Return to 3:16

First off, I’m very busy this week, but I don’t won’t to postpone this any further as I’m going to be out of the country next week (so this blog’ll probably be slower than usual), so you are going to get this very unedited (not that I generally use much time to edit these) version of my thoughts on the reactions my previous posting on 3:16 has evoked. This means I’m probably going to ramble even more than usual.

For those who are not familiar with the game, sorry about this. You probably won’t get anything out of reading this.

Now, this is a screenshot from our usage data. Guess which one is the day I posted the review?


On Creativity

People misunderstand creativity. Its not only about originality, even in arts, where originality is especially valued, creativity still has other components. You still need to work within a framework and part of being creative is finding the right limits to what you are doing.

Even in arts, where this isn’t necessarily appreciated, this is actually very important part of the process. If I’m producing a movie, I don’t want my casting director going outside the perimeters, but I do want him/her being creative with the choices. If I’m publishing a newspaper, I want the cartoons to be creative, but they still need to fit into the area I’ve designated for them. Even if these kinds of pressures don’t exist, artists will make them for themselves. Most online comics will use the same format for their comics all the time.

All creativity is actually based on limits. Even if you are starting a project, you’ll generally have an idea of what you want to do. You usually know the medium you are going to use. That’s a limitation right there. Once you get going, you are building more and more limitations. You are establishing characters, places and so on. You are making decisions on what the names look like on your fantasy world, or which corporation runs the chain of cozy diners in your cyberpunk world.

Those limitations are important mostly because they push us into unexpected directions. Lets look at Calvin & Hobbes (which I’ve been reading lately). The strips for Monday through Saturday are all the same general size for strips, but within that limit, Watterson finds great flexibility. Most of the strips are three or four panels, but sometimes less, if needed. This is why he was so great. He knew what being creative meant. He knew how to use the limits he was working with.

For a group of people to be able to work together, they need to have common limits. The system used is one of those limitations. So…

System as Communication

The most important part of a roleplaying system is what it communicates. The number of dice you roll, the stats, the damage tables, these should all serve the purpose of telling everyone at the table what we are working on as a group.

Every game should have a feedback system. That’s the major way the game communicates what its about. We know D&D is about tactical combat, because that’s what the feedback system tells us to do. There are other ways of getting XP, but that’s the major way.

Does 3:16 do this? Its definitely telling us that killing is important. It doesn’t go much beyond that. It isn’t giving you anything else.

One of the criticisms of my post was that I don’t seem to be getting it. Maybe. If this is the case, that’s a problem of the system. I can clearly see what the system is telling me. So, if I’m not “getting the point”, the system isn’t doing a very good job of showing me.

“Don’t Use the Mechanics” Is Not a Valid Defense of a System

Every game has corner cases which the rules don’t and shouldn’t try to cover. However, if the system simply disregards all problems by just waving a hand, that isn’t a solution. That’s just telling eveyrone that this systems sucks, live with it. Of course, invoking the creativity and roleplaying card makes this an attractive proposition, but clearly, this can’t be the supporting structure of the system. If it is, why are we using this system? Again, we need to lay out some common rules for the game, and this is clearly just dismissing that idea.

We do use the rules systems for a reason. Again, they are actually helping us be more creative. By not giving us that component, the system is basically worthless.

There’s a Distinction Between the Game and the System

As far as I can see, people have different interests in the game. Some people apparently like to parody the US military, some people like to kill aliens en masse. There probably are other less apparent reasons as well, and of course we have the more casual players who don’t really care.

In any case, the defenses of the system seem to be based on liking the game as a whole, not the system. The system seems to get a bunch of excuses, because people like the theme, whatever they think it is.

Now, this is wrong. Obviously, this system is specifically designed for this purpose, and I don’t know of any other, but this doesn’t mean it works. The concept of the game can be good, but the system can fail in its goal of presenting the themes.

In this case, if the the real goal is just to be an effective alien-killer, I’m guessing you could argue its doing a pretty good job (although it isn’t). If it has any other goals, its doing a very lousy job. Well, unless its trying to piss me off.

The Value of NFA

My assessment of the NFA as worthless seems to be getting backlash.

Than again, it is. No one has been able to present an actual case for it. Yes, I rolled NFA on some occasions besides the dominance rolls. None of those rolls mattered. Yes, at some point some of the characters were out of breath because I jogged them to our next destination. Did this affect them in any way? No. Did they even roleplay it? No, because it didn’t matter to them, because they were there to kill aliens.

… and again. If it actually had a purpose in, say, gathering intelligence or formulating a plan, the benefits are reaped by all players and therefore, as I said before, I’m basically sacrificing my character for the good of the whole, as my strengths are in an area which benefits us, whereas the other players, who put their emphasis in FA are benefiting mostly themselves.

Actually, I lied. There was one NFA roll which had actual benefit for me. In this case I tried to find ways of using it, so I used my turn to give out orders and get the men organized. The GM gave me a +1 on the next FA roll. Based on this, my 8 in NFA is actually worth exactly 0.8 in FA, if I use a whole turn. Basically worthless.

The Random Advance

A couple of people have defended the system by saying that I can get advances randomly. This idea seems very condensending to me. Basically, the designer is saying that I can’t actually earn those advances, so he’s just giving me a random chance of getting them. I’d much rather be able to earn them.

Why does this even exist? Because the designer knew the weakness of his system and threw this in there to cover it up. He knew very well that the system would favor the corporal in a huge way, but didn’t bother to actually fix that.

One Final Thing

The role of the sergeant has been overly emphasized in these texts, since I played that role in the game. However, looking at the whole, I think the other characters, those who actually thought about how much points they’ll put into each of the stats, are actually in a much worse situation. They have a very hard time competing with the corporal and if the sergeant starts messing with the others for his own benefit, those characters will feel the brunt of it just the same as the corporal.

I think that’s actually much, much worse. Those players, who actually tried to make something more than a one-dimensional asshole, are being punished by the system much worse than the sergeant. In our group, Peetu, who put 4 in FA and 6 in NFA is probably in the worst position. Because he did put some thought into these stats is never going to advance through kills, will never have access to the same weaponry the others have and so forth. And this is basically a punishment for actually caring.

What does that say about the system?

6 thoughts on “Return to 3:16

  1. Forgot one this I was supposed to talk about.

    The importance of the stats in roleplaying…

    In this case we have two stats. No abilities, nothing else. With a proper set of stats, not necessarily that many, but some, the character would have much more depth, even without any actual roleplaying.

    Think about it this way. My character has an NFA of 8. He’s basically good at anything besides fighting. Therefore, my character is as good at speaking Japanese, understanding higher math, running, hiding, piloting a helicopter, lying to people and whatever needs to be done. Since this is the case for all the characters with a high NFA, if the NFA rolls actually had a meaning, these characters will fall easily into a rut and become sort of all-knowing Holmes-characters (although Holmes was an excellent pugilist and therefore probably had a high FA as well).

    Again, the limits are not where they should be.

  2. … and forgot another thing.

    Some people have brought up the idea that maybe if the sergeant is good and actually does his best for the squad, the squad might eventually reward him by letting him have the most kills.

    First, let me emphasize the words ‘might’ and ‘eventually’.

    Second, again, this leaves all the players in the middle in a very poor position.

    Third, you remember the episode of Band of Brothers where they brought Nixon to the front to kill some nazis, and no one else killed anyone? Funny, neither do I.

    The whole notion is ludicruous.

  3. I think that the people who like 3:16 approach it differently than you. It seems to me that you put a lot of emphasis on the game system and expect it to produce cool storylines, define characters and whatnot. It’s like a factory machine, where you toss stuff in from the other end and get a nice product out of the other. There’s nothing wrong with that, but 3:16 might just not work with that too well, just like the original D&D isn’t about the system.

    The people who enjoy 3:16 and OSR-D&D like the game procedure: it’s about military drama and what to do in an unfair situation or about weighing challenges, making risk analysis and trying to get out alive. You won’t get to these by staring at the game mechanics, and yet the game mechanics support this kind of playing. This is why the rules, guidelines and instructions are so important. The system is bigger than the mere mechanics.

    Note that the actual game instructions in the game texts are important for this. This is not about “I made my game work” (like one would have to do with, say, World of Darkness), but about “it says here how this game is supposed to be played”.

    This is not to say that you should start to like 3:16 or D&D, but an attempt to explain why you don’t seem to “get” them and why others apparently love these games. I’m just trying to explain different viewpoints. Have you already read the rulebook? Not saying that it’s all there, but it might offer another perspective besides your own actual play experience.

    • I think that the people who like 3:16 approach it differently than you. It seems to me that you put a lot of emphasis on the game system and expect it to produce cool storylines, define characters and whatnot. It’s like a factory machine, where you toss stuff in from the other end and get a nice product out of the other. There’s nothing wrong with that, but 3:16 might just not work with that too well, just like the original D&D isn’t about the system.

      … and nowhere is it as apparent as here that the should help. Since the GM has a very limited and shallow understanding of the army, he can’t really critique, parody, or satirize it. The system could very well help here. The system could give him direction. Since the system doesn’t, he’s just parodying some vague notion of what the army is like. Granted, I’ve never been to a war myself, but I’ve been in the army, so I know how the egos of the officers manifests itself, I’ve witnessed some of the corruption, I’ve seen the sexism, I’ve seen the incompetence of officers.

      Since the system does none of this for the GM, there’s no chance he’ll ever achieve any verisimilitude and his attempts at critique, parody or satire, which ever people think its supposed to be, are going to fall flat, storylines are not going to have anything to do with how army actually works.

      Can you have fun games never mind the system? Yes. Will your experience be better if the system is actually pulling its weight? Definitely.

      I haven’t read the book and I don’t see why I should. Again, the system is supposed to communicate to me what the game is about. There shouldn’t be any other “this is how you should be playing” content. If there needs to be one, it just means the game is lazily designed.

  4. Aki, what do you know of what I know, understand or think about the army? Never once did I want to say something about how the army works. It was a drama game, and the first session of one. I wanted a relatively light-hearted beginning that could go into all kinds of directions, given time and the chance. Maybe the Nazi remark about the lieutenant’s manner was a bit silly, but a) it didn’t mean to convey my attitude about the army or all officers b) it was improvised. Improvisation sometimes produces results that aren’t what I would’ve gone for had I thought more about it.

    I wanted to do what the game tells me to do, and I channeled the influences of the game (Aliens, Starship Troopers, 2000AD, Halo Jones) and other fiction and non-fiction I was familiar with (Tuntematon sotilas, Generation Kill, Forever War) into the story. I wanted to create war fiction with you guys, not say something about how the army works in Finland, in the US or wherever. The game recommended that I make the lieutenant a dick, so that’s what I did.

    If you disagree about content that I produce, the thing I expect you to do is talk to me about it straight, not muffle under your breath something about how I never was in the army. I made it clear at the beginning of the game that everyone can contribute to the game and make suggestions about the world, the NPCs, the aliens, the PCs, everything. If something I do looks silly, or unbelievable, or whatever, talk to me about it.

  5. Itse asiassa mustakin alkaa tuntumaan siltä, että 3:16 vois kommunikoidan intentionsa paremmin, koska näyttää siltä että sitten lopulta kukaan muu ei nähtävästi olekaan tajunnut, mistä siinä on kyse. Me pelattiin sitä yksi 10 tunnin sessio, joka oli yksi parhaista ropekokemuksista ikinä, eikä missään tapauksessa alieninlahtaamisen tai armeijadraaman takia, vaikka niillä olikin osansa tässä kuviossa.

    Mä itse asiassa aion nyt spoilata mistä tässä pelissä on kyse, joten jos joku aikoo vielä joskus pelata maapallon tuhoamisarmeijan 3. divisioonan 16. prikaatia, kannattaa lopettaa lukeminen tähän.

    Mutta oikeasti hei, oikein vedettynä, se on niin hieno systeemi, että todellakin suosittelisin itse kutakin vetämään sen yhdessä illassa läpi periaatteella.

    No mutta ne spoilerit:

    -Pelaajille ei saa antaa taukoa, ei mitään “jatketaan seuraavalla kerralla” -shittiä, eikä mitään “tää oli nyt tässä” loppulässähdystä. Peli päättyy vain ja ainoastaan lopulliseen ratkaisuun, joka ei jätä mitään arvailun varaan.

    -Hahmot ovat päättäneet liittyä maapallon sosiopaattiseen tuhoamisarmeijaan koska ovat kyllästyneet elämäänsä mutta eivät halua mennä yhteen itsemurhakopeista. (tausta tuodaan esille sääntökirjassa). hatred for home -ominaisuus löytyy myös jokaiselta hahmolta.

    -Tappojen keräämisellä palkitaan pelaajien primitiivisiä mielihyväkeskuksia, sen on tarkoitus olla cookieclicker avaruudessa, jossa pelaajat kisaavat keskenään, se pakettimatkan ohjelmanumero tai turistiretki johon hahmot vaihtoivat epäkuolleen elämänsä maapallolla.

    -peli on itse asiassa niin helppo, että suurin osa planeetoista tarjoaa täysin triviaalisen vastuksen. Pelaajilla ei ole oikeasti mitään todellista haastetta alieneistä ellei ihan alussa, jos kaikkein kovimmat planeetat sattuvat tulemaan samaan aikaan. Tämä on tarkoituksellista. Pelaajien KUULUU kyllästyä tappamiseen ja pelaajat alkavat kyllästyä myös itse peliin jos eivät keksi jotain muuta tekemistä kuin alienien lahtaamisen.

    -Se muu tekeminen on prikaatin itsetuho sen muodostavien itsetuhoisten ihmisten välinpitämättömyyden seurauksena. Tätä voisi ohjekirja korostaa pelinjohtajalle enemmän. Olisi siistiä, jos pelaajan noustessa lopulta everstiluutnanttien kerhoon löytäisi jonkun pelleporukan siellä oksentelevan hologrammipöydille ja soittelevan täysin randomeita käskyjä etulinjaan vedonlyöntien käydessä kuumina siitä kenen osastossa tulee eniten tappoja (alieni sekä mariini)

    -viimeistään siinä vaiheessa kun eka pelaaja on saanut käsiinsä starkiller-ohjuksen ja tilittää IWIN-napinpainalluksella d10000 tappoa / planeetta, sekä saa asiaankuuluvat kunniamerkit, homman mielettömyyden pitäisi kristallisoitua pelaajille. Tämän jälkeen ei jää enää mitään muuta kuin prikaatinkenraaliksi nousu.

    -NPC-prikaatinkenraali ei sääntöjen mukaan koskaan käytä VEHJETTÄ, joka tuhoaa KAIKEN valovuosien säteellä, mutta tietysti pelaaja-kenu voi näin tehdäkin, ihan silkkaa ikävystymistään. Oikeasti kuitenkin saatuaan tämän aseman, pelaajakenraali 100% varmuudella rikkoo kaikkein tärkeintä sääntöä “prikaati ei saa koskaan palata maapallolle”.

    -koska maapallolta on lähetetty useita tuhoamisarmeijadivisioonia, joissa on jokaisessa kymmeniä prikaateja, ja jokaisessa näistä vaikuttavat samat voimat kuin siinä, missä pelaajat toimivat (3:16), ja että niitä odottaa sama kohtalo, tarkoittaa tämä sitä että satoja armeijaosastoja on tuhonnut keskimäärin kymmeniä alienisivilisaatioita ennenkuin ensimmäinen niistä on päättänyt palata maapallolle toteuttamaan hatred for homeaan.

    -kun siis prikaatinsan vallan kaapanneet pelaajat saapuvat maapallolle, on jokseenkin varmaa, että toinen prikaati ehti ensin ja aurinkokunnan tilalla on pelkkä tähtisumu. Maapallo, jonka tulevaisuuden teoreettisia uhkia puolustamaan öykkäriarmeijakin lähetettiin tappamaan ja kuolemaan, on ollut itse tuhoutuneena jo jonkin aikaa.

    -Sitten ei voi seurata enää muuta kuin epilogi.

    Tuolle lopetukselle on sellainen vaihtoehto, että pelaajat olivat sittenkin ensimmäiset, jotka ehtivät palaamaan terralle. Näin itse asiassa kävi meidän pelissä, jossa pelaaja laukaisi VEHKEEN ja tuhosi maapallon, mutta mun mielestä toi valmiiksi tuhottu maapallo on siistimpi kohtalo.

    Kuitenkaan spoilaamatta tätä juonta pelissä ei voida kommunikoida sitä intentiota kovinkaan suoraan. Ehkä sen voisi tehdä paremmin, varmemmin, antamalla mm. joitakin farisealaisia sääntöjä käytännön pelitoteutuksesta.

    1- “ÄLÄ KESKEYTÄ PELIÄ” – olemista ei pääse pakoon edes avaruudessa!
    2- “ÄLÄ VENYTÄ KOHTAUKSIA” – mikrokosmos ei tarjoa pakopaikkaa!
    3- “TYKITÄ PLANEETTOJA” – tappaminen ei lopu koskaan!
    4- “RUOKI PELAAJIEN KYLLÄSTYMISTÄ” -makeaa mahan täydeltä! 10, 100, 10000000 tappoa! so what?
    5- “HERÄTÄ VIHAA” -kaikki ovat kusipäitä jotka vihaavat elämää mutta pelkäävät kuolemaa. Bensaa traumojen liekkeihin!

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