Roleplaying Games Should Be Fun

The fun of gaming

What is fun?

Posted by Brett on February 13, 2009

What is a fun roleplaying game? I think the simple answer is anything you like. But we can look closer than that if we want, and we want to. Well at least I want to. You can do anything you like. But since you’re reading this I’ll assume you’d like to see what I have to say.

Lets start with our basics. What is fun exactly? From Wiktionary:

Noun

Singular
fun
Plural
uncountable

fun (uncountable)

  1. amusement, enjoyment or pleasure.
    I want to go out this evening and have some fun.
    What fun we’re having!
    • 2000, Robert Stanley, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Adobe Photoshop 6, Alpha Books, page 377
      Grafting your boss’s face onto the hind end of a donkey is fun, but serious fun is when you create the impossible and it looks real.
  2. playful, often noisy, activity.

So it seems that the basis of fun is to derive pleasure from an activity, idea, or place. Hmmm…. pretty simple stuff. But how does this relate to roleplaying games? Well, roleplaying games should be fun. You should be getting enjoyment from the game, some pleasure even. So why do game designer always say they don’t put rules in for things that aren’t fun? Who are they to decide what I find fun or not?

Both questions come from one answer. The designers put in what they think would be fun, usually for largest audience, but they can’t account for everybody. D&D doesn’t have rules for using the bathroom, I don’t think that strictly necessary to do so, although I’ve heard from several sources that FATAL includes them. Does thing make a game more fun? It might for somebody, but I can’t imagine how.

In many ways this is how all game designers look at their game rules. They need to ask does adding a rule for something make the game more fun? In many cases the answer is clear cut (urinating rules for example). However, you’ll end up with corner cases where the answer is maybe, and this is where the question of fun really comes into play. The reason you come up with a maybe is because it depends on the game. Take the following example. D&D does not need rules for changing your regular clothes, because it doesn’t fit into D&D’s style or genre of heroic fantasy. Mutants and Masterminds on the other hand does need rules for such a thing because its a superhero game and sometimes superheroes need to how long it will take to change into their spandex underoos.

So where does having a fun game take us? Well, to having fun with the game of course. These two things seem to go hand in hand, but they don’t always mesh the way one might want them to. Just because you think the rules for a game would fun, doesn’t mean the game itself is going to be fun. This seem odd at first but bear with me while I try to explain. I’ve played several White Wolf games and I think the rules themselves are fun. However, when put into practice I never found them fun because I could never really see how all those dots on a page related to the game at hand. Sometimes the rules didn’t make sense for actions I wanted to take even though I like the rules a whole, but in practical game play I wasn’t having fun. So what was I to do? Play a different game, that’s what.

All of that an here I am with one conclusion: Play the games you find fun. You don’t have to like everything out there, I know that I don’t. I just want to make one humble request, just becase you don’t like something doesn’t mean you need to be disrepectful to express your dislike. You don’t even need logical reasons, just be nice please.

And remember: Roleplaying Games Should be Fun!

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One Response to “What is fun?”

  1. Tommi said

    For me, “fun” implies amusing and light-hearted mood. It may or may not correspond with the actual usage of the word (I’m not a native speaker).

    I do find some play that can hardly be described as amusing to still be very fulfilling. Gaming can be demanding and heavy and deep and still enjoyable. Maybe you would call that, too, fun.

    Furthermore, in discussions related to roleplaying, “fun” has a nasty role in that it can be, and is, used to smother discussions about what people enjoy in their play. “I just want to have fun!” does not tell anything about one’s preferences. It has very little informative value and can only be used to make “feel good”-type statements (which are sometimes valuable).

    Hence, reducing game design to what is “fun” is, in my opinion, a bad idea, or at best a useless idea.

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