Minimalism

Two monsters? Or two heroes?

I’m a minimalist.

It’s not the “only own 100 items” nonsense, nor the “I don’t buy food except beans and rice” type.

It’s this:

“Keep the best, cut the crap.”

Since coming back the States six years ago, I’ve accumulated more and more stuff. Games, clothes, documents, random tech garbage, things I didn’t really consider getting rid of until it was on the chopping block.

With minimalism, you wonder more frequently: “Is this needed? Could I outsource or rent this? If I really needed it, could I find one for under $20 or within 20 minutes?”

A year ago, I really took this minimalist lifestyle seriously. Lots of stuff left my living space to Goodwill, friends, and eBay. The stuff that cluttered and distracted.

Remember: it’s not about a strict “less” but a principled “less garbage, distraction, noise.” Not “more” but “better” and even “the best.”

Minimalism and RPG Books

I asked about RPG collections before. How much of what you own do you actually play? What about for digital items? And I’m not asking in judgement, fellow “user.”

I’ve talked to friends who say “oh, I should get around to playing that game. It’s just been sitting on my shelf for so long.” And if they were serious about it, they might sit down and play it. But it just causes them grief. It happened to me with a handful of games that often get recommended, but never got around to running them.

It’s the same too for people who read RPGs for fun. Again, I’ve been in that boat. But when you read, thinking about the cool worlds you could be experiencing with other people, it can often come up hollow. It can cause cause grief and shame. “If I had more time/friends I could play more games.” “I bought this, I better get my money’s worth.” “Maybe I just don’t have the right game yet.”

The people that read RPGs and don’t play them are often the ones trolling around RPG forums, telling people how to run their games without one of their own to occupy their attention and design “wizardry.” It’s hard to watch or listen to.

For “RPG-readers” it’s important to remember that the game is found at the table, not in a book.

And those books? Sitting on the shelf?

Even sitting there, unused games can unconsciously raise anxiety about RPGs and running them. They collect baggage from the price tag, unused prep, and cancelled sessions that they carry.

So why let them sit there?

Like they always say with knowledge: “Use it or lose it.”

Give it to a friend who will use it. Sell it. Donate it. Keep only the digital copy. Place it like a ninja in a “little free library” like Yochai Gal’s been doing.

As Boromir says “You carry a heavy burden, [dear reader]. Don’t carry the weight of the dead [games you won’t run and feel bad about not running].”

You know, that part of Lord of the Rings?

Free up the shelf space.

And then?

Keep the best. The jewels. The absolute gems. The ones that get you excited about playing and running games. I don’t much care which ones they are.

They increase the personal value of your collection.

It’s a Marie Kondo “what sparks joy” kind of collection.

My current physical collection:

The starred ones are those I haven’t played. They’re also the next ones on the chopping block.

It used to be over 3 times this size. Now, I actually enjoy more collection more with fewer books. No FATE or Savage Worlds or 4e to make it mediocre or cluttered (sorry to the folks who still play and enjoy those games).

Digital games are a whole ‘nother beast. I say, keep it where it doesn’t take up too much mental or emotional space, be it the trash or buried deep in your drive somewhere.

Minimalism and RPG Rules

I don’t hate rules. I know this series about focusing on the world has some people thinking that about me. 😛

But you actually need them (spoken or unspoken) for a game. Hating that would be like hating oxygen. They’re by and large neutral beings.

Spoken rules are sometimes written down. Sometimes they’re published.

What I do strongly dislike is adding more than necessary.

And a lot of published games have this bad habit of giving more rules than world, more crunch than flavor.

It’s like baking a cake. You get your ingredients together. “This cake recipe calls for salt. That makes the cake good. What if we added more salt? Would that make the game good-er?”

No.

No, no.

Be precise. Be concise. No more.

If designers could be a little more ruthless like Chris McDowall over there, chopping up rule-babies, games would be easier to run, easier to play, and easier to teach. Of course, the corporate neglect of these needs opens a niche for designers like Chris and I, so who am I to complain about it…

Break down the barriers to play for anyone, not just noobies.

What’s the 20% of rules that produce 80% of play? Iron those suckers out.

Discard the rest.

Give principles for play.

Rules are followed or broken, principles are practiced or ignored.

“Only own 100 items” is a rule. Rigid and unyielding, it doesn’t take each case into account individually.

But “keep the best, cut the crap”?

That’s a principle.

Full circle!

Apply it, apply it many areas of life. Enjoy the extra space, the margin, the reduction of stressors.

Act with intention.

Minimize.

8 thoughts on “Minimalism

  1. I start an open table in half an hour where I’ll run each and every adventure in my drive folder. At the end of the session pc decide to keep.playing the current adventure or get to the next

    1. Neat idea but I’d be nervous having two adventures prepped at the beginning of a session. I wouldn’t be sure how the game was opening and openings are big for me to get off on the right foot.

      At the same time, I would also hate doing a whole session and then at the end say “So? How was that? Did I perform well?”

      So maybe something between those two? Like a mid-week check-in/poll to vote for the next adventure?

  2. “Who collects compensates.”
    I absolutely agree with you. I myself got rid of 90% of my rpg books last year (plus tons of dice and stuff) and the jewels I kept have become even more important.

  3. This is painful to read, and so…difficult to apply because almost all the books I have have been (really badly) printed and self-bound. I’m slowly beginning to think about only having WWN, SWN, Cairn, Into the Odd, Maze Rats, Knave, Any Planet is Earth and the OSE Rules Tome (but I already have Basic and Expert printed out?). Maybe 5e??? Although the Young Adventurers Guide is excellent.

    But what of UVG? What of Labyrinth? What of the gorgeous dungeons of Barrowmaze and Neverland? I swoon with difficulty.

  4. If I played as many games as I wanted to, I wouldn’t be designing or reading blogs or curating or collating. I would be playing games instead. It scratches an itch (well, it doesn’t actually but it feels like it should). Eight hours a month. That’s all it would take. Plz.

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