This entry is part 1 in the series Rules Mastery


In October, my co-author and partner here at CM contacted me to ask,

(Extensively Paraphrased:) Something that has slipped away from me this past decade is a solid knowledge of the rules I game with. This lack of foundation has a number of serious consequences. Good thing I trust my players so much.

Not having rules expertise undermines my position as GM and expert. I don’t think I need to master knowledge of rules and rulescraft to be effective serve RPTx well, but I should at least be conversant. Part of the problem is I do not have a strong desire to read a lot of rules. I used to consume rules with great avidness. Now, my head starts to bob after a few paragraphs.

For my campaigns, I would like to be on top of the rules again, especially when GMing impromptu and creating crunchy stuff on the fly.

Do you have any advice?

  • How to get enthused about reading and consuming rules.
  • How to approach getting an understanding of the core principles and rules sub-systems of your chosen game rules;
  • How are things tied together;
  • How to get an understanding of the design of a game.
  • Methods of consuming rules for understanding them. Surely there are some tricks to grasping rules other than just reading the rulebook from start to finish!
  • How do you read the minds of the designers? What things do they consider, that I should also consider?
  • Basically, how do I analyse the rules for any given game system I’m using?

Rules have become a weak spot for me. I don’t like reading rule books much anymore, and I don’t have a solid knowledge of how to analyze rules. But I would like to.

I’m sure Johnn is not alone in all this. I have found that I can rarely read rule books all the way through anymore, myself. All this sounded like fertile ground for (yet another) major series of articles, and hence this post, which is designed to act as an introduction to that series.

Each of the above topics deserves, and will get, one or more articles of their own. I also have a couple of articles from a previous blog that I used to have at Yahoo (before they shut their blogging infrastructure down) on house rules that are relevant, and should be publicly available somewhere.

So Next time, I’ll start delivering on Johnn’s request…

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