This interview originally appeared on Polyhedral Dreams on January 27th, 2010. There have been a couple small edits.
While I was waiting for Randall Stukey to be able to get back up and running following the loss of his old computer, Ray Nolan and Phil Morris of AntiPaladin Games contacted me about doing an interview. How cool is that? I eagerly pounced on the opportunity, and both Phil and Ray took the opportunity to answer my questions (sometimes individually and together in the same question, even). Their fantastic insights follow!
What should a microlite game be able to do?
Both: We guess it should be able to do what every other game does. Entertain it’s audience. Let the people using it model the genre/setting/experience they want to within reason. The reason there are so many different games is that they all have their own strengths they highlight. We think the question is what kind of player does a microlite game attract?
How do you decide what to include in a microlite game?
Phil: We may not be the best ones to ask this to. We pretty much tossed in everything we could think of that would be fun to have in a game. Magic? Check. Vehicles and monsters? Check. We tend to think that Mini Six is a fairly crunchy game but we have seen where others have thought of it as a microlite game.
Ray: When we first put Mini Six out there, we described it as light, and there was some disagreement to that label. I’m not sure what light or microlite are. Eye of the beholder, I suppose. One thing we don’t feel the need to do is be too illustrative. We listed a few perks and complications to help get things rolling, but that list is suggestive, not exhaustive. We didn’t include any rules about economy or gear prices, because gamers are already familiar with that sort of thing from nearly every other game they’ve played before. Bolt on whatever is necessary for your game.
If you’re uncertain about whether to include an element, how do you resolve that uncertainty?
Phil: For Mini Six it was just based on space more than anything. If we added rule that wouldn’t come up in most every game then we dropped it. We were trying to squeeze as much as possible into a self limited number of pages.
Ray: Adding more to a game seems easier than paring it down. At a certain level a game can become too simple. You might accidentally make it so that every player makes the same choices, so the fact that you have other options remaining becomes an illusion. It’s just getting rid of all the bits that don’t add much to the game or bog it down unnecessarily. Easier said than done, though. Sometimes, we accidentally dropped something important, we’ll be fixing that soon.
Do you feel there is a distinct line that, if a game crosses it, means the game is no longer “microlite”?
Phil: I can’t think of a distinct point where a game goes from being microlite to medium or even crunchy. What makes a game lite is as much a reflection of the attitudes of the players as it is the game design itself. There is just no consensus.
Ray: I think that a true microlite game might be understandable in just a few minutes by a group of average gamers. It’s probably not microlite if you need more notes than will easily fit on a character sheet.
Do you feel that more common or “big name” systems should be given the microlite treatment? If so, are there any you would specifically like to see?
Both: The only one that comes to mind for us is White Wolf. At its core, it’s a pretty simple, straight forward system spread among thousands of pages. We’re not saying that’s a bad thing because their flavor and setting material has attracted a large audience and is quality work. But you could strip it down to just a few pages that you could still play a full game with. Some other big ones, like GURPS, wouldn’t work in this manner because its strength is in the skills and advantage system they built. Taking those away takes away the mechanics at its heart. D20 has been given this treatment and it’s a popular variant. While not our personal cup of tea, Rifts, and Palladium could use not necessarily a microlite, just a total retooling. But even it still has its fans.
Do you prefer using microlite system variants to the full versions?
Phil: Our game group are somewhere in between. We have enjoyed 3.5 but have also found a great deal of fondness in Labyrinth Lord in recent years. Ray does push for us to try more microlite games, Risus for example, but we have to balance that with the more traditional gamers in our group that live for the crunch.
Do you have any preferences, comparing microlites to retroclones?
Phil: A retroclone is our group’s regular game. At our hearts though we are a couple of tinkerers. We will sometimes get a wild hair for a zombie invasions and other one off games and we will turn to a microlite style system to let us play these adventures. No system survives contact unscathed with us.
Ray: I only recently became aware of the microlite movement, as such. I’m dying to try some out, but we have a few gamers that are more traditional.
How did you decide to create Mini-Six? Was it a response to the delays in the Open d6 project?
Phil: It is an odd little accident that led to Mini Six. I was responding to someone’s post on forum explaining the basics of the D6 system. Then when Ray saw the post he thought it would be fun to try and put all the rules of the game on just one page. Mini Six is the result of that failure.
Ray: Actually the first page of Mini Six is the result of that attempt. If you only printed out that page I think Mini Six might qualify as a true microlite game.
Both: We were really excited about Open D6 when we first heard that WEG was going that route. We still are excited about it. We have had projects that have been stewing for a long time. Now it’s just a matter of finding the time to go forward with them.
Do you have any plans to modify or expand Mini-Six in the future?
Both: Expand? Not really. Modify? Yes. We need to fix a few errors, and we are going to trim a little bit of redundancy out. The rules at their core are not going to change. We are working on settings for it that will have material tailored to fit, like perks and complications. We have a few small new ideas to include in the core, but not much.
Anything else you’d like to tell people about Mini-Six?
Both: We think of it as an homage to a great system. We didn’t intentionally set out to make a microlite game or any game. Mini Six is part of a greater family of games that we think fits a spot between the lightest games and the crunchy stuff. We’re just waiting for the Standard Trademark License to give it that stamp.
My thanks to Ray and Phil for their willingness to answer my questions, and especially for seeking me out while I was caught up doing other things. Mini Six is available on the AntiPaladin website for free download. If you like the d6 System and enjoy microlite condensations, or have been curious about d6 but don’t want to dive headlong into the full system itself, go check it out.