• I like the idea of ensuring more fun for the referee and more books for the other players.

    Have you read, or played, Ryuutama? In that the GM gets a special dragon character which travels alongside the group and it grows as they do. It’s pretty cool.

  • Hot Springs Island is the only book I know of that did this well; basically gave a half-true bestiary to the players along with misleading lore and quest hooks.

    • Yes. I thought that was absolutely excellent.

      I would take it a step further and remove truth entirely … but that might be too radical.

  • Have you heard of Symbaroum? I was a huge fan of it for a while, and while the system itself is a mess, one thing it does a really good job at is every book they’ve published so far has something for everyone. Even the main campaign books are broken into three parts: 1), players introduction to the adventure, 2) tools for the DM+new rules, 3) the adventure.

    It is an interesting design, and one that I’m not sure I agree with, but with the correct implementation it could work nicely. I just don’t think they’ve done it right.

    • Yes, I’ve seen it. It’s interesting but still … a little bit. Well … it does that thing again, where the DM section is just for the DM. And it’s totally fine, but I’d like to see those tools shared out more. I have a feeling that lots of us are getting more and more inspired by the new and more interactive board games coming up on the market, too …

  • I really don’t think hiding rules from players achieves anything: no matter how well you’ve memorised a magic item table, it won’t enable you to influence the roll of the dice. Resources being open to all players does not hinder gameplay.

    So as I risk just repeating everything you’ve already said I’m going to try and add something else!

    1. Collaborative world building gameother than Microscope would be Dawn of Worlds: simple and free. 100% would play again!

    2. My goodness, those covers are breathtaking!

    • Oooh, thank you for sharing Dawn of Worlds. I will check it out!

      Also … glad you like the covers. I’m happy how they turned out!

  • I particularly am intrigued by the idea “A setting guide might provide world-building tables for all the players to collaboratively build a world of their own, expanding from the core presented in the guide.”

    We ran a game for about 15 years with rotating DMs, either solo or co-DMs, which was very cool because everyone got a chance to play and DM. (My good friend Sick Rick told me he never really understood the rules well until he DMed.)

    There was some kind if conceit that the party was “unstuck” in the multi-verse in some way, but only a few of the DMs over the years even referenced that as part of game play, and only once I think was it an integral part of a chapter, and we just bounced from world to world. (https://www.dropbox.com/s/9dxhqdw6glspxdy/BlipCampaignHistoryPost.pdf?dl=0)

    Basically only I have DMed this last 15, so in our new Labyrinth Lord campaign we are rotating DMs once again, and I tried to set up a process for shared-world building using “Anomalous Subsurface Environment” and a starting map that could be added on using Worldographer.

    Talking with the next couple DMs in line no one is interested in following much of the stuff prior to their scenario, and mostly desire to go off in their preferred direction (what we did from 1989-2004, which rocked).

    However, it would be neat to have a process for themes, recurring characters, perhaps unifying mechanics (our campaign included elements along the way from Star Trek, Cyberpunk, kaijyu, nano-tech, and on and on). Something that could be passed from DM to DM and added to with sections on different worlds, planes, locales, NPCs.

    I did start a game notes book using journal stuff from: http://warlockshomebrew.blogspot.com/p/fantasy-rpg-aids.html

    Having a substantial book with sections to be completed at the campaign progressed would be excellent. Hmmm….

    • Yes – something like a campaign playbook would be great, where you generate (or play out) the ramifications of your actions, change the world, and pass it on!

  • While you’ve dismissed storygames and given brief mention of one of the very common PbtA principles, I think you might find it worthwhile to take a look at the work a lot of these kinds of games have done to pull apart how different player roles work. Most of these games are designed with the assumption that the “GM” is equally a player.

    Band of Blades by Off Guard Games, for example, splits up some GM responsibilities among the players, and empowers players to drive play themselves, while still having a referee.

    Amazons by Vincent Baker has two GMs! It’s surprisingly freeing and reassuring to have someone to turn to when making decisions to say “I dunno, what do you think?”

    The Wizard’s Grimoire (also by Vincent Baker) flips the script entirely, and has a single player responsible for driving play and knowing the rules, but who also controls the sole player character, while all the other players describe the world and NPCs.

    Which is to say, there are interesting lessons to learn about different ways of thinking about the roles players have at the table, that could be applied to the OSR.

    • Mmm … Actually, if you read carefully, I dismissed “a collaborative story game without a referee or dungeon-master” because I want “…games with referees. But games that acknowledge that referees are also players.” I have absolutely nothing against games that call themselves story games and I did not dismiss them, though I don’t think the term “story game” is actually very useful. Then again, I don’t think the term “OSR” game is super useful, either, but we have what we have.

      I do know Band of Blades and think it has a very interesting structure, with the players working to forward the campaign. I found it a lot of fun, and got a few ideas from it. I wouldn’t like the structure of the Wizard’s Grimoire, but that’s just preference. As for Amazons and shared responsibilities – that sounds interesting and I’ll check it out, thank you.

      • I guess what I was trying to say was that while you ultimately prefer games with referees, if you want to work towards solving this problem I think there is something to learn from games that mess with the referee role in a quite extreme way.

        What we call a “referee” is not a single, coherent role. It’s just a collection of tasks, objectives, and design elements grouped together. For the most part, those tasks, objectives, and design elements still need to happen to make a game work, regardless of who does them. That’s part of what games without referees do; they redistribute the functions of a referee in different ways, and in the process help illustrate what the functions of a referee can be (a particularly elegant example of this is Dream Askew by Avery Alder).

        So what I mean to say is that just because these games are working at one extreme doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn from them that can’t be transported back to your preferred design space.

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