So yesterday on Twitter there was a brief exchange regarding rules and game balance:
@rdonoghue: Starting to suspect that the foundation of game balance is the assumption that your're kind of a jerk.And I suppose it is correct for an overly broad usage of the term "trust" - I trust that everyone at this table interprets the same way that I do, I trust that everyone is willing to agree to the same expectations, I trust that we're all willing to work together to mediate differences - that sort usage of the word trust versus my initial read, which admittedly was "I trust you are not out to get me."
@byharryconnolly: Watching my son play his homebrew rpg w/ his buddy, it becomes clear that you only need rules to control ppl you cann't trust. [sic. -Editor.]
@rdonoghue: that'a the nut. [sic. -Editor.]
But here's the problem with all of that - good, well-meaning people can still disagree. Now you can centralize the authority in the GM (rulings), leave it to a table vote, or any other number of ways to determine what the appropriate solution to the conflict is going to be.
However, to make things fair and to save time, it is probably recommended that these rulings get written down so that in six months you can go "So how did we fix this LAST time we bumped into this situation?" And at that point you have a rule and thus a process.
That's all rules are folks, they aren't scary, they aren't the enemy, they are a formalized process for how situations are expected to be resolved. And folks are free to deviate from the process, it isn't like there's an external RPG Audit team that's going to swing by your home and go "And on the night of the 11th, did you follow the correct procedure for resolving Andrew's persuasion check again the king?"
Maybe I'm just a low trust individual. I know I have issues when the rules, and thus my expectations, get changed half way through anything, because that's how I figure out what I'm going to do, "Wait last time you said that this happened, and now it works this other way? Can I have some consistency?" Yeah, guess I AM a low trust individual. I just don't trust anyone to be fair and consistent without a formal structure over the long haul, as long as "fair and consistent" is defined as something beyond a de facto "of course the rulings are fair and consistent as decided."