Monday, November 10, 2014

The Spectrum

The Spectrum is how I help visualize/contextualize the complexity of a role-playing game. It's on a -5 to +5 scale. On the -5 end are the "storygames", RPGs that are extremely rules-light and narratively-focused. At the -5 level are GM-less collaborative storytelling games like Fiasco. Most of the big storygames today like Apocalypse World and the like would be a -4, in my mind.

At the +5 end are the "simulationist" games. These are RPGs that try and emulate reality with their rules, games with procedures and stats in place for every little thing imaginable. Right at the top of the spectrum would be actual wargames. The heaviest RPGs, like GURPS, HERO system, d20's heavier iterations, would all be about a +4.

It's easy to get caught up in the process of rating games along this scale, but a very important factor to keep in mind are the tastes of the people playing the games, players and GM. Where your personal tastes fall on this scale can be a rough, early estimation of how much you'll enjoy a given game. If you find yourself consistently loving games in the +3 or +4 range, but you're about to join a game in the -4 range, you might struggle to adapt. Or vice versa.

So, now that I've laid all that shit out, let's start arbitrarily assigning some ratings, shall we?

-I would say myself, as both GM and player, I rate right at 0 (at least, that's where I strive to be). I like RPGs that are both "RP" and "G." I get bored quickly with games too heavily in the minus range; I get frustrated quickly with games too high on the plus range.

-I'd say my group averages out at about a -1. All of our recurring campaigns have been built around games in the minus range, although several in the group have said they have no problems with "crunchier" games.

-The latest edition of D&D, in my opinion, weighs in at a +1. The rules are far more streamlined and light than previous editions, but there's still plenty of number-crunching that can be done, for those so inclined.

-Previous editions of D&D are as follows:
         -4th gets a +3.
         -3rd and 3.5 get a +4.
         -2nd gets a +2.
         -I didn't play enough of 1st to rate it.
         -Regular, "red box" D&D gets between +2 and +3, depending on the set.

-Here are the ratings for my Big & Little Five:

  1. D&D: +1.
  2. Shadowrun: +3 or +4, dependent on optional rules and used sourcebooks.
  3. Numenera/The Strange: 0.
  4. Star Wars (Fantasy Flight edition): +1.
  5. World of Darkness: +1.
  6. Cortex Plus: Action: 0, Superheroic: 0, Drama: -1.
  7. Fate Core: 0/-1, dependent on hacks used. (Fate Accelerated: -2)
  8. Apocalypse Engine: -2, -3, or -4, dependent on particular game
  9. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: +2.
  10. Call of Cthulhu: +1.

So, how would you rate your RPG interests on The Spectrum? How would you rate your favorite RPGs? How would you rate your gaming group?

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