Monday, February 1, 2010

Rolemaster, GURPS, and Using What You Need

One of the biggest things to remember about Rolemaster is something I often hear from GURPS players as well--"only use the parts you need".

Above: Probably not GURPS or Rolemaster players.

Let's face it: systems like GURPS or Rolemaster include far, far, more game than most people will need or want. But that's what you get with a toolkit system. Now, some, like Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying feature more of a "build up" module--here's the basics, now add what you need. GURPS sort of does this with GURPS Lite, and Rolemaster Express can also be seen as a basic, entry-level product. But the full versions of those games are more of a "here's everything, take what you need". In one module, the all the parts you need are on the shelves; in the other, the basic models are on display, but the accessories are just back in the stockroom. There's no correct model here; only preference.

There isn't a right or wrong approach, but I think that sometimes GMs worry about external perception of their game--that if they aren't doing Rules As Written, they'll be seen as playing some bastardized form of their game. I have played in exactly 1 Rules As Written campaign in the past decade--a D&D 3.5 outing, and it was atrocious. Too much research, too much retconning of resolutions, too much rules lawyering. When we admit that every game will have a certain amount of drift to it, I think we become much more open to looking at more games as modular toolkits. And remember: just because you've hacked a system doesn't mean that suddenly the rule of law will not prevail. If your group still favors rules more than rulings, a one-page houserule document can neatly indicate what is and is not being used.

It can be fun when you take a raw marble block of a RPG system and turn it into a well-sculpted, responsive personal masterpiece. I think it can also tell you a lot about your preferences for game play and as a Game Master.


Siskoid said...

I completely agree. But then, I *am* a GURPS GM.

Carpe Guitarrem said...

Cool thoughts. I do like that idea that you don't have to use all the rules. At the same time, it's something I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around, because the moment you introduce rules, players adapt the expectation that you need to adapt all the rules in the book not marked "optional".

So what I really think is that rules systems, if they're going to be crunchy, should have more rules explicitly listed as "optional".

This mindset of viewing most rules as optional can go a long way, though.

Bonemaster said...

@Carpe Guitarrem - I think most people forget that no matter what the system, the rules are really optional anyway. You don't like a certain rule, then you go ahead and change it or omit it. In effect all rules are marked "optional". I don't think I've been in a group that doesn't use some sort of house rules for something.

Zachary The First said...

@CG: I think there is a certain faction out there that is a Cult of Officialdom. I don’t know if it stems from standardization through organized play or what, but some people want to use every rule in the book. I’ve heard arguments that doing so ensures fairness for all parties. I think you can merrily houserule a game, and as long as you are clear with your houserules, you shouldn’t have to worry about that point.

I do know that I find Rules Lawyers perhaps the least enjoyable parties with which to play. If the book is coming up every 2 minutes and they’re flipping through while we’re in the middle of some hardcore combat, I’m not going to be pleased.

Dr-Rotwang said...

Score one for ME. I can lay claim to the "GURPS is like a cow" philosophy.

Zachary The First said...

That was you, Doc? Well done!