Playing the Game

At the start of every new game the characters' world is a blank canvas, an endless, empty map waiting to be filled. Even in games set in the real world, the game world is never identical to our own. Much of it may be the same and players may assume it is the same but until the group decides on a specific detail, anything is possible.

It's not just the physical geography which needs to be filled in. The cultures, individuals, history and ideas all need to be added to the map and there is always space for more. Within every well-defined area there is an infinite capacity to add detail, to define sub-cultures and forgotten history. There is also, always, a future waiting to be written.

The style of a new game world is just as undecided as its content. By choosing how and what they explore the players set the tone and feel of the map. It can be practical and detailed, or written in epic brush strokes, or focused on a very small area with nuances and subtlety. These emotional and stylistic choices about the game are as important to shaping the players' experiences as any lost city or game mechanic.

Everyone playing the game has a role in creating the world and filling in the map. The Game Leader may set the scene, identifying the major people and ideas which shape the characters' adventures, but everyone is responsible for bringing it to life. Through their choices the players help define its narrative, its physical, stylistic and emotional landscape.

This is role playing, a unique experience in group creativity that is unlike a computer game, a play or any other form of entertainment. Every player around the table has an obligation to help the group's creativity by engaging their imagination and supporting others in their creativity. The rules and structure of the 6d6 RPG are designed to help this process. They give players the tools for a creative game; everything else is up to them.


Their character is the only part of the game over which a player has complete control. By their character's words and actions the player can express their character's hopes, fears and ambitions but characterisation is not limited to being in-character. Conversation among players about their character's inner thoughts and emotions help to shape the game as do conversations on how to accomplish the character's goals and their approach to problems. Thinking and talking about characters is as much part of the characterisation process as what is done in-character. It is an activity which helps shape the game's style and enriches the game world.

Certain aspects of characterisation require co-operation with the Game Leader and the group as a whole. Every character is shaped by their past and building their back-story is part of the process of mapping the world. It adds geographic details to places and cultures but is also an opportunity for expanding the scope and style of the game. Characters with family and emotional ties create new opportunities for role playing and pose a different set of challenges the character must overcome. These decisions may have repercussions for the group. A character who is unable to leave their home for more than a few hours because they care for their infirm mother is incompatible with characters who wish to set off on a five year mission of exploration. At the start of every game players need to discuss the limits of the game world and what they wish to accomplish so they may create suitable characters.

Advantages & Actions

The selection of advantages creates the skeleton on which players can flesh out the history and personality of their character. Each advantage represents a significant aspect of the character's life and hundreds of hours of training, exercise and work. The advantages become interwoven with the narrative aspects of the character's back-story, strengthening and expanding their personality.

How those advantages are used is also a form of characterisation. Characters may have a favourite move, a particular combination of advantages they try to bring together whenever possible. Some advantages may come with psychological baggage, memories of unpleasant times in the character's past, making the character reluctant to use them. Every advantage selected and every advantage used is a role playing opportunity. They offer a chance to fill in a little more detail about the character and their personality.

Advantages also give players a chance to stretch their minds and creativity. Finding new ways of using them is part of the game and known as blagging, from the word blag, meaning to scrounge, especially by clever or deceitful talk. Exploring how advantages can be used stimulates discussion, often revealing radically different ideas about the meaning of words or their connotations. This gives insight and understanding of each player, helping to build social bonds within the group.

Each advantage is deliberately kept simple, leaving lots of scope for personalisation by the players. As part of blagging an advantage details can be added to expand the game and the character, possibly setting up future story lines and challenges. A player who blags the ability to steer a boat because their Military Service was in the navy will find it hard to explain why the advantage can be used to help in skydiving.


Turning the blank map into a complex game world with its own distinctive style and ideas is not a task which can be done alone. The Game Leader and individual players may contribute their own parts but the process requires individuals to collaborate. Not in a formal, let's sit down and work together sense, but by an ad-hoc process of exchanging ideas and making suggestions.

At its best, role playing is like musicians jamming; each person playing their part, being supportive when others take the lead and enjoying the support of others when the spotlight falls on them. Individual actions combine to produce something greater than the sum of its parts. There is a skill to this type of collaboration and it takes time to develop but it starts with each individual player engaging with the process. No-one in the game should be a passive consumer, simply waiting for the Game Leader to spoon-feed them entertainment. Neither should anyone accept being force-fed by a Game Leader who wishes to dictate the style and content of the game.

The core of the 6d6 RPG is the process in which the group decides which advantages are appropriate in an action. This is an inherently collaborative process with players sharing ideas and thoughts which shape the game world. Every player has a responsibility to engage in this process by challenging combinations of advantages that don't fit their ideas for the game, as well as speaking out to support players whose combinations do fit and coming up with their own, unique variations.

Stories, Narrative and Rules

Storytelling is a universal phenomenon, found in every culture and, as far as we can tell, occurring in every period of history. It appears to be part of what makes humans human and neurological studies support this. When we hear a story our brains react almost as if we were there, which makes a story an incredible tool for teaching and entertainment. We cannot all be Theseus and slay the minotaur but via the story we can all feel some of his fear and excitement.

In most forms of story telling there is one story teller or writer or film director and a number of listeners, readers or watchers. Role playing takes this arrangement and shakes it up. The magic of role playing is that no single player or Game Leader tells the story but a story emerges out of the game to provide the same vicarious entertainment.

Players have control of their individual characters' narratives, a single thread which knits and intertwines with others to form the rich tapestry of a story. The details of each thread are entirely the player's responsibility. They choose what it looks like, how it was made and where it goes. What is out of the player's control is the results of interactions between their narrative thread and other people's threads. Rules provide the mechanism for decisions about how threads interact and the dice add a random element to bring uncertainty and excitement to the process.

The 6d6 RPG places a great deal of emphasis on the difference between the narrative details of a character which have no part in deciding interactions, and advantages which are all about resolving interactions. The group as a whole, by deciding on the appropriateness of advantages, has control over the decision-making process. The rules cover how many advantages a character may use to keep everything fair. They also provide a mechanism for solving common problems such as the effect of range on accuracy, but rules do not decide the story or a character's narrative.

The story, the outcome of the group's activity, should always be the priority for a group. Rules are simply decision-making tools and the story should never become a slave to them.

Living & Dying

The most obvious and most critical decision in a role playing game is the life or death of a character. Because it so important to the story and to the players, there are no rules for death. When a character takes life damage and cannot discard enough Life advantages they are classed as dying, but this simply means they are unable to act. Death, or at least death as we know it in the early 21st century, is a nebulous concept to a robot or to someone in a post-singularity future or in a magic world where the dead can be resurrected.

Death in the 6d6 RPG means the character will never return. For every other situation the character is classed as dying, even if they have been buried for a thousand years. The fate of a dying character combines the rules of the game, the group and the story. A dying character cannot help themselves, they are at the mercy of the other characters and the Game Leader. The rules provide a mechanism for medical care via recovery effects which may revive dying characters, but these will not be applicable if there is no body to revive. Whether the character is merely dying and can be recovered or dead and gone forever is a question for the group and the story they are creating.

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open/mechanics/core/playingthegame.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/06 13:34 by tregenza
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The 6d6 RPG tabletop store is owned and operated by Chris Tregenza. Who also owns and runs Myomancy, a site about ADD / ADHD medication, Autism and Dyslexia Treatments and also site called Poosk. Chris also provides copy-writing, web design SEO advice to sites like Dingles' Games pathfinder rpg resources.