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Using Dice-And-Paper Rules in a Computer RPG

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Using Dice-And-Paper Rules in a Computer RPG

Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Mon 11 July 2011, 15:31:31

Tags: Frayed Knights

Shortly after Sinister Design's Craig Stern pondered the topic, Jay Barnson from Rampant Games offers his opinion on the matter as well.

Is D&D sloppy and inscrutable? Maybe, but compared to what? Many RPGs I’ve played, with custom combat systems, are even more inscrutable, and aren’t transparent enough for me to judge whether or not they are sloppy. Maybe I know that when my strength goes up by X, my damage with my current weapon goes up by Y.  But really, while I like seeing how numbers change, I don’t track relationships and I don’t really understand the relationships between values. This is especially true with action-RPGs, where I may not even be sure that a particular stat does anything. In fact, I think it was Ultima VII where the Dexterity score literally wasn’t implemented to do anything in-game. But they left it in for the role-players.
It’s only because of the visibility into the D&D system – or ability to deduce similar operations in other CRPG rules systems – that we can perceive any sloppiness in the system. And then there’s the question of what really IS sloppy. You can argue that an exception-based ruleset is sloppy, but I think it’s the exceptions that make the game interesting. If every magical attack does exactly 5 points of damage per spell level, there are few interesting decisions to be made there. But if this one spell actually does more damage than that, and breaks the consistency of the system – well, that’s interesting.  Assuming that the extra power comes at a cost, I’d not call that sloppiness. I’d call it an interesting decision.
Chess has some significant exceptions to otherwise simple, straightforward rules as well. What about the pawn’s first move allowing 2 squares of movement instead of one? And the en passant rule needed to make that work? Pawns in general are pretty unusual compared to the other pieces. And castling? Those do seem, to me, to be departures from what was otherwise a very simple, streamlined set of rules. But I think they make the game much more interesting.
Sure, there’s a point in any rules system where too many exceptions could become a convoluted mess.  But most implementations in the past of D&D-style rules variants into CRPGs were fairly basic. I don’t know that many got too carried away. If anything, most really tried to simplify the D&D rules system (and add their own variations) rather than going overboard with the complexity.

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