Why “The Math” Should Not Be the Primary Focus of RPG Design
Some people tell me that “The Math” is broken in games I like, play, or design. The thing is, I don’t consider “The Math” to be the be all and end all of good game design. “The Math” matters to some extent, but there’s so much more a great game depends on. “The Math” for a game might be as close to “perfect” as one can get and still not produce a game that suits my needs or the needs of those who play in my campaigns. Great “Math” does not mean the game is fun for everyone or mean that it will suit the play style and specific needs of any given group. A game with “math” most people who care about such things consider horribly broken might be much more fun for a given group.
Avoiding “Math” so broken that the game does not work as intended (e.g. “skill challenges” in D&D 4e as originally released) is important in any game, but beyond that I think “The Math” is less important to creating a fun game than many of its proponents believe. Too much focus on getting “The Math” right often results in game that work perfectly in a spreadsheet and might even feel very elegant but that aren’t as much fun to actually play for many people as games with bad “Math” because the design focus was on other areas of the game. “Fun to Play” for a broad range of players is more important that “Great Math” in my book. Your mileage may vary, of course.
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