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Running the Game
queep!
saxifrage00
An old friend of mine, Dean, has been a playing in my game of D&D since shortly after I switched from AD&D to Second Edition. The past few years have been somewhat fallow for that setting, though, as my work schedule and his work schedule just didn't coincide. Also, living in different towns made a big difference.

Earlier this week we resolved to finally get his character back up and running. There's this big quest that was looming in the character's future just before the game petered out, and we're both keen on getting back into that. However, all of my material for the quest uses 2nd Edition rules (and there's a lot of material), and we've been using 3rd Edition since it came out. The more I try to use old material from 2nd in a 3e game the more I come to be familiar with all the subtle incompatibilities between the systems.

On top of the technical difficulties, though, the history of this character dates back far enough that some old foundations are the creation of the 14-year-old I once was, and are quiet horrendous to have to work with now as a more experienced GM. We finally (after much haggling) resolved to scrap the details of the background but to keep the essence of the character's history, just re-created brand-new in a sort of "parallel universe" kind of way.

And then, having done all this, I realised that I still disliked much of the 2nd edition system, especially the stuff that 3e had fixed. However, it's actually not trivial to backport bits of 3e to 2nd: if you want the skill system (which is a vast improvement over that most loathsome of systems, Proficiency Slots), you need to port the new roll modifiers for stats, which requires either major kludges or porting of the combat system... at which point you might as well just use 3e. Except then, of course, the weird 2nd edition monsters that abound in this setting need to be translated, and we're back where we started at the beginning of the incompatibility cycle.

Then I remembered something I'd read about ages ago called The Window.

The Window, though awkwardly named, is an elegant rules-light system designed to do the minimum necessary to enable non-deterministic roleplay before getting the hell out of the way of the story. It's rules basically boil down to "don't use numbers except when rolling", "portray your character reasonably", and "the story is the point". There are details about what exactly is necessary to resolve a test roll, but bulk of the "system" is devoted to presenting a philosophy of roleplaying that gets away from constant dicing and allows fluid narrative.

What this means is that I can run this campaign without having to translate all the monsters, special abilities, magic items and such that I want to use from the quest and setting notes into some compatible rules-language. Instead, I can just know what everything does and run the game on storytelling and intuitive conflict-resolution rolls. The coolest things is that given the setting for any other system, a GM using The Window can ignore all the numbers and rules and just run the game off of the fluff text.

If this experiment goes well, I don't think I'll need to buy another rulebook in my GM career--I can just spend more on sourcebooks and other weird informational stuff.


(Oh, and the new icon was GIMPed from an Absurd Notions comic, in which the daring heros confront an infestation of... things.)

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Instead, I can just know what everything does and run the game on storytelling and intuitive conflict-resolution rolls.

Don't you find it kind of funny that although most of us played in this way as kids, now that we're all grown up we need a "rule system" to tell us how to do it? ;-)

Your gaming group was pretty atypical from what I've seen, read, and heard! Most groups start out with fewer rules only because absorbing them all is hard for a 12-year-old to do, but stick to them religiously and add new rules as they're thought of / published. At that age, it's all about the dice, baby. (Wizards knows this and has been designing 3rd edition D&D with it in mind, and that's partly why I'm disillusioned with it).

The idea of roleplaying as anything more sophiticated than Pretend is hard to grasp without the aid of structure telling one how to make it more sophisticated... and many just keep on learning more and newer systems to structure the game. Taking a step back and removing structure is pretty radical to many 2nd-generation roleplayers like myself. The few like those in your group are the lucky ones. :)

Actually, when I roll played as a youth, we ignored a lot of the rules that we didnt like, and just went for the fun parts.

I think as we grow older we loose sight of the idea that roll playing is a co-operative event, so that means we have to have rules so that the other kids play fair.

In my current troupe we are currently plagued by one particular player who always has to be the center of attention, loves to role dice, and enjoys bringing out the rules when she thinks you may not know what you are talking about.

I think the rules developed out of a need for self-preservation from these types. I stopped playing the game she was running because of those very same reasons... now if only I could convince our storyteller to kill her or tell her to shove off.

we ignored a lot of the rules that we didnt like, and just went for the fun parts

I think there are "good" ways to do this and "bad" ways (scare quotes because that's totally subjective!). I knew some guys that were into the Rolemaster system, which happens to be incredibly rules-heavy. Rather than learn the system and use it properly, they just picked the coolest things from it and ignored all the disadvantages that made those cool things playable. It resulted in major power-gaming that was only really interesting if you liked hack-n-slash in the exact same way that they liked it.

On the other hand, my first experience of D&D threw out a bunch of rules that no-one really liked: spells-known (not spells-memorised) limits, race-class restrictions, multi-classing restrictions, and the like. I played a ranger/illusionist elf that was much fun and highly illegal by 1st Edition rules.

I think it's a matter of "whatever floats yer boat" and making sure one is in a group that agrees mostly on what that is.

Dude! About bloody time!
Now, if only you'd lived on the right side of the country...

Erm... Umm... Sorry, it's just that I'm a very excitable proponent of the Window system, and haven't been able to get someone actually interested in it, in the sense of using it.

So pleeeze tell how it goes. (and that may make you update more often :)

It may! I actually decided to post because khamura posted about how he is become unto a god in rules-lawyering of Vampire. It reminded me of my decision to swerve in the other direction. :)

I've yet to get the player in question a copy of The Window and he's an old-school Gamer, so we'll see how well it goes. He's willing to at least try it and we're going start it with some "you're having a vision and stuff happens, let's roleplay it" trial runs, and to get back into the swing of things.

Though darthmaus is interested and already really likes the dice-low sort of game, so I think this is going to work well. :D

*envyenvyenvyenvy!*

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It's inspiring and freeing to read. It lets you throw away the unnecessary strictures while still providing a thoroughly play-tested minimum of rules necessary to resolve the occasional skill or contest.

It doesn't even come with structure--you still need to decide how to apply the rolling system. For instance, do you have a single "fight" stat to do quick and lethal combat? ("You fail your fight roll. You die, she doesn't.") Or do you have ornate skills sheets with such things as Dodge, Feint, Rapier, Dagger Throwing, Parry, Swinging From Chandeliers, and the like and get into real narrative detail of how combat flows? (Ever read the Dark Elf trilogy? Best swordplay coreography in a book, that I've ever read.)

It's neat because it lets you adopt the skills and stats necessary to focus the story on what you find interesting: few skills in a particular area will let the story move through that kind of thing quickly, while lots of detail in skills in an area will let you narrate a very detailed non-deterministic scene.

And, of course, when you don't need the skills at all they don't intrude when a player tries something that (story-wise) should happen: it just happens. :)

R.A.Salvatore rules!

Ever try a game called "Everway"? It's basically "diceless" in that it uses a deck of cards that the GM "interprets" to find results. Combat can be a single draw from the deck ("Ooo, not good, they disarmed you and you're now flat on your back with a long sword at your throat") or you can work it out one hack'n'slash at a time. I haven't actually *played* the game, but it sounds neat.

Never tried Everway. The "interpretation" mechanic always turned me off of it, although I may feel differently if I looked at it now...

I haven't either. I got Everyway off eBay and read the rules and thought it was cool but haven't actually *played* it. Swing by sometime and I can show you what it looks like. I think I also picked up a deck of other pretty cards to use as "interpretations".

Y'know with a group that much more into story telling than rolling dice, and maybe a couple of story-telling DM's, I bet you could play a pretty cool game with a standard deck of cards! :)

okay that is pretty amazing. A four hour D&D game with no dice. Man, my troupe want to roll dice... grr... maybe I need a new troupe.

The only time that ever happens to me (no dice rolling) is in LARP, and there I once when 6 hours without doing a single challenge, but that's easier in a LARP I think

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*smirk* .. the troupe I'm currently with couldnt investigate, or ask questions without rolling dice. Its really kind of sad.

Three most common dice roll requests from my troupe in a non-combat situation:
1: Gather Information (I hate this skill so much!!! As a player and a DM!!)
2: Sense Motive (I hate this skill even more!!!)
3: Bluff (... Grrr....)

These three skills pretty much take the role playing out of NPC interactions with my troupe... and worse, when they fail the roles... they pout!!


The Window looks very cool. I don't game as much but I've always played for the story. I would forego all sorts of advantages if it wasn't something my character would do or buy.

In my experience, the rules are helpful only when you have immature personalities playing. Among adults who trust each other, they're less important.

On the other hand, mastery of a complex rules system is a meta-game of its own, and I won't criticize anyone who's into that.

mastery of a complex rules system is a meta-game of its own

I'm actually quite the systems monkey: new and complex systems are really interesting to me. I've just come to the realisation that I don't need and don't want one for what I want to do *right now*. In a few years I may want to play with a more book-heavy system again; there are certainly attractions that Gaming has that Storytelling can lack.

rules are helpful only when you have immature personalities playing

That rings true to my ear. It fits with what I was saying about structure to darthmaus above. When one is still unsure of exactly what "roleplaying" is and is further unsure of one's own internal workings, the structure goes a long way to making a game playable. The honesty and lack of ego-investment required to play (let alone like!) something like what The Window advocates takes quite a bit more self-knowledge than a game like D&D.

Hey let me know if you ever need a sucker for a one nighter. I'd be curious how it goes.

I'll do that. I'm thinking of doing some one-shot games as a creative exercise. If I do end up trying it, I'll be looking for willing players.

I would also be interested in a one-nighter. But, I'm also interested in trying this out on the troupe I'm currently playing D7D with.. just to see how long it takes for them to mess it up.

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