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The Seer Vitz

Updates: A Necessary Evil?

I would say that one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a great game is to find that the rules are changed while playing it. When this happens, on occasion an inconsistency arises that can often times be problematic. Sometimes rules are added, sometimes rules are changed, and sometimes rules are deleted, but all of these changes can drastically affect a game.

Yes, I know that you do not have to use all new rules that come out. I know that you have the choice to disregard any rules you want, and you can even make up rules that don't exist. Yet, if you do try to stay "true" to a game system, it is usually important to keep up with the new rules, so new accessories can be used. However, when rules supplements are added midway through an adventure, it is highly conceivable to realize that the enjoyment of the adventure can be ruined.

So, what do I suggest? Do I say to ignore all rules supplements? Do I suggest applying all supplements? No, I suggest that if you are going to use new supplements, you should wait for the current adventure to be over. But what happens if you are in the middle of a long running campaign that you don't plan on ending anytime soon, but that you also want to be current with the game system? Well, the best thing to do is find a point in the adventure where such a change would not affect the game in an overly unbalancing way. And if you are going to use new rules that enhance the characters themselves, you should stay away from changing the past of the character at all costs.

If you change the past of a character, then the whole adventure loses its meaning and should just be ended right there. Accept your loses and get out of there, as it would be. For example, suppose you are playing an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game and a new rules supplement comes out that allows for mages to wear metal armor while casting spells. This can actually be worked into the adventure without changing the past of the character, for example, he may have found a secret technique to allow for such an action. Yet, if you are playing AD&D and a supplement comes out that changes the way a character is created and gets new skills as levels increase, you should NOT change the character to meet this new system.

This last case can be seen in the new supplements that TSR, Inc. put out called Players' Option. These new accessories change the way that a character is created and the way that he advances. If you have a character and you want to update him to this new system, it is a very bad idea to do so midway through an adventure. In order to apply this system, you would have to basically go back and re-create the character. That is never a good idea.

However, all in all, I would say that updates are generally useful. Most of the time they make for smoother game-play. Yet, some new additions actually slow game-play down or make the rules overly confusing or overly important. I prefer a game that tries to move away from rules, not one that ends up getting bogged down by them. But, mostly, rules additions add to the game-play and make for a smoother adventure or one that is more consistent. Yet, I wish instead of constantly adding minor rules, they would go out and make a whole new system! That way you could play with the rules that you know, and if you decide that the new rules are worthwhile, you would not have to worry about compatibility issues.

Rules that create a discrepancy in your game should generally be avoided. There is nothing worse than adding a rule that causes discord in your gaming group. If the rule ruins the fun, what is the point of using the rule? In my opinion, it would defeat the purpose! But, then again, it is just "my" opinion... What do you think?

In my own words,

James A. Vitz
RPG Columnist