Customization vs Complexity: How much?

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Two weeks ago we wrote about Customization vs Complexity. In that post we highlighted that we are performing a balancing act between have the greatest possible customization while keeping a lid on the amount of complexity we have to deal with.

In this post, I want to give you an idea of how much complexity we are talking about. To prevent this blog post from getting out of hand, I will only be using Pathfinder examples.

The Pathfinder game system configuration has several house rules that we can toggle on and off: Allow Gestalt Characters, Use Fractional Base Bonuses, Always Receive Half Hit Points, Character Advancement, etc. Of course, not all of combinations of house rules are actually possible (fractional bonuses must be active if you allow gestalt characters), and some of these combinations do not really add to the complexity of the characters (weekly income only adds the Job and Income field and has no impact on anything else).

We can also ignore most of the lists of things from the game system configuration — while they obviously add extra options to the game we can safely ignore most of them from the complexity point of view. After all, once we have added support for “more than one language” it does not really get more difficult regardless of how many languages the game master adds.

Even so, each character combines the house rules with a Race, and one or more Classes. Each race has some Ability bonuses, a base size, a base Speed, a leg type (RPGpad supports centaurs!), zero or more bonus skill points, a toggle that determines whether the race has 1 or 2 favored classes (which is the case for Half-Elves), and another toggles that determines if the race is affected by encumbrance or not (such as Dwarfs).

It’s not really useful to express the exact amount of variations we support because Ability bonuses alone can produce near-infinite combinations — most of of which are almost identical and completely absurd races with massive bonuses and penalties — but we can quickly guess that there’s more than a handful of useful races. The core book starts out with 7 already, and we know from experience that there are many, many, supplements and homebrew races out there.

Then there’s the different classes and prestige classes. I’m not going into details here since that would a blog post on its own, but just from the core rulebook we already have 11 base classes and 10 prestige classes. The character sheet has to combine the house rules with the Race and Classes chosen by the player. This can be as simple as “a human level 4 Ranger”, or as complex as “A half-elf gestalt characters with 2 levels of Monk/Bard, 1 level of Monk/Sorcerer and 1 level of Bard/Sorcerer, favored classes are Bard and Monk.”

If you are making your character on paper, you have to deal with this complexity as well. You have to look up the rules for taking a prestige class, you have to discover how two classes combine when multi-classing, you have to take into account the second favoured class of your half-elf character, etc. You have to look up and understand the rules as they apply to your character. Sometimes this is easy, and sometimes this is complex.

We have to handle the same complexity, with a single difference. The difference is: RPGpad has to correctly apply the rules for every possible character. Every customization option we add has to work for every possible combination of things around it that could have an impact on the option. Not just in the cases it makes sense, but also in the cases it was not intended for.

These challenges won’t stop us, of course, but we mention them to explain why it may sometimes take a while before a new feature or option is added. We hope that explaining it also gives you a little more insight into the eternal struggle of customization versus complexity! If you still have questions, feel free to open a thread, we will glady talk about this and other fascinating ideas around RPGpad and customization. As always, this week’s changelog is available for your perusal.