19 October 2007

Boring P&P RPG systems

  • “Combat is just trading blows until somebody runs out of hit points.”
  • “After he casts his single spell, a first-level magic-user has nothing to do.”
  • “A rogue’s sneak attack doesn’t work against plants, so the rogue player is going to get bored in encounters with plant-monsters.”

(These all happen to apply to various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, but similar sentiments have been uttered about every P&P RPG.)

If a player is bored during a pencil & paper role-playing game, is it the game system’s fault?

Maybe, but I think that is rarely the case. After all, the people who created, developed, and play-tested the game didn’t find it boring or it wouldn’t have been published.

The examples above tend to be cases of not seeing the game for the rules. Most games are more than just the rules. According to Hoyle, the rules of chess are seven pages. Yet I’ve got one 217 and another 362 page book on how to play it. Reading the rules that govern bidding in bridge won’t teach you how to bid. How much more does this apply to role-playing games?

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