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Thread: Game Theory

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    Game Theory

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    There are a lot of discussions about what aspects of games are better than others, how to deal with probabilities, and so on.

    I'd like to use this forum to cover some of the things that are important to gamers.
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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    I don't know if this fits in with what you're asking or not, but I can say what I prefer the most in probabilities. I like games that use multiple dice added together, such as 3d6, to rolls of a single die, like 1d20. It still gives you random element, but the bell curve allows the randomness to be smoothed out a little bit. Success and failure in real life is a lot less random in general, IMO.
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    I think that it really depends how you want your game to pan out. Both can be created/altered to be exactly the same.

    ie. in d20 you can use the 3ed+ version of skill points to mimic how certain things are harder vs. 3d6 where rolls requiring 16+ are tough. It's too detailed to spell it all out here but I think you guys get the jist anyways.

    At the end it's all cosmetic if you do it right. I usually use an excel file to check probabilities to see if it is consistent.
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    In series, perhaps, but taken individually, the probability on a 1d20 roll of getting a 1, getting a 20, or getting a 10 are all the same. On a 3d6 roll, the probability of getting a 3 or an 18 are the same, but the odds of rolling a 9 are significantly higher.

    I like my probabilities to follow the bell curve on a per-roll basis, not in series. It's a good middle ground between completely non-random, which I find no fun, and completely random, which disturbs my sense of tactics. heh
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliff View Post
    In series, perhaps, but taken individually, the probability on a 1d20 roll of getting a 1, getting a 20, or getting a 10 are all the same. On a 3d6 roll, the probability of getting a 3 or an 18 are the same, but the odds of rolling a 9 are significantly higher.

    I like my probabilities to follow the bell curve on a per-roll basis, not in series. It's a good middle ground between completely non-random, which I find no fun, and completely random, which disturbs my sense of tactics. heh
    I agree at the end of the day it's how it "feels" to you. I don't think there is a right answer when it comes to these things.

    But I also think that a game is a multi-variable system and that it's hard to just look at one aspect.

    For example, in my games I prefer that my players have an easy way to 'behind the back of the envelope' figure out what their chance of success is. Like you said, it allows for a more tactical game.
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    There are definately pros and cons to both. As already mentioned, rolling a single die has a linear progression, but it is much easier and faster to simply look at the die and call out your roll.

    On the 3d6 style, you get the bell curve, but it takes a couple extra seconds to get to your total.

    The method I chose for SEG was the bell curve, but with a slight twist. Spending time allows you to improve your odds of rolling high so if you aim you get more dice added to your roll. Spending less time takes dice away. You still get the bell curve but move the center value up or down. More dice = more predictable. Less dice = more random.

    I've been dealing with a few different systems and on the note of speed, I find having consistent dice use to be the most beneficial. Thus using all d6 or all d10 is quicker than say D&D where you have a d4 for the dagger plus 2d6 sneak attack + 1d8 electrical damage... That just gets cumbersome quick.

    Games with more steps benefit from using different dice though. Like d20 for skills & attacks and something else for damage. If you just rolled the d20 then you know it was for an attack and not for damage for example.
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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    Armor and wounds

    There seems to be two dominant game mechanics out there when talking about armor. There is the AC style, where the target number increases as you wear tougher armor and then there is damage reduction where the armor reduces the effectiveness of the attack.

    Seems to me that in the real world it is a combination of both. For example, letís start with plate armor. A sword is very unlikely to penetrate the armor in order to cause an actual wound, but might cause a bruise or sting a bit. Most wounds would be caused where there isnít any armor like inside joints, underarms, or where there is a gap in the armor.

    To reflect this in a game, d20 is closeÖ They have the Touch AC which shows if and when you are hit by an attack. Then they have the total AC which shows if youíve been wounded in an unprotected location. What they donít have is a damage reduction for attacks that strike but donít necessarily bypass the armor.

    Iím one of those guys that believes in lethal combat. One or two rounds should leave someone injured beyond the ability to continue fighting. With the d20 model, everything is in place to allow for both DR and AC style damage.

    For example, use the Touch AC to determine if the attack hits. If the attack is lower than the characterís Total AC then use Damage Reduction equal to the AC bonus of the armor. Of the attack is equal to or higher than the Total AC then the attack managed to hit an unprotected location and causes full damage.

    What do you think?
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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    I like your ideas... the flexible dice pool mechanic is definitely quite interesting. As for the armor thing, properly balanced, that would definitely work. Plate makes it harder to find a vulnerable spot, but something like Kevlar has a high damage reduction.
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    Cliff, this brings up a good point. Some armor doesn't cover very much, like a kevlar vest, but it has a very high damage reduction. However, Kevlar isn't very good vs. slashing or crushing type weapons.

    So there are two topics here. Coverage and Damage Reduction. Again, systems like d20 don't give you details. Lets assume that a kevlar vest covers 50% of the body but has a DR of 10... Assuming a complete suit of armor the guy's AC bonus and DR would be +10. But with 50% coverage you could cut the AC in half. So its a +5 AC, but 10 DR.

    But then there's the AC and DR vs. different weapon types. Kevlar is decent vs slashing and crushing, but obviously best vs. piercing weapons. I've been toying with this for SEG as well for the advanced rules. So vs Crushing and Slashing maybe you get a -2 to -4 AC and DR penalty.

    The problem with this is that it tends to be overly complicated. My advanced rules allow for armor ratings vs. weapon type for those that demand detail, but I've found most people are happy with averages. Thus if you have chainmail, which is great vs. slashing, but sucks vs. piercing and crushing, most folks will be happy with a flat AC bonus rather than having to deal with damage type. Plus that's just more crap to fill the character sheet with.

    On that comment... I just want to say that the developers of d20 and D&D have NEVER done research on armor types. Where do they get off saying that chainmail is better than metal scale armor??? Anyway, that's a gripe for another day LOL
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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    On a similar theme... Lets say you hit the guy's Total AC and do full damage but you didn't get a crit. His AC is 12 and your total is 24... you won by 12. It makes sense to me that you should get a bonus for such a well placed shot.

    I've been playing Savage Worlds a bit and like the idea of bonus damage for greater success. It just makes sense. In the SCA I fight sword and shield style and some times I get hit JUST RIGHT where it hurts. No armor and the tip comes in just at the right angle to sting like hell! Had it been a sword point it would have cut bone, tendon, muscle... nasty! Likewise, sometimes you get faked out and nothing you do blocks the shot. So here comes a hard hit to the ribs and you're completely out of position for it. Not good!

    To reflect this in SEG, the advanced rules offer you to gain bonus dice towards your glance/damage. Thus if your attack roll beats their defense by 5-9 you get +1d damage. 10-14 is +2d and so on.

    In D&D/d20 every success by 5 gives a +1d6 damage. Roll a crit and you get the bonus also! All of this serves to make combat more deadly/scarry even for higher level characters.
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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    Perhaps either the range of where the bonuses are applied, or the types of dice you earn, should be based on the weapon type. What you describe means a well placed stab with a dagger will do as much bonus damage as a well placed stab with a greatsword.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Descronan View Post
    ...

    Seems to me that in the real world it is a combination of both. For example, letís start with plate armor. A sword is very unlikely to penetrate the armor in order to cause an actual wound, but might cause a bruise or sting a bit. Most wounds would be caused where there isnít any armor like inside joints, underarms, or where there is a gap in the armor.

    ...

    What do you think?
    On Armor specifically - A broadsword could break a knights arm with the force of the impact. If you broke a leg, you were doomed to a humiliating killing blow as you languished, or suffocated, or died of shock. Horses made a knight. That plate armor was not easy to maneuver in, and yes it took plenty of damage (especially of the slashing/cutting variety) but it wasn't perfect. Escalate your arms race with arrows, crossbow bolts, the Bec-de-Corbin, and other armor defeating weapons and it quickly became apparent that speed was favorable to being armored.

    On game design in general. If you are even remotely thinking of entering the market with a d20 retrofit, I hope you are doing this for the love of game design and not any expectations of profitability. Take in D&D 4e, Pathfinder, and Fantasy Craft as the recent contenders then toss in Mutants and Masterminds 2e, The Iron/Experimental Might series from MC himself, and round it off with True 20, Modern20, and the plethora of retro clones and the market you're competing in has perhaps 1% share to give you (on a sunny day). Look at what's out there and jump on the bandwagon that most closely matches how you play/run your games. Especially OGL/generic systems. They can support most settings and adventures you would want to share and have some of the existing player/customer base to entice.

    If you just need to retrofit/tinker/create then I would first start at the highest level, get some vision, outline it, then start with specifics. You just asked us how you should start building your car by starting a conversation about upholstery and carpet.

    What is your game about?
    What do the characters do?
    How do you envision game play? What does it look like when the players are playing it? How fast is combat? Social conflict? magic/powers?
    How often should the players have to look up rules in the book? In a reference table? On the character sheet?
    Will it use one universal resolution mechanic or have various systems/sub-systems to handle different areas?
    How fast should a player learn this game? How fast/involved will character creation be?

    If you create a combat system with intricate actions, statistics for weapons, armor, and detailed injuries/wounds you are focusing attention and detail to that system. You might be saying "I see the characters embroiled in gritty combats, fighting for their lives with each choice." If you were to ratchet back the details, and perhaps allow an "esoteric" trait like love or revenge factor into combat effectiveness, you might be saying "I want what's important to the characters to have an impact on the imaginary world." You could do both!

    Each of these choices, and the time you spend in an area, and the intricacy of the rules/system, or the simplicity of the rules/system, or the choices you make to represent any/all of the important factors you want to represent with your rules/system are ALL going to impact how your game feels when it's being played. It will affect how players perceive your game, what will jump out at them as important, and how GMs will interpret the execution of your game.

    Once you know some of the styles, situations, and touch points you want generally, you can start tailoring your system to fit your vision. Not a vision of chapters and words, but a vision of actual GAME PLAY. This is key. The fun is in the play. You want to share YOUR idea of how to play a game you created. it's important to formulate the vision of the end result so the steps you take in creating your game are spent on designing what's important to you. Begin with the end in mind - Steven Covey. The first habit of highly effective people. It matters.

    Just my two cents...
    Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
    Bard, Dreamer & RPG Enthusiast
    October Northwest

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    Quote Originally Posted by cliff View Post
    Perhaps either the range of where the bonuses are applied, or the types of dice you earn, should be based on the weapon type. What you describe means a well placed stab with a dagger will do as much bonus damage as a well placed stab with a greatsword.
    And I don't see an issue with that even in d20. First off a sneak attack is based on Xd6 regardless of the weapon used. Same precident.

    In SEG, the size of the weapon determines how many dice get rolled, not the die type. Every weapon does Xd6 so adding additional d6's for success doesn't change that.

    Now obviously if you have a game that rolls d20's for damage you may want to roll smaller die types for bonus damage. Who knows.

    Now if you're talking about a very simulationist game, one based on real life, it still doesn't matter. A 3 inch blade can cut arteries in the arms, neck, etc just as well as a sword can. The difference is that the sword will most likely cause massive tissue damage where the small knife will only cause surface damage. The net result - bleeding to death - is the same.

    Bottom line though the concept makes sense IMO, but it does need to be tailored to the system you are using.
    --- Merged from Double Post ---
    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    Just my two cents...
    Good points.

    On the armor we differ a bit on WHY it was phased out. The invention of firearms made armor obsolete because as firearms got better, it became harder and harder to make armor that could effectively protect you. They got heavier and thicker and more expensive. Eventually the idea of armor became unfashionable and most people could not afford it. To lighten their load, fewer locations were covered with armor - thus you had more areas on the body that could be cut with lighter, longer, thinner blades. Most sword styles of the 15th-16th century focused on striking veins and arteries for that reason.

    For this discussion I just want to get people's ideas on game topics so I'm just posting things that rattle around in my brain. SEG isn't a d20 clone, but a completely different system with similarities. I'm definately doing it for the passion, not profit. My goal for the system was to give people a realistic, playable, quick system that had both the danger of combat with the survivability of a game. Also the focus was on flexibility and customization.

    That's why the rules are broken down into the Core and Advanced rules. Using only the core rules gives you a very simplified, cinematic version of the system but if you WANT, you can add on things like hit locations, armor reduction per hit location, crippling and amputating wounds, and so on.

    I don't like the HP system so much cause it feels like a gas tank. You're fine as long as you're above 1/4 tank. After that you start to get worried and start looking for the Cleric refill center. Combat is dangerous and shouldn't be about calculating odds. Bravery is from diving into the unknown. Heroism is about deeds in the face of adversity. And if the system doesn't allow for an instant KO, it just doesn't fit what I'm looking for.

    But at the same time, you need to have options... its a game.
    --- Merged from Double Post ---
    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    What is your game about?
    What do the characters do?
    How do you envision game play? What does it look like when the players are playing it? How fast is combat? Social conflict? magic/powers?
    How often should the players have to look up rules in the book? In a reference table? On the character sheet?
    Will it use one universal resolution mechanic or have various systems/sub-systems to handle different areas?
    How fast should a player learn this game? How fast/involved will character creation be?

    If you create a combat system with intricate actions, statistics for weapons, armor, and detailed injuries/wounds you are focusing attention and detail to that system. You might be saying "I see the characters embroiled in gritty combats, fighting for their lives with each choice." If you were to ratchet back the details, and perhaps allow an "esoteric" trait like love or revenge factor into combat effectiveness, you might be saying "I want what's important to the characters to have an impact on the imaginary world." You could do both!

    Each of these choices, and the time you spend in an area, and the intricacy of the rules/system, or the simplicity of the rules/system, or the choices you make to represent any/all of the important factors you want to represent with your rules/system are ALL going to impact how your game feels when it's being played. It will affect how players perceive your game, what will jump out at them as important, and how GMs will interpret the execution of your game.

    Once you know some of the styles, situations, and touch points you want generally, you can start tailoring your system to fit your vision. Not a vision of chapters and words, but a vision of actual GAME PLAY. This is key. The fun is in the play. You want to share YOUR idea of how to play a game you created. it's important to formulate the vision of the end result so the steps you take in creating your game are spent on designing what's important to you. Begin with the end in mind - Steven Covey. The first habit of highly effective people. It matters.

    Just my two cents...
    Lots of good points in your post. Why do we make the games we make? What is the end goal?

    Anyone who is interested in creating a game system has to know what it is they are trying to accomplish. On top of that, they need to know their competition. Is there something out there that already does this and can your product do it better?

    I started SEG after years of playing D&D, Shadowrun, GURPS and so on. I liked the free form nature of Shadowrun and GURPS, how there were no strict classes, but I liked overall the feel of D&D. When D&D 3.0 hit the market I saw them doing things that I had already done in my first versions of my game system. So then I had to differentiate my product from theirs while still maintaining the goals that I had in mind.

    As with my goals I had counter goals, things to avoid. Thus I made a list of things that I did not like in games. I disliked the amount of WORK that went into building d20 characters, NPCs, and so on. And then there were restrictions that I interpretted as "you can't" instead of "you can". Beyond that, I have participated in armored mock combat (SCA) for many years and I have a pretty good grip on how combat flows. Certain rules like Attacks of Oportunity just did not reflect what I understand about combat. This is the most obvious example of course.

    So learning what I did NOT like, I set out to make a system that did what I liked while avoiding the pitfalls of other systems. I'm very happy with what SEG does but still have some areas to improve and playtest. I've been working hard on getting the Advanced rules formatted and ready for print. Unfortunately the first version will be very light on art until I can get more material together.

    But at the same time, I game with a lot of d20 gamers who do things not cause they make sense, but because the rules let them. So to reflect the novels that I love, I like to tweak existing systems to address what I see as flaws of logic. So I use house rules like crazy to the point where I COULD make a d20 variant, but why? d20 is the most popular system out there BECAUSE of its unrealistic style. That is its strength. It just doesn't work for me and a smaller percentage of gamers out there. And that is my target audience.

    One thing that came out of writing rules and such is that it made me a better and more descriptive GM. By thinking through all these different scenarios I've been able to expand my understanding of what I want from the game, myself as a GM, and my players. I've been able to take a rule, compare it to reality, and try to give a tactile feeling in the game without cluttering the game with complexities. I've become more aware of the different goals of each type of person in my group from the treasure hunter to the hack and slasher to the dramatic role-player. Everyone wants something out of gaming and the GM has to know himself, his players, and his abilities.
    Last edited by Descronan; 11-11-2009 at 11:58 AM. Reason: Automerged Double Post
    Randal Snyder
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    [quote=Descronan;118978]start to get worried and start looking for the Cleric refill center

    That, my friend, made me laugh!

    I never thought of it that way, but I definitely agree. Thanks for the new insight.

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    Classes or classless? Which do you prefer?
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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