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RPG Rules, Settings and Enjoyment - Part II

(Continued from Part I)

Similar themes can be found throughout the gaming experience, and not just limited to the example above. Another example is in the Star Wars roleplaying games produced by West End Games (WEG), versus the one produced by Wizards of the Coast. In this example, the settings are identical: the Star Wars universe, as produced by Lucas Film and the other Lucas companies… the rules are the ONLY difference. The WotC version of the Star Wars roleplaying game use the same basic D20 rules that Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons 3.x, with similar rules for character levels, skill rolls, etc., while the WEG version used a cinematic style rule set using only six-sided dice (D6), with rules that broadly applied to many situations to streamline/simplify game play.
While the D20 rule form works very well in Pathfinder and D&D, I found that it did not reflect the feeling and themes of the Star Wars universe; it played like a dungeon crawl set in space, rather than capturing the fast and loose do or die feeling of the Star Wars movies. There were too many rules, too much "if you're doing this, then you have to roll against their skill, then check of you did it right, then… etc." and characters were too limited by their character classes and the options they chose. Whereas the cinematic WEG D6 rules lets the story run fast and ragged; if you need to use a blaster, there's one skill and it doesn't matter whether you've picked up a certain type before or not (whereas in D20, you can only use certain types)… shoot and move on. Because one rule could apply to so many different situations, it meant less checking the book for how to handle a situation and more action. Characters were flexible and could try to do pretty much anything… though they may not succeed. Characters had fixed skill levels in the D20 systems, for example, they might have a +5 to Diplomacy rolls, meaning that if a check had a difficulty of 26, the player could never succeed; D6, on the other hand, had a mechanic that allowed for unexpected success (and unprecidented failure!), using a mechanic known as a Wild Die, unskilled characters could potentially have a stroke of incredible luck, succeeding in the face of great adversity; likewise, an exceptionally skilled character had the potential to fail a simple task unexpectedly and spectacularly. This potential for success/failure added an element of greater uncertainty and a willingness to try that seemingly impossible task on the off chance that luck might be on your side, whereas the fixed values of D20 encourages you to forget the fantastic for the pragmatic.

While D20 has allowed me to care more deeply for my character in a fantasy Dungeons and Dragons type setting, in Star Wars it felt constricting, confining; the setting demanded more freedom than the D20 rules could allow.
These examples are intended to illustrate how rules affect the game… how the same rules can influence different games differently, and how important the right rules are to encouraging the success of a game and its immersive quality.

I hope this wasn't TL;DR, and that it was a bit interesting. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences regarding the intersection of Rule systems and Game settings and how they complement or detract from one another!

3 blog comments below

Hmm, for some reason the post content isn't showing; but it's there if I click to Edit the post.
Any Mods/Admins have any idea why the post contents aren't showing up?
Ankhanu on Sun Apr 22, 2012 5:52 pm
You might have added a link that you didn't tag correctly(could be a misplaced space). Try removing [url][/url].

-Mod Razz
loremar on Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:25 pm
Ha ha! It was a bad key press in a tag. I'd hit a ] rather then = in one of the link formats.
Thanks Smile
Ankhanu on Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:32 pm

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