I just finished a draft of an article for Pyramid. I ran into a challenge with it that I thought I’d share.
I had an idea and a gripe. The gripe was, as is frequently the case when I contemplate writing a rules-driven article, that there was a case within the rules that produced some results that challenged willing suspension of disbelief in some circumstances. I won’t say what that particular rule is, since the work is still being revised. It does have to do with weapons – hand weapons in particular.
During the process, I had another idea. This one allowed players and GMs to separate a few quantities used to describe weapons that are currently treated as one thing. Hey, you get to differentiate between certain concepts, and achieve a finer resolution and more detail to make weapons more unique. With certain limitations, this allows the hard-core simulationist crowd to get more satisfying results. Take those limits away, and you get a great cinematic feel.
What could be wrong with that?
When I was done with the draft, it just wasn’t ever going to be fun.
While there were still some great parts of the concept, and even the execution, while reading and revising the article it rapidly became clear that the way it was done would require either the universal adoption of an eclectic house rule (quantifying armor in dice rather than points), or a disturbing amount of math not during character generation, but every time you run a combat.
Unless you’re using a computer and it’s all done for you, there comes a point, sometimes very quickly, where all the extra detail does not help the game.
Dungeons and Dragons used to have rounds that were 30-60 seconds long, and segments that were 5-6 seconds long, if I recall correctly. Nowadays, I think the 5-6 second turn/round/segment/whatever is the official elapsed time. GURPS usefully drives that down to a one second resolution. Depending on what you’re doing, you can do a lot of stuff in one second. In some cases, it’s the length of time between life and a Total Party Kill. In other cases, such as a competitive grappling match, you can go for minutes with no end-game reached.
So what if you took GURPS to tenth-second time increments. How about milliseconds?
Those hands you see? That’s +Peter V. Dell’Orto reaching through the screen to kill me.
And he’d be right. Too much detail stops being useful. It stops being fun.
If rules aren’t enhancing the story, if they’re not increasing immersion, believability, and entertainment, they are bad. They should be redone until they are fun.
In the end, no matter how compelling the concepts I was trying to set down seemed, my execution of them made them not-fun.
At that point, it was time to step back, admit that this battle had been lost, and a new approach was required.
One day, this will be made fun, and that will be a good day. Until then:
“Books are not written – they’re rewritten.” –Michael Crichton