Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tearing Down Or Building Up?

Not too long ago, my group had a nearly year-long Rolemaster (FRP/SS hybrid) campaign. We started with likely about 75% of the rules in place, finding Rolemaster’s maneuvering rules too much for us.

After a while, we streamlined skill selection, and simplified how armor worked, along with combat modifiers. We also combined/tweaked some skills.

On and on this went. We added a bit, but we seemed to drop 2 items for every item we added.

In the end, we had a very simple, streamlined open-ended version of Rolemaster that still included our favorite parts (namely, the awesome magic lists and critical hit charts).

When we played Palladium Fantasy, we streamlined. When we ran Rifts, we streamlined. When I ran Pathfinder with my online group, we streamlined.

Now, you might say, “hey, dummy, start with a rules-lighter game, and you won’t have to streamline so much”. But I’ve always had a much easier time effectively reducing and breaking down a rules-heavy game to get what I want than building up a rules-light game. That’s not to say it can’t be done—I mean, I’ve added a few house rules to augment Castles & Crusades, but then again, you can argue C&C is a stripped-down d20 variant in the first place. From more to less. It’s almost as if sometimes you’re trying to see the figure in the marble block of rules—you chip here and there, until the form you want comes out, vs. taking the existing marble statue and gluing your own bits on it

But all in all, it’s easier for me to take something that is rules-heavy or rules-medium and make it rules-light than to take a light framework and make it more complex (and still have it fit nicely). How much more preferable, I suppose, to find the game you want out of the box--but as a chronic and unrepentant tinkerer, that doesn't seem to be an option that often comes up.

9 comments:

Gleichman said...

I think it would be very difficult to find something out of the box that matched all your needs. Game Design is driven by trade-offs, and its rare that two people would agree on all the trade-offs that make up a complete design.

With that in mind, it's always easier to take stuff away from a game than to add it. More work to be done in the latter case.

It may not be the best approach, but the great force know as Lazy rules much.

Gamer Dude said...

Wow... I am exactly opposite of you in that regard. I would much rather take a set of simplistic rules and build from there. For two reasons.

1. I don't have to read all the rules in the first place.

2. I don't have to worry about taking away a rule and breaking some type of connecting piece / rule.

I would much rather build a house from the ground up than take an existing one, tear it down and try and fit my idea upon its imperfect foundation.

I'm not claiming that any game has a "perfect" foundation. But, IMHO it's a whole lot easier building a "rules light" game upon a game that was built "rules light" intentionally from the get go.

But that's the beauty of this hobby, we each find something to work with that suits our needs...and off to town we go, riding happily upon the imagination machine of our own design.

Gamer Dude said...

Edit:
"1. I don't have to read all the rules in the first place."

Should read:
1. There are fewer rules to read in the first place.

Duh.

HinterWelt said...

I go either way so what does that tell you?...oh, wait, that didn't sound right...

Gleichman said...

HinterWelt: The intended double entendre aside, I think you should use that as you design motto.

It fits.

Rob Donoghue said...

It can be interesting over time to decide if you've hit upon "The Good Parts Version" or if you've ended up with another game entirely.

That said, stripped down rolemaster for the win. It's like one of those cars that's been stripped down to nothing but wheels, a skeletal frame, and a HUGE FREAKING ENGINE, so it does 2 things - goes really fast and explodes spectacularly.

Hard not to love that.

-Rob D.

HinterWelt said...

Gleichman: Thanks! I like to think my designs are flexible and can adapt to many different play styles and preferences. All too often we get designers who think their way is the one true way and you end up with declarations of "Bad DesignTM" because it is not their design.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

I think both can work.

I prefer to add rather than delete, simply because someone will resist the deletion, whereas you get little resistance when you add something that the Players like, and the stuff you add that is for the DM only, well, they don't need to know 'bout that...

Zzarchov said...

I'll say I prefer to move largely sidewise. A "find and replace" more than a drop or build specifically. I enjoy streamlining, but only so I can add more and still have the same depth but now with greater width.