Rules Lite vs Rules Heavy

71 posts / 0 new
Last post

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?

"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
3e was rules light? I would argue against that. When compared to 4e, maybe, but compared to other systems it had a lot of rules and crunch.
My two copper.
I did not find 3E to be a rules light game.

Basic D&D was rules light.

Any game that DMs or PCs must refer to a manual during game play is rules heavy.

A game that requires very little reference to game rules is rule light.

I think you can have an excellent rules light game if rules are very intuitive and comprehensive and not ad hoc rulings by the DM.
 
3e was rules light? I would argue against that. When compared to 4e, maybe, but compared to other systems it had a lot of rules and crunch.



Actually, 4e was more rules light when you consider the unified mechanics. You don't need to learn a bunch of subsystems or anything. No edition of D&D since AD&D came out is anything I would consider "rules lite", though. 
your probably right, 3e was rules lite-er than 4e but then again, most games are and yet do you consider the current packet rules lite or rules heavy? what would make it lite-er or heavy-er?
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
"Rules lite", to me anyway, is something like BRP. Very barebones and straightforward.
Current packet seems intermediate to me. It's definately rules lite compared to 3e or 4e, but still a bit crunchy.
My two copper.
Current packet seems intermediate to me. It's definately rules lite compared to 3e or 4e, but still a bit crunchy.



Which is fine. I expect crunchy from D&D. It's the taste of the crunchy bits that I currently have a problem with. :P
How can anyone think 3e was rules light. You had each individual spell was 1/4 - 2 pages of rules. Then combine the fact that spellcasting and melee attacks worked on wildly different rule systems, and the sheer number of rules required for basic combat options (3e charge, grapple, unarmed attack rules, opportunity attacks, etc). I don't think we ever played a game of 3e where someone didn't need to look something up every 5 minutes because there were too many fidly rules to memorize them all.

In 4e we never have to look at a core rule book. If you stripped away "powers" from 4e, 4e would actually have a much more simple core than 5e. 

Which is why I am sad that the designers arent using a single streamlined simplification from 4e and instead are opting to make rules as clunky and awkward as possible... 
How can anyone think 3e was rules light. You had each individual spell was 1/4 - 2 pages of rules. Then combine the fact that spellcasting and melee attacks worked on wildly different rule systems, and the sheer number of rules required for basic combat options (3e charge, grapple, unarmed attack rules, opportunity attacks, etc). I don't think we ever played a game of 3e where someone didn't need to look something up every 5 minutes because there were too many fidly rules to memorize them all.

In 4e we never have to look at a core rule book. If you stripped away "powers" from 4e, 4e would actually have a much more simple core than 5e. 

Which is why I am sad that the designers arent using a single streamlined simplification from 4e and instead are opting to make rules as clunky and awkward as possible... 



Same. I would have preferred to see them use what they did with Gamma World as a baseline. It worked extremely well and is close to what I would consider "rules light".
 
How can anyone think 3e was rules light. You had each individual spell was 1/4 - 2 pages of rules. Then combine the fact that spellcasting and melee attacks worked on wildly different rule systems, and the sheer number of rules required for basic combat options (3e charge, grapple, unarmed attack rules, opportunity attacks, etc). I don't think we ever played a game of 3e where someone didn't need to look something up every 5 minutes because there were too many fidly rules to memorize them all.

In 4e we never have to look at a core rule book. If you stripped away "powers" from 4e, 4e would actually have a much more simple core than 5e. 

Which is why I am sad that the designers arent using a single streamlined simplification from 4e and instead are opting to make rules as clunky and awkward as possible... 



Same. I would have preferred to see them use what they did with Gamma World as a baseline. It worked extremely well and is close to what I would consider "rules light".
 



I do hope that someday someone makes a rules light 4.5e based off the new Gamma World core. I could see a fast simple system based off that really working.
How can anyone think 3e was rules light. You had each individual spell was 1/4 - 2 pages of rules. Then combine the fact that spellcasting and melee attacks worked on wildly different rule systems, and the sheer number of rules required for basic combat options (3e charge, grapple, unarmed attack rules, opportunity attacks, etc). I don't think we ever played a game of 3e where someone didn't need to look something up every 5 minutes because there were too many fidly rules to memorize them all.

In 4e we never have to look at a core rule book. If you stripped away "powers" from 4e, 4e would actually have a much more simple core than 5e. 

Which is why I am sad that the designers arent using a single streamlined simplification from 4e and instead are opting to make rules as clunky and awkward as possible... 



Same. I would have preferred to see them use what they did with Gamma World as a baseline. It worked extremely well and is close to what I would consider "rules light".
 



I do hope that someday someone makes a rules light 4.5e based off the new Gamma World core. I could see a fast simple system based off that really working.



I'm thinking someone will make a 4e clone using the 13th Age OGL at some point.

Gamma World just seemed like the logical choice for DDN. It is the 4e foundation, but it is extremely stripped down. They would have an elegant core system that is already very modular, and it is very simple to pick up and learn. You could literally put anything on top of that system and make a good D&D game out of it. Instead of this hodge podge mess of subsystems and gimmicks that we have right now.

They're trying to reinvent the wheel, and it is completely unnecessary. If not Gamma World, SWSE was another good place to start.  
Personally I consider a game rules light when the players don't have to refer to anything other than their sheets for resolution.

Instead of benefits, it is easier to describe the flaws. Rules light requires GMs to have improvised system mastery or a VERY tight player synchronization. Rules Heavy game require the designers to have system mastery in order to gain player synchronization.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I prefer rules light games. I want the core rules of a game to be unified, streamlined, and simple. This allows for ease of DMing, quickness of system comprehension, and ease of improvisation.

A game like Savage Worlds is rules light enough that I can both play and run a game without ever needing to look at a rulebook. I find this very freeing as it allows me to focus on RP and the story, instead of getting bogged down in minutia.

This is what drew me to 4e compared to 3e. The 4e core is very rules light. Somewhere along the way though power design became too complicated. 4e PCs began to have too many moving parts and while the system resolution was simple, the PCs started growing too complicated.

5e looked like it was heading the right direction by focusing on "rules light" play, but they began codifying too many conditions already. PCs have already become quite complicated, and the rules are far from streamlined or elegant at this point. I think the 5e rules could look better with some nice polish, but we will have to see where the design goes.     
Personally I consider a game rules light when the players don't have to refer to anything other than their sheets for resolution.


I agree witht he caveat that the character sheet has to be less than a few pages.  Only Basic (and maybe Expert) D&D (and OD&D) ever met that criteria.  I could even take a wizard and cut and paste the spell descriptions for his spellbook onto a single sheet of paper.

I suspect that D&D Next's Basic rules will also be rules light.  I don't expect the Standard Rules will be, though. 
(facepalm) I didnt want this to be a "which edition was really more complex?" edition war, there is no doubt that the playtest packet is less complex than the entirety of 4e right? 

Thank you Orzel for getting it back on track...

I think thats what Dancey was saying when he said...

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.

In a rules heavy game, every aspect of interaction and action are controlled, not only this but the rules in which those actions are controled are extremely detailed and specific not demanding of any explanation or interpetation. That also makes the rules/game extremely limiting, there is no room for improv, a set of wings of flying works exactly as described and no other way.

Personally think those network inefficiencies are just fine, they allow a good DM to be good and a bad DM to be bad, and your expirences will vary accordingly. 

A system that allows one to do both is best, which is why I love the idea of rules modules, what I'm concerned about is the fact that it seems they are aiming for the sky as to what they claim they will accomplish and they are shooting very low with the mutability of the packets as we've seen so far.
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
(facepalm) I didnt want this to be a "which edition was really more complex?" edition war, there is no doubt that the playtest packet is less complex than the entirety of 4e right?



I think 5e  has the potential to be less complicated, but currently is about the same or even more.

Compare the PHB 1 4e wizard to the 5e wizard for example.

In 4e the wizard had 5 spells to keep track of (2 at-will, 1 encounter, and 1 daily spells that could be switched out for a second on a daily basis). The wizard also had 4 trained skills, 1 feat, and 4 defenses (AC/F/R/W).

In 5e  the wizard has almost twice as many spells to keep track of (3+ at-will spells, 3 daily spells that can be chosen from a wide range spells prepared, and a signiture spell). The wizard then has 5 trained skills, 1 feat, and 7 defenses. Add to this the fact that his spells do not follow a unified mechanic such as roll an attack vs a target's defense, and that the 5e wizard must keep track of Save DCs, and magic attack bonus separately, I would say the first level 5e wizard is maybe 3 to 4x as complicated as the 4e wizard. Considering also that spells are more wordy in complicated in 5e than in 4e, I'm not really sure if 5e will be a less complicated game overall, at least not for spellcasters.

In 4e we never have to look at a core rule book. If you stripped away "powers" from 4e, 4e would actually have a much more simple core than 5e. 
 


If you strip away powers from 4E, what do you have left?
1)      What benefits do you see in a rules lite or rules heavy system? (Do you agree or disagree with Dancey?)

I'm curious what rules-light games he was playing. Some of his points are understandable, but I think it's more difficult to make a good rules-light game, and more work to make a rules heavy one. A good rules-light game will have enough mechanical complexity to support roleplaying, while enough simplicity that a handful of rules will easily cover a broad variety of different situations. That is a difficult balance to strike, although I can agree that it can be made up for (as most problems with an RPG can be) with DM skill and experience. As far as rules arguments, I can't see rules-light being just as long as rules-heavy. The GM says you roll this to figure things out, how do you argue with a rules-light game? In a heavy game, you can always go back and say "but the rules say..." (not that this is a good argument, but I've seen players try it).

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?

If the modules are well designed, the D&DN I run (if I do at all) will look startlingly similar to 13th Age. That is, closer to 4e than anything else, but without the big glaring faults of 4e.

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?

Honestly, as much as I say that with rules modules, the bulk of the complaints on this forum are empty talk that will be solved, I honestly expect WotC to bungle the advanced rules modules. Releasing them late, without a lot of support, with a lot of problems, and without fully testing them will let them make more money, at the direct cost of consumer enjoyment. I don't think any of the advanced rules modules have been tested so far; WotC is still trying to figure out core (and if it takes them this long to figure out core, how long will it take them to make a good analogy for the systems in 3e? 4e?).

Supporting an edition you like does not make you an edition warrior. Demanding that everybody else support your edition makes you an edition warrior.

Why do I like 13th Age? Because I like D&D: http://magbonch.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/first-impressions-13th-age/

AzoriusGuildmage- "I think that you simply spent so long playing it, especially in your formative years with the hobby, that you've long since rationalized or houseruled away its oddities, and set it in your mind as the standard for what is and isn't reasonable in an rpg."

In 4e we never have to look at a core rule book. If you stripped away "powers" from 4e, 4e would actually have a much more simple core than 5e. 
 


If you strip away powers from 4E, what do you have left?



The 4e based Gamma World. An extremly simple system with a highly flexible core.
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?


Rules-heavy systems do offer a more standardized experience, which is good for players but restrictive for DMs. If I like the system, as a DM, then I would appreciate how the extra rules help to get all of the players on the same page.

I expect everyone will use some optional modules (at least, anyone with a little experience, once they understand what those modules do). I'll probably use some of the more complex, rules-fiddly modules (like swapping out advantage for a number of small +1 or +2 bonuses), just because my player base is more used to Pathfinder and I value consistency over ease of gameplay.


I honestly don't think it's as important to test the optional modules. I mean, they'll need some testing to find the big problems, but anyone who is comfortable with implementing an optional module should be more than comfortable with making small changes to that module to fix minor flaws, and they can always update the module at a later point if it gets really out of hand. Not that I would advocate using that as an excuse for poor design, of course.

The metagame is not the game.

(facepalm) I didnt want this to be a "which edition was really more complex?" edition war, there is no doubt that the playtest packet is less complex than the entirety of 4e right? 



Not really. Actually in its current form it is more complex than 4e (considering PHB1 and DMG1) even if it has less pages. But the current playtest is not representative of the Basic game, so we'll have to see about how that will shape up.  


I think thats what Dancey was saying when he said...

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.

In a rules heavy game, every aspect of interaction and action are controlled, not only this but the rules in which those actions are controled are extremely detailed and specific not demanding of any explanation or interpetation. That also makes the rules/game extremely limiting, there is no room for improv, a set of wings of flying works exactly as described and no other way.

Personally think those network inefficiencies are just fine, they allow a good DM to be good and a bad DM to be bad, and your expirences will vary accordingly. 


I agree with you. The great thing about TT RPG is that the experience can be very different according to the people involved. Sometimes it won't work, but other times you get to see and discover the game from a very differnt perspective, which is enriching.


A system that allows one to do both is best, which is why I love the idea of rules modules, what I'm concerned about is the fact that it seems they are aiming for the sky as to what they claim they will accomplish and they are shooting very low with the mutability of the packets as we've seen so far.



Yeah. To be honest it looks like they are making this up as they go along. I don't see a grand design for a modular system emerging so far. If they can get Basic and Standard in a functional state by the end, with few options in Advanced it will be an accomplishment already.

Lawolf- Then maybe I should look at gamma world, and see what made it so different than 4e which I didnt see as flexible in the least.

Blacksheep- unfortunately I think you may be entirely right in your prediction of how WotC will handle rules modules, and that is going to be my main reason for supporting or not supporting 5th.

Saelorn- you see pathfinder as consistant? Interesting, I have almost the opposite view of PF.

About untested advanced rules modules... that worries me a lot, because I expect that the advanced rules will be much more complex than the core rules which means they would need even more playtesting to be sound IE not poor design.  
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
I find more rules is easier. If I need to refer to something then it is there for me to look for. 
IMAGE(http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y152/RockNrollBabe20/Charmed-supernatural-and-charmed_zps8bd4125f.jpg)
The one big thing I loved about 4E Gamma World was the way it treated armor and weapons. You didn't become proficient in the great sword...you became proficient in 2-handed heavy melee weapons. How you described that weapon (what the weapon actually was) was entirely up to you. Same for light melee weapons, heavy thrown weapons, light armor, heavy armor, and so on. The game gives you the basic numbers, and you get to fill in all the blanks.

My first PC in 4E Gamma World was a giant pyrokinetic cockroach who wielded a 2x4 with a rusty nail in it (2-handed heavy melee weapon), a brick (heavy thrown weapon) and his light armor was an XXL-sized t-shirt with metal bottle caps sewn all over it. He also owned an old pickup truck with no gas in it at all. He kept it in perfect condition, but never got to drive it as he never found any gas. The amount of creative control the game gives the players is great, and truly fosters a wonderful RP experience.
"The world is indeed comic, but the joke is on mankind." - H.P. Lovecraft
Saelorn- you see pathfinder as consistant? Interesting, I have almost the opposite view of PF.

I just mean that "prone is a -4 penalty to AC, increasing the chance to be hit by an objective 20% " is more consistent than "prone grants advantage to the attack, increasing the chance to be hit by an amount between 5% and 25% depending on the original chance to hit"; it's a lot of fiddly rules (too many, to be honest), but each one is very precise and consistent within its individual implementation.

I suppose "advantage is +3, always" would also be consistent, but it's not precise enough for me to differentiate between a small bonus and a large one.

The metagame is not the game.

In my experience, most "rules lite" game systems simply substitute written rules for ad hoc rules made on the spot as necessary by GMs.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true">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 disagree with both of these statements.
Number 1 is not at all true, because making calls during a game does not require nearly the same level of work or skill as designing an entire game.  Especially if the system is robust enough to handle most situations through a simple mechanic (such as the Check/Save mechanic from Next). Game systems will never be able to have rules for everything, which means the basic premise here is already lacking.  In any RPG, the DM will need to make decisions on the fly.
In fact, rules heavy systems will often harm the game.  First, they make the role of DM very imposing, as it requires so much system mastery.  There is the sense that you need to have everything memorized, and that results in many people never trying it out.  This is a shame, because DMing should be easy and open to all.  It shouldn't be an exclusive club.  Second, having to look up rules in the middle of a game really slows things down and distracts from the action.  And the fact that the system is rules heavy makes it much more likely there will be an actual rule for any given situation.  Since most people don't like making something up when there is a rule for it, it means the group will feel pressure to look it up on the spot.  And even if they don't look it up you are just back to where you would be in a rules light system.
As for Number 2, this has been true for the entire history of D&D (and applies to any RPG).  The game itself has always been designed around the idea that you make it your own.  Every group plays differently, uses different houserules and options, applies or uses rules differently (or not at all), etc.  D&D is not a game like Scrabble, in which the goal is to have a game that is the same at every table (and I bet even games like Scrabble are played slightly different between groups).  An RPG can work in that way (for example, things like Living Forgotten Realms, where there are set rules that govern game play across all tables), but that isn't the base goal.  And because most gamers understand this, it doesn't cause a problem.  For example, my DM once restricted us to playing as Elves, Half-elves, Eladrin, Drow, or Tieflings.  Later, when another friend DMed, I was not at all confused when he didn't use that restriction.  The default assumption with D&D is that each game is different; that is a strength, not a weakness.
In 4e we never have to look at a core rule book. If you stripped away "powers" from 4e, 4e would actually have a much more simple core than 5e. 
 


If you strip away powers from 4E, what do you have left?



You'd have a very simple core defined by unified mechanics instead of multiple subsystems. Skills, defenses, page 42, durations, etc.... it is far more simple than what we have now. Unified mechanics means less memorization of rules and far less system mastery.

You can play the game with nothing but the core rules and page 42.

The DDN wizard is more complicated than the 4e wizard, and the DDN fighter is more complicated than the Slayer and Knight. AoE's are much harder to adjudicate. There are no consistent rules for advantage/disadvantage... really... I don't see how DDN is simple here in comparison. In some ways, the lack of a mat can make things more complicated, as well. Especially when it comes to large scale fights. 13th Age manages to handle mapless play far better by going to the zone based combat system.
4E was pretty light on rules, without all the powers. Heck, even the core of GURPS was pretty light on rules, but I don't think rules light versus rules heavy means much, it is how the rules evolve that is important. So if the basic rules set some core expectations, then you don't have to relearn those with an advance versions of the game. Where 4E had firm boundaries in respect to how rules interacted, 5E is more free form with varied subsystems. That makes the design more complex regardless of the amount of rules. It is not always certain how rules interact. 1E or 2E is probably fhe worse for varied sub-systems, but they didn't have to contend with feats (another big offender) or an action economy run amuck like 3E. 4E had a similar problem with free actions. Feats are also notorius for tacking on features that have no regard for the game overall.
I think it's horribly naive to think that more printed rules means more consistency from one DM to the next.
I don't think there is a difference between riules light and heavy.

However, there is a huge difference between intuitive rules and complex rules.  That is what should be looked at. 
1) I agree with Dancey. Inconsistency between DMs is a huge problem in a game like Shadowrun, where there are ridiculously complex rules for unintuitive systems (like hacking the Matrix). Entire character archetypes and subsystems play differently depending on how loose the rules are, because DMs interpet those rules differently. If you throw out complex rules and substitute them for simpler, yet unintuitive and wishy-washy, rules, then the same problem presents itself.

2) I like to house-rule, so I hope plethora optional modules are available so at least I can put an official stamp on most of my house rules. I generally house rule what the community agrees is bad, so there better be a lot of optional modules guided by community input.

3) There really aren't many optional modules now. The resting rules are the only ones that springs to mind, and they are pretty "meh." None of them seem too well thought out. I would prefer to see some testing, enough to state the pros and cons of any optional module right there next to the rule itself. Let the DMs in on a little of that game design.
(facepalm) I didnt want this to be a "which edition was really more complex?" edition war, there is no doubt that the playtest packet is less complex than the entirety of 4e right?



I think 5e  has the potential to be less complicated, but currently is about the same or even more.

Compare the PHB 1 4e wizard to the 5e wizard for example.

In 4e the wizard had 5 spells to keep track of (2 at-will, 1 encounter, and 1 daily spells that could be switched out for a second on a daily basis). The wizard also had 4 trained skills, 1 feat, and 4 defenses (AC/F/R/W).

In 5e  the wizard has almost twice as many spells to keep track of (3+ at-will spells, 3 daily spells that can be chosen from a wide range spells prepared, and a signiture spell). The wizard then has 5 trained skills, 1 feat, and 7 defenses. Add to this the fact that his spells do not follow a unified mechanic such as roll an attack vs a target's defense, and that the 5e wizard must keep track of Save DCs, and magic attack bonus separately, I would say the first level 5e wizard is maybe 3 to 4x as complicated as the 4e wizard. Considering also that spells are more wordy in complicated in 5e than in 4e, I'm not really sure if 5e will be a less complicated game overall, at least not for spellcasters.




i cant believe this, how do you function in life if you cant keep track of things? i have played a wizard in all the earlier versions of dnd and never have i had trouble keeping track of my spells because:

1. im not a mess, im organized
2. i can read, i know what the spells in my book do
3. i write down what i take that day so i know my options.
4. spells are "wordy" i guess that also explains why we as a country are dropping in ranking for reading, science, math ect

honestly feats piss me off, I wanna slap whoever came up with the idea for GURPS, that was one of the big factors that made me turn against 4th ed, when my fighter wanted to do something that was already a rogue feat. Each feat allows a character to break in some way a rule in the core, each character can have a number of them, take a large party add up all the feats, and you got a pile of rulebreaks that most need to be remembered or read and re-read every time their used.


I hate feats, game was much better without them.   
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax
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.



Has to be really good, enough to be an on-the-fly game designer?  Not if the system is designed to aid in ad-hoc rulings, like D&D 4E's p.42, or 13th Age. (5E does have half the necessary aid for ad-hoc rulings with its unified DC table... but due to the lack of rules regarding improvised damage, it's still not complete).

Character creation in any system, rules-lite or rules-heavy, isn't so much dependent on the nature of the system, but a combination of available options and the relative ease at which to process the character creation steps.  A rules-lite system where you have 3 stats that you place 2 points in (and virtually nothing else) will certainly be faster than a rules-heavy system where you have 6 stats that you roll 4d6 drop lowest + choose between predetermined character packages (be it builds, classes, or both), but if both systems have six stats and both rules-lite and rules-heavy systems have tons of options available, then yeah there's no real difference in terms of creation speed.

Faster rules adjudication requires intra-group trust and a good memory, regardless of amount of rules.

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?


1) Before I answer the question, I'd like to point out that the important aspects of a system would be its Mechanics (rules), Dynamics (the way the rules interact with each other), and Aesthetics (the emotions that are evoked by the dynamics).  Regardless if the system is rules-heavy or rules-lite, if the rules aren't clear and the intended dynamics aren't well-portrayed, you will always have rules/rulings/scenario arguments.

I love both D&D 4E and 13th Age even though the former is rules-heavy and the latter is rules-lite, not only because of the relative balance found in combat, but because I consider both systems to have streamlined and easy to understand rules; indeed, I often read and hear that 4E's very easy to DM, which is also the experience I have with the system.

To answer the question...


  • Rules-heavy systems have the advantage of reliability and consistency; for instance, because by the rules Magic Missile always hits unless a counter-rule states otherwise, it *always* hits.

  • Rules-lite systems don't inherently have any advantages but if you design the system appropriately, it does allow for greater freedom of expression; the simplest comparison would be comparing 3E's super-detailed skills to 4E's more abstract skills and 5E's fairly flexible skills, and compare those with FATE's Aspects and 13th Age's Backgrounds


2) I personally prefer running enough of 5E to support my DMing style... and no, it's not a play style that involves larger amounts of complexity per se, but more of giving players a greater amount of depth relative to the complexity of their character.  If 5E Basic will be sufficient, then I'd go for 5E Basic, but if I need to go Standard or Advanced, then so be it.

Just to let you know, personally I'd prefer players to have even just 3 abilities that have infinite uses, compared to having a thousand abilities (be it ability scores, skills, feats, powers, spells or the like) that have a severely limited application.  It's part of the reason why I consider the 5E Barbarian to be a superior class to the 5E Fighter, even if combat utility-wise the 5E Fighter is superior... and why I kinda wish the Men & Magic Fighting Man wasn't one-upped by the Greyhawk Thief.

3) I prefer all material to be thoroughly playtested and taken into consideration.  This is because the lack of playtesting can and often does result in either subpar or overpowered material, both resulting in material that (especially in this time and age) would be be shot down and poor sales can be expected.  In 4E's history, the most infamous example would be Heroes of Shadow.
honestly feats piss me off, I wanna slap whoever came up with the idea for GURPS, that was one of the big factors that made me turn against 4th ed, when my fighter wanted to do something that was already a rogue feat. Each feat allows a character to break in some way a rule in the core, each character can have a number of them, take a large party add up all the feats, and you got a pile of rulebreaks that most need to be remembered or read and re-read every time their used. 


I hate feats, game was much better without them.   

It's a problem of design, not concept.  As far as I can tell, feats and skills used to be one and the same in 2E (see: Non-Weapon Proficiencies), and considering that that system was technically tacked onto 2E, it's not really surprising that through the years it was not really well-integrated into D&D.  But if the feat system was integrated in the design of the system, in a way that prevents it from overlapping from other game elements, then it could work.

It's kinda the reason why I dislike how 5E (and to some degree even 4E) executes feats, yet at the same time I welcome how 13th Age executes feats.
Show

You are Red/Blue!
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.

You are both rational and emotional. You value creation and discovery, and feel strongly about what you create. At best, you're innovative and intuitive. At worst, you're scattered and unpredictable.

D&D Home Page - What Monster Are You? - D&D Compendium

57047238 wrote:
If you're crossing the street and see a city bus barreling straight toward you with 'GIVE ME YOUR WALLET!' painted across its windshield, you probably won't be reaching for your wallet.
I Don't Always Play Strikers...But When I Do, I Prefer Vampire Stay Thirsty, My Friends
This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
damn good post chaosfang, even if I totally disagree with 4th and 13th ages approach to balance, in my opinion that being that any class can be great at anything, if your going to have classes (IE know your role) I want there to be strict and specific differences between them in more than flavor and fluff.

Regarding feats... I dont see why you need them, if you have classes the abilities of the class should be specific enough without having feats. If you have too many classes and the classes are overlapping so much that the class abilities have to be called feats and available to almost everyone then whats the point of having classes in the first place? just get rid of it all and make it a point buy system.    

 
"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gygax

Feats and skills are there to express things that class doesn't express very well. Of course class can express everything feats and skills express, but there's an emersion problem with class-based solutions to this because there are somethings people consider everyone able to do (for better or worse). In that situation, you have a few choices: 1) give all the classes that ability, 2) don't address it and just let it happen through player deliberation, 3) create a set of options that exist outside class to express those abilities, 4) deny anyone but those with the class the ability to do these "universal" things.


Option 1 is cumbersome because it means you're constantly repeating yourself a lot in the class descriptions or you're referencing the same page of stuff over and over again. It's redundant.


Option 2 isn't great because people will inevitably ask why it wasn't addressed. This leads to friction in the community.


Option 3 isn't great because it creates a system that is proscriptive about what a character can and can't do by placing value on "universal" options.


Option 4 isn't great because it leads to the need for large numbers of classes to account for every little thing.



So no matter what happens, you lose. For my money, option 2 is the best one because it lets me pick a solution that works best for me and mine. I like feats too (option 3) and I like the efforts being made to keep them from becoming too proscriptive. I also like the interesting interactions they're creating (primarily through specialty) in play.


What I'd really love to see is option 2 with option 3 presented as a variant strategy that's subservient to whatever overarching system option 2 relies on.

I prefer a rules-medium system. Complex enough to have different characters feel different, but not have the rules be so loose as to cause endless debates.

You can break down D&D characters into 3 main mechanical components: passive features (always on), active features (limited use, but predictable), and skills (contested outcome). Feats are usually of the first two, or give you an additional skill. I've not really understood why combat hasn't been folded into the skill system, but I digress.

Had 3e used a single class model (the fighter), all the other class features could have been feats. I'd prefer a distinction between "major" and "minor" feats, and have every level gain a minor feat, but a major feat every 2-3 levels. Minor feats are the ones with limited use or situational, with major feats being always on or usable frequently.

Magic Dual Color Test
I am White/Green
I am White/Green
Take The Magic Dual Colour Test - Beta today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.
I am both orderly and instinctive. I value community and group identity, defining myself by the social group I am a part of. At best, I'm selfless and strong-willed; at worst, I'm unoriginal and sheepish.
The problem is that there is "rules light" and there is "rules incomplete" - and many people (Dancy included) conflate the two.


A rules light game has very few rules, but they are abstracted and able to cover almost any situation. 

A rules incomplete has detailed rules for some things but doesn't attempt to address other areas, leaving those situations up to the DM or Player's whim.


 D&D has never really been rules light. 

The original rules were very rules incomplete - they didn't even attempt to tell you how to handle most situations outside of the few things they did cover.    The rule they did have were also lighter than the later editions - but the lack of an overall system meant it really was not a 'rules light system'.

And it is this rules -incompleteness that Dancy is really referring to.  A rules-light system uses a few rules to cover every situation rather than (as in 0D&D) a  few rules to cover a few things - and no rules to cover anything else.

AD&D added more and more subsystems to cover some of the gaps in the 0D&D rules  - but the very notion of adding unique subsystems for each new rule is the exact opposite of what a rule light system does.  AD&D was not rules light.

3.x made the first step towards what could have been a rules light system - the consolidation of the mechanics into the d20 roll.  But it also loaded the game with numerous 'exceptions' - special rules which changed what one player could do and otherwise 'broke the general rules' (i.e. feats and class features).  It also was not a rules light game - although a rules light game could have been made from its core.  It was, of course, also far more rules-complete as it covered more and more possibilities within the game with rules.

4E embraced the 'exception based design' philolsophy even further; As played it was the most rule heavy game out there.  As with 3.x, a rules-light game could have been made from its core - you just had to strip out all of the powers and feats, leaving people with their basic attacks and a few at-will attacks.  It was also the most rules-complete game to date, with the rules so formalized for most circumstances that some players started to feel as if their opportunity for improvisation outside of the rules was being stifled.

5E, like the last two, is built upon a core that could be rules light - but then it is loaded down with spells and feats - with bits of exception based design - that 'weigh down' the rules so that they are not light.  But it is still rules-lighter than 4E and 3.x.  On the other hand - it is also unfinished so it is hard to say how rules-heavy it will end up being.  It is also the first edition where the designers have discussed releasing a version of the rules which are intentionally lacking many of those features - a rules-lighter version. 

And even the basic (rules-lightest) game of 5E will most likely be more rules-complete than the AD&D and 0D&D games.  For example - it attempts to convert most actions into an ability check is an attempt to provide one rules to cover a large number of different situations.  If they were to take out the spells and feats and add in a 'page 42' to replace them they would be getting far closer to a rules-light system.

But I don't think that is what most D&D players want.  Players want their characters to be special snowflakes and (so it appears) would rather sacrifice flexibility in play for the ability to customize their character (old school:  anyone can try to knock someone prone; new school: I want a feat to let me knock somone prone.  old school:  anyone can dual wield; new school: I want a feat to let me dual wield. old school:  anyone can try to stick a shield out and block an attack on an ally; new school: I want a feat to let me block an attack on an ally).

The feat approach does reduce arguments about what works and what doesn't, and it does give you consistency among tables (as Dancy noted).  But an actual attempt to create a rules light system - for example through the use of page 42 and an ability check stunt system - could solve that but D&D has never tried to be a rules light system and thus despite the existence of the elements necessary for such a system buried here or there in the rules has never done that.

If you want rules light D&D - toss out the feats, toss out the skills, toss out the spells.   Add in a version of 'page 42' and some ability score stunt information.  Replace the feats with the ability score stunts (you want to block the attack - make a dex check to see if you get your shield in place fast enough, etc.).  Replace the spells with some basic attack forms (acid, fire, etc.) and some rules about shape and range - and use page 42 to determine how much damage you do based on your level and whether you are attacking one target or many.  You want to do something beyond damage - add in some 'abillity score stunting' to see whether it worked (you want to freeze the ground in front of them to make them trip - go ahead and try...)

It could be done.

But it also means that you would lose what some people seem to think is one of the 'most important'  parts of modern D&D - blocks of text on their character sheet intended to show how their character is different from the character next to them.  That very ability to build a customized character is what keeps D&D from ever being a rules light game.

Carl

A rules light game has very few rules, but they are abstracted and able to cover almost any situation. 

Carl



Pesonaly i think if you go rules light you might want to go guidence heavy.
Giving lots of examples of these few abstracted rules can cover many situations.

So when a situation arives you can look trough these exapmples to find somthing simular.
This might also profice the consistency between gaming tables, somthing people who prefer rules hevy are afraid will be lost in a rules lignt system as difrences from one Dm to the next might be very big.
It also depends on the scope of rules and what is included. So 4E would be rules heavy if you consider all the items available in the compendium, whille looking at 3.5 and OGL (third parties) it reaches the same level of rules if it does not excceed it. Just like GURPS is very flexible with advantages/disadvantages/skill use and equipment, but when you look at the core it is fairly light. So over the history of the game, if it is successful, it will always move towards rules heavy just because the nature of adding more content.

That is why consistent rule interaction and expectations trumps the amount of rules. Or more important adherence to the prinicple whenever you add something to the game. 
Sign In to post comments