Monday, October 4, 2021

Can You Play an RPG without Owning the Rulebook? Ever?

I think most of us oldtimers know the answer is "yes". In my teens, I was in a group right here in the Poconos (Rach and I have Escaped From New York for a few days) and one player in our group owned none of the books. I THINK he owned a set of dice but I could be wrong. As far as I can recall I was the only group member with the DMG (and pretty much the only DM).

This wasn't uncommon back in the 80s. I knew of groups that had one communal Basic Set and one communal Expert Set, and whoever was DMing took possession of the boxes until the next DM stepped up, then rinse and repeat.

I strongly suspect this whole concept is foreign to players that started with 3e and later. The OGL lowered the ownership barrier, players could download the 3x SRD or simply play a freely distributed OSR game under the OGL - S&W Core, Labyrinth Lord, and OSRIC are some fine earlier examples, but there are more. Heck, these days you can even play 5e without paying for the rules - the Basic rules are your to grab for free in PDF (the only version of the 5e rules available in PDF from WotC as far as I know).

Did you own the rules to the RPG you started playing? How long was it before you had your own copy of the rules? I'm curious.

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6 comments:

  1. Call of Cthulhu is a Great example of a rule set only the game master really has to have. The rules are so easy and elegant. And the character sheets pretty much told you everything you needed to know. Back in the day I played in somebody else’s campaign for a few months and really only needed a book when I wanted to start my own campaigns.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Call of Cthulhu is a Great example of a rule set only the game master really has to have. The rules are so easy and elegant. And the character sheets pretty much told you everything you needed to know. Back in the day I played in somebody else’s campaign for a few months and really only needed a book when I wanted to start my own campaigns.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, it’s called make believe. Deeply satisfying.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I started playing before I could read. My brother would dm for me.

    In middle school we played a lot with only one or two people owning the rules. Sharing books like you did.

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  5. You can also pick up the 5E SRD as a PDF: https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/systems-reference-document-srd

    I personally bought all the books from my first games (B/X/1E) as soon as I could because I read them constantly outside play sessions.

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  6. My buddy and first referee had the woodgrain box when it first came out and we played for months before I got my own set which was white box by then. I was starting to DM then and wanted one of my own sets of the rules so we could both work on our campaigns even as the other was taking a turn refereeing.

    ReplyDelete

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