Less is More

Somebody at a con once asked me how much prep they should do to ensure a good session for a game.  The obvious answer “as much as is fun” is not that helpful so I broke it down further. “Next game,” I said, “do a bit less prep, and see what happens. If your game doesn’t explode, do a bit less again the next time. Keep doing less and less until you see it actively and significantly harm the game, then go back one step.”

That’s not a bad strategy for a lot of life, too, and I think all design. Too often we are driven to do more and more and more without realizing that long ago we passed the point where more effort actually added more value.  Sometimes its much better to turn around and do less, so we can actually end up doing or having the right amount.

French author Antoine de Saint Exupery said “It seems that perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.”  Thoreau said “Simplify, simplify, simplify”. What’s in your current work you don’t need? Are you struggling to add more or fix something to make it perfect before it is released? Maybe its time to row the other way, cut it back, and find the elegance of simplicity, and the perfection of doing less.

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One thought on “Less is More

  1. Good point, Steve. 🙂
    However, you sometime design a RPG to have it published and sold to other gamers. So you’ve got to write down :
    – all the information which is usually in your head;
    – again, the background description in much length ; instead of being in your head
    – your design choices explained, and the attempt to convey the atmosphere at your table. For example, remember the Amber rulebook? Few rules, but a lot of game dialog transcripts and examples to show how the game was supposed to be played 🙂
    – exceptions and interdictions, so your elegant simple rules have no loopholes exploited by powergamers
    – the unwritten rules of your group’s social contract
    – etc.
    It’s a huge step to transfer your creation from your group to your community. If you don’t detail it enough, you might not recognize your game when someone else is GMing it 🙂
    OTOH, you’ve got over-detailed universes, like Glorantha (the universe of Runequest/HeroQuest). There seem to be not limit to it’s complexity, more so given that there are conflicting points of view exposed. This rebukes some gamers from entering the game, but it’s fans on the contrary appreciate the level of immersive details and the debates they induce. 🙂

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