Rules Heavy vs. Rules Light


I'm working on an uber-rules light system (basically everything is based off a 2d6+Stat vs Difficulty) and am wondering if there's much demand for such a thing. The group I play D&D3.5 with seems to be a mix of thise who like to play it really loose (the DM for instance) and hardcore rules-mongers who have the PHB and DMG memorized and like to trot out the rules for "attacks of opportunity in a dark hallway vs. favored enemies on the night of a full moon" at the drop of a dime.

I much prefer just having a simple engine to handle everything, and allowing the imaginations of the players to run wild. I don't think you need a specific rule for everything. But maybe I'm wrong.

What DO you need rules for, aside from basic combat and skill checks?

Definitely rules light, but I hesitate to think there's a "demand" - my impression is that there's too many damn rules systems out there anyway, and people just want to play. If there's only one rule, awesome - less lawyers, less setup, and less concern for implementation.

I prefer rules simple enough that players can keep most of the mechanics and stats in their head to keep things moving. But lots of people prefer playing around with the rules themselves to maximize their characters. Others feels that a game just doesn't cut it unless there is a chart or rule for every conceivable action and they've solved math problems for a couple of hours before playing.

I prefer what you would probably consider a "rules heavy" game. In a good system I like having a plenty of rules available in the books because it promotes balance, consistancy and allows for effective planning while out of contact with the GM.

A rules heavy game can take a lot of load off a GM because rather than having to decide everything on his own he can simply refer his players to the manuals when they have questions. If they come up with something he disagrees with he can always make his own rulings.

As someone who is designing his own rules light system though I don't imagine this is what you wanted to hear.

I am my own rule!
For games of style (SLA, D&D, Cyberpunk), I tend to drop the rules, or at the least play them very loose, when it comes to combat or action scenes. I'll use stats and dice as a guide, but going "-3 for snap fire, +1 fire laser painter,-1 for range,+1 for phase of the moon, etc" for each shot can serious ruin the flow of a cinemagraphic narrative.

Horror and political games (Kult, Cthulhu, Vampire) I tend to be a bit more harsh.

I run D20 not because it is rules heavy or light, but because I know the system so well that it doesn't get in the way. If a player has a question I know the answer and we move on. If the player disagrees they can look it up, but I don't wait or argue with them. I'm not saying this to brag but I think any D20 GM needs to know the system very well in order for the game to run smoothly. When you know it well, the D20 system is very self-consistent and logical and can actually make the game run quicker and smoother because the way the world works is understood.

I think your problem is that you are trying to run D&D without knowing the system. Your players are probably frustrated because when they got into a D&D game they did the prep work of picking skills and feats and learning how they worked. So when you run D&D 'loose' because you don't know how it works they get upset because they apparently wasted their time.

Bottom line is that you should run the game you understand best and can run best. You shouldn't be upset at the games you won't take the time to learn or the players who did take the time to learn those games.

I realize the GM puts a lot more work into preping adventures and the campaign world than the players do it learning rules and making characters, but that doesn't mean you can throw out rules and expect you players to be ok with it. When you pick a system with your gaming group you are agreeing to use that system and you need to honor that unspoken agreement.

Scott, I don't think that's entirely fair. Yes, the DM should knwo the rules fairly well. But a loose gaming style isn't necessarily about not knowing the rules. It's a more of a personality thing or style of play. At a certain point, all rules systems get arbitrary; plus no matter how complex, they can't cover every detail of the current situation. Given that, some people prefer to make something up that matches the situation than go with the rules as written.

This brings something else up. If it's important to know the rules, why not make the rules dirt simple so that anyone can memorize them? A more complex simulation is not always a more realistic one. Is it really necessary to memorize a hundred pages of rules just to have fun with a game? I think rpgs hit a ceiling in their popularity 20 years ago because of this issue. I think that there are millions of smart and creative people who would enjoy roleplaying but who balked at the idea of having buy a bunch of books and spend hours learning the rules just to see if they like the game.

I agree. Playing a rules lite game is fine. A lot of people find they get a lot better role-playing (usually meaning immersive) with fewer rules. But if that is your style, find a system that supports it.

D&D flat does not support rule-lite gaming. What happens if the GM wants to play fast and loose in a D&D game and they decide not to use a battlemat and forget about attacks of opportunity (AoOs) so the game moves more quickly? Well if they established this before they started the campaign they might be all right. If not, they have hosed most of their players who created characters with things like Mobility (avoiding AoOs), Combat Reflexes (additional AoOs), the Tumble skill (avoiding AoOs), Cleave, reach weapons, sneak attacks (often requires flanking and therefore a visual representation), and on and on and on. Most of the feats and skills in D&D are now integrated with the combat mechanics.

Again, you don't need feats and skills at all to have a great role-playing experience. I don't think D20 is the greatest system ever. I'm just saying if you run D&D you owe it to your players to run it right. If you aren't willing to do that you should run something else.

There's a great "rules lite" system out there called Risus - The Everything RPG, by S. John Ross. It's a d6 system that has no stats. Instead characters have "cliches" that describe loosely what they're like. I'm terrible at rules and even I can understand Risus. That said, I personally prefer a little more structure than Risus provides. It's really intended for spur-of-the-moment games with a lighter tone. If you want classic fantasy with all the trimmings, Risus is probably not your best choice.

I favor lite rules -- I've said it here and there on these boards, but...more often than not...I've heavy rules drag down and essentially ruin a game. This is especially true where action should be quick paced...such as Star Wars or Shadowrun.

I rely on rules mostly for combat -- a guy's ability to hit and do damage.

Secondly...I rely on rules as a random factor. It's fun, sometimes, to role a die and see what happens. There are moments where something is up in the air...and it's something not necessarily addressed by the rules. For example...suppose a NPC is a position where he must choose A or B...but is legitimately uncertain which course to take. I roll a die...give it a 50-50 shot...and see where the cards lay.

Thirdly...I use rules for skills / feats. I'm really lite on the rules in this regard and rarely roll for these things. If a guy has a climbing skill...and he wants to climb a wall...and there's really no plot-related reason to make him roll...I let it happen.

I hate GM's who make player's roll everytime they try and do something. I tend to only roll dice when the tension will increase as a result. If 10 PC's are about to attack 4 kobolds...I often just let them hack them down...there's no real excitement there. But, if they're confronted by a elder wrym...sure, let's see how it plays out.

So...that's the very cluttered way of saying I generally only roll when it makes the game more exciting.

Well, I'm developing what could be considered a rules-moderate system to compete almost directly with d20...but mine can go either way. d20 seems to me that it cannot go rule-light. Mine, on the other hand, will have a set of guidelines in the book for you to simplify combat, and if the demand exists, I'll also write a Timelords-style injury, miscast, and magic book that has an unnecessary level of complexity, just for the people who want it (I'm a math nut. I love writing that kind of junk, even though I will NEVER use something that complicated in a game unless I'm testing it, lol).

As a gamer, though...rules-moderate for me. I like roleplaying more than rule-playing but I also like tactical combat (I'm also a wargamer). Give me a system that has a bit of both - or better, how about I give you one? ;)

These are some of the reasons we have not yet moved to 3/3.5 -- too damn many rules. Sure, perhaps there are the same gross amount of rules as 2nd Edition, but still... how cumbersome combat seems to have become! We've long since moved from miniatures and mats to a more open and free-flowing style of game. The only reason for using miniatures now (for us), is when a situation isn't entirely clear-- and even then, we pretty much use dice to represent who is who.

But this just gets back to the same old thread about 2ed vs 3ed. More to the point of this thread, I agree with most of the postings that the group should incorporate the level of rules they are comfortable with.

Again, 'Timer - seriously not trying to restart the argument - combat in 3.5 gets pretty easy after a while. Personally, I find it easier to run, especially in large fights with a lot of combatants.

As far as the whole 'heavy vs. light' thing goes, it depends on what I'm in the mood for. If I want a lot of realism and plan on centering a lot of the campaign on combat, rules-heavy is my preferred way (I'm starting a GURPS campaign soon and positively drooling over it). If I want more emphasis on roleplay and problem-solving, rules-light works better, as with CoC's BRP system.

Yeah, but I'll be grumbling, kicking, gnashing etc... as I am inexorably pulled into 3.5. ;)

But you're right; no need to revisit that thread yet again.

The game of BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth) is a game based on 2d6 system. It's simple to use and you can make it as complex as you need it to be and provides a challenge for players and GMs of all experiences and prefrences. My entire group for BESM are D+D players and from other RPGs, and all of us like the game (exept one bad apple who we just don't invite anymore, but he hates us and the game anyways). There are alot of people who hate the system, but the system revolves more around role-playing than combat and you barely even need a map for most of the modules. But watch out, characters can become very powereful even at low character points. Just remember it's based off of Anime and in anime buildings and planets tend to get destroyed easily.
The core book will run about $25, not sure about the d20 version (yes, even a d20 version!)

(Man, do I sound like a salesman.)

Using all those rules are dumb and boring. It slows everything down. PC's who think they know it all are killed very soon in the campaign.

I'm the same as timer when it comes to miniatures. Its something I picked up from my first GM who felt that using miniatures pulled players out of the experience, and was a visual distraction that took away from the mental picture each player had of a situation.

I'm agreed on that, though we have had occasional problems when a player's mental picture didn't match the GM's knowledge of the situation, but that is often the fault of a GM not explaining him or herself properly.

We do still occasionally resort to diagrams or dice to show where characters are in a particularly complex battle situation, or one where cover is a major factor.