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5E Why are vague rules praised?

DerrenIsRight

Villager
Tl;dr. Derren was right, the contradictions and lack of clarification in D&D 5e in no way makes it "better".

I created a profile here, with just the single (for now) purpose of expressing, 5 years later, that Derren was absolutely correct. And what an absolute flood of B*S* that he had to deal with in this thread.
What an absurd stream of intentionally/unintentionally misunderstanding comments. Of course having a comprehensive frame of well thought out rules, that the GM can then chose to bend and forego as needed, is always better, than no one knowing wtf is going on.

I don't look at the clusterf**k that is the contradictions and lack of clarification of PHB, DMG etc, and go "oh how great that no one knows how to do anything". Derren is absolutely right that with a solid frame, the GM can then just CHOSE to follow, or scratch rules however he sees fit. But the upside to having a D&D with a solid frame of rules, is that it imo takes pressure off of the GM because the players can then just follow the basics, and don't have to rely on the already burdened GM to almost (exaggerating to get my point across here) invent the entire game of D&D him/herself. Why even bother buying the books, if they are just suggestions? (again exaggerating to make a point)

Last but not least, my beef at this point isn't primarily with WotC and their "hand waved" 5e. I understand the large amount of work creating the basis for a game like D&D entails. No, my primary beef, is with the people who insist that it's a better game because of it. It's not. But it is remarkably less time consuming and cheaper to create something with "less moving parts" or less variables, because the more things you have in a system, the more complex it becomes. And that might not be for everyone, I wouldn't enjoy a game that had as many variables as I hear 3.5 had when it came to combat, but the assertion that D&D 5e is automatically better, because of it being less complex is ridiculous imo. - Rant over. And sorry for offending.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
Something I encountered several times now is that when there is a discussion about a rule because there are multiple ways to interpret it or that it offers no help at all for the DM to adjudicate it someone comes and praises the rule as being intentionally vague so that the DM can interpret it.

My question is why? Why is it a good thing if a rule is vague or even not usable without houseruling or when the books give the DM no guideline, suggestion or other help in resolving something?
The idea probably is that this somehow empowers the DM, but why does a DM need vague rules to be empowered? He can already change anything he wants. And if the intention is to have the DM rule by himself, why make it a vague rule instead of a suggestion with helpful guidelines on what to look out for and how this ruling fits into the game world?
That would be a lot more helpful than to make a vague rule or a table with entries so vague that they do not help at all (the latest example being Carousing and not having any suggestion about what getting arrested actually means of being able to build strongholds and trade posts with no explanation what they represent and how they can be used in game).
I really like the rules being vague. I get annoyed when I can’t just say ‘er okay roll a dex check. Do you have anything that might help? Okay, add your proficiency.’

With the example of carousing, if the guards try to arrest you; play it out like any other encounter. Let the players figure out how to avoid/ escape jail.

More rules just means more looking things up and having THAT player saying ‘ackshully...’ all the time.

Yay vague rules. A boo! highly structured rules.
 

Ovinomancer

Flip Nazi
Tl;dr. Derren was right, the contradictions and lack of clarification in D&D 5e in no way makes it "better".

I created a profile here, with just the single (for now) purpose of expressing, 5 years later, that Derren was absolutely correct. And what an absolute flood of B*S* that he had to deal with in this thread.
What an absurd stream of intentionally/unintentionally misunderstanding comments. Of course having a comprehensive frame of well thought out rules, that the GM can then chose to bend and forego as needed, is always better, than no one knowing wtf is going on.

I don't look at the clusterf**k that is the contradictions and lack of clarification of PHB, DMG etc, and go "oh how great that no one knows how to do anything". Derren is absolutely right that with a solid frame, the GM can then just CHOSE to follow, or scratch rules however he sees fit. But the upside to having a D&D with a solid frame of rules, is that it imo takes pressure off of the GM because the players can then just follow the basics, and don't have to rely on the already burdened GM to almost (exaggerating to get my point across here) invent the entire game of D&D him/herself. Why even bother buying the books, if they are just suggestions? (again exaggerating to make a point)

Last but not least, my beef at this point isn't primarily with WotC and their "hand waved" 5e. I understand the large amount of work creating the basis for a game like D&D entails. No, my primary beef, is with the people who insist that it's a better game because of it. It's not. But it is remarkably less time consuming and cheaper to create something with "less moving parts" or less variables, because the more things you have in a system, the more complex it becomes. And that might not be for everyone, I wouldn't enjoy a game that had as many variables as I hear 3.5 had when it came to combat, but the assertion that D&D 5e is automatically better, because of it being less complex is ridiculous imo. - Rant over. And sorry for offending.
Hi, @Derren.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Meh, he was partly right. The flexibility of 5E is nice, but all editions have always had the caveat "if this rule doesn't work for you, change it or don't use it." I agree and would rather have seen more rules we could ignore than continually having to make up house-rules/rulings on everything under the sun.

5E is super simple is a lot of ways and I get that appeals to most people here (heck, you are defending that stance after all), but there is enough about 5E that I like in other ways I am willing to put in the time to make it what I want instead of reverting to AD&D or 2E and trying to make them more like 5E.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
A big believer that GM judgement when applied in a hygienic way is important to reflect the specific fictional circumstances at play, but that is no excuse for vague or ill defined rules. If GM judgement is necessary a rule can simply state where and to what extent it should be applied. This is what Apocalypse World does and I have never run into anyone who would claim that it is needlessly complex.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Tl;dr. Derren was right, the contradictions and lack of clarification in D&D 5e in no way makes it "better".

I created a profile here, with just the single (for now) purpose of expressing, 5 years later, that Derren was absolutely correct. And what an absolute flood of B*S* that he had to deal with in this thread.
What an absurd stream of intentionally/unintentionally misunderstanding comments. Of course having a comprehensive frame of well thought out rules, that the GM can then chose to bend and forego as needed, is always better, than no one knowing wtf is going on.

I don't look at the clusterf**k that is the contradictions and lack of clarification of PHB, DMG etc, and go "oh how great that no one knows how to do anything". Derren is absolutely right that with a solid frame, the GM can then just CHOSE to follow, or scratch rules however he sees fit. But the upside to having a D&D with a solid frame of rules, is that it imo takes pressure off of the GM because the players can then just follow the basics, and don't have to rely on the already burdened GM to almost (exaggerating to get my point across here) invent the entire game of D&D him/herself. Why even bother buying the books, if they are just suggestions? (again exaggerating to make a point)

Last but not least, my beef at this point isn't primarily with WotC and their "hand waved" 5e. I understand the large amount of work creating the basis for a game like D&D entails. No, my primary beef, is with the people who insist that it's a better game because of it. It's not. But it is remarkably less time consuming and cheaper to create something with "less moving parts" or less variables, because the more things you have in a system, the more complex it becomes. And that might not be for everyone, I wouldn't enjoy a game that had as many variables as I hear 3.5 had when it came to combat, but the assertion that D&D 5e is automatically better, because of it being less complex is ridiculous imo. - Rant over. And sorry for offending.
Wow, ok, thanks for sharing.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
Tl;dr. Derren was right, the contradictions and lack of clarification in D&D 5e in no way makes it "better".

I created a profile here, with just the single (for now) purpose of expressing, 5 years later, that Derren was absolutely correct.
Hi, I'm Larry, and this is Derren, and this is my other brother Derren.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Some thought about it: Individually, I prefer clear rules. As a whole system, I prefer a much more rules-light system. So on any given thing, I like having the rule, but when I have a whole system of rules that's detailed enough to be reasonably stable, I find two things:

1. I don't actually have a more definite answer that much more of the time.
2. I am spending a lot more time looking stuff up because I can't actually remember all the rules.

Furthermore, definite rules often give bad answers. Rules-as-written PF, you can use Astral Projection to cheaply manufacture ridiculous amounts of wealth, etcetera, etcetera.

So 5e's much simpler system with plain-language rules avoids all sorts of problems. (Example: In Pathfinder, sleeping characters are not unconscious. No, really.)
I agree. I’m one of those oddballs who likes clarity and specificity in rules, but prefers the system of rules to be relatively light. I also like a good amount of crunch in my RPGs, which can seem at odds with my preference for light systems. But basically, my preference can be summed up like this: I think the game should be easy to run on the GM side, and provide lots of options on the player side. Clarity makes rulings easier to make, rules lightness makes the rules easier to learn and remember, crunch gives players lots of options to play around with.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
I agree. I’m one of those oddballs who likes clarity and specificity in rules, but prefers the system of rules to be relatively light. I also like a good amount of crunch in my RPGs, which can seem at odds with my preference for light systems. But basically, my preference can be summed up like this: I think the game should be easy to run on the GM side, and provide lots of options on the player side. Clarity makes rulings easier to make, rules lightness makes the rules easier to learn and remember, crunch gives players lots of options to play around with.
How can you have a rules-light system with lots of crunch?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Tl;dr. Derren was right, the contradictions and lack of clarification in D&D 5e in no way makes it "better".

I created a profile here, with just the single (for now) purpose of expressing, 5 years later, that Derren was absolutely correct. And what an absolute flood of B*S* that he had to deal with in this thread.
What an absurd stream of intentionally/unintentionally misunderstanding comments. Of course having a comprehensive frame of well thought out rules, that the GM can then chose to bend and forego as needed, is always better, than no one knowing wtf is going on.

I don't look at the clusterf**k that is the contradictions and lack of clarification of PHB, DMG etc, and go "oh how great that no one knows how to do anything". Derren is absolutely right that with a solid frame, the GM can then just CHOSE to follow, or scratch rules however he sees fit. But the upside to having a D&D with a solid frame of rules, is that it imo takes pressure off of the GM because the players can then just follow the basics, and don't have to rely on the already burdened GM to almost (exaggerating to get my point across here) invent the entire game of D&D him/herself. Why even bother buying the books, if they are just suggestions? (again exaggerating to make a point)

Last but not least, my beef at this point isn't primarily with WotC and their "hand waved" 5e. I understand the large amount of work creating the basis for a game like D&D entails. No, my primary beef, is with the people who insist that it's a better game because of it. It's not. But it is remarkably less time consuming and cheaper to create something with "less moving parts" or less variables, because the more things you have in a system, the more complex it becomes. And that might not be for everyone, I wouldn't enjoy a game that had as many variables as I hear 3.5 had when it came to combat, but the assertion that D&D 5e is automatically better, because of it being less complex is ridiculous imo. - Rant over. And sorry for offending.
No offense taken, I just completely disagree. It's far, far better to have a foundational structure that I can add to as a DM than a highly structured rule-set that I have to remove things from.

Let's take the poster child of vague rules: stealth and hiding. I don't want to start up another conversation about it, but it's a good example of the 5E philosophy.

There was a podcast a while back with Mr Crawford where he discussed this. At one point, they had detailed rules that went on for a page or two trying to cover every option. They decided to throw them out because no matter how much you try to clarify something, there will always be edge cases. The more edge cases you try to cover, the more time people end up discussion minutae and the more clarification needed.

So we have "vague" rules. The way stealth is handled can be flexible and largely based on circumstances and personal preference of the group. No more flipping through books looking for the specific scenario as described in Xanathar's Guide to Stealth. Or just as bad, applying the rule as written and having everybody at the table going "how the heck does that work?" because it doesn't fit the theme and style of campaign you're running.

With 5E I can have two different campaigns that feel completely different. Standard fantasy novel? Not much tweaking necessary. Anime/cartoon game? Sure just be a bit more lenient. Gritty? There's some optional rules in the DMG on that and I have a handful of house rules.

Just my two coppers.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
How can you have a rules-light system with lots of crunch?
Great question. I dunno how that works, at all.

You can have a rules-light system that has lots of tactical depth - look at the game of Go as an example. But rules-light with lots of crunch? I don't see how that works.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
So I get the value in not having a rule for something and I understand the value of having a rule that requires judgement to apply. What I have trouble understanding is having a rule for something, but making it deliberately difficult to apply in play or writing rules in a way that is unclear so trying to reference them at the table is deliberately difficult.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
So I get the value in not having a rule for something and I understand the value of having a rule that requires judgement to apply. What I have trouble understanding is having a rule for something, but making it deliberately difficult to apply in play or writing rules in a way that is unclear so trying to reference them at the table is deliberately difficult.
Got some specific examples we can examine with you?
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
So I get the value in not having a rule for something and I understand the value of having a rule that requires judgement to apply. What I have trouble understanding is having a rule for something, but making it deliberately difficult to apply in play or writing rules in a way that is unclear so trying to reference them at the table is deliberately difficult.
Such as? EDIT: ninja'd
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
From the wikipedia entry on role-playing game terms: Crunch: The rules and mechanics of a game.

So, I agree. Huh?
It’s possible I’m using crunch differently than is common. What I’m getting at is, a lightweight core system, with a healthy dose of player-side mechanical options. I see 4e Essentials as a decent example of what I’m getting at, although the microfeats push it out of rules light territory for me.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
It’s a balancing act. For me, the key is a light core system with a good amount of modular crunchy options you can add on top if you so choose. Also, design that uses its complexity budget very efficiently,
So, I'm having a little trouble fully grokking this; do you have a specific example of what you're getting at?


EDIT- I saw you wrote 4e essentials; is this what you consider rules light, yet crunchy?
 

CleverNickName

Adventurer
I was going to chime in with my two cents, but @Oofta hit the nail on the head for me.

I don't think it's even possible to write rules that will cover every possibility that can arise in a roleplaying game, so there will always be gray areas that have to be interpreted. And rather than dedicating pages of rules to making that gray area smaller, I would prefer to just have a frame work with a couple of examples to use as a guide.

I feel that players should trust the DM (who is more familiar with the situation and possible outcomes), and the DM should trust the players (who are more familiar with their characters' talents and motivations), and everyone should work together to resolve situations quickly (but fairly) on a case-by-case basis.
 

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