My Evolving Preferences for Rules Complexity

Posted: May 5, 2014 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Roleplaying Games
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Last Saturday, I was able to run a quick comedy one-shot with Fate Accelerated Edition for my usual group of players. While I certainly had a great time running a game about a group of down-on-their luck adventurers making a living as dungeon renovation consultants for Evil Overlords, it got me thinking about the systems I enjoy running the most.

Too Dense

Whether by virtue of the rules or the setting, some games just refuse to work in my head. I can feel my mind getting slower these days and I’m afraid that certain systems are just way beyond my ability to learn them given my free time, amount of committment and responsibilities these days.

These are often games that have many moving parts like Shadowrun and Eclipse Phase aweseome games that have a very involved setting paired with elaborate mechanics. As much as I’d love to have been able to learn these games, I’m at a point in my life where the learning curve is a little too steep for me.

Too Light

Then on the opposite side of the spectrum lies games whose mechanics are a little too ephemeral for me. Games like the Cortex version of Marvel Super Heroes, and Fate Accelerated Edition aren’t difficult to learn, but there’s a strange lack of definition that makes it a tad too fluffy for my tastes.

Despite what I said about the Dense games above, I find that I still seek out a little bit of stronger definition, and the presence of a few mechanical elements that work to reinforce the setting. Games like the ones I mentioned are excellent teaching tools, but there’s a part of me that’s left wanting.

Just Right

In the end, my own preference for games lies with mechanics that fade away into the background, but have teeth when special situations are called for.

Games that seem to work for me include Savage Worlds, Roll & Keep and the Storytelling / Storyteller ruleset. These are quick and easy enough to learn, and retain some measure of rigidity to handle the unique needs of each setting. These include Magic systems and duels found within their various games that help define their respective settings.


My threshold for rules has been slowly evolving these past few years, with time and responsibility working hand in hand to push me further away from more complex rules. That said, I still retain a preference for just enough complexity to simulate unique facets of a setting, though preferrably without being so dense as to be difficult to learn.

That said, this doesn’t mean that the lighter (or denser) systems aren’t for you. Each play group has their own preferences, and some people are more uniquely suited for learning different kinds of systems.

  1. Dariel says:

    one of my tests nowadays is to see if my character sheet will fit in a half bond paper or better yet a 5×8″ index card. i like index cards for character data, they’re so handy for writing and filing.

  2. It is an interesting balance, as a GM, I want my players to have characters that they are interested in, and that usually leads to more complex rules sets like Pathfinder. But I am comfortable enough with PF/D20 that it is not a lot of work for me to run.

    As a player, I like lighter systems as it is easier to build characters for and I can focus more on the character than the mechanics but I will play what the group wants to play.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s