Saturday, August 4, 2018

Simple vs. Beginner: There's a Difference

So, earlier in the week I got into a conversation on Facebook with someone who had some constructive criticism and questions regarding Untold Adventures. I encouraged them to ask their questions because the person was both respectful and the questions were really insightful ones about the nature of the game. It got me thinking about something that seems a bit counter-intuitive.

Untold Adventures is a rules light game, but I would not call it a game that's a good game for new gamers. That's a bit confusing, eh? Without a lot of rules, beginners won't get overwhelmed - right? Sure, that's true. But Untold Adventures relies heavily on Referee fiat, descriptive play, and abstraction. Those three skills don't always come easily to new players or Referees. That's because they need time to build their confidence as gamers and trust their instincts.

Part of the reason I love Untold Adventures so much is that it is a game I wrote, first and foremost, for me. I didn't want to do "just another retroclone" for the sake of sales. That's why it's a PWYW PDF and the PoD will be under $10 in softcover. It's a game that I know I can run given my current life. It's low prep, fast-playing, and character creation takes five minutes. I abstracted so much of the game because I trust in my abilities as a Referee and to make a call on the fly.

That comes from thirty years of gaming and over half a decade creating OSR content. The mentality of "Rulings, not Rules" comes to me almost instinctively. I recognize that such a style of play doesn't come easily to new gamers and that many experienced gamers don't care for it. They want a more defined selection of classes, a more concrete gear system, and other things. That's perfectly valid and reasonable. But, it's not the way I prefer to play, so I didn't write Untold Adventures with that in mind.

Another reason to make it as rules light as possible was to make it as easy as humanly possible to drop in other OSR content. Heck, I wrote it with running Small Niche Games' Chronicle of Amherth (originally written for Labyrinth Lord) and Glynn Seal's Midderlands (originally written for Swords & Wizardry Complete) in mind. I could use both settings with no mechanical conversion, or simply by changing all HD to d6. Conversion takes seconds and can be done on the fly. But that comes at the expense of concrete rules, forcing me to rely on my own confidence that I gleaned from experience as a gamer and creator.

I'm not saying this to toot my own horn. I'm simply pointing out that the level of experience of the individual running a game and playing in a game has a huge impact on that game and is a key factor to consider when choosing, designing, or playing a game.


  1. Untold Adventures is exactly the game I have been looking for, one that I can use at the table instead of the original three LBBs. Finally I have a version of the rules that I don't feel the need to add to or take away from and can just hand to my players. This one is "just right" as it is written. Thanks, James!

  2. I totally agree with Fred. I've been running D&D using S&W, OD&D, and more recently S&WCL, but always with a lot of house rules. It worked great when running for my kids; they're too young to really care about the rules. But when running for adult gamers, who are not familiar with the OSR, they want to see the rules and options they have. Then it becomes complicated to explain how I run the game.

    Untold Adventures is the first classic D&D rule system that I can hand to my players and run as written. It gives the DM a lot of flexibility by making it clear that situations are resolved either in a narrative manner, or optionally with dice using either an attribute check, a D6 check, or a saving throw for tasks that should get easier the more levels you have.

    James, thank you so much for this game. I can run D&D for the rest of my life with this small booklet.


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