A spectrum of table styles with two extremities: crystalized and fluid.
Crystalized. The world is set in stone. The GM or an intellectual property has declared its boundaries. Details are made ahead of time like calendars with holidays and festivals, towns with maps and points of interests, major factions with motivations and rosters, magic systems with rules and such. If you’re running a setting Middle-Earth or Hot Springs Island or an adventure like Stonehell, it’s pretty crystalized. Much of the content is already there. I think of Old School Essentials as a game with plenty of crystallizations. I mean, the game has over 40 years of time settling. High prep.
Fluid. The world is in development. There are many blanks on the map. The GM asks players leading, open ended questions: “Which forgotten god is this temple dedicated to? How long have you been adventuring without a weapon? Which other player character did you immediately connect with and how?” If you’re running your own homebrew campaign and it has a lot of player input, it’s more fluid. Dungeon World is one of the most popular fluid games. Low prep. Solo games are highly fluid, many of the details being made as the player goes.
I’m finding myself more drawn to fluid, collaborative styles the less time I have to prep. Re-reading Dungeon World and it’s GM guide made me nostalgic for it. Allowing for high levels of player input decreases the GM workload but increases the chance of a total trainwreck. Could be fun either way.
Anyway, here’s a quick game I dreamt up based on Dungeon World, although you should also check out Bound for Glory.
Adventure World, the bare-bones
Base assumptions of vanilla fantasy. Get out your copies of Maze Rats and Adventure Hour!
Something uncertain, roll 2d6. The GM may tell warn the player of possible consequences of good and bad rolls before the roll.
- 6- is bad, bad, bad. Epic fail home videos kind of stuff.
- 7-9 is good, but there’s a cost, choice, or consequence. Scrappy adventurer kind of stuff.
- 10+ is awesome. Treat this like rolling a natural 20 in D&D. Swashbuckling hero kind of stuff.
Everything has three strikes. Use a rope three times? You’re out of rope. Sword gets damaged three times? Needs repair. Your body take three strikes? You’re out of the action. Armor and shields each add one strike each, but remember, they’re heavy or take a hand to use.
Monsters may have more or less than three strikes. They may also deal more than one strike in a single hit.
In combat, a 7-9 roll usually indicates an exchange of blows with both combatants hitting each other.
Remove strikes in sanctuaries like towns.
Roll d66 once and read across the column or roll four times, once each item column (then come up with your own Archetype name if you like). Finally, give your character a name.
|d66||Archetype||Item 1||Item 2||Item 3||Item 4|
|11||Disciple||Sling and rocks||Expandable fish net||Paralysis wand||Loaves of bread|
|12||Friar||Frying pan||Fire-starting kit||Jar of grease||Jar of honey|
|13||Initiate||Heavy songbook||Instrument||Polymorph potion||Portable hole|
|14||Monk||Bo staff||Leaping boots||Calming incense||Massage rock|
|15||Paladin||Lance||Bright shield||Truth serum||Horse whistle|
|16||Priest||Morningstar||Metal plate armor||Bandages||Symbol of light|
|21||Barbarian||Broadsword||Skull helmet||Energy potion||Bone collection|
|22||Blademaster||Twin swords||Metal chain||Lightning wand||Bladestorm scroll|
|23||Gladiator||Trident||Mirror shield||Glue pellets||Trapping net|
|24||Knight||Longsword||Squire attendant||Medicine||Blast horn|
|25||Mercenary||Oversized key||Winged shield||Stink bombs||Anti-magic potion|
|26||Pirate||Poisoned cutlass||Loyal pet||Delicious apples||Oak barrel|
|31||Beastmaster||Bow and arrows||Animal companion||Irresistible treats||Soap|
|32||Bounty Hunter||Crossbow and bolts||Handcuffs||Smoke powder||Grappling hook|
|33||Druid||Transform ring||Sunrod||Bird seed||Tea set|
|34||Survivalist||Crossbow and bolts||Lumber axe||Barkskin wand||Lantern and oil|
|36||Warden||Sling and stones||Spike armor||Camping set||Ramming shield|
|41||Acrobat||Throwing knives||Living rope||Circus makeup||Bag of fruit|
|42||Hermit||Fireblower||Magic contract||Size wand||Sewing needles|
|43||Poisoner||Cane sword||Vial of poison||Rations||Loaded dice|
|44||Saboteur||Blowgun and darts||Spark stick||Tiny bombs||Royal crown|
|45||Spy||Hidden knife||Dark cloak||Web wand||Climbing gloves|
|46||Trickster||Slingshot and rocks||Invisible string||Fake jewels||Gremlin in a jar|
|51||Arcanist||Big bug net||Magic missile wand||Sleep powder||Teleport scroll|
|52||Illusionist||Daggers||Switcheroo orb||Mirror image wand||Invisibility dust|
|53||Water Mage||Wooden oar||Fishing rod||Icestorm wand||Infinite waterskin|
|54||Earth Mage||Stonefist gauntlets||Gem helmet||Stoneshape wand||Tremorsense boots|
|55||Fire Mage||Flaming sword||Ferret pet||Fire shield wand||Circus rings|
|56||Air Mage||Boomerang||Hover cloak||Gust wand||Golden flute|
|61||Sea Elf||Lightning spear||Seaweed rope||Waterform potion||Rotting fish|
|62||Wood Elf||Bow and arrows||Camouflage cloak||Alluring perfume||Paint set|
|63||Mountain Dwarf||Pickaxe||Headlamp helmet||Glow chalk||Thunderstone|
|64||Moss Dwarf||Boulder||Spore mask||Mushrooms||Fairy friend|
|65||Hill Halfing||Umbrella||Infinite string spool||Hot pies||Sheriff badge|
|66||City Halfling||Wooden bat||Wig disguise||Fire kit||Unbreakable lasso|
Remember: give information!
Draw a map with blanks. Label areas and select points of interest but leave the details unexplored. It’s vague, but this step is to taste. Know your level of comfort and discomfort with leaving things open.
List three or more treasure opportunities. They’re located in interesting and dangerous places on the map.
List three or more factions. Start with at least one lawful, one neutral, and one chaotic. Give them reasons to like and dislike adventurer types from their past history, present troubles, or prophesies of the future.
List three big approaching dangers, be they monster-summoning rituals, plagues, famines, invasions. Things that can be prevented, but are on their way. Keep these hidden, but hint at them over the course of play.
At the start of play, have players create their characters. Then ask questions, use the answers.
Show them the impact of their choices.