Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Jeff Dee on well-written rules

Jeff Dee wrote a great post about game mechanics.

I'll excerpt the summary:

"In summary: Tabletop RPG rules are there to assist the GM, and this is best achieved when those rules consistently produce reasonable results when played as written. The oft-repeated meme that "RPG rules are just guidelines" works *against* the goal of providing GMs with the kind of well-designed rules sets that would actually benefit them."
- Jeff Dee, on What Worries Jeff Dee

This is the way I feel, too. I want good, solid, basic mechanics that handle the common stuff well. I want them to be transparent and easy to understand. Just because I. the GM, can fix them on the fly or house-rule them doesn't mean I should have to. My rulings should be for edge cases and things not covered by the rules, and my house rules should be for things I want to make different at my table or for a particular game. If the game rules force me to make rulings to make them work, and house rules to make up for glaring issues, it's not really helping me make for a good gaming experience for my players.

Jeff said all of that better than I did. But I wanted to echo it here, because I think it's too easy to let "the GM can decide" get into your head. Don't rely on the GM to make up for the shortcomings in your rules. It's okay to provide tools (even easy-to-abuse tools) that require a GM's rulings or decisions. But the rules themselves should be an aid, not a detriment, to the GM's job.


  1. Yup. One would think that would be obvious....but, like everything, it isn't always obvious to all people.

    That said, there can be some benefit in game design to *require* that the GM makes rulings. Ideally, one wants a ruleset that works well as written most of the time, but not one which is so restrictive that it actually stifles creativity on the part of the players or GM.

  2. What RPG system was designed, since 1977, to be so half-assed that it absolutely required continual GM rulings and house-rules?


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