Helmets and Halberd Podcast

This morning, my RSS feed told me that Alex Schroeder started a podcast.

I have long admired Alex’s contributions. I did some ad-hoc editing for his Halberds and Helments RPG. The layout of Halberds and Helmets inspired me to go and learn about the Tufte style, which I have since adopted for my blog.

Below are excerpts from Episode 1 It’s about 14 minutes long in which Alex speaks to his goals and values for RPGs. I find myself in close alignment with Alex (though I do like the occassional system that requires mastery…looking at you Burning Wheel).

RPGS are about using your imagination to run the game; using rules to enforce consequences. It’s not just telling any sort of story, we are enforcing consequences.

Agreed. The best RPGs have a good risk/reward tension.

What sort of rules do we want? What sort of stories do we want to tell? What sort of risks do we want to take?

I’ve been circling around on this, and will be looking to have this conversation when my group wraps up Tomb of Annihilation.

Changing the rules is part of the game. We drop stuff we don’t like. We drop stuff we don’t remember. We add stuff we read online. We add stuff we decide at the table. And so the text evolves. It changes.

Most everyone that runs and plays RPGs hacks on their system.

You can use the rules as written. You can start keeping notes. If your rules are short and your notes are long, then at some point you might as well write your own rules. It’s going to be a small book. But it’s going to be your book.

Alex Schroeder

Yes! Own your game.

I like the fear. I like my characters. I love them. But I also like to fear for them. This is what adventure is for me. When I as a player fear for my characters. That’s risk. That’s when I feel good. When I accomplish something. When I risked it. It didn’t just involve some talking. It involved facing the consequences.

The most memorable moments of games are always when I know that I’ve risked my character, and that character through my ingenuity and luck of the dice roll, pulls off something memorable.

Keep record of how you want to run things.

Yup.

Having few rules, means there is a lot of freedom. All the things that don’t require rules, we can handle it by just talking about it.

I’m eyeing Whitehack or 5th Edition as my default base game. Both have a small rule set. Whitehack encourages more conversations.

Another thing I really like, is when the world doesn’t really move too fast. When it’s basically static…I don’t want to pressure the players to do this or that on a timer. If the world is going to end in 2 weeks. Then we really have to do just the thing. And who picked the thing? The referee picked the thing…forcing the plot on everybody else at the table. Therefore I say to my players, it’s going to be an open world…the game is going to grow where your in game actions go.

Amen. The Tomb of Annihilation put a clock into play, forcing action. In doing so, much of what was written in the adventure falls out of the critical path.

I’ll try to provide information to players so they can change if these situations will be appropriate for them; because of the theme, danger, risk they are willing to take. That is where agency comes in. Where you can feel powerful about the decisions you can make. Because there was information. You acted upon it. And it changed the things that happened.

Yes. I want to do more of that in my GM-ing.

Why simple mechanics? They have the benefit that they are quick to read…they benefit from remembering. Players know about 6 abilities, HP, AC, Damage, and Saving throws. This jump starts everything. It’s really great if you have Lady Blackbird in front of you, with all of the rules on your single character sheet. But if the rules are in a big book, that’s 200 pages long or more, then that really tires me and is harder to explain.

To paraphrase, simple mechanics are about accessibility and minimal barrier to entry. They provide a minimum barrier for engaging with the fiction.

Epitath

Alex’s diary post pointed me to Judd Karlman’s Dreaming about Dragons podcast, another contributor to games that I’ve enjoyed following. Looks like I’ve got some listening to do.