Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Odd pre-Christmas thoughts (FKR)

A friend or two alerted me to the Free Kriegsspiel Revolution this last year and I have given it a fair reading a few times. While it never jumped out at me as exceptionally interesting, something keeps itching at the back of my brain regarding FKR. Last year I even delved into the murkiness of the Arnesonian playstyle and wrote my own version of early-play D&D and spoke frequently with my buddy Norbert about that early play style. I think some of that discussion was the forbearer to Norbert creating the FKR play style.

If you are not familiar you can check out Norbert's blog for far, far more details here: but in my amateur opinion it boils down to this:

Only roll the dice to determine an outcome if you cannot do this using good judgement.

Like I said, this has been rolling around in my brain and last night I was reading some FKR stuff about using dice versus not using dice. I found it quite interesting. I woke up this morning with this thought dancing around my brain.

As players, myself included, we would rather leave the story up to random dice than an impartial game master. We accept that some things will happen that are very unlikely to happen, rather than having an impartial GM who would arbitrate the outcome using logic.

Why is that? We have modifiers to the results through attributes, levels, and gear but in the end we allow the dice to completely and arbitrarily determine the results. Seriously, think about it. 

A third level fighter is fighting a single goblin. Player rolls a 1 and the fight goes from a simple thing that the fighter should easily succeed at, to suddenly he lops of his leg/breaks his sword/guts the cleric nearby (again, likely determined by another random roll on a Critical Fumble table). Stepping back and looking at this from a not-in-the-moment viewpoint, if you came across this in a novel or your favorite TV show, I bet you would groan about how silly that was. Here though, we accept it. Why??

Now, a friend of mine would say the following:
1) It adds a level of fun, chaos, interesting and unexpected outcomes.
2) As a GM I have the power to limit that amount of silliness in my game.

I would agree on both these statements. I too enjoy the silliness that results from Tim rolling three "1"s in a row and lopping of Joe's ear, breaking his magical crowbar+2, and setting his hireling on fire. This is hilarious and fun all at the same time. Also correctly, you are right, as the GM I have the innate power to control those aspects of the game, choosing to roll only when I want and deciding when I want to allow the dice to determine the results*.

Anyway, just some thoughts I felt I needed to put down on digital paper and get out of my head this morning.

*As a side note, I would add that as a GM I have often 'rolled the dice' behind the screen and ignored the result, deciding before I roll the outcome and simply narrating the result as I saw fit at the time. Usually this is because of story elements or plot development that I am working on for the larger campaign.


  1. Expletive! I have a friend who is a professional jazz/session musician. His pitch is perfect; he knows the key of a birdsong, no joke. We get together to jam some odd noodling (guitars with stand-up bass, "the Tree") and he cannot shut up about the chords . . . make that one a Diminished Minor, move that to a Sus-chord, too much pentatonics, man . . . you're playing in the box again.

    He squeezes every bit of fun out of the jam by being overly technical. It stops being fun. It turns into jazznerdwerk. Eff that. Session over. Time for bourbon.

    If you are playing for money, okay. Please the boss. If it's supposed to be fun and creative, don't step on it with dice rolling and rules and lawyering. Random Acts of Deliberate Spontaneity?

    I run a free-form single-PC adventure with a (usually the DM) player from New Zealand. Massive time difference between WashDC and NZ. So we trade emails. We also plot our own course and have a huge amount of FUN. Sometimes the Witch smiles. Sometimes she bares her teeth. We don't ask her to watch the kids.

    It has to be fun. Otherwise it's jazz.

    1. I fully agree. I zone out when it goes from fun to work and I will lose interest quickly.

  2. If I didn't fun when I failed, I'd have no fun at all.

  3. For me the element that randomization adds is the Game part of the equation and the point of Playing as well. Drop it and you've lost 2/3rds of what I enjoy about RPGs.

    1. Couldn't the GM add in that randomization effect and it feel the same? For example, I often make ruling based on the drop of a d6, so while "I made the decision", in reality it was an arbitrary die drop.

  4. I think it would depend on how it's applied and how consistently applied. I'm not suggesting you roll a die for every single thing, which yes I realize already is sounding arbitrary. But I think my sort of golden rule is if there is no risk and failure doesn't really provide anything interesting then assuming what you are attempting is realistic then rolling isn't required.

    So left to your own I wouldn't require a normal person to make a roll to climb a normal tree under normal circumstances. Now put that person in plate and they are running from a charging rhino I'd probably call for a roll, regardless of your mastery of tree climbing. Now perhaps if you were a master of escaping charging rhino's by climbing trees....

    Which now brings up an interesting idea for me. What if your character develops success in those kinds of elements by applying XP to creating those kinds of tags. So the first time you successfully roll a skill check to escape the rhino by climbing a tree. You spend some XP and now you have that ability and should that situation arise again no skill check required.

    I don't know if I actually answered your question (in the context of how you asked it) so I will just say to that Depends :)

  5. Dice add a level of third-person arbitration plus the aforementioned sense of risk and uncertainty most players value. I steer a middle course: dice modified by referee judgment...