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Author Topic: 3:16? Is that the time already?  (Read 1800 times)

catty_big

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« on: May 12, 2012, 08:02:07 PM »
Ok so someone picked up on a mention of 3:16 in my hello intro, remarking that they really dug it, then someone else said they'd heard friends whose opinions they respect raving about it, but said couldn't get with the rules as written so kind of left it.

Now, being so far a lot more of a player than a GM (out of laziness? Fear? I don't know, maybe both maybe neither) and so being as a consequence inclined to look at games with more of a player's eye and less of a GM's, even when I've played 3:16 and leafed idly through the book, if it's been on the table, I haven't really absorbed the system and so haven't given it much thought.

So, first question: for those who've not played it but read the book and thought 'I don't grok this', Why not? What was it about the rules that made them head-scratchy or downright off-putting? And has that applied to other games that (and I hope this is being fair to Gregor Hutton) speak slightly more to the players' interest in the theme and overall concept than the mechanics, and therefore might be in danger of fudging the latter? I must admit, when I played it at Conpulsion this year, I was a bit confused at times and I noticed the GM was too. I had to turn to my neighbour once or twice (oh ok, loads of times, I'm that dense) and ask was I rolling just one die or times the stat.

Secondly, and kind of following on from the above: is there anyone who felt that about the rules, but bought the book anyway, and has run the game and, if so, were they able to grok it eventually or did they just fudge or house rule it?

Finally, what does this tell us about writing RPG books? Are there any lessons that designers can learn from all this? Or will it always happen in the case of some/some kinds of games and there's not much if anything the designer can do about it? (Maybe one for a separate thread in the Design and Development forum, that).

Btw nothing I've said above detracts from the fact that IMO 3:16 is a fantastic game, and one that I will happily play again and again and would like to GM myself one day :D
« Last Edit: May 12, 2012, 09:11:53 PM by catty_big »
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Justin Alexander

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2012, 02:02:48 AM »
Quote from: catty_big;538700
Finally, what does this tell us about writing RPG books? Are there any lessons that designers can learn from all this?


I doubt it. The rulebook for 3:16 is very thorough in its descriptions, includes copious examples, and walks you through actual gameplay in a fairly comprehensive fashion.

Those who have difficulty grokking the game seem to be primarily having problems because they're trying to interpret it as a roleplaying game when it's actually a storytelling game.

More generally, the mechanics of the game are deeply flawed in some very important ways. The designer's response is that he doesn't really care because the mechanics aren't supposed to actually work, they're just there for you to improv around.

I haven't played the game much since the designer told me that.
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Glazer

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 03:06:44 AM »
As Justin's response shows, there are a lot of people on this forum who won't like 3:16 on principle, because they consider it what they call a storygame, which uses certain types of game mechanic they don't like. Trust me, it's best not to engage; people are very entrenched on this subject here.
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Ladybird

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2012, 06:20:28 AM »
Quote from: Justin Alexander;538777
More generally, the mechanics of the game are deeply flawed in some very important ways. The designer's response is that he doesn't really care because the mechanics aren't supposed to actually work, they're just there for you to improv around.


This, right here, is why 3:16 is so good at what it does.

There is no room to hide. In crunchier RPG's, you can hide behind the G part of RPG, you can play it as a game, and you can have a good time. You can play D&D as a tactical combat exercise, and enjoy yourself... well, I couldn't, but it's possible.

In 3:16, you cannot do this. To have fun, you have to roleplay your character. Now, you are slightly limited - whoever your character was, they either signed up or were signed up for the TEF, and now they fight bugs for a living - but really, it's not much more of a limitation than any other game setting has. The entire survival mechanic - flashbacks, because this can be a deadly game - is built around this concept; reaching back into your character's memory for something that gets them through right now.

And for that to work, you have to play it as a campaign, to give everyone the time to get into their characters. So when someone dies, it means something to the group. You should have a reaction. It's not a game that is satisfying after a session or two; it'll work, sure, but you're missing out on something.

The other thing about 3:16 is that it has a definite end point; the final weakness is "Hatred for Home". The highest-ranking character in the game - the Brigadier - has the directive to never, ever, allow the 3:16th to return to Earth under any circumstances; there's an insinuation throughout the book that the TEF exists as a dumping ground for undesirables from Terra. By the end of the campaign, the characters have the power and the tools to do something about this. But they've got a number of choices; they can keep on going and never look back. They can use The Device and wipe themselves out, or Terra. They could have simply steamrollered it planets ago, and never realised, or maybe they fall into infighting and wipe the entire brigade out. The entire endgame section is left open as to what they do with the tools they've got.

They could even all just die. And that's an ending.

So that's why I like 3:16 as an RPG. It forces you to role-play, by taking away the option of not doing so.
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Justin Alexander

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2012, 04:07:29 PM »
Quote from: Ladybird;538801
This, right here, is why 3:16 is so good at what it does.

Yes. 3:16 is very good at being a badly designed game.

Quote
So that's why I like 3:16 as an RPG. It forces you to role-play, by taking away the option of not doing so.

That's the most "brilliant" invocation of the Rule 0 Fallacy I have ever seen: "See, no, it's great because it's a shitty game that's not properly balanced and has mechanical flaws which result in gameplay that's exactly the opposite of what the rulebook claims it's trying to do. If it wasn't a shitty game you might actually be tempted to use it. But because it's so incredibly shitty, you're forced to not play it in order to have fun."

But I think Ladybird's hit it on the head, really: 3:16 is a great game for people who hate games.

(It's also a decent game for those who do like games. Pity about the fundamental design flaws, really.)
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Ladybird

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2012, 04:21:45 PM »
Quote from: Justin Alexander;538872
(It's also a decent game for those who do like games. Pity about the fundamental design flaws, really.)


Well, okay. What do you feel are the fundamental design flaws, and why?
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catty_big

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2012, 05:20:21 PM »
Quote from: Justin Alexander;538777
the mechanics of the game are deeply flawed in some very important ways. The designer's response is that he doesn't really care because the mechanics aren't supposed to actually work, they're just there for you to improv around.

I haven't played the game much since the designer told me that.

Yeah, I can see that that would be off-putting. It sounds like he was engaging in a bit of hippy ‘Let’s throw away the rule-book and just have fun’ kind of thing. Unfortunate for him to have said that. At the very least it's bad marketing- sounds like you don’t care about the customer’s experience of your product. This is the reason why I’ve taken great care with the mechanics of SFBK: even to create riotous anarchy you need a solid system ticking away underneath the game.

Quote from: Ladybird;538801

There is no room to hide. In crunchier RPGs, you can hide behind the G part of RPG, you can play it as a game, and you can have a good time. You can play D&D as a tactical combat exercise, and enjoy yourself... well, I couldn't, but it's possible.

In 3:16, you cannot do this. To have fun, you have to roleplay your character.

So that's why I like 3:16 as an RPG. It forces you to role-play, by taking away the option of not doing so.

Yes, I agree. This is what I’m trying to achieve with my own game, except that SFBK is much more sandboxy than 3:16. I’m perfectly happy to both play and design crunchy games, but I like what Gregor Hutton’s trying to achieve with 3:16 and by and large I think he achieves it. Agreed, you do occasionally have to fudge the rules somewhat, but no more than you do with a lot of other, less enjoyable games.

The other problem could be to do with the fact that it seems, and I suppose is to some extent billed as, a silly, beer and pretzels game- well, having planetary systems named after post-Impressionist painters does kind of suggest that he’s not setting out to be the next Gene Roddenbury- and a lot of people are put off for that reason. This is a difficult one, and I don’t think GH is going to win.

Be that as it may, Julian, I would urge you to give him and 3:16 another chance- when you get down to it, it really is great fun.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 08:40:10 AM by catty_big »
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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2012, 06:13:20 AM »
Quote from: Ladybird;538801
It's not a game that is satisfying after a session or two; it'll work, sure, but you're missing out on something.


This explains a great deal for me. Thank you. I am unsure my players would engage in a game without the G-part for a long enough time to make 3:16 satisfying.

I am a big fan of the rules light RPG Eldritch Ass Kicking which also depends more on descriptive roleplay than mechanics and while its lightness is fun for one shots or short arcs, I would need a different set of players to do that longer term.

Ladybird

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2012, 08:36:06 AM »
Quote from: Spinachcat;539872
This explains a great deal for me. Thank you. I am unsure my players would engage in a game without the G-part for a long enough time to make 3:16 satisfying.

I am a big fan of the rules light RPG Eldritch Ass Kicking which also depends more on descriptive roleplay than mechanics and while its lightness is fun for one shots or short arcs, I would need a different set of players to do that longer term.


Yeah. It's not for every group, but that's fine; this is a golden age of RPG products, with a perfect game for almost every table.

I'm okay with a TRPG concentrating more on the RP bit than the G; if I want G, I've got plenty of computer games that can do it better, faster, and deeper than a TRPG ever could. If I'm at a game table, I'm there for RP, which few computer games can give me (The only CRPG I've found satisfying in that regard for years is Alpha Protocol, but there are a few others out there - I haven't tried the Witcher games yet, frex. I don't like anything by Modern Bioware, I've tried).

I certainly don't have a problem with crunchy games, and I'm perfectly happy playing them, please don't get me wrong, but it's not what brings me to the table every week.
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catty_big

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2012, 08:57:25 AM »
Quote from: Spinachcat;539872
I am unsure my players would engage in a game without the G-part for a long enough time to make 3:16 satisfying.

Sure, for a longer campaign maybe. But I think there's definitely a place for lighter one-shot games. People who go to cons often don't want to play games that require a lot of investmemt, or that they will have to know the background to or have played a few times before to be able to get to grips with. Also, in a club setting, players sometimes just want to veg out with a rules-lite one-shot, I know I do, particularly after a long and tiring day. If they've signed up to a crunchy, campaign-length game with lots of combat etc. then fair enough, but that's not always the case.

Quote from: Ladybird;539889
this is a golden age of RPG products, with a perfect game for almost every table.

This is definitely true. There really is a game for just about everyone these days, and this can only be a good thing. Except I suppose that it's now possible for folks to only ever play particular types of games, without having to challenge themselves by stepping out of their comfort zone and trying out new gaming styles.
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Ghost Whistler

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2012, 09:16:40 AM »
I played it, I hated it. I found it a vapid, lazy experience. I'm not opposed to indie games on any principle, but I don't care for these kinds of game simply because they are lazily designed and seem to hide behind being narrative or whatever. I have no problem calling this an rpg, just not a very good one at all.
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Claudius

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2012, 09:40:47 AM »
I have read, but not played, 3:16, and I doubt I will ever play it. Like a lot of "forgie" games, it feels like a glorified tabletop game, but not like a roleplaying game. Fans of such games might like it, or not, I don't know. I'm not a fan of such games.
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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2012, 09:59:45 AM »
I haven't played it, and don't really have a strong opinion on the game. But when I have looked at reviews of it by reviewers i generally trust (even ones who liked it) they usually do describe it as having a board game feel (though still an rpg). The descriptions of it I have encountered just haven't interested me enough to check it out.

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2012, 11:26:52 AM »
I´ve run it once for my friends. It´s a light game, easy to pick and play without much preparation, the PCs are created really fast, the combats are fun, it fosters competition between characters, etc.
That was the good.
The bad thing is that the game is extremely structured regarding to combat, flashback and after-the-planet stuff, but contains no guidelines at all on the other possible stuff, like if you decided to attack planet earth, or start an uprising. When I played it, I had to make up stuff like: succeeding at NCA (non combat) rolls between encounters to infiltrate, pick weak targets, etc., lets you take threat tokens from the planet. I don´t mind creating that stuff, but I´d prefer if the game came with the minimum rules necessary to play.
Also, I´m doubtful about the game pushing a "theme" and all that. I think a group could perfectly play a whole campaign without taking it seriously, just to kill green creatures.

Ladybird

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3:16? Is that the time already?
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2012, 01:41:46 PM »
Quote from: catty_big;539895
This is definitely true. There really is a game for just about everyone these days, and this can only be a good thing. Except I suppose that it's now possible for folks to only ever play particular types of games, without having to challenge themselves by stepping out of their comfort zone and trying out new gaming styles.


I've never considered this to be a problem, actually. If someone likes playing a different sort of game to me, and they're happily doing it off with their group and not telling me that my style of game is wrong, fine by me! Everyone's playing something they want. But I'll give most games a go.

Quote from: BedrockBrendan;539911
I haven't played it, and don't really have a strong opinion on the game. But when I have looked at reviews of it by reviewers i generally trust (even ones who liked it) they usually do describe it as having a board game feel (though still an rpg). The descriptions of it I have encountered just haven't interested me enough to check it out.


You could play 3:16 as a board game. You wouldn't enjoy it, though. There simply isn't enough to the combat mechanics to make that fun in and of itself; they're simple and mechanistic, without the room for player cunning and improvisation that most other systems give you.

There's an argument that combat should be boring for the players, because it will be for the characters (Eventually); but if you want how you describe rolling your FA to matter mechanically and not just dramatically, 3:16 doesn't even provide the design space to do so. You describe your FA roll purely because you want to.

Quote from: Khimus;539954
The bad thing is that the game is extremely structured regarding to combat, flashback and after-the-planet stuff, but contains no guidelines at all on the other possible stuff, like if you decided to attack planet earth, or start an uprising. When I played it, I had to make up stuff like: succeeding at NCA (non combat) rolls between encounters to infiltrate, pick weak targets, etc., lets you take threat tokens from the planet. I don´t mind creating that stuff, but I´d prefer if the game came with the minimum rules necessary to play.


Attacking Terra would be just like any other planet; there's an entry in the "Aliens" chapter for "Corrupted Troopers" who might have settled down, or gone native, or whatever, and you just go through them as usual. Same with an uprising against the rest of the Brigade, or any other TEF Brigades; as long as you are killing, the mechanics don't really change. Lay down tokens and go. The rulebook implies that most aliens aren't really a threat to the TEF anyway, and as Terra has got rid of all it's soldiers, it certainly wouldn't be.

You are right about some more structure for out-of-combat, and to make NFA more mechanically appealing as a stat (Although it's difficult, because FA really needs the death-related design space to itself). AD316, the Roman Legion game, apparently contains more between-scene options... if it ever comes out (Gregor's a busy man).

Playing it for shits and giggles would certainly work, both in- and out-of game. If the characters hated home because they were bored, killing bugs certainly keeps them busy, and they can just keep going until they die. It's a perfectly valid ending for the campaign.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 01:53:15 PM by Ladybird »
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