"The effect of the stun rules is not unlike the effect of the Shaken rules in Savage Worlds. So much so that - if I decided to use the stun rules - I would probably adapt the rules from Savage Worlds for getting rid of the effect: In savage worlds successful attacks often leave you 'shaken' - unable to act. On your turn you can attempt to get rid of the effect. If you succeed, you can move but not attack; If you succeed exceptionally you can also attack."
And that's fine. I had said I adapted my stun rules from someone else and they're certainly not 'mine' in any sense. I presume someone else is adapting them and naturally that adaptation is going to be different.
I only want to use the above to highlight a completely different point, one that is not directly related to combat. It is a trait that is not specific to role-players, but it is specific to a certain type of person and a lot of those people gravitate towards gaming - presumably because gaming is a good fit for them.
These are people who cannot abide an absolute.
The rule simply has to have an 'out.' No matter what the rule is, if it threatens my character's life, I want another saving throw, I want something I can do to mitigate the effect, I want absolutely to be raised if something goes wrong, even if my body is totally lost or buried under a mountain. I want an escape clause!
Naturally, the escape clause inevitably has its own absolutes. And that is the problem. Because, as we all know, eventually the escape clause needs an escape clause, for the original rule with the escape clause is still too damn final. It's too unpleasant. It means that sooner or later, I'm going to have to just suck it up and accept that I've lost.
That is . . . unacceptable.
The reader should know me well enough to know that I don't believe that. I am a big fan of absolutes, of failures, of inevitable deaths and of players sucking it up because their character just dropped that big item in the primordial soup. Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad. What a tragedy.
While I'm trying not to sound like an old man and his lawn, I must explain that this peculiar habit of avoiding absolutes pops up everywhere in our culture - from calling in sick when you're not sick, to casual Fridays because five days a week are too many to dress for work, to "you're a winner" ribbons handed out to little children who lose on Sport's Day. Life is simply too unfair for any of us to endure it day in and day out without an option, without a guarantee that we'll be allowed to break the rules on this one day because having to obey the rules all the time is such a drag.
I can't say I'm immune. I break the rules too, since most of the time it's possible to break the rules and get away with it. Yet I'm sober enough to recognize that breaking the rules is not a praiseworthy act; it's doesn't get the job done, it doesn't keep the hounds at bay, it doesn't pay the rent and in the long run, too much breaking of rules will drive us into decadence, degradation and ultimately leave us moribund. The turnstyle marked 'rule-breaking' is the one that gets us on the train to Hedonism.
Then again, if you don't know yet what's wrong with that place, I suppose you must still be young. You'll see.
So here I am being all tyrannical again. Obey the rules, quit whining, get the hell off my lawn. Right?
No, not quite. I wrote perhaps one time too many about the importance of changing rules and adjusting your role-playing game to make it a better experience, to talk to the players about what to change and to accept that change is a good thing even though precedent and continuity are important. Rules are fluid, they are part of the game's structure and the thing about structure: there is always room for improvement.
What amuses me - and I mean that word, amuses, in a completely non-sarcastic way, for I do not believe it does any individual any harm - is that this escape clause is applied so often to such mediocre details. Such as the example above, where even the loss of one combat round is unacceptable without there still being a chance that it won't be lost.
That is where we can see how endemic the problem is. We can see, clearly, where something was changed during game-testing, because someone complained. "You mean I'm 'shaken' for the whole round? No matter what?"
"Oh, okay, we can fix that."
Well, players certainly gripe. They certainly do. And it is hard to look them in the eye and tell them that what they wanted at the store isn't available, or that yes, the sword breaks, or that no, the crystal ball doesn't reveal anything at all. No, seriously, nothing. Really. No, not even that.
Well, hell, it has to tell us something. It's a crystal ball, for f's sake!
Nope. Not a damn thing. So move on.