Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Rules vs. the Game

I've spent a lot of time lately looking over rule books trying to pick a game system to run, and it's finally stuck me that I've been going about it all wrong. I've been looking at rules and really not thinking about the game. The rules are NOT the game. The rules are a framework around which the game happens and spending too much time over-thinking the rules can kill the game.

Now I've never been much of a slave to the rules. In fact I don't much care for the rules. Oh sure, I buy a lot of rule books but in the end, the rules don't much interest me. I'm far more interested in the sense of atmosphere that a game creates with me. Of all of the games that I've ever played, the only one that I would truly say I "knew" was D&D way back in the day. I could barely remember the multiplication tables, but man did I know D&D. I had the combat tables committed to memory. I knew the saving throws for all the classes. I barely needed the books for anything except to provide inspiration, and they did that in spades. The artwork and the writing, while considered by many today to be substandard, still evokes a sense of wonder that I can't find in many other places.

Time passed and I played and ran other games. Gaming culture shifted and I found myself looking for rule-sets that would allow me to tell the types of stories that I wanted to tell. And that's where I fell off the boat. Role playing games are many things to many people. Lots of folks especially today really want to tell deep stories with interesting characters, and that's great for them. I used to want to do that too, and in fact I still want to but now I write fiction rather than try to turn my games into my fiction.

My idea of gaming isn't about a gamemaster telling his story, it's about a bunch of people finding out what the story is and having fun while they do it. The story may be deep and interesting, but it may just as easily be a story about creeping around an ancient ruins and looting the hell out of everything they find. They key is to get a group of people and have fun playing a game.