Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Detail, realism and diminishing returns

Detail and realism, when used to create diminishing returns in the game, open up whole areas of previously unexplored gameplay. Aspects of the game that were never explored because there wasn't a way to distinguish them from one another. By this I mean opening up a new spectrum of options which the players can now enjoy and which were not possible (convenient, useful, survivable) before. Confused? Read on.

My focus on detail and realism in the game has moved to a more "diminishing returns" centered view. Detail and realism not being an end in itself anymore, but rather a means to make players decide between two or more options. Each with conflicting interests and design goals.

What do I mean by this? Well basically if I'm going to add a new rule to obtain more detail I want it to represent the pros and cons of items not just a more precise value for the distance the bullet takes to hit the ground or the exact impact point of the munition.

When I sat down to review the bow and arrow rules and come up with a new model for them I did so making sure a benefit was matched with a drawback. Not only did I arrive at a more realistic model for the bow and arrow, I also ended up with one which promoted different ways to use it. By considering DEX, STR, and CON and breaking away from the two attacks per round limit I allowed players to choose a specialization. Flight arrows vs war arrows, speed over range, etc. It is now possible for players to use the bow and arrow in ways it was not "convenient" before. Using a short, weak and low ranged bow made no sense in the D&D I played 20 years ago. Now without the bounds of two attacks per round it makes all the sense in the world. Such a bow can be fired much faster (5 to 6 shots per round) than it heavier counterparts. Can be easily used while riding on a horse or in a tight dungeon passage. The addition of detail has opened up a whole new spectrum of in game options that players couldn't enjoy before.

As I sit down now to do the same thing with guns and bullets I find this idea even more important. In Weapons Free I'm adding detail down to the bullet type. Will you put in a 9mm Parabellum or a .40 S&W. Each one behaves differently and deserves its distinctive features preserved in the game. The purpose not being the addition of unnecessary rules that slow down game with more numbers and extra die rolls. I want simple modifiers to add clearly distinctive benefits and drawbacks to each weapon, sight and ammo type used. Rules that just add detail or benefits are useless without a drawback. A drawback that eventually limits the virtues of the weapon. With this context becomes relevant and min maxing more difficult. I don't want the difference to be simple range value modifier or a damage roll difference. I'm adding the quality of the sight, ease of use while moving, ammo type, rate of fire, etc. These bits of detail bring out the imperfections of the world our characters live in, thus creating tension and promoting a more interesting game.

How do you implement drawbacks, limitations and diminishing returns in your games?

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An interesting read BTW
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