Now Why is There a Ghostbusters Logo On the Die Again?!

So, last time I talked about one of my brothers I managed to complement him and insult him, once almost in the same breath. Let’s see how well I do with the other one today.

Brother Eric posted the following question on his Twitter the other day:

In RPG design, what’s more important: cool dice mechanics, or ease of use?

A little history here:  Eric is a struggling Role Playing Game designer.  He wants to make a game based on a world he started on way back in high school.

Which is sort of the difference between the two of us, I guess.  I have, like, fifty thousand worlds in my head, awaiting literary birth; he has one.  I have a general idea about my worlds; he can tell you not only what people lived where, what the culture was, who lead them,  and what the stock market was then, but also what play was showing in theater X in nation Y on continent Z during Age… um… A.

In short, he knows a lot about a place that never was.  Meanwhile…

Well, in fairness to me (or him, depending on where you stand), I do have my share of notes.  The current novel I’m fiddling with (still the NaNoWriMo one, thanks for asking) is mixing new ideas and notes from a world I’m no longer using.  These notes consisted of a time line spanning three ages, a pantheon of Gods, and one or two people of interest.  Plus a magic system or two.  So, y’know, maybe Cullen’s anal, too.

Not as much as Eric, but still.



Where were we?

In RPG design, what’s more important: cool dice mechanics, or ease of use?


Now, I replied via Twitter about it thusly:

Ease of use yes. Cool dice no.

Brevity is, of course, the soul of wit.  However, after a prologue of better than 317 words, allow me to ditch concise Polonius and give my brother the more verbose discourse he so richly deserves.  The kind of well thought out, insightful essay that can not be produced on meager Twitter, with its enforced letter limit of 140 letters.

Oh sure, I could send E-mails that he never reads to him, or make abortive phone calls to him that are not followed up on, but what’s the fun of that?  Besides, I have this here blog site that needs the occasional updates, and besides, he reads it almost as much as he reads emails.  Why not post here?

On this, my thoughts on the matter might help influence other RPG creators, ones who might read this missive in full, unlike some people I might mention.  In the previous paragraph.  At length.

So it is with this in mind that I utter the following statement, one that will no doubt linger through out the minds of countless generations.  That advise, in full, is:


Well nuts.  That didn’t come out right at all.

Let’s look at things in a more analytical light.  And, uh, less personal bias.

To do so, let’s go point for point, shall we?   Starting with…

  • cool dice: In the years my brother and I have experimented with RPGs, I can only think of one that had a “cool die” in it.  That would be Ghostbuster: the Role Playing Game‘s Ghost Die.  While that worthy was well used and all, one game out of I dunno how many seems to suggest that the dice aren’t what makes the game
  • mechanics: When I first read this part, y’know what instantly flashed in my head?  Middle Earth Role Playing, with it’s bajillion stats you had to figure out before you could play.  Then there’s Time Lord, the second Doctor Who role playing game, in which, among other things, players subtracted their dice rolls rather than add them together.  An interesting mechanic, but did it make you wanna play?  I thought not.
  • ease of use: This goes back to mechanics, in a way.  Who wants to go around fumbling with dice all day, or hunting up the rules to make a sandwich.  I mean, besides the two of us.  Most people want to jump in and play, damn it, and play without stopping.  The easier that is (and the more fun it is), the better.

Now as I recall it, the Ghostbusters game was a prime example of an easy to use game, but let’s skip that and look at the champ, the Generic Universal Role Playing Game (GURPS).  While GURPS has always had a rich mechanics (with supplemental source books out the ying yangs) it is, at heart, a very simple game to learn.  So simple, in fact, that they can condense the bulk of it into just 32 pages.

This, of course, might prove impossible to do with Eric’s world as a whole, but I’m thinking system-wise, this might be the goal to reach for.

Gads.  All of that and I still haven’t broke the thousand word mark.  Polonus, eat your heart out.

As for me, I’m outie.  Got a new fantasy series to read.  It’s called The Malazan Book of the Fallen, by Steven Erikson.  Very good stuff.  It’s based on this fantasy world the author and his friend made up for their role playing sessions.  Then wrote a series of novels for.

Not quite sure why I would bring that up at this point.


Just a thought.

Creeped into my, oh who am I kidding LESS RPG MORE NOVEL!!!!!


5 Replies to “Now Why is There a Ghostbusters Logo On the Die Again?!”

  1. =SIGH=
    for the record, when I said “cool dice mechanics” I didn’t mean things like the Ghost Die from Ghostbusters. I was talking about dice mechanics that are interesting in and of themselves. In the end, I decided that that sort of thing – fun though it may be to design and play with – distracts from the game, and makes it hard to understand character sheets.

    And, no – no Novel. Not until RPG is done, at the least. I know it isn’t what you want me to be doing, but it IS what I want to do. SO nyah. 😛

    1. Ah. So I’m putting commas in where none exist. Good to know.

      So glad everyone knows this.


      When it’s too late.

      Reading comprehension. Who needs it, right?

      Anyway, so the refrain should be HURRY UP AND FINISH RPG then. Good to know. Good to know.

  2. The only game I have time for, now, is “Mafia Wars” in Facebook. I can play that during my 15 minute breaks while working my writing gig at oDesk. Fortunately, I now have a huge group of Filipino in-laws who also play – so my “Mafia” is pretty formidable.

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