Less Rules To Do More

Over the past two years I’ve been running more and more games in the style of pre-D&D games, FKR, “Arnesonian”, etc.

In the above blog post I am trying to make an argument for reducing the rules around things important for your game before you go about adding more mechanics.

Let me know what you think!


I agree with your conclusions. I’ve noticed with my own players that if one of them has a skill or feat allowing them to do someone, the others will act as though it’s forbidden for them. It’s deeply ingrained. If I tell them that anyone can try the thing, they usually won’t unless the thing-specialist is with them.


Great post!

I’m constantly championing the use of the narrative/negotiation to accomplish the things you talk about as well. I think that a lot of people fail to see the sheer possibilities and beauty inherent in the more abstract combat systems.

Verisimilitude in systems always comes with a price (most often we pay this in speed of resolution…perhaps my preference is just for quicker combats), and the point you make about players “living in their character sheets” is one I bring up often as well. Rules can take a player “out of the game” and lead to decision making based on system or even decision paralysis. When the rules are telegraphing “what is and isn’t possible” or “the odds of something succeeding” it can inform the player’s strategy in a negative way.


I love me a short rulebook. Anything longer than ~30 pages and I start sweating at the thought of having to read and absorb it.

Upon playing through a heartbreaker with family, friends and random internet people, I’ve found it increasingly worthwhile to prune away excessive detail particularly in equipment lists. Saves having to explain what exactly the difference is between banded mail and splint mail is, and I’ve not met many outside of nerd circles who know what brigandine armour is.

I’ve just had a look at how the weapons have changed over the iterations:

version 0.12

version 0.14, doing away with specific names and going for flexible categories instead


version 0.21, realising that you probably don’t need to worry about ranges when the categories themselves are named ‘ranged’ or ‘melee’, and it makes space for examples


Suddenly the in-laws, who are enthusiastic geeky boardgamers but not all that au fait with fantasy vocab, had a solid grasp of what these weapons are and do. And less time has been spent trying to work out the ‘perfect’ weapon, and fewer occasions of people wanting to play axe-wielding berserkers but picking hammers instead because they’re more optimal.


Off White Cube rules! Exactly my kind of game.


They joy of the OSR spirit - take a game you quite like, strip away anything you don’t like and render the game barely recognisable to end up with something just the way you want to play (and / or run).

It reminds me of that phrase by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.