The Inquisition: Freedom!

Thanks to flickr user ctj71081!! CC BY 2.0

The Inquisitor has been on holiday this past week, so I just have a few quick thoughts this week.  Next week we’ll continue with our regular features, drilling into the psychological and philosophical aspects of gaming. For now, on the history of the declaration of American Independence, we’ll talk about freedom.

We’ve got a lot of freedom issues in RPGs. There’s the freedom to play whatever character you might want, the freedom to go down whatever road interests you (commonly known as the freedom to NOT be railroaded), and so on.

But most importantly, we have the freedom to really do whatever we want when it comes to the games we play. If Rule 0 is that The GM is always right, then Rule 0.1 should be that if there’s something you don’t like about your game, change it.

I think a lot of us get caught up in the advanced rules systems whose heyday was the mid-90’s. Games move toward being universal; we started to see systems trying to account for every situation possible, and thus, rules creep became more and more of a problem.

We’re seeing the rubber band snap back nowadays: how many retro-clones have hit the “market” (which I hesitate to say since many are free) in the past few years?

This is not to say that these games do not have rules that cover every situation. They just have general rules that can be applied, rather than specific rules for every situation. However, there seems to be some kind of strange reverence for the olden days when there were no rules for grappling, or X, or Y, or Z. Having fewer rules is not necessarily a good thing if you live in a world where you have the freedom to choose which rules to use and which to throw out.

It seems that this is the way D&D Next is going: rules modules that you can choose to use or not. But remember, every edition of the Dungeon Master’s Guide has had a short section saying that if you didn’t like a rule, throw it out or change it. I’m not going to fault Monte Cook et. al. for giving me more options! I don’t know a GM out there who hasn’t changed or ignored a whole swath of rules to make their game more suited to their group’s style. Of course, changing or removing rules makes certain aspects of the game weaker, stronger, or simply nonexistent (removing Attacks of Opportunity for grappling would power up grapple-focused characters, for example), so keep that in mind. Every system is its own ecosystem; change some of the parts, and other things will be affected.

So, sometimes it’s hard to remember, and the worst rules-lawyers of us will complain, but we have the freedom to choose our system, but also choose which subset of rules within that framework is best for our group. Don’t be afraid to tinker.

Have fun at your barbecues, and if you don’t read this until a few days later, I hope you had a happy mid-week holiday.

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