Sunday, July 12, 2020

What do you Think About "Crunch" in a Game?

What do you Think About "Crunch" in a Game?
I don't think this is going to be a character or player story, but it's not like I write up an outline for these things and shoot them by an editor or anything. The closest I do is go back and fix grammatical and spelling errors I notice after-the-fact.

This last week I was "home" on vacation and trying to explain RPGs to someone who had no clue what an RPG was, but loved reading fantasy novels, to include a bunch of TSR D&D novels. Of course I answered with a high-level pass and then dialed-in on specifics based on follow-up questions.

The conversation moved on to different RPGs and basically why, which is a whole lot to think about. In so many ways I'd say there are three big reasons why we have different game systems: money, ideas, and preferences.

Money is easy. People like money. It lets us buy stuff and do stuff. If you own the game and sell it to others you make money. If you don't own something but can make/sell something similar....

As far as ideas go, yeah...they're like assholes...everybody has one and everyone else's stinks. I'm sure plenty of games exist because somebody either didn't like the way one system did something and that somebody had what they thought was a better idea to solve the "problem", and the fix could make money. Money is good....

The third reason, kind of related to "ideas" is just the fact that folks like to play a certain type of game and if enough people like their game a certain way somebody is going to put forth their ideas for a game system that runs a game that certain way and that somebody can now possibly make money selling that game.

I personally like a bit of a crunchy game, which is why I loved HackMaster 4th Edition. I personally think that game only came about because the KenzerCo D-Team had some ideas they wanted to put into print, basically publishing their home-game rules. They liked a crunchy game like I did.

The thing is, and really where my rambling so far is leading up to is, "How much crunch is too much?" Clearly one person's crunch is another's fluff.

One thing I like about a crunchy game is that you can usually throttle-back things, removing some crunchy bits, and the game will still work. For example....you don't like weapon to-hit adjustments based on armor class/types (something I really don't care for)....just remove it. The adjustments work both ways and removing them doesn't do a whole lot for combat.

As a player I enjoy encumbrance and having to figure out what to keep and what to take. Trying to get those 1,000 silver pieces out of the dungeon when you're already at capacity is.....well, it's a challenge. Spending your hard-earned coin on upgrading your spell books so you aren't risking your main book in the dungeon....good times. Deciding which magic items I can take along on an adventure because there is an experience level-based magic item cap.....(that was a thing) loved it.

Now this was as a player.........I didn't care for it nearly as much as a GM. I trusted my players in my home game, but running a table at a convention.....especially a higher-level game? Fuuuuuuuuuuck that could suck. I saw plenty of what I'm 110% certain was straight-up cheating. I remember one player who always had 95%+ of all possible hit points at higher level. "Oh, your 5th level Mage has 48 1st level spells memorized? I call bullshit." Thankfully this kind of crap was really only seen, at least by me, at the highest level.....and in my experience the players that cheat the most in this regard are generally not the best players overall.

Still, a game's a game and even when I'm not playing in a crunchy game it doesn't mean I can't add a little on my own end. I can still try to spend money on extra spell books and keep track of my encumbrance even if the GM doesn't care too much.........

Again, I'll ask the question, "How much crunch is too much?"....but I'll add, "What do you do to add, or (someone else might want to know...) remove crunch from your game?"


  1. I do both; adding stuff when my desired setting requires it, and hacking bits off when it's more than I want to deal with at the table. Hint: I do the latter a lot...

  2. Crunch becomes too much when the game ceases to be about gaming and starts to be homework. So, kind of a cop out answer, but to be sure - if the table is rolling dice, crunching numbers and having a good time building the common experience, that's gold; the point at which the table starts forgetting what it's doing or spending more time looking at spreadsheets than at each other - that's the tipping point.

  3. DCC is my level of crunch -- YMMV.


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