Systemless roleplaying and freeforming are dynamic Australian roleplaying traditions. In these pages I would like to explore what they are, what they offer, and how they work.
What is systemless roleplaying? ‘Systemless’ is a style of group roleplaying that has developed in Australia since the late nineteen eighties. It is characterised by a theatrical and naturalistic approach to storytelling, play ‘in the round’ as if on stage, an emphasis on character interaction and emotion, a focus on adult themes and stories, and a lack of elaborate or formal control and resolution systems such as dice.
Systemless sees roleplaying as more of a story and less of a wargame, more of play and less of a puzzle. It seeks to challenge our conception of what roleplaying can be. Because it is associated with short, intense, ‘cathartic’ storytelling, it is a style more associated with roleplaying conventions than home campaigns. However, the tools and insights it offers can be used in many roleplaying situations. It encourages team play and joint responsibilty, and often allows partipants more freedom to direct game focus and outcomes tham more traditional mechanisms.
Systemless roleplaying is also a creative community tradition, a craft and a movement of shared experiences, lessons and innovations that have produced an extremely diverse roleplaying toolkit.
New Directions in Australian Roleplaying, is a transcript (slightly adapted) of a seminar I first gave in 1991, exploring the nature of the strange beast that we were birthing. It’s dated now and flawed, but much of it I find still relevant.
Pip and John were involved with the world’s first roleplaying freeforms from 1983, and were among the pioneers of the systemless gaming tradition from 1989.