Limits of the Players

Looking at the differing aesthetics between tabletop RPGs, in particular the more ‘casual’ tone of Dungeons & Dragons and the more ‘serious’ tone of Call of Cthulhu, I’ve started thinking more about how the limits of a game can set the tone and/or make a game enjoyable. For example, many D&D campaigns elect to take natural 20s rolled on a D20 as being especially special on skill checks despite the official rules of the game stating otherwise as it often brings a new layer of absurdism to the table that would be harder to reach or feel more cheaply earned if the base ruleset was followed without modification. In contrast, I rarely see the rules of Call of Cthulhu being modified purposefully as the gameplay already well suits a particular horror/serious-like tone. While there are certainly exceptions, I do think there is a connection of sorts between how willing players are to modify the rules of a game based on the tone the game focuses on. With the very-opinionated table below, I have sorted some games by tone and, as a result, only further feel that modification has a link to tone.

Serious ToneCasual Tone
TTRPGCall of CthulhuDungeons & Dragons
Video GameDark SoulsMinecraft
Card GamePokerUno
Board GameMysteriumMonopoly

I would love to see any comments supporting my claim with more examples as well as any comments disputing my claim and hope to start a conversation even if the topic ends up being just presumptuous rambling over a loose string of occurrences.

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