Having followed this thread for a time - reading most of the 85 posts, I have a hard time figuring out what this is about. Rereading the posts we have:
Which boils down to basically complaining about Dungeon World ( ~PbTA in general not having subsystems ) and thus feeling samey (?).
An example for not nice handling more depth is Shadowrun:
A false criticism of Dungeon World is:
Dungeon World or PbtA in general isn’t about skill checks!
Which might explain, why the TO thinks it feels samey. It has no subsystems in comparison to other games, because what you are doing in combat or magic is not different from what you are doing in general. Numbers work different in PbtA games.
A prime example for that is how PbtA does handle difficulty in opposition to other games. In more traditional games if you as a GM want to present your players a hard or dangerous or complicated task you set the difficulty of the given task. “The wall is high and hard to climb?” - “roll acrobatics against 20.”
Here the 20 signals that the task is difficult - opposed to a standard 15.
In PbtA you couldn’t cover behind a number and abstract away what it means that the wall is hard to climb with this number. You describe the situation with move snowballing in mind: meaning one bad thing leads to another bad thing and things go south. So if the situation has one or the other outcome you were able to say: “now that was difficult”.
The complexity of the situation is in stark contrast to mechanical complexity.
Still the question remains at that point:
So diving in deeper:
Another PbtA misunderstanding:
That is not the case for e.g. Dungeon World: Monsters always inflict damage as listed in their description
nope. See above.
This is clearly the same misunderstaning like the one above:
The result doesn’t define how successful you are. It says that you are successful and leads in to what comes next. When there is one thing I find misleading and therefore annoying in PbtA is the description of the outcome in terms of three classes of having a success, a partial success or a failure which leads to the exact misunderstanding for people new to the system.
Even with a 6- you could be successful in what you are doing. But what comes next might hit you hard.
No and yes. There is a now the enemy attacks and the rules clearly say when - you noticed that.
If I sum up what I think this is about:
- There are rule-systems which have sub-systems which make the game complex from a mechanical point of view. This is assumed to also lead to more depth
- There is a kind of player who feels attracted to more complex systems
- There is a satisfaction of rules mastery. Rules mastery is on the one hand the ability to know a large number of rules and on the other hand being able to make an informed decision within the variety of rules up to the degree of “beating the system”.
- To make an informed decision there is the requirement of the rules being not arbitrary. Rules have to be orthogonal and mostly consistent: There are different mechanical ways to deal with a situation and it is up to the player to choose which resolution mechanic to choose. A criterium for consistency is comparability or symmetry: E.g. a level 1 spell isn’t as powerful as a level 2 spell and a level 1 fireball behaves symmetrical to a level 1 lightning bolt and has consistent description of its effects.
- There is a differnce between having simply lot of different rules and having an “ordered” system of many but different rules
- There is an upper limit for the number of rules which is the capability of the mind of the players getting used to it on the one hand and the practicability or playability: I could imagine having a lot of simple to memorize rules which follow a complex grammar of making up a situation in the game which takes up a large portion of the time spent playing where the initial purpose of doing something different from analyzing the situation ruleswise does not evoke the feeling of playing a game anymore
The requirements seem to be:
- offering a lot of rules
- organizing the rules in different subsystems
- staying consistent
- being symmetrical
- being gameable / playable
I can understand that PbtA does not appeal to that kind of player. The mechanics in PbtA serve a different purpose than that in more trad games. And mostly sacrifice one of the other points in favour of being gameable.
I think it hard for a game to fulfill all of the above requirements. I assume an easy breaking point is having different subsystems on the one hand and being consistent and symmetrical on the other hand. Even if you take “chess” which is admittedly no roleplaying game, but one meeting most of the requirements, it has not many rules to offer although having many subsystems for the movement of each class of chess piece.
Sorry for the mass quotations.
Left open: I could see that meeting the requirements of the above list may feel satisfying for some kind of people, but I could not say what exactly it is what seems satisfying (perhaps the freudian anal fixation is of any help?). I am not that kind of player.