20 January 2009

So what is this "No Dice" thing anyhow?

The very first thing the No Dice project is going to produce, sometime soon, is a Core Rulebook for a very different kind of roleplaying game. Traditionally RPGs have been the domain of a set lucky few.

I name those who role play as "lucky" because I believe that it has the potential to be the most fun of any activity human beings can engage in. Ever since I cracked this system it's been my aim to open the hobby up, to coax in a few more players and deliver a new kind of experience.

I want everyone who *could* be interested in role playing to start role playing. I want to introduce new avenues for old players and new worlds for new players. I'm not saying No Dice isn't going to be an ambitious project. No Dice is the first project I have ever started that I think is, in its own small way, important.

We live in a world of MMORPGs, of video entertainment on demand, of Facebook. Our communities are online and the advantages that gives a citizen of this world in opportunities to be culturally diverse and to understand other people, places and lifestyles are immense.

For all that, though, sometimes you just need to sit down, with a regular person in a room and chill out. Sure, you can play boardgames, you can engage in witty banter, you can hunker down to an enormous Dungeons & Dragons hack-a-thon, there are always options. I am adding another option, and I hope it will become a popular one.

In the No Dice Core Rule book I'm going to try to convey an approach to gaming that, while it is not new, has never really been written down. If we were going to get intellectual about this I would say that No Dice is an RPG that is also a philosophy regarding RPGs.

None of this is meant to be an intellectual burden so we'll leave it at that.

If I were you I might *not* be thinking: just who the hell are you to be telling me how to Role Play? If you are, wow, aggressive! Even if I didn't have anger management issues though I might wonder where all this new stuff is coming from.

I've read a bunch of role playing manuals. I love role playing manuals, particularly the ones that describe worlds and settings and characters; rules-heavy ones not so much, as you shall learn. I would rather read such a manual than any other type of book. Once I have read and taken in the manuals I tend to file them away, forget most of the rules and wonder whether anyone wants to play a game with that setting.

Not that things were always this way.

When I was getting towards nine years of age in the early eighties Dungeons & Dragons was just starting to show up on the radar as a hobby in the UK. Through various means I got hold of the rule books and the old style polyhedral dice which you had to colour in with a white crayon. I also looked at other systems like the old Middle Earth Role Playing game, Paranoia and minor paperback roleplaying games like Maelstrom and Monster Horrorshow.

If you asked me now about the rules to any of these games I wouldn't actually be able to tell you much. The Monster Horrorshow used a mechanic called "The Absolutely Anything Table" which, well, you can probably guess what it did.

Back then I was desperate to play one of these games but I couldn't find a group. Whenever I did find a group all they wanted to do was roll dice and move pieces around on maps. That wasn't the type of experience I wanted. I wanted to be a participant in a story. I wanted to play a role.

I know what you're thinking, and I did. I studied acting, I went to acting school but I didn't just do acting because at heart I wasn't an actor. I studied Drama & Education which teaches you a lot about improvisation and rolling with the punches. My study there wasn't meant to prepare me to teach drama or to educate actors. It was all about how to present a narrative illusion, techniques to help normal people engage in this kind of play for their entertainment.

And it didn't stop there.

I actually went to college to study media and made a few films but I'm not a film maker either. I've written novels, and will write more, but I'm not strictly speaking a novelist. I've designed out computer games (I am a programmer by day) but I don't want to make a computer game.

I am a role player, a story teller, someone who wanted to share a fiction game with the world. Those friends of mine who enjoy this pursuit number among them some people who would take an opportunity to role play like this before considering any other way of spending time.

Some of these friends have helped me enormously in the development of this very game. One of them is my wonderful partner, a woman who wouldn't play Dungeons & Dragons unless you paid her a hefty sum. She is the one that proved to me Role Playing as a hobby could have a broader appeal than it currently does. So in a way this book is kind of her fault.

I need to also thank Justin and John who have played a bunch of No Dice. In its earlier days I also played some much clunkier versions (back when there were some dice) with Mike, Nick, Kath, Owen, Dave, Kenton, Clive and a bunch of others. Special mentions go to JC; whose game weekends gave me a first crop of willing testers; and super story-based GM Alex who, while he has never partaken in early No Dice, has a healthy disrespect for crunch getting in the way of a role playing session (even so the lengths of his games are legendary but only because of their epic sweep).

These happy few would rather role play than watch a movie, they would rather role play than go out to a restaurant, or bungee jump, or engage in any other activity or distraction. These folk will roll a dice and play a board game but will freely admit they'd rather be role playing, with an emphasis on the "role".

The game me and my closest friends have been looking for has fewer rules than most other games. It helps the players play their character in situations as diverse as fighting, to finding the dirt on a politician, to having tea with the Queen. It introduces people to strange worlds filled with compelling detail. It would be a game that would be a head on collision between the imagination required to read a book and the freedom of thought allowed in a great movie. The world didn't have that kind of game exactly, many near misses but the cigar has gone unclaimed. So I'm taking my shot at inventing one.

Not to say I haven't played in exactly the kinds of game I enjoy taking part in but such games have never been formalised. Usually a story game is another kind of game that has been altered or "hacked" to make it rules lite. We all turn up, clutching our dice bags and we play the game the way we want to play it. Everyone rolls their dice a few times though, in supplication to the gods of role playing who demand such things.

No Dice is the product of a history in love with role playing, movies, acting, writing and, most of all, great stories. I hope you enjoy trying to tune in to No Dice and wish you exciting and engaging adventures with your players. So keep an eye on this blog and watch as a new Role Playing paradigm materialises before your eyes.

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