a marker on spaces 12 and 8. Have everyone do this simultaneously, then just go down the track from high to low and pick up the marker as you perform an action. You can settle ties once for the entire action round, or as they arise.


That's exactly the system I described. Well, that's the system I TRIED to describe. I flip the marker rather than picking it up, as next round they need to be replaced.

I'll reply to more posts later, I'm just heading out.

I'm now leaning heavily towards "Everyone takes their first action (highest init to lowest), then everyone (that has one) takes their 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th actions". Tie-break still needed. I'm 50-50 on the randomness factor (+d6).
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Justin
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ausmomo wrote:
WyantJM wrote:
This doesn't seem to bad to me as long as there is an easy way to keep track. How does this sound?

You could have an initiative track that goes from 1-26. If I have initiative 12 and roll a 4, I'd place a marker on space 16. If i have a total of 3 actions, I'd also place a marker on spaces 12 and 8. Have everyone do this simultaneously, then just go down the track from high to low and pick up the marker as you perform an action. You can settle ties once for the entire action round, or as they arise.


That's exactly the system I described. Well, that's the system I TRIED to describe. I flip the marker rather than picking it up, as next round they need to be replaced.

I'll reply to more posts later, I'm just heading out.

I'm now leaning heavily towards "Everyone takes their first action (highest init to lowest), then everyone (that has one) takes their 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th actions". Tie-break still needed. I'm 50-50 on the randomness factor (+d6).


I just reread and see that you did have that. I either missed it or forgot when reading the rest of the thread.

I think it's one of those rules that sounds complex, but once you go through 2 rounds of combat it's a breeze.
 
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A lot of games bake their complexity into the components themselves. Look at Terra Mystica, Eclipse and Tanhauser player mats for good examples of this. Maybe you could use a built-in dial or some sort of slide rule thing into your player mats (assuming you have player mats).
 
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