Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Rule of Law

One of the important principles I follow when I run my game is that the rules of the game supersede the authority of the referee the same way that the dice do. Any house rules must be laid out and explained before play begins. If the rules call cause something silly to happen at the table, the result stands unless there is unanimous agreement at the table that it should be changed on the spot - the referee shouldn't get angry and do a take-back when that a player used an actual rule to "win" a little bit, and if the referee had a specific rule in mind when designing an encounter, players shouldn't be able to cry foul. Only afterwards, with reflection, would a house-rule be appropriate.

Apparently this is decidedly un-oldschool of me, where one definition of "oldschool" means that the rules are barely there and the referee just makes a whole bunch of shit up as he goes. The referee has an incredible amount of power in any game, but I think the players need to have a fair bit of power as well. That the common rules of the game apply to everyone at the table is the equalizer.

This is not to say that the referee can't come up with situations where certain rules are twisted and bent, but I make damn sure to detail that kind of thing ahead of time - even to the point of detailing areas where that is the case when everything else has but the scantest of notes - because I think it's horrible for a referee to do such things on the fly. It's weird. I'm making it up either way, but it feels more fair and official if it's written down before play. Then it's the setting, the situation... not just me deciding to screw with the players on a moment's whim.

... and in sort-of-related news, I reformatted Basic Fantasy RPG's second edition as a digest-sized book and had a few copies done up for my group. I included the new monsters and spells from the Dungeoneer's Almanac, and I also included the Eldritch Weirdness spells, through level seven, anyway.

Eldritch Weirdness is an interesting little read, by the way. Obviously I liked the spells to add them into my campaign, but I won't be able to give you a real review quite yet - my group is still all first level (save the second level magic-user) after four sessions. And in the back of my version of the book is a section that closely resembles the Dominion and War Machine rules from the D&D Companion set. I think a game just feels bigger when the rules for things like that are right there. The overwhelming amount of fantasy stories out there dealing with armies and battles of nations and such, and that gets ignored in games? I cry foul.

And from my personal life, work on the two big adventure projects, Insect Shrine and the Stone Hold Asylum modules, has stalled because I haven't had a real place to live since May (or October, depending on your definition). When you're sleeping on a couple's floor and it's just a one room place to begin with... getting real work done is quite difficult. Especially when you're dealing with trying to find a job and/or classes.

The good news is, I'm in a bit of a better place as of today - although not an actual permanent place as of yet. I've also started Finnish classes again, which is great. But all this haphazard living (have to say one thing... I came to Finland for the kind of life that very few people get to live... and while how it happened is a lot different than I expected... I'm certainly meeting that goal...) has resulted in a few other things happening. In addition to the weekly game I'm running and the adventures I come up with for that (of course I cheat... last week I started James Malizewski's Ruined Monastery (from Fight On #1... and oh boy was there a groan when Saint Gaxyg's name was said), although of course I've detailed my own crypts...), I've been sketching little notes here and there.

Little adventures. Little magic items. Little spells. If I can get my notes and doodles together, there might be a little anthology I can put out to represent the Summer of My Discombobulation. I've been dreaming of Duvan'Ku, you see... my Dead City campaign showcase. I'm having trouble mapping it though, since the city looks like that pattern of lines when you close your eyes really really tight and then press on them with your hands. I used to do that all the time as a kid. There would be that cloud of colors that dissipated, and I always imagined I was falling from the sky, through the clouds, and that those lines that appeared when the clouds vanished were some sort of city.

But the city's not ready. Not now. Maybe not ever. It would kill the very idea of Duvan'Ku to actually put it out there. Kind of like the legend of Castle Greyhawk... I think it's a terrible idea to finally codify it.

But an anthology of related adventures, magic items, and spells? I think I can make Duvan'Ku a terrifying legend just by presenting this peripheral stuff. If they're that terrible... what must the actual place be like? Inspiration from Robert W. Chambers here... Talk about a bunch of things that will make your players cry "Unfair!" But it is fair. It's all from the book. ;)

And it's all written piecemeal, so it's not a "project" that has to all work as a unified whole. Those people that pre-ordered Insect Shrine are going to get the most total value from the most delayed product when all is said and done, aren't they? Un/Lucky bastards.

Also have some notes for a magic item generator but that's going to be ten times the work of the Creature Generator... maybe later.

Yes, I'm rambling.

No, I don't care.

So blah.

1 comment:

  1. “If the rules call cause something silly to happen at the table, the result stands unless there is unanimous agreement at the table that it should be changed on the spot”

    After too many silly results, I wanted rules that would do a much better job of not giving silly results. After trying a lot of rules that strove to minimize silly results, I wanted simpler rules.

    So, if the rules give a silly result, I want whoever is GM to step in and tweak things to be less silly.

    While I do feel the GM should be given final say, I also feel that the GM should enlist the help of the players in making rulings. I won’t go so far as saying unanimous but consensus is desirable.

    I choose to give the GM the benefit of the doubt, however, if he feels strongly enough about a rulings to go against consensus. I mean, they’re my friend. They’ve taken on the GM role, which—while not a burden—does take some effort and requires making decisions under pressure. (Mild pressure, I hope, but pressure nonetheless.)

    Is any of that “old school”? I neither know or really care. It’s just what works for me.