Can anyone give examples of "traditional" RPGs (in this case, let's say that "traditional" = "with GM") that aren't about adventure and/or investigation?

There might well be, but I always tend to think of games that are essentially about a group of people going on "adventures" (even if that means investigation and/or solving a mystery, a la Trail/Call of Cthulhu)...

@hardcorenarrativist None come to mind, even when there is no Adventures or mystery, the essence is the same, they enroll on some type of adventure or mission. I don't know no traditional RPG where the characters just enroll on, for example, simple common day tasks, doing daily stuff 🙂

@invisivel @hardcorenarrativist "Golden Sky Stories is a heartwarming, non-violent role-playing game from Japan, by Ryo Kamiya. ... players take on the role of ... animals that have just a little bit of magical power, including the ability to temporarily take on human form. ... each kind has their own special magical powers. Players will then attempt to solve problems around a small enchanted town with ingenuity, co-operation and friendship."

@invisivel @hardcorenarrativist Hah, I just remembered my own "game" which I didn't even play once, it's more of a thought experiment. "This is a game about finding strength in numbers: friends, family,lovers, children."

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel all it needs is another 99 cool ideas for stuff to happen on a castle; if you find some collaborators I'd love to hear it!

@kensanata @hardcorenarrativist I've noticed it.. hehe, I going to think about it and pump in some 🙂

@invisivel @hardcorenarrativist What about travel? "Ryuutama … by designer Atsuhiro Okada … is set in a world where the "NPCs" of the village--the bakers, farmers, shopkeepers and healers--set off on a wonderful adventure exploring a fantasy world together. Some people colloquially call it "Hayao Miyazaki's Oregon Trail", because of its heartwarming (in Japanese "honobono") feel of family anime, and its focus on traveling and wonder over combat and treasure."

@kensanata @invisivel Ah, I kind of had Ryuutama in my head but couldn't remember the name. However, it does say that it's about adventure. Just not violent. Which I certainly appreciate! But still kind of the same group.

Golden Sky Stories is maybe closer to what I'm thinking, but it still feels a bit "adventury" (a group of animals looking for things to "solve").

Your game looks interesting, but still feels somewhat adventury (you do use the word "adventure" yourself).


@kensanata @invisivel Context: I've been thinking about GMless games, and I have the impression that GMed games only (or almost) tell stories of a group of people having adventures. I'm trying to find counterexamples.

In comparison: Ribbon Drive is about self-discovery in a road trip, The 5 whys is about how disasters are made of small chained failures, The poison of suspicion is about forgiveness and what makes life worth living, House of Reeds about time passing in a "house", etc.


@kensanata @invisivel I had been talking to a friend and I was trying to describe why I like GMless games so much, and one of the reasons was that they explore lots of themes and stories that other games don't.

But then I'm thinking about it and I'm starting to wonder if "all" traditional games are about going on adventures (or similar).

@hardcorenarrativist @kensanata You can design a RPG that deals with common life and day to day problems, where the goal is to be a better human being. but in essence, even this, can be interpreted as an adventure, a life's adventure. If you have only 2 players, a gm and a non gm, it could be easier to keep it out ot the paradigm. [1/2]

@hardcorenarrativist @kensanata I've made some,non gm games that have non adventure elements. the last one is about what you don't see, to raise awareness to people that cannot see. and you have to talk about fear. But when you talk about gm, I think that most story (made by gm or not) have and "adventurous" essence, because players have to play the story, and that, in a broader sense, falls into the adventure paradigm.

@hardcorenarrativist @kensanata But if you get more players, the gm will have to find ways of putting them in the same story and challenges, and therefor, the adventurous element will rise naturally, I think. Maybe I'm seeing everything wrong 🙂 [2/2]

@invisivel @kensanata I definitely think there's something there! I'm trying to figure out what, but I'm thinking the same way.

The pattern I think I see is that when the rules are about solving actions, the story naturally centres around (physical, external) challenges, like an adventure.

If one takes eg. Hillfolk, it doesn't feel that adventurous to me, because it's focused around the social relationships between characters. Also _some_ PbtA games (eg. Night Witches).

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel i know what you mean about action rules maybe affording action – but there is a line of thought in the OSR saying that combat in D&D can also just be to enforce dire consequences (both for characters and players when they lose their characters) but that actual play often is about avoiding combat and talking your way through – so it all could also be cultural expectations. at any rate, yesterday I just rolled for initiative twice and for damage once, that’s it. 😅

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel well, we could talk about the meaning of adventure. it’s about the adversity regarding a venture, an undertaking. so a non-adventure would be what, when you don’t try to do anything (no venture) or no opposition (automatically succeed? or does player vs player count?) – could be boring stuff, like work, or mindless games where all you care is doing anything like rolling a die and moving a piece, or making something beautiful, collaboratively?

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel i think what i’m getting at is that no opposition basically takes you out of all usual story structures. and that’s for a reason: we don’t recount the hours of boring work, the hours of painting, the hours of singing in the choir. if you want to go down this road you’re signing up for a very difficult task. 😀

To explain a bit better what I meant by "not adventure" yesterday, I din't mean lack of adversity at all!

I guess I just wonder where are the coming-of-age stories, the ones about falling in love, about self-discovery, about coming to terms with death, about forgiveness, about despair, about betrayal, etc.

And yeah, most of those themes you _could_ tell with traditional RPGs, but it feels that it can't be the focus, and the story wouldn't nearly be as powerful.

/cc @kensanata @invisivel

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel I'm often sceptical of designed topics. If I can agree to a game of despair in Warsaw we can use any rules. Having to agree to Grey Ranks simply turns the discussion of theme into a discussion of the rules to use, and it prevents a deviation later. And that can also be drawback. You can never leave Warsaw. You can never leave the Soviet army. You can never abandon the Heist. This limitation makes it a very blunt instrument for my entertainment, I fear.

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel I also feel the lack of authenticity in games that I know are set up for a particular experience. I go through the motions but it just hits closer to home if I'm playing Burning Wheel and my love is betrayed even though there are no rules about romance. It hits closer to home if the fighter picks a 1:1 fight with the evil pirate dwarf when we're playing classic D&D and there are no duelling rules. It cuts deeper, somehow. I feel it's more poignant. I don't know.

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel So, once again, I think I wonder whether a game designed for coming-of-age stories, for falling in love, for self-discovery, and so on… I guess I'm both curious and skeptical. I feel reminded of a discussion I once had regarding heroic scenes.
Heroic scenes don't require any particular rules, for me. They require the willingness to risk your character to an extraordinary degree to save another person. All that this requires is perma-death.

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel And so, picking another example: all a game requiers to be about falling in love is for the world to have people my characters can fall in love in, and for a table of friends that are interested in this. If there are rules involving falling in love, then it's not about falling in love. The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel Anyway, we're getting into bigger thoughts about game design and I'm not sure we're going to find agreement, here. So let me simply turn it around and ask you two for example. How would you do it? Give me some examples, some anecdotes from your games where it worked, that you enjoyed. What's best in your gaming life?

@kensanata @invisivel Example of self-discovery game: Ribbon Drive. The whole thing is about a group of people defined almost exclusively by their (two) hopes, fears, or plans for the future.

In some scenes you can make your character drop one of those. The first character that drops both becomes (retroactively) the protagonist, and someone who learns to live in the present and learns things about who they really are, in that road trip.

(Bah, keep hitting character limit)


@kensanata @invisivel The two times I've played we told quite nice stories about that, and it was fairly effortless. There's no way I could have pulled that if I had had to write a scenario for a "traditional" or "generic" game.

Same in The Skeletons, with the characters remembering slowly who they are, and then dying and being forgotten as a pile of bones.


@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel regarding the character limit: write a blog post! 😁 I would love to link to it.

@kensanata BTW, about heroic feel in particular (just finished your post, very interesting!), have you played Dread? It's specifically tension/horror, but I'd argue it's possible to be heroic. One of the ways would be by choosing to knock down the Jenga tower on purpose, which means you die, but get to choose how the scene is resolved, eg. thus saving the other characters or whatever.

@hardcorenarrativist Absolutely! I hope I’m not saying that heroic behavior is impossible in role-playing games. What I’m trying to say is that games that provide rules allowing us to tell a story about a hero as we know it is a story where the hero can do unbelievable things because they have to survive – and so the rules might have bennies or fate points, for example. But that precludes actually feeling like a hero. We just go through the motion as we tell the story.

@hardcorenarrativist The Dread example is good, however. There, the risk is real and thus a character can be a hero. Yes! (But to answer the question: no, I haven’t played it.)

@kensanata I think it's interesting that you say "feeling like a hero". I don't think I care about _feeling_ in any way myself (or my character), I care more about telling a story about _a_ hero. Or, rather, I don't care that much about hero stories specifically, but you get the general point.

And I often play 2- and 3-player games 😅 Maybe more often than bigger groups.

@kensanata Haha, that's fair! We look for such different things that it almost becomes meaningless to compare, even if we used the same games.

But I think I didn't express myself well: I do care about feeling in different ways, just more as a director or screenwriter (or maybe audience) than as an actor, if that makes any sense. And I think this is, again, connected to the metagaming thing: I don't think of what's best for the character, but what's best for the story.

@kensanata @invisivel Interesting. What games of that style have you played, and how was the experience? I think specific kinds of _scenes_ is maybe a weird level of detail. Heroic stories, maybe?

About the falling in love, I don't completely agree: sure, you can say "they fall in love" or whatever, but it could feel like an action film in which two characters are in love, as opposed to an actual romantic film. It's everything that surrounds and supports the fact, not just the fact.

@kensanata @invisivel like, a hypothetical game about falling in love would not have "rules to fall in love", it would instead structure the whole narrative (through story structure, or which kind of stats the characters have, or whatever) to produce compelling love stories. The whole story would be about that.

@hardcorenarrativist @kensanata I think those kind of thes are hard to play in group, not because of the theme but because you will find it hard to find people that feels comfortable with most of those themes, not all. People try to run away from reality, RPG helps them, bringing them back is hard, so for those thes I believe that small, solo or few players games work better. (1/2)

@invisivel @hardcorenarrativist playing with fewer people at the table definitely makes it possible to have more intimate scenes (irrespective of rules used, I’d say). At the same time I personally enjoy excitement, chaos, and larger discussions at the table which is why I generally cancel games if we are less than four: me and at least three players required.

@hardcorenarrativist @kensanata A traditional RPG has to offer a more playable experience, imho. These don't mean I would not love to see a game with those themes and nice mechanics. I also believe that are games that are.not to be played, they are proof of concept or a work of art. (2/2)

@kensanata @invisivel You can use any rules, but in my opinion you would have to be an extraordinary narrator to pull off a story that would feel as desperate as one with Grey Ranks.

Preventing deviation later is absolutely not a problem for me, because they're almost always one-shots anyway, and you are agreeing that that evening, you want to make up a story about despair with child soldiers.

You seem to value player/character freedom over telling a compelling story, and I'm the opposite 😅​

@hardcorenarrativist Maybe there is the rub: you call it “telling a compelling story” and I feel Grey Ranks might do that – but what I want is something different: I want an authentic experience. I feel that many of the rules people sometimes provide in order to allow the telling of a compelling story make the authentic experience impossible, for me.

@kensanata @invisivel What do you call an "authentic experience"? Do you mean that whichever stories happen, do so "randomly" or "naturally", as opposed to on purpose? Is this related to meta-gaming?

I remember reading from some GMless game authors that you have to embrace metagaming, and I remember that sounding weird to me (I had just started with GMless)... but now I absolutely, brutally do. To the extent I don't even care if each player has a character or if they are shared or whatever.

@hardcorenarrativist @invisivel An authentic experience is when my buddies dies in a fight and I am shocked and decide to bring his body back to town and hold funeral rites. We didn't agree to let my buddy die and we didn't know that he was going to die. Letting him die did not give me any bonus, no fate point, no narrative rights, it wasn't a painful decision made light because of some goodie I got in exchange. Those are ways to design a game where people let their buddy die.

@hardcorenarrativist Bunnies and Burrows comes to mind. Also, any games that are more about politics than adventuring, like Vampire The Masquerade or Amber (though most games I've played in those worlds do end up adventure-y). Comedy games like Toon or IOU can also be about slice-of-life without the adventure.

@attercap B&B, interesting. From the Wikipedia description, it feels pretty adventury to me. What about it is non-adventury?

VtM, I don't know. I think it wants to be something, but the rules push you in a different direction. I don't remember who said that VtM wanted to be a tragic game, but most of the time ends up being a vampire superhero game because of the rules 😅

Oh, Toon is an interesting twist (haven't read it, though). I don't know IOU, what's that?

@hardcorenarrativist B&B could be adventurey, but could also be treated more as a game about resources and sharing.

VtM 1 had a lot of flavor about politics so seemed to want to be more about that. The current edition wants to be about the fight against the internal monsters... but the mechanics and heritage don't always match the text.

IOU was a GURPS setting: Illuminati University. Magic/Aliens/Etc. in a college environment. So, games could just be about juggling classes and relationships.

@hardcorenarrativist Is kagematsu a "traditional" rpg according to your definition? I would say it's not, but the kagematsu player has a lot of power. Dog eat dog is another game with a gm but that's not about adventure. I'd argue dogs in the Vineyard isn't about adventure or investigation either, and while Primetime adventures often has those themes, it's not required by the rules.

But really, it depends on what you intend with "traditional rpgs", because I have a definition that's more specific than "rpgs with a gm figure" :)

And to explain what I meant by "traditional"... I guess I didn't have a very good picture in my head tbh, but I guess I was thinking of games with rules that mostly/only cover the simulation part of it. So skills and that kind of thing.

Games "powered by the apocalypse" would probably/mostly not be traditional, and games like Hillfolk would _definitely_ not be traditional. And I guess no GMless game is traditional.

/cc @patmax17

@hardcorenarrativist If it can be useful to you, I have this definition of "traditional rpg", which encompasses D&D, VtM, GURPS, CoC, CP2020 and so on: a traditional rpg has the following rules "The GM describes what the player characters see and hear. The players tell the GM what their characters try to do. The GM decides if they succeed or not, and can ask the player to use some randomizer to help decide."

@patmax17 That's a pretty good one! I would interpret that to include Powered by the Apocalypse games, I think. Do you include them in that definition? If so, is it on purpose? If not, what's the difference?

One thing that feels important to me is that PbtA resolves things more at the scene-level, more than the action, if that makes sense? That's how I feel it's designed, at least. Maybe you don't agree 😅

@hardcorenarrativist I agree on the distinction between "scene" vs "action". I don't count PbtA as traditional RPGs because there the GM can't decide if she wants the players to roll/draw, there's no Rule Zero. But I agree that PbtA have a rather traditional feel to them

As unserious as it is Maid is kinda about group dynamics and relationships much more than adventures

@ackthrice yeah, that certainly seems weird enough to not be considered "adventuring" 😁

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