Fast & Loose Roleplaying, etc.

I’ve been working on one of my roleplaying projects again and I think the groundwork, the basic system, is finally pretty much under control.

For a long time the working title of this game has been FaLoR (Fast & Loose Roleplaying). That’s one of the things I’d like to change at some point in the future. At the time I came up with it I thought it was short and had visual balance. But the more I read it the more it sounds like a cross between Valor and Fallacy, plus it’s got this weird EvErY OtHeR LeTtEr CaPs thing going on that is bugging me a bit.

There’s this concept of why people play RPGs that’s referred to as the GNS model. This stands for Gamist, Narrativist, Simulationist. At The Forge game design forum they have some very picayune definitions for what constitutes each of these categories. Also apparently at The Forge they’re pretty picayune about alot of the details of RPGs, too picayune for an amature like me to desire parsing on any kind of regular basis.

Anyway a bastardized version of what these terms stands for follows:

Gamist – This sort of person is interested in solving problems and puzzles or otherwise “winning” the game and comming out on top in some way.

Narrativist – This person is interested in telling a good story, getting some interesting details in, depth of setting, fleshing out and developing characters, etc.

Simulationist – This person wants the game to accurately model reality. Even if “reality” is a made up universe they will probably be satisfied as long as the game replicates both the harsh and pleasant aspects of that universe with mechanically imposed consistancy.

Of course most players really want a combination of these elements (one reason RPGs are different from wargames or short story writing). And most games include each of the categories to some degree. Still some games satisfy one category more than others.

With regard to this model FaLoR sits pretty firmly in the Narrativist camp. It doesn’t even have a damage resolution system for Bob’s sake, anyone could die at any minute if it seemed appropriate and agreeable to all involved.

Most games I design draw heavily from others that’ve impressed me in the past. Usually during the course of writing about any game material I’ve come up with there’s this little war that goes on in my head. The two combatants are:

A) The feeling that by mentioning all the designers who inspired this work I’m dropping names like a little kid trying to carry 200 lbs. of phone books,


B) The desire to avoid the ingratitude and intellectual dishonesty incurred by not citing my sources.

Fortunately I suspect readers here may be unfamiliar with these gods of indepentant game design. So it’s really no immodesty (only inaccuracy) for me to claim that over the course of the last three years or so I’ve born love children to each of them in turn.

octaNe – I mentioned this one in an earlier thread. Although the default setting and alot of the mechanics of FaLoR are completely different from those in octaNe, many of FaLoR’s task resolution ideas and other brass tacks are drawn directly from it. This is to the point that I sometimes fear Jared A. Sorensen will break down my door one day and demand comeuppance or something. But from what I can tell he isn’t exactly the sort of guy to demand comeuppance unless maybe it involves a steel cage match with masked luchadores. And probably FaLoR is different enough that my fears of copyright infringement are unfounded in this case anyway.

Donjon – Another little narrativist masterpiece, this one by Clinton R. Nixon. The main idea I scooped from Donjon was how he handled the use of character’s expendable resources. In all a Donjon’s a pretty cool idea for a game. Only drawbacks being a mechanic that involves a butt-load of d20s and (apparently) a somewhat intense and competative form of narration between the GM and player. This second aspect isn’t necessarily so bad, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Risus – A really simple little RPG by S. John Ross. Although I’m not the greatest fan of ‘dice pool’ mechanics like this game uses, John’s brevity (it’s only 6 pages long) and the intuitive “Cliches” system of character definition have been things I sought to emulate in my recent attempts at designing universally adaptable games.


So, where to next with this thing?

For one thing I’d like to throw in a little art-work here and there to make it more attractive. This is something I was hoping Loki could help me out with, but other submissions are also welcome. Since I’m not planning on charging for this thing in the forseeable future it’s just pro bono I’m afraid, though artists will get credited in there somewhere.

Also the name of this game could definitely use an update. Originally I picked FaLoR to suggest something simple and easy to use, but at this point I’m not so concerned about that. A name that suggests narration or telling stories might be nice, but “Storyteller” and “Saga” are already taken and “Talespinner” just brings to my mind pictures of Baloo in an airplane.

So suggestions for a new name are welcome. But please steer clear of stupid junk like “Dookie Fart Pants, the RPG”. Try for something short (maybe one to three words or sylables) and evocative sounding that rolls off the tongue.

Any suggestions about the mechanics welcome. General criticism is fine too, prefferably constructive though.

Also alternate rules, specific settings, or other add-ons are encouraged. I’ve got a couple of my own in mind, but in the tradition of Risus I’m not above linking to other folks adaptations of the game.

About Peter

This guy lives in Boston MA with his beloved wife and two kids. You can get some idea of his likes and dislikes from posts on this website or elsewhere.

11 thoughts on “Fast & Loose Roleplaying, etc.

  1. “Dookie Fart Pants, the RPG”… I think I played that once at my friend Chris’ house when I was in middle school. It was a pretty dissapointing game.


  2. Well I think I can handle some of the art end, as long as my reading comprehension allows me to get your requests right 🙂

  3. Cool. I’m not too fussy about the art.

    I was just thinking some stuff to suggest multiple genres. Maybe pictures with some incongruous elements (anachronisms are geat, you know women in frock coats weilding wrenches ‘n stuff).

    Basically illustrations that suggest any of the following: action, ominous or weird atmosphere, unusual but well defined characters, interesting situations, cool toys, muddling through, etc.

    There are a couple specific genre-suppliments I wanted the game to cover. I’ll try to get back to you soon about what sort of images that might go with them.

  4. I can handle “women in frock coats wielding wrenches”. I really like that image a lot. You’ll have to come up with a list of other potential drawings. We should actually talk at some point about FaLoR. The project that I’ve been working off an on for a while really seems to have a lot in common with the things you’re talking about; especially in terms of “mood”. It is essentially a world of rusted-tech, weird and fairies; with maybe a sort of Southern-gothic-dusky twist thrown in. I haven’t thought of a name for the world yet, I’d toyed with Ameviathan, but Ameviathan is a bit too telegraphed perhaps. So more recently, after reading some of your comments, I’d thought of Dusk Land or Fell-Dusk might work too.

  5. Dang yo! That’s great!

    Have you been reading Little, Big?

    I don’t have a good world suggestion ATM. Empire of Dusk maybe? Or is it really an empire? Confederacy of Dusk (interesting note: Dusk sounds a bit like Dust).

    But I had this idea for a “Revolution” setting (mentioned to you awhile back) that elements might fit with what you’re thinking of. Basically the setting consisted of trying to imagine what revolutionary war era would have been like if grafted to a slightly less magical, slightly less heroic version of D&D with a slighlty better explained deus ex machina for magic (ie. it’s due to ancient, forgotten clarktech).

    Specifically the “gods of the revolution” might be of use to you. They were a pretty ammoral lot, probably because in the original setting they were intended to be the interchangable ‘masks’ used by a bunch of super-human pre-fall AIs who are competing against each other to manipulate human society toward different ends.

    I can’t remember them all but a couple in the pantheon were: Lightning Jack – god of war, adventure, and reckless bravado. John Dark – god of dusk, highwaymen, rogueishness, and paramours. The Flaxen Man – god of agriculture, fields, and abandoned places. some god of rightous law and tyrrany some goddess of domestic arts and defending the homefront some god of industry god of commerace

    Needs more goddesses though I think.

    A couple other gods that I’ve thought of in the mean time are ones to go with the past couple centuaries worth of ‘rational thought’.

    Maybe in a post-civil war sort of era the ‘gods of the revolution’ are still around, but their influence has shifted and you start to get others like: goddess of evolution and her children: god of mutation and goddess of selection god of empiricism – who makes it possible to prove that the gods are just ideas, but the ideas exist therefor the gods exist. god of the psyche whose right hand is ego and left is id and whose head is super-ego.

  6. No I haven’t been reading LIttle, Bit yet unfortunately… I’ve read a little bit of the fairy book (can’t remember the name off hand right now) that I initially asked for. But time… time DRAGON-BUDDY-BUDDY, there just isn’t enough of it. Hopefully though I”ll get to it here shortly… especially as you seem to indicate with your comment that it ties into what we’re talking about.

    Other points:

    I hadn’t actually thought of having God’s oddly… but I sort of like the notion. And right now – to be honest, I can’t personally think of any type of better Gods than the ones your suggest. And I’m totally taken with your idea for a Revolution type setting; and in particular your use of the word Confederacy; the Confederacy of Dusk, Dusk Confederacy, Confederacy of Dust – any and all of them sound pretty fantastic.

  7. Thought of a couple more goddesses:

    The Brazen Woman – goddess of brave and daring women, prostitutes, and the gaudily dressed. Lady Luck – Fickle and easily distracted goddess of good fortune and those who take chances. Patriotic Spirit – goddess of nationalism, the home team, and all that good stuff over HERE.

    Also: I agree that any of the Confederacy’s sound good. Truth be told, I’m not sure any one of them jumps out as better than another though.

    What about the variation “Confederation”? A synonym with close, but not quite the same, intuitive associations as Confederacy. To me “Confederacy” sort of connotates rebellion and war, while “Confederation” still sounds similar and suggests a similar era and part of the country, but is maybe a little distanced from the conflict, more settled in, more relaxed and moldering.

    Confederation of Dusk? Confederacy of Dusk? Tough call.

    Would the place be called “Confederacy of Dusk” in the story? Or is this strictly a title for the readers to refer to?

    Maybe in the story it’s always just “The Confederation” (like “The Village”). Or if someone’s giving an official public speach maybe “The Southeastern Confederated City-States”.

    Sorry. Rambling here. I know what you mean about time being short. Keep on keepin’ the faith down there with that art and writing and all.

    – Dragon (who likes his ods and oddesses with little “g”s, for the big G’s sake)

  8. Perhaps it is a place within the world. Reason being – I’m not sure if at that this point the main elements of the story could totally be set in a Southern-World. For instance, the hero, Jonathan Thomas, is a Northerner. And at least the start of his story has to begin in the North. Though I’ve not decided what exactly Thomas does prior to becoming an adventurer, I’m guessing he’s some sort of political theorist. After disagreeing with various policies that the Government hands down regarding fairies, he sets out to learn about them in order to educate others.

    The Confederacy of the Dusk could perhaps be the South, which is now a forsaken land, demolished, wild and overrun with fairies and the weird. Thomas could eventually venture in the South.

    Something else, Thomas is a Christian. I think this is important. I like the notion of having other gods, and perhaps they are worshiped in other places, like in the Confederacy of the Dusk. They are regarded though as wild Gods. Some might exist, some might not, some might be actual deified men and women; etc.

  9. The game Changeling: the Dreaming is nominally about fairies, although it doesn’t really hold true to historical fairy folklore so much (for that Dark Ages: Fae is somewhat closer, but this digresses). One of the things Changeling plays up on is the idea that the fae are (or might partly be) actually human thoughts and dreams which have gained autonomy and sentience. As such anti-creative forces injure them and creative ones give them strength.

    Because of this, in that game, fae have some weird relationships with certain human motives. For instance deductive thought (ie. science and technology) can be their biggest bane because it de-mystifies reality and creates the ordinary, but the creative process involved in inventing and dreaming of new scientific wonders could technically give them strength as well.

    It’s the same with faith. Some elements of the setting suggest that people imposing blind adherance to moral codes or religous teachings could be detrimental to the fae. But there’s also the possability (not much played up on) that the joy, inspiration, and vigor that faith can instill might empower some fae.

    There’s a Spin Doctor’s song with the lyric, “St. Christopher lives on the edge of a quill.” For awhile I’ve wondered if this was a reference to the fact that Catholic Church has denied the validity of Christopher’s sainthood, apparently on the grounds that he didn’t actually exist (ie. he was an entirely mythic and legendary figure whose material existence they couldn’t find any reasonable proof of).

    The story of St. Christopher and his non-existence, coupled with the concept of ‘ideas as people’, sparked a weird thought in my mind: What if St. Christopher existed, not as a physical person, but as some sort of evanescent, fae, idea which came about due to the thoughts and beliefs of folks throughout historic Christendom?

    In a sense the legendary story of St. Christopher actually happened to him, but not in the physical world, more like in some sort of plane of ideas and mythic reality. But at some point he gained autonomy from the narrowly defined scope of the original St. Christopher story and the free will to seek his own path in life.

    But as shaped by the events of the original legend St. Christopher did meet an idea of the Christ child and was fascinated with Him. Further more St. Christopher is both aware of his existence as a fae creature and that the Christ he met might have been only an idea (or maybe an icon) of the real Christ. But even as an idea the Christ intrigues him, and he wants to dig into the reality behind the image.

    The reality of the Christ becomes his grail. He has various adventures, occasionally becomming nascent in the waking world as the story dictates. Eventually, maybe, he finds the object of his quest, but this is beyond the bounds of the story.

    His legacy is a band of fae warriors and magicians (in later eras called “The Knights of St. Christopher”) inspired to the cause. These are generally a more rough hewn, often anachronistic, and vaguely pagan motifed set of fae. Less refined and renound than the Aurtherian Grail-Knights. The membership of the band changes alot over the centuaries and their success in pursuit of the ideal is heavily varried.

    But somewhere in a wooded glade there is a spartan chapel where the idea of a humble friar tends the image of an empty tabernacle which is always lit by a ray of sunlight awaiting the Host’s arrival (or maybe return?). Here blessing may be asked and is given. And this is the place from which all true quests of the Knights of St. Christopher begin.

    Me: always with the themes of evanesence and nascence, eh? 😉

    In a somewhat unrelated (but somewhat related) vein:

    You put me onto Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer (which I never ended up reading, instead opting for his Litany of the Long Sun picked up at a used book sale). But interesting stuff about him: He became a Christian around the time he got married and apparently felt it suited him well. Further, in addition to his distopic future SF, he also wrote some fairy sort of stories as well.

    Although I’ve never read it I think his “There are Doors” is such a story. And I know that “A Cabin on the Coast” (found in that Modern Classics of Fantasy book) was pretty much a bite-size chunk of weird and disconcerting fae narrative candy.

    Another guy to look at might be George MacDonald who wrote a whole bunch of fairy stories and apparently preached a few sermons in his day to boot.

    But I forget you’ve got alot on your plate already. Too much too quickly?

    Seems ATM the availability of time is your limit. My own undoings are generally entertainments and distractions.

    One more thing comes to mind:

    You say, “I’m not sure if at that this point the main elements of the story could totally be set in a Southern-World.”

    Keep in mind that traditionally (if Purkiss is to be believed) fairies are associated with boundries and border states and places. If your story involves them heavily it seems perfectly reasonable that some fae action or strange condition could initiate or facilitate Thomas’ transition between worlds.

    I had this one idea for a setting where the different worlds (realities or universes maybe) were like the bubbles in a soapy foam. The actual worlds were like the air in the bubbles, but to get between them you had to traverse some sort of strange intermediary realm (fairy realm, twilight land, etc.) sort of like the soap film separating the bubbles.

    Man, get me on one of these topics and I’m a rambling fool.

    I really should go to bed now.

    Hope any of this helps in some way.

  10. The stuff you mention about St. Christopher is really interesting. And I particularly like what you mention about Border States. This is something I’m really going to have to consider. Maryland is a border state, or rather the border state, as it is the Mason-Dixon Line.

    Also – I don’t know if you’ve read China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, but it has a similar obsession with areas of transition. It’s a novel which undoubtedly has had something to do with my whole imagining of the world I’m currently working on (I want some elements of Steampunk). However, Mieville’s rendering of areas transition is obsessed with the body’s identity (so it seems to me); something which to be honest really doesn’t interest me – or at least in the way he’s chosen to approach the subject. I think this doesn’t appeal to me because Mieville’s novel’s seems to have some driving ideological “point”. I’m more interested in areas of transition intuitively, as they might touch/ relate to ideological points, without confining them to one thing or another. After all – if there is an importance to the Steampunk movement, its that it seeks to implode boundaries (much as Mieville himself has pointed out), not ironically confine itself to a topical and ideological point. I wouldn’t want to write a Snow Crash (a novel which I’ve always felt undoes itself in it’s own philosophizing). Leave the treaties to the dissertations and fictionalize the wonder-weird unhinged.

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