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Since the recent release of another fantasy role-playing game, there has been many forum arguments about the mechanics of this system compared to the ease of use of older versions of the game. It seems that many people, who grew up during the introduction of the hobby, find themselves attracted to rules-light games as opposed to crunchier systems. Some people have the misconception that newer games have this crunch in rules, but that is far from correct (Chivalry & Sorcery anyone?). Watching gamers from both the old and new days, there seems to be one difference that separates the rules-light gamer from the rules-heavy gamer...experience!
It seems that people that are attracted to rules-light games have either played these types of games for years, or read many books during their years of existence. They could have been reading fantasy novels, published adventures for games, or other rule systems. The point is, they have enough experience and imagination to fill in any gaps a rules-light system has. That is where one of the fundamental confusions lie with gamers. On the one hand, rules-light gamers are looked upon as too set in their ways to try a newer (rules-heavy) game system. The rules-light gamer merely looks at that crunchy rule set and wonders what it was trying to fix. That rules-heavy game isn't really trying to "fix" anything, it is just trying to explain things in more detail for the gamer that hasn't had the life experiences that older gamers seem to have.
The Pathfinder game I play in occurs at the local game store here. Here you see three different groups playing the game. You have those in their 30's, those in their 20's, and the teenagers...so I feel I get a pretty good sample by age group here.
The teenagers are quite chaotic when playing. They have no real literary grasp of fantasy stories as this generation is the group of console gamers and those that watch Japanese animation movies. When they play, they are really focused on their character sheets and what that sheet states they can do. They almost never think outside the box, because they haven't been educated about the things that are outside the box.
The gamers in their 20's are like the teenagers when it comes to life experience, but they are less chaotic when playing. Because they have no literary background in fantasy, they rely on campaign settings and modules to guide them. They would almost never create a world of their own or an adventure either. Since they are more mellow than the teenagers, they study the rules of the game and try to circumvent them...or bend them to their will.
Now almost all of the 30-somethings started playing newer rule sets and did not play so much in the 80's. There are two people at the table that did play back in the day...me...and the game master. I have to give the game master credit because he can run a Pathfinder game with a more flexible mood like many games in the 80's. Sure, the combat is very specific...but some oddball attempts at actions are considered and entertained. The others in the group though are not into the crunch of the rules and don't spend too much time learning everything about the game. They just want to play.
In last week's game, I did something so minor (to me it was) but I got looks of puzzlement and wonder from around the table. My characters always buy a piece of chalk when they are created. I'll never know what I need it for...I just get it. This would make some of these gamers wonder because it doesn't have a game mechanic associated with it so "why do I want it?"...but that is not the focus of my story here. We climbed down a rope into a tomb to explore. When we got to the bottom, I told the game master, "where the rope touches the ground, I am going to straighten out a section and draw with my chalk on both sides for about 2 feet". This got a bunch of looks from around the table, but the game master got what I was doing. I was setting it up to see if anyone uses that rope while we are gone. If it moves, it will be outside of my chalk line. Seems pretty simple...but newer gamers generally don't think about this stuff.
The arguments will continue...as it wouldn't be the Internet without them. We won't get why people need every last detailed rule written out as we can fill in the gaps with confidence, and the rules-heavy folks won't understand how we can play a game that doesn't define everything in a clear manner. We don't need rules on grappling. We don't need rules on how to make a magic wand. We don't need rules on what would happen if a wizard tries to use a bastard sword. We don't need rules on what would happen if a character wants to lie to a castle guard. We just dig into our bag of literary tricks and make it happen.
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