‘Rule 0’ 2.0

After the London Indiemeet last Saturday it was brought to my attention that I don’t rant on the internet enough. Clearly the internet is short on people with strong views angrily typing on blogs and forums, so here is something a little something to consider…

‘System Matters’, the idea is old news now but something new has become apparent to me as I’ve been playtesting Quest, something related to the age old ‘Rule 0’ (“The GM is always right”, basically the GM can change/ignore the rules, ostensibly in the name of running a good game). Now I still strongly believe that system matters and I still find the need for rule 0 an abomination, but I think we can learn from rule 0 rather than dismissing it completely and use when we find to make better games.

So, every game of Quest I’ve played has gone slightly differently. I’m not talking about the worlds/stories created or the fact the rules used to change all the time, but about how and when the rules got used.

For some groups things like setting cards, leading questions, strict narration rights and even the quests themselves didn’t seem to matter much. The players just got on with it and we had a great game.

Other groups would have struggled without all that structure. Without the setting cards you have a blank slate to work with. Without rules governing narration you don’t know who controls what, when. Quests, questions and conflicts provide clear goals and difficulties with which the players can react to.

Fine, you may say, some people are naturals at this and some (like me) struggle, so what? The problem is when you have all these systems for helping people along the road to a good game they can get in the way if they aren’t needed. If system matters though shouldn’t we follow the rules anyway, otherwise what’s the point in having them?

By this reasoning we are in the same boat as traditional games that drove the creation of rule 0 in the first place. SO I’ll suggest a new rule that gets the job done but fits into games with a more modern design.

“If a rule is being broken, but you like what’s going on, don’t feel compelled to speak up. If a rule is being broken, and someone mentions it, change what just happened to conform to the rules, no questions asked.”

It seems obvious to me now, maybe it was already obvious to everyone else, but by giving it a rule you legitimise this approach. System still matters, it still has to pull its weight when needed and create the structure for a great game, but it also has to be able to get out the the way when things are doing fine without it.

P.S. Presumably this replacement rule 0 would work in a traditional game with a GM, it’s not something I’m likely to explore.


~ by Kiwi on 23/01/2013.

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