Minimalistic rules that work for me

Hi (be kind with my use of words, I’m not a native speaker)
I played a game session online with a friend. The material setup was a Miro board and a vocal in a Discord server. Being just two, it was easy to adjust the game to our tastes, that we knew well, and the rules were just a few pages long, so not too much cognitive load. We had already played like this, with other people, but there was a different quality. Something I want to “extract” from this session and use as magnetite for my gaming compass.
Maybe it was the experimental quality. We had a purpose that was not just “let’s play this game”. We wanted to see if we could reconcile medfan adventure with the randomless, minimalistic drama we enjoy (games like Svart ak kval, vit av lust). We played Venture, by Riley Rethal, which does pretty much that. And of course we could, why not? Medfan adventures just happen to be played by a lot of people and the huge amount of game sessions just makes more probable aweful experiences, as well as excellent ones. The session was very good, each one enrolling narrative elements as GM when needed and we woordinated seamlessly. So we decided to carry on.
For the second session, I proposed we played without freeform RP. My game partner likes it, but I wanted to see what the game really had in stock for us. So we entered the second session with that purpose: see if you could play a Belong Outside Belonging game making move-on-move. And it worked. But at debriefing we felt we were avoiding certain situations like action scenes, because the moves were mostly dramatic, with very little detail for action scenes. We had discovered we were non-fighter types, but still, medfan adventure should have a ifght with wargs, or running from a collapsing temple, or something.

So we entered the third session with this purpose, and I plugged on the rules a simple puzzle, that was a fight. The puzzle was a bit difficult, but we used Venture rules to solve it, and of course it was an epic fight between a druid and a Rusalka guarded by 4 shark-men, 4 dead soldiers she haunted. The fight was long, more than an hour, but it was entirely satisfying, without pulled blows, nor heavy mechanics, an excellent action scene like, say a Fury Road sequence. So my game partner said he wanted to try something similar, but with an investigation instead of a fight. BEcause “emergent” investigation is sort of a technical scarecrow for some, we wanted to give it a try.
So we began the fourth session with this purpose, and he plugged in rules inspired from Brindlewood Bay, with clues, and the goal was to build a probable explanation and see if it held. And that worked, with the rules of Venture playing along in a beautiful mesh.
At this point I realized the idea of experimentation was making us win this game. Instead of expecting “good play” or “good fun” as a result of the session, the goal was “try this”. I think it is a sort of misdirection trick.
I think the minimalistic rules allow that, because they are open to all sorts of technics, they don’t work against them, and the light cognitive load allows for better “grooming” of the moments we doubted or lost our way. Homeruling heavier rules you are familiar with also does the trick, it just takes longer to get people onboard and don’t have that amount of time.
Also, Venture is beautifully written. My guy is a rugged traveler with a patch on the eye, and when he tilts the patch, an intense light radiates from its eye socket. That’s nowhere in the game, but the game just handed it to me in 5 minutes. Having this sort of things as an horizon instead of gun porn or an intricate dice system is a nice headrest.
Oh, I have aweful stories too, like that time when the DM framed us from the opening scene into a position where our heist devolved into a kidnapping and of course that was going to be nasty but there was no emotional safety whatsoever. But when this happens I know why. In the case of our Venture game, I’m still unsure if I have captured the active essence of hat I’m after when I play.
Have good safe fun!

One response to “Minimalistic rules that work for me”

  1. Sounds like you two are doing a sort of “playstorming” (anyone else remember that term?) thing where design itself is a part of play. I’m curious whether you feel that eventually a set of rules will firm up that gives you an experience you’re aiming for (consciously or not) or whether this sort of evolving nature of the procedures is what keeps you really engaged.

    Also, what is Medfan? I can kinda get it by context and language clues but I want to be sure I understand since I’m not familiar with the term.

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