We Tried D&D and It Didn’t Work

Over at Trollsmyth the comments on this post. It seems they are missing the point of “D&D is always right”.

I think the rule derives from a lot of strawmen arguments that run “I like to play games concentrating on $THE_GREATEST_THING. D&D doesn’t do $THE_GREATEST_THING. Therefore D&D is broken.” The rule says “Respect what the game does, understand how and why it does it, understand how that affects other things, and then you are ready to change it or change something else to get the effect you want.”

Note, this rule is just as valid for any RPG. If you are committed to playing Mage: the Ascension but something about the game is sticking in your craw remember “Mage is always right.” Go through the process above before you just change things randomly.

This is the same difference between patch rules and rules from first principles that Ron Edwards discussing in Fantasy Heartbreakers.

For those having trouble what is wrong with just saying “D&D is broken” may I present We Tried Baseball and It Didn’t Work

3 thoughts on “We Tried D&D and It Didn’t Work

  1. > Go through the process above before you just change things randomly.

    Why? Unless you're a publishing your game (that is need it to win in larger market than just your self/your group of players) or wanting to argue endlessly on forums.

    I've not seen an explanation of what benefit this provides. Why rules from first principles are better than patch rules. Why it's worth wasting time that could be spent playing game.

    It seems to be largely a matter of opinion and what one finds personally enjoyable (theoretical analysis vs let's play).

  2. I see two valuable results of going back to first principles.

    When you house rule the system after trying to understand its first principles you're much more likely to achieve a general rule. This has two aspects. First, you'll hit all the places that a specific aspect of the system rubs on you. If you create ad hoc rules for that aspect in each location as you hit them you are much more likely to get a mess that creates problems as much as it solves them. You are also more likely to have a consistant set of rulings that everyone remembers and applies consistantly. Finally, it is easier to introduce to new players.

    For me, however, that is the lesser benefit. For me the greater benefit is the limited palette/increased creativity affect. A lot of artists, in a variety of fields, make a point of chosing a restricted palette for force them to use the parts creatively. If you decide to take the concept of “D&D or Runequest or even Mage is always right” and try to make its restrictions work inside your game instead of just changing them you are chosing a restricted plaette. It's a system level version of the same effect you get when you role things on random tables and stick to them even if they don't seem to work. As someone interested in RPGs as an accessible form of creative expression, finding ways to implement the limited palette rule is gold.

    Finally, on the point of this being a matter of opinion, unless obviously supported by objective evidence, I assume all blog postings are opinions.

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