Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rules Heavy vs. Rules Light Systems

Someone asked me today what brought about my sudden interest rules heavy role playing games. This question came as kind of a shock. Then, it hit me, since I’ve become more active on Google Plus, joined a number of RPG communities, partaken in the Giant Dragons gamer chats, and been playing games through Google Hangouts, a majority of the games have been more rules light—FATE Core, Savage Worlds, Apocalypse World, Fiasco, and so on.

Here is the secret. I have played those games because I was interested to try something new. For the longest time, however, I have always been more interested in what would typically be considered more rules heavy RPGs—various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, Palladium Rifts, Shadowrun, and more.

Now, I am not here to define a rules light or a rules heavy game. There’s enough people out there that have trouble agreeing on what a role playing game is, let alone to start defining the different genres and sub-genres. For me, there is a big difference between these games. I like the games that have more rules—rules like D&D, Pathfinder, and Spycraft. The OGL and D20 rules sets gave me a level of customization that I enjoy in games. However, I look at things from other systems that I enjoy and how the things I like in those games can be used in others.

For example, I’d love to take a something like the Gilded Cage by White Wolf for their old World of Darkness setting and bring that into other games. It offered a complex and in depth look at influence and status and how that alone provides for a challenging and fun game in and of itself. The aspects from FATE, however, are awesome and can be useful for just about any game. Plus, it just seems easier to find people willing and wanting to play these lighter systems over the Internet. I believe it may be because of a lack of investment in online games by players, so easier rules requires less of an investment. It’s kind of a circular pattern.

Myself, personally, I do not really enjoy one shot games. I like to play in longer campaigns. I enjoy my hobby and I want to feel the benefit of being invested in it. I like taking time to create a character, figure different statstics, find different ways to make things work together. In fact, that is one of the reasons I enjoy more rules heavy systems. I believe that rules do a few things. They give us a framework to work in. They help to support the story, not interefere. You know, I came up loving comic books. I’ve heard the “who is faster?/who is stronger?/who would win?” as much if not more than anyone else. Rules give us a way to measure all of those sorts of things.


Sometimes, the rules present us with a challenge to find clever ways to do things, and I do not find that problematic in the least. The rules light systems seem to me to be much more arbitrary in nature. They can be fun, don’t get me wrong. But, they just aren’t the same.