As Is

As Is

All of them.

If I can’t use it as-is I don’t want to play it.

I know Past Paul would have thought I was just being lazy. Or overly deferential. Or that I was just part of the designer-worship cult. Whatever, as long as it was something insulting.

Past Paul was dumb, so dumb. He actually thought roleplaying was one big thing and that it all worked the same way. So of course the thing you do is “fix” the “problems” with rules to bring them more in-line with the common central act of playing an RPG.

Cut Past Paul some slack. It was, and is, a very common approach to play. It’s even functional. I mean jeez, if you’re not causing harm then whatever, you do you. I played that way for decades.

But! But but but…there’s this other way, too. Also functional: what is this game actually designed to do? How do I highlight and leverage what makes it special? It is in fact the polar opposite to Past Paul, who probably would have just put ketchup on everything he ate, too, because ketchup is good.

System matters. System also matters. Say it however you want. I dig learning how to play all my games as-is because learning and novelty are awesome.

There are also downsides. Oh gosh, big ones in fact.

The big one is that the games that aren’t written with a specific table experience in mind, the ones where the developer, writer, publisher fully expects the game to have its problems papered over … they’re frequently unplayable. And when you take them at face value (mumblemumble Rogue Trader mumble) they’re extra-awful. Because you trust the game to do what it says and it doesn’t and that’s a huge waste of time and trust.

Another downside: talking about games with folks in the “systems don’t matter, I’m gonna run it how I want” crowd is nearly impossible for me. I know for sure it’s equally aggravating in the opposite direction, even though I’ve got literally decades of “system doesn’t matter” in my head and I understand the position very well. It’s a huge chasm. Despite my best efforts to explain my position, it just … no. I’m wearing the wrong jersey. And to be perfectly fair, I’m probably not really giving them a fair shake, either. I don’t blame anyone for their ignorance, but by gosh does willful ignorance get me salty.

There’s also the intellectual dishonesty, if folks are digging their heels in, of claiming that anyone is running any game perfectly as-is. It’s my preferred mode, as mentioned above, but I know for sure I’m still interpreting, filtering, prioritizing. A room full of humans is too dynamic to really expect there never to be moments where things get fuzzy, where we have to come to an accommodation that is, perhaps, not directly addressed. But it’s a matter of degrees, yeah? As-is except where you literally cannot proceed, versus rewriting the parts that don’t make sense without making any effort to make sense of them.

Purity tests suck. They’re one of the most pernicious bits of tribalism.

Oh right, there was a question today. Something about what game I like using as-is. The one I’m gonna say I enjoy the most while played as closely as possible to RAW is probably Burning Wheel. For lots of reasons! But the big one is that the game already comes with a system that provides RAW options for the moments when things get fuzzy. One of Burning Wheel’s great strengths is that it’s failure-resistant. Intent -> Task -> Stated Consequences -> Roll is super robust. It’s also a heavy GM lift, because every roll outside of one of the scripted minigames requires the GM to get the consequences worked out first. Beyond that, Burning Wheel produces so much good drama when everyone knows the game and understands how to write punchy Beliefs and Instincts.

Extremely close runner-up is Apocalypse World but for different reasons. Miss/Partial/Full Hit is also failure resistant, and maybe a little less heavy GM lifting because those partial hits don’t need to be worked out every time. And in many cases, a move will already have the partial-hit rules worked out. And you don’t actually have to come up with a good Miss outcome until they miss. I also really like how much immediacy and new content the game constantly generates with very, very little prep.

My ability to run a game RAW quickly falls off once I’m outside those two games. We had long, long threads here in the Indie Game Reading Club about how to “fix” (!!!) social conflicts in The One Ring as well as Mutant: Year Zero. There are big ugly swaths of fussy-maybe-busted stuff in King Arthur Pendragon, which I also adore. The list goes on and on.

Wow this went long. See you tomorrow.

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

0 thoughts on “As Is”

  1. I resemble these remarks! Er, or something…

    Also, you STOLE my post! I can’t add anything to this! So, my RPGaDay post for today will be: What Paul said…


  2. 1. I don’t blame anyone for their ignorance, but by gosh does willful ignorance get me salty. Yup.

    2. One could probably put all of this month’s questions in one post and say “A: Burning Wheel” and it’d suffice.

  3. In my experience, when people say “system doesn’t matter” what they really mean is “other peoples’ systems don’t matter.” They already have a system in their head — they have a game they know how to play and that’s what they play. They don’t need a new game that tells them to do everything differently in ways that make them feel weird and uncomfortable. All they need out of game designers, writers, and publishers is some toys to make their own game/system more colourful.

  4. Had I continued with RPG a Day, I probably would have taken this question not as adapting games in a major way, but more in minor ways. For example, in a Burning Wheel campaign, we envisioned Roden pirates, so I whipped up a Roden Sea Captain life path. I think that kind of tweaking to adapt a game in a small way has a lot of potential.

  5. While I seldom change the rules to games at all anymore, it has become my habit to play the game for the first time without making any changes, regardless of how much I, in my arrogance, think that I know better than the designers and playtesters.

    At this stage in my life, the shorter list would be asking me what games I’d play, but would want to change.

  6. What I find more salty than Willful Ignorance is ‘unsupported vehemence’. Its that act of condemning someone that they are ‘playing it wrong’ when in fact the RAW have no rules (or even guidance for how to do the thing you are trying to achieve.

    These days, this is non-existent in most of the games that I like to play; (like Burning Wheel, Apoc World, Fate and Blades) are adamantly prescriptive (and supportive) on ‘this is the way to play this game’. In fact there are often whole chapters set aside for guidance on how to hack the system to do what you want successfully.

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