Beating THE dead horse again

I know, I’m writing about that again and again and again. I know I’m repeating that stuff so often, it might bore some of y’all to tears.

I know.

But playing like the earliest roleplayers did, BEFORE D&D was published, BEFORE RULES were the be-all and end-all of gaming: That’s right up my alley, that’s what I do. It’s what I love doing. Take my Landshut Rules: a love letter to “pre-school gaming”. And still, people keep asking me for specific rules, for specific situations. And I keep replying, “whatever works for you, dude”, and this is the truth. At my table, with my people, things work that might fail abysmally in other groups.

Just keep the game going. Drop the rules. Go with the flow. Fly with the moment, and make it as complex or as simple as you as a group want it. This is your game. Your friends. Your time. Your creativity. Rulebooks are always just a suggestion, giving you ideas or hints.

That said, I’m beating THE dead horse again today: I’m quoting a five year old forum post (not written by yours truly):

Your descriptions sound very similar to the sort of gaming I’ve “discovered/fallen into” in the last few years. I also have very little interest in a lot of new RPGs and find myself more and more distanced from the hobby as its represented online/in rpg forums. The focus on rules minutia holds little interest for me, as does the strict division of gaming styles. For years I GMed a very lose historical occult investigation style game, where I pretty much abandoned any rulebooks in favour of a very quick and intuitive framework of a system I stole from a game from the early 80s, and generally just made rulings on the fly as they fit the situation. 
I heavily experimented with different forms of play (one game took place on a submarine, and I ended up separating the players into different rooms with the lights off, only able to communicate via walkie-talkies), one game was nothing more than a dinner party where everyone remained “in-character” for the proceedings. But the breaking point for me was getting back into miniature wargames a few years back, wherein I rediscovered my love, not just of painting minis, but also building scenery and creating elaborate gameboards. 
As simple PvP wargames bored me quickly, I began coming up with more and more elaborate narrative scenarios, and elements of RPGs began bleeding in. I became fascinated with that gray area where wargames and rpgs meet, and the different manner games could be combined into an overall experience. I brought in elements from Diplomacy, constructed overarching campaign rules that dealt with things like resources and troop training/replenishment, and came across some great naval battle rules that led to several months of high seas adventures, switching between ship to ship combat and regular combat rules for boarding parties. 
As time goes on, the term “gaming” for me has started to become an all-encompassing creative thing that doesn’t really match any singular modern definitions of rpgs/larps/wargames etc. I for one would love to hear more about how the old Tekumel games were run, particularly more specifics on what you looked for in players and what it meant to “get” Tekumel, or more specifically, the style of gaming you’re describing. I find it hard these days to get new players who are on board with this sort of free-wheeling creative approach, especially those indoctrinated by the last 20 years of very specific ideas of what an RPG is and the “importance of rules”.


Tristram Evans, 06-18-2015

This. So much this.

6 thoughts on “Beating THE dead horse again

  1. Yes! I started running games this way for my kids, and you know what, I never had so much fun running games. All of my favorite RPG and wargame systems have merged into a single minimalist living rule set that I use for all genres of games now. Players don't have to learn any rules; it's just a conversation.

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  2. I completely agree with this, I've been experimenting with implementing a more landshut style of play, and it's going great. When you stop worrying about mechanics a whole world of possibilities opens up to you, and the game starts to feel more like a living world.Just to add something about rules though, they can sometimes take things in a direction you wouldn't have taken through a ruling or common sense. For example wandering monster tables can always be useful and fun bc they keep an element of randomness to the game which adds novelty.That's the thing though, I don't think D&D's rules (at least in the early days) where ever meant to be seen as any more than tools and suggestions for the referee.\”Here's how we deal with combat in its most complex form, feel free to take whatever ideas you like here\” kind of mentality

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  3. Absolutely! Playing like Dave did, or even Gary did in his private rounds, is so liberating! And you can add whatever you like. Your system will reach a level of complexity you and your players are comfortable with. And it'll be really organic and your own.

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  4. I am slowly coming up with an epic Sci Fi story using the least amount of rules. I would so love to have seen MAR Barker running a freeform on film or recorded. I wonder if that exists anywhere?

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