What is a Role Playing Game?


OK -- perhaps not Conan related but a Pict by the odd name of "Gorden" made the following comment:
I used to love role playing in the 80's as the games I played were more about adventuring and free creativity than charts and tables and ... you can't do that because rule 3142 p 445 says an Hyborian mercenary can't...we just used to make it up and rule it ok or not...I love the setting here but would like to have seen Mongoose streamline the rules not add to the already overly complex system...
My gaming group has been going over this same issue recently so I thought it interesting that others had the same feelings.

There is a disservice to Role Playing done when a session plays out this way:
Grognar the Magnificent: "I grab the scoundrel by the collar and hurl him head first through the door!"
GM: "Ok, lets look up the rules for grappling, what page is that again? I see, first he gets an attack of opportunity against you, then you have to make a successful melee touch attack, then a successful grapple check opposed to his, how is that calculated again?"
****Some time later****
GM: "Ok, now you've got him but you have no more actions this round. He'll attempt to escape your grapple so make another opposed grapple check"
****Still later****
GM: "Hey, it's your turn again. Now to move with the person you have grappled requires another grapple check. and then we have to determine how much damage you can do with an improvised weapon against the door. I'll make it easy on you and say it's a normal door -- Hardness 5, 10hp . . ."
Player: "Just nevermind . . ."
I wrote all that out to show that what started as wonderful RP moment got derailed by rules -- and this isn't an uncommon situation! And I know that most people reading this thread will nod their heads and say -- yes, I hate when this happens too!

Conan, with its high adventure, spontaneous feel could suffer even worse from such a moment.

On the other side of the coin, discarding rules or letting players circumvent a low charisma or intelligence score by simply playing above their abilities causes an equally appalling situation:
Letting a player with no skill points in Bluff and a 8 Charisma fast talk his way past a guard penalizes the shy player who has a 18 Cha and max Bluff ranks!
Letting a weakling throw a guy through a door for the sake of removing complexity penalizes the player who has an 18 Str and Improved Grapple!

What's the answer? I'd like to hear other's response but will give mine to start things off:

1. Know the rules. There's a lot of them but the ability to state the grapple rules without having to look them up will make the process of a grapple check go much faster. If you don't know the rule, know where to find the answer quickly. Familiarity with your books can be a great time saver.

2. Don't be afraid to Improvise. This is even more important than rule 1. If a question can't be answered in 10 seconds the GM should make a best decision and get on with the game! It's very important that players accept these decisions and save questions/complaints until a less immediate time.

3. For the GM: Pick your moments -- ask yourself: Is this bar brawl a RP moment? Yes? then set down the rulebook and let people have their fun. Could the success of the adventure turn on this action? Yes? Ok, let's be a little stricter.

4. Reward players for thinking outside of the rules. If a player wants to leap from his horse onto the platform of a runaway chariot, don't penalize him with a battery of jump, balance, tumble and ride checks. Have him roll d20, add his highest of the 4 modifiers to it and if it seems reasonably high enough, let him do it! Or, if this is a RP moment, just let it happen!

5. For the Players: Give your GM room to be creative. If he wants to let the Bar Brawl take place without dice and books . . . don't pout, enjoy the opportunity to use your imagination and have fun with it!

6. Think outside of the rules. When seeking for options in what seems like a hopeless situation, don't stare at your character sheet for that overlooked feat or skill; Ask yourself: "What would Conan do?"

I think your post is well stated. I also appreciate your views on a different thread about Pr Classes. I was sort of voting against more rules and classes to keep things more . . . well . . . simple and pure I guess.

More spells, beasts, magic artifacts, and setting information would be welcome - however I hope the Conan game does not become bogged down with tons of extra rules supplements and gobs of Pr Classes. I just hated to see that happen with some of the D&D settings. It's a turn off because of all the clutter. I'd like to see the game supported with ideas and materials for telling great Conan-like stories rather than more rules. From my experience - with the more rules and classes - the more you attempt to add the more you end up taking away.

This all just gets back to your 1st suggestion: Know the rules. This is great advice as long as the rules are manageable. We really only need the one rule book for that. Let the other books help with the ideas and material (material that fits in with the rules we already have).

The most fun I ever had with a RPG was with TSR's old Conan the Role Playing Game. The rules may not stand up well today because of their limitations, but what I liked about them at the time was the feel they gave to the game. In their simplicity (the entire rulebook was 32 pages which included an adventure in the last section) gave me just enough to structure a game. There was also a little setting booklet that gave a brief description to the different regions. I still have the old world map :D As we played, my entire group began to prefer this game to AD&D or any other RPGs out at the time. There were enough rules there to answer our questions (although magic was darn near free form) but not so much we felt crippled by having to look things up.

Anyway - the way we played was the way you described. We kept it moving, fun, with enough structure to feel the game part of it. We kept the game marinated in the sauces of a good Conan novel. (What? Well - you know what I mean)

I think your points 1-6 are excellent and I hope I can play with others with a similar outlook. Your example posted at the top of your post is exactly what I hope to avoid in my games.
Agh the good old days when I was a young pict hacking my way along without a care in the world...where did it all go so wrong...I have an idea but you may disagree... :D

alot of those in the RPG business and many leading gamers are those hard core 70s and 80s boys that fell in love with the game at the height of its popularity... :shock: as they got older and more worldly attuned they expected and demanded more 'reality' in their games, partly in a sad hope of refinding that love that sadly was found to have faded with the onset of maturing years. However ultimately applying rational thought to a 'fantasy' destroys imagination. For me Conan forms part of the nostalgia of a youth spent dreaming of magical cities, battles, and the raiding of ancient temples. This game represents to me, in a sentimental sort of way, not only the forgotten and distant Hyborian age but also a distant and lost part of myself...before I became civilised and ultimately corrupted...in my youthful imagination i was wild and free. Life like the games seemed that much less complicated...of course life is not a game and that is why I love the games I play.