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OT: What's the right level for a rule book?
This is a bit off-topic, but I'm looking for opinions on the "right" level of detail for a rule book.

One extreme would be documenting the formulas used to determine outcomes. The other extreme, "if you spend points on research, some things may happen."

An example (from Far Horizons) is conducting research to increase technology levels. The manual casually mentions that you need to spend points equal to the new level squared to increase one level. That's not exactly how it works, though.

Does shining a light on the sausage making apparatus make the game more enjoyable? (Even if it it opens it up to gaming the system.)

Does hiding that and leaving players wondering what they did wrong to gain no levels from research somehow increase the intrigue and interest?
I'd say that as a player, static resource production formulae are essential so that you can build spreadsheets to accurately plan investment vs. reward.

But where something has a random element, the player can't plan for it in the same way, so doesn't really care about the details beyond being told any ways to improve odds.
Currently playing TribeNet, Far Horizons, Galac-tac, Supernova, The Isles and Dungeonworld.
I think there ought to be enough detail (in an appendix if nothing else) that the player can find out most of what they need to make the best decisions. But Fungus is right that some details need to be hidden or vague so that you can't min-max every little part of the game (in addition to things that are intended by design to be unknown).

For instance, in Galac-Tac, research levels are explicitly given as approximate values but the actual point of change is randomly determined (near that value) differently for each galaxy. The effects of gaining that research level are specifically laid out in the rules though. Also in Galac-Tac the rule book gives only raw details of the effects of various ship weapons and defenses in combat, but the actual tactical procedure used in the fight is left vague so you don't know exactly how it's going to come off - you can only make approximations of your combat capabilities (which is usually good enough, though).

But overall, you do need a pretty fair idea of what's going to happen if you do "X" to make the game fun - being able to plan is a big part of playing, especially in PBeM.

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