There is a second part to the philosophy that I was pitching yesterday, arguing that there's no higher principle than ensuring that a good experience is had by all. That second part is in the methodology - all that detail covered by the book How to Run. It's useless to cover that over again here, but I wanted to make a point about respect for rules that was not discussed in the book.
I don't have any respect for rules - except to say that everyone must obey the same rules, whatever they are. There are plenty of games in session where the participants treat the rules as this sacrosanct codex handed down to them from on high, fundamentally arguing that the rules must be there for a reason and - whatever that mystical reason might be - they should not ever be changed.
I could not, as a player, run in that sort of world. I'm too innovative not to eventually produce a situation not covered by someone else's rules and far too resistant towards solution by DM fiat. I want sound, solid reasons why my character can't do such-and-such. A DM answering, "That's my ruling" sounds a way too much like the parental, "Because."
From my beginning I have framed the game as a collaborative process. Yes, it was nice that someone sat down and produced the rules that they did, but that wasn't enough even in those first, early days when my world was simple and combat movement consisted of X's and O's on rough paper. As each part of my world conception has progressed, published rules have fallen further and further behind the curve. Many of those rules that were fairly sound have still be discarded over the years because my world and my players needed more.
More what, exactly? Well, opportunities. Whereas in the 80s and early 90s, most of my attempts or strategies to give the player more to do ended in clumsy systems that failed at their purpose, in the last fifteen years I have been making great strides in giving the player a deeper experience while empowering them. Each new project becomes a discussion between me and my players - long before such rules are installed into the campaign.
Ten years ago my world would have been a sort of Monopoly board with a sign next to New York Avenue that read, "Manhattan Properties to be added in July, 2005." This in addition to subdivisions that have already been built leading off Baltic Avenue, St. Charles Place and Short Line Railroad. Today I'm increasingly of the opinion that no structure left on the board isn't subject to alteration - not in the sense of a 'new edition,' but rather an iteration of the world I have been running all this time.
I don't believe any of this has to do with my peculiar personality or any special talents I have - I see these changes as having evolved from my attitude towards the game. That there are no right or proper rules, there are only rules that offer a given experience - some of which we want and some of which we don't need. One set of rules can always be exchanged for another; any set of results that fail to achieve expectations can be tossed out - or at least reconsidered. The only measure for any rule is in its contribution.
I hear conversations about 5.0 and they sound something like the way people talk about getting a new car. Yes, there are all these great features, but to be honest I'm finding odd issues in the stick shift and the air conditioning keeps kicking out on long trips.
I cannot figure this. Cars and cellphones and other daily technical apparatuses are beyond my ken where it comes to ripping off the back and rebuilding their insides . . . but the rules underlying any role-playing game is pretty straight-forward stuff. Whatever you may feel about any given platform, the improvement of your game starts when you recognize the platform provided for you is only the beginning. Apply yourself whole-heartedly to that platform's vivisection and re-animation and cease to concern yourself with the right or wrong of rules as defined by other people. Choose the right ones for you and your players, then use those rules to establish the campaign you want. Then brutally cut away everything that doesn't fit that campaign.
I can't imagine why you're not already doing this. Or why you might feel uncomfortable about it. If it helps, think of your recently purchased rules platform as a piece of furniture you've bought from IKEA that doesn't quite fit together properly. Imagine that this is the only sort of furniture on sale by every company, everywhere in the world - so there's no one to return it to and there's no alternative.
What are you going to do? Live with that?