D&D General FKR: How Fewer Rules Can Make D&D Better

clearstream

(He, Him)
The first point of the FKR is that text has no authority. All authority rests in the hands of the referee.
Based on my experiences over the last few decades of functional play of the kind that recently adopted the catchy label "FKR", it's common to use minimal rather than no rules; even if those are just implied by character sheets. Perfected, Messerspiel and Landshut are all examples. The lyric RPG - We Are But Worms - could also fit. This matches my understanding of the extended history of free wargames... there were always some rules.

Regarding GM authority, I know of some forms that are collaborative. They could be excluded from the label... in which case going forward I'd have to use rules-light or free roleplay to capture what I mean. In my local group our first label for what I today call "FKR" was "diceless" as we were using karma (per drama, fortune, karma) as an input to resolution.

Accepted that might not be the purist intent and play some strive for, of course.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So the key insight of Edwards was to grasp the ludic-duality that had been noted by some writers on computer and game studies. Which is that player is at once audience and author. He basically said that ludic-protagonism - for which there would be a distinct point in playing a game rather than say reading a good book or taking in a great film - required players to be the ones to resolve dramatic premises. This established a difference between players being told a story (the traditional railroad with all its many forms and benefits) and creating one. That led to story now (creating the story now: in the act of play.)

I am drawing the same distinction between sim investigation and setting tourism. If the words were not already so burdened, I would instead label that something like "ludic-exploration" and "immersionism". Anyway, in order for there to be a played investigation - again, for which there would be a distinct point in playing a game - it ought to leverage the ludic-duality. Just as narrativism did not dispel receiving story in the form of game, which remains an effective and widely played mode, sim will not dispel receptive exploration/immersion.

What it does however, is put sim on an equal footing with nar and gam. As Tuovinen puts it "The theoretical implications are, of course, vast: a Simulationistic game necessarily has substance, which implies heft and effort."
I guess I don't understand how this can occur.

In the "I, the player, am told a story" mode, the authority source (GM, canned adventure, some procedure, etc.) contains all information about the story that follows, and players simplh receive it. They may draw out more or less of it from the authority source, but they can't really change it. It is, ultimately, dictated to them by the authority source.

In the "I, the player, create a story," the player actively produces new narrative elements and pushes toward both conflict and resolution (noting that a "resolved" conflict does not need to be good for the character/s in question.) Whatever authority figures exist do not know all of the story, because that knowledge is necessarily incomplete without player participation. Neither side has absolute dictation power.

How can this possibly work for an "investigation"? It seems to me that there must be a thing that already is in order to investigate. You must have a world that can be explored. That means foreknowledge, in some way.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Based on my experiences over the last few decades of functional play of the kind that recently adopted the catchy label "FKR", it's common to use minimal rather than no rules; even if those are just implied by character sheets. Perfected, Messerspiel and Landshut are all examples. The lyric RPG - We Are But Worms - could also fit. This matches my understanding of the extended history of free wargames... there were always some rules.

Regarding GM authority, I know of some forms that are collaborative. They could be excluded from the label... in which case going forward I'd have to use rules-light or free roleplay to capture what I mean. In my local group our first label for what I today call "FKR" was "diceless" as we were using karma (per drama, fortune, karma) as an input to resolution.

Accepted that might not be the purist intent and play some strive for, of course.

I think that the issue is that there are multiple competing strands now within the big umbrella. The easiest way to understand this is realizing that there isn't even a single-agreed upon definition of what "FKR" as an acronym even means at this point. As I stated in the OP-

To start with, there isn't a single answer to even the most basic of questions. The "FK" part is easy- Free Kriegsspiel. As for the R? Well, it is usually used to refer to Revolution, although it's also Revival as well as Roleplaying.

Of course, I missed Renaissance!

When I look at what people have done with this, what I keep seeing is the emphasis on fewer rules, and playing to the fiction- to me, FKR is, and has always been about, the subordination of rules to the fiction (and keeping the rules as minimal as possible). I think that it is true that originally, people were trying to capture a neo-Arnesonian flavor with the DM (GM/referee/keeper) as the arbiter of a "constant" fiction; but as this spread and became more common ... um ... well, for a generous definition of common .... within the independent game community, the issue of GM authority became orthogonal to FKR. In other words, groups quickly realized that the strengths inherent in FKR (rules-lite, playing to the fiction) could be used regardless of how authority for the fiction was portioned out.

To me, the issue of authority within FKR is much less interesting than the question of how FKR treats written rules. That is the salient difference.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
You must have a world that can be explored. That means foreknowledge, in some way.
I've made a related argument in the past, i.e. that the imagined facts should be objective from the perspective of a given player, which can seem to require pre-establishing. Of course, the timing of establishing imaginary facts cannot be at issue: they're not any less imaginary just because I made them up yesterday rather than today.

One schema then is for A to establish facts on demand for B and C, and B to establish for A and C, etc. Another schema, which apparently not everyone experiences, is where A establishes imaginary facts for A (typically based on thematic seeds and in the context of world-laws.) Playing Ironsworn coop and solo is a quick way to experience how both schemas are functional.

Collaborative modes of sim also dissolve that old canard - but what if we're pretending to be astronauts and Jo-player is an rl rocket-scientist? Each participant can bring their perspectives and expertise (opening the door to some powerful treatments of subjects, for example where that subject is colonialism.)


EDIT Too, it's worth observing the detail of where authorship is exercised. The following are all up for authorship: subject(s), directions of exploration, what is found out.

An illuminating example - that helps see the possibilities - is where the player-characters are intrinsic to subject... where they in some sense are the subject. Positioning players exceptionally well to author details and subject and what is found out.

Direction of exploration - what questions are asked, and how they are asked - is usually open to player authorship. What is found out will either be an imaginary fact - ceteris paribus all are equally well positioned to answer - or a referenced fact - where significant knowledge and perspectives that deserve a hearing may be held by anyone.
 
Last edited:

I'm also fascinated at people claiming "FKR is this" or "FKR is that" when it's a half baked idea I yanked out of my tush one day.

Also... says who? Who stole my idea without credit? And has anybody heard of Verdy du Vernois?
Hello Gronan, good to see you again. I've missed both you and Chirine since the pandemic or whenever I last stopped seeing you regularly.

I think your question raises a good point about who has control over a term. Particularly one used within a niche enough context that it can easily morph with just a few cycles of it being used in a specific (different, subsetted, or context-added) framing. Also one where, as you say, it started out half-baked or incompletely defined. For clarity, what do you envision the term to encompass?
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I've made a similar argument in the past (that the imagined facts should be objective from the perspective of a given player. The timing of establishing imaginary facts cannot be at issue (they're not any less imaginary just because I made them up yesterday rather than today.)

One schema then is for A to establish facts on demand for B and C, and B to establish for A and C, etc. Another schema, which apparently not everyone experiences, is where A establishes imaginary facts for A (typically based on thematic seeds and in the context of world-laws.) Playing Ironsworn coop and solo is a quick way to experience how both schemas are functional.

These modes also dissolve that old canard - but what if Jo-player is a rocket-scientist? Each participant can bring their perspectives and expertise (opening the door to some powerful treatments of subjects, for example where that subject is colonialism.)
I guess then what I would say is, while this has potential, it's going to look even more radically different than the Story Now revolution looked compared to the games of its time. As in, I'm not sure it would be meaningfully comparable to D&D at all anymore, whereas there's some pretty obvious parallels between PbtA and D&D.

I assume you already know of Microscope? That feels like it's at least reasonably close to what you're looking for in terms of "setting tourism" and all of the players "establishing" facts that then feed into future fact-establishing. It starts at a very high level and allows zooming in to almost any degree desired (which I believe is where the name comes from), so it can handle fact-establishment as big as literal continents and laws of physics and as small as specific descriptive elements of a single object of importance (e.g. an artifact.)

But...well, in line with what I said earlier, I think there's a reason this hasn't (and perhaps won't) get the sea-change that Story Now got. Beyond the obvious problems of either time-travel issues (that is, being allowed to edit the past, with all the headaches that causes) or being "locked in" (not being able to edit the past, so it becomes a read-only block), there's a pretty simple question of...what's the point? With gamist stuff, the point is to play the game better, nice and straightforward. With "Story Before"/trad play, it's about reaching the climax of a well-crafted story--same point as watching a film or reading a book, hence the many comparisons to those mediums. With "Story Now" play, it's about being in the protagonist seat when each climax occurs. In all three cases, there's some kind of purpose or destination or other thing to metaphorically aim at. It isn't just the act of doing the thing; it's also that doing the thing gets you to somewhere or something.

What, beyond the act of fact-establishing, does this "get" for the player(s)? An established setting? That seems like it just goes back to what you find so troublesome, that is, your feeling that (process) sim is in some sense seen as "lesser" than gaming-qua-gaming and gaming-for-story, because a setting alone is kind of pointless unless you then use it for something else.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I guess then what I would say is, while this has potential, it's going to look even more radically different than the Story Now revolution looked compared to the games of its time. As in, I'm not sure it would be meaningfully comparable to D&D at all anymore, whereas there's some pretty obvious parallels between PbtA and D&D.
I'll add my extended edit here, to expand on this. I added that it's worth observing the detail of where authorship is exercised. The following are all up for authorship: subject(s), directions of exploration, what is found out. An illuminating example - that helps see the possibilities - is where the player-characters are intrinsic to subject... where they in some sense are the subject. Positioning players exceptionally well to author details of subject and what is found out.

Direction of exploration - what questions are asked, and how they are asked - is usually open to player authorship. What is found out will either be an imaginary fact - ceteris paribus all are equally well positioned to answer - or a referenced fact - where significant knowledge and perspectives that deserve a hearing may be held by anyone.

I assume you already know of Microscope? That feels like it's at least reasonably close to what you're looking for in terms of "setting tourism" and all of the players "establishing" facts that then feed into future fact-establishing. It starts at a very high level and allows zooming in to almost any degree desired (which I believe is where the name comes from), so it can handle fact-establishment as big as literal continents and laws of physics and as small as specific descriptive elements of a single object of importance (e.g. an artifact.)
Yes, numerous game texts are starting to fill this space, but for myself the basics were already present in actual play at our table of much older designs. Bushido would be one of my standout examples. Folk can have in mind some sort of high-GM authority low-energy play and call that sim (worst case, meaning all of sim, entire, and everything it shall ever be.) Sim play is no more inherently low-energy than any other form!

When we played Harn, we all knew different facets of dark age and medieval European history (some of us were literal students of it.) Everyone would chime in and be listened to; becoming authors of their part of the world ("part" could mean a territory, a cultural facet, an organisation, a technological facet.) And this was all perfectly normal. It came directly from our collaborative approach to wargaming campaigns.

But...well, in line with what I said earlier, I think there's a reason this hasn't (and perhaps won't) get the sea-change that Story Now got. Beyond the obvious problems of either time-travel issues (that is, being allowed to edit the past, with all the headaches that causes) or being "locked in" (not being able to edit the past, so it becomes a read-only block), there's a pretty simple question of...what's the point? With gamist stuff, the point is to play the game better, nice and straightforward. With "Story Before"/trad play, it's about reaching the climax of a well-crafted story--same point as watching a film or reading a book, hence the many comparisons to those mediums. With "Story Now" play, it's about being in the protagonist seat when each climax occurs. In all three cases, there's some kind of purpose or destination or other thing to metaphorically aim at. It isn't just the act of doing the thing; it's also that doing the thing gets you to somewhere or something.
So the point is elevated appreciation and understanding! The essential problem with Edwards' take is that he mistook a core technique for the creative ambition. It's like saying fiction-first is the actual creative purpose of storynow. It's right to include core techniques in the agenda, but wrong to believe they are locked to that agenda as the creative purpose. But then, I can't easily forget that Edwards wrote “That would give us Gamism and Narrativism as "real" RPG goals, and Simulationism as a historical, perhaps even regrettable artifact of bad design.”

There's no real effort that needs to be made. Nothing that folk today aren't already applying in their roleplaying. Read Stonetop and watch Strandberg's Blinding Light series for example, and tell me that it doesn't twinge some simmy feelings in you. Or run RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha paying actual attention to runes and passions. Or Pendragon, of course. Play some Fantasy Flight L5R or Free League ToR.

This is of course from a position that story is not in conflict with exploration, and what sim is about foremost is exploration. Both are roleplayed, and both sup upon the fruits of immersion. This was what Gleichman argued from the outset.

What, beyond the act of fact-establishing, does this "get" for the player(s)? An established setting? That seems like it just goes back to what you find so troublesome, that is, your feeling that (process) sim is in some sense seen as "lesser" than gaming-qua-gaming and gaming-for-story, because a setting alone is kind of pointless unless you then use it for something else.
I don't really catch your question or criticism here. Can you put it another way?
 

Pedantic

Legend
What, beyond the act of fact-establishing, does this "get" for the player(s)? An established setting? That seems like it just goes back to what you find so troublesome, that is, your feeling that (process) sim is in some sense seen as "lesser" than gaming-qua-gaming and gaming-for-story, because a setting alone is kind of pointless unless you then use it for something else.
I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I meet my friend S for breakfast most weekends, and half of what we end up doing is discussing his fan history projects for under-served parts of Star Trek history. Last week we spun out an attempt to build a reasonably functioning form of empire that could work, given the just insanely duplicitous portrayal of Romulans to date, which then moved on to a discussion about the role of art in our fan society. Give or take structured play, that more or less fits the pattern that @clearstream proposed as an activity and the only real reward was doing more of it, or possibly writing it down in a faux non-fiction style.

On the other hand, I've always approached simulation from a game-first perspective. I'd argue a fairly robust process simulation is necessary to fully address the parts of TTRPGs that make them interesting as games. They're uniquely positioned to take in a lot more player action declarations than any other format, giving players a much broader position in which to make choices and deploy strategies. If you're not going to lean in to that space for the game, then I don't see a compelling argument that a TTRPG would serve your purposes better than a board game.

Of great concern to me has been trying to align player and character incentives to the best of the design's ability at all times. A player playing well should ideally end up effortlessly modeling their character's best attempts to achieve their goals. This is, admittedly, genre limited; it works very well in high fantasy adventure or something like Star Trek, where competence is both expected and normal, and character's inner worlds are summarized and explicated primarily by their goals.

Perhaps that's a gamist orientation that's drifting more than anything, but I think that's a reasonable reward for a consistent, explicated setting. It has properties that can be exploited because they are established.
 


EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I don't really catch your question or criticism here. Can you put it another way?
When you play a "Story Now" game, you get story (by making it.) Your long-term reward, beyond merely having had a good experience, is the character you have played, which can then feed back into new adventure.

When you play a "trad" game, you get story (by witnessing it.) Ditto: you now "have" that story to reflect upon. You have the character, and something to compare with others in the case of canned adventures (e.g. swapping stories about playing Zeitgeist or Kingmaker.) So, you don't just have the lived-experience.

Likewise, in the gamist sphere, you have not just the lived experience of overcoming some challenge through wit, skill, etc., but the measure of what you achieved. Similar to the previous, you have that can-swap-stories ability, though this is much broader because any campaign can have a tarrasque and, with a bit of mechanical knowledge, anyone can relate to certain kinds of challenges without needing to know a character's whole life story first. (This, incidentally, is probably one small part of why "gamist" games had such a head start, that instant "ah, yes, I know what the challenge you went through was.")

So...what is the equivalent in simulationist terms? You have the lived experience, that's something all games give. But that lived experience is in the moment. It's not like the characters that can be fed back in to Trad or Story Now play, and it's not like the story-swapping of Trad and gamist play.

What does Tourism get you, in that sense? Because without that "you get this" element, it's going to really struggle to have a community, and I fear Tourism, however worthy it may be, will get relegated to second fiddle as a result.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top