Warning: this text is Bullshit!

Not more than as soon as a month, I let myself write a rambling, bloggy piece of stream-of-consciousness crap about no matter I would like. I don’t attempt to give sensible recommendation — although there’s all the time one thing to study — or present guidelines hacks — although I would preview one — and I can’t promise well-organized arguments, sidebars, and even tiered headings — however they could occur. I’m simply letting you into my head. And it’s a frigging mess in there. You’ve been warned.

Guess what? I’m writing a roleplaying recreation system of fantasy journey!

No, not that one. A unique one.

It’s a protracted story that has to do with WotC’s risk final month to screw content material creators like me up, down, and sideways if we don’t lick their boots and my loopy — and spiteful — promise to put in writing a light-weight by crunchy different to D&D for my high-tier supporters. And anybody else who desires to pay for it.

I’m calling it the Slapdash Engine as a result of I actually slapped it collectively over one lengthy weekend after which threw the factor into an alpha playtest. After three weeks of turning frantic serviette scribbles into an precise playtest doc.

In the meantime, I’ve been bragging to my secret inside circle about all of the tremendous cool options that may make Slapdash higher than D&D and in addition each different fantasy RPG ever.

And that’s the place at this time’s story begins. With this brag:

In Slapdash, anybody can solid divine spells, however solely clerics get to know the precise divine spellcasting guidelines.

Man did that break a number of brains. Perhaps it simply broke yours. If not, give it a second. Take into consideration that assertion. Look forward to the apparent flaw to leap out. There you go. I can inform you noticed it by that twitch in your eye and that sproing noise.


Anyway, that humble little brag about my superior slapped-together-pile-of-crap RPG was the beginning of 1 hell of a curler coaster journey. One to do with the Monster Handbook, secret lore, metagaming, and a rebel towards an evil cabal of Sport Mastering Excessive Clergymen.

And at this time, I’m going to inform you why Slapdash gods work that means, why it’s okay for the gamers to learn the Monster Handbook, and why GMs who custom-make all their monsters to discourage metagaming are making their video games worse. And everybody else’s too.

And subsequent month, I’ll inform you why you want the Evil Cabal of Sport Mastering Excessive Clergymen. As a result of treating GMs as a privileged caste worthy of respect and gratitude really supplies gamers with the perfect damned TTRPG play experiences attainable.

However that’s subsequent month.

In Slapdash, the fantasy journey RPG coming this winter from Indignant Video games, Inc., divine magic doesn’t come within the type of spells clerics can sling. Somewhat, divine magic comes down from on excessive as blessings and curses delivered by the gods themselves in response to appeals, ceremonies, and sacrifices.

All proper, you bought me. To some extent, that’s only a bunch of window dressing. Divine spellcasting is simply spellcasting and the appeals, ceremonies, and sacrifices are simply what different boring, crappy video games name spell elements.


In Slapdash, anybody can invoke a miracle. Any PC — or NPC, for that matter — can beg the gods for assist and have some probability of a response. They only should do it blindly. The gamers of priestly characters really get to see the Divine Spellcasting chapter of the guide.

Type of. It’s sophisticated. Look forward to the complete launch, okay?

Plenty of my supporters thought that was a damned cool concept. And various mentioned that made plenty of sense for divine magic in a fantasy world. However a number of of my supporters instantly tried to identify the trick. They knew there needed to be a trick. I couldn’t imply what I mentioned. How may I? Divine magic couldn’t probably work like that. Not for lengthy, anyway.

Suppose, for example, that Slapdash actually had a secret set of Divine Spellcasting guidelines that anybody may use blindly, however which gamers acquired to truly learn once they made themselves a cleric. Even if you happen to ignore the seemingly unimaginable mechanics that would probably facilitate casting spells by blind guesswork, what prevents a cleric’s participant from simply telling their allies the principles so everybody can solid divine magic extra successfully? And what occurs when a cleric’s participant retires their cleric and performs one thing else? Does the sport embrace a standard-issue Neuralyzer with which to erase their reminiscences of the Divine Spellcasting guidelines?

Now, my supporters have good purpose to suspect some verbal smoke-and-mirrors. I’m tricksy. I by no means deceive them, however plenty of my truths are solely true figuratively or on some type of technicality or given a particularly slim definition of 1 phrase or one other. However, on this case, I meant just about exactly what I mentioned. However a number of minor particulars in execution and the interpretation of my designs into D&D-esque phrases to make them simpler to grok.

The purpose is: sure, in Slapdash, there are Secret Mechanics anybody can use however just some gamers get to know proper out of the gate. I believe that’s one thing a number of fantasy journey and roleplaying video video games do very effectively and one thing TTRPGs completely ought to discover a option to steal. I’m an enormous fan.

And the truth that Secret Mechanics don’t keep secret ceaselessly? That’s not a bug; it’s a characteristic. It makes video games higher.

And to clarify my reasoning to my followers, I posed a easy — and semi-rhetorical — query:

Is it okay for gamers to learn the Monster Handbook?

And man was {that a} mistake!

To be truthful, that query wasn’t a mistake till I took it to Twitter. Which is par for the course. Twitter ought to dump its little chicken mascot in favor of a flaming rubbish dumpster.

I knew I used to be asking a loaded query, one which’s began fights since Eddie Gygax and Dave Arnoldson invented gaming within the fifties. Particularly the way in which I phrased it. As a result of my query isn’t nearly whether or not it’s okay for gamers to behave on data the GM didn’t explicitly give them in play — the bullshit metagaming debate — but additionally about whether or not it’s acceptable for gamers to purposely search that data to get an edge within the recreation?

To be truthful, these had been exactly the problems I used to be attempting to spotlight concerning Secret Mechanics. Keep in mind, the query was only a option to begin a dialogue I may then finish with an accurate reply that justified my crazy-ass design selections. As a result of I see myself as Socrates. And that’s fairly apt as a lot of the Web sees me as corrupting avid gamers and ruining the group.


The solutions I acquired ran the gamut. However I can summarize the overwhelming majority of them thusly.

Is it okay for gamers to learn the Monster Handbook?

  • No, however I can’t cease them.
  • Sure, as a result of I can’t cease them.
  • Sure, however my gamers know they’ll’t use that data in-game.
  • Sure, however they’ll’t reference it throughout the recreation.
  • Sure, as a result of I render that data ineffective by by no means utilizing revealed monsters as written.
  • You’re an asshole.

I’m not being facetious or hyperbolic with that final response. Exterior of my supporter group, I acquired loads of social-media replies letting me know the query was offensive and silly and I used to be an absolute asshole for even asking for it. And though I needed to work together with plenty of obnoxious, self-important assholes to get there, I did ultimately discover out what I’d completed improper. I’d recognized myself as a member of the Secret Cabal of the Excessive Clergymen of GMing and I needed to be destroyed.

I shit you not. And though the self-important, obnoxious dumbasses aren’t all for a well-reasoned response, I’m nonetheless going to research that complete factor subsequent month. And clarify why, sure, I’m a member of the Secret Cabal of the Excessive Clergymen of GMing and we’re those who run the perfect video games that make gamers happiest.

However I digress…

Apparently, I didn’t get plenty of unqualified unfavourable solutions. However I additionally didn’t get plenty of unqualified constructive solutions. Few individuals mentioned sure outright, although admittedly some did and a number of other of these weren’t actually partaking with the problems at hand.

And when you can recommend that pattern or choice bias performed a job right here — and it undoubtedly did — the variety of you’re an asshole responses suggests pattern bias wasn’t as huge an element because it may very well be.

The humorous factor is although, nearly all of respondents could be divided into two broad teams. There have been the individuals who thought solely an asshole would ask such a query and the individuals who wished to say no, however knew they couldn’t.

I imply, you had these unhappy, resigned GMs who clearly wished they might cease their gamers from studying the Monster Handbook however comprehend it’s past their energy. Or who mentioned, “look, I do know I can’t cease you however at the least don’t do it proper in entrance of me, please!” However you additionally had the GMs who mentioned, “wonderful, you’ll be able to learn the Monster Handbook all yo need, however I’m going to cease you from benefiting from it in-game.”

And particular point out should be product of the dumbass concept that gamers shouldn’t be allowed to metagame. That’s, the thought gamers needs to be forbidden from utilizing data they’ve that the GM doesn’t really feel their character would have. For those who maintain that opinion, you’re dumb. Not improper, dumb. You’re unreasonable, wrong-headed, and silly. Folks’s brains don’t work that means and also you introduce extra issues into your recreation than you keep away from by attempting to implement that crap. I’d clarify additional, however I’ve higher issues to speak about and admittedly, I’m unsure you’ll be able to grasp the reason.


Clearly, wise GMs acknowledge there’s one thing about gamers studying the Monster Handbook that doesn’t sit proper. And a few of it’s in all probability simply right down to truthful play and earned victories. If what a monster can do — and you may give you methods to counter its techniques and exploit its weaknesses — you’ve acquired a bonus within the battle. And that’s undeniably true. Good data is as empowering as a magical sword, a high-level spell, or a mechanical bonus.

However magical swords and high-level spells and mechanical bonuses? Gamers should earn these via play. They’ve to beat challenges to loot magical treasure, they’ve to realize ranges to get the perfect spells, they usually should give you crafty plans and loopy capers to get situational bonuses. And that implies that a participant getting inside information a couple of monster is identical as a participant writing mAjiK SWarD +2 on their sheet between classes and anticipating the GM to let that fly.

Data is effective. All of us GMs comprehend it.

Personally, I believe data is the most beneficial. And I believe that’s good for the sport.

Hopefully, it’s clear that I’m utilizing the Monster Handbook as a stand-in for any helpful data gamers can exploit in play. And the rationale I’m utilizing the Monster Handbook is as a result of D&D — and shamefully, most TTRPGs — lack examples of such data, which I’m going to name Discoverable Secrets and techniques. Other than the magic merchandise lists and monster stats, there ain’t plenty of helpful, exploitable stuff hidden away for the gamers to find later.

And I believe that’s a disgrace. I’d like to see tons of shit hidden from new gamers’ prying eyes. My ideally suited Gamers’ Handbook — loopy as this can sound — would present gamers nothing however the choices they’ll begin play with. Excessive-level spells and skills? Hidden. Status-tier feats? Hidden. All however essentially the most generally recognized deities? Hidden. Unusual, uncommon, and exceptionally uncommon magical gadgets? Hidden. Hell, I’d conceal uncommon races and lessons too.

I do know, I’m loopy, however hear me out.

TTRPG designers are inexcusably clueless about what Discoverable Secrets and techniques do for the fantasy style and the fantasy journey gaming expertise. They don’t notice what a horrible disservice they’re doing to GMs and gamers by making every part so clear. And most GMs are so clueless about this crap themselves that they’re keen to destroy the worth of what few Discoverable Secrets and techniques there are of their determined scramble to cease gamers from dishonest.

Think about if a serious, trendy TTRPG writer was so petrified of the comparatively tiny drawback of web piracy that they completely refused to promote easy, transferable PDF copies of their rulebooks. Think about if the one means you may entry an digital model of the principles was by being logged into — and subscribed to — particularly licensed platforms.

That’s what GMs are doing at any time when they attempt to confound or forbid gamers from exploiting the data they’ve acquired. For those who change up your monsters to stop the gamers from utilizing what they know or if you happen to solely use {custom} monsters or if you happen to forbid your gamers from utilizing what they know no matter how they comprehend it or if you happen to by no means use the identical monster twice in the identical marketing campaign, you’re as unhealthy as WotC not promoting PDFs. And you need to really feel unhealthy.

Fantasy journey TTRPGs ought to comprise Discoverable Secrets and techniques. They make fantasy journey TTRPGs infinitely higher.

Fantasy journey TTRPG gamers ought to have the ability to exploit Discoverable Secrets and techniques in play. It makes fantasy journey TTRPGs infinitely higher.

Fantasy journey TTRPG gamers ought to share their Discoverable Secrets and techniques with one another. It makes fantasy journey TTRPGs infinitely higher.

Let me clarify…


Discovery includes one of many eight main sorts of gameplay engagement. It’s one of many eight emotional experiences individuals play video games to expertise. And Discovery is among the core engagements of fantasy journey gameplay.

Discovery is a type of mental conquest. Discovery is thrashing again the darkness of ignorance. It’s revealing the map, it’s discovering the hidden dungeons, it’s understanding the world’s secret backstory. And that’s often how we tabletop avid gamers take into consideration Discovery.

However essentially the most beneficial, strongest Discoveries are those that make gamers extra highly effective. Discovery grants data and data is a type of energy. As you play The Witcher, you determine which potions and mutagens and poisons work greatest towards which foes and jive greatest along with your playstyle. As you play Breath of the Wild, you find out how objects on this planet work together with one another, how your runes work together with them, and use these interactions to unravel puzzles and win fights. As you play Elden Ring, you study enemy movesets and weapon animations, and when to dam, when to parry, when to sidestep, when to make use of a robust assault, and when to panic-roll the hell away as quick as you’ll be able to. As you play Hole Knight you study which charms do what and which you’ll mix to nice impact and also you study boss patterns so you understand how to dodge and when to strike.

Discovering mechanics is Discovery too. And it’s a extra empowering, extra joyful, longer-lasting type of Discovery. Yeah, it’s nice to see a dragon for the primary time in Breath of the Wild or to journey that one elevator in Elden Ring — the one I imply — however discovering the dragons spawn at set occasions and locations so you’ll be able to farm them for armor-upgrading scales and horns is a way more beneficial Discovery. Breaking via the Maridia tube was superb as soon as, however Shinesparking was the present that simply stored on giving.

Worldlore reveals and scenes of surprise are nice. By all means, embrace them too, however they’re not the identical as getting an inventory of spells to decide on whenever you degree up and saying, “I had no concept I’d ever have the ability to do one thing like that.” After which experimenting along with your surprising energy in your subsequent dozen fights.

To many gamers, Discoveries concerning the recreation’s mechanics are literally extra rewarding and go away a longer-lasting feeling of empowerment than Discovering one other dungeon on the map or one other attention-grabbing truth on this planet’s wealthy historic tapestry. Such Discoveries are empowering. And it’s empowerment gamers really feel like they earned.


Discoveries aren’t empowering in the event that they’re not helpful. I hope that’s apparent. Data you’ll be able to’t exploit doesn’t make you are feeling extra highly effective. It’s only a enjoyable truth so that you can file away. And that’s why purposely redesigning monsters — or custom-building your personal beasts — destroys the worth of Discoverable Secrets and techniques. You’re rendering the gamers’ data of the sport’s mechanics null and void. You’re robbing the Discoveries of empowerment.

One purpose GMs can’t see that is that they don’t suppose past the marketing campaign they’re operating they usually don’t think about the big-picture gameplay expertise. The RPG expertise ain’t restricted to a single journey or marketing campaign. It’s one thing gamers do throughout quite a few adventures and quite a few campaigns for months or years. Plenty of individuals have been enjoying D&D 5E for 9 years now. 9! Years! And you may’t ignore that long-term facet of the play expertise.

Technique and ability are important recreation elements. Video games with out parts of ability or technique aren’t video games, they’re actions. They’re Sweet Land. They’re slot machines. To qualify as a recreation, gamers should have the ability to have an effect on the end result with the standard of their decisions. Furthermore, gamers should get higher at making higher decisions as they play.

I do know we don’t like to speak about this shit as GMs — I do know the idea of participant ability is bizarre and icky — however we now have to. As a result of it’s a central a part of video games being video games.

Individuals who have performed D&D for years ought to be higher at enjoying D&D than individuals who simply began. Put an skilled participant and a beginner in the identical battle with the identical pre-generated PC, the skilled participant ought to get his character via that battle and not using a scratch and the beginner ought to barely scrape by. That’s very important for long-term engagement and playability. If that ain’t the case, then the one option to preserve individuals round is to consistently introduce new, higher choices till the sport’s a bloated, overwrought, overpowered mess. After which it’s time to throw your recreation out and make a brand new one.

Gamers — not characters — are supposed to play TTRPGs for years. RPG methods — not campaigns — are supposed to present years of enjoyable. You possibly can argue all you need that it’s unrealistic for 1st degree characters performed by long-time gaming vets to know extra concerning the world and its monsters than newbies enjoying the identical characters. Perhaps it’s — although each Greek citizen who went to the identical play knew reply a riddling Sphinx and I understand how to kill a vampire though I’ve by no means meant one — however truthfully, realism is means, means, means much less necessary than long-term engagement and funding.

It’s higher for the long-term play expertise — which is greater than your tiny, crappy little marketing campaign — if the gamers get to study the ins and outs of the sport and exploit the hell out of it.


When Hideo Miyazaki took a break from drawing animes to make the most effective motion RPG video video games ever — Darkish Souls — he acknowledged that, within the age of the Web Gaming Group, you may make a recreation completely frigging inscrutable and avid gamers would band collectively and scrute the hell out of it. He deliberately obfuscated the hell out of Darkish Souls — and Blood Souls and Elden Souls and all the remaining — as a result of he knew Discoverable Secrets and techniques unite communities like nothing else. He mentioned so in interviews.

Individuals are communal by nature. They love drawing circles with themselves and their fellow insiders on the within and outsiders exterior. And due to in-built psychological limits on simply what number of members social teams can have, communalism is important, wholesome, and pleasurable. Folks want a way of belonging, but it surely ain’t significant — and it doesn’t really feel good — if it ain’t earned.

Individuals who piss and moan about gatekeeping are idiots who don’t know factor one about human social wiring. Which is why everybody tries to maintain them out.

I ain’t saying poisonous communities don’t exist — or that communalism can’t flip poisonous — however I’m saying that communalism isn’t inherently poisonous. Hell, it’s a requisite for good psychological and social well being.

Miyazaki completely understood that the most effective methods to construct a gaming group was to provide them a bunch of secrets and techniques to uncover and mysteries to unravel. Allow them to construct a collective physique of shared data. That’s what human communities do greatest. For those who don’t just like the Soulsborne video games — as a result of you’ll be able to’t deal with a problem and also you hate enjoyable — have a look at how the Legend of Zelda group acquired collectively for years to determine the incomprehensible timeline of the Zeldaverse.

After all, Nintendo — shortsighted dumbasses that they’re; very like a sure circle of wizards who reside on a sure coast — completely ruined that by publishing an official timeline to promote some overpriced hardbacks.

Discoverable Secrets and techniques — and the sharing thereof — unite communities. Particularly gamer communities. And, prefer it or deny it, the roleplaying gaming interest is each social and communal. Want proof? Simply go to frigging Indianapolis one August. 100 thousand individuals wouldn’t go to a godawful place like Indiana simply to play the identical faux elf video games they might play at house if some severe communal forces weren’t in play.

Discoverable Secrets and techniques — exploitable recreation mechanics that aren’t shared instantly with new gamers — improve the tabletop roleplaying gaming expertise, each on the desk and past. They usually’re an ideal match for fantasy journey which is Discovery-focused by its nature. Furthermore, with the asynchronous nature of tabletop roleplaying video games — a single, omniscient trustee hides behind the scenes and divulges the world to the gamers one session at a time — you’d suppose TTRPGs would lean laborious into Discoverable Secrets and techniques. They’re good.

So why don’t recreation designers lean into them? And why don’t GMs respect their price? Worse, why achieve this many GMs actively sabotage them?

Enter the Good Resolution Fallacy.

It’s unimaginable to cease secret information from spreading. You possibly can’t cease gamers from studying the Monster Handbook and Discovering all of the Secrets and techniques. Nor are you able to cease them from telling their non-cleric compatriots all of the Secret Lore of the Gods gleaned from their days at Fake Elf Seminary. You possibly can’t cease gamers from appearing on data that wasn’t truthfully gained via play. And even if you happen to may cease all that, there’s a small subset of gamers who additionally run video games and GMs who additionally play video games. They usually’re gonna carry data throughout the display.

The truth that Discoverable Secrets and techniques can’t be completely preserved and guarded — and the truth that some individuals cheat — doesn’t imply they’re not damned beneficial. Hell, individuals rip aside Soulsborne video games and publish all their secrets and techniques virtually the identical day they arrive out and that hasn’t stopped the strongest gaming communities on the web from forming across the pleasure of Discovering their Secrets and techniques.

GMs who forbid gamers from appearing on their data of the sport to stop dishonest — which is bullshit anyway — are ruining the enjoyable for everybody who got here by their data via trustworthy effort and years within the desk trenches. Similar with GMs who consistently reskin or custom-build new gotcha monsters so their gamers can’t use what they know from earlier video games. They usually’re not simply hurting their very own gamers, they’re additionally hurting the communal expertise of shared Discovery for the sake of their tiny, petty, tyrant kingdoms.

I used to be telling the reality about Divine Spellcasting in Slapdash. The main points of deity worship within the Slapdashosphere received’t be revealed in no matter passes for the Slapdash Participant’s Guidebook when it comes out. They’ll be entrusted to the GM. In all probability on little player-friendly handouts with little disclaimers about sacred trusts and the enjoyment of Discovery they symbolize. Over time, the information will unfold. Some foul cheaters could have all of the handouts and use that data to their benefit. Most avid gamers received’t. Spoilers will occur. And moderators in Slapdash Discord communities will in all probability should undertake strict spoiler insurance policies. Identical to in on-line fan communities for all types of different media. Over time, a physique of shared Slapdash data will type. I can’t cease that. Hell, I’m hoping it does.

In the meantime, although, don’t hamstring the Discoverable Secrets and techniques in your system du jour. You haven’t any concept the worth of what you’re breaking. Perceive that it is okay for gamers to learn the Monster Handbook, although they received’t if they need the perfect expertise, and you need to in all probability inform your gamers so.

Learn it in order for you, however you’re ruining the enjoyable for your self if you happen to do. I don’t care although, since you’re solely ruining the enjoyable for your self, and that’s not my drawback.

Past that, let your gamers use what they know. Even if you happen to suppose so little of your gamers that you just don’t belief them to have come by their data truthfully. Cease with the no metagaming bullshit. Embrace loads of challenges from revealed rulebooks. As written. You possibly can construct your personal {custom} stuff too, however two-thirds of your challenges ought to come from the shared pool of communal data.

Briefly, cease screwing your gamers out of one of many corest of core engagements in the whole fantasy journey gaming style. If not for the sake of your gamers, then for the sake of mine. In any case, sooner or later, one in all your gamers may find yourself at my desk, or one in all mine may sit at yours, they usually shouldn’t be screwed over simply because they modified GMs.

And if you happen to can’t abide these guidelines, completely don’t purchase Slapdash when it comes out. I don’t need you ruining it for everybody, you petty little tyrant.


%d bloggers like this: