Happy International GM’s Day, everyone! March Fo(u)rth!
(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might want to look here)
To do my (very little) bit to honor the day, I hereby announce the imminent launch of my new series of posts!
Q: What is this new series about, Collaborative Dude?
A: I’m going to be running a solo campaign in GURPS Fantasy/Dungeon Fantasy, and writing up session reports about it. My primary goal here is to have fun – but my secondary goal is to provide a worked example of how my system for GM-less play works in practice. So stick around! It should be quite entertaining to watch my character die, my system flail and founder, etc etc.
Q: Wait – so, you’re honoring GM’s Day by running a GM-less campaign!?? This is the stupidest idea ever!
A: Quite possibly. But in another way, it seems appropriate. Why? Two reasons.
Firstly, it seems appropriate since my whole system for GM-less GURPS play is designed to give GMs a chance to play for once. Which I think is a good way to show appreciation!
Secondly, GM’s day partly commemorates the passing of Gary Gygax – and so it has at least something to do with the spirit of old-school D&D.
Q: But why is that relevant? You’re playing GM-less GURPS, not old-school D&D.
A: True. But does anyone else get the feeling that much of the really early D&D stuff – with all its endless tables, its great love for determining things randomly, etc – sometimes kind of aspired to the status of a fully procedural system? By which I mean, a system of tables that would run the whole adventure for you, without the need for a GM – so you could just sit back and have auto-generated adventures?
Obviously not all of old-school D&D was done in that spirit, but I think some of it clearly was. In fact, since I started to think more deeply about fully procedural RPG systems, I’ve increasingly found that a lot of things that seem really absurd about old-school play start to make a lot more sense, if you’re willing to view them with this implied goal in mind.
Two slightly digressive paragraphs about old-school D&D
I think that this partly explains a lot of the “gonzo” feel of old school gaming. It’s not that the designers always had “gonzo” as a positive design goal; it’s that gonzo sometimes (often?) arose as an unintentional by-product of the attempt to generate things procedurally. When you try to determine things procedurally using a relatively simple (though perhaps very extensive) system of random tables, you’ll find that you come up with a lot of really random stuff – and if you want to keep playing, then you have a to build up taste for gonzo. Perhaps, like so much old school D&D, you even start to revel in weirdness for weirdness’ sake.
But the weirdness need not have been the initial goal. I now think that in many cases, the primary, implicit goal of all the recourse to randomness – which really meant all the endless table-building – was to take the power out of the GM’s hands and give it to an “objective” or procedural system. If, for some odd reason, you want to follow this line of thought to its logical conclusion, then you might well end up ditching the GM entirely, and just have a system of tables instead. That’s what I’m trying out here, in any case!
Digression over! Back to the point!
Whether or not you agree with my observations about old-school D&D, in this coming series of posts I’m going to be exploring dungeons while rolling on a vast, vast array of random tables – and surely that’s pretty old-school by anyone’s book!
So if that sort of thing interests you, then stay tuned for the new series.
In the best case scenario, it’s going to be a really compelling GURPS Fantasy campaign, played out in front of your eyes.
In the worst case scenario, I’m just going to embarrass myself in front of my very small (but very discerning and intelligent!) audience (that’s you!) as the story fails, my absurdly complex system of tables breaks and falls apart, and my character dies in ignominy.
Either way, it should be a lot of fun!
Happy GM’s day, fellow GURPS-lovers!