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Why I wanna try a rules-light game

One of several reason our RPG rules grew so much (not that I was complaining, it was fun having all those rules to fall back on) was that it was a collection of rulings that we actually had needed at the table at one point or another.

What I wanna test out is if maybe that won’t happen with a rules set that’s of a coarser granularity. For example, in our D&D game, we needed a rule for them to find a particular kind of moss that is a valuable spell component when foraging. So I mathed out a rule that made sense in the game world’s economy.

If that had been Cthulhu Dark: just “roll to do other things”.
3:16 Carnage Among The Stars: just roll Non-Fighting–Ability.
Fate: just Create an Advantage.
My own dumb li’l “Eventually” RPG that I haven’t playtested yet: just draw an encounter card.

Games where the math is coarse-grained enough that it’s fine to use a rule like that.

That’s what I wanna try.

Just typing this up makes me shudder at how lossy that’s going to get.

I used to run rules-light, low-prep games, and that sucked, and when I went to high-prep, high-detail, well, an avalanche of rules paragraphs followed. The experiment will be to see to what extent there can be a rich game experience without having to account for every torch in every shop on the planet al-Toril the way our rules-heavy game does.

Just thinking about it makes me a li’l scared. The levels of sim detail in our D&D campaign is the stuff of dreams for me, the feeling I get from it is what I was looking for when I first saw an RPG box on the toy store shelves as a kid.

And it’s OK if the experiment fails. I can go back. Nothing has been deleted or discarded from our Crowded Sea game.

But the splippery slope is real. When I was a teenage girl I once looked up from my Microsoft McZee beach towel and and said “Don’t worry, mom. Linux is just an experiment. I know it’s gonna suck and I’ll be back on Windows 95 before the week is over. I’m just doing it to learn” and here we are now twenty-five years later and I’m an apt-getting, region-evalling, copyright-abolishing dork who eats plants and smells like wisteria and believes money is bad.

But I do wanna try a rules-light game again. It’s still gonna be blorby, just that the rules engine has coarser granularity.

I wanna experiment with how far I can stretch richness on the “cloud” level (I call it “diegetic mechanics”). In-world spell descriptions, maybe make handouts or puzzles or in-world organizations or lore. I wanna make a huge corkboard as a “conspiracy wall” with red yarn.

I also wanna hack on how the game is told. Like how Nerves of Steel is narrated in the past tense, or how Spider and Web is told as an interrogation. That’s the sorta hacking that I wanna push myself into over adding stats and such. 🤷🏻‍♀️