The You’re Not An Idiot Principle

One of my guiding principles in Bridewell is “The reader is not an idiot”. What do I mean by this?

I’m assuming that someone reading my (independently published, single-creator, idiosyncratic horror sandbox influenced by haiku, 17th century literature, and queer rage) setting sandbox has come to it with the wherewithal to figure out how to use basic tools and like, run a sandbox.

Here’s an example of where I am treating the reader as not an idiot.

Major arcana lists of characters, locations, artefacts, moods, moments and events are on the inside front cover, as are lists for each suit.

I don’t need to tell you how to use this, whether to use them, or when to use them. Here’s an example of where, in the book I’m running Bridewell in, it does not follow the YNAI Principle.

Say how you’re trying to weaken the monster, then make a Risk Roll as normal. If your roll succeeds (highest die of 4, 5, or 6), you reduce the monster’s Endurance by 1.

Noting here that it both says “make Risk Roll as normal” and then redefines “succeeds”. The reader, here, is an idiot.

Now, to be clear, redundancy is not a waste of time, it’s a choice. In this set of combat rules for Trophy Gold, one could make the argument that this multiple redundancy helps make the text more play-friendly. I would disagree with you as I think the Trophy Gold combat rules are a trainwreck holding a gold shipment. But the choice to ignore the YNAI Principle here is intentional and I think pretty valid.

In Bridewell, I’m making the YNAI Principle a driving force, not because it’s necessarily the better solution to every situation, but because I have a sense of the soul of Bridewell and that soul is lean. The contrast between Bridewells leanness and short-form-poetry roots and the purple, dare I say pulpiness of its gothic roots is one of the most interesting things for me to see emerging out of writing Bridewell.

The YNAI Principle, then, is a way of my maximising leanness. What rules can I elide in favour of rulings? What concepts can I imply without saying? How can I induce the reader to know what to do and to imagine what is there? My answer is the YNAI Principle.

I think potentially the YNAI Principle is a good lens through which to view certain texts, although I haven’t really used it before Bridewell. To be entirely honest, it was something I realised I was saying to myself as I was figuring out the voice of Bridewell, “No, delete that, the reader isn’t an idiot”. I’ll see if it is useful in the future.

27th May, 2023

Idle Cartulary


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