Streamlining RPG rules: A modified Warcholak guide

Have you ever heard of the Warcholak Guide? No? (Yes? Well, too bad, I’m going to tell you what it is anyway!) Basically, it’s a simple rule-testing rubric invented by a guy with the last name of Warcholak who develops war games for Academy Games. (With a last name like Warcholak, of course he does.)

I heard about it in a post on the excellent board-gaming and war-gaming blog Bravo Zulu, and it occurred to me that with a bit of modification it could be useful in streamlining my own rules for the FAR System and FAR Western. Maybe it could be useful to other people, too.

So here’s the original Warcholak Guide as invented by Academy Games:

Is the rule necessary to simulate the TYPICAL (over 10% of the time) conditions and outcomes on the battlefield? If YES, keep. If NO, go to 2. Does the rule require significant mental resources to remember to play? (Significant is defined as needing to remember more than 2 facts.) If YES, dump. If NO, go to 3. Does the rule add to the fun of the game? Does it produce outcomes that add significant replayability, oh-no moments, gotcha momments, or simulation pay-off outside the general flow of the game? If YES, keep. If NO, dump.

And here’s how I’d adapt it to the purpose of developing a tabletop roleplaying rule set — specifically, MY rule set.

To determine whether a rule is likely to enhance the game’s ability to deliver a good playing experience, ask:

  1. Is the rule necessary to help the DM/Gamemaster adjudicate and describe the conditions and outcomes of reasonable (not moronic or special snowflake) player actions?
    If YES, go to 2. If NO, dump it.
  2. Does the rule provide for quantifiable, significant consequences to player characters?
    If YES, go to 3. If NO, dump it.
  3. Does the rule drain mental resources from the Gamemaster during play? “Drain” is defined as needing to use more than two tables or remember more than three situational modifiers to make it work.
    If YES, dump. If NO, go to 4.
  4. Does the rule reduce the need for bookkeeping during game play?
    If YES, keep. If NO, go to 5.
  5. Does the rule add to the fun of the game? That is, does it produce outcomes that add significant flavor, oh-no moments, gotcha moments, or simulation pay-off to the general flow of the game?
    If YES, keep. If NO, dump.

So, thanks to Bravo Zulu (for cluing me in) and Nicholas Warcholak of Academy Games (for inventing the idea), these are the Ing Guidelines for building a better, more streamlined set of rules for roleplaying games. (Doesn’t sound as impressive as Warcholak Guidelines, but then I’m not as impressive as Mr. Warcholak.)

What do you think? Would you change anything? Are these guidelines likely to be useful at all for roleplaying games, or am I up in the night here?

3 thoughts on “Streamlining RPG rules: A modified Warcholak guide

Add yours

  1. Thanks for the shoutout! I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to call these the “Ing-pressive Guide!”
    On a serious note, you are really onto something. An RPG Core Mechanic should capture your guide and not get bogged down with modifiers & exceptions. So many rules sets are “do this EXCEPT when…” which bogs down games.


    1. You’re welcome, and thanks. I enjoy your blog and get a lot of value from it.

      The Warcholak Guide hit the sweet spot for me because I set out to build my RPG system rules to deliver realistic, flavorful results while being simple to play — and it turns out that’s actually super hard to do. 🙂

      Maybe that’s why the RPG world seems to be sharply divided into streamlined (very simple, easy to play, but often lacking simulation detail and realism) and crunchy (more complex, harder to play with number-crunching and bookkeeping, but better detail and simulation). My favorite RPGs used to always be the crunchy ones, but more recently I’ve seen the virtue of streamlining.

      Plus, I like how the Warcholak Guide homes right in on universal qualities that make a good ruleset, regardless of the complexity or simplicity of the game.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t thank me (but thank you). Please make sure that Uwe and the gang at @AcademyGames know they helped. The Warcholak Guide is their thing, I am just lucky enough to be exposed to it.


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