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:
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!
 And he’s right, it is fun to say!
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.