The most recent Blogger Group round table discussed following the Rules As Written or the Rules As Interpreted, and it got me thinking about the whole topic. You can read what I said (that I favoured RAW in most circumstances) on FtW, but I just wanted to briefly talk about why, and to highlight some circumstances where RAI is the only way to go.
I think that at the moment, the general trend is to push for RAW. The recent discussions about the GW errata documents shows how important the exact wording of the rules seems to be and I can understand why. It would seem that RAW is currently king of the debate.
However, it was not always this way in the GW universe. I joined the hobby during 40k's 2nd Edition, and at this point the rules were becoming very much formalized and codified. Indeed as the game was so much more complex than all the incarnations since, using RAW was key to getting anywhere. But, I'm sure some of you will have been around for that much loved game Rouge Trader!
I recently picked up a copy of the 'Trader rulebook from EBay, mostly just to see what I'd missed out on. I was struck by the recurring insistence by the author that the rules, as presented in the book, were simply a guide line. You, as the player were encouraged to make rules up, adapt ones you didn't like, hell, ignore them if you want too. Anything that you thought improved you game was permitted.
So, supporters of RAI in 5th Ed. might ask, what has changed?
Rouge Trader is clearly a more narrative game than current 5th Ed. is designed to be. The idea of pick-up or tournament play is not even considered in this rulebook, because it simply didn't happen. Rouge Trader was a game you played with people you knew, using models you mostly had to find yourself, playing scenarios you had to make up yourself. 5th Ed. is of course story based (and so it should, otherwise for me there is no point to it), but it also is designed to be a highly competitive game.
Another key difference between the two systems is the presence of a Games Master (GM). For those without much experience outside 40K, the GM is a common sight in other model and role playing games. Effectively an impartial 3rd player of the game, the GM's jobs are to mediate between the two players actually controlling the main forces, to drive the narrative on and crucially, to judge where and when it is fair for the rules to be changed. For me, a good GM is the main reason why you can afford RAI in Rouge Trader. There is nothing comparable for the current version of 40K.
In the end pick-up and tournament games of 5th Ed. are competitive first, and story driven second, as thus need the RAW. Rouge Trader and friendly games of 5th are hopefully the opposite, giving you much more wiggle room on the rules.
SO, what if you do fancy a game that focuses on RAI and is story driven? Well, I can highly recommend picking up a copy of Inquisitor. For anybody who missed it, this game is great and I simply love it. Its highly story driven, to the extent that winning or loosing a game is largely immaterial. You are encouraged to change rules and to think of the whole experience like a film (i.e. making you characters preform the heroic, as opposed to the tactical).
For some the element of role-play in the game is too much, but, if you love your 40K background and can find someone willing to put the effort into being a good GM (which can be a load of fun), then please give it a go. Inquisitor is firmly RAI and you wont regret playing it, I miss being able to do it myself.
Anyway, that's a few hours work firmly avoided for another Sunday. Hope this was an interesting read, I would love to hear anybodies experience of either game!