Thoughts about role-playing games

Some thoughts about role-playing games

Because I am a great fan of tabletop RPGs, I wanted to share with you some thoughts about role-playing games.

Maybe I already said it, but I play RPGs for a long time, since 8, at that time I played only with a pen, a D6 and a sheet of paper. No books, no accessories, only my imagination and it worked great !

I tried the big books and the complicated game systems, but it didn’t work for me, I love too much simplicity to spend hours trying to understand how a wizard can cast a spell, recover his mana, or how a hacker can enter the matrice and disable all its defense programs.

I came upon Savage Worlds of Pinnacle Entertainment and it brought me back into tabletop RPGs. Easy to learn, easy to play and fun, all I ever wanted. Now I make settings you can find on my blog which use these rules, but I am also working on an easier system for one-shot or very narrative games.

It made me think about the systems we use to play RPGs. Depending on the system you are using, your game will not have the same taste, no matter what you do, the rules bring their own logic.
For example with Savage Worlds, you will have a good atmosphere, your players will try stupid or heroic actions, as a game master, you will put on their way some tough foes, some really dangerous events which require audacious actions.
The D20 system is more about mechanics, learn how to play your abilities, how to combine them with your teammates…
Basic is a harsh system, no second chance, the voice of the percentage lead the game.

There are so many other game systems, but I will now think globally and try to understand the deep differences. It is really a personal thought, you may not agree, I will anyway cast a dominate person spell 🙂

To compare with programming languages where you have some low-level languages (close to the computer architecture) and a lot high-level languages (easier to understand and use), I think there are low and high-level RPGs game systems, but unlike the programming ones, the difference is not about complexity.

A low-level game system is close to the player. You play your character as you would act yourself in real life. You can play a barbarian with an incredible strenght, but you will not be able to rely on luck to succeed. You have to play smart and not forget that your character can die.
A low-level system would also take into account the traumatic experiences of your character, so you can’t say, ok, no problem with the giant spider, I will jump on her abdomen and ride her.
It is as if the system would influence the player. Your character is scarred, vou will not be able to do as you want.

A high-level game system is close to the game. You play as the game allows you to play with its rules with no link to the real world. You play a barbarian, go fight the dragon 1 vs 1, jump from the cliff to stab it… You can play heroic, brave, you may also do risky choices because you can rely on luck (cards, tokens, bonus points to spend…).
There is a distance between you and your character, you will never be able to do what he is doing, and you are not limited by real effects such as fear, cowardice…

For example, a quite easy high-level game system is Savage Worlds, it can be more low-level if you want.
A complex quite low/high level is D20 from Dungeons & Dragons.
A quite complex low-level is Basic for Call of Cthulhu.

I think no system is only low or high level, you always have a low-level rule in a high-level system, and vice versa.

I would add that often, simulation rules tend to be low-level, while narrative rules tend to be high-leve. But if you take Savage Worlds, it is between simulation and narration, and at the same time it is low and high level. It makes this system flexible and universal, perfect for me.

By the way, I am currently working on an easy low-level game system of which I will tell you about later.

This was a thought, maybe it is not relevant, maybe it is. I am curious to know what you think about this, I am sure a lot of you know far more RPGs  than me, so don’t forget to write a comment 😉


I love role-playing games. I love to create, write and bring fun around a table. I also like web development, horror stuff, TV shows, video games, Stephen King's books...


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