RPGs Have Two Sets Of Rules

Cannibal Halfling Gaming

Role-playing games are different from any other type of analog game because of their relationship with rules and procedures. When you sit down to play a board game, or a card game, or even a game of darts, you follow a set procedure to determine an outcome. Wargames took half the steps away from board games by introducing rulesets which could be adapted to a wide range of scenarios, the only limits being how many minis you had and how big your sand table was. The early ‘Braunstein’ campaigns started the other half, walking away from simple win/lose conditions in scenarios. For the role-playing game to turn from a weirdo version of wargaming a couple nerds were running to a repeatable, salable product, existing wargaming rules had to be supplemented with rules for writing and executing free-form scenarios which very much didn’t resemble battles any more. Every traditional role-playing game…

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  1. The trouble with internalizing the idea of two sets of rules comes mostly from the fact that GMs don’t need many of their own rules, at least at first blush. For most traditional games, little guidance is given beyond how to set difficulties for the players’ rolls and how to create opponents, and in some cases even these are omitted. This ends up working fine for most people who buy these games, but the reason is not because GMs don’t need rules but rather because most GMs are going to emulate those who have already run the game for them.

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