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11 November 2013 @ 08:38 pm
Fiddly Bits in RPGs  
When I'm playing a tabletop RPG, I love character fiddly bits. Things like minor powers, or advantages and disadvantages, or D&D 3.x Feats, or WFRP Talents, or anything like that. I love Specialities on skills, or the hundreds of Charms in Exalted, or the sheer bewildering variety of spells available in D&D.

If you expect me to say that when I'm running games I don't like fiddly bits, well, that's not the point of this post. I ran Exalted for five years and it's probably my favorite game I've ever run, and I'd leap to do it again if I could, though probably with Dragon-Blooded, God-blooded, or mortals since I've done the stereotypical "Solars rise from obscurity to change the fate of Creation" story. I still love fiddly bits in games and tend to try to add them in to games that lack them, like my random thoughts about adding in an advantage/disadvantage system to Runequest.

No, the point here is that I had a lightning bolt revelation that it doesn't actually matter that much in terms of having a good game, and it was revealed to me through the players in my DELTA GREEN game. I'm using NEMESIS (pdf warning) instead of BRP, but other than the addition of advantages and disadvantages, it's pretty similar since the PCs are normal people[1]. They don't have much to distinguish them mechanically other than their skills, and yet, they've focused on different things, play their characters differently, and feel very different in-game and as far as I know, there are no complaints about stepping on each others' areas of competence.

Maybe it's a legacy of my playing a lot of stat-heavy computer games. In CRPGs, most of the fiddly bits relate to combat because that's what you have the most control over. At least, if there is a CRPG out there where there were a bunch of advantages based on dialogue or convincing people, please let me know, because I'd love to play it. Anyway, in a TTRPG where there's a lot more interaction, there's more mechanical weight that can hang on non-combat solutions even if it's just skill or stat values, but the number of CRPGs that have lots of combat but can be beaten without killing hundreds of people is incredibly low. So, I tend to prize fiddly bits as a means of character distinction even if it's not really necessary.

Maybe I'll try Runequest without ads/disads after all. The roll of combat Feats is handled with the Special Effects for good rolls, and I'm sure I could come up with random tables or steal the Quirks from Cthulhu by Gaslight for people who want distinctive bits that aren't related to their stats or skills.

[1]: Or at least they start that way. In my game, one character is a sorcerer due to perusing eldritch tomes and another is psychic because of mind-swapping Yithian shennanigans.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Crusader Kings II - Legacy of Rome
q99q99 on November 12th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC)
When I was big into reading RPGs for the fun of it and creating characters in my head, I was big into fiddly bits. GURPS, Ironclaw, etc..

Nowadays I almost exclusively play free-form ^^
dorchadasdorchadas on November 12th, 2013 04:18 am (UTC)
Another big aha moment was when I realized that my players didn't really care what kind of game they played and that the crunch-focus was all on my end. That broke the last block for running percentile systems for me.