Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Fun vs Rules, Some Thoughts

Some rules systems are very “crunchy”. By this, we mean that they are full of lots of tiny, detailed rules. Think of “crunching numbers” as an idiom and you’ll get what I’m saying. Like all of gaming, and of life, this brings both good and bad. 

The good of it is that there is consistency. When you cast this spell, this is what happens. When you meet up with that monster, then these are the things that it can do. If you try to buy a new suit of armor, or a horse, you can look up how much it will cost you. It also means that the game master doesn’t have to guess at so many things. They can just look up the rule and go.

There are some problems with crunchy rules, though, and one of them is that it creates the need to look up things. “You’re throwing the Fireball at the wall to try and blow a hole through it. Hmmm. Let’s see. I have to look up the Fireball spell. What level is that?  Ok, here it is. Hmmm. OK. Now, I need to look up how much structural damage that wall can take. What book was that in? Oh, yeah. Over here. Let me look in the index. Here it is... Wait. Is this wall brick or stone?” Do you see how that can significantly interrupt the flow of the game? 

Another problem it creates is the rules lawyer. This is a challenge when the player challenges a judgement the game master makes. Then the two dig into the rules books and begin pointing out variations and nuances of the wording of the rules to prove their points. The story grinds to a halt as the two try and hash out the results.

Also, it can be a problem when the GM creates an encounter, and the player immediately looks up the monster’s stats, abilities, and weaknesses. 

I’m not saying clarity of the rules is a bad thing, but there should be room for variation, and for the sake of the story flow, some calls should just be left to the common sense of the game master. 

The game master should, also, be willing to listen to a certain amount of appeal or explanation from the players, but should also quickly roll with a decision and move on in the story.

I think this is particularly important when dealing with younger players. They may not remember the details of the rules, but they will remember the excitement of the story.

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