My Personal Style of Play

I recently watched Questing Beast’s video on six cultures of play” in tabletop RPGs, as described in a blog post by The Retired Adventurer. It got me thinking: how would I describe my own style of play?

The six cultures described aren’t mutually exclusive buckets — they’re trends which inform the values of individual groups and tables. In that spirit, here are a few notes on how I’d describe my own preferences.

  • I prefer game systems to be short, simple, and elegant. All else equal, I’d rather engage with the world than with the rules. This is a core feature of the Old-School Renaissance.
  • That said, I think there’s a place for mechanics that provide structure for things too fiddly to roleplay. A good example might be The Hotline’s rules for debt in Mothership.
  • Tactics games can be fun, but generally I’m not too interested in mechanically optimizing my character. Leveling up, picking new abilities, etc. — it’s not for me. This is part of why I soured on D&D 5e, and it’s why I’ve never played Pathfinder.
  • My favorite games are driven by the actions of the player characters. The referee establishes the situation, but doesn’t plan a specific outcome or story arc. The story emerges from what happens at the table, and the players’ choices should have real in-world consequences. This is another core tenet of the OSR.
  • Borrowing from the trad style, I appreciate a sense of referee authorship” over the setting, if not the events of the game itself. I don’t like the very collaborative worldbuilding process common in the story-game scene. If I’m a player at your table, I want to inhabit your setting and leave a mark on the world you’ve built.
  • Tonally, I prefer games where the characters aren’t too powerful, where the challenges are mostly human-scaled, and where magic is infrequent or poorly understood. In sci-fi, I prefer games that are more scientifically grounded. This tends to be more common in OSR circles, but it’s not universal.

March 17, 2024