A Market for Rules-Light Games?

The Rule of Rules-Light(er) on RPBlog II is a well-thought reflection of what most of us here at The Dice of Life have been struggling with. We want structure in our RPGs, but we have little room in our lives for complex rules.

So here are a few questions I have:

  1. What do you look for in a game that defines it as rules-light for you?
  2. As gamers get older, do you think there's a growing market for rules-light or rules-simple games to replace the traditionally more complex games?
  3. What are some of the traditional 'sacred cows' in an RPG that you're willing to part with if it means playing a traditional RPG that requires a lower cost of investment of time, energy and money?

in reference to:

"Gamer Dads, Moms, and older, busy professionals still want structure, but they want fast gameplay and easier rules, too. Is there still a market for the complex? Of course, but I think the trend towards rules-light is going to continue and gain momentum. It doesn't have to be hand-wavy freeform, but a streamlined, fast-play set of rules is much in demand, I think."
- RPG Blog II: Lessons From Gen Con: The Rule of Rules-Light(er) (view on Google Sidewiki)

Update: I've gathered some responses from across various venues.

Antonio Reyes posted via a comment on Google Buzz:

  1. I look for a game that I can run after reading the book only once. I doesn't have to be a slim book, but the rules ( skills, task resolution, combat, ect) should be covered in less than a 100 pages. Preferably a unified mechanic should govern all aspects of the game, that way you don't have to constantly check the book to make sure you made the right call.
  2. I think that's the allure of the resurgence of the retro-clone.
  3. I'm willing to part ways with Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder.

I think now-a-days I'm sticking with the games that I already know or very simple and engaging games. I'm really excited about Call of Cthulhu (BRP), Savage Worlds, FATE, and Tunnels and Trolls. I like them because they are simple and flexible both in terms of rules and ideas.

Gnome Stew's Kurt "Telas" Schneider chimed in with his thoughts on Google Buzz as well.

  1. Can my wife learn it before she gives up? (D&D no, Savage Worlds yes)
  2. Absolutely. Look at the retro-D&D movement...
  3. Race & class. Granular spell and weapon stats. Charts. Lack of supplemental books.

Our very own Brennen had replied with a lengthy response on his own blog, The Everlasting Game Hunters: Ruminations on Rules-light Games.

And Peter Mancini, friend of The Dice of Life, simply commented on Google Buzz, "Decent [sic] by FFG is about as rules light as I'll get."

Thanks to all who replied. Anyone else who has some thoughts should feel free to share them here.


  1. Hell, what won't I part with? I'm a big fan of diceless games and games with easy resolution. the problem, there, is that the trade off is only worth it if you have a really good game. Which requires a really good storyteller.

    A good ST can turn any old game into a good one, even a rules heavy game.

    So, in reality, we're making games for the average gamer. Who is an okay ST, but who needs help from time to time.

    So ideally, I'd love to see a game that has a built in setting that can be changed or removed. It should have a simple resolution mechanic that can be added to if need be. And there should be plenty of room for games to NOT scale forever. One of the problems with savage worlds is that if you're playing a combat heavy character you have no option but to keep plugging away at it with new edges and skills. Your XP is practically spent for you. If the game didn't scale quite as much, then it would be possible to round those characters out more.

  2. Well, Savage World is a really cool system, 'cause it has rules, so it's both a "roleplay" and a "rollplay", but they are almost fast to learn and play. The GM has to do very few preparation, 'cause NPC are created quickly, and during game you have very few book-keeping. I love that system, and every day I love it more.

    Lord Lance (you can find me in the S.W. forum)

  3. I agree that slim rules and focus on Storytelling, the tale the group is building. Be it on-line chat, or around the table or larp.

    Since nWoD came I have taken that to me [after some grumpy grumpy about what are they going to do.. kill wod just to get it back grrr.. final nights then end it] buuut then I took my moment and read through the core book, then CtL and VtR and just thought wow.

    For now, they have slimed simple system. The system is there to use just as that.. The freedom for the ST is unlimited. The storytelling system is easy to learn, then its just up to the ST and the group to decided what to do..

    For example, I picked out here and there in all the parts of the VtR, CtL and so on that I liked.. then put it together with folk lore that I like to involve in my stories.. the only we really used has been the Storytelling system, to role a dice or two..

  4. Great article, Mr. Serrano! I really enjoyed reading it and the feedback you received.

    I think the older gamer market is craving a simpler game. Not simpler in fundamentals but simpler in abstract rules. The original D&D game was actually quite light compared to the later editions. I think people appreciate the massive scope of a good RPG but they wouldn't mind losing the insane amount of rules, especially extra supplemental rules.

    When I designed my own RPG, Challenger, I tried to get back to a simpler, more fundamental approach with a core mechanic applying to all actions faster than D&D's mechanic but losing none of the flavor or game-play.

    My RPG isn't really light, there are a lot of options and diversity. However, the system and mechanics are outrageously simple and easy to use. I think that's the ideal most companies are looking for now. A very fast, very simple game which can support a massive depth, plenty of options, and satisfy the most specific of gamers' tastes.

    I don't pretend to have created a great game (or even a mediocre one!) but I do know what I want in a game and I think there are others who would agree with me. I've had over 45,000 downloads on Amazon alone in under 6 months and I'm currently re-writing the book like a mad man because people are actually downloading the free version so I think it deserves decent formatting and artwork in the print version.

    Also, I'm not sure if anyone has considered this, but most of the original creators of D&D are now dead or fired by Wizards of the Coast. I think that leaves a huge potential market for the next generation of game designers, provided anyone is up to the challenge. I look forward to seeing what comes out in the next ten years!

    Best Regards,

    David L. Dostaler
    Author, Challenger RPG (free)