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The Role-Playing Game Primer: and Old-School Playbook Paperback – 8 Oct 2014
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However, I do highly highly recommend it for those new to this hobby without another to teach them the ways of playing Tabletop RPGs. This is fantastic, and you'll learn a lot of what is expected, and it will try to teach you lessons that should be learned before any dice is dropped.
Using the BFRPG as an example works for a couple of reasons. 1) The core rulebook is incredibly cheap, making it the most cost-effective method of entering into the hobby. 2) The rules seem to be derived from D&D, the most popular fantasy game. The simplified rules make it a great introduction and gives players a basis to work with if they move to another, similar game.
Further, the Primer addresses what most new players would be interested in. This includes multiple gameplay styles. It offers a brief description of each and gives examples of character creation and how a sample game is played. The book is concise, with a strong focus on making new players feel comfortable with what could be an intimidating or mysterious hobby.
The page length should not be counted against the book. It actually works in favor of it. By being short and to the point, the reader can quickly learn about the hobby and get into a game. Think of it like an instruction manual, you read it for specific information so that you can enjoy an item sooner. You may think you don't need it, but you should read it because it has helpful information. This is especially true for younger players who may be accustomed to video games where the options are fewer and actions restricted.
This Primer is a fantastic starting point for any new player of just about any age group. The language is presented in an easy to understand way that doesn't insult the reader's intelligence or talk over their heads. I didn't see any bad language or content that would be questionable for younger audiences. If someone you know is interested in joining a game or just learning about the hobby, this book is a must have. I would give it as a gift with a player's handbook or a copy of the BFRPG. The price is hard to beat and the information it conveys could save a lot of time and trouble for new people.
But. And this is the big bad but. While I agree that newer games tend to be rules heavy with everything defined and limited to a level only an ancient Pharisee would love.
He spends a frightful load of time complaining about modules containing a story line. Or of skills based games. Or of characters having personality. He seems to feel that characters are no good unless it is such a randomly rolled and stereotyped thing they can be killed off by the dozen with no loss at all to the player. Who replaces it with an equally meaningless random instant character. And the same for modules.
So only a 4.
Most importantly, Gonnerman makes an excellent case for the unique advantages of "basic" RPG systems, particularly in allowing a character to live out a lifetime of adventures from one campaign to the next. Thus each character develop a unique story and personality over the course of actually experiencing these things, rather than everyone sitting down and coming up with an entire life story before anyone can even start playing. He also argues well for the benefits of being flexible as GM and not making adventures overly predetermined -- unpredictability is unfortunately something in short supply in the age of elaborate, fastidiously structured, carefully scripted campaigns. Tabletop RPGs are not video games, as Gonnerman reminds us, and we make a mistake by letting the limitations of one format guide the direction of the other.
From browsing the online community, Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy RPG might not be the best of the so-called retro-clones (I wouldn't know), but there certainly aren't many people as passionate about and committed to the hobby of old-school RPGs. This is reflected in all of his work, but particularly in this book, which is a fine summary and argument for the continued appeal of RPGs.