"With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two."
- Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Oh, how true, how true. In my quest for a new generic RPG system and in general, I fight against the two polar opposites of my nature. In many cases, I am mercurial and changing to the point of ludicrousness. By day, the sweet kindly GM holds sway, considering player input and maybe even giving credence to the thought of shared GMing duties. But at night, a horrific, wonderful madness descends upon me, and the baser demons of my psyche are put on the gaming table for all to see.
Here are a few of the back-and-forth struggles I have on what I enjoy in gaming. Good thing it’s ok to enjoy more than one gaming style—right?
Rules-Light vs. Rules-Heavy
I loves me some Risus. It’s one of the most fun, fast one-shot RPG systems this side of anything. And occasionally, I want a loose, light framework to maneuver in—not some huge list of conditional rules that require lots of page flipping. On the other hand, I can appreciate a good rules structure, one that clearly defines consistent mechanics. My general rule seems to be that if I have a light system, I add stuff on. If I have a heavy system, I gut the crap out of it. I end up in the middle, feeling somewhat dirty.
Random Roll vs. Point-Buy
Roll it! Let the fates decide! So what if your Fighter has a laughably weak Constitution score? It builds character, pun intended! Wait! Reverse that! Let’s maximize everything using point-buy, so you can play the character you want. You have 2 points left over and want to learn Basket Weaving? Fine, just fine! Goodness, what a well and carefully-built character. It’s a shame he’s missing A HEART.
Skills vs. No Skills
I appreciate the freedom and player ingenuity that the lack of a skill list can provide. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy Swords & Wizardry and Microlite74 so much—it’s one more impediment to getting down to the nitty-gritty that’s out the window. However, I grew up on games with skill lists, and many players like a quantifiable risk of what they want to do. Rolemaster and Rifts or Red Box?
Lots of Dice vs. Less Dice
On one hand, I love the idea of one simple roll to determine the outcome. Get the hell out of the way of the game, dice! But man, like a big portion of the fun in the hobby is about rolling dice. D6s, D8s, D100s, D20s, and yes, even the poor, oft-forgotten D12. The dice are a part of the experience, for a lot of us. Plus, games with lots of dice give me another reason to visit Gamescience.
The only place I’ve really trended one way would be Player Narrative Control vs. Centralized GM Power, where I definitely skew well towards the latter. I’m a fascist, I know. But at least I’m not a monster.