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What even is "Rules Medium"?

This is a spinoff of the thread on classifying stakes. I know what a rules light game is and I know what a rules heavy one is, and so do most of us. But "Rules Medium" is often used and there isn't a clear definition.

For me, a rules medium game shouldn't just be somewhere between the two, but have some of the meaningful features of both. I know games I consider good rules medium games have the following two characteristics in common:
  • There is enough mechanical weight to the game that the rules lead to non-obvious emergent rules interactions.
  • The rules themselves are simple enough that other than for monster statblocks the physical rulebook (or electronic version) is almost never needed in play even playing precisely RAW (although character sheets/a DM's screen/ a page or two of handouts is acceptable because you should always know where they are and never have to spend time finding things).
And yes this does mean that the same game played with expansive character sheets and all the modifiers pre-calculated may count as rules medium when if you need to go flicking through the PHB and possibly two or three other books when casting spells it isn't.

But this is my definition and I'm well aware there are others.
 

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payn

Legend
I dont think rules medium is even a thing. I think folks have so much experience with D&D editions that its like second nature to jump into them. Thus, they consider it medium because they know it aint lite, but its easy (for them) to get into.
 


I think of D&D 5E as rules medium.
I think of it as a little heavier than medium, but not nearly to heavy . On a 0-10 scale, about 6.
I think of BX as a little under medium, about a 4 on that same scale. full BECM or Cyclopedia at about 6.
Rolemaster at about 4 in core, 6 by RMC IV, and no heavier after that through RMC VII.
I'd put TOR 1E at 4 in core, and 5 with everything.
ALIEN I'd put at 6, and T2K 4e at 6, with Vaessen at 4.

(my 10 would be Web of Stars; I'd put Pheonix Command at 8 or 9)

On my 0-10 scale...
Superlight 0
Light 1-3
Medium 4-6
Heavy 7-9
10 superheavy
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I know what a rules light game is and I know what a rules heavy one is, and so do most of us. But "Rules Medium" is often used and there isn't a clear definition.

So, while you know what heavy and light are, you don't note there as being a definition of those terms. Knowing two, but defining only the middle sounds a little strange.
 

So, while you know what heavy and light are, you don't note there as being a definition of those terms. Knowing two, but defining only the middle sounds a little strange.
Not really. It's fairly easy to see when something is on one extreme or the other. If we're going to use an intermediate term then it probably needs a definition.

The strange part is that it is, I suspect, possible to fit neither test I've lined up which would in a weird way also be rules medium.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
For me, a rules medium game shouldn't just be somewhere between the two, but have some of the meaningful features of both.
Since it's seen as an axis of rules light to general to rules heavy, classifying "rules medium" as anything except between them leaves gaps that require yet more levels of explanation and may not be intuitively obvious. Especially when people use descriptions like "mid to heavy" and other this-is-a-spectrum descriptors.

If you want other parts of the classification, for clarity's sake you need to pick a new term besides "rules medium" to define them.
 

A Rules Medium is, of course, the Seer who looks beyond the RAW and into the deep aether of the norms and customs of the game.

A truly powerful Rules Medium can even talk with rules that have been long dead and tell you how those rules would apply today!
Some rules mediums claim to know what Gygax meant by a particular rule...they can just call him up and ask him, it seems.
 



Argyle King

Legend
I dont think rules medium is even a thing. I think folks have so much experience with D&D editions that its like second nature to jump into them. Thus, they consider it medium because they know it aint lite, but its easy (for them) to get into.

I partially agree with this.

A lot of things about D&D come second-nature to D&D players but aren't exactly intuitive to people outside of the D&D experience.

Anecdotally, I've found the following three things:
•Sometimes it's easier to teach a "heavier" non-D&D game to a new player than it is to teach a "light" or "medium" version of D&D.
•Sometimes, it is easier to teach a game to someone who has never played anything than it is to teach a new game to an experienced D&D player.
•A lot of game concepts which I take for granted, after years of playing, aren't as easy for others.
 

aco175

Legend
I would think that playing theatre of the mind (TotM) could be rules medium- at least for the combat pillar. There is a lot less rules needed when you can just narrate and play. "Am I close enough to sneak up and surprise this bad guy?" Sure. "I want to try to stay away from this monster and behind the fighter." Sure. No need to measure and check position.
 

Willie the Duck

Adventurer
But "Rules Medium" is often used and there isn't a clear definition.

For me, a rules medium game shouldn't just be somewhere between the two, but have some of the meaningful features of both.
...
But this is my definition and I'm well aware there are others.
I mean, you do you, but I think most people really just mean it as "something not, in my mind, specifically 'rules light' or 'rules heavy.'"
 

Aldarc

Legend
I dont think rules medium is even a thing. I think folks have so much experience with D&D editions that its like second nature to jump into them. Thus, they consider it medium because they know it aint lite, but its easy (for them) to get into.
I do think that D&D is "rules heavier" than a lot of people generally claim that it is, but I think that part of the reason for that is precisely what you suggest here. There is a tendency to gloss over D&D's crunch because a lot of it has become second nature. But it's a bit more obvious, IME, when bringing in people who are new to TTRPGs. There are definitely more new-player friendly games out there, again IME, because there are less moving parts.
 


GMMichael

Guide of Modos
. . . I know what a rules light game is and I know what a rules heavy one is, and so do most of us. But "Rules Medium" is often used and there isn't a clear definition.
How about: when a game has from 100 to 200 rules? For reference, this one has 81.

Or when a game's quickstart rules exceed one page of reasonably-sized type?

I will agree with @Morrus that D&D5 is rules-medium, given that rules-light and rules-heavy are effectively comparisons to the current edition of D&D.

For me, a rules medium game shouldn't just be somewhere between the two, but have some of the meaningful features of both. . .
Let's stop you right there. That works, so let's choose from a mixture of:

Light
  • Can be played with 6 or fewer standard dice.
  • The rule book is needed to learn, but not play, the game.
  • Rules arguments are unlikely to erupt.
  • The quickstart rules (or full rules) take up one page or less.
  • The GM-shield features a full art spread. On both sides.
  • The game's rules number less than 100.

Heavy
  • Requires multiple sets of dice and/or special dice.
  • Missing a rule book means you are unable to play the game.
  • Everyone is willing and able to consult the rules, even after the GM has made her adjudication.
  • There are no quickstart rules.
  • The game makes regular use of "statistics." And "mechanics," because you know, things tend to break.
  • The game's rules number greater than 200 🤓
 

Lucas Yew

Explorer
For me, two boolean values would determine a rule's "weight"...

1. Is the dead tree core rulebooks(s) hardcover?
2. Does the game suggest rules over rulings?

If both are false, Rules Lite, else if both are true, Rules Heavy.
Naturally, if only one of those are false and the other is true, now that would be Rules Medium...
 

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