Next month I’ll be running several events at GenCon (primarily Victoriana, which is near and dear to my roleplaying heart!). Whenever I run events, I have several goals in mind, including 1) ensuring everyone that plays has a good time, 2) an adventure is completed, 3) the players get the ‘experience’ of playing the game, and 4) I never have to crack open a book at the table.
This last point usually consumes a lot of my prep time. I try to make my character sheets as friendly as possible, putting everything the players need to know on them. I also make a one or two page ‘cheat sheet’ of the main rules so that everyone, including me, can reference them during play.
In an effort to keep things moving I also tend to simplify the rules. I stick to the main mechanic and fudge modifiers as necessary; I pencil whip the ends of combats when the outcome is fairly certain; and I tend to ignore ‘fiddly’ rules that would slow down play.
While I’d say my efforts are largely successful, there is a part of me that wonders if I’m stepping on my Rule 3 in order to accommodate Rule 4. After all, players tend to play games at cons because they are fans of the game or they want to “test run” a game. In either case it’s easy to slip on either player’s shoes to see how my rules-simplification may rub the player the wrong way (in my defense I do mention my simplifications up-front at the session, but I also realize that can still be “too late” for some players).
On the flip side, I’ve heard anecdotes from players about GMs that adhered so strictly to the rules that combats lasted too long or the GM spent much of the event flipping through rule books to ensure that a rule was implemented correctly. Most of these players wished the GM would have made a judgment call and moved on.
I have my con file open as I write this, so this question is very pertinent to me as I focus on the rules. So I ask you this, fair or foul? At what point (if any) would you feel cheated if you signed up for a con game and the GM deviated a bit from the rules?
Bonus Questions: Have you ever felt cheated by a simplification at your table? Have you ever appreciated one? Have there been times when you wished the GM would have simplified the rules at your table? Conversely, did you appreciate when a GM stuck to the rules when most of the players favored simplification?