What is RGN?
RGN (Random Gaming Night) was started by Adam and myself, and is a concept that was adopted in 2009 when our gaming group could no longer make the time to play on a standard weekly night. Since then, it’s become my favorite way to play. It focuses on the two things I like most about DnD 4th edition. Story and tabletop strategy. It also allows players to do things typically restricted in most games, like switching character builds or characters altogether whenever you want. This is because a time-pressed group still wants to have the maximum amount of fun, which includes playing whatever they want at each session. It starts out with a blank canvas world, and plays out very fast, with fast-paced leveling and quick world-building, resulting in every major NPC having been someone’s tabletop character at one point, due to fast campaigns and the possible high volume of character swapping.
The story develops entirely over email. The DM sets the backdrop, the player characters drops themselves in it, and that process is repeated over again. In this, the players have as much artistic freedom as the DM does, and they drive the story as much as the DM does, if not more. The whole thing is about story and world development, and everyone is trusted not to be immature or pre-madonna. The DM has the freedom to take small liberties with the player’s characters, like minor comments, and general assumptions about their participation in the broad goal of the group, but other than that, the players drive it. With the exception of NPC’s the DM gives names to, the players can write anything they want to direct the story. For example, if the DM puts them in jail because they were captured, the group response could be (and probably should be) their daring escape, which likely involves the deaths of lesser NPC’s. If the DM names someone, however, that NPC’s fate should not be decided by players, because they obviously have plans for them. Being at odds with one of these people is usually the determining factor for combat. Actual combat used to occur on a night that everyone could get together, it didn’t matter when. Another player controlled the characters whose players don’t show up.
More recently, given our 600 mile separation, we have decided to try combat by email also.
As you may have guessed, tabletop combat occurs less frequently in RGN. However, when it does, it’s epic. Think of it like a standard dungeon. Somewhere in there is a boss fight. RGN just puts the fights to get there into story mode assuming the characters’ victory, and we only go to tabletop for the boss. These fights are intense, and typically 3 to 6 hours long, depending on the level. However, just like combat doesn’t matter during the story, the story doesn’t matter during the combat. The DM creates a balanced fight with the appropriate NPC’s based on the story, but once it’s on the table, they’re out to kill. The fights are hard, and the DM fights to kill, and while in my experience party wipes have been rare, there is a lot of player deaths. It’s more realistic that way, and the threat of death makes the strategy of tabletop more important and exciting. Players have to fight as a team, because all the DM’s baddies sure as hell are. In RGN, once a PC dies, they’re dead. Story in a great way to fondly remember them, and roll up something else. Repetitive resurrection in a story can get really old, so it should only happen when all authors agree, and the story makes a big deal about getting it done, usually with it’s own story arc.
Everything not story and not tabletop combat is fluff. RGN gets rid of the fluff. There is no treasure, no meaningless exploration, and no wondering what to do next.
The whole thing revolves around the PC’s. The PCs are awesome, badass, unstoppable forces. They are destined to populate the empty world as diety’s, Elminster’s, Conan’s, or whatever goal the player has in mind for them. Everything they do is always right, even their failures. Skill checks are used, but even if failed, they aren’t detrimental. They just steer the story another way.
Characters start at level 2, and level twice with each fight until 10, then once until 20, and then retirement into the world as an NPC some point in the 20’s, to be revisited for play as other stories bring them into the mix.
RGN is a work in progress.