Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Writing lots of rules, but using only some

If there is one thing I feel I'm pretty good at, it's writing rules. I'm not great at it, but I'm pretty good at it for GURPS, and I do have an abiding interest in writing them. I like to tinker, and I like to think, "What if?" and "How would you do this?"

But there is a contradiction in that, too. I like the occasional rules-heavy game, I like rules-light games, and I like rules-medium games, too. But I generally err on the side of "use less rules at the table."

So I write a lot of rules, and I buy a lot of crunchy, rules-filled material, but run a table with less rules than you might expect.

That kind of stuff.

In short, why do I write a lot of rules, but generally come down to a much smaller set when I play?

- a specific, generally minimal, set of tools


- a large number of choices for those tools.

That is, I want rules that play well together, or at least play well with the other rules. I want options for gritty realism all the way to cinematic handwaving of any semblance of reality. But I want to be able to choose from them.

I also like the mental challenge of assembling new rules.

But I really don't want to mix everything up in a big slurry or stew and use it all at once.

I might appreciate having detailed rules for running long-distance races for that one time the PCs do a long-distance relay race. I might want disease rules and long-term incapacitation effects in my pirate game. I might really care about who draws first to the point of consulting a box on Fast-Draw for all of the nitty gritty.

And I'll want it all compatible.

But I don't necessary want all of it at once.

If you want a food analogy, I want a buffet but I don't want to eat some of everything every time.

So anyway, that's why you'll see me write rule after rule after rule, and publish books full of them . . . and then not use them all. It's just more tools for the toolbox, but I still only choose a few of those tools to include.

I sometimes convey this to others, too. If you've ever run into my "Why are you even using those rules there?" attitude, you'll recognize this. It's me saying, why use rule X when you're playing Y? Why use the gritty realism rules for that kung fu movie game? Why use the cinematic rules for shooting when you are playing a gritty game? Why bother with economic development rules when your game just needs a simple answer to "How much is a _____"? It's not just me being annoying, obstreperous, and a big bother. I'm really trying to prompt a decision about what you want from the rules, and to get you to look at what you're trying to accomplish. You might have a good reason for seemingly incompatible rules going together. But I always feel like part of my job as a reader, playtester, editor, etc. is to make you look at it from my point of view, and then explain why you made your choices.

1 comment:

  1. You and I are of like minds in this regard. As you've seen in prior posts by myself, I also like to put forward rules for this or that - big changes and small - on a variety of topics. It's fun! It really can be! And it's creative. It brings perspectives to the table, opens up discussion about the rules-as-they-are and possibly inspires others. I know even my tiny blerbs have inspired others to take their own stance on it, and you definitely have with your published works (I know this because I'm right here). But, much like you, when it comes to figure out what is and isn't in play at the table, just because I wrote it doesn't mean it's automatically in. It can't just be another rule to remember - it has to actually bring something tangible to the game. Your disease and pirates example - perfect opportunity to demonstrate that one of the two biggest enemies at sea is malnutrition and poor health. It's as real a demon as the demons under the sea.

    Speaking of which, I just so happen to be yanking another variation on rules out of my half-finished archive tonight...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...