'No no,' he said. 'Chess isn't a game. Chess is a well-defined form of computation. You may not be able to work out the answers, but in theory, there must be a solution; a right procedure in any position. Now real games,' he said, 'Aren't like that at all. Real life is not like that. Real life consists of bluffing, of little tactics, of asking yourself, what is the other man going to do - and that's what games are about.'"
-- Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man: The Long Childhood (Episode 13)
Here is a hint to why D&D strikes so deep into some people. All the rules I have created for the game, all the guidelines and boundaries and structures I've developed in order to solve problems having to do with measuring the aspects of D&D for the players - the generation and distribution of wealth, for instance, or the limits of a monster's combat endurance - do not, and have never, gotten into the way of the fundamental strength of the game itself: that being that the game is NOT computational.
I can feel for those who fear that some of what I've advanced on this blog might suggest it is my goal to make the game more computational; however, it must be noticed that although I may increase the measurement of a thing, I also increase the immensity of the thing that is to be measured. I insist that everything ought to have a logical price - and then I create hundreds more things and objects, and vastly vary the price based upon a geography that dwarfs the silly simplicity of even Greyhawk. I insist on rational principles for interactive mechanics - and then I greatly increase the variety and type of possible interactions that may conceivably take place in my world. In short, I establish a law, and then I encourage exceptions to the law that require precedents, which in turn encourage further exceptions leading to more precedents and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
Am I attempting to capture the world in a bottle? Yes. Is the world I am attempting to capture small enough to fit into any bottle? No. It is far too large for me to do that. I haven't the time to do this much work to 'fix' my world in any rational sense.
My purpose in reflecting a real world is done with the expectation that only in the real world is there the flexibility to break all the rules, given imagination, cleverness and ingenuity. It is not that I create rules so that they will not be broken; it is that I attempt to create rules which cannot be dismissed merely because it is convenient.
What I am seeing and reading in other worlds is a tendency on the part of DMs to simply handwave a rule - or a principle of logic - whenever it doesn't convenience them. Everyone in this city is a court jester? No problem. The Gods can be killed despite being immortal? Done. This is your fifth wish spell in a campaign that has run a month and a half? No issue there. And so on. Illogic, for illogic's sake; Santa's bag is open and out tumble the presents, all the children could want.
Convenience carries with it a disease: apathy. The greater the ease with which things can be overcome or redirected, the less meaningful they become, stage by stage. Like a gentleman who degrades his reputation by making small sacrifices of his scruples, the campaign degrades marginally with every waved hand. Steadily, the DM must trump his or her irrationalities with greater irrationalities, while the players grow to recognize that their life or death depends not upon their method of play, but upon how they emotionally stand with the DM. It is the relationship that the worshipper possesses with the deity - those the deity likes shall be preserved; those for whom the deity holds indifferently, are on their own. And if the whole table shall be blessed, the whole table shall do well and riseth in levels forevermore.
If the player will have it that the DM must bend the world to reflect the needs of the player, the player will strive less and less when things are not thus bent. The player will pout in the mud, and if he or she is given a million experience, then they shall demand two million, and continue to pout until they receive three.
A game is not played when one of the players services another. The DM cannot be made to service the players, and the players should not be made to service the DM. Rather, both should exist upon a playing field where the strategy is to lie, bluff and deceive the other, challenging both to the heights of creativity in order to do so. This cannot be accomplished where one side or the other can dismiss the 'rules' out of hand.
The scrub we played as children had specific rules. But the rules did not describe how we caught the ball, or how we moved our feet in running to the base, or where we put our hands on the bat when we swung. The rules only stated what ball thrown was a strike; but they did not specify that every ball thrown needed to be. The rules stated consequences for actions - missing a ball with the glove, hitting a player, reaching the base too late - but the rules did not demand that consequences be avoided. The rules did not specify where the fielders needed to stand; or how far from the base the basemen were allowed to be. In short, while there were many, many rules, and while the rules that existed were absolutely inflexible, the rules did not deny free will and innovation.
If the rules were not applied, however, in even a single instance, the game was ruined. That is why, instinctively as children, we fought bitterly about the rules, every time we played. Yet we did not seem to tire of the game. We did not fail to turn out an play when the opportunity arose. We liked the game. That we fought hard and long about the rules when we played was evidence of how much we loved the game as it was designed.
It was certainly not the rules we loved; rather, it was the degree to which we could circumvent the rules while maintaining the rules. How far could we stretch them? After all, the real world is full of rules - natural and judicial laws - and it is in circumventing those rules that life is given its very purpose. The compromising of uncompromiseable rules is the reason art exists. We know what we cannot do, and we know what we must try to do anyway ... and the grey area in between is so sweet, it is the stuff of our dreams.
So it is with D&D. Handwave that away and the game is spoiled. It is not as though the rules that do exist can ever account for every possible situation in a player's imagination ... no matter how many rules are created.
There's always another way to bluff the DM.