Tuesday, 20 October 2020

The Ancient Rule of Cool

The “rule of cool” is a phrase some Online RPG People use, referring to the idea that if a player comes up with something interesting and fun, it should go into the game without question (i.e. without rolling dice).

The idea that people should put things they like into their game is so banal and tautological that it barely warrants repeating, which is of course why the internet repeats it constantly. Also because it rhymes.

But! Since you lot love people telling you what you can and can’t do so much, I have delved into the musty dragon-hoards of academia, studied the ancient and sacred roleplaying texts and found that the original rule of cool actually refers to the entire act of GMing - it is not a mindless mantra after all, but a proper Rule by which games may be governed.

(Which is to say that, as with any Rule in an RPG, it should be largely ignored until deemed necessary, like baking soda or a pneumatic drill. But don’t tell the nerds about all that, you’ll frighten them.)


The true, actual, Ancient Rule of Cool is as follows:

The GM first sets up a fictional situation. There may be cool things already happening. The other players have characters who find themselves in that situation. The game is those players suggesting cool things for their characters to do and the GM responding. Repeat.

Sidenote A: characters should therefore be constructed with the potential to do cool things through play. This takes precedence over a character being cool (optional, largely subjective) or, crucially, characters being able to do cool things separate from play - play in an RPG being the conversation and imagination provided by players. A character with a rope, torch and flask of oil has play potential. A list of die-roll responses to obstacles in the game state exists separate from play.

The GM then rates all player suggestions by the Rule of Cool.

If an idea is Not Cool at All, the GM’s response is No. The idea is not added to the fiction/ game state.

Sidenote B: This largely occurs only as a result of simple miscommunication, but if malice is involved the player is ejected from the game (note: this is a people problem, not a game problem, and therefore warrants no further discussion here).

If an idea is Not Cool Enough, the GM’s response is Yes, And. The table comes up with ways to make the suggested action and its consequences cooler before it is added to the fiction/game state.

If an idea is Cool, the GM’s response is Yes. The idea is added to the fiction/game state.

If an idea is Too Cool [for School], the GM’s response is Yes, But. The idea is added to the game only upon the players achieving certain prerequisites. (Eg: a player wants to ride a laser dragon into battle. The prerequisite might be journeying to a far corner of the world to steal a dragon’s egg.)

Roll dice if you get stuck or don’t want to make a decision.


Now then, that’s enough academia from me, I’m off to actually play some games. Why quibble over coastlines with cartographers when you could be having fun at the beach?

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