Do we really need to dumb down RPGs, be they Pen & Paper games or games for PC and consoles? This is a question that I have been asking myself more and more as of late. Well of course, some games come to my mind that could do with a little simplification.
Rolemaster is the first that comes to mind, closely followed by Anima. Both systems are complex enough to keep me from wanting to play them. DSA, "Das Schwarze Auge" or "The Dark Eye" my current favorite game could be considered guilty of the crime of overboarding complexity as well. Especially the many optional combat rules make me shudder time and again.
So it is okay to simplify a game to a degree. No? The question is how much simplification is too much. When do we start to dumb the game down instead of simplifying it? Over the last few years we have seen a few games released that got a new streamlined edition.
With some of these games the designers committed something I am tempted to call a cardinal sin though. They automated part of character advancement (Worst recent example in my opinion: Diablo3). This leads in my opinion to: No character development whatsoever. There you have what should in my opinion be the real question. Does a mechanic provide the players with an opportunity to develop their character? Or is the game master able to enrich his campaign with it? If the answer is "No", something is very wrong indeed. Wouldn't you agree?
Quite obviously I like a game system that comes with a bit of complexity. Preferable complexity in character creation and advancement. A complex setting or game world won't hurt me either. Numerous choices in actual game play? Hundred and one ways to solve any challenge or problem? Totally okay with me. To sum up a long blog entry (bordering on a rant once again): Leave me my choices!
Let me know what you think. How complex should your game be? Where? Where not?