The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don’t need any rules. -Gary Gygax
That quote from Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax has almost become axiomatic across the hobby, a mantra for the avid homebrewer, house ruler, and just about anyone who’s ever read a wonky rule and thought, “That could be better.” Unfortunately, while The Godfather nailed many things in his career, this quote wasn’t one of them.
Gygax’s point is intuitively pleasing: roleplaying is really just a form of shared storytelling, and no one needs rules to enjoy the less collaborative forms of narration, such as fiction writing. This view overlooks an important contribution of the rules, and perhaps the only one that matters: rules provide a way for the GM to kill players. Continue reading