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Referee's Lounge Discussion of how to (and not to) Referee Traveller and Cepheus Engine games. No edition warring allowed.

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  #11  
Old December 22nd, 2018, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Spenser TR View Post
Making my way through the Traveller Companion ( MgT2 ) and I bumped up against this bit of wisdom for Refs:

One of the things I love about Traveller is its depth. I don’t mean complexity, but maybe more the “reach” it seems to have. This distinction between Gaming Traveller and Intellectual Traveller might just be in my head, but I love the fact that Traveller feels big enough to be different things to us.

As a Ref or player, how do you feel about the above quote?
I think it's ironic that it took until MgT2 for Mongoose to so clearly express why there's little need for MgT2, but I digress (and am only half-serious).

I usually Ref, and agree with the opinion: one role of the Ref is to keep them game moving, and long digressions on the rules break the immersion in the story that's unfolding. Having fewer rules and more space to easily determine outcomes (e.g., CT's "Situation Throw") enables this more than hundreds of pages of detailed rules.

And as a player I also agree, but it's up to the Ref in those games to also agree, otherwise some players will sometimes want/need those digressions to justify their character's power/action.

This forum is the sacred space for the Intellectual Traveller, as you put it: isn't that why most of us are here? Not much gaming going on, but lots of sound and fury.
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  #12  
Old December 22nd, 2018, 11:41 AM
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This forum is the sacred space for the Intellectual Traveller, as you put it: isn't that why most of us are here? Not much gaming going on, but lots of sound and fury.
Certainly no shortage, even in the Ref's lounge

I don't think "less rules" is good or helpful almost ever, unless you're packing for a trip and need to lug the the physical book(s). This doesn't mean I think "more rules" is always a good thing; judging quality, helpfulness, and how good a resources is for running a game seems a bit more nuanced than page-count to me.

My preference - I like more rules, then I can pick and choose. Give me rules and options thought out ( tested? ) by a game designer ( or a team of them ) about falling in variable gravity, a "Sanity" score I can use if I want, and details about the Starport Authority. The idea "the Ref is free to make things up" is definitely not a concept exclusive to a rules-light version. You can call it a bug or a feature there, but the Ref is certainly free to make up or ignore things in a system with more things spec-ed out.

I prefer to have someone who's put more thought into a particular thing - the Intellectual Traveller, maybe - do some legwork and make a suggestion that I can then vet, embrace, modify, or ignore as a Gaming Traveller Ref. For running the game, it's nice to have the option. I appreciate a big salad bar where I can choose between 25 well-made options to sit with 5 on my plate, rather than have 5 options and access to the kitchen.

Here on CotI there's certainly no shortage of suggestions about rules amendments or extensions, re-interpretations or options. If more of those kinds of things happen to make it into the published rules, that seems helpful.
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  #13  
Old December 22nd, 2018, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Condottiere View Post
RAW is for tabletop wargaming, where there is a clear incentive to misinterpret or misrepresent rules in real time.

Roleplaying has plenty of room for flexibility; just be consistent in rulings.

Vehicle design sequence should be RAW, unless they make no sense.
I agree with this.

RAW for wargames is important because rules effect not just mechanics, but balance. So unless it's glaringly bad, the rules portray the environment, and it's up to the players work within that framework.

RPGs are different in that there's less competition, when the ref is "gaming" the rules "against" the players, or even the other way around, there's something Wrong. It's not (shouldn't be) that kind of game.

Things like world design or vehicle design are manifestations of modeling and simula, and tend (should) have a "wargaming" aspect to them. Not that they should necessarily be balanced, but they do need to be consistent. So having detailed rules about such things make senses.

And it's one of the reasons TNE appeals to me because it is pretty consistent from for combat and design from cudgel to disintegrator spinal mounts. If you want to throw a rock against the superdense armor of a starship, there's a rule to guide that.
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Old December 22nd, 2018, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Spenser TR View Post
My preference - I like more rules, then I can pick and choose...but the Ref is certainly free to make up or ignore things in a system with more things spec-ed out.

Here on CotI there's certainly no shortage of suggestions about rules amendments or extensions, re-interpretations or options. If more of those kinds of things happen to make it into the published rules, that seems helpful.
No argument here about preferences, just an admission that after 40 years of gaming and too many systems to enumerate, I prefer the less is more now: easier to keep the first principles ("less") in memory and execute simply from them, rather than consult my tier 3 storage for the details of things that slow the game down ("more").

I enjoy the philosophical discussions more than the engineering of Traveller: more "When I heard the learn'd astronomer" than anything else.
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Old December 22nd, 2018, 03:56 PM
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I agree with this.

RAW for wargames is important because rules effect not just mechanics, but balance. So unless it's glaringly bad, the rules portray the environment, and it's up to the players work within that framework.

RPGs are different in that there's less competition, when the ref is "gaming" the rules "against" the players, or even the other way around, there's something Wrong. It's not (shouldn't be) that kind of game.

Things like world design or vehicle design are manifestations of modeling and simula, and tend (should) have a "wargaming" aspect to them. Not that they should necessarily be balanced, but they do need to be consistent. So having detailed rules about such things make senses.

And it's one of the reasons TNE appeals to me because it is pretty consistent from for combat and design from cudgel to disintegrator spinal mounts. If you want to throw a rock against the superdense armor of a starship, there's a rule to guide that.
I've always heard it explained thusly:

In wargames if it isn't written down that you can do it, you can't. In an RPG if it isn't written down that you can do it, you can try it.

The reason is the referee and the game type. Wargames can have referees, too, but don't mistake them for an RPG ref.

Wargame refs are for moderating play through facilitating hidden movement and off-board fire orders - and especially for simultaneous movement rules. OP fire and the like are workable because of the ref handling target spotting and revealing hidden pieces to players who now "see" them. Without a ref you can still play those games but they require changes that often diminish the game experience and mess up some important facets.

RPG's started with wargames and Traveller is pretty wargamey. Especially CT and Striker, well, those rules can be used for RP-play but are pretty stat heavy and unforgiving. They also, BTW, work best through a third party ref handling the orders and simultaneous movement when you use them for skirmish combat. They are actually a joy to use that way and I spent a lot of time using them for small unit skirmish combat simulating battles in Angola, Rhodesia, and South America during the 80's.


I eventually bring up the whole Gamist/simulationist/narrativist model and theory of role-playing in these kinds of discussions to help define the terms and people figure out intellectually what kind of game they are running as opposed to what they think it might be. Original Traveller was pretty heavy on the Simulation/Gaming side, but campaings will differ a lot in how much it slides between Gaming/Narrative, with most trying to emphasize the simulation because that's the gear-heady grognardiness we all debate. And it is a science fiction game so that just in itself means it is simulation heavy.

So maybe we can use that model to help navigate these waters?
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Old December 22nd, 2018, 08:06 PM
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In wargames if it isn't written down that you can do it, you can't. In an RPG if it isn't written down that you can do it, you can try it.
I'm sure this is the case for a lot of people for some wargame play.

But for both historical context and practical application of this conversation, several variations of wargames had very few rules and the players could try all sorts of things.

Specifically, both OD&D and original Traveller derived directly from this sort of Referee-driven, players-try-anything wargameplay. Gygax and Arneson and the guys at GDW played these kinds of wargames before there was such a thing as “roleplaying games”. Looking at these earlier games can provide context and understanding of how to Referee and play such games. Looking at such game also provided context to understand why OD&D and original Traveller look so alien to people unfamiliare wth the games and gaming culture of these kinds of wargames. The rules as written assumed the reader knew and played these kinds of wargames.

I have written a few posts on the topic at my blog:

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–The Expectations of a Traveller Referee at the Start of the Hobby

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box-An Approach to Refereeing and Throws in Original Traveller (Part I)

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–An Approach to Refereeing and Throws in Original Traveller (Part II)

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–Notes on the Personal Combat System (I)

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–The Expectations of a Traveller

Also, the book Playing at the World which I read after writing the posts above goes into amazing detail about all these matters.
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Old December 22nd, 2018, 09:44 PM
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I'm sure this is the case for a lot of people for some wargame play.

But for both historical context and practical application of this conversation, several variations of wargames had very few rules and the players could try all sorts of things.

Specifically, both OD&D and original Traveller derived directly from this sort of Referee-driven, players-try-anything wargameplay. Gygax and Arneson and the guys at GDW played these kinds of wargames before there was such a thing as “roleplaying games”. Looking at these earlier games can provide context and understanding of how to Referee and play such games. Looking at such game also provided context to understand why OD&D and original Traveller look so alien to people unfamiliare wth the games and gaming culture of these kinds of wargames. The rules as written assumed the reader knew and played these kinds of wargames.

I have written a few posts on the topic at my blog:

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–The Expectations of a Traveller Referee at the Start of the Hobby

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box-An Approach to Refereeing and Throws in Original Traveller (Part I)

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–An Approach to Refereeing and Throws in Original Traveller (Part II)

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–Notes on the Personal Combat System (I)

TRAVELLER: Out of the Box–The Expectations of a Traveller

Also, the book Playing at the World which I read after writing the posts above goes into amazing detail about all these matters.

I also played wargames before D&D and Traveller came out - I cut my teeth on the GHQ Microarmor rules and Napoleonic miniatures. Those in a addition to the usual suspects in SPI and Avalon Hill wargames.

Games like D&D and Traveller were not wargames with a set of RPG rules tacked on - they were RPG's using wargame-type rules to resolve tasking and combat. That is a huge difference and why they are more open-ended. Chainmail was before D&D and that's where the experience point system came from, but D&D is to Chainmail what Traveller is to Striker; the latter games supplement the RPG by providing a mass combat system for an entirely different sort of game. And both have an RPG system tacked on to a wargame in the end but play best as wargames.

The only reasons they both, for example need referees is to resolve things like communications, orders, and hidden movement....but without a ref they play fine, too. Napoleonics games I played (and play) use a ref (most of the time, including GDW"s Fire & Steel) is for simultaneous movement, orders, and command control issues. Microarmor (Tac Force, and other modern mini rules from then) uses one for spotting hidden movement and ranging, among a few other unknowns (arty scatter, CAS missions...) unable to be directly managed by a player for realism...but it can also play just fine without a ref.

The reason for the more rigid rules structure I tried to illustrate is because wargames are about strict simulation. They are not "gamey" in that they have fuzzy edges to events in them. If they do it is part of the C&C and morale system of that game and believe me, they'll have pretty in depth and strict rules on those, too. The older wargames are also not like today's "tabletop" games. For the most part, since there are some exceptions that prove the rule.

Commands & Colors Ancients and Napoleonics (I also have both of the those, BTW) are nothing like SPI's Wellington's Waterloo or say, Acre. GMT's MBT line of modern armor combat is cribbed from the original line by Avalon Hill in the lat 80's, as was the recent line of WWII games that are updates of Panzer Bltiz and Panzer Leader. Now those are better representations of the kind of wargame I'm talking about.

Beer and Pretzel games are things you see today, like Team Yankee and similar, which mainly seem to be a means to sell minis as opposed ot hardcore simulations. I have the full edition of Air War if you want simulation that is an example of wargame vs. "tabletop" from today. It was legendary.

The CT rules were written as they were because of GDW's foundation as a wargame company, yes, but the game wasn't open-ended because of that. Wargames are anything but. And even GDW's lines of wargames (Assault, Boots & Saddles, Bloodtree Rebellion, Imperium...) were not "open-ended. CT's rules are elgant, extremely well-designed and technically written because GDW made wargames were it is extremely important to have clear, well designed and written rules.

TSR and Gygax didn't make wargames like GDW did and they have the most clumsy, poorly written and laid-out books imaginable in the beginning. Oh lord, my old copies of Chainmail are hideous.
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Old December 23rd, 2018, 10:16 AM
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Everything you say is true for the wargames you played.

All I can do at this point is recommend Playing at the World (if you are interested) for other aspects of wargaming you might not be familiar with.

Joh Peterson (author of the book) has a blog post here about the influence of Strategos on the Twin City gamers and the influence on D&D.

I really, really do see where you are coming from. But the games you are referrring to are not the wargames I am referring to.

As an additional note, the founders of GDW also cut their teeth on running roleplaying scenarios for their university of the "Model UN" type of thing and so on. These are very loosy-goosey and, like the early Braustien games that pre-dated D&D, are very open-ended with few rules and depend on a Referee to make rulings on the fly.
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Old December 23rd, 2018, 06:58 PM
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The history of recreational wargames starts with pretty damned loose rules - Kriegspiel. Essentially, rules for figuring the odds, and then the referee applying common sense based upon tactics.

Then, we get Little Wars - which removes much of the rules precision by being super simple. Move so far. If in contact, halve your contacting frontage, kill that many. Canonfire is a dexterity mechanic. (Aim and shoot a spring-powered canon firing a dowel. All models hit are removed.)

We then get various minis games in response to one or both of the above...

The next big innovation is the use of zones. Risk, Diplomacy and Civilization, often not considered wargames by many, were much abstracted, but because of this, much more rules precise.

And zones lead us to Tactics II - which used a grid. And more rules precision.

Largely, wargamers get into 3 different clades here...
  1. Minis Wargames - models on the table type stuff. varying abstractions, but essentially, tactical only, with a few being supertactical.
  2. Chit and map wargames - much more abstract, but also much more rules driven
  3. civ games - Diplomacy (as a pvp), AH Civilization, Pax Britannica Axis and Allies, Risk... all of these are abstracted out, and very well rules precise.... and most people's introduction to "wargaming".
  4. Classroom games - most notably Model UN, and various electoral college sims, but also Diplomacy as a classroom use (there's a rules extension for that use).
Thing is, Group 1 is the one with most of the rules-looseness.

Group 2 has the tightest rules - because they're largely dominated by 2 player games.

Group 3 tends to be less tight than group 2, but still pretty tight. Most of these, however, postdate D&D... (AH Civ & Dip predate D&D.)

Group 4 is a split-off from group 3... but replaces the tight rules of PVP with GM Moderation of PVP.

Gygax was very much into group 1. Arneson was as well.

Saying D&D arises from late 60's wargaming isn't wrong, but it's also very imprecise. D&D arises from late 60's minis wargaming with healthy doses of GM fiat, and a lax GM (Maj. Dave Wesely) willing to let the off-the-wall ideas of a group-4 fanboy (Dave Arneson) go forth.
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Old December 23rd, 2018, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by aramis View Post
The history of recreational wargames starts with pretty damned loose rules - Kriegspiel. Essentially, rules for figuring the odds, and then the referee applying common sense based upon tactics.

Then, we get Little Wars - which removes much of the rules precision by being super simple. Move so far. If in contact, halve your contacting frontage, kill that many. Canonfire is a dexterity mechanic. (Aim and shoot a spring-powered canon firing a dowel. All models hit are removed.)

We then get various minis games in response to one or both of the above...

The next big innovation is the use of zones. Risk, Diplomacy and Civilization, often not considered wargames by many, were much abstracted, but because of this, much more rules precise.

And zones lead us to Tactics II - which used a grid. And more rules precision.

Largely, wargamers get into 3 different clades here...
  1. Minis Wargames - models on the table type stuff. varying abstractions, but essentially, tactical only, with a few being supertactical.
  2. Chit and map wargames - much more abstract, but also much more rules driven
  3. civ games - Diplomacy (as a pvp), AH Civilization, Pax Britannica Axis and Allies, Risk... all of these are abstracted out, and very well rules precise.... and most people's introduction to "wargaming".
  4. Classroom games - most notably Model UN, and various electoral college sims, but also Diplomacy as a classroom use (there's a rules extension for that use).
Thing is, Group 1 is the one with most of the rules-looseness.

Group 2 has the tightest rules - because they're largely dominated by 2 player games.

Group 3 tends to be less tight than group 2, but still pretty tight. Most of these, however, postdate D&D... (AH Civ & Dip predate D&D.)

Group 4 is a split-off from group 3... but replaces the tight rules of PVP with GM Moderation of PVP.

Gygax was very much into group 1. Arneson was as well.

Saying D&D arises from late 60's wargaming isn't wrong, but it's also very imprecise. D&D arises from late 60's minis wargaming with healthy doses of GM fiat, and a lax GM (Maj. Dave Wesely) willing to let the off-the-wall ideas of a group-4 fanboy (Dave Arneson) go forth.
Great summation. Thanks. And I will be more precise with the point you make: what I am specifically talking about is mins-wargames.
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