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Started by apparition13, January 31, 2005, 04:32:22 AM

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A few months ago I started reading rpg forums and began running into references to TROS both here and elsewhere.  There's alot of enthusiasm for the game, so I read up on it, starting with Ron Edwards ' review, then moving to and some of the discussion there.  

In his review of TROS Ron wrote:

QuoteMy call is that we are looking at Narrativist-Simulationist hybrid design, with the latter in a distinctly subordinate/supportive role.

This interpretation seems to be generally accepted.  However, the more I read the more uncomfortable I became.  

From James Durnan's review
QuoteInitially, I was really excited about the character creation system. It allowed for a lot of flexibility on the player's part, yet kept them from creating unrealistic characters. It makes you make well-rounded characters, the hope of all games, yet gives you plenty of choices to make him your very own, without forcing you into ridgid classes. I liked that idea. But something occurred to me after making a couple of characters, and helping my players make theirs. One player of mine noticed a huge flaw, and after that, I couldn't view it as a viable creation system anymore. Here's why. As you create your character, you must assign priorities to various aspects of him or her, including race, attributes, social status, etc. using letters from A to F. This is fine and dandy, but what this means is that the knight, who must take at least a B in social class, will be less educated, have fewer attribute points, fewer advantages, and be worse in combat (combat skills are separate from other skills - I'm not sure why) than the slave! It's true. If you make a slave, his attributes will be higher, he'll have more skills at lower (better) levels, and can have a cool advantage or two to boot. For a system that brags how realistic it is, this seemed rather funny to me.

From a review by Helstrom
QuoteCombat is a large section of the book, and it should be. It was quickly apparent that the more you were familiar with the system, the better you would be at it, which is cool, but then a player brought up a good point. Why does my combat skills as a player matter to my character in combat? The answer is - it shouldn't. This is a role-playing game, after all. My ability to use the combat system should have no bearing on my character's ability to fight, but unfortunately, it matters a lot. To prove a point, one new player with a sword battled a more experienced one with just a dagger, and was trounced 5 out of 5 bouts, due to player skill alone. This was a surprise and major reason to take a closer look at this game.

From Balbinus

If a player is better with the combat system than the GM all opponents that player faces are worse than that player's character.

That kind of doesn't make much sense.

As a player versus player skirmish game the reliance on player skill is fine. As an rpg it leaves much to be desired.

From Polaris
QuoteAbsolutely the game can be faulted for that. That's because TROS advertises its realistic combat system as a selling point. Relying on player skill rather than character skill is not realistic, and leads to metagaming which in turn encourages poor RPing.

In short, I find the system little more than an RPG skeleton wrapped around Mr. Norwood's pet combat simulator. There is nothing wrong with simulation gaming using a combat simulator....but I do not consider that roleplaying.

From GSH

Helstorm wrote:
Yes, but while the SAs influence combat, what the author is really saying is that Spidey isn't heroic when he's not rescuing Aunt May, which makes no sense.

I haven't seen the game (so take this comment with a grain of salt), but I suppose it would depend on how big the increase in ability is.

Spider-man to Spidey rescuing MJ isn't that big a jump. However, something like Bruce Banner to the Hulk is a big leap, and may be a better example of what the reviewer intends.

If the character is "Bruce Banner" normally, but turns into the Hulk if an SA hits, well, that does sound a bit weird to me. It seems to a question of degree to me.

to which Helsrom replied
If the character is "Bruce Banner" normally, but turns into the Hulk if an SA hits, well, that does sound a bit weird to me. It seems to a question of degree to me.

That's kind of what happens, yes...

What these objections share is that they are critical of TROS because it "doesn't make sense".  The chargen system isn't "realistic", the combat system requires player (and GM) tactical skill and full use of SAs leads to an unrealistic jump in capability.  The fact that TROS is designed around the concept of player choice is either missed or dismissed by its critics.  In other words, they object to the "metagame" aspect of TROS, and I submit that this is a sim objection:  considerations from outside the game-world reality of the SIS should not have an impact on events inside the game-world reality.  

Later in his review of TROS Ron says:

QuoteI think the only RPG that has approached combat similarly is Swashbuckler from Jolly Roger Games. The two games have a lot of similarities. (1) They share a commitment to the intensity of combat in terms of player identification with the process, in part through the players choosing specific maneuvers, in part due to simultaneous resolution.  (2) They have no "hit points:" - people hit the dirt by failing attribute rolls, which gets easier to do as resisted hits accumulate. (3) Skill values do not stack to increase fighting proficiency; the mechanics for skill use and those of fighting are almost entirely separate.

The main difference between the games is instructive. Swashbuckler combat is largely defined, exchange to exchange, by whatever moves were performed in the previous exchange. Each maneuver has a limited range of possible following maneuvers, and the authors did an exceptional job of picking "flows" that match cinematic sword combat. Just where a blow lands, or what combination of blood loss and pain takes a combatant down, are handled through Drama.

By contrast, The Riddle of Steel combat is largely defined, exchange to exchange, by whoever hit or didn't (retained or gained initiative), and by the specific damage done to a specific body part, defined mainly through attendant shock, pain, and blood loss. Just how a blow (taking or receiving) feeds into the body postures and the next exchange's options is handled through Drama.

They both work. They both achieve an immediacy of decision-making within the context of specific maneuvers that role-players often crave. And to my way of thinking, both benefit from leaving certain aspects of the combat events open to colorizing through Drama, rather than nailing down every last detail procedurally. However, exactly what is formalized, and what is left "open," is the opposite for these games.

His review of Swashbuckler included the following:

I don't know for sure, but it seems to me as if the system may have begun strictly as a Gamist enterprise, that is, a combat-only pocket-style game for two players.

Put this all together and it seems pretty clear to me that TROS has been misclassified as sim.  Replace "Narrativist-Simulationist hybrid" in Ron's essay with "Narrativist-Gamist hybrid" and I think it's spot on.  Detailed and realistic combat system yes, but a combat system that is also all about "step on up", at least until SAs enter the picture.  End result, N/G hybrid.  It's not at all surprising that the game elicits such hostility by players with sim priorities;  their preferences aren't supported by the game  by design.  Just to be clear, I don't mean deliberately excluding sim players is a design goal of TROS but rather that those design goals are not supportive of sim play because they were meant to support nar play.

(Note:  Feel free to move this if you think it should be in one of the theory forums.)


Freaky that you should post this now, I'm plowing through the main TROS rulebook and both supplements at this time. As a group we've been looking forward to trying TROS, but I was beginning to come to some of the conclusions you have as well. It really isn't SIM, or perhaps parts of it try to be, but it's a strange mix of elements from all three creative agendas - definitely focused on NAR though, based on the spritiual attributes.

How is the IIEE part handled in TROS, I haven't found any strict guidelines yet, and find them sorely missing. Oh, and I'm referring to actions outside of combat, as combat is covered quite well as is.

The game seems focused on Task Resolution as well, which I guess goes well along with the combat system, but I'm a huge fan of conflict resolution systems, has anyone experimented with changing the basic resolution system?



Ron Edwards


This thread is soon due to be re-posted in the GNS forum. I'm not a moderator for this forum, so I cannot move it.

Please hold off on comments until apparition13 re-posts.