We like to discuss topics we blog about with our readers. From past experience, comments are not our favorite medium. We encourage you to e-mail us, or chat us up on twitter. Every month, we’ll highlight the best e-mail correspondence we recieve. Our favorite e-mail of the month earns a $20 gift certificate from RPGNow.
Conspiracy of the Month:
Dan, responding to RAW, RAI, RIP, IR: A World of Rules, Acronyms, and Semantics:
Most of my thinking in this space has been to do with the statement “Any game will work with a good GM” and its related line of argument. The notion that when RAW or RAI introduces a problem, it can easily be solved with a good GM makes it difficult if not impossible for someone outside of the hobby to give it a try. Moreso when we’re talking about what the outside world sees as the hobby (lookin at you D&D).
This is probably the place for edition iterations, the aligning RAW, RAI, and RAP. Because trust will work with an established table, but when everyone’s a stranger to the game, and/or each other, one cannot count on trust. Too often I see someone say “That game wasn’t very good.” when they weren’t playing the game (because a rule was ignored or changed), or try to shoehorn a system that does something well (take d20 for action/adventure) to try to make it work for courtroom drama. Of course, acknowledging that different systems do different things better opens the door for the idea that the reason you need such a genius GM is because you’re playing the wrong game, so that can’t happen.
I’m rambling here a lot, and sorry for that. I’m sure this isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before, but maybe, this is a games as product versus a games as games issue. I want the product to be strong because their the gateway into the hobby. I want games that run well with mediocre GMs, as I’ve got a blank stack of index cards that’s a great game, if you’ve got a good GM.
Smart stuff! Enjoy your gift certificate.
Andy, responding to RAW, RAI, RIP, IR: A World of Rules, Acronyms, and Semantics:
I liked the brief overview of the post, but I believe I have something to add to your conclusion. I don’t think RPG rules are solely about trust. If they were, (and if game rules in general were), we wouldn’t have solitaire games. In fact, we wouldn’t have computer games, which are some of the strictest rulesets out there…and most of those are single-player. While I think the idea of RPG rules as a social contract hits on some very true points, particularly when couched in terms like “regulating Cops and Robbers” (a mainstay in many introductions to RPGs), I think it also sells RPGs short a tad.
I like to tinker with rulesets, and to observe what is and isn’t fun about them. So, I do a bit of thinking about why certain rules make a game fun for me. I think that there’s a certain benefit to rulesets: they challenge our creativity, our freedom, our individuality. They throw us into unexpected situations, restrictive situations, and make us part of something bigger than our solitary imagination. When the plan is for the rogue to easily disarm the early traps in the dungeon, and he critically fumbles one, thanks to a random die roll and a ruleset, everyone has to adapt to this unexpected turn of events.They’re not allowed to talk their way out of it; the hard and fast rules generate a sort of reality that they’re forced to cope with, to engage, to move.
So, paradoxically, having a constricting ruleset can actually open a player’s mind. It’s similar to the dynamic between a GM and the actions of the players: the GM isn’t able to change the players’ actions (just as the players can’t change the rules), and they force the GM’s story to shift and adapt in response to them. Interestingly, this analogy points out that a railroading GM is rather like players who handwave away the rules because they’re not giving the desired results. In both cases, I think that letting oneself be bound by these rules can, in the end, give a much stronger story.
You could think of it like this: every rule, every little fiddly bit, is a tool for you to work with, or for someone else to work with. The game designer provides the tools, and the players (a term which I’ll at this point use to include the GM) work together, in a sort of handy little back-and-forth that generates drama, a world, and crazy awesome stuff. Every rule is something fun, just waiting to happen. Just like that undead dinosaur mount in the RAW poster.