Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rules, Rulings and Making S#!t Up

One the few truly awesome Basic kits
Whenever family has come together for the holidays, I've taken that opportunity to teach my four nephews D&D over the last several years. I purchased used copies of the D&D Basic Game box from 2006, bought a couple of them the Pathfinder Beginner Box as prior Christmas or Birthday gifts and this year printed out the 5th Edition D&D Basic PDF on LuLu to give to each of them.

When we are able to get together, the all enjoy playing with Uncle Owlbear as DM, but of the 4, one nephew in particular has embraced role-playing and gotten his friends involved.

What they play, however, is not D&D.  I mean, it technically is D&D as they are playing the new Basic Rules with the 6 attributes and all... and they occasionally mix in some Pathfinder-isms because they are not always clear one where the line is between the two rule sets, but it's essentially a D&D-based d20 game.

Except that it isn't.

For instance, after time warping 1000 years forward from their initial forays into fantasy, they invaded a space station being attacked by space pirates, and the space government is a dictatorial, Czarist / Cold War Russian mash up. They broke into a shop keeper's establishment to steal something ridiculous before framing the shop keeper for murder (so they could essentially take more stuff) and then blew up the space station... just because.  (We've all been there, right?)

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in pseudo-medieval Europe anymore.

I want to be on record that I think this is all awesome. I've heard of people claiming that they play "gonzo" style gaming... I have to tell you that those people who are trying to play gonzo are failing. My young nephew and his friends have raised gonzo to a zen art form, because they don't even know what gonzo is or means; they just make stuff up and it's insane and awesome. It's like the difference between doing improv and writing improv. One of those is an oxymoron... but that's not really relevant to this story.

Here's where my discomfort enters (aside from their blatant disregard for civilian life forms)... I know this is entirely on me and they are not "doing it wrong"... sorta.

My issue is that they make stuff up... Not the story, but the rules. They don't really comprehend the minutia of the game, so they just make up rules as they go. I'm ok with that, except they don't seem to have any consistency. They're teenagers, so they don't have the patience to actually commit rules to memory, so they make it up. But my discomfort comes in the that they don't seems to have any consistency from game to game. An action could be ruled one way on a Tuesday evening game, but a different way on a Saturday game, because it's not like they're writing this stuff down. They are making it up on the fly every time.

I know this is entirely my issue. They are having a blast, and that's what's really important. However my tiny slice of OCD revolves around game mechanics. I'm not a rules lawyer, attempting to bend the rules as written to my will. I believe the spirit of the rules is more important than the letter... But I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to mechanics, and I have to admit it bothers me that they are not really trying hard to apply the rules framework to their game of making s#!t up.

Is it just me?  Tell me it's not just me...

It's me, isn't it.

After Thought

I should note as a post-script that I've also encouraged my nephew to check out other streamlined rule systems that allow more multi-genre, free-form play (Savage Worlds or perhaps FATE, as an example). However, it occurs to me that they are not really bothering to read the D&D rules which I've tried to painstakingly teach... So telling them to read and comprehend a completely new rule set appears to be a futile suggestion.

Kids today...
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