Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hitchhiker's Guide to Dungeons & Dragons

"It is said that despite its many glaring (and occasionally fatal) inaccuracies, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy D&D itself has outsold the Rules Encyclopedia Galactica because it is slightly cheaper, and because it has the words "DON'T PANIC" in large, friendly letters on the cover." [Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, source

The Proposition

It is pretty common nowadays to give the players some influence on most of the story-elements of a role playing game. Dungeon World is a good example of that approach. The idea here is to give them power over some of the rules instead. This way the DM still describes the world, but the players produce the rules interpretation (random encounters treasure, all the things the DM would roll on the fly and would explain what the DM described).

True to the source I'd suggest a roll of 1d6 by the DM after every such interpretation, with a result of 1-3 in favor of the players and a result of 4-6 meaning that the interpretation is "fatally inaccurate" (with a plus 1 for every 5 levels the players have on average, with a 6 being always inaccurate).

It could go something like this:

DM: You kick the door in and surprise 5 humanoids that seem to live in here.

PLAYER [rolls random encounter table for humanoids]: According to the guide those are Troglodytes [quotes monster description].

DM [checks if this is accurate, comes up with "yes"] The games runs with it ...

If the DM comes up with a "no", he'd have to roll the random encounter again in secret and needs to come up with an explanation why the characters might have thought those creatures were Troglodytes (maybe some very smelly Orcs in strange garbs ...).

A "guide" making it possible to play D&D (and friends) this way does not (yet) exist. It's just an idea, but I thought it worth sharing nonetheless ...

Other than that "Don't Panic!" is always good advice and might be well placed on all role playing games out there :)


  1. Interesting idea. I like that it adds a bit of mystery to encounters.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, it might be a very specific way to play the game, but would change the dynamics of some parts that are considered to be "holy cows". Encounters would be one of them, but it might work well with magic items too, for instance ... There might be others, but this is all I got so far (and I like Mark's idea below for attacks).

  2. Great idea!
    Could stretch this out to every aspect of the game?.
    say the "guide" give three or four mechanical ways to determine the results of an attack ranging from crunchy down to very rules light. When a player attacks the player could declare ahead what rule they woudl like to use for the resolution and run with it.
    I think what woudl happen is over the course of a few game plays the groups mean perfect style of play woudl emerge.

    1. There might be lots of other uses. The key is, I think, to allow a DM to describe everything and the PCs to interpret it. Reaction rolls, for instance, could result in something like DM: "The goblins show their teeth and bash their shields with their weapons ..." PLAYER [rolls reaction, comes up with something positive]: "The Guide says it's their way to express affection!"

      And your idea with the different modes of attack has merit, too! What needs to be specified, though, is what happens if they are wrong and the DM decides the mode of attack. Maybe go with tactics and give disadvantages if they are wrong? Might be a good way to introduce players to a new set of rules, too.