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Small Things In Rules Apparently Do Matter

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Earlier this month, I posted than two-thirds of my Swords & Wizardry players preferred Microlite74 to Swords & Wizardry (see Microlite74 is "better" than Swords & Wizardry?). I was at a loss to explain this as the differences between M74 and S&W seem trivial to me and my players couldn't explain why they preferred one to other beyond that they thought m74 play was smoother and the rules got in the way less.

After two more game sessions and some discussion, those who prefer Microlite74 have been able to more clearly state why they do. The reasons surprised me and amounted to "we played 3.x and the crunchy bits of Microlite74 are more like 3.x than the crunchy bits of Swords & Wizardry".

You know how some old school gamers seem highly annoyed when ascending armor class is used even if the results of the die rolls are mathematically the same as if descending armor class were used? I look at this and just don't get it. It seems like it is a meaningless difference, yet it makes a huge difference to some players. The same thing seems to be going on with the 3.x players in my S&W game. For example, S&W includes both descending and ascending armor class rules while M74 doesn't, so M74 feels closer to the game they started with than S&W does -- and therefore less complex.

Microlite74 looks closer to 3.x in its few crunchy bits than Swords & Wizardry does, so they prefer it -- even though both games play very much alike and the few crunchy bits these games have give quite similar results.

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? I don't know if it means anything. However, it may show that for at least some players, the little things in the rules are more important to player enjoyment than many of us might think. Perhaps, if the object of a new "old school" game is to attract new players to old school gaming, the game should be designed to use "modern crunch" (that new players are probably familiar with) to duplicate old school style where possible instead of "old school crunch" that old school players more familiar with.

Robert Fisher said...
April 28, 2009 at 3:51 PM  

Interesting. I tend to dismiss such differences that seem insignificant to me without considering that they might be significant for others.

Anonymous said...
April 28, 2009 at 5:16 PM  

It is just human nature to be more comfortable with (and like better) the things with which one is most familiar. For most people, taking a step out of that comfort zone and trying something different isn't a major deal, but the farther from it that one gets, the less likable the experience.

But honestly, the armor class rules post-2E are easier to deal with. I've never played either system, but I'd lean towards whichever one has simpler rules as well. I started with 1st edition and never thought much about the AC rules... that's just the way they were. But since 3E, I wouldn't want to go back to wanting a negative number for my armor class.

rcarbol@home.com said...
April 28, 2009 at 5:25 PM  

Well... hmmm. I mean, if you ask someone "Here's 2 very similar products -- which do you prefer?" then I wouldn't be surprised that their preferences would depend on small differences.

I'm not sure I get the sense that the preference was particularly strong in any direction, though.

Spike Page said...
April 28, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

Ooooh no...no..nope..not gonna comment on Ascending versus Descending AC..nope.. not gonna go there!

But yet for some, such things DO matter, even more than the actual module or what the other players contribute to the game session.

But for what it's worth, if it makes your group happy and more comfortable, then go with the flow.

Randall said...
April 28, 2009 at 9:16 PM  

rcarbol said: "I'm not sure I get the sense that the preference was particularly strong in any direction, though."

My players have been discussing whether we should stay with Swords & Wizardry or move the campaign to Microlite74 for over two weeks now. Both sides seem to have pretty strong feelings on the issue (although I don't think anyone is going to drop the game if their choice doesn't win out).

The funny thing is they can't seem to understand why I don't care which set of rules we use -- they are both OD&D with a few house rules to me.

Adam Thornton said...
April 28, 2009 at 11:24 PM  


I have a couple of ASCENDING IS BETTER DAMMIT players.

But basically we do m74 because it's simpler: the sorts of game we play work just as well with three stats as with six, and no one has particular hangups that True D&D Has The Following Six Attributes...


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