I was reading John Wick’s SexCraft the other day (yes, SexCraft) and it reminded me that if you want something to be important in your game, giving it a specific mechanic can help. I almost wrote “if you want something to be important, give it a mechanic”, but I don’t think this is always true. But it often is, and it is worth remembering. The stuff that you want to be important in your game should have a mechanic associated with it. In D&D combat is an integral part of the game and a great deal of space in the PHB is devoted to combat powers and the rules for fighting. So is levelling up, for that matter. In my own game Space Rat, the ability for players to screw one another over is central, and the Luck rules drive this. In Call of Cthulhu learning things is dangerous and investigating the Unknown is a slippery path to insanity – and guess what, the rules for Sanity are pretty well defined. In Burning Wheel Beliefs are the cornerstone of your character, and they have a direct mechanical affect on a character’s access to Artha.
If you want something in your game to be important, think about the way it will affect play mechanically.