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On ‘Rules-Lite’ D&D

06 Jan

Recently I’ve noticed a bit of forum discussion about rules-lite D&D. What’s weird to me isn’t that anyone would want to play a rules-lite rpg; I intend to write a rules-lite fantasy heartbreaker someday. No, what’s weird to me is the term ‘rules-lite D&D.’ In my experience, it’s an oxymoron.

I’m not really qualified to talk about OD&D, 1e, or the half dozen early pseudo-editions, but I did start gaming during the 2e era so I know a bit about it. Coincidentally, a lot of recent rules-lite discussion has been focused on 2e. To be fair, 2e does have its simple points. If you’re looking to do nothing from level 1 to 20 except roll a d20 and a damage die, and have no significant build decisions to make other than “which weapon do I hack with?”, then 2e’s fighter’s got ya covered.

But overall, even without getting into all the splat books, there’s quite a bit of clunkiness right in the core books. There’re weird pop-up rules like percentile strength, there’re different tables for everything including ability scores and XP progressions, and then there’s the sheer variety of byzantine mechanics themselves. Sometimes you roll a d20, sometimes you roll percentile, and sometimes other dice. Sometimes rolling high is good, sometimes rolling high is bad. And yes, there’s thac0. It’s not that this stuff is rocket science, but there are clearly simpler ways to resolve in-game events.

I guess that, like native English speakers, gamers who learn D&D first tend to become blinded to its complexities no matter how obvious they appear to outsiders. It’s a shame though, because I’m sure there are better rules-lite rpgs on the market which would be much easier to learn for new players than any edition of D&D.

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2 Comments

Posted by on 06/01/2011 in Rules, Rules-Lite

 

2 responses to “On ‘Rules-Lite’ D&D

  1. velaran

    28/01/2011 at 12:50 am

    'I’m not really qualified to talk about OD&D, 1e, or the half dozen early pseudo-editions': I'd say this qualifies the oxymoron comment above. Of course, I've played 'em, and sometimes I feel I'm not qualified to talk about them either! :-)'I’m sure there are better rules-lite rpgs on the market which would be much easier to learn for new players than any edition of D&D.':There's always that possibility, but if you(or anyone) try B/X(I'd add Holmes, or Mentzer[all pretty much 0E, as you probably know], etc…), how easy it really is comes to the fore.(It's also fast!) It could definitely qualify as rules-lite, even without a 'unified system', which of course, rarely is. Even AD&D(pre-2E) isn't that difficult to master. Plus, there's all those classic modules, ready to play! :-)It kinda boils down to whether or not slightly different variations in rules annoy you or not. I like learning new systems anyway, so…. I've never really had a player that hated B/X, even if it wasn't their favorite. There seems to be a reason it's a classic, and like Monopoly, Super Mario Bros, and Uno, I think everyone should try it at least once! :-)'gamers who learn D&D first tend to become blinded to its complexities no matter how obvious they appear to outsiders':Couldn't this be said of any game?(And I'd posit that D&D is less complex than AD&D, of which I'd say is more a mishmash of options than a straight mess.[Pick and choose being the order of the day]) Or vice-versa. Hell, for years I'd heard Rolemaster was slow, clunky, and unplayable. I found it to be otherwise after actually sitting down with it.(PC creation, ironically something no-one seemed to complain about, was its worst feature, ime.) I frequently hear/read that 4th Edition is more complex than its predecessors, which even if true, doesn't disqualify it from possibly being fun, imo.

     
  2. Tequila Sunrise

    28/01/2011 at 3:44 am

    There's always that possibility, but if you(or anyone) try B/X(I'd add Holmes, or Mentzer[all pretty much 0E, as you probably know], etc…), how easy it really is comes to the fore.I have played a couple sessions of pre-2e, but I still can't keep the terminology straight. I don't know who Holmes and Mentzer are, and I don't remember there being a difference between 2e and AD&D–all of my first books said 'Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition.'It kinda boils down to whether or not slightly different variations in rules annoy you or not.Variations for the sake of variety definitely do annoy me. I can have fun playing games with lots of rules variations for the sake of variety, but it's always in spite of the variations. 4e annoys me the least, but it isn't without its problems.Couldn't this be said of any game?Certainly, but being the most popular rpg, D&D has the highest population of 'blind' players.

     

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