Mearls (mearls) wrote,

Learning, Like Reading, is Fun and Mental

Writing good rules is harder than designing good rules.

There's a fundamental contradiction in the art of putting together a rulebook. One one hand, you have to write in a manner that explains the rules clear and concisely. You also have to organize things for reference. On the other hand, you need to write in a tone that's conversational and fun. One could argue that a rulebook that's an enjoyable read is probably a terrible reference, and vice versa. All that exuberence and energy just gets in the way when you need to figure out what happens when an area of effect attack misses its target point. Yet, a little energy goes a long way to keeping someone reading.

The greatest thing videogames ever did was throw in training levels, the parts where you get to blast away at harmless target 'bots or chop down ridiculously undergunned enemies* to learn the controls. Learning by doing is more fun and engaging, and it speaks to why a lot of people learn games from other people, rather than from books.

This is where analog games face their biggest shortcoming compared to digital games. A digital game is inherently more fun to learn how to play. If you design an analog game, think about how you can make that learning process fun.

The smartest thing Blizzard did with WoW was let you hack apart wolves and trolls at level 1, rather than bunnies and mice. The numbers behind either monster are the same, but it just looks so much cooler to hand some troll slob his ass. In the end, WoW might've bored me to tears, but there are tons of things that Blizzard does right. Don't force your players to earn the right to enjoy your game. Give 'em the cool stuff not only at the beginning of the game, but when they're still learning how to play.

I think this is why so many people fondly remember the 1983 red box D&D set. The first thing you did when you opened the book was read a page of text, then chuck a d20 to chop up some goblins. That's D&D, right there. People don't buy D&D to read page after page of rules. They buy the game to enter a fictional space and turn goblins into piles of hacked apart limbs.
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