“The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don’t need any rules.” – Gary Gygax
I run games in a particular way. I don’t claim it is the best, just that it suits me; and if you want to understand why I do that, what I review and how I rate it, this may help.
Neither my players nor I have a lot of free time, and we prefer to use it gaming the exciting parts of adventures rather than in reading background information, learning new rules, or taking inventory of characters’ possessions. This means I have made a number of deliberate design decisions to reduce the learning curve for everyone.
- We use simple rules, most often Savage Worlds. The acid test: If you can’t fit a viable Player Character on a 3″ x 5″ index card, the game is too complex.
- We stick to the core rules as far as possible.
- Settings, monsters, and NPCs are stereotypes, drawn with broad brush strokes.
- We gloss over time spent travelling or resting up between encounters – we jump-cut from scene to scene without even a montage, just a caption that says “The Ruined Temple of Anubis, three weeks later.” This makes maps relatively unimportant.
- Characters are assumed to carry, use and replenish mundane supplies like torches, trail rations etc. as necessary, in the background. You don’t run out of ammunition or water unless it’s dramatically appropriate.
- Players are encouraged to focus on developing their character rather than accumulating equipment; the true hero needs only his weapon and his wits to prevail.
All of this leads to a pulpy, action-adventure feel to my games; in videogame terms, they are more like co-operative First Person Shooters than RPGs a console gamer would recognise.
As far as reviews go, it means I am biased towards generic things that are easy to pick up and use, like one-shot scenarios, and away from immersive background material and long story arcs.