member, 856 posts
Fri 21 May 2021
at 17:16
Freeform vs D&D style systems
The other thread about systems of D&D has got my mind thinking about a question I've had about RPOL games that has bothered me for a while. I love fantasy settings, and I have a lot of ideas I think would make great story arcs in rpol games if I could find the right mix of depth and storytelling.  But I feel like I can never get the right balance.

I've run several games on this site over the years of D&D, and they always seem to bog down with combat and system issues, and players trying to "break" the system to make powerful characters.  It always felt like the story of the game and the players, the part that I really cared about, was pushed into the background for the crunch.

I've also run freeform games that were the opposite.  We had great player role playing and story development, but the main one eventually died because players argued with me over what their characters could do, how the magic and powers of the world worked, and other things that basically required crunch to solve.

I guess I trying to find a way to have the right balance that doesn't require me to design freeform-like rules for an entire world.  For example, I love the D&D eberron system, the world building, the power types and feeling of accomplishment that comes from growing in ability.  All of that feels missing in a freeform game.  But in a normal D&D game, that becomes the only focus, and few if any players even bother to ask NPCs questions, or really cares about the reason their party is doing anything.

IS there a way to find a balance?  or is it kind of a lost cause on RPOL?
 member, 1687 posts
 Ocoee FL
 45 yrs of RPGs
Fri 21 May 2021
at 17:26
Freeform vs D&D style systems
It sounds like player mindset is your real problem and that the problem is basically the same one, freeform or DnD: "players argued with me over what their characters could do [power]" and "growing in ability [power]...becomes the only focus."

I haven't played DnD since 2e (and gave up on freeform) for exactly the problems you describe. If you want to use either structure, I think you have to be more firm with the players and explicit about what you need their focus to be: "the story of the game and the players" (by which I think you mean the characters, player and non-player). And that you're the final arbiter.

Or find a more story-forward rules set.