Chunky vs. Smooth: No Wrong Play Style

There is a commonly accepted division in tabletop roleplaying between the mechanics of a rules system — its "crunch" — and the fiction and setting elements of the game — the "fluff." These terms are usually thrown around to disparage one or the other. A "crunchy" game is too rules heavy; a "fluffy" game is inconsistent or driven by fiat.

I've come to think of games by a different metaphor: "chunky" games vs. "smooth" ones. A chunky game has more complex rules, yes, but they are there as something for players to sink their teeth into. Those rules make the experience more "game-like" by engaging skills like tactical reasoning and resource management.

A smooth game has simpler rules more fully integrated into the fiction. Instead of engaging with the system, players can enjoy digging into their character or the world and story they inhabit. The rules do their best either to "get out of the way" and let players tell a story or in fact facilitate that story through narrative mechanics.

I don't think either of these styles is better or worse than the other. While I may personally enjoy chunky games more, I can appreciate smooth games for the different kind of fun they deliver. What do you think? Do you have a preference for chunky or smooth? Feel free to leave a comment.

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