House rules — necessary vs fat

Nathan Dowdell (lead rules developer for Modiphius’ Star Trek) made a distinction on between necessary and desirable house rules —

  • Necessary rules fix problems with the game. He needs to make the game playable and enjoyable for him. Making these is a pain; making these is work.
  • Desirable rules take a good game and make it better. They extend the game, adding new options or adding detail in areas he’s interested in. Making these is fun; it’s a leisure activity.

I see an analogy here to the distinction between “fat” and “skinny” games — fat games have extensive library content, while skinny games just have the rules. Fat is easy to cull, easy to add; skin is not. Changing skin is hard work. Change the skin wrong, and all the fat falls out, and stains the carpet.

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