Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shall We Play a Game?

Our hobby is lots of fun, and we can all think of a multitude of reasons why.  And yes, good rules and playable mechanics are a big part of making it all happen.  But as fun as they are, rules are just a means to an end, and even if a lot of our games center around manipulating them, they aren't really what makes our hobby fun in any real (or essential) fashion. 

To underscore this point, and to find out where the fun REALLY is, we invite you to play a little game...     

So, let's imagine a system where every character is an ordinary person who can attempt any action available to an able-bodied adult by rolling 5 or better on 1d6.  And let's go on to say that they have 10 hit points and move 50' per round.

Combat proceeds as normal (we can fill in the blanks using prior knowledge of typical combat mechanics).  All attacks score 1 hit of damage and traps inflict 1d6, and possibly more, as determined by the referee and the circumstances.

Monsters are a unique creation of the referee.  Each has 1-20 hit points based on size and/or ferocity and move 1-10' per combat round as befits the narrative, and those having special attacks might inflict 1d6 hits, denoting really dangerous foes.

These young people know where the fun is...

Otherwise, everything else that happens is just decision-making, exploration, and/or role-playing.  A simple game.  Dull, and really kind of boring in light of what's out there.

Maybe, but not so fast...

Players would still identify with their characters as a proxy of themselves, and as they accomplish things in a game, they would come to form an in-game identity and esprit de corps.  More than that, though, they would enjoy exploring the game world, interacting with interesting people, places, and/or things and fighting for their very lives, which is never boring!  Especially once they've connected with a favorite character all their own.

And doing so requires few rules!

Could this use more meat?  Sure.  And might we add more detail about armor, weaponry, and other things?  You bet!  But would everyone still have fun playing and filling in its many blanks?  The answer here is a resounding YES all around... 

Which should tell us EVERYTHING we need to know about what really makes our hobby fun and exciting.  So, shall we play a game?  


  1. TWERPS!!!

    But in seriousness, the workable solutions to providing mechanical verisimilitude to imaginative play are nearly endless.

    I like that you make a point of saying the obvious. Seriously I do, no snark intended.

    If we are to lay out vigorous and logical "theory of TTRPGs," as legitimate a branch of social science as any, it is necessary for us to start at first principles.

    For this reason among others, I derive great enjoyment from the basic mission-statement posts you and others make.


  2. Thanks! We felt the need, this early in the blog, to present it as a baseline for future discussion and to articulate our own position...

  3. I have been playing Pits and Perils with my oldest daughter and she LOVES it! The simple mechanics really flow nicely for younger gamers, and there is enough complexity to keep them entertained. Simple is nice when you work full time as a parent.... I'm hoping my younger daughter figures out addition fairly quickly so she can play with us this next school year! I do play with miniatures and the 1:10 scale works fine. I built some 2.5D dungeon tiles to play with and I think I might switch to a 1:5 scale for use with those, and stick to the 1:10 for outdoors. If you haven't checked out the DM's Craft on Youtube, do yourself a favor and do so. It is creatively inspiring and very oldschool in how it is done. Some how the terms "oldschool" and "common sense" seem to be very compatible!

    1. It means a lot to us to know that you're using the game to have fun with your daughter(s). You're an awesome Dad!

      Oh, and your dungeon tiles sound great. Making stuff for your games is part of the whole "home-brew" experience...good stuff!