March 25th, 2007

gaming, rpg

Understanding Athelind's Argot: "Beware of the Leopard!"

"Beware of the Leopard!": When vital information is hidden in obscure locations, esp. when the people who require that information are blamed when they can't find it.

From Douglas Adams:

"But Mr. Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."

"Oh yes, well, as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything."

"But the plans were on display ..."

"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

"That's the display department."

"With a torch."

"Ah, well, the lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"But look, you found the notice, didn't you?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."

Exempli gratia, from a discussion on FurryMUCK:

Leonard proposed The Rules Lawyer's Maxim: Where there is no Text, there is an Argument.

normanrafferty countered with Rafferty's Extension to the Rules Lawyer's Maxim: Stopping at the end of the line and not cross-referencing is NOT a lack of text.

Your Obedient Serpent responded with athelind's Commentary on Rafferty's Extension to the Rules Lawyer's Maxim: If you can't FIND the rule, you don't HAVE the rule. Lack of cross-referencing IS a lack of text.

The Beware of the Leopard school of game design scatters vital rules for important situations -- say, combat -- all over the rulebook, with neither repetition for emphasis nor cross-reference. If important rules appear in the Index, you will only be able to find them if you know in advance what specific game-jargon term the system uses -- and that term will only be used in the Index and in the single obscure entry that's a footnote to a seldom-used table in the back of the book.

This is in no way a reference to actual leopards.