12 January 2012

Brevity is Golden

The more I play around with creating systems and settings and modules for my own use, the more I realize that I'm really bad at padding things out.

I'm really bad at writing these 200+ page odes to a setting, or coming up with 90 classes and twelve thousand spells and fifty six magical items. As a matter of fact, it was one of the reasons I had such a goddamn hard time writing modules for my short-lived "one month module" series- I'd write the gist of it, the important bits, and still be on page two. I'd write more but it feels like overload. It makes the module lose its focus and makes me feel like I'm telling people what to do and how to play.

I don't want to tell anybody how to play, really. I want to tell people how I play, and telling somebody how I play is about the shortest thing ever: "Prepare absolutely nothing but memorize the book. Create a believable fiction from a combination of things you've been thinking about during the day and the game fiction as it's presented in the book." Bam, done. That's the essence of playing games the Lawful Indifferent way.

That's what I want more of. The essence of a game. To that end, I've been strongly thinking about creating 1 page games, settings, dungeons, you name it. I've got an idea where a game is a collection of pages tailored to whatever you're doing- kind of like GURPS, if you will, except much lighter. I'm thinking like a one-page game that is complete in and of itself, with maybe additional one-pagers that add extra little setting bits or additional classes or whatever it is that needs to be added. It'd be really fun, I think.

To my mind, the interesting design space isn't in the massive rulebooks or the kitchen-sink approach to everything, or in the rules-heavy combat-oriented fantasy gaming. We already have a lot of that, and we've had a lot of that practically since the hobby started. What we need is something that emphasizes what the play is supposed to be in a transparent matter, and I think a one page rpg could be just what the doctor ordered.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more. The past couple of years I have embraced the one-page dungeon design, as well as the whole Microlite movement. My eyes tend to glaze over when I start looking over a game like Pathfinder, or even the bulk of the OSRIC book. For my gaming needs, less is more. Good post. I look forward to seeing where you go with this.

  2. That's actually one of the biggest reasons I've wanted to do this for so long- I hear all of these great recommendations and yet I get ten pages in before the books all turn into Charlie Brown's teachers.

    Hopefully I can make something cool- we all know I've got enough half-finished projects lying around. I'm hoping to turn most of them into some extremely short projects for popular consumption.


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