View Full Version : [Any] How many rules do you need for fun?

2011-04-18, 12:53 AM
Some systems are crunch-heavy and try to model lots and lots of little things. (See D&D 3.5.) Other systems ignore the minor details and cover only the most important bits.

How many rules do you need for a game to be fun? I enjoy D&D 3.5 because of its vast ability to make what I want, but I've also studied the 3.x rules the past decade. I prefer internal consistency. I want things done right more than fast.

2011-04-18, 01:04 AM
Some systems are crunch-heavy and try to model lots and lots of little things. (See D&D 3.5.) Other systems ignore the minor details and cover only the most important bits.

How many rules do you need for a game to be fun? I enjoy D&D 3.5 because of its vast ability to make what I want, but I've also studied the 3.x rules the past decade. I prefer internal consistency. I want things done right more than fast.

Depends on what you consider fun.

I personally enjoy trying to plan tactics, etc, which in my opinion needs a bit more rules. If I don't have a feel for how certain actions are going to work, I find it more difficult to consider them. Though the main issue there is consistency. As long as the method is consistent, I can plan for the future.

2011-04-18, 01:19 AM
I've had fun just freeforming it with absolutely no rules whatsoever. This usually goes horribly, and I would not suggest it to anyone, but it has happened. I've experienced it. I can definitively say I need absolutely no rules to have fun.

But they help. So, really, it's not the number of rules - just how well designed they are. Indeed, having too many extraneous rules is detrimental, and that's not a finite number, just "more than you needed to do what you're trying to do".

2011-04-18, 01:23 AM
Some systems are crunch-heavy and try to model lots and lots of little things. (See D&D 3.5.) Other systems ignore the minor details and cover only the most important bits.

How many rules do you need for a game to be fun? I enjoy D&D 3.5 because of its vast ability to make what I want, but I've also studied the 3.x rules the past decade. I prefer internal consistency. I want things done right more than fast.

I can enjoy both ends of the spectrum and most things in between, but for my standard fair, I prefer rules light. As far as absolute necessity, I just need the basic character capacities (i.e. a set of character classes) and a resolution device.

3.5 actually does ok here too-- most things are resolved with some kind of modified d20 roll, so if you're not overly attached to which particular things modify it, you can wing it fairly easily.

A good start is using the level based skill system and the generic classes (you have to do some slight meshing). Then you're really just left to keeping combat simple, which is mostly a matter of deciding not to make it complicated.

Totally Guy
2011-04-18, 02:06 AM
But bigger rock is better rock!


2011-04-18, 02:56 AM
For fun, I prefer enough crunch that I can engage with the mechanical aspect of the game, but not so much that I have to spend a significant amount of non-game time pondering it.

I find rules-light games are better at this because when you have few rules, it's easier to bend them to accomodate almost any situation. When you have many rules - especially in a heavily interconnected system like 3.5 - the tendency is to cover new situations by making more rules; and then before you know it in order to run (or participate effectively as a player) in that game you have to memorise six rulebooks, track two blogs and hang around at least one website.

2011-04-18, 03:34 AM
I need just enough rules so that I can ponder any action and have a rough idea how the system will work for said action.

My two favorite systems are probably white wolf and D20. White wolf give a solid mechanical base to work within, once you understand the system you can reasonably figure Action X requires AbilityY+Skill/Power/WhateverZ and make a roll. Pretty versatile and basic. D20 tends to be similar to that, but D&D 3.5 really kind of bogs down in the minutae. I like the basic of the system, they just went too far trying to have rules for everything.

We're just starting a mutants and masterminds 3E game and I really like the look of the system thus far. Haven't had a chance to play yet, just did creation/setting the stage last weekend.

2011-04-18, 03:35 AM
Enough for structure. Once it's established how the group is to be organized (is there a GM? do non-GM players have narrative sway in the environment? do players have specific characters of their own?), the basic mechanism of conflict resolution (rolling dice? drawing cards? bidding? voting on a dance-off?) and who gets final say in events, the rules themselves become largely irrelevant in terms of roleplaying, except as ways to bribe/motivate the players.

I typically like rules that are accessible for a DM with ~3 hours prep (reading the rules, then sketching out campaign bulletpoints) and a group without prior reading (or with a brief overview/demonstration). Dust Devils, Savage Worlds, Don't Rest Your Head, Cortex and inSpectres are pretty close to my ideal.

There are places for roleplaying games that put a high tactical focus on their various minigames*, but they're more work to learn and are prone to rules debates and lost interest during unexpectedly prolonged periods of <combat/plot> interrupting the flow of the <plot/conflict>, when <plot/conflict> is actually what the players are interested in. I've found it's sometimes just easier to keep game momentum by separating the roleplay from the tactics game and just play a rules-light RPG, followed by some poker or a video game than it is to try to do them all at once with a rules-intensive RPG.

*Spycraft 2.0's Dramatic Conflicts exemplify the "rules as minigames nested in an rpg" paradigm, but I'm talking about all rpgs with overly complex conflict-resolution mechanics embedded within their roleplaying system. D&D 3e, Unisystem and GURPS, for example, provide subgames that are complex to the point that they don't function as roleplaying plot-resolution mechanisms so much as they act as games of their own. There's nothing wrong with that when everyone's on board, but when there's a player or two who's not really interested in combat, and a fight drags out for an hour, the game isn't keeping everyone engaged or entertained.

2011-04-18, 04:34 AM
I don't need any rules for fun. I played large freeform LJ RPs and had a blast.

I do, however, have a preference for systems that let you build a lot of mechanically varied characters, and give you a lot of different options to choose from in combat. A system where being a fighter means that you just auto-attack every round is very boring for me.

2011-04-18, 04:52 AM
It depends on what I want to play, really. If I have a character who can't really be put into mechanics all that well, I'll go for freeform. However, I often prefer the use of a system because it shows how good different people are at different things-if I play a master sneaky person in a freeform, for example, there's a good chance one or more people will see them sneaking around, whereas in DnD unless they pump their Spot/Listen they'll only have a small chance of doing so. It's also because some of my concepts are based in mechanics, requiring rules for most of what they do to be coherent.

I also like rules because, well, they keep things fun for everyone(if they're good rules, that is). Even the freeform games I play have rules like "no GM/PP" to keep people from playing absurdly powerful quasi-gods and solving every conflict or forcing the players of other characters to attack or determine how they react. I'm in a quasi-freeform roleplay group that's based on the show Code Lyoko, and it's interesting to see how they've blended freeform and rules-based systems together.

I guess I'll sum it up with the following list:
Freeform: Characters with powers or abilities that don't work well in most systems, or are very difficult to model using them.
Rules-Light: Games based on series with rules/systems. Apart from those, I rarely play these-I consider systems like GURPS, which has one basic rule/action for most things, Rules for Everything games.
Rules for Everything: Many concepts, combat-oriented concepts or ones that use a blend of mechanics to set themselves apart. I also like these because you can compare your values with others to see who is better at which specific skill, etc.

2011-04-18, 05:31 AM
How much fun I have depends on how rules-heavy the system is. If I bought a rules-lite system, I'd not be having so much fun wondering why I wasted money when I already know how to freeform.

2011-04-18, 06:00 AM
RISUS is fun. :smallbiggrin:

2011-04-18, 06:57 AM
I've had fun with freeform, chat room role play can be a lot of fun with simply going back and forth, talking in-charachter, but I don't recommend it for combat.
So the minimum I need is none, but I prefer more in certain situations.

2011-04-18, 08:04 AM
Need? Well, that's too easy to answer; the obvious answer is that you don't absolutely need any more than none. Some people like it freeform, though personally I prefer a minimum of rules to allow the maximum freedom to just wing stuff. Basically, enough to make it fair, but few enough for maximized Rule of Cool potential.

2011-04-18, 08:22 AM
I don't need much. I've done a lot of freeform LARPing. But in that kind of game I've had the rules replaced with well written characters with tons of plot. I couldn't just be a character. When I roleplay I have to have a direction to take the character in, and usually that direction is dictated by plot. In lieu of plot I can enjoy myself just playing with the rules.

2011-04-18, 08:23 AM
I'm good with something as simple as RISUS, as long as it is named Titled. Otherwise, I hover around the Fudge, SWEX level.

2011-04-18, 09:10 AM
How many rules do you need for a game to be fun?

This entirely depends on the kind of game it is. I enjoy me some 3.5, but I also enjoy games like "everyone is john", where you can fit all the rules on a sheet of paper.

Jay R
2011-04-18, 09:47 AM
Ideally, I want a rules structure that allows complicated or simple characters.

I want enough details in the rules that I can enjoy fiddling with my complex character, but not so much that it will be oppressive for me to help another player with his simple character.

I love Champions, which lots of people think is too complex. It's arithmetic heavy, but I'm neither deficient in arithmetic nor annoyed by it. I really enjoy the detailed work of combining Advantages and Limitations to create a characte with unique options. When a friend who doesn't want to get involved in minutiae is playing, I design him a basic brick or energy projector with few options in a fight.

I also like OD&D, AD&D 1E, and AD&D 2E. If I have a friend in the game who won't learn the rules, I'll build him a fighter.

Pendragon is wonderful for me, but all players have to learn the rules.

TOON has simple rules, but it's delightful fun, and *everybody* knows how to play a toon.

I'd prefer a more detailed ruleset for Flashing Blades, but the setting (musketeer France) is so awesome I'll forgive anything.

GURPS should an ideal set, but it tends to be the third best option in any setting, surpassed by rules designed for that setting.

And 1st edition Chivalry and Sorcery was the most beautifully designed, carefully detailed, perfect-simulation unplayable mess ever written.

2011-04-18, 10:48 AM
This is kind of a weird question for me to answer. In practice, I prefer rules-lite so I don't have to worry about how to find obscure rules text X on page Y in obscure text Z, because it's easier to teach, and because rules-lite games seem to help a game flow a little better.

Then again, I like having lots of rules in case I DO need to know how something would work. But then I run into the problem that I usually don't care to use all of the rules and butcher them for simpler play. This is essentially what I do for D&D 3.5.

So I suppose for me, it's less about how rules-heavy a game is, and more about how unified the task resolution in the system is.

2011-04-18, 11:39 AM
I would say I need some rules to have fun. I coudl see enjoying freeform, but I'd always be second-guessing what I can and can't do, and that would make it less fun for me.

That said, I enjoy anything from PDQ, which I can play/run without ever looking up the rules, to D&D 3.5 which has piles of rules all over the place that I constantly need to look up. It really depends on my mood and what I'm trying to accomplish.

2011-04-18, 11:45 AM
You need a Player v. Storyteller conflict resolution mechanic of some type.

And you probably need a Player v. Player conflict resolution mechanic of some type, if you can't use the above to do it.

This conflict resolution mechanic can be anywhere from "Highest number wins" (some diceless games) to RPS (LARPing) to describing your actions more amusingly (a board/card game I played once did that) to dice rolling of any number of types.

2011-04-18, 12:19 PM
How many rules do you need for a game to be fun? I enjoy D&D 3.5 because of its vast ability to make what I want, but I've also studied the 3.x rules the past decade. I prefer internal consistency. I want things done right more than fast.
As many as you need to be happy, of course :smalltongue:

For you, it sounds like you need a lot of "simulationist" rules to be happy. Good for you. Me, I need just enough rules to serve the Purpose of the game. As an example, I'd be happy playing 3.X without Profession/Craft rules but I need additional rules for Contact negotiations to play SR3.

Everyone has different things they want out of a game. My tastes are varied so I play a lot of different games. I suspect people who need a very rules-heavy game to be happy probably only play a single system for their entire lives.

Differen' strokes for differen' folks :smallbiggrin:

Mark Hall
2011-04-18, 12:36 PM
But bigger rock is better rock!


Bigger meat is better meat!

(and we should probably stop quoting them there....)

Personally, I like a game that provides me a reasonable framework and some tools to play with... but a big, open area for DM calls. If you've got a DM who knows his stuff and is a player in the game (as opposed to the DM who is the opposition at all times), I find that degree of flexibility enjoyable.

IME, rules-heavy systems are better for weak DMs than rules-light systems. A weak DM can fall back on rules as written to gain his sea-legs, while extensive rules as written, IMO, tend to hinder a DM who is used to and works well with freedom. This isn't to say that only weak DMs like rules-heavy systems... just that weak DMs tend to do better in them than in systems about rulings instead of rules.

2011-04-18, 01:30 PM
I like minimalist systems. I prefer to judge myself, and let the players words and actions sway me.

2011-04-18, 05:10 PM
I only need one rule: Have Fun!

2011-04-19, 02:37 PM
To actually answer the question asked, I'd say that you need enough rules to resolve what you need to resolve and no more. So story based roleplaying could easily be free form, while a tactical roleplaying game that is focused on the use of weapons and skills needs to have a structure that facilitates that, and needs to be detailed enough to cover your actions and broad enough to grant you meaningfully different tactics and choices.

To my mind, rules bloat is less about how many rules there are, and more about whether the additional rules are useful or necessary. Adding rules simply to create an expansion to sell *coughmagicthegatheringcough* is a highway to rules bloat. Adding rules because you want to be really specific in your simulation however, can enhance the game provided the rules retain an internal consistency with existing rules in the system, and don't needlessly replicate things that are already covered.

2011-04-19, 02:41 PM
I like rules that are simple and fast, yet have enough of a random element behind them to keep things interesting.

I like 3.5, Star Wars Saga, and Mutants & Masterminds. For the D20 type games I can ignore or simplify rules I don't like. I never play with miniatures, so I doubt I will ever run a 4E game which has a massively huge focus on grid movement.

If it plays like a board game, I won't enjoy it because I don't like board games. I'll go play something on my PC instead like Civilization or SC2.

2011-04-19, 03:29 PM
Like others have said, it really depends on the ruleset itself. The sprawling ruleset of 3.x can be annoying because of poor proofreading and limited cooperation between designers. Star Fleet Battles (not an RPG, I know, but it's the best way to explain the concept I know) has a massive rulebook, but the bulk of it is dedicated to ensuring that every possible interaction bewteen things is explained, so that, if you really need to tractor an enemy ship through a nebula in an asteroid field orbiting a pulsar, there's no ambiguity in resolving it.

2011-04-20, 12:57 PM
The purpose of any system is to manage narrative domain in the collaborative, multi-authorial context of RPGs and avoid the irresolvable situations where person X says "I think so" and person Y says "I think not." So the base rule for every system of play is that there ought to be a way to resolve any situation of inter-author conflict. Not necessarily a specified way, just a way. I think any group whose members don't all accept this basic idea is fundamentally dysfunctional.

A game that operates with this rule alone is in what I call "freeform gear". Games can go surprisingly far just on freeform gear.

In choosing to introduce other rules, or as most people say it, "choose a system to run", I consider two sets of questions important:

1) How do you get your fun, as opposed to how the rest of your group gets its fun? What limits does this impose upon your agency as an author?

2) How do you describe your character(s), and how do you think that description ought to weigh upon the results of their actions?

I think these questions are important because all of the rest of the rules are there to provide a system language in which the resolution of inter-author conflict is negotiated. An effective system language can also help to frame the kinds of IC conflicts that occur, and direct the overall attention of the group towards desired themes of exploration.

Above all I find it useful to remember that where systems fail or reach their limits, and I think they do so more often than most people realize, the group as a whole can always agree to shift back to freeform gear.

1nfinite zer0
2011-04-21, 11:32 AM
It really depends on the goal and the group of players. But more or less boils down to whether there are enough rules to produce the desired type of play and resolve conflict (dramatic or challenge based) in an amusing way.

With one of my groups, we like more narrative control and fast play. So we tend towards rules-lite, GM sharing, skipping sections of resolution because we all say yes to an exciting idea, etc. The rules we do use are when the conflict between ideas/players is uncertain and the tension from rolling, bidding, etc adds to the story. Also, rules have taken the form of constraints by awarding facts/aspects/states to something in play, the way FATE and Universalis does.

In another group that is decidedly more tactical: we like crunch, and most of the adventures is structured around combat encounters and technical problems (hacking, physics speculations and other nerdiness). These are also the people I war game with. And these have wayyyy more rules that we stick to without debate (but not without argument, hah!)