Two handy S. John Ross game evaluation metrics

Game designer S. John Ross recently posted two game design tidbits — more aimed at RPG evaluation than design, but applicable to either — that are just too good not to share.

RRIP is — as I see it — a quick-and-dirty way to assess a game’s crunchiness, and the Videogame Rule is an axiom which takes no prisoners.


Here’s S. John’s definition of RRIP[1]:

RRIP stands for Ratings Referenced In Play. The idea is, when I’m staring down the barrel of an all-new game, pondering if I want to learn it, one of the things I want to see is a filled-in character sheet, to get a feel for what it implies.

I do this too, but I’ve never considered formalizing it. For me, it’s more of a sniff test. “Dude, there’s a LOT of shit on this character sheet. I’m out!”

He takes it a step further:

The RRIP is a simple count of the number of values specified on that sheet. So, in most games, that means things like stats, skill-levels and power-levels.

His example connects that count with the “referenced in play” portion of the first quote:

He’s got a gun!” has a RRIP value of zero, but “He’s got a gun with a Range of Short, 6+1 Ammo, a Reload Speed of d8 and a Cover Penetration Power of 9!” would add 4 to the RRIP

That’s a useful metric, and one that I can pretty easily put into practice. Here’s a stab at it.

Two characters enter

I grabbed my current Savage Worlds (paid link) character, a speleo-herepotlogist in my group’s Day After Ragnarok (paid link) game, and gave his character sheet the RRIP treatment. For context, he’s had 7 advances, which makes him more mechanically complex than a starting character, but he also doesn’t carry a huge amount of gear (since the Crown provides mission-specific gear). Total RRIP score: 46.

For comparison purposes, I grabbed my character from my online group’s first tremulus (paid link) campaign. For context, he was a psychic medium and I think he earned at least one advance. Total RRIP score: 19.

As a back-of-the-napkin metric, I really like RRIP. Both games shook out higher than I’d expected, but the gulf between their RRIP scores says a lot about the difference between Savage Worlds and tremulus.

The Videogame Rule

S. John’s Videogame Rule is short and pithy:

Any challenge or obstacle that could be GMed by a machine isn’t good enough for tabletop.

Whoa. That’s like Czege Principle-brutal! But I find myself nodding, because when I want to play a video game, I go play a video game. I play tabletop RPGs for different reasons, and in search of different experiences. I like it.

S. John uses G+ a bit differently than most folks, leaving comments disabled on most of his posts. I can’t tell him there how much I enjoy his posts, especially stuff like this, but I can say it here — thanks, S. John!

[1] And he’s right, it is fun to say!

2 thoughts on “Two handy S. John Ross game evaluation metrics”

    1. Martin Ralya

      I recall from our G+ discussion about it that I’m misusing RRIP, but I’m still enjoying my misuse two years on. ;-)

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