Modern Gamers: Lazy?

Reading about gaming, something that I do more of than I probably should, leaves me scratching my head more often than not. I keep running into these odd assertions that make little sense to me separately, and even less in aggregate.

  • Gamers want to roll fewer dice - this flies in the face of every bit of real world evidence I've seen. Gamers adore rolling dice. You can hardly get them to stop rolling them when there's no need, or volunteering to roll them just to get the chance. The assertion that players want a game where a single roll of the dice determines their offensive and defensive stance in combat, as well as their opponents, just seems patently absurd to me, yet Dungeon World is based on the notion; Savage Worlds is all about making things faster by not inserting so many die rolls; Fate and Fudge are explicitly written in service of reducing the die rolling, and say so in their introductions.
  • Gamers don't like looking things up on tables - this one must just be modern folk, because those of us who cut our teeth on the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide know full well that there's nothing more fun than rolling and looking up results on tables, whether that be for the earth-shattering artifact that three kobolds were carrying in a knapsack, or to determine the weather in the vicinity of the characters, or to ascertain the type of naughty lady of the night they might encounter at the local inn. Rolemaster is often held up, derisively, as the ultimate expression of too many tables, but they sure do get some fine grained results out of those tables, and a greater richness of detail than you can get from a d20 and "I swing my sword at the orc" anyway. I suspect the key to success here is documentation. Too many tables gives way to a good index.
  • I hate a game with too many skills - we're definitely out in left field for this one for me. While I can appreciate the desire for a simpler list just to speed up and streamline the process of character creation, I all but break out in hives at the number of modern games that think that "Fighting" - all by its self, without any specializations - is an appropriate level of abstraction for a skill. It's bad enough that "Athletics" seems to be a valid skill, but to lump all manner of unarmed combat, one and two handed weapons both balanced and unbalanced, shields, high-tech melee weapons like light sabers and the like all into a single umbrella category is just unsettling.
  • There's too much math - You know, nobody ever said this about Traveller, and we were computing orbital velocities and calculating square roots all over the place in that game. And I've not run into anything remotely as complex outside of a hard science Science Fiction sourcebook in ages. GURPS Vehicles is the book that many will bring up, but it doesn't even exist for the current edition, where they've opted for a Spaceships line that abstracts things radically for ship design. If your idea of too much math is a bit of basic arithmetic, perhaps there are other hobbies you might like better?
I'm taking these into consideration when I start to think about designing a game from the ground up (or, far more likely, assembling one like a sort of textual Doctor Frankenstein, from the severed parts of other well-loved games), but more than anything they make me wonder if there's anyone left out there who would play my "ideal" role playing game system.


  1. I think #1 is wrong, but not wholly wrong. Gamers don't want to roll fewer dice per se, or roll less often. They just don't get extra fun from unnecessary rolls. Cutting down the amount of time the dice are dropped uselessly is good - this frees up time for non-dice activities and for fun and useful die rolls.

    As for tables, yeah, one of my friends famously mocks Rolemaster as "chartmaster." But I played a lot of Rolemaster, and no one ever moaned about a table roll. People would sit and read the weapon and crit charts and daydream about getting a spectacular combination of results, nevermind enjoy the actual in-play roll-and-check.

  2. According to the Slabtown guys, their wonderful new platform will let everyone play at the abstraction level he feels like using: Bob with "Fighter with a sword" can be in the same game as Chaz with "Longsword-16, Shield-14, etc.". Doesn't sound much fun to me, but hey, I'm sure their kickstarter will explode.


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