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Most 'realistic' rpg rules?
March 14, 2012 7:24 AM   Subscribe

What are the most mathematically 'advanced' RPG systems? Pen & paper and otherwise?

There's been a lot of work done in the past 30 years on statistical modeling, as well as a lot of computing power available in mobile devices, but it seems to me as someone who has been only casually following RPG development that RPG's are still mostly relying on dice and cards and basically haven't gotten much more advanced than craps or poker.

I'm curious if maybe I've missed some development to produce more realistic character generation and world modelling? I know that some gamer someone has to have done some work along these lines, even if the games failed.

So what's out there? I'm mostly interested in developments in tabletop gaming, but even like really modern RPG's seem like they're just using really dice rolls in the background. Is that the case?
posted by empath to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Not an RPG, but the resource production mechanic in Settlers of Catan is based on the bell-curve distribution of rolling two six-sided dice.
posted by gauche at 7:52 AM on March 14, 2012

I'm having trouble understanding your question. Parts of what you say suggest that you are interested in randomization methods besides dice, but other parts suggest you are interested in more realistic character modeling methods than "Str/Dex/Con/.../Cha". These are very different interests, though. Could you say a bit more about what you're looking for?
posted by voltairemodern at 8:07 AM on March 14, 2012

Both. Either.
posted by empath at 8:09 AM on March 14, 2012

I don't know what you mean by mathematically advanced here. Do you mean "best apporoximates the real-world"?

Here's an interesting article on realism in war games, especially Arma 2.

I'm no expert but one of the upshots seems to be you probably don't want games to be too realistic because the real-world mechanics don't make for a fun game. For example, while in games you have extended fights where people are picking what move to make next as they do damage to each other, in the real world it's binary and very quickly over: a shell hits the tank, and the tank is toast, or it doesn't hit at all.

I once asked How can life be made more like games? Part of why games are more fun than the typical slice of real life is that they're designed to have interesting things happen more frequently, be understandable, be balanced, have the outcome remain in doubt for a long time, give the person who is behind a reasonable prospect of turning things around etc. A real-life probability distribution might not lead to any of those desirable properties.
posted by philipy at 8:11 AM on March 14, 2012

Do you mean "best apporoximates the real-world"?

I basically mean simulating reality in an RPG in a way that's more involved than 'roll d20 to hit.' And character sheets that more accurately reflect the differences between people than the usual Strength, Dexterity, etc, and maybe a check list of skills.
posted by empath at 8:33 AM on March 14, 2012

I'm not deeply into the genre or it's history/development but I know games like ASL are pretty in depth with regards to mechanics/interactions/etc.

Battletech also has a reputation for being a bit complex.

There was also a seafaring / sailing ship battle game, the name eludes me, that I've heard of that had complex rules relating to wind and strategy as well.

Is this what you're asking about?

I mean, with regards to modeling strategies, Go is still so complex, as wiki notes,

The game complexity of Go is such that describing even elementary strategy fills many introductory books. In fact, numerical estimates show that the number of possible games of Go far exceeds the number of atoms in the known universe.

When in doubt xkcd.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:35 AM on March 14, 2012

The creator(s) of ACKS are highly conscious of the mathematics behind their system.

I remember reading something from them to the effect of "We have something Gygax didn't: computer spreadsheets!".

So although the game is played with dice, it seems to be constructed on a pretty complex and thoughtful mathematical model that takes advantage of statistics and probability studies.

And if you're looking for a "more realistic" reality simulator, I haven't found anything more comprehensive than GURPS, for all its other faults. I call it "more realistic", because it takes so much into account, and definitely errs on the side of system complexity over abstraction. Verisimilitude can be achieved with it better than any other system I know.
posted by edguardo at 8:42 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I dont have a link to it - beyond a wikipedia article, but the PnP game TORG had a really complicated resolution system to take into effect that, similar to GURPS, it encompassed a variety of RPG "genres". You needed a calculator sometimes to determine the outcome of an action.
posted by elendil71 at 8:49 AM on March 14, 2012

I guess I missed the part where you're talking about RPGs. To me the fact that tabletop/D&D style games don't seem to incorporate more of these number crunching factors is inherent to the field. Otherwise you can play something like Fallout 3 where all the crunching is going on behind the scenes as the CPU cycles statistics/choices/faction approval ratings/etc millions of times a session.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:51 AM on March 14, 2012

Yeah, came in here to mention GURPS as well. This is an all-too-accurate joke about how complex GURPS can get if whoever is writing the expansion (or the expansion you make yourself) really sets out for realism.
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on March 14, 2012

Otherwise you can play something like Fallout 3 where all the crunching is going on behind the scenes as the CPU cycles statistics/choices/faction approval ratings/etc millions of times a session.

Yeah, I guess what I'm asking about is more of a hybrid thing, now that everyone's got ipads and iphones that can do that conveniently while you're sitting around a table, I'm wondering if anybody has revisited systems that were two complex when they were initially published, or has developed new 'tabletop' rpgs that incorporate more complicated statistical models than would have been feasible when everyone was stuck using dice as an RNG.
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on March 14, 2012

IMO, the Hero System is single-handedly most responsible for creating American game designers. Obviously, very similar to GURPs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2012

Dare I say that if you're looking for an RPG system hell-bent on simulating everything (and I do mean everything), there's always the justifiably infamous F.A.T.A.L. (Don't even look at it. Just run away now while you still believe there's some good in the universe.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:18 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Not an RPG, but the resource production mechanic in Settlers of Catan is based on the bell-curve distribution of rolling two six-sided dice."

My weak math brain tells me that why would someone base something off a bell curve distribution of dice when you can just randomly roll the dice, fufilling the bell curve distribution anyway? Cut the middle man.
posted by amazingstill at 12:25 PM on March 14, 2012

My weak math brain tells me that why would someone base something off a bell curve distribution of dice when you can just randomly roll the dice, fufilling the bell curve distribution anyway? Cut the middle man.

That's what they do. It's actually a trianglular curve because there are only two dice, but whatever.
posted by dfan at 12:39 PM on March 14, 2012

Dice pools seem to be increasing in popularity these days.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on March 14, 2012

If you want loads and loads and loads of lookup tables running off an open-ended d100 system, with dozen+ stats all of which modifies skills and differential skill development point costs for different classes (leading to different kinetics of skill advancement; both generalist and specialist), give Rolemaster, later referred to as RMSS, a look.
posted by porpoise at 4:04 PM on March 14, 2012

Nothing remotely playable without a computer doing all the work is ever going to approach realism, but the games I've heard mentioned in relation to taking a stab at it (while still being intended to be playable by humans) are: GURPS, EABA, CORPS, The Friday Night Firefight rules in Cyberpunk 1st ed. (called Cyberpunk 2013 after the fact to distinguish it from the second edition, Cyberpunk 2020), The Riddle of Steel, Rolemaster, and Harnmaster. And, while I have a couple of these, I haven't read them to have an opinion. It's hard enough to find the time even to understand much simpler systems.

I think there's a niche for someone to make a smartphone-centric RPG with app-resolved combat, but so far as I know, no one has.
posted by Zed at 4:17 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Millennium's End had a high degree of crunch. It's strong point was an innovative combat system making use of transparent overlays which you placed over bodymaps, with numbered points on the overlay (matched to the outcome of the attack & dodge rolls) determining where the bullet lands. Of course you could easily interject any incidental cover the target may using by inserting paper between the bodymap image and the overlay.

It was a really fun method, creating a sense of kinetic realism and chaos that no amount of dice and maths could mimic.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:00 PM on March 14, 2012

While I have only minimal knowledge of tabletop games, on the online side of things I'm given to understand that Haven and Hearth is a bit special in terms of MMOs. Of course, the open PVP and endless options for griefing are a considerable downside to many people, but in terms of character generation and world modelling I know of nothing else like < href="">FEPs (your attributes are determined by the food you eat) and quality (oh god will someone sell me some decent clay?).

As my direct knowledge of the PVP combat system in HnH mostly involves dying, I can't really comment on that, but apparently it's not just a numbers game, a certain amount of skill is required in order to get anywhere - and 'movement combat' is either a skillful use of abilities, or cheating, or entirely fictional, I can't quite decide. Also, siege mechanics are somewhat broken, leading to the current situation where if you can build sufficient infrastructure, you can get away with as many murders as you like.
posted by Lebannen at 5:13 PM on March 14, 2012

If you want to go back in time, there's good old Phoenix Command, a game so complex that you had to rework your various abilities after firing a gun, because that bullet would change your encumbrance and change everything.

Pity the fellow with an automatic weapon.
posted by mephron at 5:38 PM on March 14, 2012

In the vein of computer-assisted RPGing, if not in real-world modeling, MapTool is a tool for displaying maps (and tokens labelled with info about the tokens) as an alternative to the time-tested graph paper and dry-erase surfaces of the past. It supports frameworks that can support automating at least some parts of combat. The same folks have several other RPG tools.
posted by Zed at 9:55 AM on March 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

And here's an interview mentioning several other tools -- it's seeming like for a bunch of conventional RPGs, the server-side framework is in place but I'm not seeing that the clients' interfaces have been optimized for mobile devices.
posted by Zed at 10:08 AM on March 15, 2012

Someone's taking a stab at app-centric RPGing.
posted by Zed at 7:57 AM on March 27, 2012

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