Am I getting old or just lazy?

Lazy? In the last years I have developed an aversion against games that are very rules-heavy. Although Pathfinder looks very sweet, I just can’t see myself any game based on the d20 System anymore (aside from Microlite20 perhaps). I actually bought Fantasy Craft and was amazed by all the fresh ideas they brought into the game, but in the end, I will probably never run it. Back in the day I have ran several Shadowrun campaigns but today I find the rules much too complicated for my liking.

As I have been getting older I have noticed that I have less time for my hobby. That’s why I started to look at rules-light games like Savage Worlds, the D&D retro clones like Swords & Wizardry, Dungeonslayers and the new Dragon Age RPG. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind reading hundreds of pages of setting information, but when it comes to rules I want it fast and easy. Am I getting old or am I just lazy. As you grew older have you noticed that you preferred rules-light games or would you run D&D 3.5 with all available classes, feats, optional rules every day?

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

22 thoughts on “Am I getting old or just lazy?”

  1. Did you ever read Shane's posts he wrote while he was developing Savage Worlds? It basically came out of the same thing you're looking at here. The love for the games doesn't go away even as the time available for them starts to dwindle. SW was far from the only game made in that mold (I consider FATE to have similar motivations, and Spirit of the Century was born entirely out of the problems of scheduling games with friend with jobs and commutes) so all I can say is that you are far from alone in this.

    -Rob D.
    .-= Rob Donoghue´s last blog ..Dragon Age RPG =-.

  2. You're not lazy. You just have a life, and priorities. I'm the same way. If you look at the reviews I've written lately, I try to sum up a game's core mechanic in a single line if possible, then spend a lot more time covering the setting. That's what I like best — give me a background full of story ideas, but make the mechanics simple. As a GM I want to spend my prep time on story and characters, not rolling up statistics.
    .-= Berin Kinsman´s last blog ..First Glance: Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space =-.

  3. i have a busy life (career + wife + kid + wife's'continuing education + certification courses + daughter's'extra ciricular activities + home maintenance + vehicle maintenance x3 + amatuer game designer + blogger + other hobbies) and while the idea of rules light games is attractive, I just don't get the same satisfaction.

    I guess it depends on what you want to get out of it. I'm not looking for just a story, which seems to be the end result that rules light games gravitate towards. If I am just after a good story, I think there are better methods (which yield better stories). I also want the challenge of the game. I want character mechanics that are distinct and for character progression choices to be meaningful and have continued impact.

    All of the rules lite games I have tried do not meet these needs for me, regardless of the benefit of time savings.

    But neither do I see myself learning many new rules (light or otherwise). Pathfinder is close enough to the game I learned years ago to not be an issue. 4e D&D was borderline too much for me, but my group wanted to try it.

    That's my two cents.

  4. I have been finding myself enjoying a pretty "rules-moderate" game of Mage: The Ascension that I began running a few months ago after trying 4E and playing a lot of 3.5 prior to that. Our group seems to enjoy it and I have been running things on the fly with a pretty strong timeline that I keep moving forward in my head as the party goes. I don't think it is lazy at all.

  5. I'm finding that, while I prefer rules-light systems like Welsh Piper's Chimera, and Savage Worlds (both of which I've drawn on for my own rules-light homebrew rules), the key has been not so much the mechanics as the encounter design. Mixing constraining conditions, terrain, difficult objectives, and monsters means spending a little more prep time individually on these encounters, but I can run fewer "combat" encounters. My groups love combat, so I make sure they get a healthy dose of it, but they really love it when it involves those other factors. It keeps everyone involved.

    As an older GM, with less free time, I draw heavily on published encounters that I can alter to fit my campaigns, especially when they include interesting constraints.

    The space in between combats can then be the free-flowing, make stuff up and roll with it kind of gaming that, I think, captures the old-school gaming feel.

  6. Lazy, definately Lazy.

    Kidding, its more age and getting stuck in your ways. Why learn a new system, you have plenty of old systems (unless its new). Much like how an older person can't grasp a game like Catan as "too complicated" yet they are masters of bridge, cribbage and a half dozen other bizarre games with abritrary and non-sensical rules.
    .-= Zzarchov´s last blog ..Project Xenophon =-.

  7. @Zzarchov: Actually I am like to try out new games BUT they must be rules-light or at least "rules-moderate" as Phalse put it. I am definitely not stuck in my ways since I pretty much abandoned a lot of games I played in the past for new games.

  8. Well, by the time I got here, I don't have a lot to say but "yeah, what they said."

    However, for me a large part of it is not wanting to sit down and learn new rules. The relative complexity of the rules set doesn't bother me. Learning PDQ#, Savage Worlds, or 4e D&D would probably be about the same effort for me. But, I'm likely to stick with d20 variants for a while, because I already know how they work. (Of course, I've also been trying hard to learn FATE and PDQ#, because I like the attribute and story driven systems. But, I've already spent over six months on that, and I'm not ready to run a game in either system yet.)

    Of course, I also have spent a lot of time specifically studying techniques for playing with low or zero prep, regardless of the system. Because, if I put prep into a scenario, then that prep very quickly grows rails.
    .-= Lugh´s last blog ..I need a corral for my ideas =-.

  9. Let me say although rules-light has always interested me, I usually run games that tend to be more robust in terms of rules. D&D has been my bread and butter for the better part of my gaming life, followed by Star Frontiers for many years, so I expect some rules in the games I play. That said, I’m a recent convert to Savage Worlds, and the upcoming sci-fi game will be run with that rule set. The Micro Six rules I discovered thanks to this blog (thank you very much sir) I’ll be adapting for an upcoming PbP game.

  10. Well, I AM lazy, but I prefer rules-lite games for a different reason: I DON"T WANT TO JACK AROUND WITH LOTS OF RULES. I just wanna get in there and make the magic happen.

  11. I think its a combination of "real life" priorities and dwindling time, one's preferences and goals for gaming, and, with a wide exposure to various rules sets, a kind of "been there, done that" effect that sets in. One of the things I learned in wargaming for the Navy was that one of the most critical element of any ruleset was the decision-making environment. I think the same is true for RPG systems. They all create decision-making environments and mostly differ in the fiddley bits — the mechanics. So a lot of it is what bits one enjoys, how much time one wants to spend with them, the balance they offer between resolutions and imagination, how they may or may not affect one's perception of the game world, and how well one is able to immerse themselves in the decision-making environment. While I'm not rules-light system person I think any system can work very well with enough imagination and immersion into the cooperative storytelling environment of RPGs. A number of months ago I read a quote by a well known game designer (don't remember where or who) to the effect that, "we won't tell them that they really don't need the rules." I think there's a lot of truth to that. My 2-cents.

    1. By the way, the quote you mentioned has been attributed to Gary Gygax. I am not sure if it ever has been confirmed or if it's just a rumor, but it sounds like something he could have said.

  12. I've notice that it is not a lack of time that is an issue, just that the enjoyment of knowing every detail of a game has faded.

    This is natural, all fun activities wane over time as your brain gets used to and bored with them. (I think the technical term adaptation, but I may be misremembering things).

    It is not helped by the fact that when you've read five different approaches to character generation, the sixth one is not going to seem that original so why even bother with the seventh or eighth ….
    .-= Chris Tregenza´s last blog ..D&D 4e Review: The Desire =-.

  13. You're neither old nor lazy: you just don't have the same amount of time to dither with rules that you used to (or that WotC seems to require from its D&D market segment).

    That's precisely why I converted my campaign to the Rules Cyclopedia back in the early '90s. Great flexibility, which let me do what I wanted in less time. And that, as you already know, spawned the Chimera RPG, which saves even more time.
    .-= Erin Smale´s last blog ..Three-act Adventures =-.

  14. If it's lazy, then I'm lazy too. And getting old. But I prefer to think of it as "refined", and "less patient to deal with fluff/crud". I want simple, minimalist, and elegant. Not just simple … simple and mounds of crud, with 10 different ways to handle things that can all be done 1 generalized way, just wont do. Simple and elegant.

    I've thought about d6 (which is how I found this: a post on the d6-weg mailing list directed me to your blog entry about Mini Six … which lead me to subscribing to your blog) … but it is just non-simple/non-minimalist enough to not catch me. Plus, I'm slightly irked about the way each genre has a different set of primary attributes — they should figure out how to make one unified list.

    I think SHERPA is a little too simple AND minimalist. FUDGE, by itself, is a little too minimalist. Dream Park was a little too … inelegant. It lacked a means of easily/simply modifying or extending things (to add new spells). But it was otherwise pretty damn close to perfect.

    Eddy Webb posted on his blog (URL escapes me at the moment) a system called "Marvelous Superheroes", a cross between 4C/Marvel Superheroes … and FUDGE. I see the potential in it to make it a replacement for Dream Park, so I'm resurrecting my old half-finished "Dream Park in FUDGE" rules, and trying to get that finished (finally, after 15 years; I decided to rename it to "Marvelous Adventures").

    If you'd like to me track down the URL for Marvelous Superheroes, or let you know the URL for mine once it's ready, let me know.

  15. Sounds interesting. But, in order to get a copy I have to either pay $20, or sign up for a mailing list. Without knowing if I'm actually interested or not. It's like baiting a fishing hook with the promise of bait, not the bait itself.

  16. I'm with you on this one. DND3e takes way too long for combat, especially when everything has DR and SR, and no treasure given in the module overcomes the particular DR. We spent too many sessions, where 3 hours got us 10' further along.

    I've been really wanting to play Basic again (would still replace the magic system though), or use something like Marvel SAGA in a fantasy (fantasci?) setting. One mechanic to rule them all, rarely have to look anything up. That's my preferred style of playing. At least with a Supers system (like Marvel SAGA), you can create nearly any character you could imagine, and it's dirt simple.

  17. Neither lazy or aged. Skilled and experienced; you have moved beyond the need for training wheels in your gaming.

    I discovered minimalist rules and co-operative play in a friend's private, 'no hassle', game way back when I was a fresh faced youth. I've played a wide range of games, and unscientifically deduced that griefers thrive in the foliage of complex rules.

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