November 6th, 2011

Voodoo Dolly
  • tashiro

Complexity and the GM

I just recently had a back-and-forth discussion about Exalted, and the rules concerning NPCs. The game master is skilled at improvisation, and is more than willing to put NPC sheets aside, and just come up with appropriate dice pools for the NPCs. I'm more inclined to having the NPCs written and statted out according to the rules, and find that a near-impossibility when it comes to Exalted (and in some respects, this is a problem with Scion as well).

Now, putting aside the differences in GMing style, I'm looking at the rules themselves.  I can accept some GMs play a bit fast and loose with the rules, especially when it comes to NPCs.  My beef is that the rules shouldn't have to be played with fast and loose.  In fact, if it is necessary to do so with the rules, especially with NPCs, then there's something fundamentally wrong with the mechanics.

See, my view is that a good game system reduces the amount of hand-waving the GM has to do, or at least incorporates it into the game in such a way that it's considered an integral part of the system.  With Exalted, it is impossible to run the game, and especially run Exalteds, without either a phenomenal amount of character building, or a phenomenal amount of hand-waving - which is one reason I stopped running the game.  (My wife's upset about it, too.  She likes the setting, she likes my campaigns.  But she doesn't really follow the rules, as they're way beyond her.  She's not a rule person, and I'm usually the one who spends her XP for her).

A few games have done it right.  7th Sea, for example, is really easy for building NPCs with.  Amber is a no-brainer, obviously.  L5R, not so much, since a proper samurai NPC can get pretty complex unfortunantely.

Where do you think the tipping point is?
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