Do you have a default TTRPG gaming mode?


I don't believe in the no-win scenario

I've been mulling the idea of game modes in my head for awhile. All the jargon floating around in discussions about game design and play has got me thinking about my experiences. I understand what is often called traditional (Trad) is that the GM has full control of setting with players having control of their individual characters. Other modes, share the setting responsibility for the setting across all players equally. Of course, you have hybrid styles too that work as traditional, but offer moments for players to step into the GM role momentarily.

Not all gamers understand this on a jargon or philosophical level. I have seen folks tear apart games because they weren't "traditional" when the game wasnt even designed to be so. After some careful listening you start to realize the person has a default mode in which they view all play through the same lens. Some folks find their lens through experience and are good about explaining why they have that lens. Others, are capable of looking at a game as its design is intended and to engage it genuinely. Meaning they can go from traditional to non-traditional and enjoy the game as intended.

My purpose of this discussion isnt to place a value on being a traditional, non-traditional, or hybrid player. Its about hearing folks thoughts on if they have a real comfortable mode they dont want to stray from, or if they like bouncing between play style modes. Did experiences inform you on how you enjoy play? Are you firm in your tastes at this point? Do you like it everything given the chance? What is your mode or lack there of?


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Depends on my mood, my playgroup, etc.

Some days I'm in the mood for super-rules-y, adversarial DM, trad F20 the way Gygax intended it.

Other days I'm in the mood for STORY NOW! AND NOW! AND ALSO NOW!

I try to be transparent about my preferences going in (although it's often implied by the game you're playing -- no one should expect rules-y F20 play from a Jane Austen storygame), and when I'm GM-ing, I'll make the gaming mode explicit to the players.

I think this is kinda like life as a whole. You like what you like, it's not 100% consistent from moment to moment, and the best you can do is be honest about it. And force yourself to sometimes try new things (because how else do you discover) or power through something you dislike for the sake of friendship.


I default to "Trad" style. Not surprising, my first DnD game was New Years 1980-81.

My bigger problem, and I suspect one that more people/gamers share, is that finding games in other styles/systems-other-than-DnD is hard, to nigh impossible. I suspect the ones that run into "mode collisions" are among the lucky few; most TTRPGers will never get that chance.

Even so, I suspect that (1) someone's default mode is going to be highly specific to what they "grew up with" (and for many will boil down to neo-trad/I-play-DnD), and (2) no matter what the default mode is, it's going to be hard to break out of.


My current default mode is what I'd call "flexi-trad narrative", heavily influenced from Ironsworn and Genesys, where there is a GM, but with a broad, open view around players contributing / adding to a game's fictional state, both at an immediate and meta / worldbuilding level. I am fully comfortable embracing "quantum gamestate" mechanics and fully expect to use them at various points in play--whether as a GM, player, or co-operative player (consensus GM-ing by all players as evinced in Ironsworn's co-op mode).

Though I haven't tried the playtest yet, I expect Daggerheart to sit pretty solidly within my current Venn diagram of "Stuff Innerdude likes."

Even if I were to now GM systems generally entrenched in "traditional" gameplay styles, I would port over numerous gameplay artifacts.

Prior to playing Dungeon World in 2018, Ironsworn in 2021, and FFG Star Wars / Genesys in 2020 and 2022, I would have strongly identified as a fairly rigid "traditional" GM + player, and would have had a difficult time fully articulating what anything outside a "traditional" play mindset even looked like. Or, perhaps I might have been able to articulate it in theory, while having no real mental model or conception of how it would work "in the real world."

My current philosophy is that I prefer my current "flexi-trad narrative" mode over any others as a GM, but will happily play in "trad," full-on narrative or "Story Now," or almost anything in between if the premise sounds fun.


I think I can play and GM to meet different agendas. It can be awkward sometimes when a game isn't clear about what agenda it is supposed to have, or the group don't seem to understand it. If the game system is screaming A, but the game text, game culture, or play group is continually expressing a desire for B, it can feel like a dance where neither party wants to lead.

As GM I tend towards narrativism which certainly bleeds through into other gamestyles in the form of setting up moral dilemmas for the players to deal with, driving play towards their goals/drives, and trying to let them drive play as much as possible.

The last thing I GMed was some 1e WFRP and I consciously tried to run it in a more old school fashion, meaning that I didn't really build around their characters very much and I didn't involve them in worldbuilding or stake setting the way I might otherwise.


Yeah, this too, for me too.

My long-running 4e D&D home game has so much storygame stuff ported into it the players refer to it as "four point J.R." :LOL:
(and yes, 4e was secretly a storygame all along - don't come at me, bros)
This helped us actually with 4e skill challenges. Because we had experience with HeroQuest extended conflicts and Other Worlds set pieces, we unconsciously filled in the gaps of how they should work ourselves.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I tend to align my mode with what is most natural for the game I am running or playing at the time.

So, in D&D, I tend to work in pretty traditional mode. When I'm playing Fate Accelerated, I lean much more into taking some narrative into my own hands, and so on.

Most of the players in my regular group are pretty traditional-leaning, so that's most of what I run.

I don't think I have a default, so I guess I'm one of those wishy-washy hybrid folks. More concerned with the group at the table around me than the rules most of the time, and my tastes are eclectic and variable. Probably makes me a sub-par candidate for really long-term campaigns, but never having had one last more than four-five years (whether I was playing or running) I can't say for sure. I know I've never personally killed a campaign by leaving it, anyway.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I like to play and run a variety of game systems, but other than my main campaign they are all one shots. With one shots I can get really out there with different styles of games.

But my main game has been DnD from 2014 until the end of last year and now I'm running Warhammer. My default is "traditional" as you've defined it, but informed by lessons learned from all the one shots I play of other systems. So, I guess, traditional with a little dash of other styles to spice things up.

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