On Simplicity

There's a problem, in that because we're playing a game about adventurers - people living in a fantasy world - we lose focus too easily and get bogged down in things that are not the game.

One of the most interesting things about the Community episode where they play dungeons and dragons was that when Abed started the game he said 'Your goal is to go recover this treasure'. No dicking around with how do you know each other, why are we working together, or how did you meet.

One of my least favorite things about my recent old school play was the 'paperwork sessions' where we spent way too much time trying to figure everything out. Where are you staying? What did you do for 2 weeks? How are you paying for everyone? Where are you keeping your stuff?
Things like that work very well for a game like Shadowrun or Vampire, where the drama is in your single character, and themes can be created and dealt with from the resulting situations. But in a traditional fantasy adventure, it just eats up time and adds nothing.

Here's what I'm going to do about it - in the future, all my out of adventure time will be hand-waved away or dealt with outside of the table. Items will be identified and sold at a flat rate, and the specifics of where people are staying will be left out of the action. Everything that does not have to do with gameplay (adventure or exploration) will be abstracted as much as possible. Skill systems will be simple. You may have henchmen or dogs or whatever, but other then stats, and possibly a name and their bill, no game time will be spent on figuring out how they interact with the party outside of the adventure.

Like in a story, the end will be in a fade to black, and everything will be worked out before we hit the table next week.


  1. I just finished playing in a game like this as a PC. My only word of advice is to let your players know about "simplicity" up front. Different players have different motivations, obviously, and taking out any one aspect is likely to affect their enjoyment of the game.

    Of course, even with being upfront, as our group was in our "dungeon-only, abstract everything else" game, people will still not be entirely upfront about not liking the change. But at least you can try to get it on the table and if your players have the right personalities, air out the issues ahead of time.

    In the the end, the group I was a part of eventually split apart and I feel one major component was this issue about expectations. I can link you to a post I made about it if you want to learn more about the situation I am referring to specifically.

  2. I might have been drinking a lot of this most excellent red wine lately, and not communicating as well as I should.

    Yes, expectations should be clearly communicated.

    The best part of old school gameplay is in the dungeons and sandboxes and the choices that are made there. That is where the interesting choices are made, and where the most dense reward for time played is found.

    We would spend whole sessions just doing paperwork, paying henchmen bills, training to level, worrying about actual real world logistical accounting for every minute not spent adventuring. There were few if any choices that were interesting that came out of that play. (A few moments that were interesting, the lawful evil pc looking up from his lunch as an argument between a normally good sword possessed pc, and another good pc was particularly entertaining in my mind, but not enough to outweigh the cost).

    In short, it's not worth what you lose.

    P.S. feel free to link your post - it sounds like the members of your group have issues communicating assertively.

  3. Yea, for some it is not worth what you lose and for others, it IS the game. My only point is that communication about expectations is what is necessary.

    My post lives over at http://antiledo.blogspot.com/2011/02/swords-and-wizardry-post-mortem.html

    It is kind of out of context except for the 5 people playing, but you are welcome to take a look.

    One member even said, at the end, that he only tolerated the game because the other group/table he played at was fun so our group didn't have to be as fun, calling it a diversion if I recall correctly.


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