Back to really simple roleplaying

Professor MAR Barker started it. He started creating his world Tekumel in the 1940s and kept adding things and adventures to it till he died in 2012. That’s A LOT. Probably there’s no other work of imagination as developed as Mr. Barker’s world.

When original D&D was published, Mr. Barker tried to adapt the game to Tekumel, so other peoplecould go on adventures in this fantastic world. It was a mediocre success. So he developed his own set of rules, which is still in use today, played by people like Chirine ba Kal and Bob Meyer, to name just two. Chirine has told us again and again that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson used these rules (or very similar ones) as well.

What you’re about to see is NOT the cover of the rulebook. It IS the rulebook. These rules have been in use for at least 30 years.

 
 

Yep. That’s it. 

The interest in the rpg community in super-simple, super-lite rules seems at an all-time high at the moment, and personally, I think that’s good, very good indeed.

As you might have guessed, my favorite taste of rules-lite is Perfected, or to be more exact: opposed rolls. Using opposed rolls cut out two things that I don’t like in rpgs: math. Checking stats to see if I rolled high or low enough.

My most downloaded rpg, with thousands of downloads, is Landshut, a Free Kriegsspiel Revolution game on one page. You can grab it for free here: https://darkwormcolt.wordpress.com/the-landshut-rules-free-kriegsspiel-rules/

Another rpg system using this method is the brilliant Sword&Backpack, written by Gabe Soria. Check it out here. The rules? Player character tries something, referee tells him what to roll with a d20, or rolls against them. Done.

Cecil Howe, he of Hex Kit fame, made a booklet version of Sword&Backpack, and it’s a beauty to behold. The booklet version adds a rule: Whenever a character is trying something that is appropriate for their background or profession, add 5 to the d20 roll.

Cecil also published a zine for Sword&Backpack (unfortunately only one), called Peril, and yes, it’s good! In Peril, Cecil also introduced a new concept he calls “Difficulty”. To quote: “This is the number of combat rounds a monster can lose before it is defeated, think of the D as standing for difficulty. The number can be any number, not just one. Really tough monsters will have a high number, and really flimsy monsters will have a low number. “

Bob Alberti is the treasurer of the Tekumel Foundation. He played in Prof. Barker’s game for over 20 years. His ruleset is, as you might have suspected, similarly simple. To quote: “You have dice to resolve any questions (01-10 good, 90-00 bad, use common sense). (…) All the other crap – character stats, encumbrances, combat rules, etc., are the tools of the rules-lawyer, and not worth the attention of dignified persons.”

Today, Claytonian published his one-page rpg “The Party“. And lo and behold, it uses opposed rolls to solve everything. Check it out here.





Play worlds, not rules, part 5: How we roll

In part 1, I took a look into how people played roleplaying games before any “official rules set” was published.
In part 2, I shared how we handle experience at our table.
In part 3, I  wrote about the dice rulings I use at the table.
In part 4, we looked at a short example of how old grognards are playing Blackmoor.

Today, I’m sharing the method we use – the way we roll (quite literally).

Let’s say you’re playing the Gray Mouser, one of Fritz Leiber’s beloved heroes:
Small (about five feet), thief, very good swordfighter, former wizard’s apprentice with basic magic skills.

You’re rolling 2d6, just like the Blackmoor crowd did back in the days (and still does today). 

Let’s say you want to climb a wall. Roll 2d6. Roll below average (under 7), and your achievement is below average. Roll really low, and something happens you won’t like. Roll around average, and nothing really changes, your climb is still not finished. Roll above average, and you move the situation into territory that’s advantageous to you: You climb the wall successfully.
Oh, and because you’re so light, I’ll add +1 to your roll without telling you.

Let’s say you’re caught in the middle of a deadly silent horde of skeleton warriors that are attacking you. This is what modern games would call an “opposed roll” – my skeletons against your Mouser. Because there are so many skeletons, I add +3 to my roll. 
Because you are such a good sword fighter, I secretly add +2 to your roll.
Higher roll wins. If I want to have a longer fight, this means you defeat a few skeletons. If it’s something I want to be over quickly, that roll determines the outcome of the entire fight. If it’s completely unimportant, I simply determine the outcome, probably slightly in your favor.

Oh, and what about Hit Points. On most days, I can’t be bothered. If I can, I use the old rule “three hits and you’re out”, plus/minus a few for especially tough or fragile characters. Unimportant opponents die after one hit – this includes groups of unimportant monsters. 

There you have it. The system I’m using at the table. This is not the system in a nutshell – it’s the entire, complete system.

Play worlds, not rules, part 4: short example of true Blackmoor gaming

In part 1, I took a look into how people played roleplaying games before any “official rules set” was published.

In part 2, I shared how we handle experience at our table.

In part 3, I  wrote about the dice rulings I use at the table.

Today, I hope you’ll enjoy the following video clip. Bob Meyer (2nd from left) was one of Dave Arneson’s first players – he truly witnessed the birth of our great hobby. This is a short clip from this year’s Gary Con, where Bob refereed a Blackmoor game. What’s of special interest to me is the “game system” Bob uses: opposing forces roll 2d6. Compare numbers. Higher side gets their way. This is as pure as it gets. I love it.

Video URL: https://www.facebook.com/BlackmoorCastle/videos/1092886334253130/

Play worlds, not rules, part 1: Juggling ideas for stone-age rpg sessions
Play worlds, not rules, part 2: Experience levels
Play worlds, not rules, part 3: Playing around with dice
Play worlds, not rules, part 4: Short example of true Blackmoor gaming
Play worlds, not rules, part 5: How we roll