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

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I hope this isn't completely off topic because I dont really know much about FKR. But I have been interested more and more as I age, in less and less rules. I find myself interested in ways to structure play without them, and I find the concept of FKR interesting. On that note, a couple of years ago I found a set of "non mechanical resolution" tools that I want to share.

1) Say Yes. The character succeeds. Keep play moving
2) Offer a precondition: “You can try but first you’ll need to…”
3) Offer at a cost: “You can do it, but it will cost you this…”
4) Impossible: “It’s too hard, but maybe you can…(offer other ideas)”

The full blog post can be found here

I've enjoyed this, and deployed it, in almost any game I play. I've even toyed with the idea of just playing with these rules. But I haven't gone off that cliff yet. Because I like rules. I like being able to lean into mechanical resolution as a way to structure the game. To pace the session. And honestly its just plain nice to let the rules do the work. But these bridge for me the divide between no rules and lots of rules. They are easy to use, and require no mastery.

And to bring it to the current heading of the dialogue here: it minimizes negotiation. As a GM I want as little of that in the game as possible, unless it IS the game. And most of the time my RPGs are not about negotiating.
You don't actually need a "no rules" system to do this though. This is how Dungeon World works, for example. In its most basic sense, you have a conversation about the events that are going on ("the fiction") until someone does something that is uncertain in outcome and where there are interesting consequences for both success and failure.*

At this point, you make a move. Believe it or not, several moves in DW have shockingly similar structure to exactly what you described there. They just have one key difference:

It's not all up to the GM whether things succeed or not.

That's sort of the critical problem here. In absolutely pure negotiation land, 100% of the negative consequences, the failures, the falling-just-short, comes from the GM deciding that the players simply don't succeed. There is no possibility for the GM to believe that both success and failure could occur, unless they are simply being completely arbitrary in their decisions.

More importantly, I have no idea what you mean by "it minimizes negotiation." That structure IS negotiation! That's literally what it is. You are offering "a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice," and figuring out what the player will accept. You are rejecting proposals, but offering alternatives. Etc. It is very literally the process of negotiation, making offers and counter-offers until a deal is struck.

*Which does not mean every failure directly leads to high octane action. Just means when you fail, it costs something important (resources, time, allies, etc.), or hurts you in a meaningful way (damage, separation, kidnapping, dead hostages, etc.), or empowers your opposition (the guards know there are intruders, the ritual is completed, the bad guys you were chasing escape, etc.), or some other interesting Bad Thing happens.
 

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damiller

Adventurer
It's not all up to the GM whether things succeed or not.

But here's the thing. I am interested in the GM basically deciding success in this specific model. I want tools that allow me to say "No, there is a complication here" that do not rely on dice mechanics. Sometimes I don't want to be a slave to dice. So I either create a system that makes them unnecessary or I "cheat".

And that is because I play in the mode of "traditional" RPG roles* i am not interested in a discussion of the fiction at my table generally. I want the players to describe what they do, and have some model to create barriers (besides just dice) to them achieving those outright. Which is what I think a game at its most basic does**. Otherwise you could just say I saved the Royal Person, and be done with the session in 5 minutes (or less).

For me the GM brings the plot, the players react (and act) to that plot (and interruptions to that plot), and then they deal with the fall out from their reactions (either via failed die rolls, the gm throwing up more twists, OR the players pursuing a player generated plot). The story is generated by the players reactions to the plot (both actively and reactively) and is simply a function of play. I am not negotiating the fiction (or even discussing it)- it is the byproduct of playing.

*gm and players have distinct and barely overlapping responsibilities/choices/actions
**a system that requires the players deal with delayed gratification - maybe for multiple sessions
 

Plaguescarred

D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
Rules in RPG to me create baseline expectations that ensure an experience will be similar from table to table in many aspects, where ultralight rule system more heavily depend of the referee to adjudicate situation by way of distinct rulings. This result in better referee giving better result and more unreliable ones giving different ruling sometimes on the same aspect of the game because they're inconsistent.

Roleplaying gamers that rely on published rules will come to the same results on a given situation say, grapple, this from table to table and also on each instance at the same table, where those that making free ruling in the same situations will give very variable experience from one time to another and from table to table. Its a lot more volatile in general.

So for me more rules means more stability and predictability but too many of them inevitably makes any ruleset more clunky and complicated, so balance is important. But a minimum of rules doesn't hurt.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I am not negotiating the fiction (or even discussing it)- it is the byproduct of playing.
Whereas I would argue it is not a byproduct of anything. You have already written it; the players simply react to it. As said here:
For me the GM brings the plot

What's confusing, though, is that this continues with:
OR the players pursuing a player generated plot
You cannot have player-generated plots--that is, plots which are truly created by the players--if the players cannot negotiate for fiction they wish to see. You can, at best, have GM-generated plots that have been written with the players in mind.

Finally, there's a straw-man to deal with:
Otherwise you could just say I saved the Royal Person, and be done with the session in 5 minutes (or less).
This is just saying "if players are playing in bad faith, things break." Of course. If GMs are playing in bad faith, things break. A lot of folks are quick to point out the possibility of players playing in bad faith, but such concerns are only more significant with GMs who have unilateral power, because they can, as you say, "cheat" in so many ways players simply cannot. Because, unlike players, there's essentially nothing that can be done to exert oversight over the GM, except to leave the game. Because, unlike players, unilateral GMs don't need to do anything special to conceal any "cheating" actions--they can just choose not to speak up.
 

damiller

Adventurer
Whereas I would argue it is not a byproduct of anything. You have already written it; the players simply react to it. As said here:


What's confusing, though, is that this continues with:

You cannot have player-generated plots--that is, plots which are truly created by the players--if the players cannot negotiate for fiction they wish to see. You can, at best, have GM-generated plots that have been written with the players in mind.

Finally, there's a straw-man to deal with:

This is just saying "if players are playing in bad faith, things break." Of course. If GMs are playing in bad faith, things break. A lot of folks are quick to point out the possibility of players playing in bad faith, but such concerns are only more significant with GMs who have unilateral power, because they can, as you say, "cheat" in so many ways players simply cannot. Because, unlike players, there's essentially nothing that can be done to exert oversight over the GM, except to leave the game. Because, unlike players, unilateral GMs don't need to do anything special to conceal any "cheating" actions--they can just choose not to speak up.
i don't see it that way, thank you for the dialogue
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Rules in RPG to me create baseline expectations that ensure an experience will be similar from table to table in many aspects, where ultralight rule system more heavily depend of the referee to adjudicate situation by way of distinct rulings. This result in better referee giving better result and more unreliable ones giving different ruling sometimes on the same aspect of the game because they're inconsistent.

Roleplaying gamers that rely on published rules will come to the same results on a given situation say, grapple, this from table to table and also on each instance at the same table, where those that making free ruling in the same situations will give very variable experience from one time to another and from table to table. Its a lot more volatile in general.

So for me more rules means more stability and predictability but too many of them inevitably makes any ruleset more clunky and complicated, so balance is important. But a minimum of rules doesn't hurt.
Some fairly basic D&D 5E questions. How does stealth work? How long does it take to pick a lock? What interrupts a long rest? What do hit points represent in the fiction? Are coffeelocks legal? Are feats allowed? How about multiclassing? What races, classes, subclasses, and spells are allowed? Is 3PP content allowed? How strictly or loosely will the rules be applied? What’s the theme or tone of the game?

Some of these the rules are silent on, others are interpreted wildly differently from table to table, others are purely the referee’s call.

My point is only that people put way too much stock in how universally readable, applicable, and understandable rules are. They’re nowhere near as black-and-white as people assume. As I said above, you have to put in the same legwork getting people on the same page for a game regardless of if your touchstone is a rulebook or a bit of fiction.
 

Aldarc

Legend
But here's the thing. I am interested in the GM basically deciding success in this specific model. I want tools that allow me to say "No, there is a complication here" that do not rely on dice mechanics. Sometimes I don't want to be a slave to dice. So I either create a system that makes them unnecessary or I "cheat".
What do you mean by "do not rely on dice mechanics"? I ask because there are several games that I can think that of that don't, but also a few that stradle the line.

Fate, for example, uses Character Troubles or Scene Aspects that can be compelled/invoked to create complications in play.

Numenera and the Cypher System has GM Intrusions. The GM can create GM Intrusions without dice, but they are also generated when the player rolls a natural one on a d20. That said, the book recommends keeping diceless GM Intrusions fairly rare per session.

i am not interested in a discussion of the fiction at my table generally.
I want the players to describe what they do,
Players describing what they do invariably, IME, involves discussing the fiction, even in traditional setups. The GM sets up a situation. The PCs ask questions about the fiction and declare actions in the fiction. When there are misunderstandings between the two parties, including about consequences, clarification of the situation or action happens. This process inherently involves interrogating and negotiating the fiction. 🤷‍♂️

Otherwise you could just say I saved the Royal Person, and be done with the session in 5 minutes (or less).
🤨 Does this claim have any basis in the reality of how other games are played or is the gross mischaracterization just intentional?

For me the GM brings the plot, the players react (and act) to that plot (and interruptions to that plot), and then they deal with the fall out from their reactions (either via failed die rolls, the gm throwing up more twists, OR the players pursuing a player generated plot). The story is generated by the players reactions to the plot (both actively and reactively) and is simply a function of play. I am not negotiating the fiction (or even discussing it)- it is the byproduct of playing.
In games like @EzekielRaiden is describing, the GM frames the situations, puts conflict in the way of PCs to react to, and then generates complications from die results. The plot is not for the GM to bring. The story emerges from the players playing the game.
 

damiller

Adventurer
What do you mean by "do not rely on dice mechanics"? I ask because there are several games that I can think that of that don't, but also a few that stradle the line.

Fate, for example, uses Character Troubles or Scene Aspects that can be compelled/invoked to create complications in play.

Numenera and the Cypher System has GM Intrusions. The GM can create GM Intrusions without dice, but they are also generated when the player rolls a natural one on a d20. That said, the book recommends keeping diceless GM Intrusions fairly rare per session.



Players describing what they do invariably, IME, involves discussing the fiction, even in traditional setups. The GM sets up a situation. The PCs ask questions about the fiction and declare actions in the fiction. When there are misunderstandings between the two parties, including about consequences, clarification of the situation or action happens. This process inherently involves interrogating and negotiating the fiction. 🤷‍♂️


🤨 Does this claim have any basis in the reality of how other games are played or is the gross mischaracterization just intentional?


In games like @EzekielRaiden is describing, the GM frames the situations, puts conflict in the way of PCs to react to, and then generates complications from die results. The plot is not for the GM to bring. The story emerges from the players playing the game.
I read your reply. I am not interested in engaging, but I wanted you to know I read this and appreciate your time. Thank you for the input.
 

Voadam

Legend
Some fairly basic D&D 5E questions. How does stealth work? How long does it take to pick a lock? What interrupts a long rest? What do hit points represent in the fiction? Are coffeelocks legal? Are feats allowed? How about multiclassing? What races, classes, subclasses, and spells are allowed? Is 3PP content allowed? How strictly or loosely will the rules be applied? What’s the theme or tone of the game?

Some of these the rules are silent on, others are interpreted wildly differently from table to table, others are purely the referee’s call.

My point is only that people put way too much stock in how universally readable, applicable, and understandable rules are. They’re nowhere near as black-and-white as people assume. As I said above, you have to put in the same legwork getting people on the same page for a game regardless of if your touchstone is a rulebook or a bit of fiction.
The legwork is not the same.

There are questions everyone has to answer like are you using supplemental stuff, banning things, and such, but things like how long does it take to pick a lock varies by game and can be defined by rules.

5e does not define how long picking a lock takes or what happens when you flank. 3e does. Opening a lock in 3.5 RAW is a full-round action. Done. The benefits of flanking are defined in 3.5. That leg work is done. 5e has an option in the DMG for flanking to give advantage, but it is a DM call so some legwork on making a decision. If the touchstone is just fiction then it is a straight judgment call, either figured out for the group ahead of time, or ruled on in the moment.

Different levels of legwork.
 

Numidius

Adventurer
Hi, folks. One feature of FKR is that, ideally, Rules are managed by the Gm; rules heavy, light or none, doesn't matter as long as those are kept behind the Gm-screen.
Nothing prevents the Gm to use any ruleset they want, but players will only engage with the words, the descriptions and adjudications of the Gm, not the actual numbers, if any.
YMMV of course, as it does in my own games.
 

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