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Dumbing Down RPG's

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This topic contains 23 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  ced1106 1 year ago.

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    I find modern RPG’s very frustrating.

    Seems that they have taken the MMO style and made character creation just a matter of ticking boxes.

    [This example is based on D&D5, but many other games use a similar system, Modern Age, One Ring, Star Wars, Pathfinder, Starfinder]

    Can’t just create a character with race and class and then pick skills.

    You have to pick a background and roll (or choose) from a selection of personality traits.

    The choice of skills is restricted to those available to your class and background, so you have to pick a background with the skills you want, which might not feel right.

    I know it’s to help new players, but it just feels so restrictive, stifles the creativity of the player by limiting the options.

    It’s only a matter of time before they have online character creators with 3D rendering programs to create the character picture, along with slider for height, body shape and skin colour.



    I don’t think RPGS have dumbed down character creation at all. I think a lot of games out there now as probably more in-depth than they were before, or at least refined to make the process more about you as a role-player rather than just numbers.

    To support your point though there has been a shift towards simpler role-playing games that are quicker to get into and play simply because people don’t have the time they used to anymore. It’s much easier to get stuck into something like Savage Worlds than D&D because the process for creating characters is more open and accessible – meaning you game for longer!



    Savage Worlds does not appeal to me. The dice pool mechanic would be a pain to explain to my players and some of them don’t retain rules well, so I’d be explaining every week… which wastes time… the commodity we don’t have.

    When I create a character it costs minimal time as I tend to do the bulk between game sessions. Once I have the stats I can build the rest between games.

    I like simple games, the less time spent referring to the rules the better, but we have been playing for 30+ years and know what character we want to create, so feel constrained by the limitations imposed by game creators to ‘hand hold’ the player through creation, so it takes longer to pick the right class, race, background combo.




    I tend to allow my players choose what they want to play then “ensure” that they get the stats to play that. For example if someone wants to play a ranger I just make sure that their stats are at a minimum sufficient for that. As for background I might give them some suggestions or use some game aids like tables, etc but generally I give them a lot of freedom. Some people love coming up with their own back story while others want to know, at least roughly, what their back story is and role play to that. So it generally depends on the players and I think as in all things RPG what one uses to generate the characters is a “suggestion”. I’m not a rules as written type of DM though I try to follow the spirit of the rules.



    I’d be inclined to do something similar, but as I’m player not GM, the choice is not mine.




    I think you read the (modern) character construction wrong or your GM sucks at using/explaining them …

    The thing to remember is that these are not computer games.
    There is no real ‘you must pick this and only this’, unless your GM is a rules lawyer and forces you to stick to the official classes in Pathfinder (which is D&D v3.5-ish)

    The archetypes in many of these ‘new’ rules are merely suggestions of skill & talent combos that work so you don’t run into a situation where you create a character incapable of performing even the most basic skills of his ‘profession’.

    Besides … there’s always the OSR (‘Old School Rules’ ) which is pretty much back to the ‘good old days’ of D&D.
    Example is DCC (Dungeon Crawl Classic). If you start at level 0 you don’t even get to pick a class, until you survive your first adventure …



    For “old school rules” I’d also recommend The Fantasy Trip, which has just been re-published by Steve Jackson Games. I just received my KS pledge for the Legacy Edition, which includes the full RPG, In The Labyrinth, plus the Melee and Wizard mini games, a box of hex tiles, GM screen and 3 ready to play adventures.



    My gaming group and I had this discussion last week. I think it all part of the game designers plan of simplify to stop play getting bogged down in minutiae. When I watch videos of modern role play there’s far less combat and a lot of focus on role play. In a lot of cases they emphasise the ‘gaming in the gaps’ as Warren would put it, to get players to flesh out their characters and worlds.

    It’s easy to dismiss as dumbed down but often when I’m being objective and not blinded by nostalgia, I remember that whilst I had far more fun in older systems, they were clunky, time consuming and often an exercise in maths and accounting as much as a role play and combat system.



    We have fun when we play, partly because our bad dice luck (but not Will Wheaten level of bad dice luck… we’re not that unlucky… although one player did roll triple 1 on 3d6 four times in a single 2 hr game session), partly because we bring humour to the game.

    I know that any rules system can be tweaked to make it better, rules are there to be bent, broken and ignored, but sometimes you just want to game.

    And ‘Old School’ seems an odd title as they’ve only been around since 1974. There is some nostalgia, it’s as much about remembering your youth as it is the games you played.

    If I wanted to play ‘old school games’ I’d just go to my cupboard where I have AD&D, WEG Star Wars, MERP, FASERIP, James Bond, Gangbusters, Rolemaster etc.

    But they were clunky as you say and combat (especially Role-master) could take hours.

    There is one thing that seems to confuse game designers… continuity… players want to keep playing their favourite characters for ever. A lot of games now have you gaining levels (or earning skill points, or whatever) very quickly.

    Look at the D&D campaigns and Pathfinder Adventure Paths. They take you to high level, if not the highest level possible for the games. The assumption being that you just make a new character and start again, but after spending months with that character, you know them, think like them and don’t want to retire them… or maybe that’s just my gaming group.

    And because they level up so quickly now it’s over so quickly. When I played AD&D I don’t recall ever getting a character to maximum level.



    I have found that to be the case with d&d 5E certainly, but then there’s plenty of other RPGs out there with different character creation methods with varying degrees of detail.  Ultimately it’s about a trade off between speed and detail – the more details you can tailor at character creation the longer it will take to create and vice versa.  D&D 5E, while it definitely isn’t my favourite game by a long stretch, makes character creation simple and quick.  I have also found that this doesn’t actually reduce the depth of the characters either because depth does not come from the numbers on the sheet but from the actions of the player.  Personally I actually enjoy games with more details and customisation options than d&d provides but I don’t think that games with less detailed character creation are “dumbed down”.



    I know this started about character generation, but the games themselves are sometimes simplistic.

    And the less said about the MMO tabletop game known as D&D4 the better!



    We’ve started a 5th edition campaign. I thought it seemed a bit basic, but I’m effectively playing The Rock so I don’t care.



    A dwarf barbarian called Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johansson?



    Is there a difference here between RPGs intended for multi-session campaigns vs pick-up, one session stories?

    Plus I remember when I played my first D&D {cough} years ago that I didn’t know what I was doing and disliked my first character after a couple of evenings; the multiple aspects didn’t fit comfortably and I couldn’t see the character in my minds eye.  A quick word with the DM and he quietly disappeared to be replaced by a character I was able to put more understanding into the generation.

    I can see why starter packages and getting started guides might shortcut some of the characteristics; it would be good if some of the background and additional characteristics can be opened up later to support the character that has been created in the game.



    Only times that I played a ‘one shot’ RPG was if there was a freebie game to test the rules, or a convention game where you take a pregen.

    RPG’s are multisession by default.

    I have run or been a player in numerous campaigns that for 2-3 years. My current campaign is six months old and ongoing. I will take a break in a couple of months to be a player instead of GM.

    Some people claim to be still playing the same character after 30 years, but I never met anyone that has… they are an urban legend.

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