Archive for October, 2007

Rules as a framework

October 27, 2007

When you are playing a roleplaying game, there are usually a set of rules that you have to follow. Your characters can only use certain weapons, read certain languages, run so fast and carry so much stuff. Usually, when you interact with these rules, you add a random element, rolling dice when you try and perform an action, so sometimes you fail, and sometime you succeed impressively.

Some people, and some games, view these rules as a framework to build from, as only a basis for the play. If it would be ‘cooler’ for something to happen, but the rules forbid it, then you should go with it. The rules are only a guideline. If your hero could really do with having his horse ready and saddled as he leaves, then go for it, even if the player of the hero forgot to even buy a horse.

I am not a fan of this style of gaming. I much prefer to see the rules as an encompassing framework. If your character can only run ten feet a second, then that’s how fast they go. Within the rules, you are free to play as you wish, but the rules define the world. In the real world, you don’t get to fiddle the value of gravity so you can make the leap across the chasm, so you don’t get to fiddle it in the game either.

If you use the rules as an encompassing framework to play within, then you can actually achieve things. If your GM fiddles dice rolls to keep characters alive, then the players can never achieve anything, there is no feeling of winning if you knew that you could never have lost.

You are playing a game, and only cheating yourself if you play fast and loose with rules. It’s generally held that you cannot win a roleplaying game, and that’s certainly true, in the sense of winning a game of chess, or football. You can win a situation, achieve a character’s goals, or excel in a chosen field, but you can only do this by playing within the rules, and not discarding them for something that you think is ‘cool’, but the other players may not.

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Changing Hosting Provider – Update

October 20, 2007

I’ve finished migrating to the new hosting, and have tested all the pages on the site. It all looks good to me. There were a few wobbles as I got used to some new ways of doing things, but they should all be over now.

If you tried to access the site yesterday evening or this morning, you may have seen some errors, but I think they are all corrected now. If you find any more, then please e-mail me to let me know, or leave a comment.

Changing Hosting Provider

October 19, 2007

The company that provided the hosting for www.toadflaxgames.co.uk was bought by another hosting provider in the summer. As a result of this, the server that is hosting the toadflax games website will be changing soon.

I don’t envisage this causing any major downtime, but as I’ve never made a change like this before, I can’t be sure exactly what will happen. I’m working to make the changeover as smooth as possible, I think that the majority of the pages will be fine, and it will possibly be a little wobbly over things like recording games that you play on Countdown

I will keep everyone updated on any problems, but hopefully no-one will even notice the change, and it will be settled in early next week.

Exceptions and Complexity

October 4, 2007

When you are writing the rules to your game, think very hard about every exception you add.

Any given person only has a certain amount of brain-space to devote to games, and you will only ever get a small percentage of that space. Don’t waste it with overly complex rules with unnecessary exception and clauses.

Writing a rule in the form “If X happens, then you do Y” is fine. You can have lots of these rules, each one is individually simple, and doesn’t take much effort to learn.

Rules that are more complex “If X happens, then you do Y, unless A is in play, so do one of B or C” are a lot harder. The cognitive load is far greater, as the player has to consider far more objects at once, and they have to remember to check for the existence of A, and that they can do B or C.

Some complexity is required, else the game can be too simple. Too much is not, as no-one will bother to learn the rules, and the few that do will all learn and remember a slightly different set, leading to arguments over the rules, rather than allowing people to play.

Whenever you use words like ‘unless, ‘except’ and so on, stop and think hard about the exception you are creating, the complexity and difficulty it will add, and weigh it against the value the rule adds to the game. If the difficulties outweigh the benefits, then get rid of the rule, and you’ll probably have a better game.