The Rules: Who cares?


I don't know that it's a 3e thing, per se, as I tended to use the rules for the games I played for the 12-15 years prior to 3e coming out. Note, however, that I wasn't playing AD&D; I was playing games with rules I liked (more than I liked AD&D, which I got tired of before 2e came out), and found easy to understand and use (and therefore didn't feel the need to ignore 'em).

(Though we did house rule things we didn't like, and I did make all kinds of stuff up as I went along. I GM'd quite a bit of GURPS & Champions where a lot of NPCs and foes ended up as a few rough notes ["12d6 EB, OCV 11"] or were entirely in my head ["Let's see, the ninjas are 13/13/10/12, with combat skills 14- or 15-"]. Is that fast and loose? I dunno.)

OTOH, I didn't do that much with D&D, though I would occasionally take a lower-level monster and mentally upgrade it to be a more interesting fight against the PCs when they hit double-digit levels. But D&D has a lot more pre-made monsters & NPCs that I can swipe & use, so that may have been a factor. Plus, creating NPCs let me get to experiment with different races & classes, which was kind of fun, given that I've GM'd more than I played (I think I've played half-a-dozen PCs in 3e, only one of them past level 6 or 7). So maybe there was some effect; not sure I can tell.

Anyways, I was on GURPSnet-L, a GURPS mailing list, back in the day, and there were quite a few simulation-minded folks there (though I think some of them never actually ran or played a campaign, they just thought & prepped a lot; it was more a mental toy than an RPG). Hero has its share of that kind of thing, too. Maybe D&D 3e brought a lot of simulation-minded people (back) to D&D, when they had been playing other games (or not gaming at all)?

I know that I tend to game with people who have styles similar to my own, or at least not radically different. Even at cons -- the games I choose to play appeal to people with similar tastes, which isn't terribly surprising. Similarly, IME, people with wildly different tastes tend not to stay in the same group (ex., the guy that joined a Champions game in, like '90 or so, and his style didn't fit with the group's -- he wanted to build uber-powergamer characters, kill supervillains, etc. -- so he didn't stick around).

But with the Internet, you end up communicating with essentially complete strangers, so everyone gets exposed to gamers with more styles (without having to deal with conflicts at the table, so you deal with more of 'em). Thus, it seems to me it's easy to get the perception (which could very well become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy) that the attitude towards the game has changed.
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First Post
It's a theory I've heard a number of times on the internet, but that's about it as far as I'm concerned.

IME, nothing has changed, with regards to 'rules first' play, rules lawyers, 'fast and loose', making it up as you go along, house ruling, DM adjudication, 'rule 0', and all the other terms that go here. It's absolutely down to the individuals involved, as it always has been. Again: IME, that is. From BD&D, through AD&D, many other systems altogether, 3e, and so on.


First Post
If the rules are good, I prefer to follow them; and I like a game that makes that easy to do. If the rules are bad, or if following them in actual play is difficult because they're overly complex or poorly explained, then I'm not above winging it. But I would only do the latter if I couldn't find a better set of rules.

I'm A Banana

The rules, on this model, are treated as guidelines. And I think that works for Old School games because everything is pretty modular and the individual PC doesn't have too many powers that actually require consistent application of the rules beyond the basics of combat, etc.

I would contrast this with the ethos of 3E and later. In those games, PCs have all these feats, skills, powers, class abilities, etc. that require consistent application of the rules to really be useful.

It's a fair cop.

But it's generally seen as a positive development.

Old School games varied so catastrophically wildly with the quality and skill of your DM that they could be the Best Thing Ever, or any one of 32 flavors of suck, and all the points in between.

The Rules are there in 3e and 4e as an anchor; as a third party between the DM and the Players that, presumably, is of high enough quality that the DM never needs to wing it. They can, but they don't have to, because the rules are good enough and robust enough to support that.

4e actually tries to go back to the older school style in a lot of ways (monsters don't have to mesh with PC power!), though it keeps a lot of 3e's rule structure and complexity in tact and just tries to streamline over it in some places (but not all of 'em). 3e and 4e get to the point where winging a rule can be kind of dangerous (though 4e has the edge on 3e in that department), since you'll be boning someone's character.


First Post
I think you've drawn a bit of a false dichotomy there. The choice isn't between let's tell a story and D&D with lots of rules.

My intention isn't to create a false dichotomy, rather to present two polarized examples for maximum illustrative purpose and allow the reader to extrapolate the in-between results.

Sorry if that was unclear.

After all, you can play a game full of tactics and random chance with virtually no rules by relying on GM fiat. That's what a free kriegsspiel is: the ref judges the situation, decides on some odds, then rolls a die to see whether the best-case, worst-case, etc. happens.

Although that is possible, I find that it generally results in less tactics and random chance than following the actual rules. While it's not a guarantee, GMs tend to lack consistency within their own judgements that might be solved by them following a prewritten set of rules.

This tends to lead to two situations. (Unlike the first, this is presented more as a dichotomy, false or not).

1) The GM's rulings are haphazard and make tactics impossible as the result of actions can not accurately be determined. The players may begin to declare their actions somewhat randomly, they may constantly pause gameplay with "can I do this?" questions or they may find their tactics by manipulating the GM's personality instead.

2) The GM's rulings are consistent at least to a degree sufficient for everyone to understand what is possible, what is likely, what is unlikely and what is impossible. Through a highly complex method you've basically created a rule system that isn't written down. Why not just write these rules to begin with? It'll make it easier if a new gamer, unfamiliar with your social contract, sits down at your table.

Or worse, some situations fall into the first category and others fall into the second category. That can really degenerate into a mess.


First Post
I've been playing by the rules for over 25 years. I want 'game' in my game. If I wanted to just sit around and tell stories I would do that.

There are plenty of 'pass the stick' style games out there...drop by The Forge, D&D has never been one of them.

More power to those that don't want rules (or less of them), just not my cup of tea.


First Post
Assuming we agree that D&D is, at some level, a game, then it follows that some level of skill is involved. All things being equal, I prefer to use the fact I know how to play the game well to my advantage, and to be effective.

Having a DM change how the world works from round to round because he thinks it'd be fun is just not my cup of tea - but it's not just a matter of what happens in combat, not being able to count on simple cause and effect also dramatically reduces my involvement in the storytelling and my ability to identify with my character, because I no longer feel like my decisions matter nearly as much.

I also believe that, if you want to change the rules, you'd damn better understand them pretty well to begin with. I love it when a DM knows the game well enough that they realize when it's better to stick to the letter of the rules and when it's better to wing it - if they do it well, the game almost always is the better for it.

I can not, on the other hand, abide the kind of DM who will pull things out of his butt because he simply doesn't know, and can't be bothered to learn. I might feel differently if my experiences in games where the DM would just follow his whimsy had been positive, but that has not been the case.


First Post
Whenever you've got consistency, you've got rules -- whether they're written down or not. Extreme devotion to a hefty formal rulebook can present a couple of problems.

(A) Insufficiency. No book can cover everything. If everything must be "by the book", then some things are bound to be pretty bizarre -- because the only rules that can apply were not designed for the purpose.

(B) Excess. In general, I think "more tools in the toolbox" is a good thing. It can be a drag, though, when a long checklist of procedures must be followed whether really relevant or not, or when the game is otherwise greatly slowed. This is a matter of return on investment, though, so different folks are likely to have different evaluations of what is worthwhile.

The issue of modularity versus integration ties into this. When there's a sub-game of investing resources (as in "building" characters), players of course expect the rules in which they've invested to get used.


First Post
Old School games varied so catastrophically wildly with the quality and skill of your DM that they could be the Best Thing Ever, or any one of 32 flavors of suck, and all the points in between.
Bingo. And in my experience, the odds were greatly weighted toward "suck," so I for one was delighted with the 3e rules.

Frankly, I would most likely never have played D&D again if 3e hadn't happened.


First Post
This is interesting to me. I have heard a lot in the past few years about the alleged plague of horrible DMs necessitating a bondage of heavy rules-books for the sake of freeing the huddled masses of oppressed players from tyranny.

Yet I personally recall only one case of gross malfeasance on a referee's part, and that was back in 1981. My unscientific survey of the people with whom I play does not suggest an irrupting reign of terror in the 1990s, either.

Heck, I would prefer a touch of evil to the sheer mind-numbing boredom that certain weighty rules-sets (in hands not shaped to play them as sweetly as the most lissome instruments) have routinely sent my way.

When people attest to it, though, I figure there must be some truth behind the tales that Momma Gamers tell babes in their cradles to keep them from wandering too far into the glooms wherein Ogreish Weregamers lurk to prey on tender young players' flesh.

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