A few weeks ago, I ended up finding myself in a conversation with a rather eccentric individual that has bothered me since and I wanted to take a moment to work through my thoughts on this matter here. We were talking about modifying our games. The fellow I was talking with was very measured in how they proposed rule modifications. They did research, spent hours tinkering with the rules and simulating various situations that would stress the change, all in the hopes that they would be able to present a perfectly balanced rule for the table.
I’m not like that.
And this fellow became rather angry that when I modify my games, I don’t spend my time performing exhaustive research on the impact of the changes prior to bringing them to the table. Instead I just tend to propose them to my players, and if everyone is cool with trying the change, we go with it for the night. If it fails, then so be it; but if it works, then that’s cool too.
I was told that I was ruining the fun for everyone else at the table. I was a terrible Dungeon Master (DM) and that I should trust to the game designers for all such rule modifications. “They have spent years learning how to do this right,” he said, “and how to balance the game. Why would you think you’re better than them!”
Man, I don’t even think it’s about being better than other people. I just enjoy the games I play. Which reminds me of a quote from Gary Gygax I read a few years ago:
. . . I only can speak for what I like to play. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is a game I enjoy playing, although not exactly . . . everything isn’t in the rulebook, and, of course, I use my creativity and imagination in adding to it, extrapolating from it and designing around it in ways that have absolutely no effect on the basic rules . . . In that respect you can add to it, you can augment it, (if you will), in areas which are not ‘keeper’ rules; I don’t bother with the combat system or the magic system . . . the important thing is that you enjoy the game you play . . .”Klavis, 4
I started modifying my games before I read that quote from Gary, but I was always a bit nervous about doing something wrong. Then I came across those lines and things just started clicking for me. I figured out that if the game was bogging down then I needed to streamline it and smooth over the rough patches. I had a duty to my friends at the table to make sure that all of us were enjoying the game we were playing.
Over the years I’ve gotten to a point where I just enjoy tinkering with the games I’m playing. I like modifying the games to create situations that help foster the sort of environments I want to explore at the table with my friends. It’s fun and I’m not going to stop just because an internet acquaintance finds it objectionable.
Kalvis, Tim. “thunderstruck interview Gary Gygax.” Thunderstruck, July, 1982. pg 4. DIGITAL. http://oldguygaming.com/images/thunderstruck-fanzine-3.png