Rules Lite Is My One True Way, Sorry Number Crunchers
by, 08-25-2010 at 06:00 PM (1273 Views)
As I was talking to P&PG member Umiushi in chat the other night, I thought, again, about my gradual transition from initial wallowing in TSRian/Gygaxian tomes of charts and critical hit tables and equipment lists that spanned dozens of pages, to Chaosium/Warhammer rules and gear complexity moderation, and now preference for as close to so-called "rules lite" systems as I can get, but with a still solid and practical structure, like Feng Shui or more specifically, now that I've re-examined it, Savage Worlds.
I initially liked the sheer amount of quantity of "gameness" presented in the initial "encounter" with RPGs I had - all the different wondrous ideas, dice rolls, concepts, items, spells, trivia like how long it took someone to walk X miles on foot per day - whatever - it was all there, and if you ever needed it, there it was, somewhere in a rule book.
Later, I drifted to realizing most of those conditions didn't come up a lot, and I also wanted some different and unusual gaming experiences, both genre-wise (such as Call of Cthulhu), and mechanics-wise (what's this, no classes or levels?), which just happened to also have fairly straight-forward, no-nonsense rules-medium mechanics, all in one book, not broken up into a dozen different books, etc.
Finally I realized those second generation games (though some were actually not really but a few years difference in age from D&D and other similar games) were a great improvement but still relied heavily on first generation ideas and ideals and added their own levels of deceptive in-depth complexity, merely compartmentalized, rather than out in the open in a sloppy, all-over-the-place manner - unnecessarily complicated and overly specific and very much themed to their particular genre.
Stepping outside, as it were, trying to use or imagine any of these external to their "native habitat", was a tremendous effort, and would take quite a bit of reworking, enough that it would essentially mean a rewrite of the system itself - and basically eventually did. But as I go into RPG.NET and indy games and free downloads and fan-made stuff, I realized human creativity isn't always rewarded by being published and making money, and I found a lot of really novel and enjoyable and fascinating concepts, that people turned into PDFs that they wrote up and shared freely with others on the internet, a practice I myself endeavor to continue to emulate whenever possible.
Basically, I grew tired of mentally and visually wading through oceans or walls of text, pretentious and dry prose and lectures on the importance of turn sequence or vital necessity of keeping track of how far a character moved in a turn or other abstract and peripheral considerations that are barely even tangential to what I personally consider IMPORTANT to the actual playing and enjoyment of a roleplaying game.
I don't want rules to tell me what I CAN'T do - I want rules to tell me what I CAN do and how to do it, and tell me how awesome it is. That's the point of playing a game! The GM will worry about keeping people in line, he knows what's up, and he and the players will work out what is and isn't acceptable in play, and yes, that means me too, since I mostly GM, so this means it is up to me to decide the limitations on what the player-characters are allowed to do - I just need to know their capabilities so I can tell them how to be awesome. I want a game to be like a good book, show or movie - like real life except entertaining with no boring crap.
I don't care how many arrows are in a character's quiver or bullets in their gun, and I don't want to hear them natter on about it either - is that fun? Do they do that in books, or movies? If it isn't the last one or two, it's never mentioned, because it isn't important to the story. I'm not going to track their ammo and I don't want them doing it either - when they run out, it's a pivotal scene, so it should be in a game too - maybe it's a fumbled roll, or the GM just decides it's a good time for it to happen - but not because you simply didn't find anymore, like you're playing Doom. That's why I like rules-lite games, because it is the same for any gear or equipment; the characters will have things that make sense - you worry about the significant stuff, like maybe their weapons and armor, maybe light sources and such, but past that, they have what makes sense for them to be carrying, or when the time comes, you just discuss it right there, or they make a Luck roll or something - it's not a giant catastrophe and I don't like the idea of a giant enumerated shopping list, which even Warhammer and Call of Cthulhu suffers from, sadly. It's a roleplaying game, not an inventory control simulator.
I could go on about the size and depth of character sheets and info and stats and number of dice rolls in play and length of time it takes to do things, but as you might imagine, those arguments would all be similar to my gear rant above - suffice it to say, I feel the same about those, in that I prefer an abbreviated approach to all this, that allows a quicker, more direct and simplistic but still on-the-surface, apparently complete appearance, which is good enough for me to enjoy a game, running or playing it, which is why that's about the only type I'm likely to play with any sort of regularity - I might try something else here or there, but I don't see myself ever consistently being part of any group or campaign playing anything past rules medium, and those tend to be ones I'm very familiar with already, and I much prefer these less involved systems and rulesets.