Tuesday, 9 June 2015

An RPG Manifesto

This is my manifesto for how I like my games to roll - what's yours?
  1. The DM controls the world, providing interesting settings and situations.
  2. Players control the actions of their characters, and consequences of actions or restrictions on actions are explainable within the fiction of the game world.
  3. There’s a random element to the game that sometime brings unexpected fortune, and sometimes unexpected disaster.
  4. Plot and story are not imposed directly upon the game - they are an emergent property of interaction between the previous rules.
  5. Failure should always be a possibility.
  6. The DM is an impartial referee.
  7. The DM makes rulings when needed, and can override rules if they deem necessary.
  8. The DM and players often come to a gentleman’s agreement about aspects of the game – this does not violate player choice.
  9. It is better for aspects of the world that will have consequences for player choices to be determined by the DM before those choices are made.
  10. The DM should abide by the outcome of dice rolls.
  11. The DM should not alter the world to invalidate players’ choices.
  12. Random Tables can provide inspiration for the DM – but not a strait jacket – this is not fudging.
  13. Impartial adjudication of NPC/monster behaviour can be enabled through dice.
  14. It is better to roll a dice to resolve whether something is possible, than debate it endlessly.
  15. It is your responsibility not to game with people who wreck it, not the game designer’s responsibility to stop them from wrecking it.
  16. Rules should only be as complex as they need to be; less is often more.
  17. The more complex the game mechanic, the harder it is to discover the consequences of it, and the more likely it is to be deeply flawed.
  18. If someone burns all your rules, character sheets, dice, modules, melts your miniatures, and puts an axe to your laptop - you should be able to carry on playing almost the same game with rock-paper-scissors.
  19. Content is more important than presentation, and clarity is the most important aspect of presentation.
  20. There is more to learn from RPGs dating from the era of runaway success - the first ten years (1974-1984) – than there is from the niche appeal and limited success of subsequent games.
  21. No game mechanic is a sacred cow.
  22. Rules in a game are there for situations which require them, they do not indicate the relative importance of the situation to the game. 
  23. More time should be spent playing than preparing.
  24. The proof of the game is in the playing.


  1. All excellent points. Sounds like we have very similar philosophies regarding gaming.

    I'm not sure I agree that failure should *always* be a possibility. There's a great many things that it's pretty hard to outright fail at. Many things just end up taking longer than you'd like.

    More people should agree on 22. So many pointless diatribes out there about how System X is about Y because it's loaded with rules for it. Not how it works.

    1. Yes, *always* is overstating it. I'm not advocating rolling every time you walk downstairs! I agree with "many things just end up taking longer than you'd like" and that's a good way of phrasing it. For example, a great climber aces the easy climb but a poor climber might take ages over it.