Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Discussion: Using The Rules As Written

Based on part on yesterday’s post, today’s Friday Discussion has to do with the Rules As Written. Actually, it’s a question with a lot of follow-up questions:

How Closely Do You Follow The Rules As Written? In general, do you find yourself houseruling heavily? Do you tend to let such houserules be emergent from play, or clearly codified at the start? As a player, how important are playing the with Rules As Written to you?

Have a great weekend, and I look forward to reading your opinions on this one!


Tim Shorts said...

I use the rules as a guide, but pretty much have a tell me what you're doing and roll approach. I can't think of any rules that I haven't tweaked. But if I do tweak the rules I try to stay consistant to be fair to the players and my own sanity.

Gleichman said...

I think the question is poorly phrased (as it often is), and thus leaves out what I consider the best way of approaching an RPG.

I house rule to correct design errors in the original, and THEN run the rules a written.

For you see, I have no interest in being stuck with the mistakes of the original designer, and I have no interest in playing with people who can't follow a simple ruleset and live with what it hands them.

Norman Harman said...

As a player I hate DM's who are rules lawyers/slavishly follow the rules.

I'm always wanting to do "cool" stuff. Not "uber, look at me, I'm a male juvenile and need to prove I;m cool" stuff or steal all the attention / spotlight time. Just occasional neat rp/story/action stuff that fits into campaign/scene/character concept. It sucks when DM isn't supporting you on that. [Gliechman sounds like the archetypal example of that kind of DM.]

As a DM I can't help myself, I over house rule. To the extent that I try to throw out more than 1/2 my house rules before actually playing. And I try to remove or at least simplify rather than add when I house rule.

JMcL63 said...

During my lengthy Ashes of Middenheim WFRP2 campaign one of the bigger mistakes I made was in my attitude to the rules. I wasted a lot of time checking rules at the table instead of just going with the flow and checking things out later.

Afterwards- long afterwards, I realised that this was because I'd been taking a boardgamer/wargamer's attitude to the rules, in which strict attention to detail is an asset, not a liability.

Gleichman said...

Norman Harman< is a male juvenile, for an adult one would find cool stuff to do based upon the rules and his own skills- and wouldn't beg for exceptions from the DM like a child asking for ice cream.

He is however the model of the common modern gamer.

Gleichman said...

JMcL63: Learn your rules before you DM (not play) them and that wouldn't happen to you.

In my case, I've never had that problem.

Well, not completely true I suppose but true in any practical sense.

A new player will for a short period attempt to debate me over something- and I tell them their wrong and continue to run the game as they look it up. By the fourth or fifth time they realize that they are wasting their own time and that's the end of that. Meanwhile the game continues.

Don't mistake your lack of knowledge as problem with running the rules as written. Instead find a ruleset you or your DM can master.

adeptgamer said...

I follow the rules as they are written and house rules emerge during play as the situation arises but aren't necessarily codified in any way.

I really feel the reason for rules is to give a structure of flow that can be referenced to keep things as balanced as possible with the house rules only needed when either balance is clearly blown (which is rarely) OR when the rules don't address the situation (which is the most common application of house rules).

I don't see the rules as a set of sacred texts through and have no issue with others who chop them up as they need, just if I'm running its easier for me to run if I don't have to do a lot of work on the rules :)

Lazy GM? Mebbe.

Crose87420 said...

I think the question is straightforward and simply phrased so that even a monkey could understand it.

For myself I do house-rule but it always leaves this little nagging, dirty feeling.

I'll tell you though, when a player tells me they want to, "charge the orc," that is 50' away and they can only move 30', and the player is already shaking the dice and really into it, well, I'm letting them charge the orc.

Guess that's not really house-ruling as much as rule-breaking, hah!

pseckler13 said...

I would stick to the rules as written to the point where they deliver the experience I want- obviously if something isn't understandable or isn't working as expected, or if the rule seems unnecessary in context your'e going to change it anyway, just to keep the game moving. But you also have to respect the group.

I don't really believe in changing the rules just to change them (like a DM who decides to replace the combat system with a card system or something..) or in changing an entire system out of just not bothering to learn it (for example I never understood DMs who would play D&D3.5 "but without all of the attacks of opportunity")..

I guess there's probably a time and place for that, but given that gaming itself is a group activity, it's important that everyone in the group have as close as possible to the same understanding of the game, preferably before they even arrive. (Plus they came to take part in a game, not be part of an experiment in game design).

Some house rules and changes are inevitable, but you should make an effort to understand them as a group. I think I mostly agree with Gleichman.

DNAphil said...

I am very rules conservative. I have found that often that tinkering with rules without fully understanding the underlying mechanics, or reasons for why a rule was made, can lead to breaking the rules, or compromising the game.

That said, I am not so rigid that if a rule totally hampers play, that it cannot be changed. Though I would make least change necessary to fix the rule.

Zzarchov said...

Woah, Gleichman..ease up on the petty juvenile name calling. Saying someone is a child because they play differently than you is pretty childish, especially when you then claim that your way of sitting around pretending to be an elf is more mature and adult than his way of sitting around pretending to be an elf.


rologutwein said...

To me, rules are always just a starting point. You use what works for you and your group. You change what doesn't. As a GM, I follow my own likes and dislikes, but I do listen to player concerns as well (with a grain of salt, of course), and try to adjust to those, too.

This also applies to established settings. While I enjoy playing within the framework of things that other people have established (obviously, or I wouldn't be playing them), I am not a slave to canon. If there are details that don't mesh with my style or gaming group (or things I hate, like 'midichlorians'), I lose them.

As far as players doing cool things. I agree, it is better when something happens 'within' the rules, but if something is plausible or incredibly cool/clever—but not exactly covered in the rules—I am willing to make up something to at least give the player a chance at succeeding.

And I also think that wanting to do 'cool', 'dramatic', 'roleplay', and 'action' things are the reason people get into gaming anyway. Yeah, you may start out as a lowly pogue, but you dream of being a 'big damn hero' some day—and the rules either should accommodate this, or should be made to.

Gleichman said...

Zzarchov: It's not name calling when it's a correct description of behavior.

And I will grant, RPGs are basically unproductive wish-fulfillment and thus childlike behavior. But there are degrees of childlike behavior. I would hope that adults would at least shade towards adult actions even when playing games.

However demanding cool stuff above and beyond the rules of the game just because you want cool stuff is as childlike as it gets.

Nikolas said...

I'm pretty much like all the old time gamers, the rules are tools, and forgetting that can get me and others carried away.

I don't see any point in hostilely criticizing people one does not know well enough to make a concise judgement. The act by itself and the direction of inference it moves towards is interesting: Why would someone act douchey given this basic context?

I'm sure there is more to everyone's answers. I don't think a detailed and comprehensive essay is useful in this circumstance. Although a link to one's blog for a longer answer would be appropriate, I think.

James V said...

I really don't like to fudge, so the rules are important to me. This does mean that in many games, I will make some adjustments. My usual method is to take games with a lot of rules, become familiar with them, usually by reading, sometimes by playing, and prune down the ones that I think would slow the game's pace down, even after the group becomes comfortable with them.

There is a line of intolerance for this process though. If I have to houserule more than 30% of the game for the sake of it meeting my tastes, I'd rather move on and find another ruleset more to my liking.

Anonymous said...

If you started with original D&D you played by house rules because the original rules were not models of clarity and often failed to allow a simulation of "reality" for what the characters and NPCs were doing in the campaign world. Which pretty much meant "to play rpg is to have house rules."

James V said...

As an aside, it is rare that I build up on a rules set, but it did happen with the BFRPG game that I just completed running. The base of the rules are so simple, that it was pretty easy to add some rules here and there to emulate the kind of feeling I wanted from the game, without sacrificing its nice pace in execution.

In general however, and it maybe a simple quirk of my mindset, but it's easier for me to slim down than to bulk up a game.

Badelaire said...

This is why I like using entirely home-brewed rules sets; they are by definition always played "rules as written".

Tim Brannan said...

I am going with the very helpful:

"It depends"

Typically I like to play a new game as written. Then once I have had sometime with it I tweak it a bit.

The only game I NEVER tweak or house-rule is C.J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG. Because I think it is perfect as it.

I will even houserule games I have written.

clash bowley said...

Like Tim, I often houserule my own games - sometimes things happen in play that I never could forsee, and I deal with it. The only times I'm not houseruling is when I am alpha testing my own games, and then we play with the RAW until a problem comes up, whereupon we test a new rule. Hell, I was houseruling D&D before I ever played or ran any RPG.

Patrick Tingler said...

I run games mostly as written, but in the spirit of the rules, not the letter of the rules. Poorly worded rules or unclear rules can be adjudicated by a knowledgeable GM. To me, anything more than this results in a game that isn't the game that you're supposedly playing. At this point in the hobby, there are thousands of games that are either in print, available second hand, or for free on the internet that you can pretty much find a rules set that doesn't need all sorts of house rules to match your play style. If in the off chance you're not satisfied with all the available options, you can easily take parts from multiple games and design your own house system. Just give it a name and you're good to go.

morrisonmp said...

I tend to fall on the side of not houseruling a game whenever possible. My reasoning is a little different than a lot of what I've heard here so far though.

I tend to play with strangers/semi-strangers a lot. I don't have an established group of gamers that I can stick with and that we know each other well. I think this also applies to public event-style games.

So, I see the rules as the common language shared by the gamers coming to the table. Players who don't play together regularly cannot build tacit knowledge of group play styles or preferences, so they have only the rules gluing them together at the table (mechanically) and too much variation is a barrier to entry for a new gamer joining in.

This kind of thinking informs my thinking even on the rare occasions I do play with a 'comfortable' group. I won't say I never never houserule something, but it's a rarity, and has to be a pretty glaring problem to get me to alter it.

Doug Wall said...

I am a believer in RAW. Hopefully, not to an anal-retentive degree, because looking up charts, tables, and formulas is not why I game. But if a player wants to invoke a particular rule with their actions, I will bring it out.

And Gleichman is an ass. Just sayin'

Referee said...

The only rule that is religiously followed when I am a Referee...for every rule there is an exception.

Usually, I use rules to guide actions but I never feel imprisoned by them.

Barking Alien said...

I have never in my 30 plus years of gaming used any set of rules or any game setting as written. I can't. My brain is simply not wired that way. I also can't build a Gundam model kit without kitbashing or scratchbuilding parts or use an image for a goblin I found on the internet without tweaking the picture.

That said, my comment yesterday was in regards to running RIFTS without the bulk of the detailed rules that are the very reason RIFTS fans play RIFTS.

On a similar note, if you wanted to run Champions but were looking to leave out a good portion of the number crunching I would tend to think, "No, you DON'T want to run Champions. You want to run Mutants & Masterminds", since that's essentially the major thematic difference between the two games.

I'm all about the modifications and the house rules but in my experience if I have to alter or leave out more than 40% of a game's elements, I am playing the wrong game for what I want to do.

Randall said...

I always follow "Rule Zero" in any game I run. I treat the rules as guidelines for the GM and change them as needed (and when that need is discovered) to fit my campaign, my players, and our style of play.

I also just make rulings rather than look stuff up in mid-game if looking up would take much longer than just making a ruling. Keeping the game session moving is more important than wasting everyone's time looking up seldom-used rules -- especially if that requires looking though several books and/or arguing about it.

Aaron said...

I house rule the bejesus out of things - well, I used to - I don't actually play much anymore. But I find that most games I play work for me to about the 50 to 80% level, and the rest I start monkeying with, mainly because I find drama, atmosphere and verisimilitude to both be more important than the rules.

Eldrad Wolfsbane said...

My original DM went by the very deadly Basic D&D rules by the book with no mercy or wavering. If you rolled just 1 HP starting off you played it as is.

He was the best DM that I ever played with though he is a mundane non gamer now.

Greyaxe said...

House rule very seldom. Mostly during character gen, Rolemaster. I like High Adventure games so i give some extra options to players during characvter gen, otherwise Rolemaster is super crunchy so there si a rule for rules.