Tuesday 24 May 2022


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Style. It doesn't matter which one you have as long as you have one.

Now I think that quote is talking about fashion, in which case I do not have one, but I think it carries over nicely to games. 

The games that just wash over me and fail to make any sort of impact are those that lack a style. I'm not talking about lavish production values, instead I just want a game to grab something and run with it. 

2400 is lo-fi sci-fi on a single sheet of paper. You can spot the style a mile off.

Lancer is hyper tactical mech-building blast'em up. There's a lot that doesn't work for me, but it goes hard on its thing. 

Worlds Without Number (or anything by Kevin Crawford) is a workhorse system dragging a cart overflowing with resources to actually run the game. You don't have to be flashy to have style. 

But the topic that got me thinking about this is a dilemma on how I run games. 

On the one hand, I like the idea that GMs don't need to spend hours ahead of a game rigorously preparing an adventure, showing up with reams of notes. 

On the other, one of the first two ideals of what would become Into the Odd were:

  • An impartial GM. The GM uses the rules provided to challenge the characters and does not alter the situation to aid or hinder them.
  • Adventure Module compatibility. The game assumes the GM is using a pre-planned environment and hazards, whether their own or by another writer. 

So I've long been drawn to the idea that the world exists outside of the GM at the table, and they act as an impartial representative for the world, rather than spinning it at the table as required.

Naturally, I've usually landed somewhere in the middle. I prep in broad strokes, flesh it out at the table, throw in something new if it feels right, and make liberal use of random tables. 

The Blorb principles got me thinking more closely about how I might be able to acknowledge the distinction between the pre-game prep and in-game improvisation, while still drawing on them both for any given session. 

So this is all very messy at the moment, but I feel like it's starting to form a shape.

  • Prep can be in broad strokes. 
  • Details can be improvised, but must honour the essence of those strokes. 
  • If something must be created at the table from nothing, let the dice be the oracle.


1 comment:

  1. I don't think "spinning it at the table" and "don't alter the situation to aid or hinder them" have to be mutually exclusive. It has to be more of a mindset, to look beyond the players and just invent *stuff* that exists in the world, whether they visit it or not, whether they are at full HP or not, whether they have a cleric with them or not. Random tables help, a lot, obviously. But I think what is more important is, once something is invented, it becomes resolutely true. The demon you just invented in the next room, just before the players touched the door, has 40 HP. Now it is a Fact, what do you do next?