Distances and Combat
One thing that comes to mind is the idea of distance as it relates to battle. Consider Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition, where every distance is given in squares. This is relevant because combat is expected to be conducted on a battle map where each square is 5 feet by 5 feet. How far a creature can move, a weapon can be thrown, or a spell can be cast is extremely important on the tactical combat grid.
Contrast it with games like 13th Age or Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay (3rd Edition). In 13th Age, ranged weapons have very abstract notions of range, such as "Nearby Targets Only." Warhammer FRP takes a similar stance, dividing range into Close, Medium, Long, and Extreme. Neither of these games go to great lengths to specifically declare how far these distances are. As the 13th Age rulebook states, "Usually you move fast enough to get where you want to go in a battle." This is a sharp contrast to Dungeons & Dragons, a game that has always given explicit speeds for creatures and distances for ranged weapons. What games like 13th Age or Warhammer FRP do worry about, though, is whether two creatures are engaged with one another or not.
|This is a heated combat in Warhammer FRP. I swear.|
Money, Equipment, and Encumbrance
|The D&D Equipment List, circa 1993.|
(notice the lack of barrels of pickled fish)
As a (young) player who had grown up tracking wealth down to the copper piece, the idea that it could be abstracted was fascinating. For some reason, this had never come up before. This idea sat in my thought-space throughout the near-decade that I managed to avoid playing any tabletop RPGs. When I finally came back to D&D, my approach had changed considerably. Seeing the "adventurer's kit" appear in the equipment list seemed enough for me to decide that the odds and ends of equipment, like wealth, were generally not worth the time to track. We just assumed that unless it seemed interesting otherwise, the characters had the typical equipment that they needed. Who cares if your character has five torches or two, thirty arrows or sixty. What matters is whether you run out. From my experience, running out of equipment, be it rations or crossbow bolts, is something better decided by the table (both players and Dungeon Master) when it's interesting in the context of the narrative. I felt the same about encumbrance rules. If I did not intend to bother tracking the details of what players had, why would I care about the details of how much it weighed?
|Right. Encumbrance rules are optional.|
There are a lots of details to focus on in a tabletop role-playing game. Everything from mapping a dungeon to counting experience points is something that a game group may, or may not, consider important. Being able to recognize that different players are interested in different things is important in putting together and maintaining a game group. Hopefully, by realizing that almost every aspect of the game is a potentially unnecessary detail that is up for discussion, groups will more readily come together and stay together.