I think I mentioned this before but when my group get together and game it happens two or three times a year. We rent a house, the one we have used for the past few years happens to be called Rivendell which is quite fitting, and we game all weekend. While we game we each have a sofa or armchair, when I GM I have a small side table for books and dice and it is pretty relaxed.
It sounds cool and it is but it also makes a lot of choices for us. For a start using minis is a real problem. We are all so far apart that no one would be able to see any real tactical detail we are all too lazy to get up and have a look. So that means that battle maps are out as well.
The games I was looking at last year had features like a momentum dice and counters. Well without a table to put them on these are not going to work.
Michael was the first person I saw that showcased the index card role playing game in this post. Although I really liked the concept it was going to be a non-starter for us because we are too far apart for that sort of interplay.
We are no longer the Knights of the Dinner Table, we are more like sofa sorcerers.
Being a sofa sorcerer means that you end up more organised. The rulebook you need could be right on the far side of the room and sofas are harder to get out of than dining room chairs (that sounds lame but it is true!). So when I am plotting an adventure I copy and paste the rules for specific situations right into my notes. If there is a chance of drowning then I have the drowning rules to hand. Each character has all their spells and the spell descriptions copied and attached to their character sheet, or playbook is a better phrase. So now there is no bottleneck while all the spell casters need to check which spell to cast or whether they think it will work or not. My current party has 5 PCs and they are all spell casters to a lesser or greater extent.
I don’t have a GMs screen but I have created a simple PDF of just the rules or tables I need and I keep this on a 10″ tablet. It is only about 8 pages so flicking back and forth is quick and easy. So I have pretty much ‘organised the books out of the game’. I still have them because there is nothing to stop the PCs from going completely off piste if that is how they decide to go. I certainly do not railroad my players even if I have prepared an adventure.
Because we only play a few times a year our games gravitate more towards hack and slash. This is not my first choice but with months between sessions remembering subtle clues is simply not going to happen. Unless I arrange a mystery that is all wrapped up in a weekend of gaming clue based adventures are not likely to work. You can forget political plots completely.
Another reason for not needed a GMs screen is that none of us have the eyesight anymore to read the GMs notes upside down anyway.
So are there any advantages to this laid back gaming style?
Firstly, you can game for many hours more when you are comfortable than sat on a hard dining room chair. People seem to take less breaks and we can go on for 15 to 18 hours on continuously being in character baring food breaks. The most likely cause for the session to end is when the dwarf starts snoring and even that could be in character.
When you give your players space I have noticed that the characters develop mannerism. The players start to create mannerisms, gestures and all sorts of non-verbal elements to their characters. I used to work in an office where I was the only man, my colleagues would chair dance when certain songs came on the radio. My players have started to act out their characters especially discussions within the party because they have the space to do so.
Another quirk of this style of play is that with the diminished amount of books needed we have been known to relocate outside to a garden table. You cannot see the tablet in this photo but the little pile at the end of the table is the sum total of all my campaign notes and rulebooks for the weekend.
In contrast, these are the rulebooks for a single afternoon session for a friend that GMs me occasionally.
So what is the point of this post?
I think the point is that where we each come from informs our choices and opinions. I felt I was quite down on some aspects of the games I looked at and aspects that I didn’t much like were the use of counters or visual aids like the momentum dice. You can see from this why it would not work for my hardcore laid back Rolemaster players.
It also colours my desire for rules light games. I can make just about anything rules light. Rolemaster has a reputation for being rules heavy but looking at my GM setup and you can see that it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I can run an ultralight game with all necessary rules on one piece of paper, although I do need to use both sides. That, though, is a post for another day.