The value of crunch

Adam Reynolds

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Hit post instead of preview. Woops.

So to say what I intended, I am always a heavy supporter of Fate type games that are crunch light and extremely abstract. A recent thing caused me to change my opinion.
I was recently considering a story revolving around a generation ship somewhat heavily. While I had considered the concept in detail, the thing that caused me to abandon the concept was attempting to design the ship in GURPs Spaceships. I couldn't get it to work the way I wanted, which was a nice realization of the fact that the design is just too impractical to make work, as there are just too many things that can go wrong. While this can be interesting from a story standpoint, the inherent problems with the design and concept were too much for me to work with.

I would have never came to this conclusion trying to design it in Fate, or any of the systems like it. Hard numbers make things bluntly clear in a way that more abstract systems can't.
 
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Wil

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Ummm... You're saying you abandoned the concept because you couldn't get it to work in GURPS? And came to the conclusion that it was the concept, and not GURPS, that might be the issue?

That's not an indictment of low crunch games - it just means that the particular crunch game you picked wasn't set to up to handle it. Try designing the generation ship in Silhouette, it'll work fine.
 

Adam Reynolds

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Ummm... You're saying you abandoned the concept because you couldn't get it to work in GURPS? And came to the conclusion that it was the concept, and not GURPS, that might be the issue?

That's not an indictment of low crunch games - it just means that the particular crunch game you picked wasn't set to up to handle it. Try designing the generation ship in Silhouette, it'll work fine.
To be clear, it wasn't that the design couldn't be made to work, it was that I couldn't get it to work with the assumptions I wanted. The process of designing it within GURPS simply made more of the problems clear in stark terms, which were things I didn't feel like dealing with but also didn't want to just ignore.

To elaborate slightly more on the problem, the difficulty is in going fast enough that you are not taking thousands of years to get there, while also having a ship that can survive the journey and carry enough people and farmland to house a sustainable population without collapsing either ecologicalyl or culturally. See this essay by Kim Stanley Robinson for a nice exploration of the problems in more detail.
 

Wil

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But essay outlining the issues is by definition system agnostic, and clearly you didn't need the system to tell you what the problems were.

Sorry, I just see the premise as an extension of "Crunchy games are by nature more realistic", which is not any kind of universal truth. Even GURPS isn't necessarily more realistic. If anything, games like Fate give the table more freedom to reflect the reality wanted than a straitjacket induced by a different system.

EDIT: I'm not denying the value you found in the experience. Just that I don't see it as being all that universally applicable.
 

g33k

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... games like Fate give the table more freedom to reflect the reality wanted than a straitjacket induced by a different system...
You have captured the problem exactly .
Fate allows the "reality wanted," but GURPS forces some simulationist issues onto the in-game reality.

Fate is all about giving primacy to the narrative; but if reality-check hard numbers are wanted, you need to go outside the system to get them. It's not that you CANNOT use hard numbers with Fate, it's that you can always grab a colorful Aspect to cover the same narrative space.
 

yukamichi

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An idea I've grown really fond of lately is that of procedural rhetoric, something that Ian Bogost presents in his book "Persuasive Games". While he focuses on video games, I think the concept is equally applicable to analog games (arguably moreso, because the procedures themselves are laid bare and we are the computers on which they run).

The basic idea is that procedures are a way of making rhetorical arguments; these can be relatively banal things like the effectiveness of longer weapons vs. shorter ones, for example, or how addiction affects a person's functioning in high-stress situations (I'm sure most of us can think of various bits of RPG crunch to which examples like these might correspond).

And so rules like these form the basis of how games themselves can become vessels for presenting an understanding of the way things do or might work, it's how games themselves can have "something to say" beyond just our own input. In some sense, our own external contributions through play act as interrogative challenges to the game's rhetoric (this is, I think, what is at the heart of a kind of "interrogative" approach that is at the heart of a lot of the wargaming hobby, especially the sort out of which RPGs emerged). Which I suppose is why I have little use for low-crunch games; I don't think they're particularly interesting because they don't have as much to say (that's not to say that they don't have other kinds of value, but they're mostly values that I care less about).
 

Wil

Rivetgeek
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You have captured the problem exactly .
Fate allows the "reality wanted," but GURPS forces some simulationist issues onto the in-game reality.

Fate is all about giving primacy to the narrative; but if reality-check hard numbers are wanted, you need to go outside the system to get them. It's not that you CANNOT use hard numbers with Fate, it's that you can always grab a colorful Aspect to cover the same narrative space.
Right but in my mind the "simulationist issues" are just that... issues. Getting the numbers to work in as particular system is just about getting them to work in that system, based on those assumptions and its limitations. So regardless, you're going to want to reality check the numbers against an outside source. I totally get that games like Fate allow just winging it...I only contend that any arbitrary "simulationist" system isn't that much further removed.
 

Eudaimic

Gray Fur
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Also, part of the fun of a simulationist system in play is that everyone knows it wasn't just fudge 'for effect', which I've always found to actually lessen the impact.
 

baakyocalder

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GURPS Vehicles would be more simulationist. As such, they moved to more abstract works such as Spaceships in GURPS 4e, as trying to build a universal system for building vehicles doesn't work. Within a specific genre, it's a bit better to get crunch to do what you want. That's because there's a context there to work in.

Still, once we start talking about space travel and things we haven't done, well you're dealing with some fudge factors. I much preferred vehicle design in Car Wars, which fudged things but still had some clear choices that were meaningful, to GURPS Vehicles. In GURPS Vehicles, I had more options, but getting it to work took calculators doing cube roots and square roots and adjustments when I had a weight item off for surface area and volume. In GURPS Spaceships, like Car Wars, you've got a ship with modular spaces and you fill up the modules.

For those building a colony ship, I recommend GURPS Spaceships Volume 5. You can buy it on drivethrurpg.com or direction from Steve Jackson Games at their webstore.

http://www.warehouse23.com/products/gurps-spaceships-5-exploration-and-colony-spacecraft
 

kenco

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An idea I've grown really fond of lately is that of procedural rhetoric, something that Ian Bogost presents in his book "Persuasive Games". While he focuses on video games, I think the concept is equally applicable to analog games (arguably moreso, because the procedures themselves are laid bare and we are the computers on which they run).
Very interesting!
The basic idea is that procedures are a way of making rhetorical arguments;
I surely agree. Vincent Baker once wrote something along similar lines.
these can be relatively banal things like the effectiveness of longer weapons vs. shorter ones, for example, or how addiction affects a person's functioning in high-stress situations (I'm sure most of us can think of various bits of RPG crunch to which examples like these might correspond).
Or what 'seduction' is and how it works and who is involved, and what moral significance, if any, it carries.
And so rules like these form the basis of how games themselves can become vessels for presenting an understanding of the way things do or might work, it's how games themselves can have "something to say" beyond just our own input.
Absolutely. I suspect many 'crunchy' games - and arguments about the way they present details - are a celebration of the enthusiasts' delight and immersion in the topic.
In some sense, our own external contributions through play act as interrogative challenges to the game's rhetoric (this is, I think, what is at the heart of a kind of "interrogative" approach that is at the heart of a lot of the wargaming hobby, especially the sort out of which RPGs emerged).
Interesting. I understand this in terms of doing things that 'break' the game, or 'explore' the simulation space. This is certainly a significant issue in e.g. WRG war-games over the years.
Which I suppose is why I have little use for low-crunch games; I don't think they're particularly interesting because they don't have as much to say (that's not to say that they don't have other kinds of value, but they're mostly values that I care less about).
I think I understand what you're saying here, and I have some sympathy with it. I do think that some of the more narrative-style games have interesting things to say about stories and/or game participants. But that is very different than having something to say about e.g. generation ships or medieval body armour.
 
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