Discordant Thoughts

There are a couple of things I would like to write about this time.

The first is Marc’s Discord server. He has dropped the link on the ICE forums but that was a while ago so I thought I would repost it here.

Aby channel for discussion is better with more people involved.

https://discord.gg/6RP8Wyn

The second thing I want to talk about was inspired by a couple of things that were said in the discord discussion. These were “not sure why everybody likes to use real life examples in rpg. This is a game, stuff is abstracted etc.” The rest I cannot directly quote as it was a longer discussion and it was more of a sentiment than any one explicit expression.

I want encapsulate it into ‘who owns the rules?’ So the situation was that the GM said that X situation was resolved using Y rule and the result was Z.

That would be fine apart from one or more players then said that they have real world experience of X and Y rule is wrong and Z wouldn’t happen.

Years ago, it seemed to me, the GM had the rules and what the GM said was the law and that was that. Today everyone can have a copy of the rules in PDF and check them at any time and if a ruling is not perfectly clear then they can question them.

The issue for gritty, simulationist, d100 games is that they are endeavouring to create a realistic game world experience. The game developers cannot have years of detailed experience of absolutely everything in life and you do not want 16million individual rules to accurately model everything. When you get a player or players with that real world experience they see the rule as written and recognise it as a poor model of reality.

So now you have a dilemma. The experienced players could house rule parts of the game to make it more accurate whilst still sitting within the RMu way of doing things but as GM do you want the players writing the rules of the game?

I had this recently in a game I am playing in. The GM wanted a very high magic game and picked all the RM2 optional rules that he thought would create the effect he wanted.

The result was that it all went too far towards everyone having too much magic too quickly. At 3rd level I have 12 spell lists and by about 7th level I would have had just about every spell open to me in my realm.

I had taken this opportunity to ignore the most obvious ‘go to’ lists in my realm and instead focused on learning the lists that normally get ignored as they are less useful or their utility is not immediately obvious.

Once the GM realised his error he told us all that he thought he had made a mistake and he was changing the rules.

His adjusted version was actually so restrictive that I thought he may have over reacted. It would certainly be the case that by about 8th level we would have no more lists than had we used the rules RAW. By 10th level though we would have less spells than RAW would have given us.

I know this to be the case because he has put certain limiting factors into the game and if they are to have any effect at all then they must limit our ability to learn lists. Any one of them would have been sufficient but their net effect is to dramatically reduce the ability of casters to learn magic.

For my character the effect is minimal and apart from a highly improbable situation where I fail every spell list acquisition roll for the next three levels it will have no noticeable effect. It will stop me learning the less useful and little used lists and make me stick to the tried and tested mainstays but no one else would notice that.

For other characters the effect will be dramatic and immediately obvious. If you take it all into account it is the same as changing the spell list cost for semis to 8/*. That is going to make learning lists rather expensive!

I emailed the GM and told him that for semis I thought his changes were too drastic and I showed him some examples. I don’t know what he has decided to do.

So is it OK for players to suggest rules changes? Who has ownership of the rules? If the rules are there to help everyone have fun and are really just guidelines should they all be up for negotiation?

My personal opinion, purely in theory at least, is that yes they are all negotiable but only before we start play. I dislike changing rules once the game has started as the amount of work for the GM to ‘fix’ hundreds of NPCs is rarely taken into account by players who only see the effect on their one PC.

What do you think?

7 Replies to “Discordant Thoughts”

  1. I’ve been in games run by GMs who clearly hadn’t read the rules before they started running games (my first Warhammer FRP experience was like this), so I ended up reading rules almost as a defense. I also was wargaming before I was playing RPGs, and in that environment it’s expected that both players will understand the rules. Just background stuff to explain the foundation of my position.

    I think the GM owns the rules once the game starts, but should also remain open to patches in the foundation (if you will) should cracks appear during the course of the game. I always sat down with my players before starting and explained which rules I was using and why I was using them. I’d also ask what sort of game they were looking for and made adjustments (when needed) to have our expectations line up (or at least meet in the middle). But once the game starts I only make small adjustments to fix any cracks that might show (things like adjusting the frequency of skill and/or maneuver rolls…mostly little stuff).

    I think it’s fine to “cuss and discuss” the rules before the game starts, but to me part of the gaming agreement is the GM owns the rules because she’s agreed to take on the extra work that comes with running a game. That said, small adjustments can and likely should take place because stuff happens and no GM is perfect. But as you point out, Peter, players don’t often look past how rule X impacts their character. A change that benefits one might hurt the rest, let alone the havoc it might cause with NPCs and the like. One nice thing about non-magic settings is you don’t have to deal with spells and the like, so modifications are usually more mundane and can be applied evenly.

    But as I said, I’ve played in games where the GM either didn’t know the rules or would randomly adjust them to benefit certain party members. In that case the only real option (if you’ve talked about it privately and there’s been no change) is to leave the group.

    It’s all up for discussion and negotiation until the game starts. Then the GM owns the rules. At least that’s always been my take.

  2. I think what you outline is reasonable Peter: rules will be reconsidered due to player input outside of the game, but while in game the GM always has final say.

    I often change rules due to player input and/or to players pointing out that some rules are not realistic. Take for example the time necessary to put on armor. RM had some rules for that which tied the time to the AT number: higher was more. But I own a chain shirt and I can put it on in less than 10 seconds: it goes on just like a T-shirt. So we changed that, and our game is better for it.

    1. I run the server its a permanent link and never expires. Also try to join other discord servers as a test to see if its your machine.

  3. I wonder perhaps if the d100 system lends itself better to “real life modelling” than a d20 or other system? If that is true, then it’s natural that you get player tinkering because they can more easily convert their perceptions of success/failure to a 1-100% framework.

    Early D&D and other systems often created arbitrary or simplified rules for action resolutions, but RM/d100 has both the absolute & partial success action resolution that is naturally intuitive and doesn’t really require a table.

    1. I’ve always tended to believe so, especially based on experience with non-RM d100 systems. It’s far easier to add in adjustments “on the fly,” and a +5 bonus in d100 doesn’t break most rolls but makes players feel better. With a wider range of roll options, it’s also much easier to accommodate the idea of partial success.

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