gladiusdei
 member, 857 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 17:29
Freeform vs D&D style systems
yeah, I agree with you.  But finding a rules lite system that has the same level of depth as settings like D&D is pretty difficult.

I fully understand the enjoyment of progressing as, say, a wizard, and reveling in each new level of ability.  It's really my favorite aspect of the D&D system as well.

but I prefer games that focus on that power in a story sense, not in a "how many grid squares can I annihilate" sense.  And that's a hard distinction to find.
Piestar
 member, 897 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Fri 21 May 2021
at 17:33
Freeform vs D&D style systems
That was why I fell away from Freeform games, after only two or three attempts. They always seemed to end up with people wanting to dominate things, and there were no rules for retraining them.

The eternal problem is of course finding people on the same wave link as you, who have a playing style that fits with yours.

To many games, both on line, and table top, over the years though were ruined by that kind of payer, and I can't imagine they play well with others. Be funny to watch a table full of them go at it though.

Honestly if you find the right people, any system will work, and without that, no system will work.

I like to start with rules, but I like a GM flexible enough to the you stretch them, research spells, be a little creative, let the players make a part of the world their own. Too often I find GM's who want to fight me over every simple little detail, I don't have the energy.
CaptainHellrazor
 member, 127 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 17:44
Freeform vs D&D style systems
I could never play a freeform game, a game needs rules, without a set of rules to create boundaries of what is or isn't  possible then it isn't  really a game. To me a free-form game is really just a story with multiple authors and unless they are collaborating to create a cohesive story and working toward the same goal/theme with writing styles that compliment each other then it is a chaotic mess :)
Talon
 member, 395 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 17:51
Freeform vs D&D style systems
Freeform really needs a few more labels attached in my opinion. People imagine it's only highly structured systems like D&D, or complete lawless chaos where every player has as much authority as the GM. Some GMs run freeform like that, but the sweet spot is somewhere in between the two I feel. I like to call it Guided Freeform.

The best success I've seen with freeform is building a few rule systems that are narrative based. Throw in a few statistic numbers so players can measure their progress or compare to opponents or fellow players.

A freeform game or a structured game are both going to succeed for the same reason, they deliver what the player wants. So like Piestar mentioned, work on finding the right players. Just know that things like rewards, loot, advancement, consistency, are the important things regardless of if dice are involved are not.
gladiusdei
 member, 858 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 18:06
Freeform vs D&D style systems
I think the advancement thing is the hard part of freeform.  The game I ran had a rules system of sorts, players had abilities and disadvantages, and was intended to balance them all relatively equally.  But with it being vague and largely based on my say so, feeling like your player "grew" in power was nearly impossible.

But my experience in D&D has largely been the opposite.  I want players to really think about what it means to have a dragonmark, not just have it be a throwaway to increase one of their savings throws.  What does it mean if your character is now an archmage. How does he fit into the world? Your character can literally call demons from beyond to serve him, and to council him.  How does that affect him?

Those aspects of D&D are much more interesting to me than just having higher dice rolls.  I think you're all right about finding the right players.  That's not an easy task, though.
engine
 member, 830 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Fri 21 May 2021
at 18:19
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to gladiusdei (msg # 1):

I think you just need buy-in to your idea. Hold a session zero and make sure that everyone who joins is interested in what you're interested in. I've heard lots of stories like yours, so I know you're not alone.

Using some system gives some structure, which I like because I'm not good with coming up with that. As long as the players know that, yes, we'll be using the rules, but the focus is on the story, and I know what they need to keep from getting too concerned about the rules, there's some hope of it working. If I just say "We're playing D&D" then everyone coming to the game will have a diffent idea what the game is about.
Talon
 member, 396 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 18:27
Re: Freeform vs D&D style systems
gladiusdei:
I think the advancement thing is the hard part of freeform.  The game I ran had a rules system of sorts, players had abilities and disadvantages, and was intended to balance them all relatively equally.  But with it being vague and largely based on my say so, feeling like your player "grew" in power was nearly impossible.


A really simple way to capture advancement in freeform: numbers.

Give players stats, give players skills with a number associated. Then when they gained a 'level' their strength goes from 3 to 4. What does that mean in game? It means they're stronger than anyone with a strength lower than 4. Now they can lift more weight or accomplish something more easily than they could have before.

Same rule applies to skill. Two archers in the group but one is a skill 2 and another is a skill 4, the narrative says the skill 4 archer is better.

This gives you some narrative framework, ensures that players also have a roughly similar idea, and gives you rewards you can distribute through skill ups or stat boosts, but it doesn't require nitty gritty numbers

You can take this philosophy and stretch it out as much as you want depending on how many reward systems you want in place.
Piestar
 member, 898 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Fri 21 May 2021
at 18:31
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to gladiusdei (msg # 7):

Well one good thing if you are interested in trying a variety of freeform game, RPoL has a bunch of them.
gladiusdei
 member, 859 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 18:49
Freeform vs D&D style systems
I'm honestly not as interested in playing one as I am running one.  I've tried to get into a few, but they just didn't fit what I would enjoy.  I think I find the world building and story telling side of freeform games far more enjoyable.

I understand the number thing, I tried to do something similar.  But where it gets pretty hard in a freeform-like setting is with magic.  Defining what a 3 vs a 4 in a certain magic can do or even what types of magic there are, is a lot more murky.  And most of my freeform ideas are pretty high fantasy, so the magic of it is a big part of it.
Talon
 member, 397 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 18:54
Freeform vs D&D style systems
With the magic system, try giving them very specific abilities.

They're a fire mage so they can throw a fireball and are immune to fire damage. If they want to turn themselves into the human torch or fly from fire coming off their feet have them do some training or whatever advancement you feel is appropriate, then give them the new ability. Gaining something new will scratch their advancement itch and giving their magical powers very concrete limits will make the game easier to run for you. Some players will dislike that they can't do all the magic at a whim, but it sounds like you wanted to avoid those players anyways.

The trick that makes it freeform is to take nothing off the table, if they want to raise an army of undead to serve them, give them a series of small goals to achieve that rather than just waive it away as impossible since in D&D it would break the game.
Piestar
 member, 899 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Fri 21 May 2021
at 18:57
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to gladiusdei (msg # 11):

I guess to some degree it depends on HOW free form you want it. I ran a game for a little while where the players had the option to be very creative, within their sphere. They would have areas in which they had magical powers, but they had to find a way to cast magic that fit within those areas.

Drop me a line if you ever decide you are ready to run one. Always been more interested in game than power, and as I tell people confused by role-playing in general, if you had fun, then you won. I would be willing to try one more, I know they can't ALL be as horrible as the ones I tried.
Gaffer
 member, 1688 posts
 Ocoee FL
 45 yrs of RPGs
Fri 21 May 2021
at 19:41
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to gladiusdei (msg # 11):

Are you familiar with Everway? Maybe there's some inspiration there for you. It was created by Jonathan Tweet in 1995. I bought it and ran it several times and found it very enjoyable as it put its focus on story and character.

It's diceless (resolved by GM interpretation of tarot-like card draws) and has an interesting character generation method. I'll let Wikipedia describe that:

Character design is abstract and simple by most role-playing games' standards. Each character begins with twenty points to divide between four Element scores roughly equivalent to statistics for Strength (Fire), Perception (Water), Intelligence (Air) and Endurance (Earth). Scores range from 1 (pathetic) to 3 (average) to 10 (godlike), so a generic hero would have scores of 5. Each Element also has a specialty for which a character can get a 1-point bonus; e.g., a 5-Air hero with an Air specialty of "Writing" could write as though their Air score were 6. As a general rule a statistic of N is twice as capable as a level of N-1, where this makes sense. (A 5-Fire, 5-Earth hero can typically defeat two 4-Fire, 5-Earth enemies, or handily defeat a 3-Fire, 5-Earth character in foot race, but cannot necessarily run twice as fast even though speed is governed by Fire.)

Each character also has Powers representing unusual abilities. These cost from 0 to 3 or more points depending on whether they should be considered Frequent, Major (or even "Twice Major", for especially powerful abilities that significantly affect gameplay) and/or Versatile. For instance, a "Cat Familiar," a slightly intelligent cat, is arguably worth 2 points for being Frequent (usually around and often useful) and Versatile (able to scout, carry messages, and fight). A "Winning Smile" that makes the hero likable is worth 0 points because of its trivial effect, while a "Charming Song" that inspires one emotion when played might be useful enough to count as Frequent (1 point). There is no strict rule for deciding what a Power is worth. Each hero can have one 0-point Power for free; additional Powers that would otherwise cost 0 points instead cost 1.

Magic is also abstract. A hero wanting access to magic, as opposed to a few specific Powers, must design their own magic system. This is done by choosing an Element for its basis, which affects its theme; e.g., Air is associated with speech and intellect and would be suitable for a system of spoken spells gained through study. The new Magic statistic has a 1–10 rating and point cost, and can be no higher than the Element on what it is based. The game's rules suggest listing examples of what the magic system can do at each power level, working these out with the GM. It is suggested that most characters do not need magic and that it is not suitable for new players.

Finally, each hero has personality traits based on the game's Fortune and Vision cards. Players are to choose one or more Vision cards and base a backstory on them, and to have three Fortune cards representing a Virtue, Fault, and Fate (a challenge they will face). These three cards can change to represent new phases in the hero's life. There is a list of suggested Motives for why the hero is adventuring, such as "Adversity" or "Wanderlust", but this feature has no gameplay effect.

Equipment such as weaponry is handled completely abstractly, with no specific rules for item cost, carrying capacity, or combat statistics. However, a particularly powerful piece of equipment—for example, a cloak that renders its wearer invisible for a brief period—may be treated as a Power that the hero must spend their initial element points on.

This message was last edited by a moderator, as it was against the forum rules, at 20:47, Fri 21 May.

gladiusdei
 member, 862 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 20:11
Freeform vs D&D style systems
I'll take a look at it, thanks.

I'd have to do a lot of thinking and planning before I ever decided to run one again.  I took a break for a while from rpol after that game fell apart, and I only recently returned.  I'm not quite ready to put all the front end work into a game like that again.

I think for that game, I was too ambitious in how powerful I let players be.  I wanted to more outlandish, high magic abilities, but after a while players effectively thought they were unkillable, and didn't really fear anything.  So I guess I let them start too high too fast, without instilling danger in them first.
Piestar
 member, 900 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Fri 21 May 2021
at 20:14
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to gladiusdei (msg # 15):

RPoL really works best, IMHO with a light to medium amount of prep. You can always add things as time goes on, but if you spend more time crafting your game than getting to play it, it really stings.
gladiusdei
 member, 863 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 20:23
Freeform vs D&D style systems
While I understand what you mean, for the game we're talking about I'd need to broadly design the world, the story, and how the players fit in it, in order to roughly design how the powers work, and what I would allow in the game.  That's the planning I'd need to do in order just to open it up to players, so there is a system in place to make the character's in.
engine
 member, 831 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Fri 21 May 2021
at 23:26
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to gladiusdei (msg # 15):

Players can get too powerful in an established system too. This is also a matter of buy-in. If the players want to make your concept work (and you've explained your concept to them) then they won't try to make themselves unchallengeable, and might even offer suggestions as to the challenges they think are still present, or limitations on their power that could be exploited.

If they're not bought in, then they're more likely to do what they can to wrest control from the GM. That's the typical player goal in many games: make it so that the DM no longer has the power to threaten the PCs, at which point players are in charge. You have to short circuit that, by working with the players and getting them on your side.
Piestar
 member, 901 posts
 once upon a time...
 ...there was a little pie
Fri 21 May 2021
at 23:40
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to engine (msg # 18):

Players have to be invested, but they shouldn't be expected to be so tied the GM's vision that they have no agency. The GM can't be so married to the story that divergence from their expectations throws the GM off of their game all together.
gladiusdei
 member, 865 posts
Sat 22 May 2021
at 00:52
Freeform vs D&D style systems
neither of which are the problems I'm talking about.  RPOl isn't the best forum to find a "like minded group of players" without going through quite a bit of trial and error, and trial and error tends to kill rpol games.  So finding this group of players is a complicated task.

And yes, I'm well aware players can get too powerful in any game.  But in a freeform game, there's no real definition of how that power works, so it's much harder to adjudicate if a player actually argues it, beyond saying "it is what I say it is," which has a tendency to anger players that are frustrated enough to argue with you in the first place.
engine
 member, 832 posts
 There's a brain alright
 but it's made out of meat
Wed 2 Jun 2021
at 14:22
Freeform vs D&D style systems
In reply to Piestar (msg # 19):

I agree. That's not what I'm talking about. You and I are talking about opposite worst cases. What I'm saying does work and is worth advocating, even on this site. Not doing it can also work, obviously. It more easily leads to well-known problems, but people have been working around those problems for decades. My approach is no less problematic, I'm sure, but at least helps avoid a lot of the old problems, such as what the OP brought up.

Bottom line, it's worth looking at why people, even those with good intentions, cause games to stop being fun, and talking about it with them, ideally before the game starts.
Delirious Edd
 member, 25 posts
Wed 2 Jun 2021
at 18:26
Freeform vs D&D style systems
It's not an all-or-nothing between completely freeform or rules-heavy D&D. Plenty of games exist in a middle ground. Let me offer a few suggestions (there are many more, I hope others may chime in with suggestions) along a spectrum:

. Freeform, no rules, just writing
. Lasers and Feelings, just one rule, but interpreted in multiple ways with surprising depth, and hacked to many many different genres
. RISUS or The Window, rules lite games with a heavy focus on narrative, but a few more rules to give it structure
. 3 BONES or 2400, just a few more rules, but still easy for online or forum play. 3 BONES lets you have crunchy rules, but also lets you name your character's statistics, which I think is a nice blend of rules and narrative styles.
. FATE or Powered by the Apocalypse, both blend narrative and system with medium crunch
. OSR D&D clones, easier to run than 5th edition, give more decision making to DM in cases where rules don't exist for the situation
. 5th Edition D&D, you already know about this one
. 4th Edition D&D, it was more complex
. HERO or GURPS or Rolemaster, etc, lots and lots and lots of rules.

More than half of my recommendations have free rules online, by the way, so there is no barrier to trying them out and seeing if there is something you like better. I hope that helps you with your quest, or at least to clarify your thinking on what will work better for you!
Sir Swindle
 member, 319 posts
Wed 2 Jun 2021
at 20:00
Freeform vs D&D style systems
You were clearly delirious when you were writing the bottom half of the list but, ya sure.
gladiusdei
 member, 868 posts
Wed 2 Jun 2021
at 20:12
Freeform vs D&D style systems
I've played most of the games you listed.  I think the core of my question and issue is more in finding players that want to focus on story more than mechanics.  It's kind of easier to find players like that in freeform games by nature.  But that side has to be tempered by some sort of structure that dictates capabilities.

Some systems like the window, seem close to what I need, but honestly, it wouldn't be too difficult to just make my own rudimentary rule set that would accomplish the same thing.
donsr
 member, 2282 posts
Wed 2 Jun 2021
at 20:25
Freeform vs D&D style systems
Freeform...is what you make it..

My freeform has rules, framework. dice  are rolled at time( mostly by me, of board) but your RP  and  your character build and progression is  as important as  a dice roll.

 just writing?.. you may as well just do that yourself.
gladiusdei
 member, 869 posts
Wed 2 Jun 2021
at 20:38
Freeform vs D&D style systems
that's...what I said.  I don't like pure freeform, so some sort of structure is needed.  But I think I can make my own just as easily as learning to use the very simple systems like the window.

This message was last edited by the user at 20:40, Wed 02 June.

donsr
 member, 2283 posts
Wed 2 Jun 2021
at 20:39
Freeform vs D&D style systems
Yep Glad.... i have my own system, there is still character building  and  growth, but its heavy  RP.