D&D General FKR: How Fewer Rules Can Make D&D Better

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I would say that's only usually true, or at least it comes up enough in Dungeons and Dragons to feel like it. Good, well-designed rules, when used with the correct understanding of what kind of fiction they're trying to produce/emulate/whatever, should not have cause to supersede the fiction. The Fiction and the rules should mesh, if the game is well-designed and the game book is well-written.


To be clear, I think that the reason I like the phrasing is because we often think of the rules (here, written rules) as establishing the fiction. However, supersede is a more meaningful phrase. It doesn't just establish fiction- those written rules, whether they are good or bad, whether they match the internalized fiction or not, supersede the fiction.

You might say that certain games, in having a very narrow scope, create less dissonance (which I think is true- I also think that FKR games usually work best when there is an agreed-upon, and narrow, scope). But the entire point of written rules is, to the extent that there is a mismatch at any time between the rules and the fiction (the internalized fictions), the rules supersede the fiction. You might even say that this is the point of the written rules.
 

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To be clear, I think that the reason I like the phrasing is because we often think of the rules (here, written rules) as establishing the fiction. However, supersede is a more meaningful phrase. It doesn't just establish fiction- those written rules, whether they are good or bad, whether they match the internalized fiction or not, supersede the fiction.

You might say that certain games, in having a very narrow scope, create less dissonance (which I think is true- I also think that FKR games usually work best when there is an agreed-upon, and narrow, scope). But the entire point of written rules is, to the extent that there is a mismatch at any time between the rules and the fiction (the internalized fictions), the rules supersede the fiction. You might even say that this is the point of the written rules.
My only addendum to that is the unwritten rules do the same thing. They supersede when needed to keep the whole thing going. Or in the case of FKR, the referee does the job of the rules, by being the final authority on both the unwritten rules and the Fiction itself.

Which does lead to "What does establish the Fiction?" as the next question.

I don't have a good, articulate answer offhand. I agree it's not done by the Rules per se, and not just "the Table" (as in the people at the table) - it precedes both and the Rules (written or otherwise) proceed from the Fiction (except in weird cases of generic rules, which usually need to be customized once the Fiction is established).
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
My only addendum to that is the unwritten rules do the same thing. They supersede when needed to keep the whole thing going. Or in the case of FKR, the referee does the job of the rules, by being the final authority on both the unwritten rules and the Fiction itself.

Which does lead to "What does establish the Fiction?" as the next question.

I don't have a good, articulate answer offhand. I agree it's not done by the Rules per se, and not just "the Table" (as in the people at the table) - it precedes both and the Rules (written or otherwise) proceed from the Fiction (except in weird cases of generic rules, which usually need to be customized once the Fiction is established).

My main quibble, which I do think it necessary to re-state is that the overall FKR and rules-lite community doesn't subscribe to the "final authority" idea. I tried to make that pretty clear in the OP!

The division of authority, which is a really big deal for some people for reasons, is not a defining feature of FKR. Yes, there are some that want to run it in a completely neo-Arnesonian mode, and that's totally cool (and that's the classic "referee as final authority" model). But there's a multitude of ways to deal with that authority over the fiction.

Once you're at that point, you understand that unwritten rules aren't the same as written rules in that respect. They, quite literally, are supposed to be the fiction. If there are written rules, they will always supersede any understanding - regardless of whether it's shared!
 

Pedantic

Legend
Arguably, many conflicts in D&D occur because the rules, for various reasons (usually "game" reasons), supersede the fiction that participants have. A classic example of this is conversations about hit points and falling damage. In the world of 5e, high level characters can survive massive falls automatically. This often doesn't map on to the fiction that people have, but the rules supersede the fiction.
This gets presented as an inevitability, but you can just choose to have the rules determine the fiction in some, if not all cases. Spinning out a setting/fiction from implications of the rules was a whole cottage industry in the 3e era and arguably the genesis of Eberron as a setting. I feel like it's much less a thing now in 5e (and more pointedly post-4e, as 4e went out of its way to specifically reject the practice). In the context of the function of rules we're talking about here, the rules "supersede" and then "establish" the fiction, in a two part process, telling the players some intuition about the fiction is wrong, and then providing a new norm to use.

This has some limits that I'd struggle to articulate cleanly, because there's still going to be some point the output of the rules is so strange/unintuitive that it both supersedes the fiction and is too outre to be validated as a norm. Still, I think it's a mistake to treat the fiction as static when it rubs up against rules or gaps in rules or rulings. The first fighter falling from orbit might pose a problem, and then afterward it might establish that jumping off dragons is a normative sight for high level combatants, such that the next time it happens the rule doesn't conflict, because the underlying fiction has changed.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
My main quibble, which I do think it necessary to re-state is that the overall FKR and rules-lite community doesn't subscribe to the "final authority" idea. I tried to make that pretty clear in the OP!

The division of authority, which is a really big deal for some people for reasons, is not a defining feature of FKR. Yes, there are some that want to run it in a completely neo-Arnesonian mode, and that's totally cool (and that's the classic "referee as final authority" model). But there's a multitude of ways to deal with that authority over the fiction.

Once you're at that point, you understand that unwritten rules aren't the same as written rules in that respect. They, quite literally, are supposed to be the fiction. If there are written rules, they will always supersede any understanding - regardless of whether it's shared!
You've said more than once that authority concerns are irrelevant, and yet that has...manifestly not been my experience in how others discuss it.

So...what is this multitude of ways to deal with it that you speak of? Because I'm genuinely not seeing it.
 

Voadam

Legend
So...what is this multitude of ways to deal with it that you speak of? Because I'm genuinely not seeing it.
If you looked at the various games I've linked to (or even looked at Perfected ....) you will notice that FKR games don't have a unified view of authority. A great example of this is Cthulhu Dark. This is how the issue of authority is addressed:
Who decides when to roll Insanity? Who decides when it’s interesting to know how well you do something? Who decides when something disturbs your PC? Who decides whether you might fail? Decide the answers with your group. Make reasonable assumptions. For example, some groups will let the Keeper decide everything. Others will share the decisions.

I don't know about FKR specifically, but there are a bunch of game models that are GM less or provide authority to the players in a lot of situations instead of to the GM or to predetermined rules.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I don't know about FKR specifically, but there are a bunch of game models that are GM less or provide authority to the players in a lot of situations instead of to the GM or to predetermined rules.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as "GM less" FKR, and really can't be, philosophically speaking. As in, the literal key point of FK, that was used as the jumping off point for FKR, was that you had a referee whose judgment could take the place of complicated rules, and whose questions and answers would be both more effective and less demanding than rules would be, so long as said referee were consistent, knowledgeable in relevant things (war and logistics for FK, whatever happens to be relevant for FKR), and unbiased.
 



Pedantic

Legend
I now wish to see FKR solo rules, too. :)
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