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A couple of weeks ago I tried to drum up some interest in this blog by spamming a bunch of my gaming buddies, new and old, and basically begging them to follow it.
I’ve received a couple of replies, and one, from Andy Mason, made me think.
He said he’d add it to his RSS feed, but as he didn’t share my deep fascination with game design, he didn’t see himself commenting that regularly, all of which is fair enough, however it did surprise me, as I’ve never seen myself as preoccupied with game design, or even game crunch.
In fact, this blog was not supposed to be about design, it was supposed to be about play.

So what went wrong?

When I started nook.geek, I was happily playing every week at my local gaming group, and really just wanted a medium to froth about what I think are cool ideas and moan about the world not understanding my artistic vision (or not liking zombies as much as I think it should).
Then, pretty quickly, the world turned (hello unexpected pregnancy and potential redundancy) and weekly gaming stopped.
Which is where I think things changed. Rather than plot out countless chronicle ideas i’ll never run or generate dozens of characters i’ll never play, I decided to start writing a system.

I’ve quickly discovered that writing your own system can bog you down with details and questions almost straight away.
I mean, I started with a nice idea about what I thought should be in a cool game, and then started trying to think of a way to express that with mechanics, but not complex mechanics, and then suddenly i’m spending hours trying to think round combat/damage/defence mechanics and what exactly should a gun  or a knife do?

Which is what I always hated when running store bought games. In fact, I recall banning certain firearms from my 1950’s vampire chronicle simply because I couldn’t be bothered with the various gun rules.
Thinking on it, I stuck with the White Wolf / World of Darkness games not so much because I liked them (I do), but because i’d learnt the system and therefore did not want to have to learn another one.
I also developed a hatred of D&D 3.x simply because the system got so number heavy, with so many different permutations and exceptions.

So, yeah, i’m surprised that i’m spending so much time on crunch, as i’ve always preferred smooth.

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3 thoughts on “Deep fascination with game design… Crunch vs Smooth

  1. Sam H – Sadly the crunch is what you notice while enjoying the smooth. I think I exorcised most of my crunch demons while running Vikings, and having to deal with some powergamers. In hindsight I handled it all very badly, introducing some big changes between games 1 and 2 that fundamentally changed the character of the game, but did nothing to improve it.

    As a result, I have a much clearer idea of how to do the crunchy bits, but absolutely no will to follow through on that.

    I suspect that you may have to outsource your crunch to someone who is number happy, but also gets what you're trying to achieve.

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  2. think i'm doing ok with the crunch at the moment. Obviously the acid test is playtest, which is scheduled for sometime never, but what i'm coming up with makes sense to me.
    Once it enters the public domain and is actually used, then i'll worry about whether or not it makes sense to anybody else.
    Ah, the joy of vanity projects…

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  3. It's an interesting problem to solve. When I was younger the stats crunching fascinated me and probably excluded the Role Playing aspect of RPG. There is still a certain thrill to min/maxing a character into an unstoppable super hero. However I much prefer the WW approach in games like Changling where the bonuses are also linked to improving the story by description.

    Also whenever someone approaches me in Maelstrom (LRP) with a spreadsheet printed in italic fonts on brown paper a little bit of my role-playing soul dies a little.

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