Saturday, 8 October 2011

A Suggestion

Following on from recent controversies in the comments sections to various of my blog posts, I have decided that the multiverse of RPG enthusiasts can be divided into two camps: those who hear about Prof. Mohammed abd Rahman Barker's Perfected Game Rules and think they're a great idea, and those who would rather jab a fork in their eye than use such a system.

For the uninitiated, Prof. Mohammed abd Rahman Barker's Perfected Game Rules are as follows:

1) We both roll dice.
2) If you roll high, your view of reality prevails.
3) If I roll high, my view of reality prevails
4) If we're close, we negotiate.

I consider myself a member of the first camp - I would call Prof. Barker's Perfected Game Rules the platonic form of role playing games - but I'm not sure whether that puts me in the majority or not.


  1. That's a false dichotomy. I can simultaneously think they are a great idea and still rather jab a fork in my eye than actually try use them with most groups.

    It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:
    In theory, there should be no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

  2. I'd still put you in camp one.

    This is why I said these rules are the platonic form of role playing games. By their very nature, they are too perfect to be implemented truly successfully.

  3. I think the problem is that they aren't perfect.

    What is close? How does a negotiation happen? What if you can't agree? How long does your view of reality hold until the next roll? If it is forever then you are just rolling to see who tells a story this evening.

    Putting that aside it also tends to fail at a human level. People think its an amazing plan until they lose and get something they really don't like. Then they want a do-over. That is the straw man "people in general" however rather than any specific individuals, so take that with a grain of salt.

  4. This is sort of like the rules for a game I wrote once called "d02". Basically, player and DM do a coin toss. Player always calls. Whoever wins gets their way. There is no "close" and there are no negotiations. Note, you only have to call for a flip if you disagree with how things are going. No, it is not tactically deep. Yes, it is very, very fast.

  5. As much of a rules tinkerer and kit-basher I am, I am definitely in camp one (ages ago even wrote a post about that very Barker system).

    Way too ideal as you say, the problem areas would overwhelm such a system over time at the table. But a hell of an effective resolution mechanic for dealing with the deeper shades of grey I have found.

  6. I think I've used these rules in. the past. IIRC they worked fine.

  7. IMO, I think they'd work well for roleplaying, but not necessarily for gaming. More of a shared/competitive narrative thing...

  8. In practice this is what I do, but I've found it useful to dress it up a bit with many of the players I've DMd for, who wouldn't have liked to think that this was all it was.

    I especially find it useful to add a chargen system that forces a few choices before the game proper begins. Gets 'em focused on who they are and what they're trying to do. Makes 'em listen through the opening spiel, so you can set the stage for that first negotiation.

  9. Candyland the Roleplaying Game.

  10. I'm not sure I follow this rule... for me, it seems to go like this:

    1. Negotiate.
    2. Come to an agreement on what we're rolling dice about.
    3. Roll the dice.

  11. I am on about the same page as Beedo there.

    Frankly I am willing to just play in a game where all the resolution was by DM fiat as long as I think the DM is going to try to use his best judgment on his calls and feel like he is not invested in railroading the players.

    The kind of issues that bother me with a DM's call aren't really those that rules do anything to stop at the actual game table.

    Adding in random hazard can be great and I certainly like to when I myself am the DM, but I don't think it is necessarily the critical element of RPG play at all.

  12. I think I'm with Beedo, although I want to describe that as the Platonic ideal of story gaming (maybe a spot of 'decide if we're rolling dice' in there somewhere).

    Most of the rest - the character generation and monster stats and all that - appear to be about establishing a view of reality that's consistent with prior events or cultural capital. The player's view of reality is codified in the character sheet and core rules, the GM's in the notes/manuals and core rules, and the idea is not just to provide a system for negotiation, but to ensure that nobody's view of reality is suddenly wildly at odds with how it was yesterday.

  13. I prefer Beedo's idea, but in both cases it would depend very very much on the GM I was gaming with. If I could trust him/her and thought that he/she was GMing in good faith, wasn't a bully, and had everyone's fun in mind, then I'd be happy with this system. Otherwise ... no chance.

    (Actually, Feng Shui ended up being pretty much equivalent to this system when I played it).

    But isn't a common OSR complaint about D&D 4e that it reduces every contest to a roughly 50/50 success chance....?

  14. It's odd, my gut tells me that's boring and lame, but I love the game which - at least out of the ones I've played- comes closest to that platonic ideal: Dread.

  15. Barker's Rules are quite alien to me. As a GM, I don't consider myself to have a "view of reality" that is negotiated with the player's "view of reality." I use random dice rolls because they allow me to be a player too -- that is, to be surprised. I don't roll dice to see if my reality-view "wins." Beedo's rules make a lot more sense to me. Roll dice only when you reach something that cannot be decided by role-playing and discussion.

    The most successful games I have played are ones where all the players are immersed in a SHARED reality (or rather, a shared fantasy). There are no alternate "realities" trying to "prevail" over one another by winning dice rolls.

  16. I like the Prof's rules. They remind me of Jared Sorensen's octaNe, a post-apocalyptic "forge" rpg that was published waaaay later -- and that is also very dear to my heart.

  17. I agree with Mr Miller. Plus, the resource management, happy or unhappy surprises, and sense of improvement or reward over time are completely missing. Without these draws, you'd probably be better off co-authoring a novel or screenplay together than playing an RPG, using the die roll to resolve creative differences perhaps.