Dungeons and Dragons Next is being designed as a “rules light” game (similar to 3e) but with rules modules that can make it a “rules heavy” game. I’ve been doing more and more research on game design, and though I consider Ryan Dancey to be the most negative force in TTRPG history, here was something he said in 2005…
In my experience, most "rules lite" game systems simply substitute written rules for ad hoc rules made on the spot as necessary by GMs.
There are two big problems with that shift:
1) The GM has to be really good. Good enough to be an on the fly game designer. I'd call that person "extremely rare" and wouldn't try to base a business around their existence.
2) Game experience is not portable. What you learn with one GM may be exactly the opposite of how the rules are applied when you switch GMs. This creates network inefficiencies. Network inefficencies are bad.
I observed (2-way mirror) several groups who were given "rules lite" RPG systems as a part of an effort to understand how they were used and if the "liteness" was actually delivering any utility value. Using a stopwatch, we found that consistently zero time was saved in character creation, or adjudicating disputes. In fact, in some games, disputes lasted substantially longer because the GM could not just point to a written rule in a book and call the argument closed.
My opinion is that most people think "rules lite" games are simpler and better because they desperately want them to be, not because they are.
First, I think I do agree that with “most” DM’s a rules light game is no better than a rules heavy game and in fact rules heavy games are much more easy for a new DM to master (for the reasons given above) but for that guy who is good enough to be an “extremely rare on the fly designer” for them, a rules lite system is much more beneficial (at least in my experience)
That said a few questions…
1) What benefits do you see in a rules lite or rules heavy system? (Do you agree or disagree with Dancey?)
2) Do you plan on using the optional rules modules when you run (to create a more complex game, or a game more similar to 4e) or will you use “the standard” rules? And why?
3) Do you believe that the optional rules modules have been given enough play testing time so far? IE would you request that rules modules receive as much play testing as the standard rules or none at all?