I meant to write something up for the April Blog Carnival, but alas time is fleeting away with so many other endeavors about. Regardless, speaking on The Combat Experience is something I do often and will regale you with my wit and knowledge… ok, maybe not, but I still offer my opinion.
There are a multitude of facets to any combat system. I do not think there is a debate for the need of rules to resolve a situation, but there is usually a time when there is an argument about how a rule is interpreted. This brings me to the point of this discussion, the complexity of rules in combat. This is not an argument for more or less rules, but my own experience with multiple rule sets.
When I started role-playing, rules were much lighter and we enjoyed many nights of slaying evil or exploring the galaxy. As the years progressed, I became increasingly interested in making games more complex, adding little nuances for facts about real life that I was an expert in, or thought I knew something about. Like many others, I started developing my own world and my own system, with delusions of grandeur on creating a game that people enjoyed playing.
So I continued to this trend until I played a game that took an entire session to resolve two bullet shots at the same target. The game was so complex, it had rules for deflection from shooting through varying thicknesses of glass, to which bones were hit and shattered as the bullet passed through the body. I forget the name of the game, but I walked away and have never played it again. This also broke my need for a complex rule set.
As my time becomes more valuable, and I have less time for role-playing, I find that I like less rules and more description in my games. There will always be some level of ambiguity in the rules. On top of that, there will always be misinterpretation and derision for someone else’s rule. my personal opinion is that a lighter rule-set will allow more freedom of action and less time trying to find all the applicable rules for a given situation.