View Full Version : How do you do freeform/What is or are the best way(s) to do freeform?

Some Android
2018-05-20, 12:10 AM
So I want to try and start doing more freeform campaigns as I think it can open up some interesting opportunities. I'm just wondering what are ways to do. Like what are the dos and don'ts.

I do realize this is sort of a vague question to ask. Sometimes I just want to play something really lax on rules to make homebrewing more feasible and encourage creativity without strict rules. Basically I want to do something like "you just roll a die if you want to do something and if you roll high good things happen," but obviously I need a little bit more rules than that.

...so yeah. Any tips?

2018-05-20, 12:42 AM
From what little I've tried of this, the best route seems to be preparing reference material for a given area beforehand that should mostly cover anything the players will get themselves into. I've had one campaign begin in a town of my own creation that had established NPCs and a general landscape. They were free to chat with people within the town and explore up to a point (they were only level 1 anyway). In a different campaign, I used a previously existing but otherwise not too detailed town (Telflamm) to create the premise and had material for when they chose to travel to a destination. The traveling wound up taking up the session, and I was able to then prepare for the next session since I had their goal and the new general area to work with. When it comes to their characters, I encourage free-form but only up to a point. My personal view is that characters should remain within the general framework established by the Player's Handbook, and should be carefully reviewed prior to playing to avoid game break abilities or features. Except for the Goliath with 30 feet of reach incident, this has been a good pattern. Hope this helps

2018-05-20, 08:20 AM
Hope this helps
While it's not entirely clear from the question, I think Some Android's intention is much more extreme than you're assuming. You're talking about playing a conventional system in a sandbox format with homebrew allowed, while he - I think - is talking about playing a game with little to no mechanics at all.

To answer the question from that perspective: Unless you and your players are comfortable truly winging it, I suggest you use a very simple core mechanic that is broadly applicable. One that I think could work (I haven't tried it, but I use a variant of this in my rules-light homebrew game) is to build the players using professions. They get X points to spend on archetypal careers like "hunter" or "blacksmith". Then, whenever they do something with a chance of failure, you make them roll a die (I like 2d6 for the bell curve and easy math) and add the bonus from the appropriate profession, if they have any. and of course they have to beat a target number you determined. This could be a solid mechanic for a game with minimal rules.

As for the professions, the ones I use in my homebrew game are barbarian, bard, blacksmith, hunter, merchant, noble, physician, priest, sailor, scholar, soldier and thief. My game has more rules than that, but they should still work quite well on their own, assuming you're running a fantasy game. You can always add more yourself, or allow your players to suggest their own.

Now, this all works best in a game where the players don't have access to significant magic. If you do want them to have access to such, you can make professions for it. Highly specific ones, like "pyromancer", are probably preferable to prevent one player from being able to do too much. It can still be hard to advocate what should and shouldn't be possible though, and players may feel frustrated that they don't know what their wizard can do until they try it. If you go this way, consider giving concrete examples of what each type of magic user can and can't do as a guideline.

As for dealing with combat, I see two major ways to go about it. Either way, you'll probably be making opposed rolls between the participants. Obviously, you would roll whatever profession you have that is good at fighting, like barbarian, soldier or hunter. Maybe some of them (like thief or blacksmith) can add half their bonus instead. But what about the result of the roll?

Option A: You could apply an HP-like subsystem, maybe using degrees of woundedness. If you lose one combat roll, you become lightly wounded. If you lose a second, you become heavily wounded. If you lose a third, you are defeated and either killed or captured depending on the intentions of your opponent. You can become less wounded by resting or by having someone make a roll to tend your wounds. (Lesser NPCs don't have to follow this rule, of course, and could be defeated with one successful roll if you wish. If you want a particularly heroic theme, a whole group of lesser enemies might be treated as one for the opposed roll.)

Option B: Alternatively, you can keep the rules minimal and go with narrative consequences. If you win the roll, you win the fight by whatever way chosen. If you lose the roll, you lose the fight and face the consequences chosen by the DM. Some existing systems already work this way, resolving combat like any other skill check, instead of using a whole subsystem. It does require some more foresight and creativity on the DM's part to keep the plot going though. If a single roll can lose you the whole fight, then you should generally avoid having death as the natural result of said fight.

Aaand, those are my thoughts. If you decide to run something like this, do let me know, because I'm very curious about the possibilities.

2018-05-20, 10:55 AM
Have you looked at FATE Accelerated? Even if you don't want to use the system itself, several of the concepts could be adapted into a freeform game. Essentially, characters are described by how well they utilize different approaches to conflict or challenge: Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, Sneaky. Each has a bonus or penalty, and when someone tries to do something, they determine the approach they are using based on the description of how they go about it, and then roll with the corresponding bonus to determine success.

Alternately, you could employ a narrative description of your character. For each character, assign one or more for each of the following. For each trait that positively impacts their ability to do well in the current situation, add +X, for each trait that negatively impacts it, subtract X. Then have a simple scale of how well they did the thing (0: terrible failure, 5: failure, 10: mixed success, 15: success, 20: impressive success) and have players write their scene accordingly. Adapt the list based on the setting you're telling stories in (want magic to play a role? add a bullet point relating to that), also.

Something they are good at
Something they are bad at
An important lesson they learned in their past
A personality quirk or strong belief