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Thread: Why More Rules?

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Lightbulb Why More Rules?

    I just read the rules to Burning Wheel and watched a sample session on the internets. I don't understand why anyone would want to play it more than once, unless they were coming from a different rules-heavy system (d20/GURPS/Shadowrun?) and decided that they wanted differently complicated and slow-moving resolution mechanics.

    Then I read a bunch of old game design posts from Vincent Baker and ended up asking myself the same question.

    That said, I don't understand what's attractive about having more than minimal rules in an RPG, or having intrusive rules at all. To clarify, when I say intrusive rules, I mean rules than lead players to focus on what they're doing mechanically, rather than what their character is "doing" ("I lunge forwards and stab the goblin," versus "I Full Attack"). Even stuff that runs on the Apocalypse World engine seems to do this, with (for instance) Dungeon World's reliance on failed rolls for experience, which sets up an incentive to frame one's actions as those most likely to produce long-term benefit. That is, the people at the table are encouraged (or required) to interact with the rules, rather than with each other.

    To clarify more, this isn't a specific criticism of Burning Wheel, which works in an interesting way. I'm asking whether, and what, people get out of front-loaded rules*, and questioning whether "working in an interesting way" is a worthy goal from a player's perspective (from a game designer's perspective, encouraging people to focus on the rules you made that distinguish your work from other people is perfectly rational).

    Possibilities so far:

    1. Competition - add mechanical challenge to make the whole thing work like a puzzle (for instance, D&D is an N+1 player RPG where most conflicts are resolved using a 2-player [team vs DM] fireteam-level fantasy tactical wargame, which can be fun in itself). This is completely fine if you really like that. To me, this feels like a less than optimal use of my time (and my friends' time), though: if I want competition against a human opponent, there are other, more challenging ways of doing that. Even if I specifically wanted to play the D&D fantasy tactical game for the sake of competition, I'd want to drop the whole RPG thing and play it like Warhammer (or similar).
    2. Character differentiation. I want to feel like I'm playing the character I'm playing, when that character has to do something that there are rules for. That said, if there aren't rules for the thing, there's no need to describe my mechanical uniqueness when it comes to that thing, is there? That is, this seems to reverse the cause and effect: I expect that resolution systems are usually designed first, and then character variation is built in for that resolution system, rather than the opposite.
    3. Unpredictability via encouraging people to roll dice more often. This is what dice are for, but added complexity to die-rolling doesn't add unpredictability, except through non-comprehension of the rules, which is more likely to produce a reaction of "that's the rule? Okay, I do something else" than "wow! I am inspired and excited by misunderstanding."
    4. Basic plausibility. A system in which some things are more difficult than others, and some people are better at some things than others, makes more intuitive sense and feels less arbitrary than flipping a coin (or trying to roll a 7 or higher on 2d6) no matter what the task is, and is marginally more complex than such a system. On the other hand, a more elaborate resolution mechanic has no guarantee of verisimilitude, and may actually detract from it, even if the rules themselves are superb. That is, a perfect fencing rule system won't contribute to verisimilitude for a player who doesn't know how to fence but wants to play a character who does.
    5. Variety: sometimes you want to try a different resolution system. This works for me, but doesn't exactly lend itself to explaining why someone would want to return to any given intrusive-rules system.
    6. To enforce a particular play style, tone, theme, etc. This makes sense from a game designer's perspective, but doesn't follow to me as a player. If I've bought into a particular thematic/stylistic premise, I don't need rules to force me to do it; if I haven't, I won't enjoy being forced to conform to it.
    7. Sunk-cost fallacy: I don't want this to be my conclusion.


    Someone tell me what I'm missing.

    *Broadly, anything that encourages you to think about rolling dice before imagining the in-character action.

  2. - Top - End - #2

    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Rules are used to build a specific experience. The more complicated the rules are the more specific an experience you can build with them.

    That isn't inherently a good thing, but it can be.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Rules may be appealing to people who are more used to video gaming and less used to roleplaying (freeform or otherwise). People raised with video games are typically used to having an explicit list of actions they can take and may be overwhelmed with the prospect of being able to do anything; looking at the rules to determine what they may attempt rather than as guidelines for whether the succeed. I'm not saying that this is exclusive to video gamer mentality or that all video gamers would have this mindset, but it can certainly be a factor in game design decisions.

    It may also be appealing to those who enjoy structure and want to play "by the rules". Having a more extensive ruleset allows for a wider variety and range of play for those that don't like to work out of the system. Rather than homebrewing a more detailed combat mechanic or improvising rules for an unorthodox action, they prefer the rules to be hard set and built in already.
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by BayardSPSR View Post
    Competition - add mechanical challenge to make the whole thing work like a puzzle (for instance, D&D is an N+1 player RPG where most conflicts are resolved using a 2-player [team vs DM] fireteam-level fantasy tactical wargame, which can be fun in itself). This is completely fine if you really like that. To me, this feels like a less than optimal use of my time (and my friends' time), though: if I want competition against a human opponent, there are other, more challenging ways of doing that. Even if I specifically wanted to play the D&D fantasy tactical game for the sake of competition, I'd want to drop the whole RPG thing and play it like Warhammer (or similar).
    The thing that roleplaying games have that tactical games don't is the interaction of rules and unpredictable storytelling. Warhammer and chess are about logical processes and competition, roleplaying games are about being presented with weird situations and coming up with even weirder solutions with the tools you are given. The more tools you have, the crazier your solutions can potentially be.

    Character differentiation. I want to feel like I'm playing the character I'm playing, when that character has to do something that there are rules for. That said, if there aren't rules for the thing, there's no need to describe my mechanical uniqueness when it comes to that thing, is there? That is, this seems to reverse the cause and effect: I expect that resolution systems are usually designed first, and then character variation is built in for that resolution system, rather than the opposite.
    If you have a bit of text on your character sheet that says that your character can do X unique or special thing, that thing cannot be taken away from you. Without rules you're forced to negotiate and bargain for everything you have, with rules you can just point to your sheet and say that, yes, your character does know this thing and that's that.

    Unpredictability via encouraging people to roll dice more often. This is what dice are for, but added complexity to die-rolling doesn't add unpredictability, except through non-comprehension of the rules, which is more likely to produce a reaction of "that's the rule? Okay, I do something else" than "wow! I am inspired and excited by misunderstanding."
    It's sort of true that you could as well flip a coin for everything, but I feel like adding layers of rules that interact with each other in ways that you might not be able to see at first glance makes things a bit more unpredictable, at least until you really get to know the ins and outs of that particular system.

    Basic plausibility. A system in which some things are more difficult than others, and some people are better at some things than others, makes more intuitive sense and feels less arbitrary than flipping a coin (or trying to roll a 7 or higher on 2d6) no matter what the task is, and is marginally more complex than such a system. On the other hand, a more elaborate resolution mechanic has no guarantee of verisimilitude, and may actually detract from it, even if the rules themselves are superb. That is, a perfect fencing rule system won't contribute to verisimilitude for a player who doesn't know how to fence but wants to play a character who does.
    I'm not sure I follow your fencing example. Surely a fencing system, if done well, gives you more as opposed to less? I don't need to know fencing myself, I can just follow the manouvers and statistics given in the book and I should arrive at the conclusion that these fights at least feel real enough?

    Variety: sometimes you want to try a different resolution system. This works for me, but doesn't exactly lend itself to explaining why someone would want to return to any given intrusive-rules system.
    Sure. I love trying out new systems and seeing what they do well and what they do badly.

    To enforce a particular play style, tone, theme, etc. This makes sense from a game designer's perspective, but doesn't follow to me as a player. If I've bought into a particular thematic/stylistic premise, I don't need rules to force me to do it; if I haven't, I won't enjoy being forced to conform to it.
    That works if your players are all knowledgeable about and proficient in presenting stories within that particular genre. If they're not, you might have problems. Systems like Apocalypse World and Burning Wheel solve this by making the themes and narrative frameworks of that genre part of the rules in a way that you can't go wrong with. I don't need to know anything about Arthurian legend and I will still play a great game of chivalry, melodrama and dynasties with Pendragon as long as I follow the rules..

    Sunk-cost fallacy: I don't want this to be my conclusion.
    100% agreed there.
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by Comet View Post
    roleplaying games are about being presented with weird situations and coming up with even weirder solutions with the tools you are given. The more tools you have, the crazier your solutions can potentially be.
    I disagree. That's only true if you assume that you can only do things that have explicit rules.

    In some cases, having rules can lead to stymied creativity, as "creativity" becomes "how can I find a widget on my character sheet and use it?" instead of "how can I respond to this situation in the world?"

    To be clear, I'm not saying that games with lots of rules can't be creative. I *am* saying that games without lots of rules are not necessarily less creative.

    There's also a difference between "creative solution to in-world problem" and "creative application of the rules."

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    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I disagree. That's only true if you assume that you can only do things that have explicit rules.

    In some cases, having rules can lead to stymied creativity, as "creativity" becomes "how can I find a widget on my character sheet and use it?" instead of "how can I respond to this situation in the world?"

    To be clear, I'm not saying that games with lots of rules can't be creative. I *am* saying that games without lots of rules are not necessarily less creative.

    There's also a difference between "creative solution to in-world problem" and "creative application of the rules."
    All true. I find creativity within a constrained framework to be a lot of fun and rules are one way to give you prompts to get those creative juices flowing.
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    More complex rules open up a bunch of possibilities that don't exist in simpler systems. Being able to go through piles of rules for ideas, getting inspired by some or wondering how to make others work with the ones you're thinking of using, isn't just a means to an end. In a bare-bones system, one may quickly create a character from a concept, but in a more mechanically complex system, the game begins when you make the character - the fun can start before they ever arrive 'on screen', as you build them.

    I'd also argue that "front-loaded rules" is a relative term. If I think "I want to rush in and do X", my thoughts are often going to be on the action before I consider how to accomplish said action via the rules - for me, at least, all of the rules-heavy systems I've played in aren't "front-loaded" because of that.
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    I will note, though, that the more complicated parts of Burning Wheel are more or less "optional". You're encouraged not to use them until you're more comfortable with the base part of the game, which is significantly easier.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Another thing is that for some people the looking up of rules, mastering a new set (esp as a group/competitively), and the like are major parts of their social enjoyment of the game.

    (I'm less sure why but I know that at least one of current players is like this and find them at gamer socials, club events for one shots, and BYOBG (bring your own board game) type nights)

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Because we like games with very complex rules - yes we're sad like that.
    It's an intellectual challenge in, and of, itself.
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    d20 Re: Why More Rules?

    I find that I'm a big fan of rules-heavy systems… but then I've only ever played D&D 3rd, 4th, and 5th edition… with a smidge of Pathfinder; I don't have much to go by.

    Still, I think part of it comes from an intellectual challenge: how do I accomplish a specific act within the confines of the rules? (Such as putting in ranks in Use Magic Device so that my arcane caster can use divine scrolls; someone's got to rez the cleric when he kicks it, after all!) Besides, life sucks. It sucks for me. It sucks for my characters. Yeah, the rules can get in the way of doing cool things… yeah? Well, that's life. How you get over that and work with or around it is how you grow in experience and build character.

    …suddenly I feel like Calvin's dad.

    Also I've always liked knowing how things work, which is what got me into website design, computer programming, and lately amateur radio… as well as kept my interest in science strong (dark matter, dark energy, Higgs boson, &c., &c.). I'm not a big fan of the explanation that things happen "because shut up they do." Yeah, I know the wizard did it; but I want to know how the wizard did it.

    Conversely I'm not a big fan of house-ruling things 'cause I'm lazy. Why make up rules when I've got a bunch of books written by people who did it all for me?
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Why isn't all poetry written in free verse? Doesn't following a ruleset, like villanelle or limerick, some of which can be quite strict, just prevent the poet from using the words he wants at the places he wants? Could it be that playing video games has made poets conditioned to be dependent on rules?
    It always amazes me how often people on forums would rather accuse you of misreading their posts with malice than re-explain their ideas with clarity.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    The rules?
    Hmmm....
    I started with oD&D in the 1970's and we really didn't completely comprehended how the rules were supposed to work at first, so we mostly just winged it to start.
    Oh who I'm I kidding, I still play like that. At my age I have such a bad memory for rules minutiae that when I'm forced to DM it mostly comes down to:
    1) Make up arbitrary chance of success based on gut.
    2) Have player roll dice.
    3) Tell player what's changed.
    4) Listen to learn what PC intends
    5) Repeat
    I'm interested in the "rules" for setting and "channeling" character creation.
    After that? As a player I am interested in exploring a fantastic world, and I really don't want to think about the damn rules at all. I could be very happy with a "character sheet" that lists my PC's name, the equipment my PC is carrying, hit points left, and nothing else!
    I really only want to learn what my PC is perceiving. As to "mastering the crunch" so that my PC is "an optimal build"?
    Boring!
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    I'd prefer rules-heavy that creates a certain atmosphere and drives the players to do certain actions and invoke certain themes over, a rules-light-"Look, here's a system that does nothing new and can be covered by one of the many freeform systems that you probably already owned" system any day of the week.
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by Comet
    If you have a bit of text on your character sheet that says that your character can do X unique or special thing, that thing cannot be taken away from you. Without rules you're forced to negotiate and bargain for everything you have, with rules you can just point to your sheet and say that, yes, your character does know this thing and that's that.
    This is a particularly important part of rules-heavy systems as is the converse - that if your character doesn't have an ability on their sheet and that ability is explicitly delineated in the rules then your character does not know how to or have the ability to do that thing.

    These two traits are very important for helping certain kinds of players and restraining certain other kinds of players. Having explicitly listed abilities and determinant rules systems makes it much easier for players to create characters that are against time. The most traditional example being introverted, shy players producing social monkey characters. By contrast, the same set of rules can prevent social butterfly extroverts from running roughshod over a game and essentially granting all their characters massive piles of free social points because they happen to be good at talking fast.

    Intensive rules systems are also used to add depth to particular mini-games that are of varying importance to a specific. In D&D combat is a minigame of vast - sometimes overwhelming - importance and thus a large ruleset is important to add tactical depth to the system. Additionally, having such tactical depth allows you to parse finer levels of differentiation between things like monsters and NPCs and as a result sell more product which is really very important from the perspective of keeping the lights on at a gaming company - because its hard to keep going when selling sourcebooks that are essentially nothing but fluff. That's how TSR and White Wolf ultimately went bankrupt. By contrast, once you produce a robust rules-lite system like FATE, then you're done.
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Personally? It creates a more concrete idea of how the character operates within the game world.

    Simply put, most of my characters come about when I see a rule that I would want to play around with. Something that lets me interact and manipulate the game world. It could be something as straitforward as Power Attack (reduce your accuracy for major damage) or sillier like how a PF bard can substitute his Perform(Comedy) check for an intimidate one.

    These rules give me a far more concrete idea on how the character goes about resolving their problems: What type of person uses humor to browbeat others into submission? What type of person is more prone to relying on destructive, if inaccurate attacks?

    These are things that have proper interaction rules too: you know how the intimidate and damage calculation rules work but how the character makes unique use of them, as opposed to most everyone else, says a lot of the character. Doubly so if you use multiple abilities to either reinforce an archetype or play against against.

    To me, personally, this makes the character feel far more "real", or at least nuanced. I have a far more concrete idea on how the character will interact with the world and this lets me shape their personality with greater ease. I pick one or two core elements and build not just the mechanical framework of the character around these, but also flesh out the personality of the type of person that would make use of these abilities and how they would use them, based off the gameworld description the GM has given me.

    More rules, to me, is not more restrictions, but rather more tools, foundations and frameworks I can build with and around.

  17. - Top - End - #17
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Roleplaying is a lot about decisions.

    There are two things needed to make decisions interesting and engaging :

    a) Stakes. You need to be somehow invested in the consequences. That is one of many reasons deadly violence is so common a theme.

    b) It needs to be an informed decision. The decision maker needs to be able to make educated guesses at the outcomes. Otherwise it is not more engaging than playing roulette.

    For those infomed decision rules are tremendously helpful. "Common sense" doesn't work with unfamiliar situations and those are very common in RPGs. Rules make sure, everyone at the table can have a similar idea about how things could turn out.



    There are some other resons for rules :
    - fairness (rules work the same way for everyone)
    - versimilitude (a lot of work has been done to simulate stuff)
    - consistancy (using rules enforce that the same thing works the same way every time)

    But i still think, the "infomed decision"-part is the most important one. That is why complete freeform-RPG works best for settings where a lot of interesting characters come together and talk a lot to each other but no one does actually do anything important. No decision with potential dire consequences is made.

  18. - Top - End - #18
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Another reason I can think of is sometimes you need a neutral judge to decide what a situation plays out as. If you are in the final showdown with your archrival who decides who wins? Well in a freeform game, you do which also robs the situation of some of the tension.

    Now that explains they need for rules, but for more rules: it makes the judge smarter and able to account for more details. A coin toss is one thing, taking into account the relative abilities of the people involved, their methods of approach and the general situation takes more rules to encode on paper.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    When I'm designing things, the way I think of a rule is as a promise or expectation I'm giving to the players. So the idea is to write rules which minimize the amount of extra OOC back-and-forth needed between the GM and player in order to converge on action decision on the part of the player, and rules which guide the player into thinking of and understanding relationships in the game world a certain way.

    For example, if I'm running completely freeform, and I'm running a world where there aren't pre-agreed upon conventions as to what should/shouldn't be reasonable, then I could have the following problem.

    Player (1st time): I lunge at the goblin with my sword!
    GM: You lunge at the goblin, leaving yourself open with your brazen attack. The goblin takes a scratch to the arm, but with your defenses down manages to get past your guard and stabs you in the lung!
    Player: Wait, wait, I didn't mean I wanted to lower my defenses.
    GM: Well, when you lunge, that's what happens...

    Player (2nd time): Okay GM, if I circle to the right and make a slashing attack, am I leaving myself open?
    GM: You'd be open to the left.
    Player: Okay, so I don't want to do that because there's a worg to my left. So instead, how about if I enter a guard stance and wait for an attack, and then quickly counter?
    GM: Yeah, that should work.
    Player: Wait - does that mean the enemies get to attack me an extra time? I don't want that...

    Basically, when a player realizes that some things they thought were just descriptive could matter, they'll start asking if those things matter, which slows things down. So if I provide rules that tell the players how to evaluate for themselves the consequences of very frequent actions, that permits the players to plan under the assumption that things will behave as I told them - which means that we can reserve the above sort of negotiation for special circumstances. Also, by saying 'if you do X, then Y will certainly happen' you can cut through player hesitation and self-doubt about things. Some players will think 'there's no way that X plan will work, because Z could happen' so they just (silently) choose not to try doing X. But if as the GM, you want them to consider X a valid option, you can use rules as a promise that 'things like Z will not happen if you try X'.

    So in that sense, they're tools to shape expectation and to automate parts of the game by allowing players to know what the outcome will be ahead of time in those cases.
    Last edited by NichG; 2016-07-06 at 08:30 AM.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Rules remove control. They remove control from the player and the GM alike. The more the rules tell you how to resolve things the less space there is for someone to decide how something resolves.

    We can imagine that in the rule-heaviest possible system a player might declare an intent to "Jump over the gap" and then a million things resolve from the tread on their boots, to the moisture levels in the soil and so on and those variables combined with some degree of randomness determine if they make it over or not.

    In the lightest-possible rules system a player might declare an intent to "Jump over the gap" and then they or the GM simply decide if they make or not. At the most extreme we can imagine that it might descend into playground-style escalation of abilities and constant changes to the scenario in the setting ala Axe Cop: http://axecop.com/comic/episode-1/

    The real world is that rules-heaviest place. We're bounded by strict unbreakable physical laws. We exist. Our limitations are real. To whatever extent we have free will, the result of our will is determined by a complex system of interacting pieces beyond our control.The more rules heavy something is the more engagement with it mirrors engagement with reality. I don't mean this in terms of "realism" you could have a rules heavy system that was totally bonkers and you turn into banana every time a roll you made was divisible 7. A rules heavy system that lets you fly and shoot laser beams out of your eyes in some bounded way is no different from one that limits you to walking and jumping like an actual human.

    In both a rules light and rules heavy scenario the folks at the table can declare intentions and attempt things, with players and the GM acting as the will of the PCs and NPCs respectively. However the more rules heavy something is the more narrowly confined they are to just being that will, with the cold and impartial laws of the universe playing a bigger and bigger role in dictating the outcome of those intentions & attempts.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I disagree. That's only true if you assume that you can only do things that have explicit rules.

    In some cases, having rules can lead to stymied creativity, as "creativity" becomes "how can I find a widget on my character sheet and use it?" instead of "how can I respond to this situation in the world?"
    That can happen, but it's not always a bad thing, either. Sometimes, "find a widget" is giving you more options than "think of something." If I tell you to write me something. Anything, but it has to be good enough that I accept it, and all I've given you is a blank page and a pencil, it's going to be harder for most people to write something than if I tell you, "Write me a story about a princess escaping from a dragon."

    If I go on to tell you to write me a story about a princess escaping from a fire-breathing dragon who can smell everything in his cave, and that she has a hairbrush, a chest full of stolen dresses, and a magical knife she managed to hide in her cleavage before she was kidnapped, the story becomes more constrained, but you have more ideas and more problems to work around.

    The same is true of rules in a game: they provide a structure to hang your actions on. Rather than asking yourself, "would Princess MacGuffin have the power to put a dragon to sleep with her tears?" you can look at her character page and realize that no, she doesn't. Or maybe that yes, she does, and you wouldn't have thought to even consider it without the rules saying she had that power.
    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    There's also a difference between "creative solution to in-world problem" and "creative application of the rules."
    Maybe, but sometimes it's the rules that tell you whether the "creative solution" is actually a solution at all. It's "creative" to decide that the Princess has a sword of dragon slaying that makes her immune to dragon fire and lets her kill dragons with a single swing. But it's not interesting. Rules will tell you whether it's true or not.

    Rules let you adjudicate independently just how often X succeeds at Y, enabling imperfect but capable people without having to always carefully monitor whether THIS time should be a success or failure without making your character too incompetent or too capable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vitruviansquid View Post
    Why isn't all poetry written in free verse? Doesn't following a ruleset, like villanelle or limerick, some of which can be quite strict, just prevent the poet from using the words he wants at the places he wants? Could it be that playing video games has made poets conditioned to be dependent on rules?
    This is an excellent analogy. Frankly, I loathe free verse poetry. I think it's mostly just badly written prose. ...but that's neither here nor there. The analogy here is good because it illustrates how structure can improve things, provide ways for something to WORK.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Another reason I can think of is sometimes you need a neutral judge to decide what a situation plays out as. If you are in the final showdown with your archrival who decides who wins? Well in a freeform game, you do which also robs the situation of some of the tension.
    Excellent point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Now that explains they need for rules, but for more rules: it makes the judge smarter and able to account for more details. A coin toss is one thing, taking into account the relative abilities of the people involved, their methods of approach and the general situation takes more rules to encode on paper.
    Exactly. Rules-heavy allows the players (and GM) to more precisely model something without having to make judgment calls and second-guess themselves. The more often a given need-for-judgment comes up, the more it benefits from definite rules for how to handle it.

    The problem with many rules-heavy systems is that they start to try to cover EVERY corner case. A good approach is to cover things that happen frequently, with good explanation of why things work as they do and are modeled as they are, so that they can be extrapolated to corner cases.

    Another problem - harder to solve - is that they can get time-consuming to operate. It's a valid question, with a different answer for every table, whether a "free form" solution's negotiation and discussion over whether it SHOULD work one way or another is faster or slower than a rules-heavy solution's procedure for determining the outcome.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    That can happen, but it's not always a bad thing, either.
    I never said it was. I'm merely pointing out that both rules heavy and light games have their advantages, and to simply state that "rules heavy games make creativity easier" is not a blanket truth, but rather a situational one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Sometimes, "find a widget" is giving you more options than "think of something." If I tell you to write me something. Anything, but it has to be good enough that I accept it, and all I've given you is a blank page and a pencil, it's going to be harder for most people to write something than if I tell you, "Write me a story about a princess escaping from a dragon."
    ... but RPGs don't give you a totally blank sheet. They give you a situation to resolve.

    And I find the "a solution good enough to accept" argument non-compelling, to be frank. Or, more accurately, it sounds like a bad GM.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    If I go on to tell you to write me a story about a princess escaping from a fire-breathing dragon who can smell everything in his cave, and that she has a hairbrush, a chest full of stolen dresses, and a magical knife she managed to hide in her cleavage before she was kidnapped, the story becomes more constrained, but you have more ideas and more problems to work around.
    This has nothing to do with rules or more rules. You could do the same thing with both rules heavy and light systems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    The same is true of rules in a game: they provide a structure to hang your actions on. Rather than asking yourself, "would Princess MacGuffin have the power to put a dragon to sleep with her tears?" you can look at her character page and realize that no, she doesn't. Or maybe that yes, she does, and you wouldn't have thought to even consider it without the rules saying she had that power.
    Which is reasonable, and it's a matter of how well defined things are.

    OTOH, sometimes the rules-based solutions are based on abusing the wonky edges of the math, and that stuff has no interest to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Maybe, but sometimes it's the rules that tell you whether the "creative solution" is actually a solution at all. It's "creative" to decide that the Princess has a sword of dragon slaying that makes her immune to dragon fire and lets her kill dragons with a single swing. But it's not interesting. Rules will tell you whether it's true or not.
    Or the GM can say that's silly, or more likely the table as a whole will say that's silly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Segev View Post
    Rules let you adjudicate independently just how often X succeeds at Y, enabling imperfect but capable people without having to always carefully monitor whether THIS time should be a success or failure without making your character too incompetent or too capable.
    Which is really the most universally useful part of rules.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    1. Simulation - More rules are generally required for games that focus more on being simulations that those that focus on story or gameplay. If you want your game to be "realistic", you tend to have to pay for that with a lot more rules. One of the biggest examples from wargaming is Advanced Squad Leader, which requires a heavy binder for all of the rules, and whose turn structure is so complex that is has a rule declaring that if you forget about a rule during the turn you just ignore it and keep playing. In RPGs, the best examples come from the FGU games like Chivalry & Sorcery, which have rules that are so complex you hear more about people reading them for inspiration than you do about people using them, and where creation of a starting character is more complex than optimizing an epic level D20 system character.

    2. Structure - More rules means less house-ruling. If you don't want to rely on the guy running the game to decide things, or have to deal with different people running the game having different rulings, you generally have to pay for that with a lot more rules. The RPG example of this is the difference between Original D&D and AD&D, where the extra rules were intended to cut down on house ruling, and;

    3. Competition - More rules means a standard of play sufficient for comparing results between groups. If you want to "know" who the better player is, you have to have absolute measures, controlled by strict rules. This was part of AD&D, but accelerated in D20, and advanced further in "4th edition". DMs were reduced from adventure creators and directors to "referees" who simply kept track of things hidden from the players by fog of war. This included things like standard ability score arrays and average hit points, and then average damage results. This was partly included in early competition, with an intent to mirror things like duplicate bridge tournaments, where the only active variables were the actual decisions of the participants.

    Each is a subjective choice and preference. None are objectively better or worse than any of the others except for what an individual wants from his gaming experience.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Also, please note that this argument has been going on for about *two hundred years*.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriegsspiel_(wargame)

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    I never said it was. I'm merely pointing out that both rules heavy and light games have their advantages, and to simply state that "rules heavy games make creativity easier" is not a blanket truth, but rather a situational one.



    ... but RPGs don't give you a totally blank sheet. They give you a situation to resolve.
    And rules give you a list of what definitely can be done. They give you a tool kit. They also give you an idea, sometimes, of what can't be done; they provide more of that situation to resolve without the GM having to say "and no, you can't spontaneously add specialized gear to the princess's possessions." Or other such things. They help you know what is within the realm of possibility, and also help you answer questions of "can this creative solution even work?" They also can help you come up with creative solutions. You look at your box of tools, and see "oh, she has extremely long hair that can support her own weight? That could be useful!" whereas you may not have even thought of the Rapunzel solution without the reminder.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    And I find the "a solution good enough to accept" argument non-compelling, to be frank. Or, more accurately, it sounds like a bad GM.
    Nonsense. You apply it yourself later on when you say the GM will call the convenient perfect-for-the-situation sword "silly." That solution is not "good enough to accept." But why? Because it's "silly," of course. But...what makes it "silly?" Sure, I am pretty sure that most people in this thread agree with that assessment (I certainly do), but by what objective standards?

    Everything in a free-form game is basically trying to find "a solution good enough to accept." Because there is no objective standard. In a rules-lite game, the objective standards are fuzzy, so the question is whether the solution is close enough to within the rules to accept it. More rules-heavy games have much brighter lines of what is "a solution good enough to accept" or not. If the d20 system Princess does in fact have that +5 dragonbane sword of fire immunity on her list of equipment, well, she has it. It stopped being "silly," since clearly she planned for such an occasion and it wasn't pulled out of a dark southerly location once the situation was known. (Or, if it was, it was done according to other rules; perhaps Her Highness has a rule that empowers her to be a brilliant planner by letting her claim to have prepared for just such an occasion so many times per day.)


    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    OTOH, sometimes the rules-based solutions are based on abusing the wonky edges of the math, and that stuff has no interest to me.
    Sure, but that's just as likely in a rules lite game; in fact, they invite it more because there's more room to wiggle "but it SAAAAYYYYYS..."

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Or the GM can say that's silly, or more likely the table as a whole will say that's silly.
    As noted above, this is where the GM is saying "no, that solution isn't good enough for me to accept."

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Which is really the most universally useful part of rules.
    Absolutely.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    I lean towards what you might call "rules-medium" myself. Those are systems where characters have a set of strictly defined things they can do without question--spells, maneuvers, skills, etc.--and there's a general framework for them to try other things outside of that.

    My experience of rules-light systems is that, in the groups I briefly tried them with, there's always at least one guy who tries to outdo the rest of the party by using some tortured interpretation of his abilities to steal their niche. As in "I have fire magic, so that means I can freeze this river by removing heat from it." And "I have fire magic, so that means I can make the carbon in this steel lock combust." And "I have fire magic, so I can seduce this NPC by giving her the hots for me."

    I tried rules-light systems with two separate groups, and I ran into three players like that. Eventually I got tired of being criticized for "stifling their creativity" and went back to systems that had more defined guidelines about what a character could do. Lo and behold, those players tried some "creative" interpretations of the character creation rules, but afterwards, they largely kept to the niches that the rules enforced.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    I'm a huge fan of GURPS, which can be immensely rules-heavy, but I don't feel it restricts my characters or rp nearly as much as D&D 5e (which I also like), which is (at least in comparison) very light. The depth of the rules allows me customise my character to a much greater extent than D&D.

    A reason I prefer the rules-heaviness in-play is because it allows it to be more realistic and detailed, which makes the game come alive for me:
    "Geoff swings his sword at Bob's arm, cutting through an artery, disabling his arm and causing severe bleeding" with actual mechanical effects is a lot more immersive to me than "Geoff stabs Bob in the arm. 3 HP."
    Even if some master rp'er comes up with a huge speech on how he attacks someone, if all he does is chip off a hitbox then that description rings hollow to me.

    It ultimately depends on what type of game you want to play and whether or not you want the rules to affect the story beyond 'x dies'.
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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    OK, I've read the thread. A lot of great points were made. These are my six reactions/summations to the thread.

    IMNSHO:

    1. We do not expect a player to be qualified to referee basketball before they are allowed to play basketball. Why should we expect the same of our tabletop games? The total number and complexity of the necessary to know rules of a game is directly proportional to the time it takes to learn to play the game and inversely proportional to the playability of that game. More rules you must know is more rules you must learn is less time spent playing. Playability is a big big aesthetic (standard or criteria of goodness) for me.

    2. We will agree to disagree because the "perfect" system does not and cannot exist, as each judges according to their own standards. I personally prefer games that take "minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master." Chess is one such game. Go is another. If you like the complexity of a game to severely limit who you can play with, then I suggest you are an elitist. It's ok, you can own it and say it out loud. Tiktakkat cited my preferred example of this; Advanced Squad Leader, a game system with rules too cumbersome to play "right." It might make a good PC game some day, but as a tabletop it is ridiculous.

    3. Speaking of video games, an ideal RPG system would be a lot like a commercially successful video game. It would take a short time to learn how to play, but a longer time to play well and much longer to play optimally. This is because RPGs and video games simulate the experiences of life. Life involves learning, which often involves making mistakes. If we seek only to play optimally, we have lost sight of the goal. Back in the dark ages, we looked to computers to run all the rules for us so we could enjoy the experience. I believe most players enjoy learning about how things interact in the simulated world, and a few are inspired to try to make better programs.

    4. Rules impartially enforced in athletic competitions are essential to resolve conflict between opponents within the context of the sport. Without rules to limit behavior, a sporting competition will cease to be about the sport played and become about something else. Imagine two teams meet and agree to play baseball. Before the game, the teams begin beating each other with bats, and the surviving nine on one side proclaim themselves the winner of the baseball game by forfeit. Is this still baseball? If players are using their personal skills and not limited to their character skills, are you really in a RPG? This is why I encourage first time players to create a character that mirrors their idealized public persona.

    5. Rules in poetry (like all art) are generally aesthetics. Sonnets, haikus, and limericks all have clear minimal standards with regards to their words, and what the artist does within those confines to satisfy other aesthetics like creativity, cleverness, efficiency, readability, and so forth. Free verse lacks those limits, and thus isn't really poetry at all. It's really prose that looks superficially like poetry written by those who don't want to be paid by the word but still want to say something meaningful.

    6. My aesthetics in RPGs are the fun the players have and enjoyment of the story. As a new GM, if I can learn the essentials of a system well enough to tell a story that will raise the heart rate of the players while resolving combats in a brief, brutal, and meaningful way, and otherwise "adjudicate like a boss" (hat tip to the Angry DM), then it's all good. As a new player if I can learn the essentials of a system well enough to interact within the limits of my character, become emotionally connected to a story, contribute meaningfully combat that is brief, brutal, and meaningful, and understand the ruling of the GM, then it's good.

    Thank you for reading me.

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    Default Re: Why More Rules?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Also, please note that this argument has been going on for about *two hundred years*.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriegsspiel_(wargame)
    Not to mention that being proof that trolls, griefers, system haters, and other undesirables have plagued gaming for at least that long as well.

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