Have no fear. I’m not suggesting you transform your game into an orgy. After all, some things should not be role-played…
I’m a huge fan of keeping it simple (stupid), or KISS for short. After all, Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” and I’m beginning to think he was onto something. (In fact I recently blogged about this in my Paradox of Choice post).
In today’s world, there is a natural tendency to embrace complexity. Complexity is all around; it beguiles us with the promise of a better outcome. But, ask yourself this: is the end result worth the extra effort a complex solution requires?
Perhaps, as a player your PC relies on a complex balance of feats, class abilities and equipment while as a GM you regularly run combats featuring six different kinds of opponents using options from a wide range of books. That’s fine as far as it goes — and if you are enjoying yourself I’m certainly not going to stop you — but often the simpler solution is easier to design and implement.
Running a simpler game has two major benefits:
- Quicker Design: Keeping it simple speeds up prep time immeasurably. Whether it means creating fewer — or easier to run — NPCs or crafting a less Byzantine plot you won’t spend so much time slaving away between sessions. I’m guessing your life is pretty busy, so this is a Good Thing. Focusing on fewer things — be they monsters, location descriptions, plots or whatever — means you’ll make better progress designing those things. Focusing on more game elements (or more complex game elements) means you must either spend more time designing or spend less time on each design. Neither of those options is ideal.
- Quicker Game Play: Building simpler NPCs or using fewer different types of foe in a fight speeds up game play. Using rules from one or two books means you’ll be using rules you know. This means you’ll spend less time looking up new rules options, feats, spells and magic items and more time actually playing the game.
Running a simpler game also has a host of minor benefits. These include:
- Lower Costs: If you agree to only allow certain books into your campaign it costs less to play. That’s rather handy if your players are at school, have just started a family, moved house and so on
- Lower Barriers of Entry: Running a simpler game makes it easier to integrate a new player. They have fewer books to accumulate and fewer things to read. This is particularly handy of the players is young or experienced. (As an aside, it’s also easier to run your chum’s PC if he can’t make the game.)
- Less GM Burnout: If prepping for the game is a doddle, the GM is less likely to burn out and give up. GM burnout is bad — it can lead to the end of campaigns and even cause groups to implode. Neither situation is exactly great.
- Fewer Arguments: Using fewer rules inevitably means everyone at the table has a better understanding of the rules. This means there are fewer arguments. Arguments can cause bad feeling and (inevitably) reduce the amount of time you spend actually playing the game.