[Runequest] Drastically simplifying RuneQuest

Gary Sturgess gazza666 at gmail.com
Mon Oct 15 14:40:27 EST 2012

On 15 October 2012 10:58, Peter Maranci <pmaranci at gmail.com> wrote:
> I recently posted an article on my website about sheetless roleplaying -
> that is, running a roleplaying campaign in which the players don't interact
> with the game system directly, but instead play their characters as people
> rather than statistics while the gamemaster handles all the numbers. It's a
> pretty advanced and hardcore approach; it does seem to carry a greater risk
> of psychological breakdown for some players, but the games are incredibly
> intense.


Not intending to sound snarky, but a lot of what you have written is
not really specific or even, arguably, relevant to the fact that
you're running sheetless. For example - taking a long time over
character creation. There are plenty of games where this is a good
idea (to name an example of one that is definitely not sheetless, how
about Hero System?), and indeed few where it isn't (though there are
sheetless examples! - the How to Host a Mystery type games are
basically sheetless games where the character "creation" period is
minutes). Another example is your Gameplay section which suggests
minimising table chatter. That's really a matter of taste rather than
anything to do with sheetless games; some groups like (or at least
tolerate) table chatter, others find it detracts from the experience.
I don't think it's really fair to say either camp is right, they're
just looking for different things in their regular RPG sessions.

Similarly, the Campaign Structure section has nothing to do with
sheetlessness; I see absolutely no reason that you couldn't run the
"soap opera style" without sheets (certainly it's possible to run the
arc style with normal character sheets).

Other than a few basic observations about using skill lifted from RQ3
there's nothing really about "RuneQuest" here, though that's not a
criticism in and of itself. However, I would take the opposite
conclusion and say that BRP is actually not that exemplar a system for
running without a sheet; it is number heavy, and the fact that you're
feeling the need to simplify it in order to run it without a sheet is
a clue that there are perhaps systems more suited to this. System lite
games such as FUDGE would seem to be ideal. And systems such as Amber,
while not technically lacking a character sheet, pretty much uses them
only for character creation (and are easily dispensed with there too).

As I say, it is not my intent to be dismissive; I hope at least some
of this criticism is constructive. As to whether or not I've ever
attempted something like this in the past, the answer is "yes but not
with Runequest". I've run Amber games more or less sheetlessly, and
even ran an extended prologue as zero level characters for a BECMI D&D
game. I had a few sessions running Vampire this way too. My
conclusions are these:

- Some players find lack of control very frustrating. This is less of
an issue with diceless games, ironically, but if there are dice
involved in determining success or failure players like to be the ones
rolling those dice. So it's worthwhile trying to give them that
opportunity if possible. No real problem in something like FUDGE (they
are rolling 4dF no matter what their skill level is), trickier in
other systems (if you're rolling percentile dice you can figure out
whether you want high or low, and you can eventually narrow down skill
levels - ideally players wouldn't be trying to do this, but some will
not be able to resist).

- The GM has to work a lot harder in this sort of game. If you're a
programmer (as I am) it's well worth the effort to create some custom
tools to automate as much of the drudge work as possible.

- "Purity" isn't necessary. You can mix and match. For example, maybe
the players know what spells they can cast, but not what their chance
to successfully cast them is. Or you can skip "shopping expeditions"
and just assume that the adventurers have basics like rope, lanterns,
and so on.

It really comes down to what you want to play. Some players, in some
games, treat RPGs as a tactical exercise - and there's nothing
actually wrong with that (as the success of D&D4e demonstrates, this
is hardly a tiny market).

More information about the Runequest mailing list