Feb 10, 2014

Reducing Complexity

Cutting The Gordian Know
One of my goals I set for myself while developing ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE  is that I wanted to create a game that was extremely easy to pick up. The mechanics should be something a player could understand without having to reference the rulebook (or website, in this case). "4 to 6 good, 1 to 3 bad" was intended be the core of the rules and with that in mind players should be able to play through almost every situation.

With the ZOMBIEPOCALYPSE  rules nearing almost 90 pages long, obviously I have strayed somewhat from this goal.

It is not that I think any of the rules are unduly complex. At the heart of each new mechanic, the core idea of "4-6 good, 1-3 bad" still remains. Nor do I think the rules are unnecessary; as new situations are brought to my attention, I have to think of new ways to help GMs adjudicate the player's actions. But I will be the first to admit that the system is getting a bit too much for anyone to memorize.

Of course, that's part and parcel of role-playing games. After all, it is the very freedom to do almost anything you want that makes these games so exciting to play! But the simpler the rules are, the fewer possibilities there are that can be handled by the rules. And I want a zombie-survival role-playing game where the players can do anything. So what am I to do?

My solution? Split the game in two.

On one side there will be Zombiepocalypse Basic. This will include a minimum of rules, and almost every situation can be handled by a single die roll. No table lookups, no bonuses or penalties, no math. Say what you want to do, roll a die and if you get a 4, 5 or 6, you are successful. The downside is that a lot of what the rules don't cover is flat out forbidden. This would include things like barricading oneself in a house, or using different types of weapons. Zombiepocalypse Basic would approach board-games in its simplicity but at a cost to what the players are allowed to do.

On the other side is Zombiepocalypse Advanced. Essentially, this is what we have now, with rules for everything from healing injuries to grappling foes. Want to drive a car into a horde of zombies? The Advanced system has rules for that. Unlike Basic, the Advanced rules would also allow different weapon types and a variety of Monsters to fight against.

Zombiepocalypse Basic and Advanced would be 100% compatible with one another. Essentially, players using the Basic system could add-in any or all of the mechanics from Advanced as they wanted (alternately, Zombiepocalypse Advanced could be considered a set of optional rules for Basic). For instance, Basic wouldn't have any system for handling Injuries (if a character or monster makes a successful "To Hit", he automatically kills his target). But the whole Injuries system could be added in at any time should the GM so desire; just start rolling for Damage and there you go.

Basic would be intended for new players or groups interested in quick "pick-me-up" games. Advanced would be for people who want slightly fuller, less abstracted adventures.

At the moment, I have only started on developing the mechanics of Zombiepocalypse Basic but - because the mechanics are essentially the same - it shouldn't take too long to work out.  I would also continue to add on new mechanics as they occur to me for the Advanced rules system.

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