7 August 2021: All Games Are Small

True story: I have played in many convention games run by friends. On more than one occasion a friend has had an emergency where they could not run a later session, and I have stepped in to run the game in their place. I did this from memory of what I experienced as a player, either a day or two previously or even earlier the same day. Yes, I had notes that I took so that I’d remember the names of NPCs, but I didn’t have the original gamemaster’s notes. Sometimes my only experience with the system was the single adventure I’d played and had to replicate. This was possible because as far as tabletop roleplaying is concerned, all games are small.

Hear me out. If you know how tabletop roleplaying works, and how the core mechanic of the game you’re running functions, you can basically fudge anything. You’re making judgment calls about what’s possible and what isn’t, and how difficult the things that are possible should be. A lot of the rest of it us up to the players. You want to do what? What ability are you using for that? How does that work? Okay, roll [whatever seems fair].

All Games Are Small

Strip away for flash and all games are small. This is why, over time, I’ve moved away from heavy rulebooks with a lot of fiddly bits. They are great for players. I know that certain types of gamemasters find them useful. To me, they’re a burden. I need to know how spells work in general; the details of  hundred different spells becomes overwhelming. I can fill in the gaps with imagination, my own creativity, and the suggestions of the players.

After all, if the point of tabletop roleplaying is for the group to collaborate on creating an experience — a story, an adventure, however you choose to define it — then the rules don’t need to do any more than support that. They need to stay the hell out of the way. Allow everyone at the tabletop use their creativity and imagination. Turn to the rules to resolve conflict in an agreed-upon manner. The rest is just filler.