The Heart Of A Game: Crunch And Fluff
March 27, 2013

The Heart Of A Game: Crunch And Fluff

There are a lot of excellent tabletop games out there, which can make choosing a new one to try something of a challenge at times. While I know there are some groups who opt to play only a single game, my groups like to try a variety. We are each individuals, after all, so we each have different tastes. No one game gives us everything we want out of a tabletop experience, so we tend to alternate between campaigns. When that time comes, we finish our previous campaign, and I begin my research into selecting a new game, there are two things I look at. Crunch and fluff.

When I say “crunch,” I am referring the mechanical elements of the game. The rules. Almost every game is different. Most have you roll dice, though there are a few that don’t. Some use only a single, six-sided dice. Others use ten-sided ones. Some, like Dungeons & Dragons, use a variety of dice ranging from four-sided to 20. Some games use a percentile system and others have their own unique elements. In short, every game is potentially very different. When looking at the crunch of the game, I have to weigh many things such has “how complex is the system?” “How hard will it be to learn or to teach?” “What sort of dice will players need, if any?” I have players that vary from loving mechanically complex systems to thinking that all numbers and math are evil, so it can be a challenge to balance the interests of all parties. Player opinion is a strong factor here, as if a game is either too complex or not complex enough, some players can loose interest. It is very important to know your group when selecting a new game to introduce to them.

Next, there is the “fluff” of the game, more commonly referred to as either the game’s story or setting. Just as with the various rules systems, the fluff of a game is also widely varied. There are games of high fantasy, cyber-punk, steam-punk, adventure, horror, and almost any other theme you can possibly imagine. Of the two main elements I look at, crunch and fluff, I find fluff to be the more important, but this is only my own opinion. To me, a good story can carry even the most convoluted of rules sets – I’m looking at you, Palladium Games. Different games have different levels of fluff. Some games are all about the fluff, focusing on storytelling over mechanics while others have virtually no fluff at all, giving you a solid set of rules to use while leaving all story and setting in the hands of the gamemaster. While I personally enjoy games with a fair deal of fluff, rules-only games are still a lot of fun.

Be you a player or a gamemaster, giving some consideration to both the crunch and the fluff of your own games can help you get the most out of your tabletop gaming experience.

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