Geek Girls Rule Greatest Hits #13 – Why I hate D20

Geek Girls Rule! #13

Look, it’s not whining about comics! I promise!

Okay, look, I know D&D is the grand dame of gaming. It is the Progenitor. Blah blah blah…

I don’t like it.

I have always found the rules system clunky, difficult and far too much work for something that is supposed to be fun. And I know D20 D&D is supposed to have streamlined the whole process. I still found character creation tedious, the character sheets confusing and crowded, and WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH ARMOR MAKING YOU HARDER TO HIT???

That aside, I thought it was really telling that of the several people with whom a friend was trying to set up a new gaming group, the majority of us outright vetoed anything with a D20 system. Some of them regularly play and run D20, but the over-riding consensus was still, “No D20.” In fact, several of us offered to learn an entirely new (to us) system for Unknown Armies, rather than play D20 anything.

Seriously, I have played maybe five D20 campaigns. One was bearable because the GM bent it to suit him, and used minimal die rolls anyway, as well as doling out prodigious amounts of player hand-jobs. The others devolved into a bunch of surly growling and a lot of shouting, “Because it’s fucking BROKEN, that’s why!”

And this is too bad, because there are a lot of nifty game worlds built for D20 and the OGL. However, if I use them at all, it’s going to mean a lot of homework for me to convert what I want into GURPS or just playing so fast and loose with the rules that it may as well be a diceless campaign.

Granted, there are going to be those out there who will argue, “Well, if you had a GOOD GM, who KNEW the system…” Okay, a good game should not be dependent on a GM spending years to master a system. We do this for fun, may I remind you. Sure, when I get a new system I expect to spend some time learning it and working out the bugs (cough, the new Warhammer Fantasy, cough). I do not expect to have to spend more time studying it than I did for any graduate level history class I ever attended.

So, there you go. I hate D20 (particularly D&D D20) because its clunky, awkward, and exactly why the fuck DOES armor make you harder to hit instead of soaking damage like it does in any SANE game system?

3 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule Greatest Hits #13 – Why I hate D20

  1. and exactly why the fuck DOES armor make you harder to hit instead of soaking damage like it does in any SANE game system?


    *sigh* because it doesn’t. it makes you harder to hurt. HURT!

    it’s like in Warhammer, you roll to hit, then you roll to would against the target’s toughness value. D&D combines that into a single roll rather than two. Generally a target is easy to make contact with… there’s even a special AC number for a “touch” attack or being “flat footed” where you don’t get your Armor or Dex modifiers respectively. Rolling “to hit” (bad term is the problem, not really the mechanic) is rolling “to HURT”. once you’ve established that you’ve broken through the defenses of your opponent… be it their highly dexterous jumping about, or the thick layers of leather and metal that are between your implement of killing, and their soft fleshy Hit Points… THEN you do damage.

    hasn’t this one been answered a few times now? i can think of at *least* one occasion when i responded personally.

  2. I won’t get into why I enjoy playing the system, put I’d at least like to tackle the “WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH ARMOR MAKING YOU HARDER TO HIT???” issue.

    There are two reasons, one mechanical and one realistic. Mechanically it’s easier to balance a percentage of hits landed than a flat portion of damage because the ability to deal and absorb damage scales by level. It just makes the math better. There are variations on armor as damage-absorbing, particularly in Unearthed Arcana, if you really want it.

    Realistically, that’s how most armor actually functions. Reinforced armor, whether we’re talking boiled hides, sheets of steel, or modern kevlar with steel and ceramic plates, tends to be pretty effective at stopping hits wherever they contact the armor. If a sword is swung into a full breastplate, while the momentum will go through and you’ll stumble a bit, you’re unlikely to have any injury worse than a bruised rib (and if you’re strong enough to wear full plate, that’s likely to be pretty minimal). This means in order to strike someone wearing full plate, you need to strike where the armor doesn’t over him or her, such as the joints between sections of armor. This is reflected by a higher Armor Class number.

    Now I’ll acknowledge this system is not overly realistic. Maces, for example, we’re designed to inflict damage through armor because they work by collision trauma rather than slicing and dicing. Leather armor, by contrast, is more effective against bludgeoning weapons than it is against piercing, and more effective against piercing than against slashing. And these could be modeled in d20 but they’re not for a very simple reason: it makes the game more complex. People who like d20 enjoy it for its complexities, but those are in very specific areas (i.e. magic). Brute combat is intended to be relatively simple, even if not a perfect real world model, while the weird, arcane effects work by different principles (which is my main problem with fourth edition).

    Love the blog, keep up the great work!

  3. Seriously? You convert DnD game rules to GURPS? And you’re complaining about D20 DnD requiring more time studying it than a graduate level history class? Every GURPS attempt we’ve ever made has taken more research and discussion time to do just about anything than I’ve ever had to worry about in a D20 game.

    I started with DnD, so I’m admittedly partial. But the aspect of your “SANE game systems” meaning the armor just soaks up damage makes me cringe. I pretty much hand wave the reason armor makes you harder to hit the same way I hand wave that magic exists. With armor soaking up damage, I eventually have to get it repaired which means I have to track the points and what’s damaged and get it fixed and pay for it and the mundane tracking makes me crazy.

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