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Why D&D? - Complexity is not fun for me
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Thread: Why D&D? - Complexity is not fun for me

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    Why D&D? - Complexity is not fun for me

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    So, I've come full circle. I'm back with my first love - D&D.

    This is my "why". It's important for me to share, as my hope is to provide insight into the mind of a habitual system-addict, manic seeker of the "perfect medium complexity depth because #feelings" RPG and perhaps help other manic-addicts like myself find some peace.

    Recently I dusted off a game system I had explored almost a year ago, dug in a little deeper and found new inspiration to jump in head long. The system's fiddly-bits abound, and I was dazzled by the fiddly-bits because I'm easily dazzled by them. I believed that fiddly-bits would give player's and myself a needed "depth" of options to make game-play more fun. I wanted "medium complexity" because I thought lighter games didn't cover all the options needed to make a game feel "complete".

    Before this new religion, I had dusted off another favorite game and started up a campaign with it. It is a more "gritty" and "realistic" system, with attention to details in both character creation and combat. I hoped this game would add the "feeling" I'm looking for. Of course, trying to identify this "feeling" wasn't so important as seeking it...

    In the course of my campaign I've struggled with new players learning the system, running combats with many participants, shoe-horning magic into my vision of how it works, and encouraging players when their characters seemed less heroic than they had initially hoped.

    In the course of prepping the new game, making 12 characters for a con I would later not be able to attend, came more revelations. In addition, I found a play test group for a similar game as my new one, and played a more complex game and then spent the better part of 2 hours discussing with that GM the merits of lighter, faster systems and trying to figure out what we NEEDED the damn fiddly-bits for. It was an enlightening evening. It's been an enlightening year really.

    In short I came to a conclusion. I wasn't having fun. Worse, I didn't feel like my player's were having fun either. This is generally not good. I have had some personal revelations I share below;

    Revelation one: I don't like making characters in games with lots of fiddly bits. Also, I'm pretty sure none of the players I have roped into my games like it either. They put up with me, but they would rather just get on with it. Complexity does not equal "depth" in the ephemeral way I was hoping to find it. It's also REALLY annoying. This revelation was like discovering (and eliminating) that strange buzz you never realized was giving you migraines.

    Revelation two: Complexity adds useless time to doing EVERYTHING in the game which detracts from actually playing the game. Looking back at all the complexity my "perfect medium complexity depth because #feelings" games introduce into play has added zero fun to the games. In fact, it detracts from them. Instead of playing in a natural fashion we're stopping to figure out rules that generally come to the same conclusions as the faster games. Also, I personally don't bring a lot of the minutiae of these games into play anyways, so it's really a lot of wasted space and time (both on paper and in my brain).

    Revelation three: My most successful games have been with D&D (and the like). I'm sure other light games in the OSR movement would serve some of those same purposes. I like the basic structure of it. I like the stuff I'm reading in the OSR. I feel like I've held on to stubborn "dislikes" of D&D-isms based on habit. Most of my issues are with the way players approached them. I'm smarter and wiser now. Instead of using rules like a bible I can use them like a framework. I've been doing that all along anyways, why use a more complicated framework? Abstract is good. The game just needs to move! Looking back at all the things I think I needed, I am just not seeing how they added any fun. Being able to just "get into it" has had way more impact.

    Revelation four: Complex games take longer to prep, which detracts from accomplishing the prep. I run a hybrid sandbox + events style, and I like to have various things ready to pull as I "improvise" through various encounters and reactions to player choices. Not only do complex systems make it harder to prep, they make it harder to improvise. I need to be quick on my feet. This has cost me loads of personal time.

    Revelation five: I'm not as digital as I once thought I should be. I'm feeling like the computer is getting in the way of me engaging the game. I'm faster with 3-ring binders, physical books, notes, a GM screen and 3x5 cards. Maybe I'm more old-school than I thought, but I'm seriously going to ditch my digital for an analog table. I thought maybe music would be fun, but it's also just distracting. I just need people and imagination! It's more fun to me. It will also make playing in the retirement home after the apocalypse MUCH easier...

    Revelation six: I'm bat shit crazy. It's important to recognize your problems so you can address them, right? Don't worry, I think these revelations are the first steps in me fixing this. :-)

    So, I've explored the OSR stuff and have read D&D 5e and decided to stop chasing this strange obsession with "perfect medium complexity depth because #feelings" down the rabbit hole. Instead I'm going to focus on running games and creating for them. At this moment those games are going to be D&D (5e) or like games. No more complex games. I'm going to focus on the fun. Complexity is not fun for me.

    I'm actually feeling good about this decision. Not in my usual "let's form a cult in my mind and pursue this idea with manic devotion!!" kind of hyper good, but the calm good of a real epiphany.

    Thanks for reading my diatribe. I'm really excited to have my feet under me again.
    Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
    Bard, Dreamer & RPG Enthusiast
    October Northwest

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    Brother, I definitely smell what you are stepping in. I've made the same journey as you, with the same results.

    For no good reason - other than I am feeling argumentative today - I offer one suggestion as to why this happened. Familiarity.

    No matter what kind of warts or scars there might be, we almost all like to go "home" again.

    Welcome home, TreChriron. Welcome home.

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    I went through the same stuff over the last 11 years. I started trying to write a game to be my perfect vision of gaming. Eventually ditched the whole thing 6 years on. and recently started with a simpler system of rules and even went back to class structure(which i was utterly opposed to.) I think what a lot of us have done though is forget that gaming is about the experience not the nuances. There will never be a truly realistic pen and paper RPG. So we have to pick our battles. The only thing I'm still not willing to give up is my more complex magic. But I've found a way to make that easier too. So yeah I'm right with you, I'm no longer looking to find the perfect system but instead I'm trying to create the perfect game. On a side note, I think a major part of my problem is that I cannot PC for myself, I cannot find a GM with a style similar to my own. So in the end every time I PC I get bored and then when I GM I try to stop the players from being bored. In the end all i accomplish is making the game harder to understand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malruhn View Post
    No matter what kind of warts or scars there might be, we almost all like to go "home" again.
    Hm, I never really drank the D&D kool-aid. My introduction to RPGs was Metagaming's Melee and Wizard. Maybe I should dust off my old The Fantasy Trip books? (Or Dark City Games' "Legends of ..." series.)

    Realistically, though, RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu are the first games I truly fell in love with, so I'll probably run the latest versions of them. Or Magic World, which is basically Stormbringer without Moorcock.

    I'm also enjoying Numenera and The Strange as a player. By design they're both easy to GM although I'll probably never do so.

    I'm still looking at D&D-ish games, though. 5e looks OK, but I've only read Basic. Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Crypts and Things (based on Swords and Wizardry), and Stars Without Number are still on the table. I've also thought about going ultra-minimalist with "1974 Style", if I can find players to follow me and enough material to borrow.

    Trechiron is right, though: it's more the GM and players than the system. Unfortunately, when I GM, I need all the help (and comfort level) I can get.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    The important thing is you are having a great time with your hobby. Nothing else matters. Welcome back to the world of gaming fun.

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    hmmm. please go take a look at my rules-light game thread over in the independent/small press sub-forum, if you haven't already - and even if you have, please provide more feedback.

    on one paw, i've found that while i like having a large range of options available for a character, that does not necessarily equate complexity. all the math and number crunching on the fly (especially if i don't have a cheat sheet where i've pre-totaled all the possible options and notated them in an easy-to-reference format) really slows me down and makes gaming less fun.

    on the other paw, while i've really liked playing and building stuff in 3rd ed d&d, i'm not particularly good at the math and research necessary to make a (mechanically) solid character. i recall recently building a mobile fortress for our group, and to be honest, i think i had more fun building it and subsequently showing it off and having everyone use it in game then actually rp'ing the character who built it.

    on another paw, i've long detested uber-simplistic systems which boil down to a one-vs-one mechanic or a jyan-ken-po style resolution factor. especially when they are super vague, or aren't able to distinguish between kinds of things thereby rendering differences moot (for example, in a supers setting, you can be vulnerable to something, resistant to some other things, and immune to something; some uber-simple systems don't really give or support mechanics for such granularity).

    on the last paw, fun is really what's most important. i've had fun playing d&d 1, 2, & 3. i've had fun playing rolemaster, battle tech, star frontiers, marvel (original), gurps, tfos, and many more simple, medium, and complex games.

    i've found that it's really more about who one games with, rather than what one is gaming with per se.
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    See, while I applaud these sharings of people's ideas and conclusions, and I think gamers are all the better for them, at the very least, the people that post them, I think there is something even more interesting on display here.

    I agree with the essence of the words in the original post - the back and forth, the complexity, the simplicity, all that. But the funny thing is, at a certain point, it's like I'm reading Martian and I'm in one of those Star Trek mirror universes. He says "so I don't want all that complexity, so I'm going to stick with D&D 5" - and I hear "I really don't like having to worry about my cholesterol, so I'm going to only eat fried pork and bacon sandwiches with extra butter and mayo". My mind simply cannot comprehend how someone can even include "rules lite" or similar phrase in the same paragraph with any D&D past redbox, even if they're not using it to refer to the game itself, so opposed are the two concepts, from my perception.

    I started with redbox off the shelf at a bookstore in the 90s, and went to AD&D2E, and then went to other systems and genres from there. I tried 3.5 when it first came out, for about six months, and could not stand it, and quit. I've since tried a couple of games of 4e and while it added and changed a few things, it's only marginally less frustrating to me. Someone tried to tell me once how different Pathfinder was from 3.5, and their explanation was like explaining why Mountain Dew was different from Code Red. With the possible exception of HERO or perhaps GURPS now from what I hear, I have never played a more complicated, complex, bloated or involved and dense and inaccessible RPG in my life, as D&D 3 or later. I continue to stay amazed THIS monstrosity is new gamers intro to gaming, and that people see it as a "simple" alternative to "those complex games".

    Lest this seem like a rant against D&D, I'd like to say I realize that is MY perception, and obviously there are tons of people that DO love D&D and are much more in line with the OP. I don't understand it, on a common sense level, but I do on an intellectual logic ones, but I accept it, because some people love vanilla, some people love chocolate, some people love mint. None of them are inherently better than the other, though some are more commonly popular, but that doesn't provide any objective basis for any flavor's superiority.

    So posts like this, that serve to remind me and re-open my eyes, just how differently people can perceive things, that literally are from a place my mind simply cannot emulate the thought processes for, are vital for everyone, especially those that do NOT feel the same as the people that post them. This is the same principle as religious tolerance and getting rid of racism and whatever else - we have to be able to say "Wow. I thought this was bad or unlikable, but look at this. There are people that are functional and otherwise 'normal' (likely much moreso than me) that hold opinions that are, without hyperbole, radically different than mine." Now, I can dismiss it and say "This guy's a nutjob, it's obvious what he's saying is crazy". Sure, I could. But rational people take the time to say "Wow, that is so strange. This makes me realize that I need to also give myself more credit, and my players, for being able to play a game, to be in each other's company, to agree on things, that really, we may not realize we see from really, really different perspectives." This type of post helps me stop, each time, when running games or designing some part or adventures, to think, and wonder about the players, to put extra effort into considering what differences are possible, and how to weigh such things, when I finalize whatever it is I'm doing. Because in the end, we all just want to have fun, and while we may disagree and hold different views on things, that doesn't mean we need to slam someone else's preferences to make ours valid. WE play OUR games, and the only validation we need is - do WE enjoy this? I wish the rest of life could follow such a simple concept.
    Abstruse Decapod

    "Why aren't i just be able to write adventures that don't require crap like an Amish rpg?" -myself

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    He says "so I don't want all that complexity, so I'm going to stick with D&D 5" - and I hear "I really don't like having to worry about my cholesterol, so I'm going to only eat fried pork and bacon sandwiches with extra butter and mayo". My mind simply cannot comprehend how someone can even include "rules lite" or similar phrase in the same paragraph with any D&D past redbox, even if they're not using it to refer to the game itself, so opposed are the two concepts, from my perception.
    I've only read D&D 5 Basic, but really it's not far off from Red Box if you ignore some of the tedious prose. No feats in Basic; they're optional in the PHB, I hear. Skills are still there, but only Untrained (raw stat bonus only) or Trained (stat + level-based Proficiency Bonus). "Backgrounds" give characters a couple of extra skills, so if you hate skills you can ignore them. Basic only has the Classic Four; the full PHB has something like the full AD&D complement.

    I haven't read the full 5th Edition PHB yet, but just leafing through it in stores I can't help but conclude they did a complete rollback to AD&D and added a few lessons learned along the way (e.g. consistent d20 + bonus vs. difficulty factor, the famous/infamous Advantage/Disadvantage dual d20 roll rather than lots of fiddly bonuses and penalties, etc.) Even the Great Wheel is back.

    And I really don't like D&D. Any version.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    The Ancient Greek aphorism "know thyself" Is I think one of the wisest ever. Once you have reached that you have a handle on everything.

    Congratulations on reaching the epiphany of knowing thy gaming self. Sadly it is the journey that no one can make for you.

    Now you can make progress and have.

    Garry AKA --Phoenix-- Rising above the Flames.
    My favorite game console is a table and chairs.
    The Olde Phoenix Inn

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    "Thy Gaming Self." That needs to be coined.

    Here's another reason to play D&D: you live in a roleplaying vacuum, and the majority of people around you insist on playing it because it's the only choice. This is the power of brand name recognition. It's like going to the store to buy Kleenex. There are plenty of other facial tissues (and handkerchiefs, if you aren't wasteful) but you just want to get your shopping done.

    I pray to the D&D gods, every once in a while, to say thanks for 5th edition, or as one might call it: 3.5 Lite.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    ... He says "so I don't want all that complexity, so I'm going to stick with D&D 5" - and I hear "I really don't like having to worry about my cholesterol, so I'm going to only eat fried pork and bacon sandwiches with extra butter and mayo". My mind simply cannot comprehend how someone can even include "rules lite" or similar phrase in the same paragraph with any D&D past redbox, even if they're not using it to refer to the game itself, so opposed are the two concepts, from my perception. ...
    :-)

    I am a fan of GURPS 4e and have tried to sit down several times and customize a game to run (and ran out of patience). I just finished playing a session in a Rolemaster Unified play-test. I was exploring using HARP as my fantasy game (a sort of "Rolemaster Light" ish).

    Compared to that? 5e is light.

    Compared to PF/3.5 5e is light.

    It's actually super fast in play, easy to modify on the fly, and bounded accuracy eliminates much of the stress of going up levels - being the DM (IMHO). It's very well done.

    EDIT: OH - and thanks everyone for the kind words!
    Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
    Bard, Dreamer & RPG Enthusiast
    October Northwest

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    Then I might be willing to talk to some people I know and give D&D one more try. I hated 3.5 and PF and 4 were only marginally better, and I only had the early release stuff for 5 but it didn't look appreciably different to me, but I'm willing to keep an open mind about it. But I lean toward games like RISUS, Feng Shui, Wushu, and Warhammer 2e, the thicker of which may still be complex in some areas, I feel are more consistently and finitely arranged.

    So in that fashion then I think I and probably most people can empathize. Obviously, if I were to just state it plainly:

    "I want to play (and make) a game that is simple, easy to learn and remember, straight forward, but still providing enough depth for variety and exciting dynamics, and room for player and GM customization and innovation (ie creativity), both in character feature choice and gameplay".

    How or if this is possible is what keeps me always dissatisfied, but hopeful.
    Abstruse Decapod

    "Why aren't i just be able to write adventures that don't require crap like an Amish rpg?" -myself

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    Quote Originally Posted by trechriron View Post
    I am a fan of GURPS 4e and have tried to sit down several times and customize a game to run (and ran out of patience).
    I was a GURPS fan like you. Then I took a spreadsheet to the knee. (Seriously, I was a fan since Man to Man, and even ran a GURPS 1-3e campaign back in my college years ... which probably led to my pathological dislike of traditional RPG magic. 4e is actually an improvement, of sorts ... but really I don't want to sit down and build templates. GURPS almost needs a meta-object protocol: one level builds campaigns and archetypes, resulting in simple and streamlined player options. Almost like the Apocalypse World engine minus the ubiquitous hand-holding, or Basic Role Playing/RuneQuest without some of the guesswork.)

    As I mentioned above, though, I'm not a fan of Class-and-Level (and even less of Feats and Class Abilities); give me simple numeric progressions and tools to improvise cool maneuvers. Favorite engines include BRP/RQ, FATE, PDQ-Sharp, Barbarians of Lemuria, and MiniSix. Nobody but me seems to care about basic rules, though, only what cool stuff their characters can do and how cool the game world is. D&D is known; the rest are unknowns and therefore off-putting.

    I've reported before on the Customization Catch-22: the closer I get to My Kind of Game, the further I get from what other people call D&D. OSR and 5th offer possible compromises (as does Numenera, somewhat), in that the rules-as-written are simple and malleable enough to do what I want with minimum effort ... and people have heard of them. So is Call of Cthulhu, to a lesser extent. So here I am, still stuck in Analysis Paralysis, still trying to summon the energy to run any option, and wondering whether playing only in other people's worlds isn't so bad.
    "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
    - Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpatterson View Post
    "I want to play (and make) a game that is simple, easy to learn and remember, straight forward, but still providing enough depth for variety and exciting dynamics, and room for player and GM customization and innovation (ie creativity), both in character feature choice and gameplay".
    That game is available by following the URL in my signature.

    Quote Originally Posted by fmitchell View Post
    I was a GURPS fan like you. Then I took a spreadsheet to the knee.
    A free Skyrim module to the game that jpat is looking for will be linked in the thread about the subject, in these very forums. In the OP's interest, it's a smaller book than 5e. GURPS could use some enchanting; that old game can barely cut butter.
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