D&D Summer Camp #1: The Great Watermelon Fake Out

MB Updated
Dungeons and dragons with kids

Game Information

Follow Us
 
There Will Be Games

The adventures of Sprax and Ivy begin!

Summer is here at stately Barnes manor, and the kids are on the loose. I ain't paying $400 a week to send them to papercraft camps, so I was looking for something to do for about an hour a day before I have to work. Last year, I rounded up several board games that I thought they'd like and we had some great times playing Azul, Bunny Kingdom, Mechs Versus Minions, and others. I had also bought the dirt-cheap D&D Starter Set, but kind of felt that they were a little too young for it so I didn't hazard turning them off of it by introducing it too soon. This year, I found that I felt differently about that and I decided to pick up the three D&D core books instead of the new Dungeon of the Mad Mage Adventure System game- I figured why not just go for it?  So D&D Summer Camp was a go. 

I started talking to them about the game well in advance. They already knew about the game incidentally, and they were already interested. So I got them thinking about what kind of characters they'd like to play. Somehow, they both arrived at Druid. At first, I balked, but then I cooked up a reason for them to both play "nature wizards"- they would be wards of the Emerald Enclave, a faction in Faerun dedicated to preserver nature and the natural order. They would be tasked with heading out to adventure to earn their Springwarden ranks, under the chaperonage of a Mountain Dwarf barbarian called Irinitis Stonebeard and a Turami scout called Zola Bilawa - their mentors in the faction. I'm playing these "DMPCs" to give them some guidance as well as fill out the party so we can run most adventures without scaling them down.

My 7 year old daughter immediately came up with a great backstory, practically without prompting. She said "I was born in an elf village and humans burned it down and I was lost in the forest when I was a baby. My parents couldn't find me, so I was raised by animals until the Emerald Enclave found me and too me in." I was kind of dumbfounded. My last characters from about 15 years ago, twin dwarf fighters named Morleck and Burzock, didn't have nearly this much backstory. Then she added "I was inspired by Bambi." She named her character Ivy Merine and chose spells that emphasized her relationship with animals. She has an aversion to humans, other than Zola, who she views as almost a surrogate mother.

My son, 9, wanted to do something heavily influenced by The Legend of Zelda. He's also an elf, sent to train with the Emerald Enclave by his parents. His Druidic focus is an elaborate wooden mask. And he's haunted by apocalyptic visions. He's also overly aggressive and ready to fight - and lead the party. Thus, Sprax Bortwood was born. His surname is a Simpsons joke we've laughed about a lot since we visited Universal Studios in LA a few weeks back.

So I decided to run the Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure from the starter set, and three sessions in I think that was a great move. It's really an outstanding module (I still use that word) because it is almost a sampler platter of classic and modern D&D gameplay. It kicks off with some light roleplaying leading to a goblin ambush and a mini-dungeon before heading into a town for some fact-finding and downtime activity. There's quite a lot to do, with lots of optional sidequests and plenty of room to improvise and customize.

Naturally, I modified some pieces of it so that it would make more motivational sense for the characters. The Emerald Enclave has sent the party to meet with Gundren Rockseeker to sort of approve of the reopening of the Phandelver Mine at Wave Echo Cave. You know, to make sure it is all on the environmental up-and-up. They are also delivering some medicinal herbs and other supplies to the market at Phandalin, which sets them up with the wagon and a simple, non-combat delivery goal with a concrete GP reward.

I was really surprised at how they got right into the game. At the ambush, Sprax realized without prompting that there was value in not killing all the goblins and instead capturing one to figure out what was up with the dead horses on the road. Ivy wanted to convince the oxen pulling the wagon to follow them to the hideout, but I nixed that idea as there were steep slopes they couldn't get over.

But once in the Cragmaw Hideout, Ivy worked out quickly that befriending the chained-up wolves in the kennel was a great idea, and once they were freed, the party had three wolves following them. They got to the encounter with the upstart Goblin sub-boss Yeemick, and parlayed with him to rescue Sildar- a human Lord's Alliance fighter who had met Gundren up in Neverwinter. So the deal was to bring Yeemick the head of his rival Klarg, the hideout's nominal bugbear chief. They made their way to Klarg's chamber after a couple of scraps with goblins (with Irinitis doing a lot of the killing) and after they took out his wolf Ripper, the bugbear tried to flee. Sprax hit him with a Thunderwave, and I decided on the fly to allow him to try to talk his way out of the situation. He agreed to take one of the wolves to replace his pet and leave.

But here's another place where my kids shocked me. They realized that they needed to have some evidence that Klarg was dead. Ivy  rummaged through the stolen supplies and provisions in the room and found...a watermelon. They took a sack and dredged it in blood on the floor. And put the watermelon in the sack to present to Yeemick as Klarg's head.

As both a DM and a Dad, there is no way I wasn't going to allow that to work.

But I warned them that both Yeemick and Klarg might show up again later, which absolutely delighted them. And off they headed to Phandalin to continue the adventure. In the follow-up session, they wound up blowing all of their GP in town before sneaking into a manor being used as a headquarters for a gang of Redbrand Ruffians. They happened upon a drunken, gambling group and just totally beat the tar out of them, and they got the smart idea to disguise themselves in the red sashes and hoods of the baddies. The next room, they happened upon a group of three Bugbears tormenting a goblin. The disguise worked thanks to some great Deception rolls, and they said that Glasstaff (the manor's big bad and leader of the Redbrands) sent them to "bring the goblin up". But then the leader of the Bugbears said "hey wait, since when do they let kids into the Redbrands."

Without missing a beat, my son says in a gruff voice "It's alright man, we're halflings". I about died. He's a born player.

They are thrilled with it. About once an hour, I'm asked to play. My daughter is asking if she can run a game. They are drawing pictures of their characters and writing stories about them. They are excitedly telling mom what they did in the game. And I am able to play D&D every day with an excited and enthusiastic group.

Next time: How D&D ruined board games.

There Will Be Games Dungeons and dragons with kids

Dungeons and dragons with kids
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Dungeons and dragons with kids
Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

Log in to comment

ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #297803 30 May 2019 18:45
This so awesome!

Also my D & D character has a similar backstory to your daughter’s except mine was raised by wolves, is dumb as a stick and bites.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #297814 30 May 2019 21:26
We've had this conversation on Twitter, but regular D&D play has killed my interest in dungeon crawl and adventure games. Only really stripped down, loose stuff like Dungeonquest and Talisman interest me now. Anything more complex than that is up against D&D, and it frankly doesn't stand a chance in that fight.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #297815 30 May 2019 21:43
I'm torn on that one, San. I think RPGs are a heavier emotional lift so that separates them from the adventure boardgames. If you have the energy for that lift, I agree with you.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #297816 30 May 2019 21:51
A lot depends on a group, of course. My group now is very laid-back about roleplaying, so it's kind of a low-stress endeavor for me.

Adventure games tend to fare a little better against RPGs, although I have kind of a ceiling of complexity that I want to mess with. I have Talisman and play it a lot with my son, but my copy of Shadows of Malice doesn't see much action.

I think the genre that has really been hit hard is any kind of game that tries to recreate the tactical experience of D&D in any meaningful way. As in, characters on a grid proceeding through set scenarios, advancing in some way between those scenarios. Stuff like Descent, Imperial Assualt, most of the CMON output, those things are an absolute waste of money for me. They don't even have the benefit of being easier to get played than an RPG, because they never are. Even Silver Tower, which I own and love, feels overly constrained compared to D&D these days.

This is a bit separate from two-player tactical stuff like Space Hulk and Earth Reborn. Those are really kind of another genre.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #297821 30 May 2019 22:40

san il defanso wrote: We've had this conversation on Twitter, but regular D&D play has killed my interest in dungeon crawl and adventure games. Only really stripped down, loose stuff like Dungeonquest and Talisman interest me now. Anything more complex than that is up against D&D, and it frankly doesn't stand a chance in that fight.


From 2012 to 2016, I ran a D&D 3.5 campaign in the Ptolus setting. It was a fantastic experience, but the prospect of ever running a long 3.5 campaign again is daunting. I spend a lot of time prepping maps, tokens, encounters, handouts, etc. Dungeon crawl boardgames are sometimes a fine alternative due to the absence of scheduling hassles or prep time. Depending on the game, you might not even need a dungeon master.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #297823 30 May 2019 23:18
That makes sense. I know that the overhead on 5e is much lighter, and allows for planning to be more conceptual and less precise. That might have something to do with my opinions on the matter.
Matt Thrower's Avatar
Matt Thrower replied the topic: #297830 31 May 2019 05:03
Lovely stuff. Whenever I ask my kids what they're favourite of all my games is, they answer D&D. I feel a bit bad I don't play with them often, but I just can't find the time commitment.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #297831 31 May 2019 05:23
I play with my son as well, and he loves it. We have joined with another family (the dad plays with my group) and we've has an opportunity to play a couple sessions together. Really fun stuff.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #297833 31 May 2019 08:08
Y’all are getting a little ahead of next week’s post, but to preface that, after being “born again” I’m not sure I have time for the bigger, more in-depth dungeoncrawl board games. Including Gloomhaven. I can get a one-shot game of D&D going in the time it takes to set up and take down Gloomhaven. Although I love that game, had a great time with that game, and really dig the mechanics...like Nate said D&D is going to win every time over it.

There’s always been this “why not just D&D” argument against RPG-style board games, and now I kind of get it. Especially in light of 5E- it’s an -amazing- piece of design, like what GW did with Warhammer, they cut out a lot of bloat and got right down to the important stuff.

Anyway, more on this next week!
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #297837 31 May 2019 08:45
One of the great things about 5e is how well it allows you to play the kind of game you want to play. It lets you beef up the tactics if you want, but then it lets you slide easily between tactical combat and narrative hand-waving without much fuss. You can do that with combat too, shifting between grid-based and theater-of-the-mind without really any inconvenience at all. It's a very versatile system.

It does have its flaws. The rest system is kind of janky, charisma is underused if you aren't a sorcerer, and the ranger class as written requires a lot of coordination with the DM to make it very useful. I don't think any of those are deal-breakers though, and the community out there has thought of all kinds of ways of adjust this stuff. It helps that WotC has done very little adding of new material over the last five years. Besides the core books, there's just Xanathar's Guide to Everything with new spells, and Volo's Guide to Monsters with new classes. I know some people would like a second DMs Guide like we got with 4e, or another Player Handbook, but I think we are at a good place now. No sense in tossing in those splatbooks just because.

*edit* Agreed on Phandelver as well. It's a great adventure. Definitely gives a nice overview of all the different kinds of stuff the system can do, and serves as a great introduction either with the prefab characters or with new ones.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #297839 31 May 2019 09:06
So are you using a grid map and minis at all?
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #297842 31 May 2019 09:28
Yes, we’ve done every combat so far on the grid. I’m using the WOTC “official” dry erase board. It’s like a board game board so it folds up. It’s a little small, but so far it’s worked perfectly. Using minis from the D&DAS games, a few Nolzur’s, and others in my collection. I actually bought them the prepainted kid Druid figures from the Pathfinder Wardlings line.

My daughter is always griefing me about my bad drawing.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #297851 31 May 2019 09:54
I often wonder about WotC's conservative approach to 5th. It's very good for the game, but I can't help but wonder about the business of that strategy... which I hope works.
RolandHemisphere's Avatar
RolandHemisphere replied the topic: #297854 31 May 2019 11:10
Great write up. I ran some of the Lost Mines with three grown men who didn't play with half the skill and verve as your kids displayed.

Looking forward to Future installments.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #297856 31 May 2019 11:31
The Wardlings are adorable. What a perfect choice for playing with you children!

Since your kids are playing magic users, you might want to also consider the D&D spell decks. It makes it easier to manage your magic. Plus, you can just hand the card to the DM and say, "I want to do this." All the necessary info is on the card, so there is no fumbling with books and papers.
Shellhead's Avatar
Shellhead replied the topic: #297857 31 May 2019 11:44

ubarose wrote: Since your kids are playing magic users, you might want to also consider the D&D spell decks. It makes it easier to manage your magic. Plus, you can just hand the card to the DM and say, "I want to do this." All the necessary info is on the card, so there is no fumbling with books and papers.


I used spell cards with my 3.5 campaign. Whenever a spellcaster got access to a new level of spells, I would send them a pdf file of the spell cards for that level, in case they wanted to print them out and use them. Most of the players liked having the spell cards, though some just printed out the pdf sheets. And I had my own set of spell cards stored alphabetically in two recipe boxes that I kept next to my homemade DM screen. Part of my session prep was to pull spell cards for the enemy spellcasters that characters were likely to encounter that session, to decrease my search time during combat.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #297858 31 May 2019 11:45
It's always funny seeing this conversations because it highlights how diverse the format of RPG can be, and how equally diverse our demands from that activity become.

When I think of the term RPG and what that experience looks and feels like to me, it's not a grid or dry erase markers or an overly complicated combat system with attacks of opportunity or whatever. To me it's world building, character development, dialogue, and the emotional journey. It's conflict and drama with very a loose structure.

I'd much rather play Dungeon World for instance than D&D with minis and a grid.

That experience is far different than what you get out of Descent or HeroQuest. There, I'm not concerned with shaping the story or collaborating on fiction with my buds. I'm focused on gaining skills and loot and applying it to a tactical game.

They're so far divorced in my thought process that "Why not just play D&D?" isn't really an applicable thought.

This is not me shitting on D&D or how others play or what RPGs mean to you. Just a funny observation as I try to broaden the conversation.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #297863 31 May 2019 12:31
Oh yes, we have the Druid spell cards. Absolutely indispensable. They hit level 3 today so I just have to hand them the cards they can pick from.

The Wardlings are important because I wanted them to play children- not adults. They understand that the minis do not necessarily depict their characters in detail, but that took some explanation.

Charlie, you make a point about something I’ve been thinking over a lot lately as I’ve gravitated back to Warhammer, Magic, and now D&D. These core hobby brands all share one HUGE but subtle thing in common. They all offer the player a tremendous degree of freedom in creating a -bespoke- experience tailored to what suits them best. For some, D&D is the murder hobo thing with linear meat grinder dungeons while for others it’s all about building an intricate setting from the ground up. Some folks just collect Warhammer, others are into the optimal builds. Magic might mean a casual cube draft or playing in the pro tour.

All of these games, in contrast to any given board game, give you the opportunity to use it as you see fit or how it suits your groups. With board games, you kind of just have to pick another game.

But (again, pre-writing for next week) I think there is a big difference in a Knizia game that specifically uses the board game format to explore board game specific concepts and a dungeon crawl board game that seeks to simulate or emulate an RPG. The goals are really different. The catch is that for me, the former is irreplaceable. The latter remains a simulacra.
Rliyen's Avatar
Rliyen replied the topic: #297864 31 May 2019 12:42
This whole story is state of the art awesome. I do believe you've inspired the next generation of board gamers and role-players, your own children. Soon, the Padawans will become the Masters. Kudos to you.

"It's alright man, we're halflings!" I nearly choked on my coffee upon reading that!
GorillaGrody's Avatar
GorillaGrody replied the topic: #297866 31 May 2019 13:05
This was a fun write-up.

Charlie, from my perspective, I think the thing about D and D is that it supports both frames of looking at and playing RPGs, or any mix of the two, more adequately than many others. Which is really just what you're saying, but I'm gonna expound upon it.

The central difference between Dungeon World and D and D is that DW's authors codified good GMing in a way that D and D just couldn't, it being the more broad-based and flexible system. Yet well-codified or not, the rules for good GMing just don't change that much; on a poor roll, bad GMs just say "you fail" while good GMs describe the failure. 5e does nothing to interrupt that basic gameplay loop, and everything to support it.

Someone above mentioned that CHA rolls don't play much of a role in their D and D games, and that must certainly be true of grid-based sessions. But in our sessions, people are always trying to talk their way out of encounters. Charisma's our most used stat. Roll and describe. Some other very cerebral systems (like FATE or Blades in the Dark) make this a bargaining thing or some other mechanical bit of business that's supposed to distribute the GM's improvisational agency, but nothing really beats a GM who's a good improviser. In which case, you want a set of mechanisms, like those of 5e, which just invisibly mediate that improvisation.

Alternatively, should our group get in the mood for a tactical, board-game-like encounter (and, as a tired-ass GM, I am sometimes), 5e handles that better than any board game I can think of, something that "let's play a theater game" systems are just not geared towards (and in fact, are often actively snobbish about).

I hate to be the shill for the big system, but here I am. 5e's ubiquity, playstyle agnosticism, and flexibility makes any other RPG (and especially any other RPGish board game) a chore to learn and play. I would not have shilled for any other version of D and D, and can see why 3e, 3.5e and 4e spawned the development of so many ambitious systems which countered those system's gross munchkinisms with finger-wagging admonitions to "use your brains" and to "be a fan of the players." Yet too many of those systems use extraneous mechanisms and really bad world-building fluff to make their rather too-strenuous point. In hindsight, Dungeon World and other RPGs of that class and philosophy are dating themselves much more rapidly than D and D has done.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #297867 31 May 2019 13:21

hotseatgames wrote: So are you using a grid map and minis at all?

(Bad taste seal team flix joke incoming) He's using the STF maps to take out those tree hugging ecco-druids.
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #297868 31 May 2019 13:22

GorillaGrody wrote: This was a fun write-up.

Charlie, from my perspective, I think the thing about D and D is that it supports both frames of looking at and playing RPGs, or any mix of the two, more adequately than many others. Which is really just what you're saying, but I'm gonna expound upon it.

The central difference between Dungeon World and D and D is that DW's authors codified good GMing in a way that D and D just couldn't, it being the more broad-based and flexible system. Yet well-codified or not, the rules for good GMing just don't change that much; on a poor roll, bad GMs just say "you fail" while good GMs describe the failure. 5e does nothing to interrupt that basic gameplay loop, and everything to support it.

Someone above mentioned that CHA rolls don't play much of a role in their D and D games, and that must certainly be true of grid-based sessions. But in our sessions, people are always trying to talk their way out of encounters. Charisma's our most used stat. Roll and describe. Some other very cerebral systems (like FATE or Blades in the Dark) make this a bargaining thing or some other mechanical bit of business that's supposed to distribute the GM's improvisational agency, but nothing really beats a GM who's a good improviser. In which case, you want a set of mechanisms, like those of 5e, which just invisibly mediate that improvisation.

Alternatively, should our group get in the mood for a tactical, board-game-like encounter (and, as a tired-ass GM, I am sometimes), 5e handles that better than any board game I can think of, something that "let's play a theater game" systems are just not geared towards (and in fact, are often actively snobbish about).

I hate to be the shill for the big system, but here I am. 5e's ubiquity, playstyle agnosticism, and flexibility makes any other RPG (and especially any other RPGish board game) a chore to learn and play. I would not have shilled for any other version of D and D, and can see why 3e, 3.5e and 4e spawned the development of so many ambitious systems which countered those system's gross munchkinisms with finger-wagging admonitions to "use your brains" and to "be a fan of the players." Yet too many of those systems use extraneous mechanisms and really bad world-building fluff to make their rather too-strenuous point. In hindsight, Dungeon World and other RPGs of that class and philosophy are dating themselves much more rapidly than D and D has done.


There's a very interesting school of thought (and one I strongly agree with) that the openness and malleability of D&D is actually a weakness. This is the very spark that the Indie RPG scene sprang from - and why Dungeon World (really Apocalypse World) is so different than D&D. Most indie RPGs support a specific style of play, with the notion that they're better for it, as opposed to wanting to satisfy many different desires.

I have to admit that I kind of have a problem in wanting to turn any roleplaying discussion into a conversation on story gaming and Ron Edwards' big concepts, so I'm trying not to push too hard toward that here and take away from Michael's excellent article.

I love discussing this stuff and RPGs in general, perhaps mostly because I don't play them anymore and this is my version of the board gamer who only interacts with their hobby through acquisition and shelfies.
GorillaGrody's Avatar
GorillaGrody replied the topic: #297869 31 May 2019 13:28

charlest wrote:
There's a very interesting school of thought (and one I strongly agree with) that the openness and malleability of D&D is actually a weakness.


Hey, I'd be super interested in a link or two.

My big caveat to what I wrote above is that the "mechanized empathy" nature of most indie RPGs protects against big, dominating, improvisatory personalities at the table, which can be a problem (and has probably been my own problem in the past).
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #297873 31 May 2019 14:18

GorillaGrody wrote:

charlest wrote:
There's a very interesting school of thought (and one I strongly agree with) that the openness and malleability of D&D is actually a weakness.


Hey, I'd be super interested in a link or two.

My big caveat to what I wrote above is that the "mechanized empathy" nature of most indie RPGs protects against big, dominating, improvisatory personalities at the table, which can be a problem (and has probably been my own problem in the past).


So, this is a big can of worms.

First of all, to really get to the deeper bits, we would need to agree that system does matter in RPGs. I think you clearly agree with that, but there is an excellent article from 2001 here with some great theory discussion: www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/system_does_matter.html

That article also posits that there are three player aims and we all seek different things when we sit down to roleplay.

One quote that's particularly important: "To sum up, I suggest a good system is one which knows its outlook and doesn't waste any mechanics on the other two outlooks."

Diving further into GNS theory (those three outlooks) is fascinating. This is one of the best RPG articles on the internet in my opinion: www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/1/

That provided the foundation or bible for the Forge, an internet forum that spawned the Indie RPG movement. It's responsible for cultivating Ron Edwards, Vincent Baker, Jason Morningstar, Luke Crane, et al.

The indie RPG scene produced a culture of game design that focused on addressing one of those stances, most commonly, narrativism.

When I discovered this stuff in 2004, it drastically changed my view on roleplaying and really altered my group's trajectory after years of AD&D and then 3.0.

We started asking questions such as:

"But WHY can't my druid summon a bunch of snakes or turn into a bear?"

"Because you haven't gained that ability/level yet.."

"Who cares? We're not competing, we're roleplaying and collaborating on a shared narrative, the story would be better and more interesting if I could."

Our view fundamentally shifted to one more aligned with "Yes, and..." . The rules we desired were more of how to shape the story as opposed to how to shape our power/stats.
GorillaGrody's Avatar
GorillaGrody replied the topic: #297880 31 May 2019 15:51

charlest wrote:

GorillaGrody wrote:

charlest wrote:
There's a very interesting school of thought (and one I strongly agree with) that the openness and malleability of D&D is actually a weakness.


Hey, I'd be super interested in a link or two.

My big caveat to what I wrote above is that the "mechanized empathy" nature of most indie RPGs protects against big, dominating, improvisatory personalities at the table, which can be a problem (and has probably been my own problem in the past).


So, this is a big can of worms.

First of all, to really get to the deeper bits, we would need to agree that system does matter in RPGs. I think you clearly agree with that, but there is an excellent article from 2001 here with some great theory discussion: www.indie-rpgs.com/_articles/system_does_matter.html

That article also posits that there are three player aims and we all seek different things when we sit down to roleplay.

One quote that's particularly important: "To sum up, I suggest a good system is one which knows its outlook and doesn't waste any mechanics on the other two outlooks."

Diving further into GNS theory (those three outlooks) is fascinating. This is one of the best RPG articles on the internet in my opinion: www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/1/

That provided the foundation or bible for the Forge, an internet forum that spawned the Indie RPG movement. It's responsible for cultivating Ron Edwards, Vincent Baker, Jason Morningstar, Luke Crane, et al.

The indie RPG scene produced a culture of game design that focused on addressing one of those stances, most commonly, narrativism.

When I discovered this stuff in 2004, it drastically changed my view on roleplaying and really altered my group's trajectory after years of AD&D and then 3.0.

We started asking questions such as:

"But WHY can't my druid summon a bunch of snakes or turn into a bear?"

"Because you haven't gained that ability/level yet.."

"Who cares? We're not competing, we're roleplaying and collaborating on a shared narrative, the story would be better and more interesting if I could."

Our view fundamentally shifted to one more aligned with "Yes, and..." . The rules we desired were more of how to shape the story as opposed to how to shape our power/stats.


All of these arguments have filtered down to me from secondary sources, and from the RPG sourcebooks themselves, but it’s interesting to see them laid out like this.

I have really fundamental problems with the “Cartesian split” that Edwards forges between essential game elements, but I’ll have to chew on this a bit.