I Need New Dice!

"I Need New Dice" is all about my love RPGs and all aspects of the hobby. Right now we're playing the Pathfinder Role Playing Game and finishing up the Rise of the Runelords adventure path.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

On Rules, the GM and "Us"

There has been an abnormal amount of chatter about the impact of rules with the implication that rules heavy systems take away power from the GM, combined with chatter about the impact of GMs on a game. I think we all agree that the GM has the greatest impact on the quality of a game when compared against any other game component.

That being said, the rules are just the mutually agreed framework that the GM and players agree on about how the world should work. When we decide to play Smurfs and Sandwiches 3rd edition, we are deciding that those roles are what we think enforce the reality we want to play in via group consensus. In S&S 3rd edition we have rules for gravity, Smurfberries, cats and the amount of force required to throw a Smurf out of camp. If the GM and players are arguing that maybe you need a few more pounds of force to end up in the lake vrs the briar patch when thrown out of Smurf village, it’s a sign that the rules are not agreed upon and do not help.

If the GM and players are arguing about the rules in a way that is not adding to the game or enforcing a believable reality that all involved can accept, they should consider playing another game or another set of rules and being the conversation by talking about why they are playing the game.

It’s not about the amount of rules you have or the rules changes between the games. It’s about talking with you players and saying “Hey, I like S&S 3rd edition but I am a little bit rusty on the applied physics. Can you guys just trust me on that?” Rules don’t transfer power. It’s made up stuff we agree upon, even if it’s just by consenting to play at the same table. Like all made up stuff, we throw in purple smurfs to fix the problem (make stuff up) because it’s just a game.

Rules are just the frame we use to display our imagination. Rules help adults with the willing suspension of disbelief, they shouldn’t be some sort of weapon. If it’s being used as a weapon something else is going on socially with your group beyond your choice of game. Rules as a weapon isn’t a rules or game version problem, it a group social problem where the solution might be to choose a different set of rules or to just talk out expectations and concerns.

I run games with the same shared story telling feeling under 3.75 that I did before someone decided to tack “advanced” on some rules that they agreed to play with.

We all have different preferences on rules and rulesets. There is no one answer for everyone and some people may want more rules to help with that willing suspension of disbelief.

I do not think the solution is to create better GMs, but to create better groups. Groups that communicate with each other and try to appreciate the fact that we are playing a rules heavy game of cops & robbers in a make believe world. Groups that don’t say “I didn’t land in the Briar patch due to in-game physics!” but maybe “Why did my briar patch happen?”. Groups that express disagreement in meaningful always and use their differences to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the game they play.

It’s not about “I” or “Him”, it’s about “Us”.

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