Category: Design Notes


I’ve been thinking about encounters in RPGs. How do you define an encounter? Do you think of combat? Other types of conflict? What happens after an encounter?

I have thoughts, but am interested in other people’s thoughts.

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Let me articulate more clearly what I intend. These Traveler’s Handbooks are tools for cooperative imagining. In my experience with role-playing games, I’ve often felt disappointed, as if a potential for creative and collaborative story-telling had not be reached; had been not only missed but constrained by rules. That’s why I like rules-light systems like The Window–the focus is not so much on character sheets but character and character development.

Life is complex. I’d like my games to reflect that. I like art and novels to reflect that, especially as I get older. Ambiguity and colors are everywhere; let it be so in the games we play.

The setting that I envision, the cities of Cammaris and the Southlands of Kyskun more generally, will be open, malleable, and loose by design, so that others can enhance it in individual (or rather, group) instances with their own creativity. I am focusing on description and development of fictional cultures, politics, religions, and history. My aim is to make each of these aspects complex.

One thing that I am saying is that, in describing these imagined lands, I am not interested so much in oppositions of right and wrong, good and evil, white and black, purity and dirt, civilization and primitiveness; I am saying these constructions are false, our world is more complex than these dichotomies, which do not hold the richness of experience but rather the poverty of abstraction. I’m interested in imagining lands where heroes and villains are impossible, lands that are populated instead by people who strive and grow; explore and experience; fulfill their potentials while walking, supporting, or wrecking a balance between social order and individual rights–or by doing all three at various points or turns.

This is a vision, not a manifesto. It’s what I see right now as I dig into this project. If or when it changes, I’ll update.