Campfire stories

The more 
– I’m tinkering with OSR systems 
– I’m adapting different systems to Arnesonian gaming 
– I’m thinking about what module or sandbox to run next,

… the more I’m picking up and reading (or re-reading, or re-re-reading even) storygames. pbta. Over the Edge 3rd edition. Itras By. Everway.


I know it’s *entirely* possible to run, say, Warhammer or Shadowrun or D&D with them. Because I ran a five-year Shadowrun 1e campaign diceless (meaning randomless) or using the Everway fortune cards.

And then.

And then I’m asking myself, ‘why do you bother with hit points, modifiers, all that mechanical sh…tuff? Why don’ tcha go full frontal freeform again?’

You know, it’s my 36th year of refereeing rpgs. And the majority of those years, we played freeform, diceless, or later, with Everway cards. And now, with ample time on my hands, I’m starting to wonder what happened. What happened?

Time to return to where I came from. It’s time.

Disappointed: Over the Edge is political propaganda

So I finished reading Over the Edge 3rd edition. While I’m a huge fan of the prior two editions (I have every book and adventure ever published), I’m extraordinarily disappointed with the new book.
To me, it’s disappointing on several levels: 
  1. The player characters only get one main trait and one side trait. In the prior editions, they had more. But OK. Your character MUST be human, which is a ridiculous change and a huge disappointment when you compare it with the old edition where you were allowed to play everything and anything you could imagine and explain.  
  2. Jonathan Tweet constantly, and I mean constantly, pushes his political (left-leaning) agenda on the reader. He mentions Trump. Of course he mentions Trump. Of fucking course he does it. Cheap. And Boring. But, oh, there’s so much more: There’s “genderqueer” and “non-heteronormative” and similar artificial political language all over the place, and to read something like that in a rulebook just makes me go “bleh”. There is so much virtue-signaling going on, it makes it a really hard read.
  3. The setting! What in the holy hell has Tweet done to the setting? The Throckmortons are gone? What. The. Fucking. Fuck. Also, everything now is grimdark. Everything. Grimdark. So edgy. And so unbearably boring. Tweet has turned the weird and wonderful and crazy island of Al Amarja into a police state, for fuck’s sake. This isn’t fun to play, like the old editions were. This is a fucking political statement.
  4. The only good thing about the new edition is the new gaming system. Player-facing (which I normally don’t like), but without hit points, just a three strikes rule (this works for me, even with player-facing rolls).
I’ll keep the system but forget about everything else. 1st and 2nd edition are still the best.

Stop the presses! These rules are positively Over the Edge

I trying to avoid the F-word, so that’s that.
But: Daaaaaaayyum.

When the 3rd edition of “Over the Edge” hit the shelves, I bought the hardcover immediately. Today, I finally started reading it. I’ve loved every edition of OtE, and this latest one is no exception. Gawd, I loves me some Over the Edge!


Third Edition has the best rules system I can imagine. This includes, and that’s not particularly easy for me to say, my Landshut rules.

What’s so special about it?

A few highlights, neatly packed into a nutshell:

  • 2d6, player-facing rolls
  • compare player character’s level of competence (purely subjective) with the opposing force’s level of competence or difficulty; both on a 1 to 7 scale
  • if I start a conflict, I need a 7+ to succeed, if the other side initiates it, I need 8+
  • the difference between competence levels dictates if I’m allowed to reroll one die, or if the ref can force me to do that
  • a difference of 3 or more means either autosuccess or autofailure
  • rolling a 4 means a “good twist” on top of the success or failure
  • rolling a 3 means a “bad twist” on top
  • double-4 is called “Crazy Eight”, and is a really good twist
  • double-3 is called “Lightning Bolt”, and is a really bad twist
  • a 3-4 is called “Twist Tie”, and is one good and one bad twist at the same time 
It’s absolutely amazing how much narrative punch this little rules engine is packing.
Consider this:
Your rhino capoeira ex-soldier is surprised by 4 experienced barroom brawlers. He is competence level 2, but the goons are no slouches either (and there’s four of them). The ref says that’s a difference of 1 in the goons’ favor – and he can force one reroll on you if he doesn’t like your dice result.
You narrate how your rhino soldier goes in attack-mode almost instantly, after all, that’s what he has been trained for half his life. Taking initiative means you have to roll 7 or more to defeat the goons. You roll… a 4 and a 1: 5. Oof. That’s a failure, and because the ref feels it might be appropriate, he forces the reroll on you, saying “Hey choomba, please reroll the 4”. This move is NASTY because she’s taking the “good twist” (4, remember?) away from you. You roll the die again, and: score a 2, for a total of 3. That’s a really, really bad defeat, your soldier is getting hurt really badly, possibly with fatal consequences.
Replace this conflict with anything you want. It’ll work, and it’ll be rich and narrative and interesting and as crazy and bad and good as you want it to be. So so so good. 
Now, I finally KNOW what system I’ll be using for our next games. Thank you, Jon. Thank you, Chris.