## Good video on Depth vs Complexity

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Jenks
Joined Dec 1969
Extra Credits, which is a show about the depths of game design (Mostly video games, but a majority of the lessons can translate into any kind of game design), just did a great episode about Depth vs Complexity. It does a great job of highlighting how depth is a positive goal of a game, but complexity can be negative.

Just thought I would post it since there's always a host of conversations going around about DDN not being complex enough

extra-credits.net/episodes/depth-vs-comp...
My two copper.
Mand12
Joined Dec 1969
When people say D&D is not complex enough, they really mean not deep enough.

When people say D&D is too complex, they really mean too complex.

The tension happens when one player's deep is another player's complex, which is how D&D can be called both too complex and not complex enough simultaneously.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Jenks
Joined Dec 1969
When people say D&D is not complex enough, they really mean not deep enough.

When people say D&D is too complex, they really mean too complex.

The tension happens when one player's deep is another player's complex, which is how D&D can be called both too complex and not complex enough simultaneously.

Very well said, and very true.
My two copper.
Chakravant
Joined Jan 2012
3185 Posts
Wow, that is an incredibly narrow view of complexity being used to reinforce such a pre-conceived notion.  There is no "mental weight" to complexity, and to associate the two is show the bias in one's premise.
Jenks
Joined Dec 1969
No mental weight? How are you defining complexity? The simplest definition to me is the amount of mental calculations and processes required to complete a task.

Think about math problems. A simple problem is one that requires little to no amount of mental calculation.

2+2=4 only really requires your brain to do one calculation.

But 5(2+2)=20 is a more complex problem because more steps are involved. The more steps, the more mental processes. The more mental processes, the more mental stress.

You must be a pretty intese person if complex math problems don't force you to think harder than normal :P
My two copper.
Chakravant
Joined Jan 2012
3185 Posts
No mental weight? How are you defining complexity? The simplest definition to me is the amount of mental calculations and processes required to complete a task.

Think about math problems. A simple problem is one that requires little to no amount of mental calculation.

2+2=4 only really requires your brain to do one calculation.

But 5(2+2)=20 is a more complex problem because more steps are involved. The more steps, the more mental processes. The more mental processes, the more mental stress.

You must be a pretty intese person if complex math problems don't force you to think harder than normal :P

I prefer the definition of an item made of multiple interrelated parts.  Mental processes and calculations don't come into the definition at all.
Dominion is a complex card game.  League of Legends is a complex video game.  D&D is a complex TTRPG.  The large number of diverse options is what makes something complex.  I'd also argue it is what makes some of these same things engaging.
Haldrik
Joined Jan 2004
11849 Posts
Great tutorial.

What he calls “depth”, would be more familiar to me as “versatility”. The ability to do many vividly different actions by means of the same set of resources.

The definition of “elegance” is perfect. Getting the most versatility-depth for the least complexity.
Extra Credits, which is a show about the depths of game design (Mostly video games, but a majority of the lessons can translate into any kind of game design), just did a great episode about Depth vs Complexity. It does a great job of highlighting how depth is a positive goal of a game, but complexity can be negative.

Just thought I would post it since there's always a host of conversations going around about DDN not being complex enough

extra-credits.net/episodes/depth-vs-comp...

Good series. Their skill balance video is very related to D&D as well:
extra-credits.net/episodes/balancing-for...
"Ha! Rock beats scissors!" "Darn it! Rock is overpowered! I'm not playing this again until the next edition is released!" "C'mon, just one more." "Oh, all right..." "Wait, what is that?" "Its 'Dynamite' from the expanded rules." "Just because you can afford to buy every supplement that comes out..." "Hey, it's completely balanced! You're just a bad DM for not accommodating it."
Show
RPGs are getting more popular, and whenever something gets more popular, it inevitably changes, usually becoming more palatable to the masses. Nintendo is the perfect example. In the old days their games coined the term "Nintendo hard" to extend play time, but they knew their fans were dedicated enough to play anyway. Now they mostly make stuff a five year old can master. That's not necessarily bad, though. Most of those old Nintendo games were infuriating. Likewise, a lot of old RPGs were too complex and irritating for the average person to really get into. Rules light systems are going to get more popular as more people enter the hobby, simply because the new people aren't bound by nostalgia, and would rather play something easy and fun than something that takes a huge amount of effort to learn.
Haldrik
Joined Jan 2004
11849 Posts
D&D comes with an added difficulty that makes normal design goals difficult: brand recognition and historical precedent.

D&D designers are often forced to keep problematic design simply because players are accustomed to it and insist on it.

An example is, the need to track ability “scores” (numbers 10 to 20), despite being useless, when it is actually the “bonus” (numbers +0 to +5) that functions in mechanical formulas involving the d20, to resolve efforts. Thus the nostalgia pressure doubles the complexity with two redundant mechanics for quantifying the abilities.

Also, players use the D&D traditions in different ways. Such as mental versus grid, acting versus wargame, and so on. Thus streamlining the rules for one purpose may alienate players who use it for a different purpose.

For D&D Next, designers are striving for elegant design, cautiously. The public “alpha-testing” has been identifying which elements can be removed or streamlined, and which elements need to remain for the sake of familiarity, even if awkward designwise.

Also, the alpha-testing has been striving to establish a “Basic” core, that most players can live with. Then providing optional “Modules” that allow players to modify the game so players can use it for different purposes.
Orzel
Joined Aug 2007
5105 Posts
Extra Credits, which is a show about the depths of game design (Mostly video games, but a majority of the lessons can translate into any kind of game design), just did a great episode about Depth vs Complexity. It does a great job of highlighting how depth is a positive goal of a game, but complexity can be negative.

Just thought I would post it since there's always a host of conversations going around about DDN not being complex enough

extra-credits.net/episodes/depth-vs-comp...

Good series. Their skill balance video is very related to D&D as well:
extra-credits.net/episodes/balancing-for...

I was just about to post that one. And D&D needs to get this right.

----

On the depth and complexity front, the beauty of the DNN core idea is that groups can add the amount of omplexity and depth they individually want.

By having the core basic game a simple and shallow game designed to be added to, gamers can get the types of depth they want witout the types of complexity they do not want.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I love Extra Credits! I never really thought about it, but yeah, a lot of the episodes apply to D&D just as much as they do to videogames. This one is a particularly great example.
An example is, the need to track ability “scores” (numbers 10 to 20), despite being useless, when it is actually the “bonus” (numbers +0 to +5) that functions in mechanical formulas involving the d20, to resolve efforts. Thus the nostalgia pressure doubles the complexity with two redundant mechanics for quantifying the abilities.

I still make certain checks against the ability score itself (as we used to in AD&D).

Sometimes I just think it is simpler to roll an Ability score or less on d20 to resolve some checks; then I don't have to worry about setting any DCs.

Dude, the video was amazing and the whole series is fantastic!!

Another video I found very relevant to D&D Next design is this:
extra-credits.net/episodes/aesthetics-of...

Which may cover on the various reasons on why people play D&D (what core experience do they expect?) as well as the 'Fluff' vs 'mechanics' debates - both recurring themes in these forums.
Joined Dec 1969
I find the speed of speach and the chipmunk tone very distracting.  With the advertisement, I watched about 15 seconds and then my head exploded.

"The Apollo moon landing is off topic for this thread and this forum. Let's get back on topic." Crazy Monkey

They trying to add as much Depth as possible without making it too Complexity.

To me, I think they trying to make it Simple first then have the option to go Complex.
It's like making Dungeons & Dragons and then Advance Dungeons & Dragons.
Haldrik
Joined Jan 2004
11849 Posts

They trying to add as much Depth as possible without making it too Complexity.

To me, I think they trying to make it Simple first then have the option to go Complex.
It's like making Dungeons & Dragons and then Advance Dungeons & Dragons.

Yeah, it seems depth (or versatility) is already a main goal of the D&DN designers.

Consider the design of the Fighter. They made extensive efforts to satisfy the need of many players for a more versatile Fighter, while staying within bounds of the need of many other players for a simple Fighter.
Mand12
Joined Dec 1969
Depth and versatility are not the same thing.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
dmgorgon
Joined Dec 1969
IMO, in D&D depth comes from role playing not the mechanics.

Extra Credits for the win! I love game design. Honestly, half the reason I go to this forum is for general game design head scratching. The fact that we're talking about a new version of D&D is just a bonus. :3
Haldrik
Joined Jan 2004
11849 Posts
Depth and versatility are not the same thing.

If “depth” means to make saliently different choices, “between apples and oranges”, then that is what versatility means too.

Explain how you interpret these terms, and how you distinguish between them?

Haldrik
Joined Jan 2004
11849 Posts
IMO, in D&D depth comes from role playing not the mechanics.

The problem with “roleplaying” is. When there are zero mechanics to actualize a roleplaying notion within the game, then all the gameplay decisions becomes “samey”. Whatever it is the person pretends, the character is forced to do the samething in actual gameplay. No depth.

For me, a vivid example is the 2e Elf. The flavor of the 2e Elf was this race made a powerful Wizard. But the reality was, the Elf sucked mechanically for a Wizard. For one thing, the Constitution penalty was too painful for a d4 Wizard to suffer. No amount of “roleplay” changed the reality on the ground. The Elf Wizard always sucked. Clearly no better at wizardry than any other race. So, there was no “salient difference in choice” between races. No depth.
Saelorn
Joined May 2012
4839 Posts
This might be a dumb question, but how does this relate to designing a TTRPG?  I mean, in terms of depth/complexity, you could always do anything that the DM would allow, so it would seem like adding more rules can only add to complexity without ever increasing the depth.

Is this a practical options vs. theoretical options thing, where we're only counting choices that are explicitly codified in the rulebook?  Making it more user-friendly, to increase the depth that people actually experience, at the cost of increased complexity?
The metagame is not the game.
dmgorgon
Joined Dec 1969
IMO, in D&D depth comes from role playing not the mechanics.

The problem with “roleplaying” is. When there are zero mechanics to actualize a roleplaying notion within the game, then all the gameplay decisions becomes “samey”. Whatever it is the person pretends, the character is forced to do the samething in actual gameplay. No depth.

For me, a vivid example is the 2e Elf. The flavor of the 2e Elf was this race made a powerful Wizard. But the reality was, the Elf sucked mechanically for a Wizard. For one thing, the Constitution penalty was too painful for a d4 Wizard to suffer. No amount of “roleplay” changed the reality on the ground. The Elf Wizard always sucked. Clearly no better at wizardry than any other race. So, there was no “salient difference in choice” between races. No depth.

I don't agree.    The high elf in 2e gave you an INT bonus and the standard elf provided you a dex bonus.   You were also immune to some spells.  Don't forget that a high INT gave you more spells and increased the chance to learn spells.   So I don't agree that the elf sucked as a wizard in 2e at all.    In addition, as an elf you could use elven chain and cast spells in armor.      The con issue wasn't one at all since most people who played elves didn't have a negative hit point modifier.    You most likely had no bonus hit points, but that didn't mater because as a wizard in 2e if you took a hit or two you would go down anyway.   Therefore, dex in 2e was more important to a wizard.

I just don't think you need mechanics to actualize a role playing concept.  A character's personality, his mentality, and background are what contribute to the role playing choices in game.     The basis of all your role playing choices in game stem from those three components.

Mand12
Joined Dec 1969
This might be a dumb question, but how does this relate to designing a TTRPG?  I mean, in terms of depth/complexity, you could always do anything that the DM would allow, so it would seem like adding more rules can only add to complexity without ever increasing the depth.

Is this a practical options vs. theoretical options thing, where we're only counting choices that are explicitly codified in the rulebook?  Making it more user-friendly, to increase the depth that people actually experience, at the cost of increased complexity?

Because we use rules, not just DM ad-hoc rulings.  You're correct that you could always do anything the DM would allow - but if that were all that were necessary, then it's not worth spending the money to buy a book, and it's not worth spending the time to write one.

We use rules so that the DM doesn't have to ad-hoc everything.  Because, quite frankly, most DMs suck at rule-making.  That's why we buy rulebooks in the first place - the developers are better at it than we are, as a population.  Sure, there's also the common experience thing, which is why we grizzled veterans buy it, but the point of writing rules is so that people use them, not ignore them.

And so depth, in the rules system, is a way of enhancing the robustness of the gaming experience without having to put the burden solely on the DM.  You can't just say that just because your DM is awesome and can handle it, that they shouldn't bother thinking about all the other players who don't play with your DM.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
For me, a vivid example is the 2e Elf. The flavor of the 2e Elf was this race made a powerful Wizard. But the reality was, the Elf sucked mechanically for a Wizard.

I don't agree.    The high elf in 2e gave you an INT bonus and the standard elf provided you a dex bonus.   You were also immune to some spells.  Don't forget that a high INT gave you more spells and increased the chance to learn spells.   So I don't agree that the elf sucked as a wizard in 2e at all.    In addition, as an elf you could use elven chain and cast spells in armor.      The con issue wasn't one at all since most people who played elves didn't have a negative hit point modifier.    You most likely had no bonus hit points, but that didn't mater because as a wizard in 2e if you took a hit or two you would go down anyway.   Therefore, dex in 2e was more important to a wizard.

I think you provide a big important difference here when you pulled in the High Elf vs. the standard Elf. I'm pretty sure his post was about the standard Elf, since he never once referred to anything as a High Elf. Also, artificially boosting your Con so that the Con penalty was negated seems like a pretty mechanical decision to me, especially in light of how you talk so much about "role"-playing and about character concepts and such. Unless, of course, most of your Elves were always above average in their constitution.

I just don't think you need mechanics to actualize a role playing concept.  A character's personality, his mentality, and background are what contribute to the role playing choices in game. The basis of all your role playing choices in game stem from those three components.

Need it? No. But it is nice if it is there.
D&D comes with an added difficulty that makes normal design goals difficult: brand recognition and historical precedent.

D&D designers are often forced to keep problematic design simply because players are accustomed to it and insist on it.

An example is, the need to track ability “scores” (numbers 10 to 20), despite being useless, when it is actually the “bonus” (numbers +0 to +5) that functions in mechanical formulas involving the d20, to resolve efforts. Thus the nostalgia pressure doubles the complexity with two redundant mechanics for quantifying the abilities.

Also, players use the D&D traditions in different ways. Such as mental versus grid, acting versus wargame, and so on. Thus streamlining the rules for one purpose may alienate players who use it for a different purpose.

For D&D Next, designers are striving for elegant design, cautiously. The public “alpha-testing” has been identifying which elements can be removed or streamlined, and which elements need to remain for the sake of familiarity, even if awkward designwise.

Also, the alpha-testing has been striving to establish a “Basic” core, that most players can live with. Then providing optional “Modules” that allow players to modify the game so players can use it for different purposes.

It was only in 4th that ability scores were somewhat redundant.

Haldrik
Joined Jan 2004
11849 Posts
Really, 3e made ability scores redundant with the ability bonuses.

Before 3e, different abilities that had the same score actually referred to different modifiers.

For example, in 1e,
Strength 18/76 = +2 hit, +4 damage
Dexterity 18 = +3 hit

The ability scores used to be an ad hoc patchwork of unrelated systems.

3e systematized the ability system:
Strengh 18 = +4 hit, +4 damage = Strength +4
Dexterity 18 = +4 hit, +4 damage = Dexterity +4

By systematizing the ability scores, the ability bonuses became the consistent, fundamental, and universal value for quantifying the abilities.

3e made the ability system far simpler and far deeper. The abilities can now use the same metric - applying the bonus to a d20 - to resolve a virtually infinite number of scenarios.