Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Philosophy and Games: Math Makes Worlds

Ok, so I missed another Monday Night Mordheim, again... Blame it on Christmas burn out. I should be back on target for next week. Back to what I was thinking about though.

Math Makes Worlds.

Every game, RPG, CCG, and wargames is built on a math base. The amount of math and how it is applied. Never has this

simple fact been more apparent to me then last Friday.

See, last Friday, I got to do something that I haven't been able to do in a long ass time. I got to re-unite with my old

High School D&D group. This was interesting, and I'll get to the maths in a moment, but I have to explain myself a bit first.

This was a very cross edition game. With my wargaming background and love of OSR blogs, I have a very first edition mindset. The game started and was primarily played in 2nd edition. The game rules we were using was 3.5 since that was the last time we all were together enough to play. And the DM and about half the other players have been playing mainly 4th ed since it came out.

This is the part that I get to about maths. The thing is that all of these editions of D&D are D&D (except 4th, but that's neither here nor there, and possibly a blog post in and of itself). The game world we were playing and sharing in was shaped through its various incarnations by not just the cool fluff that the DM was reading, but the hard crunch.

Every game's hard crunch, the maths that build the system influence how the game is played. Call it the degree of abstraction. It's a bit of an inverse rule though, with a bit of re-curve backwards. For my love of maths, my lack of a grasp of the simpler stuff precluded me from taking more advanced mathematics, so I am probably using the words wrong. Regardless of my mangling of the words, the point is there.

The degree of abstraction is how much rule detail is in a game. The less rules details, the larger picture a game has and also how less realistic that the game is. Then it re-curves backwards if you have too much detail in the rules, it bogs down and becomes usable only as a small scale combat simulator.

That's interesting. So let's see if I can talk this out in a way that makes since. Many wargames are considered rule heavy, but in all honesty, they aren't. Seriously, especially when compared to the average RPG.

Let me do a compare and contrast. WH40K, is a 250 page rule book, and we'll say a dozen books that when you take out the fluff and pretty pics you get maybe 25 pages of rules. That's a grand total of 550 pages of rules. Conversely, the basic rules for D&D are ALL crunch and there are three necessary books that are all around 250-300 pages, so about 750-1200 pages of rules, easily twice that with 40K, especially since no one needs all the rules for 40K for any given game.

That's a bit much, and not a little bit misleading. It's quite a bit misleading. The thing is that fluff aside, its the mechanics that build the game. There are some people that would argue that some RPGs lack a deeper feel because of a single mechanic, like Star Wars D6 or World of Darkness. However, the lack of differing systems doesn't make it less of a indepth system. It goes back to the reflex curve again. The reflex works both ways.


  1. Tits?

    But yes, I agree, to the point that I think many RPGs are overburdened with an embarrassment of riches as far as rules go. Even a stripped-down system with essentially simple mechanics can burden itself with redundant elements like full statblocks for things that aren't actually that different...

  2. I'm always surprised by just how many rules there can be, even in nominally rules-light systems. When you accept that to some degree, often a large degree even in very detailed games, an overall outcome is liable to the discretion of the GM, most RPGs seem super-massive.