LRP events typically have rules. Some of them have very few rules, others have rules dictating everything. I typically prefer to run and play games with fewer rules.
Rules serve several functions. They can help players to do things that they can’t actually do. We can’t actually stab each other with swords, so we have rules that help us to work out if that has happened. We can’t cast magic, so we have rules to help the players work out if they’re able to use spells. Our players are hopefully not really dying from injuries, and we need players who aren’t really medics to be able to heal them. The rules a game should have are the ones that enable a game to continue to happen.
They help level a playing field or to create challenge. Players that aren’t that good at something can use skills rules to be able to do that thing – as in the medic example. Also it enables people to play a better fighter, purely by being able to stand up to being hit more. No matter how good you really are at fighting, you’ll last longer if you can be hit 4 times before falling over than if you can only be hit twice.
Rules should be subtle. They should help the flow of the game, and not be jarring. Anything that requires calls should be seriously considered before being allowed to be part of the rule set.
We tend to run games with dramatic rules. You run out of ammo when it is dramatically appropriate. You take hits when it is dramatically appropriate and you are as injured when it is dramatically appropriate. If it’s an awesome opportunity for your death then you should die. You can fix the electronic thing. You can get the door open just as the monster reaches you, or not, if we’ve put an actual lock on it and you’ve not yet worked out how to pick the actual lock.
The rules should add tension for both you and other players, and we trust our players to play the spirit of the game, and not try and live as long as possible. There are players that bend the limits of the spirit of the game, but we believe that rules to contain them would be more intrusive than they are.
I really dislike fussy rules. Things like cover rules in combat and things that require me to ask our of character questions about the situation before I continue. These often include calls that ask me to modify my behaviour. I like to use hard skills for discussion and negotiation. Games that have calls for these completely destroy that element of the game. They set me up for something that I have some skill at, but not enough that it isn’t a fight, and then take that away with a call. I’ve never come across a negotiate skill that doesn’t give, in my mind, too much of an advantage with too little subtlety.
I also have a bad memory for rules. I tend to like to go and play wholeheartedly in the moment and for it not to matter that I can’t really remember more than one hit point at a time (armour is useless to me). I want my games to run fluidly with players able to get deeply involved and not be counting hits and trying to work out effects. I want them to be immersed in the games, and not to notice the rules we built around it. A good game is a game where the rules are something that doesn’t impinge on game play. There should be as few rules as there can be while still allowing the game to flow.