Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Philosophy and Games: Math Makes Worlds III- Remaking the Wheel

So continuing on a theme here, Math Makes Worlds. Today, I was at work, and a tad bit bored, since half the gang either left early or had called off. So I came up with what I thought was a BRILLIANT idea. A high level campaign based on building up political power...

So I quick jotted down some rules, I got a in a grove. I thought that a three month time frame per game turn, and some influence rules, and man, I was writing a mile a minute. Then I started on some quick military unit rules, and thought about a quick way to lay them out on 3x5 cards to represent units. Then I realized something.

I was channelling Birthright.


Why re-do what has already been done? It's there, all for the taking, but it is an interesting thought, especially when Von and Porky comment on one of my Blog Posts. They both had a really good point, though. With all the RPGs out there in the world, there are tons of rules. It's like a bad translation of a Mac advert, 'We've got Rules for that'.

The point that I was trying to make, and completely missed out on, which is pretty typical me, is that the rules are what make the worlds. Each system has inherent in its Maths what is acceptable and what is not. The Math is what drives it. The thing is that the Maths are enablers and preventers of actions.

The prime differences between games are what the maths allow you to do. When you boil it down, in a game there is no difference between the any particular roll of the dice, the flip of the cards, or whatever weird mechanic that Deadlands used. They are all statistics. What is your percentage chance to take an action or complete an action? It doesn't matter if its a sword swing, a bolt gun blast to the skull, or a charming evening with your intended prey. It is the fluff that makes the Math work.

However, the Maths do double duty. Besides just becoming the crunch that makes the fluff go round, it influences what the fluff allows. That's the point of the whole thing. The limits of the Maths. Everyone talks about 'breaking the game' and oh dear, can I think of some damn good game breakers. It doesn't just happen in wargames with lots of spam, it happens in every game.

Just off the top of my head here's three;
1. World of Darkness- 8th Gen vampire with Clerity 5, 15 actions per round.
2. D&D 3- Monkey Grip, Improved Trip, Knockdown, get a free trip attack if you cause more then 10 damage, and monkey grip allows a Huge weapon. So with an average of 2d8 damage and add in your strength modifier, and instant trips.
3. Trenchcoat- Tales of the Floating Vagabond, pull ANYTHING that is less then 8 pounds out of your trenchcoat.

Now, the Maths made those rules. All right and legal as a judge. Were they properly play tested? Probably not. The Maths are king of all. How the Maths interact with the fluff is the king of all. There has to be a crossing over between the Maths and the background.

In a wargames, since all the action takes place at a birds' eye view, the maths are quick and dirty. The faster you can determine things on the back end, the quicker that you can get on with the game.

In an RPG, the math is more personal, since it was developed as a single player system. Yes, there is a group, but it is the individual that makes it work.

The best way to illustrate this is to flip the roles. Trying to run a mass battle with RPG rules bogs down and takes forever. Trying to run an RPG with wargame rules leaves much to be desired, it is too simplistic. The degree of abstraction strikes again.

The rules are math. The Math is Rules. I really wish that I could explain it better, my lack of education fails me again. The Math creates the reality that the fluff hints at. I think that if I continue I'll just write in circles. So I'm going to stop now, and go and see if I can find my old Birthright stuff, why remake the wheel?

1 comment:

  1. Seventh generation or up Tzimisce with Vicissitude 6. Wound penalties become bonuses, and there's an inherent combat stat bonus from the four-dot power on top of that. Pales into nothingness next to the atrocities you can wreak with six dots in Retainers though.

    But yes, this argument that 'fluff ain't crunch' is tired and wrong. Fluff is crunch and crunch is fluff. The one contextualises the other, and is enabled for enaction by the one. There are instances where fluff ain't crunch and that's a sign that either a developer or a writer has been overdoing it and can't kill their babies.