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Games that are more fun to play than to read


A counterpoint to this thread, name some games that are more fun to play than to 'read' i.e.,
  • were the games really poorly organized but good once you have worked them out?
  • was the gameplay good, but the rules hellish to learn?
  • were the writers really bad at writing, but really good at rules?
  • were they all rules and no fluff?

Some examples from my experience
  • Rolemaster
  • Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
  • Gear Krieg

(actually Gear Krieg was crap to play and run)

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First Post
Mutants and Masterminds.

Chargen was major analysis paralysis. Though it played well once the characters were created.


4E is a prime, prime example of this. (though they are now trying to do better).

But neither 3E nor 2E were great reads either. (2E core may have been the worst, though so much stuff came out for that edition you will find good writting if you look for it).

1E was a potentially difficult read, but also very rewarding, and by far the "AD&D" I am most likely to read now outside 4E. (Early 80's basic and things for it probably the best case of what you read is what you get for D&D).


First Post
A game that's mentioned on the other thread, Shadowrun.

I find the Corebook really disorganised and poorly written. Can't say much about the supplement I do have, Arsenal, because I only look at the Martial Arts bits and the Vehicle bits, but even the little I've read I find highly disorganised as well. As for the fluff bits? The premise is incredibly interesting but I cannot stomach the writing style. Our group keeps saying the system is clunky, too swingy, until now we still have to stop and ask, "wait, what am I rolling for again?" yet we're still playing it. Character creation is like IDEK, I need to have someone walk me through it even after having tried to read the book.

But hot damn I have the most fun at Shadowrun games.


Mod Squad
Staff member
It seems to me that if your game is more fun to read than to play, then you're doing something wrong - people will just reread the rulebooks, a d never mind playing the game.

Most games are really pretty dry, no-fun reads. They need to serve as reference documents on algorithms and rules - that doesn't lend itself to bright and engaging writing.


If you're selling books, you're doing something right. I think a large number of roleplayers have large collections of books they're never going to run.

Umbran said:
They need to serve as reference documents on algorithms and rules

Some part of the main book, yes. But overemphasis on that is a way to drive out players who don't want to work through a hundred pages of detailed rules on AoO and grapples. And if it's not a generic system, it has to grab the reader; if you're promising dragons versus titans at the dawn of time, it's never going to get played unless reading it make me feel driven about your version of dragons versus titans at the dawn of time.


First Post
I never seemed to have trouble digesting how to play 4E from the rulebooks... but I am an engineer by trade and prefer a reference book.

Boot Hill is one of those games that, to this day, I can't stand to read the rule book for, but it's a heck of a fun game.


The last two versions (5E and 6E) of Hero are incredibly dry reads. 5th edition felt like reading a technical textbook. 6th edition appears to have kept the same style, though the sidebars help break the tedium.

That said, Champions/Hero is still my favorite system of all time. There have been so many memorable scenes in the games, and I find the rules - once learned - play smoothly at the table. I can't define it, but there's something about this game that brings out the best in the groups I've gamed with.


Staff member
I'll highlight 3: HERO, GURPS and 4Ed.

The first two read rather dryly and can be very information dense/complex. The latter suffers from some poor layout decisions (as well as revisions I don't care for).

HERO, however, quickly became my favorite system, bar none.

The other two are at the lower-middle end of my enjoyment range, but far exceed my initial expectations.


Lejendary Adventure was very confusing to read and I though several aspects of the game are very strange (not to say stupid). But then I GM'd it for a spontaneous one-shot because of missing players and in play everything suddenly made sense and it was one of the easiest games to GM that I have ever played before. I have never been so wrong with my expectations before or since then..


First Post
Er. All of them. . .? :confused:

No, really. I can't imagine a RPG being more fun to read than to play. There are hardly any I would even expect to be "fun" to read, whatsoever. So yeah, barring totally fun-free gaming it's, well, that simple.


First Post
Stargate Sg-1 RPG by AEG.

Use a Heavy version of the Spycraft rules. The book and supplements read very well (and were actually sanctioned by the producers and were thus 'canon' to a point), loved all the info on System lords and the ones you heard about but never saw. Its just that the mechanics of the system were so heavy.

That and its one of the most expensive rpgs I have ever bought.


It seems to me that if your game is more fun to read than to play, then you're doing something wrong - people will just reread the rulebooks, and never mind playing the game.

Most games are really pretty dry, no-fun reads. They need to serve as reference documents on algorithms and rules - that doesn't lend itself to bright and engaging writing.

But I have learnt so much from books that I have read but never managed to play! And there are definitely some, valiant attempts at RPG's that never quite managed to work in actual play (at least for my groups) that I still return to as a source of inspiration. These are the games I want to play and make work. Amber, Burning Wheel etc. But this belongs in my other thread, perhaps.


First Post
Funny, I actually just started an identical thread without realizing that this one existed. Shutting down that thread. Here is what I posted there:

For me, I'm a HUGE fan of the Runequest rules, but the campaign setting of Glorantha is so dense that I've had trouble getting players interested in an ongoing campaign over the years. By the time they've wrapped their arms around heroquesting, the various empires, etc., it's hours into the first session. Unlike say the Forgotten Realms, where granted there is an unapproachable amount of history, you actually have to get into this stuff in Glorantha (what tribe are you from, what deity do you worship, what are your views on the world) to make the game actually fit the setting, unlike FR where even if there are thousands of years of history you can say, "Well, you're a halfling from the south, and you're a pickpocket." The tropes and archetypes of Glorantha are less approachable to a typical fantasy player, in my opinion, but if you can get into it it's fascinating great stuff.

On the rules/presentation side, there are plenty of games that I've played where due to budget or whatever the game was presented in a haphazard fashion, but once you cut through it it was hella fun! TWERPS comes to mind - it was obviously photocopied from pages that were typed on a typewriter, but if you got past that, it was a great beer and pretzels game.

(And a major 2nd to Traveler.)


4e D&D, obviously. The 4e PHB must be the least fun, least readable rpg book I've ever encountered. I don't know how they did that, it took some real design talent to make it that unreadable. OTOH it can be a fun game to play/GM.


I'll second the vote for Alternity. I adore this system.

Reading it, you scratch your head over the mechanics and terminology that seems confusing and counter to a lot of RPG standards. Plus most of the interior art in the core books sucks.

But it's an elegant thing in play.


I'd have to say the Decipher Star Trek RPG books are perhaps some of the dullest RPG books I've ever read (especially compared to its stellar predecessor from Last Unicorn Games), but actual play is quite fun and runs very smoothly. But getting through the Player's Guide and the Narrator's Guide was a real snooze fest at times.

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